Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Sergente Maggiore Enzo Omiccioli Medaglia d'oro al valor militare


Enzo Omiccioli in the cockpit of a Fiat CR.32.

Enzo Omiccioli was born in Fano (PU) on 1 June 1915.

In the beginning of the East African campaign of 1940-41 he served with the 410a Squadriglia, equipped with Fiat CR.32s.

When the war started in East Africa on 10 June 1940, the 410a Squadriglia was equipped with nine Fiat CR.32s and based at Diredawa. Pilots in the unit were Colonnello Mario Pezzi, Capitano Corrado Ricci, Tennete Elio Pesce, Sottotenente Vincenzo Forcheri, Sottotenente Alberto Veronese, Sottotenente Osvaldo Bartolozzi, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Giardinà, Sergente Maggiore Enzo Omiccioli, Sergente Maggiore Alberto Puliti, Sergente Maggiore Athos Tieghi, Sergente Giovanni Tellurio and Sergente Ugo Zoino.

On 15 June, he intercepted a Blenheim from 39 Squadron over Diredawa, but no result was claimed. One of the gunners, Lance Corporal Ford, in one of the three attacking Blenheims claimed to have shot down a CR.42. But since no such aircraft were at Diredawa at this time it was probably claimed against Omiccioli, who’s aircraft didn’t sustain any damage.

In July he was on a brief attachment to the 411a Squadriglia.

On 11 July, four Hawker Hartbeestes of 40 SAAF Squadron made an attack around Moyale. There they encountered three Ca.133s, these being from the 66a Squadriglia at Yavello, escorted by three CR.32s of the a Squadriglia, all intent upon attacking British troops in the area (the South Africans reported that they met five Capronis and six Fiats). The fighters attacked the South African aircraft, and 23-year-old Lieutenant Neville Keith Rankin (SAAF No. 102766) was last seen in a tight spin with one Fiat on the tail of his aircraft; he and his gunner, Air Sergeant Dennis Haig Hughes (SAAF No. 47935), were both killed. Lieutenant L. H. G. Shuttelworth’s aircraft was also hit and he jettisoned his bombs, making good his escape. Lieutenant Jubber’s aircraft was damaged to a lesser extent, and after evading his attacker, he carried out his attack, but then ran out of fuel and had to make a force-landing. Fuel was flown up to him next day.
The Italians reported meeting five aircraft and claimed to have probably shot down two of them, one of these being claimed by Sergente Maggiore Omiciolli.

Back to the 410a Squadriglia he took part in the destruction of two Blenheims.

He was then loaned to the 412a Squadriglia, equipped with CR.42s.

With this unit, he claimed four enemy aircraft over the Northern Front and took part in many ground strafing missions.

On 3 February six Gladiators from 1 SAAF Squadron flew forward to a new landing strip called ‘Pretoria’ early in the morning where they refuelled. Five of them (Captain Brian Boyle (N5824), Lieutenant Andrew Duncan, Lieutenant Robin Pare, Lieutenant Servaas de K. Viljoen and Lieutenant H. P. Smith) took off again at 11:45 to strafe airfields in the Gondar area, to the south. A landing site was spotted to the south of Azozo on which five Ca.133s were bombed up. The Gladiators attacked and claimed all five in flames. The Italians reported only one as actually destroyed in this attack.
Seeing CR.42s scrambling from Azozo, they flew over to investigate and Boyle, Pare, Viljoen and Smith claimed a shared damaged S.81 on the ground there when they reported that they had shot the wing off it while Lieutenant Duncan chased after a CR.42. The Gladiators were then attacked by Fiats and a big dogfight began. In the combat Captain Boyle claimed a Fiat shot down. Boyle reported that his claim was made towards the end of the dogfight and he was so close to the Fiat that he saw the enemy pilot clearly as he tried to bale out before crashing into the mountains.
Sergente Maggiore Enzo Omiccioli was shot down and killed in this combat. Reportedly he had scrambled alone.
The Gladiators then carried out a reconnaissance in the area, looking for reported Italian movements. On return, Lieutenant Smith crashed on landing at Azaza when starboard tyre burst and the aircraft slewed onto its side while Boyle suffered a flat tyre from the fight.

A calm, brave man, Omiccioli was greatly liked and respected by all, and his CO had been about to recommend him for commission when he was killed.
He was posthumously awarded Italy’s highest decoration for valour, the Medaglio d’Oro al valor militare (Gold Medal).

At the time of his death, Omiccioli had a total of 5 victories, all of the claimed while flying biplanes.


Fiat CR.32 at Dire Daua, Ethiopia, October 1940. A very rare image of a CR.32 Quater of 411a Squadriglia. This unit was one of the only five Squadriglie of fighters (for a total of 42 aircraft) based in the Italian territories of Eastern Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana). The picture was taken during that short conflict (ended by November 1941), as the plane does not show the white square with black cross marking was carried by Italian planes after surrender, as per British request.
© Archive D'Amico-Valentini
Picture kindly provided by Ferdinando D'Amico.
Click on the image to see it in full size.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940              
1 11/07/40 1 Hartbeeste (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Moyale area 411a Squadriglia
  ? 1 Blenheim Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   East Africa 410a Squadriglia
  ? 1 Blenheim Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   East Africa 410a Squadriglia
2 ? 1 enemy aircraft Destroyed Fiat CR.42   East Africa 412a Squadriglia
3 ? 1 enemy aircraft Destroyed Fiat CR.42   East Africa 412a Squadriglia
4 ? 1 enemy aircraft Destroyed Fiat CR.42   East Africa 412a Squadriglia
5 ? 1 enemy aircraft Destroyed Fiat CR.42   East Africa 412a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 5 destroyed and 2 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 5 destroyed and 2 shared destroyed.
(a) Initially only claimed as probable but it was destroyed. Regia Aeronautica claimed 2 probably destroyed; 40 SAAF Squadron lost 1 destroyed and 2 damaged.

Sources:
Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
Gloster Gladiator Home Page - Alexander Crawford.
Springbok Fighter Victory: East Africa Volume 1 1940 – 1941 – Michael Shoeman, 2002 African Aviation Series No. 11, Freeworld Publications CC, ISBN 0-958-4388-5-4
Storia Aeronautica Italiana
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Additional information kindly provided by Alberto Casirati, Stefano Lazzaro and Mirek Wawrzynski.




Last modified 14 February 2011