Biplane fighter aces


Tenente Alvaro Querci

5 October 1917 –

Date Decoration Note
??/??/42 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (1st) 1940-43
??/??/43 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (2nd) 1940-43
??/??/?? Medaglia di bronzo al valor aeronautico 1940-43

Pilots from 4o Stormo at El Adem, Cirenaica in front of a Fiat CR.32. The image is probably taken between September and November 1940.
From left to right: Aldo Gon, Giulio Reiner, Carlo Agnelli, Ezio Viglione Borghese, Armando Moresi and Querci.
Image kindly provided by Fulvio Chianese at GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO.

Alvaro Querci was born on 5 October 1917 and was from Lucca.

On 30 December 1940, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo).

On 12 July 1940, the 9o Gruppo C.T. arrived at Tripoli from Comiso with 33 Fiat CR.42s under the command of Maggiore Ernesto Botto. The Gruppo consisted of 73a, 96a and 97a Squadriglie.
The 73a Squadriglia included Tenente Vittorio Pezzè (CO), Tenente Valerio De Campo, Tenente Giulio Reiner, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti (assigned in the end of July), Sottotenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sottotenente Carlo Battaglia, Sottotenente Querci, Maresciallo Mario Ruffilli, Maresciallo Alberto Montanari, Maresciallo Norino Renzi, Maresciallo Corrado Ranieri, Sergente Maggiore Guglielmo Biffani, Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari, Sergente Maggiore Sergio Stauble, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Valle, Sergente Santo Gino, Sergente Lido Poli, Sergente Pasquale Rossi, Sergente Mario Guerci (still in training) and Sergente Armando Matacena (still in training).
Together with the 10o Gruppo they formed the 4o Stormo C.T.
The Gruppo’s Fiat CR.42s was wisely retrofitted with tropical kits for guns and engines, to avoid the problems suffered by the other Gruppi.

After a period of acclimatization at Benghasi-Berka “K” airfield the whole Gruppo was called to front line duty on 7 August.
The next day the 73a Squadriglia arrived at El Adem T3 airfield, while Botto still was in Benghasi with the rest of the Gruppo.

At 17:00 on 8 August, Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli (CO of the 10o Gruppo) took off from El Adem T3 airfield with 15 other aircraft from the 9o and 10o Gruppi to patrol along the Egyptian border and to give indirect cover to five SM 79 bombers and a single reconnaissance Ro.37, which were out to patrol the same area. The five SM 79s were a formation from the 44a Squadriglia, 35o Gruppo, led by Capitano Giuseppe Pagliacci, which were out to bomb enemy vehicles and aircraft in the Bir El Chreigat area.
Participating pilots were Romagnoli, Capitano Giuseppe D’Agostinis (CO 91a Squadriglia), Tenente Enzo Martissa (91a Squadriglia), Sergente Aldo Rosa (91a Squadriglia), Tenente Giovanni Guiducci (CO 90a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini (90a Squadriglia), Capitano Luigi Monti (CO 84aSquadriglia), Tenente Vittorio Pezzè (CO 73a Squadriglia), Tenente Valerio De Campo (73a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Carlo Battaglia (73a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Querci (73a Squadriglia), Maresciallo Norino Renzi (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Antonio Valle (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Santo Gino (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Lido Poli (73a Squadriglia).
Immediately after take-off, Romagnoli started to climb, keeping the sun in the back. At 2500 meters over Gabr Saleh (around 65 kilometres south-east of El Adem and 35 kilometres east of Bir El Gobi, well inside the Italian territory) when the Italian formation was still climbing, Tenente Pezzè saw two formations of Gloster Gladiators higher and, after giving the alarm to the gruppo commander, tried to attack the enemy fighters frontally and from below.
Then, completely unseen by Pezzè and the other Italian pilots a third formation of Glosters attacked the 73a Squadriglia formation from above (the surviving Italian pilots estimated that each British formation was nine planes strong so, after the combat, they assessed that they fought against 27 enemy fighters for fifteen minutes).
The Gloster Gladiators were from 80 Squadron (‘C’ Flight had arrived at Sidi Barrani during the day, led by the commanding officer, Squadron Leader ‘Paddy’ Dunn). At 17:40, 14 Gladiators from the Squadron flew an offensive patrol in the neighbourhood of El Gobi since it had been reported by observers that large formations of CR.42s had been patrolling a triangle between El Adem, Sidi Omar and El Gobi fairly regularly twice a day at about 07:00 and 18:15 and it was decided to attempt to destroy a portion of this patrol. The mission had been suggested by Squadron Leader Dunn to the HQ as a reprisal and to re-establish “the moral superiority already gained previously by other Squadrons” after the gruelling engagement on 4 August. Tactics had been carefully discussed by Dunn and his Flight Commanders on the agreed assumption that if the engagement could be controlled for the initial two minutes, a decided advantage would be with the side in control. To do this, it was arranged (as it was expected to be seen as soon as, or even before being able to see the Italians) that a Sub-Flight of the formation (Sub-Flight one) should fly low (at 8,000 feet) and slightly in front to act as bait. These three Gladiators were flown (after that lots had been drawn) by Dunn (leader) (Gladiator K8009), Flying Officer Peter Wykeham-Barnes (K7916) and Pilot Officer 'Heimar' Stuckey (K8022). The rest of the formation, divided in three Sub-Flights of three fighters with an independent aircraft between the lower Sub-Flights, would be stepped at 10,000, 12,000 and 14,000 feet. The independent machine was that of Flight Sergeant Trevor Martin Vaughan (K7903), who attacked with Sub-Flight one. It seems that Pilot Officer Anthony Hugh Cholmeley flew a fourteenth Gladiator but that he was forced to turn back early, probably with engine problems.
Sub-Flight two included Flight Lieutenant Ralph Evers-Swindell (leader) (L8010), Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower (K8011) and Flying Officer P. T. Dowding (K7912). Sub-Flight three included Pilot Officer Harold Sykes (leader) (K8003), Sergeant Donald Gregory (K8051) and Flying Officer Sidney Linnard (K8017). Sub-Flight four at 14,000 feet included Flight Lieutenant 'Pat' Pattle (leader) (K7971), Flying Officer Greg Graham (L8008) and Flight Sergeant Sidney Richens (K7892). The plan was for Sub-Flight one to engage (or being engaged) by the Italians, do what it could until Sub-Flights two, three and four would be ordered to enter the combat on seeing the trend, the overall control being given to Sub-Flight four. All formations flew in a broad vic and it was the first time that the 80 Squadron operated at full operational strength.
Just after 18:00, the Squadron crossed the frontier south of Sidi Omar, and immediately changed course to head north towards Bir Taieb el Esem. At 18:25, as they were approaching Bir el Gobi, a formation of CR.42 flying in echelons was spotted by Flight Lieutenant Pattle. The Fiats were flying approximately parallel but reciprocal to the course of the British formation and they were at 2 o’clock and slightly (500 feet) below the lower Sub-Flight. With a careful turning on the right, ordered by radio, Pattle put the 80 Squadron’s formation behind the Italian one, up-sun and between it and its base at El Adem, then a full boast and throttle stern chase began to catch up with the fast cruising (in fact climbing) Italian fighters. Pilots in the lower Sub-Flights now began to see their opponents, dead ahead and lower. The ideal attack position! Squadron Leader Dunn counted 18 of them in four formations of seven, five, three and three; he was very close to the truth but later Sub-Flight four reported that an additional Italian formation of nine planes was present and it was incorrectly assessed that the Italians were 27, flying in nine sections of three aircraft. After an unobserved astern chase Sub-Flight one engaged the starboard flank of three aircraft and shot down all of them (they were probably part of the 73a Squadriglia). Squadron Leader Dunn later reported:

“(…) I followed my first target down, who rolled over slowly on to his back with smoke coming out: Observed P/O. Stuckey’s (No. 3 on my left) quarry in much the same condition and gave him a burst of my own, then pulled up and across the rear of the formation of 18 that was beginning to peel-off.”
Flying Officer Stuckey experienced a very successful combat:
“(…) our C.O. led the first Flight and attacked the right hand enemy flight.
I was No. 3 of the C.O.’s Flight and managed to get in a long burst with full deflection as my opposite aircraft stall turned out of his formation. (later the C.O. said that he followed this aircraft down giving it bursts and saw it crash.
Immediately after I attacked No. 3 aircraft of the farthest flight and gave it a short burst before that flight broke up as well.”
The third CR.42 of the section probably fell victim to Flight Sergeant Trevor Martin Vaughan. Flying Officer Peter Wykeham-Barnes confirmed the shooting down of all three Italian CR.42s of the section. Wykeham-Barnes seems to have claimed the first Italian aircraft, witnessed by Flight Lieutenant Evers-Swindell.
After the attack of this Sub-Flight, the Italian fighters started to break and Pattle ordered down the other two sections, while a wild low-altitude dogfight was beginning. Squadron Leader Dunn continued his report:
“(…) A C.R.42 did a steep diving turn away from his formation and I was easily able to give him a full deflection shot for about 8 seconds, he continued in a dive with smoke issuing from him but as the formation of 18 was approaching around about me with advantage of number and height, it was impossible to pursue him. I claimed it definitely shot down and consider it to be one of the five observed on the ground by Sub 4 before entering. Then followed a long period of loose play in which numerous targets offered themselves.
At the same time large numbers of enemy aircraft attacked me, chiefly from straight ahead and beam but not driving home determinedly. In one of them I throttled back and stall turned on the attacker’s tail before he was quite past me, he then rolled on to his back and dived down in the second half of a loop. I followed and gave this aircraft what I thought was an effective burst with the result that he did not recover and continued down with bluish smoke issuing from him.
The other flights had by now entered and attacked their opponents, and the number of enemy aircraft thinned down. Two or three enemy aircraft were still about; I pulled up steeply to avoid one in particular who was dangerously near to my tail, having chased me down in the dive from the port quarter. In the ensuing black-out I have little knowledge of what he did but at the top of what was the first half of something like a rocket loop, I found myself going in the opposite direction with the aircraft climbing rapidly past me on my left and below, he then appeared ahead of me and did a slow roll, unfortunately, I was too surprised and failed to get him in my sight, whereupon he half rolled and dived out; another stall turn brought me on his tail, but he did a rapid dive, turned to the left and streamed off like a homing rabbit - next stop El Adem.
I engaged one more enemy aircraft but my guns failed to fire (after 300 rounds approx.) I tried to clear them but was only able to get one more short burst. I left the fight, gained height at 12,000 feet and returned to witness a dog-fight between three aircraft two of which were Gladiators. I then set off home and picked up two other Gladiators.”
In the end, Dunn was credited with two confirmed victories and 1 probable and reported that the Sub-Flight gained five confirmed victories and two unconfirmed.
Pilot Officer Stuckey was now in the middle of a whirling dogfight:
“I was then attacked from about 2 o’clock by the two flights that had already broken; I pulled away and down from them, and as I came up in a climbing turn saw a CR 42 following one of our Gladiators in a loop. While it was going up I gave it a long burst and saw it fall away and dive, the pilot jumped almost as soon as I attacked him. Another 42 came straight towards me while I was circling the parachute but I made a quick turn in the opposite direction and he passed just under my port wings. I then saw a 42 with a Gladiator on its’ tail and as I flew in on a beam attack the 42 flick rolled two or three times and continued doing so in a dive. I followed it all the way in a steep turn and dive giving a lot of short bursts and saw it crash. I was then at only about 3,000’ and when I had climbed to about 5,000’ joined in a dog-fight that ended when the 42 dived away and headed for Bir El Essem.”
Form 541 of 80 Squadron ORB credited Stuckey only with a single confirmed victory, probably his first victim was credited to his Commanding Officer who finished it off while of the last biplane he saw hitting the ground he wrote “(…) seen to crash but believed hit before I attacked it”. However, it seems that he later was credited with two destroyed and one probable.
Flight Sergeant Trevor Martin Vaughan (RAF no. 590381) overshot and was cut to pieces by the fire of a couple of CR.42s and killed. Form 541 credited him with a confirmed individual victory, obviously the third CR.42 of the first section.
The second and third Sub-Flights were in the meantime joining combat. Finding the Italians already alerted they fared slightly less well than the first Sub-Flight. Flight Lieutenant Evers-Swindell led his Sub-Flight into the centre formation of nine Italian aircraft, which were already scattered all over the sky:
“(…) I saw the leading formation attack the right hand formation of 9 E.A: so I put my sub flight into line astern expecting the E.A. to break up which they did as soon the first machine was shot down by No.2 of the leading formation. I led my sub flight into the centre formation of nine E.A. which by then were scattered all over the sky. I did a diving quarter attack on an E.A. up to about 50 feet, it turned over on its back and went down in a steep spiral. I was then attacked head on by another E.A. after this I looked down and saw the first one crash in flames. The pilot still in the cockpit. I managed to manoeuvre myself on to the tail of a third and after having given him a longish burst, saw him go down in the same way as the first, but was unable to follow him down as an explosive bullet took away one of my port flying wires and another burst on the starboard side of the instrument panel. I got in two more quick burst on two different E.A. but don’t think I did any damage. My engine then started to pour out smoke and soon afterwards cut out. I glided down in a series of steep turns and found no E.A. following. I looked round and saw nine a/c burning on the ground and one pilot coming down by parachute. I glided for about three miles and at about 200 feet the engine seized up I did not have time to inspect the engine so set the aircraft on fire (…).”
Evers-Swindell was credited of two unconfirmed victories. Flying Officer Wanklyn Flower was able to claim a probable, he reported:
“(…) I picked out a CR 42 flying in left hand turn ahead of me. I dropped in behind and fired three long bursts at close range – I last saw the aircraft diving vertically downwards. At this moment another C.R 42 fired a burst into my machine damaging the engine. I got away from him and, as there were no more enemy machines in sight, made for home (…)”
Flying Officer Dowding also claimed a probable:
“(…) Before we had reached them they had already been broken up before we joined amongst them.
I then saw a CR.42 coming towards me on port beam, it pulled its nose up and did a half roll to the left. I got my sights on to it, as it started to pull its nose up, and followed it round as it did the half roll, giving it a longish burst. It went into a spin, and went down a long way until I lost sight of it.
When I looked again there was an aircraft burning on the ground at approximately the position where the one went down, but I cannot say for certain whether it was the same as the one I saw go down.
I also saw at least four other aircraft burning on the ground, and three people descending by parachutes (…)”
Pilot Officer Sykes led his Sub-Flight into the right flank of the Italian formation:
“(…) I was leading sub 3 flight and putting the flight into echelon right turned on to their right flank. The enemy aircraft suddenly reeled of from their echelon formation probably owing to the fact that the leading flight had come into firing range and had opened fire. A general dog fight then commenced, I engaged a CR.42 which commenced a steep climbing turn, I commenced firing at the beginning of the climb and continued until I saw him fall and commence a flay spiral. I saw fragments or splinters falling from the centre section or the cockpit and saw the aircraft drop about 4-5000 feet and then engaged another which I followed in a steep turn firing all the time. This enemy aircraft went into a spin suddenly and saw one of our own aircraft follow it down. There were no more enemy aircraft in sight. During the action I saw several parachute open and several aircraft burning. I landed back on our aerodrome at 1915. One aircraft in my flight was forced to return just before the action because all its guns stopped.”
Sykes was credited with two unconfirmed victories. The returning aircraft was flown by Sergeant Gregory, who had had tested his gun before the attack, but found them all jammed and had been forced to withdraw. Flying Officer Linnard was more successful:
“(…) We were given R/T instructions by the top flight to enter the fight.
I slipped under my leader to the left and found myself in a mass of milling aircraft. I went to attack a CR.42 which was on a Gladiator’s tail when another CR.42 passed in front of me. I gave him deflection burst and got on to his tail – he pulled up in a loop. I followed him around giving him bursts and when he was upside down in the loop he baled out dropping past me, his parachute opening just below me. My range would be about 50 yards or less. I got on to another CR.42 and practically the same thing happened as before except that I did not get him and my engine cut as I was following him in the loop when I was in the vertical position. I saw the enemy aircraft diving past me but I was so close to him that he could not fire at me. I pushed my nose down and got my engine started and then saw a CR.42 diving down on me from vertically above but he did not hit me. I then saw a CR.42 practically head-on. I gave him a burst at very close range. The enemy aircraft turned over to the right on its back and went into a flat spin. I was at about 4,000 feet at this time. I watched the aircraft spin for about 1000 feet and then heard gunfire which I thought was from behind but there were no enemy aircraft within range of me. I then looked for the spinning aircraft but all I saw was an aircraft in flames on the ground beneath me. Another CR.42 dived past going very fast. I gave him a quick burst and saw some black smoke coming from him, but he kept straight on diving as fast as he could go towards Bir-el-Gobi. I did not follow him down. I then turned back towards where the fight had been but saw only one aircraft a Gladiator (P/O. Stuckey). We hung around a bit and then made for home. I caught up with F/Lt. Pattle and F/O. Graham and returned with them. I landed at 1910. I sustained no damage to self or aircraft except for one Fabric panel torn out.
I saw altogether 6 aircraft burning on ground and 4 parachutes dropping.”
Linnard was credited with two confirmed victories.
Finally, Flight Lieutenant Pattle, after having masterfully conducted the action, joined the fray:
“(…) I saw no’s 2 and 3 sections engage and before I brought my section into the fight I saw five crashed aircraft on the ground , three of which were in flames.
My own section then engaged those E.A. who were attempting to reach their own base and immediately became engaged in separate combats.
I engaged a CR 42 and, after a short skirmish, get into position immediately behind him. On firing two short bursts at about 50 yards range the E.A. fell into a spin and burst into flames on striking the ground. The pilot did not abandon his aircraft.
I then attacked 3 E.A. immediately below me. This action was indecisive as after a few minutes they broke away by diving vertically for the ground and pulling out at very low altitude.
Whilst searching for other E.A. I saw two more aircraft crash and burst into flames. Owing to the widespread area and the number of aircraft engaged it was impossible to confirm what types of aircraft were involved in these crashes or who shot them down.
The sky seemed clear of 42s’ although several Gladiators were still in the vicinity. I was about to turn for our base when a 42 attacked me from below. With the advantage of height I dived astern of him and after a short burst he spun into the ground into flames. As before the pilot didn’t abandon his aircraft. Flying Officer Graham confirms both my combats which ended decisively.
Seeing no further sign of Enemy Aircraft over the area, I turned towards our base. On my way home F/O Graham and P/O Linnard joined me in formation and my section landed at 19.10 hrs.”
Pattle’s two claims were confirmed by Flying Officer Graham, who claimed one victory (later downgraded to a probable). Flight Sergeant Richens claimed one probable while confirming Graham’s claim.
The British pilots returned with a multitude of claims. Because the large number of aircraft involved there is some confusion regarding these claims but it seems that they claimed 13 to 16 confirmed victories and 1 to 7 probables. Victories were claimed by Dunn (who also claimed one of the probables), Stuckey (who also claimed one of the probables), Evers-Swindell, Pattle, Linnard and Sykes, all six pilots claiming two destroyed each, while Wykeham-Barnes and Vaughan claimed one destroyed each. Additional probables were claimed by Dowding, Flower, Graham and Richens. This giving a total of 14 victories and 6 probables. All in exchange for two Gladiators shot down with Flight Sergeant Trevor Martin Vaughan, who was killed, and Fight Lieutenant Evers-Swindell, who reported:
“(…) set the aircraft on fire. First removing the water bottle and Very pistol. I walked for three hours away from the sun and then lay down to sleep. I slept till about 01.00 hours finding dense fog and myself wet through. I then dug a hole in some soft sand and buried my self. There I stayed till daylight. At about 06.30 next morning when the fog started to lift I started to walk into the sun until 15.00hrs. when I saw three armoured cars on the horizon. I fired three very light cartridges, the next thing I remember I was lying in the shade of the armoured car the crew told me I was about five miles from the wire.”
He had been picked up by three armoured cars of the 11th Hussars.
It seems that the 73a Squadriglia suffered most from the surprise attack, losing five aircraft when Sergente Enrico Dallari and Sergente Antonio Valle baled out (possibly shot down by Sykes and Linnard), Sottotenente Querci and Sergente Santo Gino force-landed and Maresciallo Norino Renzi failed to return. Sergente Lido Poli was hit early in the fight, being severely wounded in the left arm. Despite this, he continued to fight, claiming to have shot down one Gladiator before force-landing close to an infantry unit at the outskirts of T3 airfield. A patrol from the army immediately took him back to El Adem. Then he was send to the navy hospital of Tobruk where his arm was amputated. For this courageous display, he was awarded the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare. The official citation of his award stated that he “shared in the destruction of five enemy fighters”. His aircraft was recovered lightly damaged as also stated in the same citation: “he succeeded in landing his plane without damage”, forced only by the loss of blood caused by his wound.
Sergente Dallari and Sergente Valle were recovered by the 2a Divisione Libica (Libyan Division) and were back at base on the following days, while Querci’s and Gino’s fighters were recovered and sent to the SRAM of El Adem on 15 August.
Sergente Rosa was slightly wounded and baled out while Tenente Martissa force-landed wounded.

Maresciallo Norino Renzi was born on 22 January 1912 in Russi (Ravenna). He joined the Regia Aeronautica in 1929. He was assigned to the 4o Stormo and received his military pilot’s license on 25 December 1930. He served with this unit until his death on 8 August 1940. Pre-war he was part of 4o Stormo’s aerobatics group.
Image kindly provided by Fulvio Chianese at Associazione Culturale 4o Stormo di Gorizia.

Martissa, who was initially missing, had force-landed his CR.42 with a hundred bullet holes in it, only 15 kilometres from El Adem. The wounded pilot claimed the individual destruction of two Gladiators (not confirmed in the official documents of his unit but later credited to him by post-war studies). In fact, Martissa was awarded with a third Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (in as many months) for this action. The official motivation of the award stated that he: ”shared in the destruction of five enemy planes together with other pilots”. He survived his ordeal by drinking dewdrops at dawn but after two days, he was becoming to expect the worst. One of the bullets, which had hit his aircraft, had pierced the griffin's head of Squadriglia's badge on the port wheel cover and Martissa wrote with a knife on the white background disc of the badge:

“You, little griffin, have been struck in the head. I would have suffered less if I had been likewise! I'm not mortally wounded, but I shall pass away, since I can't walk for 10-20 km to reach a track. And it will be by hunger and thirst.”
Martissa was found on 10 August by the XXII Compagnia Bersaglieri Motociclisti, led by Tenente Domenico Raspini, which was patrolling 80 km south of Tobruk. Raspini recalled:
"We saw an aircraft in the desert. We approached and found Tenente Martissa under a wing, with a leg almost torn off by an explosive bullet from a British fighter. We rescued him. He told us that if we didn't come [to save him], he'd shoot himself in the head with his gun, because he was dying of thirst.
We rescued the pilot and left the aircraft."

MM4306, flown by Tenente Enzo Martissa on 8 August, when it later served with the 84a Squadriglia of the 10o Gruppo.
Image kindly provided by Fulvio Chianese at Associazione Culturale 4o Stormo di Gorizia.

The Fiat CR.42 flown by Martissa (MM4306) was recovered and, in September 1940, assigned to the 84a Squadriglia of the 10o Gruppo as “84-4”.
Tenente Guiducci was also awarded with a Medaglia d’argento al Valor militare for this combat.
The Italians totally lost four aircraft while four more force-landed (it seems that all were later recovered). In return the Italian pilots claimed five Gladiators (three shared amongst the pilots of 10o Gruppo and two shared by the surviving 73a Squadriglia pilots) and two probables (the 90a Squadriglia’s Diary reported six victories). Remembering the combat for the press, the Italian leader (obviously Maggiore Romagnoli) recalled that even if the attack of the Gladiators was possibly the deadliest he had ever seen, the reaction of his pilots was ”miraculously immediate”. He had just heard the first bullets whistling around him when his right wingman already was breaking with a zoom. Then he saw in his gunsight, the belly of a Gladiator and shot this down (most likely Flight Sergeant Vaughan, who had overshot during the first bounce).
For this exploit, 80 Squadron received the Press honours as well as written congratulations from the RAF HQ Middle East. Dunn and his pilots had exploited the strong points of the Gladiator over the CR.42 to the maximum extent especially the radio equipment, which had permitted a coordinated attack, being also crucial for obtaining the initial surprise and the Gladiators superior low altitude overall performances.
During the combat, the Gladiator demonstrated another interesting characteristic: a markedly superior horizontal manoeuvrability over its opponent. On regard of this point, it is interesting to report the impressions of Flying Officer Stuckey and Flying Officer Linnard.

“With trimming gear slightly back, found I could easily out manoeuvre a/c attacking from rear. No blacking out.”
“No difficulty in keeping astern of enemy aircraft. Enemy invariably looped for evasive action.”
After this combat, morale, particularly among the 9o Gruppo’s pilots suffering their first African experiences, fell considerably. The 73a Squadriglia was considered the top gun unit of 4o Stormo, its pilots (notably among them Enrico Dallari, Renzi, Valerio De Campo and Vittorio Pezzè) were mostly part of the last Italian aerobatic team, which had performed with great success in Berlin Staaken on 23 June 1939, in honour of the returning Condor Legion’s pilots. However, this air battle demonstrated clearly, even in a pure biplane dogfight, that good tactics and sound flight discipline, enhanced by R/T communications were better than the pure aerobatic skill. However, despite this heavy beating, operations for the 9o Gruppo restarted the next day.

Ezio Viglione and Alvaro Querci at Gorizia in 1941.
Image kindly provided by Fulvio Chianese at

On 12 December, ten fighters from the 9o Gruppo under the command of Capitano Roberto Fassi were attacked by a Hurricane that damaged the CR.42 of Sottotenente Querci before escaping.

At 15:05 on 13 December, Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni again led a patrol with four CR.42s from the 97a Squadriglia (Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Novelli and Sergente Alcide Leoni), eight from the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Valerio De Campo, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Sottotenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sottotenente Querci, Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari, Sergente Maggiore Sergio Stauble, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Valle and Sergente Santo Gino) and eight from the 96a Squadriglia to make a ground strafing against a British convoy in the Sollum-Buq-Buq area. While returning one Hurricane was attacked and claimed damaged, apparently by a 73a Squadriglia pilot. They returned to T3 at 17:05 claiming nine armoured vehicles (five in flames and four damaged).

The Stormo was sent back to Italy on Christmas Day 1940 in order to commence its re-equipment with MC.200s.

On 4 April 1941 the 73a Squadriglia (Capitano Mario Pluda (CO), Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Sottotenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sottotenente Querci, Maresciallo Mario Ruffilli, Sergente Antonio Valle, Sergente Santo Gino, Sergente Rossi, Sergente Mario Guerci, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Gallerani (96a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Novelli (97a Squadriglia)) was transferred to Alture di Pola.

In July 1941, they re-equipped again with MC.202s.

On 27 September, the whole 9o Gruppo left Gorizia and flew to Rome-Ciampino, where they two days later met Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, which greeted them. Later the same day they went to Comiso (Sicily) for a new tour of duty, this time against Malta.
At this time the 73a Squadriglia was composed of Capitano Mario Pluda (CO), Capitano Carlo Ivaldi, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Sottotenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sottotenente Felice Bussolin, Sottotenente Querci, Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari, Sergente Santo Gino, Sergente Rossi, Sergente Mario Guerci, Sergente Maggiore Teresio Martinoli and Sergente Armando Angelini.

At 17:55 on 22 October, six 73a Squadriglia MC.202s, escorted by eight more, strafed Luqa. Nine Hurricanes of 249 Squadron were sent off to intercepts, the Macchis diving on them as they were climbing up over St. Paul’s Island. Sergeant Dave Owen (Hurricane GN-R), was shot down in flames, but managed to bale out before the fighter hit the sea. Sergeant Alf Branch (Z4016) noted in his logbook:

“Sgt Owen shot down into sea – circled him until picked up. Gave two short bursts head-on at a 202 – did not claim anything.”
Owen had been acting as a weaver in company with Pilot Officer R. H. ‘Bob’ Matthews whose aircraft (Z3756) was again hit, as he recorded in his diary:
“Just over St Paul’s Bay, when we were at about 15,000 feet, we saw the enemy aircraft - seven down, six above coming in very fast and diving apparently towards Takali. They were quite near when they turned towards us, still diving. They crossed us to the left of the formation and, as they came up, I pulled up my nose and gave a long burst so that the whole of the formation flew through it. They went over and all turned steeply to the left, while we nosed down and turned to the left also, trying to get some speed on the clock. We broke as they turned to fight and the whole sky filled up with aircraft milling around, and a few firing. Several Macchis stayed up and played the dive and climb tactics. As I circled after one Macchi, another jumped me and put a burst over my wings, both sides, so I turned and skidded away. I began circling to gain height, edging towards Valetta, which was darker than the west And just as I was turning towards a couple of Macchis, another jumped me from above and got in a burst which hit me pretty badly. I could smell the incendiary and explosive as they hit. And again I turned violently. As I did so, I saw a Hurricane go down steeply in flames and eventually hit the water. I did not see anyone get out.
Again I began the circling climb racket with several other Hurricanes with me. One came up behind and I shied away in case it was a Macchi. Then suddenly the Macchis went and we were left at about 12,000 feet in the growing gloom. I came in and landed, just avoiding a wing dip on account of my damaged (leading) edge. Of course, there was an inquest on the battle. I had bullets all over the place. One went into my left wing and smashed two ammo tanks, exploding a lot of ammunition in them. One went down the semi-armour plate on the cowling and burst when it hit the glycol filler cap cones, and blew it open. Another hit my mainspar about one foot from the wing-root and almost blew it apart - the wing surface was blown open about six inches on either side of the strike, The last went through the trailing edge - a clean hole. So that was another day of near shaves. I admit that I felt pretty fagged when I landed, and very upset. I could easily have been sick. The day after that I caught sandfly fever and went up to M’tarfa
[Hospital] for a week.”
This was the second time in the last two outings that Matthews and Owen had been targeted by the Macchis from the 73a Squadriglia, causing Pilot Officer Harry Moon to comment laconically:
“Sgt Owen and P/O Matthews (weavers) consistently shot up and down!”
The 73a Squadriglia pilots claimed heavily; two Hurricanes were credited to Tenente Pietro Bonfatti and one each to Capitano Mario Pluda, Sottotenente Querci (according to some sources he was credited with two victories), Sergente Maggiore Teresio Martinoli and Sergente Mario Guerci, while probables went to Maggiore Antonio Larsimont and Capitano Carlo Ivaldi. One Macchi was damaged in the combat.

In the afternoon on 21 November, 18 MC.202 from the 9o Gruppo were out to strafe Hal Far. On their way, they met four Hurricanes from 185 Squadron, which were engaged in a convoy patrol. The Italians reported meeting twelve Hurricanes and claimed five of these shot down into the sea, one each by Maggiore Antonio Larsimont (97a Squadriglia), Sergente Raffaele Novelli (97a Squadriglia), Maresciallo Rinaldo Damiani (97a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Querci (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Pasquale Rossi (73a Squadriglia), plus two probables by Tenente Pietro Bonfatti (73a Squadriglia) and Tenente Jacopo Frigerio (97a Squadriglia).
One Hurricane was in fact lost; 20-year-old Flight Sergeant Richard Cousens (RAF no. 970365) being killed in Hurricane Z2813/GL-L.
The Italian fighters then carried on completing their strafe on Luqa, returning without loss.
At Luqa Corporal John Alton recalled:

“Four Hurricanes were scrambled and, as was customary, the fitters and riggers sat around on the starter trollies awaiting the return of the aircraft. Four aircraft were seen approaching, which at a glance looked like our Hurricanes. This was a gross mistake, because they were Macchi 202s and, before anyone could move, explosive bullets were churning up the ground. Then, just as quickly, they were gone. Not a soul was so much as scratched.”

On 22 November the 9o Gruppo’s 96a and 97a Squadriglie (eighteen fighters in all) were hurriedly ordered to transfer to Martuba, North Africa, to counter the British advance. The 73a Squadriglia remained at Comiso to perform photo reconnaissance missions over Malta.

On 23 November, Querci claimed a damaged Hurricane over the Sicilian Channel.
This was possibly a Hurricane from 126 Squadron. Five Hurricanes from this unit carried out a fighter-bomber raid on Comiso during the day. Flight Sergeant was brought down and he crash-landed Z2941/HA-D and was taken POW. His aircraft was salvaged by the Italians and stored in a hangar.

On 3 December the 73a flew to Udine to re-equip with brand new MC.202s.
They were joined by the 96a and 97a Squadriglie in the last days of December.

On 23 April 1942, the 9o Gruppo was back on Sicily and based at Sciacca, for a third tour against Malta.

On 29 April 1942, the new CO of 73a, Capitano Aldo Gon made an emergency landing near Agrigento after a mission over Malta during which his MC.202 was damaged and he was badly injured.
Temporarily command was taken over by Tenente Giuseppe Oblach.

In the afternoon on 4 May 1942, five Cant Z.1007bis from the 211a Squadriglia, escorted by five 9o Gruppo MC.202s and ten Bf 109s, bombed Grand Harbour.
The Italians reported that three Spitfires attempted to attack the bombers, and that two of these were claimed shot down by Sottotenente Querci and Sergente Teresio Martinoli of 73a Squadriglia, one of which they believed crashed into the sea. They may have attacked Sergeant J. N. McConnell’s BR187/O, one of four 601 Squadron Spitfires which had taken off. McConnell crash-landed at Luqa after the radiator of his aircraft sustained damage – though reportedly following an attack by a Messerschmitt.

At 18:10 on 10 May 1942, five Z.1007bis again were out to attack Malta. The Italian bombers, which came from 50o Gruppo B.T., were escorted by twenty MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo and ten Re.2001s from 2o Gruppo (making their combat debut over Malta). Twenty Ju 87s of III./StG3 and Ju 88s followed the Italian aircraft with a large escort of Bf 109s.
At 17:40, ten Spitfires from 601 Squadron had been scrambled to intercept the incoming raid and these aircraft attacked the Italian aircraft.
In the ensuing melee, Squadron Leader J. D. Bisdee leading an attack on Tenente Domenico Robillotta’s 211a Squadriglia bomber (MM23417), which blew up, the wreckage crashing into a field near Kalkara; three of the crew were killed and one injured, whilst a fifth was seen to bale out and fall into Grand Harbour when his parachute failed to open properly. Sergeant F. W. Farfan claimed a second bomber as probably destroyed, and Sergeant ‘Jim’ Innes damaged a third; one of these, MM23400, was hit hard and landed at Gela airfield with two members of the crew wounded, one dying later in hospital. One of the Macchis was shot down by Pilot Officer Walter ‘Wally’ Caldwell (BR344/4-H), in which Capitano Roberto Dagasso, commander of the 97a Squadriglia lost his life. Two Re.2001s sustained combat damage but were able to return to Sicily. 601 Squadron suffered no losses.
On board another of the Cant Z.1007bis was Antonio Ferri:

”I’ll never forget that mission. We were told at briefing to expect trouble; that the Germans had run into heavy opposition earlier in the day. There was anxiety as we put on our flying gear. None of the crew said much, but you could cut the tension with a knife. The squadron commander tried to relax us, pointing out we’d have dozens of fighters escorting us, but it did little good. I remember sitting on the grass under the wing of our plane, waiting for the signal to take off. It was so peaceful. The three engines had been tested, then turned off. The only sound was of the birds. You could see a donkey grazing nearby and you could smell the blossoms. It was about 5pm, so it wasn’t terribly hot. The tranquillity of the scene, and the knowledge of what lay ahead, made me ache for life, if I can put it that way.
We snapped on our parachutes and life jackets, the guns were checked, oxygen masks were hooked up and our pilot glanced over at Mount Etna to see which way the wind was blowing its smoke plume. At this point there was a nervous energy that was almost intoxicating. Then the engines roared into life and we taxied into position for take-off. You could see the grass being beaten down by the whirling propeller blades. Then we were off, with five other Cants coming just behind us. As we neared Malta we could see dust in the distance, where the British planes were taking off to intercept us. We looked around and could see our own fighters high above us in the sun. Flying over enemy territory always gave me a queer feeling. You knew they could see you, that people who hated you were running to their flak guns and planes, getting ready to try to kill you. Somebody suddenly shouted, ”There they are!” It never ceased to amaze me how quickly the Spitfires and Hurricanes would appear. One moment you were alone in the sky and the next second there they were, coming at you head-on, with guns blazing. When I first saw the guns winking on British fighters I thought they were turning their landing lights on. But by this time I was experienced enough to know better.”
Ferri saw Tenente Robillotta’s Z.1007bis about 100 metres ahead of him suddenly explode in an orange fireball:
”It went straight down; I didn’t see anyone get out. That got your attention very quickly. Another Cant was hit and fell away, but the rest of us pressed on. By this time our fighters were mixing it up with the English so we were left alone for the moment. That’s when the flak came up at us. You could see muzzle flashes all over Malta, or at least it seemed that way to me. Our plane was hit in the starboard wing and in the fuselage but none of the crew was hurt. We dropped our bombs and, as always, you could feel the old Cant rise up involuntarily as the extra weight of the bombs fell away. We turned for home, but half a dozen Spitfires were after us. I think there were so many that they got in each other’s way, because they only put one cannon shell into our rudder. Our rear gunner was firing back for all he was worth. You could smell the gunpowder all over the plane. Somehow, we got the hell out of there. I was OK while we were airborne but after I got into my quarters I was shaking like a leaf and started to cry. I swore I wouldn’t go to Malta again, but of course I did. None of us had any choice in the matter. If you refused to fly you could be shot.”
The Italian fighters claimed six fighters, two probables and two damaged as well as one Beaufighter. Pilots of 9o Gruppo claimed three, one by Sergente Teresio Martinoli (73a Squadriglia), another by Tenente Mario Massa (73a Squadriglia) (identified as a Defiant!), the third (also identified as a Defiant) jointly by Sottotenente Querci (73a Squadriglia), Tenente Emanuele Annoni (96a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Leo Boselli (97a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore (97a Squadriglia). According to some sources is Capitano Dagasso also included in this shared. The 2o Gruppo pilots claimed the remainder. Tenente Remo Cazzolli (152a Squadriglia) and Maresciallo Olindo Simionato (150a Squadriglia) each claimed one, while a third was shared by Capitano Roberto Fassi (150a Squadriglia) and Maresciallo Antonio Patriarca (358a Squadriglia), the latter also claiming a probable. Tenente Carlo Seganti (358a Squadriglia) claimed the Beaufighter (probably a transit aircraft encountered over the sea) while two Spitfires were reported damaged by Capitano Salvatore Teja (152a Squadriglia) and Sergente Giuseppe Baraldi (152a Squadriglia), and another pilot was awarded a probable.

On 11 May, Sottotenente Querci took temporarily commander of the 73a Squadriglia after that Tenente Giuseppe Oblach had to leave the command due to illness.

At 09:15 on 15 May 1942, three S.84bis of 4o Gruppo BT, escorted by 30 MC.202s of 4o Stormo CT, were out to attack barracks at St Paul’s Bay, Malta (probably Fort Cambell). A dozen Spitfires from 249 and 603 Squadron were scrambled and engaged the formation shortly after it had bombed. Flight Lieutenant N. W. Lee and Flying Officer R. A. ‘Mitch’ Mitchell from 249 Squadron each claimed damaged to one of the Savoias. The Italians reported that five Spitfires attacked over the target and Capitano Franco Lucchini (84a Squadriglia) claimed one shot down and one damaged. Other Spitfires then came in over Gozo, and three of these were claimed by Tenente Jacopo Frigerio (97a Squadriglia), Tenente Ferruccio Zarini (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Mario Guerci (73a Squadriglia); the latter and Sottotenente Querci (73a Squadriglia) also each claimed one probably destroyed. The two pilots from the 73a Squadriglia reported that they fired on two Spitfires, which dived towards the sea, leaving smoke trails. The two pilots were engaged in the battle, and they couldn’t follow the Spitfires until the end, so these were considered probably destroyed. None of the Spitfires were however seriously hit. Pilot Officer Lawrence ‘Lawrie’ Verrall of 249 Squadron shot down one MC.202, killing the 91a Squadriglia commander Capitano Alberto Argento (MM7813).

On 20 May, the 9o Gruppo, with 28 MC.202s, took off for a third tour of duty in North Africa. After a call in Pantelleria, they reached Castel Benito.
The following day, after intermediate landings at Tamet and Benghasi K3, they reached their new base at Martuba 4.

On 24 May, the 54 MC.202s of the 4o Stormo C, which had been operating over Malta, arrived at Martuba, led by Tenente Colonnello Armando François.
They joined 1o Stormo (CO Colonnello Alfredo Reglieri), forming a force of more than 100 MC.202s, the largest concentration of these fighters ever to be achieved in Libya.
Next day a Comando Caccia (Fighter Command) was established at Martuba under the 1o Stormo commander, to co-ordinate the activities of the four MC.202-equipped units:
6o Gruppo (1o Stormo); CO Maggiore Mario Larcher
17o Gruppo (1o Stormo); CO Maggiore Domenico Sciaudone
9o Gruppo (4o Stormo); CO Maggiore Antonio Larsimont Pergameni
10o Gruppo (4o Stormo); CO Maggiore Paolo Maddalena
The three squadriglie of the newly arrived 9o Gruppo were led by Sottotenente Querci (73a Squadriglia), Capitano Ezio Viglione Borghese (96a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio (97a Squadriglia), who would be replaced by Tenente Fernando Malvezzi on 1 June. The commanders of the three squadriglie of 10o Gruppo were Capitano Franco Lucchini (84a Squadriglia), Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (90a Squadriglia) and Tenente Orlando Mandolini (91a Squadriglia).

Between 14:40 and 16:05 on 29 May, Maggiore Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO 9o Gruppo) was leading eight MC.202s from the 4o Stormo on a free sweep. The visibility was much reduced because of the sand swept up by the wind. While the formation was crossing over Acroma at an altitude of 4,000m at 15:15, a patrol of about a dozen P-40s was spotted at a lower altitude; its pilots noticed the presence and tried to increase altitude by turning towards the Macchis, which launched the attack. Three enemy fighters were claimed shot down with two more as probables with seven additionally machine-gunned (with the total use of 2773 rounds of ammunition). Sergente Maggiore Teresio Martinoli (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Mario Guerci (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore (97a Squadriglia) claimed the destroyed while the probables were claimed by Sergente Maggiore Salvatore and Sottotenente Querci (73a Squadriglia) while two of the machine-gunned were claimed by Sergente Maggiore Martinoli. Sottotenente Mario Massa (73a Squadriglia) in MM7824/73-5 was killed; he had only been with the unit for three months.
Nine Tomahawks IIbs from 5 SAAF Squadron (15:40-16:55) together with eleven Hurricane IIcs from 274 Squadron (15:40-17:20) were on a wing sweep over Bir Hacheim and they reported meeting a mixed force of Bf 109s and MC.202s. The 5 SAAF Squadron reported combat at 16:10 and Major John Frost (AN523/GL-R) claimed a destroyed MC.202 10 miles east of Gazala while Captain John Hewitson (AN448/GL-H) claimed a damaged Bf 109 and two more MC.202s were claimed damaged by Lieutenant John Lindbergh (AN366/GL-O) and Lieutenant Peter Harold Saunders (AM495/GL-T, combat reported 16:15); the three damaged fighters were claimed near Gazala. Lieutenant John Slater (AN433/GL-B) suffered engine failure after combat (he reported being attacked three times from behind by a Bf 109) and belly-landed south of Tobruk at 16:40. Slater was safe but the Tomahawk was struck off charge.
Major Frost reported:

“16.00 10000 8 or 9 EA were seen diving out of the sun. They were 109E, F and 202. Turned to face them and a general dogfight followed. 109 staying above and doing dive attacks, while Macchis came down and fought. Good burst with little deflection at a Macchi which climbed past me. EA turned over and started burning. Was seen to crash by other pilots. .50 20, 303 40.
At 16.20, the enemy broke off and headed west.”
Lieutenant Lindberg reported:
“At 10000 feet… When I observed the EA I attempted a head on attack on one below me, but overshot. I then went into a steep turn and saw a Me.109 climbing steeply to the north from below me with a Tomahawk close behind. I approached and the 109 pulled over on its back giving the impression of being out of control. While he was at the top of the stall turn he presented a deflection target well within range, so I opened fire. I lost him as he went down, but saw an AC burst into flames as it hit the ground as few seconds later. Shortly after this I saw a Macchi 202 on the tail of a Tomahawk about 1500’ below, I dived and the Macchi pulled away from his target into a gentle climbing turn to the left. When I got within range I allowed plenty of deflection and opened fire. I saw incendiary ammo, bursting in his airscrew disc and on the port wing. At about 50 yards range I saw an AC coming up on my wing right towards me, so I broke off the attack. One Macchi damaged (.50-400, .303-1200)”
Captain Hewitson reported:
“At 10000 feet…Saw bombs bursting in sea near Gazala and when approaching to investigate 8 or 9 EA attacked out of the sun. General dogfight followed and while diving down to escape a Bf 109 I noticed another Bf 109 F on the tail of a Tomahawk at 50 ft. I came in and attacked the Bf 109 F from above astern, pulled away and delivered another attack after which the 109 pulled away and climbed to about 1500 ft. during which time I was firing from astern at about 200 yards. Black smoke was seen coming out from behind the Me.109 and it seems to stall at that height. I was then attacked by another Me.109 and the result of the first combat was not observed. One Me.109F damaged (.50-100, .303-150)”
Lieutenant Saunders reported:
“…I dived very fast on the tail of a Macchi 202 and opened fire holding it to very short range. I saw pieces coming off and pulled up over the top of him and turned but saw him diving very fast going west… One Macchi damaged (.50-100, .303-400)”
The 274 Squadron did not see any enemy aircraft, but Sergeant James Dodds, who returned early, came across four Bf 109s and claimed one damaged over Bir Hacheim at 15:40. Totally the Allied fighters claimed one destroyed and four damaged for the loss of one Tomahawk.

Between 16:00-17:30 on 9 June, Maggiore Antonio Larsimont Pergameni led 15 MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo (six from the 73a Squadriglia, six from the 96a Squadriglia and two from the 97a Squadriglia) on a free sweep over Bir Hacheim. At 16:30, they came up against three enemy formations at altitudes of 3000, 3500, and 4000 metres respectively over Bir Hacheim with a total of 30 fighters, split between P-40s and Hurricanes (a very precise estimate). After the ensuing air combat, the Italian pilots claimed five P-40s and one Hurricane destroyed with two P-40s and two Hurricanes probably shot down and 19 machine-gunned (3839 rounds).
It was reported that Sergente Maggiore Teresio Martinoli (73a Squadriglia) easily shot down two P-40s, setting them afire in addition to damaging a third one; his MC.202 was in turn hit and slightly damaged. As usual, he flew at the top of the formation because of his outstanding eyesight.
Sergente Mario Guerci (73a Squadriglia) shot down one P-40 and fired at a second from close distance. He saw a black smoke trail coming from it. He didn’t follow it (it was credited as a probable), engaged as he was in the midst of the dogfight. His MC.202 was also hit and slightly damaged.
Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) fired at the tail of an P-40 at very close range (credited as probably destroyed) but couldn’t finnish it off since his own aircraft was slightly damaged.
Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli (73a Squadriglia), who was following Tenente Squarcia, fired on two Hurricanes, hitting the cockpit of one; he saw it heel over and then assumed an anomalous trim with the nose pointing down. He then followed it, hitting it again. But then he had to desist because a P-40 was on his tail. Her was credited with one destroyed Hurricane and another as a probable.
Sottotenente Querci (73a Squadriglia) claimed a P-40 and fired at a second (credited as damaged). His MC.202 was also hit but not badly.
Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia) claimed a destroyed P-40 and a probable Hurricane.
Tenente Emanuele Annoni (96a Squadriglia) fired at four planes.
21-year-old Sergente Maggiore Pasquale Rossi (MC.202 MM7831/’73-11’) failed to return and became MiA.
The enemy formations, on patrol over Bir Hacheim were ten Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron (16:55-18:35) with 2 and 4 SAAF Squadrons (but the first would break away from the other two), and twelve Hurricane IIcs of 213 Squadron (16:50-18:50) as top cover for another eleven of 73 Squadron (17:00-18:30), which also were on patrol over Bir Hacheim and searching for possible enemy bombers. Additionally, four Spitfires of 145 Squadron (17:00-18:30) were top cover for the Hurricanes but probably were separated because nothing was reported.
The first to meet with the Italians was 260 Squadron who lost 20-years-old Sergeant Harold Clark (RAF no. 1266027) who became MiA (and later KIA). Subsequently 213 and 73 Squadrons were engaged.
213 Squadron was at 15,000ft when it saw a formation of Kittyhawks (260 Squadron) returning east, which warned the Hurricanes that bandits were heading south-east 20 miles south-east of Gazala. Then ground control sent the warning that bandits were behind and to port 10 miles east of Bir Hacheim. The Commonwealth formation was at 15,000ft when it turned against a reportedly twelve Bf 109s and MC.202s in vic formation 500-1,000ft above. Six peeled off in line astern and dived to attack the Hurricanes. Individual combats followed with one Bf 109 claimed destroyed and a Bf 109 and a MC.202 damaged 10 miles north-west of Bir Hacheim. Only two Hurricanes were slightly damaged; one received a strike in the petrol tank and another in the aileron. One Bf 109 was seen going down in flames and hit the deck (probably Sergente Maggiore Rossi) but no Ju 88s were sighted. The Hurricanes formed into a defensive circle to the left, everyone weaving. The enemy aircraft practically attacked in a vertical dive and then pulled up. Four more enemy aircraft joined the fight. Pilot Officer W. R. Henderson (Hurricane IIc BN128/K) claimed a destroyed Bf 109F while Flight Lieutenant C. B. Temlett (BM981/G) (100 Ball, 100 HE/Inc) claimed a damaged Bf 109F and Flying Officer F. A. W. J. Wilson (BN136/S) claimed a damaged MC.202.
W. C. Fenton (BN157) led the eleven Hurricanes IIcs of 73 Squadron. At 17:50 they were flying at an altitude of 12,000ft 10 miles west of Bir Hacheim when they were jumped by five to six Bf 109s and Macchis coming down from 3000ft above. In the ensuing combat, they were credited with one probable MC.202 and one probable Bf 109F. The probable MC.202 was credited to Flight Lieutenant ‘Robin’ Johnston (BF272) 5 miles east of Bir Hacheim while the BF 109F (!) was credited to Flight Sergeant E. L. Joyce (BN156/QO-L) 12 miles west of Bir Hacheim. Joyce reported:

“…Our A flight was jumped by 5 Macchis and 109s. A mix up followed and I climbed to 14000 (from 10-11000). A Me l09 dived on a Hurricane. I half rolled, losing my No.2 and pulled up waiting for him (the 109) to pull up, which he did about 300 yards in front of me, climbing on an angle of 45o. I fired and as I did, he turned slightly left. I changed my aim and blew about 2 square feet off his left wing. He went down in a vertical dive, left hand, and I watched him for about 5000 feet, when I was attacked by a Macchi 202. …I then climbed to 15000 feet and made several attacks.... I took evasive action and evaded an attack by an Me.109, which was coming from the sun, about 400 yards behind me.... There was one Kittyhawk, which belly landed about 10-12 miles east of Bir Hakeim. I claimed one probably destroyed. 53 balls, 52 He total 147-145.”
The Italian formation was subdivided in two sections, one at 5,000m with 96a Squadriglia and another at 4,000m. It was 260 Squadron that was met first, separated as it was from the South Africans, and it was briefly engaged (it is not known why it was not pursued). The Macchis then came up against the Hurricanes that, being in difficulty, formed a defensive circle. There must have been two separated clashes of the two squadrons with the two sections of 9o Gruppo. Notwithstanding the big battle and the difficulties of the enemy formations, the Macchis did not manage to do much damage and indeed lost a pilot, despite the large number of rounds fired by their Bredas and the large number of victories claimed.

Following the Axis advance, the 9o Gruppo transferred to El Adem on 23 June, then to Sidi el Barrani two days later and finally to Fuka on 1 July.

Between 07:55-09:30 on 26 June, Maggiore Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO) led ten MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo (five from the 73a Squadriglia and five from the 96a Squadriglia) on a free sweep in the Bir Astor area. From an altitude of 4,000 metres west of Mersa Matruh, he sighted nine Bostons with 15 P-40s escorting and ordered the attack. The Italian fighters claimed two P-40ss and three probables with 14 aircraft machine-gunned (2665 rounds fired). The victories were claimed by Maggiore Ludovico Laurin (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Bruno Biagini (73a Squadriglia) while probables were claimed by Maggiore Larsimont, Sottotenente Querci (73a Squadriglia) and Tenente Ferruccio Zarini (73a Squadriglia). Tenente Emanuele Annoni (96a Squadriglia) fired at two P-40s with inconclusive results.
Nine Bostons from 12 SAAF Squadron were at an altitude of 8,500ft attacking enemy columns (08:30-10:00). During the day, the escort was provided by 239 Wing with its few remaining fighters. Close cover was provided by four Kittyhawks from 450 Squadron (09:10-10:03, three Kittyhawks from 3 RAAF Squadron was medium cover (09:10-10:00) while four Kittyhawks from 250 Squadron were top cover (09:00-10:05). 12 SAAF Squadron saw six MC.202s and four Bf 109s at an altitude of 8,500ft. Enemy fighters dived out of the sun and astern of the formation for six minutes. They were in formation when they began their attack from above at a distance of 400 yards and opened fire at 100 yards. Six of the fighters engaged the enemy. All of the enemy fighters lined up in a single file for the attack, going in one by one. Four bombers were damaged and one was wrecked upon landing (it was subsequently repaired) but there were no casualties. One MC.202 was claimed to have been probably shot down by the Bostons. One gunner fired 200 rounds and tracers were seen entering a MC.202, which dived away vertically, but its fate was unobserved. No results were observed due to evasive action.
250 Squadron recorded:

“...were attacked by 6 ME.109s and 3 or 4 M.202s at 8000’. F.Lt Marshall (AK921) put a long burst into a ME.109F, but did not see it go in. Sgts. Cormack and Stewart also had good bursts; Stewart seeing a strike on the wing root of the EA. 250 was again attacked on way home, an AC seen going down in flames by P.O. Whiteside. F.Lt. Marshall and P.O. Curtis: one ME.109F destroyed confirmed.”
3 RAAF Squadron was at 7000 feet when it was attacked from above at 5 o’clock. Pilot Officer Victor Curtis (Kittyhawk Ia AL101) reported the attack of a G.50 on the last Kittyhawk (3 RAAF Squadron), which was followed by six Bf 109s and a MC.200. He jettisoned his bomb and chased off an aircraft that was attacking the bombers. A Bf 109 then attacked, firing at a Kittyhawk of 250 Squadron until it broke away. He fired again against another one from the front quarter and saw tracers bouncing from the engine cowling. Pilot Curtis was then attacked by Bf 109s. He shot at the second and entered a stall when his guns stopped working. Spinning out from the stall, he was hit by explosive shells on the rudder and fuselage but was able to bring his fighter back home (Cat.I). He was credited with a Bf 109 shared with Flight Lieutenant A. E. Marshall (250 Squadron). Sergeants Ward (AK992) and Alderson (AL128) also fired at the enemy. All of the Bf l09s had dark camouflage and a white nose.
450 Squadron was at an altitude of 8000ft and going at a speed of 160 mph when bombs were dropped by Bostons and Kittyhawks. Three Bf l09s attacked the top cover from astern while a MC.202 flew across the Bostons, damaging one of them. Flight Sergeant Raymond Dyson (AK951) fired at a Bf 109, chasing it away from the bombers (claimed as a probable 7 miles east of “Charing Cross”). His Kittyhawk was in its turn shot at but to no effect.

On 29 June, four MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo, led by Sottotenente Querci (73a Squadriglia), were on ”caccia libera” (free sweep) to the south-east of Mersa Matruh between 10:15-11:30. They sighted twelve P-40s at an altitude of 3,500m and attacked them. They were credited with three victories and several planes machine-gunned. The victories were credited to Sottotenente Querci, Sergente Maggiore Teresio Martinoli (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia; he also fired on four more P-40s). The MC.202s returned without losses.
They had been in combat with nine Hurricane IIcs of 213 Squadron that were on a free sweep over Mersa Matruh between 11:45-13:45. ‘A’ Flight was top cover at 10,000ft while ‘B’ Flight was at 6,000ft. At 12:40 an enemy formation was observed descending the escarpment five miles west of Fuka. Intense light anti-aircraft fire was experienced over Pin Point 782313. ‘B’ Flight was heading west at 12:45 when it observed two Bf 109s diving down onto the port section; their attention was probably drawn because the Hurricanes were being aimed at by anti-aircraft fire. Two more Bf 109s then joined in and individual combats resulted. After fifteen minutes the engagement was broken off.
Pilot Officer D. V. Beedham (BN359/V) reported the attack of three Bf l09s from an altitude of 10,000ft. He was attacked by one and went into a circle but the enemy aircraft gained on him, firing at a constant rate. He was down at 500ft when the enemy aircraft overshot him, coming in within a 50-yard range. Unfortunately, a gun began to fail after the first burst, shortly followed by two more. Still he continued firing with the remaining final gun (totally using 48 Ball, 47 He/I), seeing bits breaking off and the enemy aircraft diving straight to the deck, bursting into flames and blowing up (he was credited with one destroyed Bf 109F). Bedham’s Hurricane sustained severe damage (Cat. II). There was a bullet behind the port petrol tank and one in the gravity petrol tank. A bullet struck the ammunition in the starboard wing but did not cause it to explode. The mirror was shot away. The propeller was damaged by a bullet and needed to be replaced. Because of the damage, he had to land at LG 106. The Hurricane was subsequently lost on evacuation of the landing ground.
Flight Lieutenant Peter Olver (BN139/U) claimed a second Bf 109F damaged (40 Ball, 40 He/I).
BN117/X flown by Pilot Officer D. F. Chadwick was also damaged (Cat. I) after that an explosive bullet had struck the starboard tailplane. There was also damage to the trailing edge and stringers on the rudder as well as damage to the port main plane where a bullet had struck the cannon magazine. In this case the Hurricanes were armed with four cannons.

Twelve Hurricane IIcs of 73 Squadron with others of 33 Squadron, departed at 12:30 on 3 July to patrol over El Alamein. In a fight with fighters (identified as Bf 109s) over the El Alamein box, two Hurricanes of 73 Squadron (BN546 flown by Sergeant H. Hill (KiA) and BN538 flown by Flight Sergeant H. W. E. Packham (safe)) and one of 33 Squadron (BE643 flown by Sergeant B. O. Woollard (parachuted WiA)) were shot down. The 73 Squadron pilots claimed three Bf 109s shot down, one probable and four damaged. The five first claims were reported at 12:50:
1 destroyed Bf 109 by Sergeant Michael Jones (BE183)
1 damaged Bf 109F by Sergeant ‘Ron’ Baker (BN402)
1 destroyed Bf 109 and 1 damaged Bf 109 by Flight Sergeant E. L. Joyce (BP177/OQ-L)
1 destroyed Bf 109 by Flying Officer J. F. Pain (BN566)
The last three claims were made at 13:00:
1 Bf 109 damaged by Flight Lieutenant I. J. Badger (BN403)
1 Bf 109 damaged by Flight Lieutenant S. P. V. Bird (BP175)
1 Bf 109F probably destroyed by Sergeant H. W. E. Packham (BE372/OQ-H)
At much the same time four Bf 109F-4trops of III./JG 27 on a Freie Jagd reported intercepting two formations. One of eight and one of 12 British fighters – possibly the 73/33 Squadron aircraft – claiming three of them shot down by Leutnant Werner Schroer of 8./JG 27, who claimed one Hurricane at 14:40 south of El Imayid, a second Hurricane at 14:47 south-east of El Hammam and a P-40 at 14:50 also south-east of El Hammam.
However, 12 Hurricane IIcs of 274 Squadron were off again from 14:40 on a patrol over El Alamein, the pilots of these reporting that four MC.202s had attacked the top cover, two of which were claimed damaged including Hurricane IIc BG494/Y (Cat. II) flown by Sergeant S. Lerche (safe). Flight Sergeant J. W. Neil (BP326/T) claimed two MC.202 damaged south of Burg el Arab. The 274 Squadron returned to base at 16:00.
A free sweep was carried between 13:15-14:45 by 16 MC.202s of the 9o Gruppo, led by Capitano Luigi Mariotti. Over El Hammam the pilots of these engaged a reported 12 Bostons and 22 P-40s, claiming two P-40s and a Boston shot down as shared between Capitano Mariotti, Sottotenente Querci and Sergente Teresio Martinoli. Several others were claimed damaged.

Querci was promoted to Tenente on the same day, 3 July 1942.

On 6 July, Capitano Luigi Mariotti temporarily took command over the 73a Squadriglia after Tenente Querci.

On 10 July, the 9th Australian Division launched an attack in the northern sector of the El Alamein line. This was backed by all the Commonwealth Wings that targeted ground targets and the airfields of LG 20, LG 21 and LG 102, which resulted in heavy aerial fighting.
Between 11:05-12:40, twelve MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo led by Maggiore Roberto Fassi escorted five CR.42s from the 50o Stormo out to attack enemy troops in the El Alamein area and 30km south of El Daba. The fighters were two from the 73a Squadriglia, four from the 96a Squadriglia and six from the 97a Squadriglia. In the target area, they spotted three stepped up enemy formations with eight P-40s at 2,000 meters altitude protected by 10 Hurricanes and 6 Spitfires at 5,000 meters.
Capitano Luigi Mariotti (96a Squadriglia) attacked and claimed one P-40 while Tenente Querci and Maresciallo Rodolfo Stoppani (both from the 73a Squadriglia) claimed three shared damaged P-40s. The last duo couldn’t finish the attacks since they were attacked by more enemy fighters. The combat last for 20 minutes and the pilots from the 9o Gruppo returned claiming six enemy aircraft; four P-40s and two Hurricanes. The claims were made by Luigi Mariotti, two P-40s by Capitano Fernando Malvezzi (97a Squadriglia), one P-40 by Sergente Teresio Martinoli (73a Squadriglia), one Hurricane by Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia) and one Hurricane by Tenente Antonio Canfora (97a Squadriglia). One Hurricane and one P-40 were claimed as probables by unknown pilots. Five MC.202s were damaged but not seriously.
The five CR 42s of 50o Stormo had taken off from Abar Nimeir at 11.00 to attack Commonwealth troops between the coast road and El Alamein with 50T bombs. The 391a Squadriglia was down to one operational CR.42 (MM5046) and two more were borrowed from the 389a and 390a Squadriglie for the sortie, which was flown by Sottotenete Armando Marini (MM5046), Sottotenente Francesco Jadanza and Sergente Pasquale Rivolta (MM8847) and the target was motor vehicles east of El Alamein.
After the bomb release the Italian pilots reported being attacked by twenty enemy fighters over the railway station of Alamein and Sergente Rivolta was shot down and killed. In the combat Jadanza claimed one P-40, one probable and one shared damaged with Marini, who also claimed a probable. Another probable was claimed by Tenente Mariano Monaldi (390a Squadriglia). The four surviving fighter-bombers landed at 12:20.
At 11:55 eleven Hurricane IIcs from 73 Squadron had taken off for a free sweep over the front. The British fighters met five CR.42s at very low height (100 m) and Flight Sergeant Ernest Joyce (BP167/QO-L) and Flight Sergeant H. W. E. Packham (BN415) claimed one CR 42 each while Flying Officer John Pain (BN566) claimed to have damaged one more. It seems that, at 12:10, 73 Squadron in fact lost Hurricane BN557 piloted by the ace Flight Lieutenant John Selby, who was obliged to force land (CAT II), after having been hit by the CR.42s (it was reported that he had been shot down by some Bf 109s but there are no German claims of this).
It seems that the MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo had met six Kittyhawk Ias of 250 Squadron that had taken off at 12:20 to bomb an area north of the Gazala railway station. They reported being attacked two times by Macchi fighters at 12:20 and losing Sergeant Walter John Mortimer (AK962/E) and Sergeant John Alastair Seabrook (AK657/V), both KIA.

Between 12:00-13:30 on 13 July, Capitano Luigi Mariotti led eleven MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo to cover five CR.42s from the 159o Gruppo, led by Capitano Carlo Robboni, bound for an attack on El Alamein railway station. The Macchis engaged ten Hurricanes at 15,000 feet, claiming three probables by Sergente Teresio Martinoli, Sottotenente Querci and Sergente Leonardo Rinaldi (all three from the 73a Squadriglia).

In the late afternoon on 15 July, MC.200s of the 13o Gruppo escorted an S.79 flown by Benito Mussolini personally on a visit to front-line units. During this he awarded the Medaglie d’Argento for outstanding acts of valour in North Africa to Tenente Giorgio Savoia, Tenente Camillo Luglio and Sottotenante Raffaele Velenzano. Several 4o Stormo pilots were also awarded decorations: notably, Capitano Franco Lucchini, Tenenente Luigi Giannella, Tenente Paolo Berti, Maresciallo Leonardo Ferrulli, Tenenente Emanuele Annoni, Sottotenante Querci and Tenenente Fernando Malvezzi.

At 08:40 of 31 August, eleven MC.202s from the 4o Stormo (seven of the 9o Gruppo led by Tenente Giulio Reiner and four of the 10o Gruppo led by Maresciallo Del Turco) took off on a free sweep over the Qaret el Shirab area. Flying at 3,000ft they sighted and bounced a formation of about 25 Spitfires flying a thousand metres lower. They made a number of claims when Sergente Alessandro Bladelli (91a Squadriglia) and Sergente Teresio Martinoli (73a Squadriglia) claimed a Spitfire each while Tenente Mario Mecatti (73a Squadriglia) claimed a probable, Tenente Reiner (73a Squadriglia) claimed two damaged and Sottotenente Querci (73a Squadriglia) claimed a third damaged. Two more Spitfires were claimed as damaged by two unspecified pilots of the 10o Gruppo.
The Italian pilots landed again at 10:10.
It seems that they had been in combat with Spitfire Vcs from 92 Squadron, which flew a mission 09:35-10:55. Lieutenant S. W. ‘Bill’ Rabie (BR390), on attachment from 1 SAAF Squadron to gain experience of the Spitfire, and Flight Sergeant R. Hempstead (BR522) each claimed an MC.202 shot down while Squadron Leader J. H. ‘Jeff’’ Wedgwood claimed a Bf 109 damaged.
In fact, neither side lost any aircraft in this combat.

During 1943, he took part in the defence of Sicily and Italy.

In the morning on 6 July, in spite of the intense activity and the losses of the previous days, a good number of Macchis from the 4o Stormo were combat ready. After some scrambles from the three airstrips without contact with the enemy, Capitano Luigi Giannella (CO of the 84a Squadriglia) together with five others pilots of the 84a and the 90a Squadriglie scrambled. One of the pilots had to return due to a failing engine but the remaining intercepted a formation of bombers, which they attacked. Capitano Giannella, Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini and Sottotenente Francesco Palma (84a Squadriglia) together attacked a four-engined bomber and jointly claimed it probably shot down when they saw it leaving its formation streaming smoke. Another four-engined bomber was claimed as a probable shared victory by Tenente Fabio Clauser (90a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Battista Ceoletta.
While the Italian fighters were up, the airstrip at S. Salvatore was attacked.
Later in the morning, Capitano Giulio Reiner scrambled from Finocchiara with five MC.202s and four MC.205s from the 73a and the 96a Squadriglie and intercepted an estimated 60 aircraft (two formations of four-engined bombers and one of Marauders) over Scordia escorted by many Spitfires and P-38s.
The Macchis attacked and Reiner, while firing on a damaged four-engined bomber, was hit in an oil pipe by return fire and he was forced to return to base. Tenente Querci claimed a four-engined bomber, Sottotenente Pier Ugo Gobbato (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Ettore Chimeri (73a Squadriglia) damaged two others, while Sergente Teresio Martinoli and pilots of the 96a Squadriglia damaged two P-38s and two Spitfires.
When the Macchis from the 73a and 96a Squadriglie returned to base, it had been attacked by Marauders, which due to the strong wind fortunately hasn’t hit the centre of the airstrip at Finocchiara.
In the evening there was another scramble from Finocchiara and Tenente Querci, Sottotenente Bruno Paolazzi, Sottotenente Gabbato took off followed by Capitano Reiner, Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Martinoli. The fighters, however didn’t make contact with any enemy bombers and Reiner, Martinoli and Squarcia were first to return and land. They have just landed when the airfield was attacked again and Reiner and Martinoli dived into a trench together with the ground crew with bombs exploding nearby. Reiner’s Macchi was hit by falling debris from the bombers and the engine was torn away while two more Macchis also were damaged. Squarci managed to land clear of danger. The three remaining pilots returned after a few minutes and Paolazzi and Gobbato landed in the area hit during the morning’s raid but managed to stay away from any damage to the airstrip. Querci, however, hit a bomb crater in speed while landing and his aircraft turned over. Gobbato and Paolazzi extracted the unconscious Querci from the wreck and he was taken to hospital.

Later in the war Querci served in the 96a Squadriglia.

Querci ended the war with 2 shared biplane victories and a total of 6.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  08/08/40 18:00- 1/8 Gladiator (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Gabr Saleh area 73a Squadriglia
  08/08/40 18:00- 1/8 Gladiator (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Gabr Saleh area 73a Squadriglia
1 22/10/41 17:55 1 Hurricane (b) Destroyed MC.202   St. Paul’s Island 73a Squadriglia
2 21/11/41 p.m. 1 Hurricane (c) Destroyed MC.202   off Malta 73a Squadriglia
  23/11/41   1 Hurricane (d) Damaged MC.202   Sicilian Channel 73a Squadriglia
3 04/05/42 p.m. 1 Spitfire (e) Destroyed MC.202   Grand Harbour 73a Squadriglia
  10/05/42 18:10- 1/4 ’Defiant’ (f) Shared destroyed MC.202   Malta area 73a Squadriglia
  15/05/42 09:15- 1 Spitfire (g) Probably destroyed MC.202   Gozo area 73a Squadriglia
  29/05/42 15:15- 1 P-40 (h) Probably destroyed MC.202   Acroma 73a Squadriglia
4 09/06/42 16:30-17:30 1 P-40 (i) Destroyed MC.202   Bir Hacheim 73a Squadriglia
  09/06/42 16:30-17:30 1 P-40 (i) Damaged MC.202   Bir Hacheim 73a Squadriglia
  26/06/42 07:55- 1 P-40 (j) Probably destroyed MC.202   W Mersa Matruh 73a Squadriglia
5 29/06/42 10:15-11:30 1 P-40 (k) Destroyed MC.202   SE Mersa Matruh 73a Squadriglia
  03/07/42 13:15-14:45 1/3 P-40 (l) Shared destroyed MC.202   El Hammam 73a Squadriglia
  03/07/42 13:15-14:45 1/3 P-40 (l) Shared destroyed MC.202   El Hammam 73a Squadriglia
  03/07/42 13:15-14:45 1/3 Boston (m) Shared destroyed MC.202   El Hammam 73a Squadriglia
  10/07/42 11:05-12:40 1/2 P-40 (n) Shared damaged MC.202   El Alamein area 73a Squadriglia
  10/07/42 11:05-12:40 1/2 P-40 (n) Shared damaged MC.202   El Alamein area 73a Squadriglia
  10/07/42 11:05-12:40 1/2 P-40 (n) Shared damaged MC.202   El Alamein area 73a Squadriglia
  13/07/42 12:00-13:30 1 P-40 (o) Probably destroyed MC.202   El Alamein 73a Squadriglia
  31/08/42 08:40-10:10 1 Spitfire (p) Damaged MC.202   Qaret el Shirab 73a Squadriglia
6 06/07/43 morning 1 Enemy bomber (q) Destroyed     Scordia area 73a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 2 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 6 and 6 shared destroyed, 4 probably destroyed, 3 and 3 shared damaged.
(a) Claimed in combat with 80 Squadron, which lost 2 Gladiators and 1 pilot while claiming 14 and 6 probably destroyed. 9o and 10o Gruppi C.T. claimed 5 and 2 probably destroyed Gladiators while losing 4 CR.42s, 4 fighters force-landed (it seems that all were later recovered) and one pilot KIA.
(b) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 249 Squadron. 73a Squadriglia claimed 6 destroyed and 2 probables while 249 Squadron lost 1 aircraft and got a second damaged.
(c) Claimed in combat with 4 Hurricanes from 185 Squadron, which didn’t claim anything while losing 1 Hurricane (pilot KiA). 9o Gruppo claimed 5 Hurricanes destroyed and 2 probably without losses.
(d) Possibly claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 126 Squadron, which didn’t suffer any losses to enemy fighters.
(e) Possibly claimed in combat with 601 Squadron. 73a Squadriglia claimed 2 Spitfires while 601 Squadron lost 1 aircraft (Spitfire BR187/O) in a crash-landing. The pilot Sergeant J. N. McConnell was unharmed.
(f) Claimed in combat with Spitfires from 601 Squadron, which claimed 1 Italian fighter without suffering any losses. The 9o and 2o Gruppi claimed 6 fighters, 2 probables and 2 damaged for the loss of 1 MC.202.
(g) Claimed in combat with Spitfire Vs from249 and 603 Squadrons, which claimed 1 destroyed MC.202 and 2 damaged S.84s without losses. The 4o Stormo claimed 4 Spitfires, 2 probables and 1 damaged while losing 1 MC.202 (pilot KiA).
(h) Claimed in combat with Tomahawk IIbs from 5 SAAF Squadron, which claimed 1 MC.202 destroyed and 3 damaged while losing 1 Tomahawk IIb (pilot safe). The MC.202 from 4o Stormo claimed 3 P-40s destroyed and 2 probably destroyed while losing 1 MC.202 (pilot KIA).
(i) Probably claimed in combat with P-40s and Hurricanes from 260, 213 and 74 Squadrons, which claimed 1 destroyed, 2 probably destroyed and 2 damaged while losing 1 Kittyhawk (pilot KIA) and getting 2 Hurricanes damaged. The 9o Gruppo claimed 6 destroyed, 4 probables and 2 damaged while losing 1 MC.202 (pilot KIA).
(j) Claimed in combat with Kittyhawks from 3 RAAF, 250 and 450 Squadrons, which claimed 1 fighter and 1 probable while suffering 1 damaged. The 9o Gruppo claimed 2 P-40s and 3 probables without losses.
(k) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 213 Squadron, which claimed 1 fighter and 1 damaged while suffering 2 damaged (1 lost). The 9o Gruppo claimed 3 P-40s without losses.
(l) Probably claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33, 74 and 274 Squadrons, which claimed 3 destroyed fighters, 1 probable and 6 damaged while losing 3 Hurricanes (1 pilot KiA) and getting 2 damaged. The 9o Gruppo and 8./JG 27 claimed 5 fighters without losses.
(m) This claim can’t be verified with Allied records.
(n) Probably claimed in combat with Kittyhawk Ias from 250 Squadron, which lost 2 Kittyhawks (pilots KIA). The 9o Gruppo claimed 6 fighters, 2 probables and 3 damaged while suffering 5 damaged MC.202s.
(o) This claim can’t be verified with Commonwealth records.
(p) Probably claimed in combat with Spitfire Vcs from 92 Squadron, which claimed 2 MC.202s and 1 damaged Bf 109 without losses. 4o Stormo claimed 2 Spitfires and 1 probable and 5 damaged without losses.
(q) This claim can’t be verified with any American losses.

Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Aces High - Christopher Shores and Clive Williams, 1994 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
Aces High Volume 2 - Christopher Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-03-9
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Two – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781909166127
Ali d’Africa - Michele Palermo and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 IBN Editore, ISBN 88-7565-060-8
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Eagles over Gazala: Air Battles in North Africa May-June 1942 – Michele Palermo, IBN Editore, ISBN (10) 88-7565-168-X
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell’ A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 2 Volume M - Z
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Gloster Gladiator - Alex Crawford, 2002 Mushroom Model Publications, ISBN 83-916327-0-9
Gloster Gladiator Home Page - Alexander Crawford.
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Hurricanes over Malta - Brian Cull and Frederick Galea, 2001 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-91-8
La Battaglie Aeree In Africa Settentrionale: Novembre-Dicembre 1941 – Michele Palermo, IBN, ISBN 88-7565-102-7
Le Giovani Aquile – Antonino Trizzino, 1972 Longanesi, Milano, (narration by Guglielmo Biffani at GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO) kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Macchi C.202/C.205V Units In Combat – Marco Mattioli, 2022 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-4728-5068-3
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Malta: The Spitfire Year 1942 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1991 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-16-X
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma
Spitfires over Malta – Brian Cull with Frederick Galea, 2005 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-904943-30-6
Storia Aeronautica Italiana
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Desert Air War 1939 – 1945 – Richard Townshend Bickers, 1991 Leo Cooper, London, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo

Last modified 07 April 2024