Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Capitano Giulio Reiner

12 April 1915 – 6 September 2002

Giulio Reiner was born in Como on 12 April 1915.

A conscientious student and an enthusiastic athlete, by the time he obtained his diploma in 1935 he was already in possession of a private pilot’s licence from the Como Aero Club. He then volunteered to join the Regia Aeronautica as a temporary officer, and on completing his training was assigned to 199a Squadriglia Bombardemento Marittimo, flying S.55 flying boats.

Giving up his rank of Sottotenente in order to attend the 'Rex' course at the Accademia Aeronautica, Reiner performed brilliantly (classified 9th out of 303 students), and in July 1939 he once more acquired the grade of Sottotenente, although at this time as a permanent officer.

In August 1939, Giulio Reiner was assigned, with the rank of Sottotenente, to the 73a Squadriglia, IX Gruppo, 4o Stormo. This unit was at the time equipped with Fiat CR.32s.
Note that in Regia Aeronautica the Gruppi had Roman numerals until 1 January 1940, then Arab numerals until the Armistice, but returned to Roman style in the ANR and the ICAF).

On 30 October 1939, Sottotenente Reiner took command over the 73a Squadriglia after Capitano Ernesto Botto.

The unit was soon re-equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

On 1 March 1940, Tenente Vittorio Pezzè took command over the 73a Squadriglia after Sottotenente Reiner.

When Italy declared war on 10 June 1940, the 73a Squadriglia was at base at Gorizia, to protect the areas of Trieste and Monfalcone.

On 20 June, the 9o Gruppo was transferred at Mirafiori (Turin), to participate to the operations against France.

Having seen no action they moved to Comiso (Sicily) on 29 June to operate against Malta.

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 Reiner, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti (assigned in the end of July), Sottotenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sottotenente Carlo Battaglia, Sottotenente Alvaro 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.

On 13 July the 9o Gruppo moved to Berka (Libya) and on 5 August to El Adem T3.


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 Alvaro Querci.
Image kindly provided by Fulvio Chianese at GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO.

During a routine armed reconnaissance patrol along the Allied frontline in the Tobruk area on the evening of 12 October, Reiner, accompanied his Gruppo commander, Maggiore Ernesto Botto.
Having completed an uneventful patrol, the two pilots were approaching their El Adem base when they spotted three Blenheims preparing to bomb the airfield. They immediately attacked and prevented the bombers from releasing their bombs. The Blenheims tried to escape heading out over the sea. Botto finally downed the first, which dived into the water. At this point the other Blenheims turned back over land, pursued by Reiner, who shot down the leader over the El Hagna area and the wingman near Bir el Hannana; both Bristols was left burning on the ground. With his aircraft out of fuel and some bullet hole in its right wing, Reiner successfully made an emergency landing in the dark in the Bug Bug area. He was "captured" by a platoon of Askaris (i.e. African native troops of Regio Esercito), which initially believed that he was a British pilot. He returned to El Adem during the night, but the following day he was back to recover the aircraft.
It seems that they had been in combat with three Blenheims from 55 Squadron, which had taken off loaded with small bombs at 16:15 from Fuka Main (LG 17), Egypt to bomb Italian aircraft on El Adem (LG 144), Libya. The formation made out to sea and climbed to a height of about 18,000 ft, reached a point about 30 miles north of Tobruk, when a turn on the target was made. At 17:50 the attack was carried out from a height of 9,000ft (rather too early, as the sun was still up). During the run in, the formation was attacked by three CR.42s. Bombs fell in the target area and bursts were seen among the aircraft on the north side of the aerodrome. The Italian fighters persisted in their attack, firing .5” tracer from about 800 yards and closing in to fire their small caliber guns. The British formation took evasive action but unfortunately split up. No. 2 (Blenheim L1538) flown by Flying Officer K. D. Potter (RAF no. 72454) was unable to keep up with the leader. No. 3 (Blenheim L8530) flown by Pilot Officer M. S. Singleton (RAF no. 41482) was hit in the starboard engine, the fuselage was riddled, wireless and intercommunication unusable, both rudder control badly damage, the tail-wheel shot through and the rudder trim gear also unusable. Although the Blenheim was badly damaged the pilot managed to return to base. The Blenheim was categorized as Damaged Beyond Repair. The observer Sergeant B. J Fox (RAF no. 544933) and the wireless operator/air gunner Sergeant I. Brownrigg (RAF (VR) no. 751215) escaped uninjured.
The leader, (Blenheim L6659) flown by Flying Officer G. E. P. Green (RAF no. 39517) made for the coast near Ras el Miln and the fighter following him continued the engagement for about 10 minutes before breaking off the attack. This aircraft then continued to base by its self, badly hit. Green was wounded under his right arm - a flesh wound, and the observer, Flight Sergeant W. H. Weller (RAF no. 747800) was slightly hurt by shrapnel. The undercarriage was damaged and the turret and W/T set were both rendered U/S. This aircraft was fired on by shore defences at Mersa Matruh but no further damage was done and it landed on it belly at base with the aid of the observer and the wireless operator/air gunner, Sergeant J. McGarry (RAF (VR) no. 537996). The pilot was awarded a DFC and the observer and gunner awarded mentions in despatches for the action. L6659 was finally lost with 70 OTU on 27 February 1942 in Kenya when it burst a tire on take-off and the undercarriage collapsed at Nakuru.
No. 2 aircraft when left by the formation dived to ground level and escaped. This Blenheim suffered only a few holes in the rudder. The observer Sergeant Duffy (RAF no. 517479) and the wireless operator/air gunner Sergeant B. Noble (RAF no. 545120) escaped uninjured. This aircraft was finally lost when it crashed in bad visibility near Fuka on 18 October 1940.
This combat was witnessed from the ground by Capitano Bruno Locatelli at El Adem, who reported that notwithstanding the attack of two 4o Stormo’s fighters three Bristol Blenheims succeeded in releasing some small calibre bombs while being hit by the first bursts from the Fiats. The Blenheims turned around and escaped. One of them was seen to leave the formation and steeply loosing height. Locatelli presumed it was seriously damaged.

In the afternoon on 9 December, SM 79s were out to bomb British troops at the Sidi Barrani - Bir Enba area. They were to be escorted by 19 CR.42s of the 9o Gruppo led by Maggiore Ernesto Botto, which had taken off from El Adem at 14:55. The fighters included seven from the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Valerio De Campo (CO), Tenente Reiner, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci, Sergente Maggiore Guglielmo Biffani, Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Valle and Sergente Santo Gino) seven from the 97a Squadriglia (Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO), Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sottotenente Riccardo Vaccari, Sergente Maggiore Otello Perotti, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Angelo Golino and Sergente Alcide Leoni) and four from the 96a Squadriglia (Tenente Aldo Gon and Sergente Giuseppe Tomasi together with two unknown pilots).
More Italian fighters were up to escort the bombers and at 15:10, Sergente Maggiore Fiorenzo Milella of the 366a, 151o Gruppo, attached to a formation of nine CR.42s of the 368a Squadriglia (Capitano Bruno Locatelli, Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi, Sergente Ernesto De Bellis, Sottotenente Furio Lauri, Sergente Maggiore Annibale Ricotti, Tenente Orfeo Paroli, Sergente Piero Hosquet, Sergente Stefano Fiore, Sergente Ottorino Ambrosi) were out to escorted Italian bombers in the Bir Enba area.
The rendezvous with the bombers over A3 failed and after 20 minutes, the fighters of the 9o Gruppo arrived and together they proceeded towards the front on a free sweep. Three SM 79s were discovered and escorted for a while. Over Buq-Buq, a Hurricane strafing along the coastal road was discovered and the SM 79s were left to the 9o Gruppo while the CR.42s of the 151o Gruppo attacked the British fighter. The Hurricane was claimed shot down in flames and credited to the formation (but in fact only Locatelli, Lauri, Paroli and De Bellis fired their guns).
The 151a Gruppo fighters returned to base at 16:50.
Meanwhile the fighters from the 9o Gruppo continued and 30 km south of Bir Enba they spotted some Gladiators at a lower level and dived on them, but suddenly the CR.42s were jumped by a reported two Squadrons of Hurricanes or Spitfires, attacking respectively the 73a Squadriglia and the 96a Squadriglia with the 97a Squadriglia. A large dogfight started and after 20 minutes of combat many claims were submitted by the Italian pilots
Tenente Vaccari fought alone against four Hurricanes, claiming one destroyed (as a Spitfire) and damaging the others before his Fiat was hit in the fuel tank and in the engine. He crash-landed near Sollum, the aircraft turning over and caught fire; he was burned in the face and hands. Sergente Maggiore Salvatore claimed a Spitfire and several damaged before being wounded in his left arm. He managed however to return to base. Sergente Golino was hit in his back, but managed to claim his attacker before being compelled to evade and land at Amseat A3. Sergente Maggiore Biffani (Fiat CR.42 MM5599/73-9) claimed a Hurricane but was at the same shot down by his victim and was captured. He recalled:

"In the afternoon of 9 December we were flying between Mersa Matruh and Buq-Buq, when my wingman, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci, warned me that we had enemies behind us. I alerted Botto by shooting a burst [Note that the CR.42 had no radio during this period], then I realized they were near my tail, so I made a 180-degree turn and I saw them pass: they were three Hurricanes. I climbed almost vertically and saw the 73a Squadriglia in front, the three Hurricanes behind it and 96a and 97a Squadriglia behind them, all in a vertical line that went down to the ground. Then I discovered a Hurricane that was breaking off from the combat, clearly he had seen the other Italian fighters on its tail. I continued to climb, now I was the highest fighter of them all, then I dived down at full throttle [towards the escaping Hurricane]. I arrived near it and then I reduced speed and put the revolutions between 1850 and 2250 because otherwise I would had cut my propeller as happened to Gon and others, because the airscrew went out of gear and the round was fired when it passed in front of the gun (…) . When I closed to it, I opened fire. I aimed and saw the explosive bullets that exploded on the wing. Why didn’t anything happen? Was there no fuel at all? I fired at the other wing but it was the same, the bullets exploded but nothing happened. I fired into the engine, nothing happened. I saw the tracers very well, and after all, it wasn’t the first time I was shooting. At Gorizia I used to hit the target balloon with ten rounds only. In the meantime, I was losing speed and falling behind, O.K. Goodbye! It passed and turned towards me again -so I hadn’t caused any damage to it- , and I did the same. We found ourselves face to face at a distance of around 500-600 metres. I started firing and saw my tracers hitting it, then its wings lit up and in the same moment my plane caught fire, it was just an instant. My plane was severely damaged and while I was trying to land I saw the Hurricane that dived into the ground and exploded. I saw no parachute. I force-landed among British MTs and was immediately taken prisoner. I went back home after 63 months of POW!"
Additional Hurricanes were claimed by Botto, Sergente Dallari, Sergente Valle and an unknown pilot of the 73a Squadriglia (it is possible that this was a shared claim). It seems possible that also Sergente Maggiore Perotti claimed a victory (this claim is disallowed in the 97a Squadriglia diary, who only credits him with some Spitfires damaged).
Sergente Gino claimed a probable before his aircraft was badly damaged and he made an emergency landing near the frontline. Additional probables were claimed by Sottotenente De Campo and Reiner. Sergente Alcide Leoni together with other pilots claimed several damaged fighters. Capitano Larsimont Pergameni was attacked but was able to evade without claiming any hits on any enemy aircraft. Tenente Viglione was soon hit by a Hurricane, but manoeuvred to shoot at and damage it; however he was hit again in the engine by another enemy fighter, so he had to made an emergency landing near Buq-Buq.
Totally the Italian pilots claimed seven shot down (
Biffani’s claim was not initially credited since he was taken POW) and three probables (it’s possible that some of the probables were claimed as shared). The Gruppo’s Diary reduced these claims to four confirmed and three probables.
Totally during the combat one Fiat was shot down (Biffani POW) and three CR.42s carried out emergency landings (Viglione, Vaccari and Gino). Three pilots were wounded; Vaccari, Golino and Salvatore. Both Reiner’s and Valle’s aircraft returned lightly damaged while Tenente Aldo Gon and Sergente Giuseppe Tomasi landed at Amseat due to lack of fuel.
It seems that they had clashed with fighter from at least two RAF Squadrons. 12 Hurricanes from 33 Squadron had taken off with 10 minutes intervals to ground strafe the enemy’s rear areas, concentrating on troops and motor transports. They reportedly caused much damage before they were intercepted by three formations of CR.42s. During the day, 33 Squadron’s pilots claimed three Italian fighters and reported another going down out of control. One of the Squadron’s Hurricanes had to force-land but the pilot was saved (this was probably claimed by the 151o Gruppo pilots). Considering that one of the claims should relate to the loss of Sergente Francesco Nanin in the morning then the other two are probably connected with this specific engagement. It is also known that Flying Officer Vernon Woodward shot down two of the Fiats claimed by his unit, one of them in flames, and damaged a third.
The second Squadron was five Hurricanes (Squadron Leader Patrick Dunn (P3723), Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley (V7293), Flying Officer Thomas Patterson (P3720), Flight Lieutenant Peter Wykeham-Barnes (V7300) and Pilot Officer Ernest ‘Imshi’ Mason (P3722)) from 274 Squadron, which had taken off at 15:00. They were flying in two vics at 15,000 feet when they spotted 27 CR.42s in tight vics (four main formations of 8, 7, 6 and 6 aircraft) over the Sidi Barrani-Sofafi area at 16:08. The Italian fighters were discovered at 9 o’clock, 10-12 miles away and stepped so that they were slightly above and 2000 feet below. The RAF pilots succeeded in approaching unobserved and then delivered a multiple direction attack followed by a general dogfight. The Hurricane pilots reporting five confirmed victories and three probables for one Hurricane damaged. In the unit’s ORBs Form 541 victories were claimed by Flight Lieutenant Wykeham-Barnes (plus one probable), Squadron Leader Dunn (plus two probables), Flying Officer Patterson, Flight Lieutenant Lapsley and Pilot Officer Mason. However, in the unit’s ORB Form 540, the number of confirmed victories raises to six with three more CR 42s severely damaged; the identity of the claimant of this last victory, however remained unknown even if the CFRs of the action would suggest Squadron Leader Dunn.
Squadron Leader Dunn (he delivered an aster attack) reported:
“The enemy engaged in dogfight. Claim one E a/c for certain (saw it hit the ground). Attacked two in tight vic and was at 200 yards point blank range and fell certain must have killed pilots. Got another good and point blank deflection shot at another. Closed from optimum to point blank range at first. Must (?) have shot down the first two but could not spare time to confirm. 3rd point blank deflection shot likely and fourth adversary saw it hit the ground (claim 1 confirmed and 2 others which I feel certain about but must go down as unconfirmed).”
Flight Lieutenant Lapsley (he delivered a head-on attack) reported:
“The enemy fired back. 1 CR 42 shot down and seen to hit the ground without burning. Several other machines were shot at individually. They can out manoeuvre a Hurricane but one can get away and then come back.”
Pilot Officer Mason (he was discovered during the approach and had to dogfight from the beginning) reported:
“The enemy tried to turn inside me. 1 CR 42 shot at short range from above into cockpit. Aircraft turned (unreadable) with sparks from it. Followed it down until attacked by others CR 42s. Using 15o flap climb (unreadable) but not quite equal to 42. Speed on level far superior. Possible when attacked from above to turn and deliver short head on burst.”
Flight Lieutenant Wykeham-Barnes reported:
“The enemy dog fought, during dogfight damaged two enemy and sent one down out of control but could not see it crash as another was in my tail. The enemy fairly aggressive.”
Flying Officer Patterson (he delivered a quarter attack from port side) reported:
“The enemy started a general dogfight. 1 CR 42 shot down and seen to burn out on the ground”.
The 274 Squadron Hurricanes all had landed at 17:00.
It is also highly likely that 112 Squadron’s Gladiators were present. They were up, patrolling the Bir Enba area, and were noted and attacked by 9o Gruppo’s pilots. The Squadron flew at least two patrols during the day but the unit’s ORB don’t report any engagement.
The escorted bombers were three SM 79s of the 29o Gruppo (one of 11a Squadriglia and two of 63a Squadriglia) commanded by Colonnello Mario Aramu that attacked at around 16:40 while the RAF fighters were busy with the CR.42s of 9o Gruppo. Aramu noted the combat between Italian and Commonwealth fighters and claime an effective bombing from 3000 metres coming back at Gambut at 17:50 while the other formation were four SM 79s of the 6a Squadriglia, 44o Gruppo, commanded by Maggiore Andrea Bosi who had taken off at 14:25 from Tmini M2. Before the mission Bosi had received order not to press home his attack (but to turn back) in case he failed the rendezvous with the escorting fighters over Sollum, so when the rendezvous with the escort failed he turned back and landed at Tmini M2 at 16:40. His were the bombers that were discovered by 9o Gruppo flying back towards Libya.

At 09:00 on 11 December, a formation of eight CR.42s from the 73a Squadriglia carried out a strafing mission. It is reported that during the day, Reiner, Antonio Valle and Tenente Giuseppe Oblach, escorted three SM 79s to bomb enemy troops near Bir Enba. On the return flight, with the bombers safely on their way home, the fighters returned to Sidi Omar and strafed a group of armoured cars, burning four and stopping three of them. Reiner’s and Valle’s aircraft returned to base damaged by return fire. It is possible that they were involved in this morning mission.

At 14:10 on 12 December, a formation of fighters from the 9o Gruppo (14 CR.42s) led by Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni took off to escort SM 79s and during the return journey ground strafed British vehicles on the Sollum-Buq-Buq road claiming four destroyed and four damaged.
Six CR.42s from the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Valerio De Campo, Tenente Reiner, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Sottotenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sergente Maggiore Sergio Stauble and Sergente Pasquale Rossi) took part. It seems one aircraft from the 96a Squadriglia was lost after the action when Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Gallerani nosed over on landing and his fighters was written off during a clumsy recovery.

On the same day, the 9o Gruppo started to retreat and transferred to Derna.

On an early morning patrol on 13 December, six Gladiators (Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege, Flight Lieutenant Charles Gaden, Flying Officers Lex D. Winten, Flying Officer Alan Boyd, Flying Officer Wilfred Arthur and Flying Officer Alan Gatward) from the Advanced Detached Flight of 3 RAAF Squadron took off at 08:00 to fly an offensive fighter patrol over Sollum – Fort Capuzzo – Halfaya area. They came across five SM 79s bombing troops at Sollum escorted by a reported eight CR.42s. Diving in to attack Flight Lieutenant Steege shot down one of the bombers and claimed a second as a probable. Before the Gladiators could reform for a second attack, the escorting CR.42s intervened. Flight Lieutenant Gaden (Gladiator N5765) was killed when his aircraft was shot down and crashed into the desert. It was believed that Gaden was shot down by rear gunners of the SM 79s. Flying Officer Winten was hit in the right hand by an explosive bullet and baled out. Flying Officer Boyd claimed two CR.42s before his aircraft had its port flying wire shot away causing him to force land. Flying Officer Gatward was also forced down. Flying Officer Arthur's Gladiator (N5752) was shot to pieces and he decided to bale out. As he clambered out of the cockpit, he became entangled in his oxygen tube. He managed to break free only to be caught up in the interplane bracing wires. Unable to free himself he waited for the inevitable, when at about 1,000 feet he was thrown clear and parachuted to the ground. Later back in the mess he produced from his pocket the ripcord of his parachute, which meant that he did not have to buy drinks all round. Flight Lieutenant Steege was separated from the remainder of the flight, ran out of ammunition and returned to base at 10:30.
The Italians seems to have consisted of five SM 79s from the 60a Squadriglia, 33o Gruppo Autonomo BT, which had taken off from Z1 at 07:30. The formation was led by Tenente Colonnello Ferri Forte, who flew as second pilot in Capitano Loris Bulgarelli’s (CO of the 60a Squadriglia) SM 79 and they had been briefed to attack British troop concentrations in a desert area south of Sollum. The pilot of another bomber was Tenente Pastorelli and among his crew of five was Aviere Scelto Armiere Guido Reggiani. The bombers were escorted by ten CR.42s from the 9o Gruppo. The SM 79s were the first bombing effort of the day by the 5a Squadra and attacked a group of 30 British vehicles along the road Sollum-Buq-Buq at 08:45 and immediately after this, another group of 60 armoured vehicles south-east of Halfaya. The escort was led by Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (temporary CO of the 9o Gruppo since 10 December) and included the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Valerio De Campo, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Tenente Giuseppe Oblach, Sottotenente Reiner, Sergente Maggiore Sergio Stauble and Sergente Enrico Dallari) and the 97a Squadriglia (Capitano Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sergente Franco Sarasino and Sergente Maggiore Otello Perotti). After 45 minutes of flight, between Sidi Omar and Sollum, they spotted a formation of Gladiators that soon attacked the SM 79s. Aviere Scelto Armiere Reggiani recorded that after the bombing the formation was attacked by a group of ten Gloster Gladiators. The gunners of the Savoias claimed the shooting down of two of them before they were dispersed by a squadriglia of the 4o Stormo’s fighters. Capitano Larsimont chased the leader but, while shooting at him from a short distance, he collided with a British wingman that was trying to avoid his bursts. In the collision, the Gladiator lost its wings and fell. Larsimont, whose aircraft was badly damaged in the fuselage and rudders, made an emergency landing on the Menastir M airfield; unfortunately the airstrip was already abandoned by the Italians due to the proximity of the British infantry so Larsimont had to abandon his damaged plane, which became a total loss. It seems possible that Larsimont’s victim (the Gladiator surprised while chasing the Savoias and observed to fall minus its wings) was Flying Officer Arthur who later recalled:

”(...) I was chasing some Italian bombers, Savoia-Marchettis I think they were. They were quite a lot faster than our aircraft were which meant you only chance of really catching them was to cut the corner if they were foolish enough to turn very much. In...also, if you’re chasing somebody like that you’re concentrating very much on that and you are a sitting duck for somebody else. And, in fact, that’s what happened to me. Chasing these Savoias I suddenly realised I was being attacked by an Italian aircraft which almost immediately ... a shell went into the top mainplane – do you know what I mean by the top mainplane where it was a biplane - the top main plane tore straight away and swung back towards the tail and the bottom main plane sort of followed it but a bit behind and I had no control at all, just completely loose control column. So I got out quickly (...)
Arthur remembered that the whole affair lasted a short time:
”Probably only fifty seconds or seventy or something like that. I got out of the cockpit quite quickly but by that time the thing was nearly vertically downwards and I got stuck underneath one of the main planes that had folded back against the fuselage and I couldn’t get out of that. I was kicking and trying to get myself free when I was very close to the ground and finally did get free but hit the ground very hard because...well, because I hadn’t had enough time to slow up, I suppose (...)”.
Wilfred Arthur hit the ground facing the wrong way and got dragged for quite a while with the parachute because there was heavy wind. After collapsing the parachute and freeing himself again, he was circled by two Italian aircraft, which he thought would shoot at him but in fact they didn’t. After the two Italian left the area, he started walking and after only a couple of hours was found and picked up by a long-range desert patrol.
Viglione fired at several Glosters and claimed one of them (the British pilot was seen parachuting by Bonfatti) while Perotti claimed another in a head-to-head attack (not verified with the Squadriglia diaries). Sarasino claimed damage to several Gladiators. Meanwhile, another formation of Gladiators jumped the 73a Squadriglia from above but these had been alerted and could react properly and a long and harsh dogfight began. Bonfatti, Oblach and Stauble claimed one each, while De Campo, Reiner and Dallari claimed one probable each. Several other Glosters were claimed damaged. Reiner’s, Bonfatti’s and Oblach’s aircraft were slightly damaged in combat but returned to base safely.
The 60a Squadriglia suffered no losses but Capitano Bulgarelli was hit in the head and killed by a burst of fire from one of the Gladiators. The same burst of fire also wounded Tenente Colonnello Forte. The dead Bulgarelli fell over the controls and only after the help of Tenente Pier Luigi Meroni, who managed to rise Bulgarelli body, thus keeping it clear from the controls, was Ferri Forte able to nurse back the damaged Savoia. Meroni remained all the time in front of the broken skull of Bulgarelli with blood and pieces of brain close to his face. (After the war, Meroni became a pilot in civil aviation and was the pilot of the plane in which the then famous football team of Turin (winner of many Italian championships) crashed against the hill of Superga on 4 May 1949; the greatest tragedy in the history of Italian sport). Bulgarelli was a highly regarded leader and during the last days was always at the head of the 33o formations attacking the advancing British troops. He was awarded a posthumous Medaglia d’Oro al valor militare for bravery in this and previous actions. During the landing, back at base Bulgarelli’s SM 79 and another one suffered additional damage and were classified RD.
Boyd’s force-landed Gladiator was possible to repair on site and he returned to Gerawla at 11:10 with Gatward sitting on his knee.
Out of the six Gladiators that took part in the combat, four were lost and the remaining two were damaged but repairable in the unit.
Flight Lieutenant Gaden was found dead in the cockpit of his Gladiator by the 7th Hussars while they were on the march. He was buried by Lieutenant J. Napier.
It was one of the hardest day of the war for the Australians and Flight Lieutenant Peter Jeffrey, then the Signals Officer of the unit but later to became its CO remembered it this way:
“(…) we had a very bad day on 13th December, it was over Salum (…) we had an extraordinary bad day – ran into a very big lot of CR42s and Flight Lieutenant Gaiden [Gaden] was killed but Arthur, “Wilf” Arthur was shot down (…). Lex Witton [Winten] had an explosive round in one hand and he bailed out. Gatwood [Gatward] and Boyd both crash-landed. So we had five, and that was a really very bad day for the Squadron (…) It was a very traumatic sort of experience but the Squadron was very resilient and picked up very quickly and the people who’d – apart from Witton who was a casualty because of his hand - the others were back flying again next day or in a few days’ time. To a certain extent, you know, you expected these things but that was just a bit bigger than we normally expected. And seeing as we’d had so much success prior with virtually no casualties it hit us a bit hard for a start. But it was only a few days later on the 26th when we got our revenge back (…)”.
In the meantime Larsimont, finding Menastir deserted, reached the nearby Balbia road and while waiting for a passing truck to stop, was shot at by a low flying Hurricane and had a narrow escape. After the collision, he was presumed dead by his pilots and so on the evening a message of condolences arrived from the HQ in Rome. In fact, he rejoined his unit the same day and at 15:05 was again at the head of his men.
It seems that another Italian fighter took part in this mission since Sottotenente Giuseppe Bottà of the 82a Squadriglia, 13o Gruppo, who was out on a “solo” reconnaissance over the front, discovered four Gladiators. These were attacking a patrol of SM 79s and he claimed to have forced the British fighter to disengage from the bombers with his intervention.

The following day, on 14 December, El Adem T3 was abandoned by the two Gruppi of the 4o Stormo because of the presence of British armoured cars in the surroundings of the airfield. The new base for the 9o and the 10o Gruppo was Derna N1.
During the day the whole 4o Stormo was employed to attack the advancing British forces of Operation Compass. In several attacks more than 123 trucks, 31 armoured cars and 31 other vehicles were destroyed in this single day! After the last mission, Reiner was ordered to land at El Adem T3 while the other pilots of the 73a Squadriglia went directly to Derna, reason for this was that Capitano Antonio Larsimont ordered him to give his aircraft to a Sottufficiale (another pilot) still present in El Adem, to destroy all the equipment and material left by the 10o Gruppo and to leave the airfield with the ground personnel aboard the Ca.133 of the 73a Squadriglia.
The destruction duty was accomplished totally, also with the help of the RAF, which believed that El Adem still was operational and attacked it with two very heavy bombings in the evening. During the last raid the Caproni was damaged in the tail unit and looked impossible to fly. The few specialists present with Reiner, working during the night and putting up a remarkable show of improvisation succeeded in repairing the plane and the morning after it was ready to take off again. In the meantime, ten more Regia Aeronautica personnel, lost in the area of El Adem, joined Reiner and his men, so when the Caproni had to fly to Derna it was heavily overloaded. While he was leaving El Adem on the morning on 15 December, British armoured cars, coming from a southern direction entered the airfield and machine gunned the Caproni. Notwithstanding this, Reiner successfully accomplished his mission (thanks also to the very long airstrip of T3 and a portion of good luck).

On 16 December the Stormo was transferred to Ain el Gazala T4 since N1 was overcrowded with men and aircraft.

On 17 December, five SM 79 of the 15o Stormo under Tenente Medun took off from Z1 at 09:15 and attacked enemy ships that were bombarding Bardia, with 45 100kg bombs. Gladiators intercepted the Savoias and one of them was reputed shot down. They landed at 11:10.
Their assailants were without doubt Gladiators from 112 Squadron, the unit’s ORB reported an offensive morning patrol by Squadron Leader Harry Brown, Flight Lieutenant R. J. Abrahams, Flight Lieutenant John Scoular, Flying Officer R. J. Bennett, Flying Officer Oliver Green, Flying Officer R. B. Whittington and Sergeant E. N. Woodward. The sketchy reconstructed ORB, however, lacks details of the engagement.
The SM 79s were escorted by 13 CR.42s of the 9o Gruppo; three from the 97a Squadriglia (Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni, Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese and Sergente Maggiore Raffaello Novelli), four from the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Valerio De Campo, Tenente Pietro Bonfatti, Tenente Reiner and Sergente Mario Guerci) and six from the 96a Squadriglia, which had taken off at 09:45. With them were two fighters from the 78a Squadriglia (Sottotenente Natale Cima and Sottotenente Dario Magnabosco) on the last mission of the campaign by the 2o Stormo.
The CR.42s didn’t notice the Gladiators but over Sollum, the 73a and the 78a Squadriglie entered combat with British monoplane fighters. Reiner and Bonfatti shared a Hurricane, which burned after crashing into the ground, and claimed another shared probable, which was seen returning home leaving a long smoke trail; two more were damaged by De Campo and Guerci. Meanwhile, Magnabosco and Cima were attacked by enemy fighters. Magnabosco claimed one Hurricane shot down with the use of 100 rounds of ammunition while Cima failed to return. The 9o Gruppo’s pilots landed at 11:45 and according with his unit’s documents Magnabosco landed at 11:30. Although not mentioned by the Squadriglia Diary, it seems that Magnabosco’s fighter was damaged (probably during this specific combat) and he was obliged to crash-land behind the British lines. In fact, the motivation for the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare he was awarded with for his overall activity during December states: ”In a violent dogfight against numerically superior enemy fighters, he shared in the shooting down of four monoplanes confirmed and two probables [most probably the combat on 14 December]. In another combat against monoplanes, although with his plane hit by enemy fire, he was able to shot down his adversary. Obliged to land behind enemy lines, he destroyed his plane after having removed the most precious instruments and regained our troops on foot (…)”
The identity of their opponents is not completely clear but it is known that during the day 33 Squadron was busy ground strafing the Bardia-Tobruk road and during these missions, one CR.42s was claimed in flames with one probable. Eight Hurricanes of 274 Squadron took off in the morning, starting at 06:16 to patrol the line between Bardia and Gambut. The engine of Pilot Officer Wilson’s Hurricane (P3720; the fighter usually allocated to the famous ‘Imshi’ Mason) caught fire and his mission of was suspended before takeoff, while N2627 failed to return, with Pilot Officer Strong force landing 30 miles west of Matruh. All the other pilots came back without seeing enemy aircraft. It is however possible that Strong was involved in the combat against the 9o and the 13o Gruppi.

On 20 December, the 9o Gruppo was ordered to return to its home base at Gorizia, Italy. They left their surviving CR.42s to the 23o Gruppo of the 3o Stormo.

In February 1941 the unit was re-equipped with the Macchi MC.200.

On 7 March, the 73a Squadriglia was transferred to Brindisi for alarm duties during the operations against Yugoslavia, but returned on 31 March without having seen action.
Four days later it was based at Alture di Pola (Pola's Heights).
At this Reiner had been promoted to Adjutant of the Gruppo.

The Gruppo then took part in the attacks on Yugoslavia in April 1941.

In late afternoon on 10 April Capitano Ezio Viglione, Sottotenente Giulio Reiner, Tenente Emanuele Annoni (96a Squadriglia), Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia) and Maresciallo Raffaello Novelli (97a Squadriglia) made an offensive recon mission over the flying-boat station of Slosella (now Pirovac in Croatia), where they spotted some seaplanes, that were strafed. Reiner claimed the destruction of three of them while two more were damaged by the other pilots. Soon after they hit and burned the fuel storage of the station.

The next day, on 11 April, repeating the attack, Reiner’s aircraft was damaged by the Yugoslavian flak. Again three seaplanes were claimed on the ground shared among the eight pilots taking part under the command of Capitano Mario Pluda (new CO of the 73a Squadriglia).

Operation against Yugoslavia ended on 17 April and between 17 and 20 April the 9o Gruppo returned to Gorizia.

In July 1941 the Gruppo re-equipped with MC.202s


Gorizia, 1941. Aldo Gon and Reiner.
Collezione Annoni.
Image kindly provided by Fulvio Chianese at GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO.

After a request of the Stato Maggiore dell'Aeronautica, on 3 June, Reiner was selected and sent to 1o Reparto Volo of Centro Sperimentale at Guidonia.

In the spring of 1942, he was at Furbara to test the 630 kg bomb-loaded Re.2001 GV (Galimberti-Vaccari), replacing Tenente Aldo Galimberti, who had been killed in a flying accident with a CR.42.

He then was then posted to the Ufficio dell’Avizione per la Marina and charged with the development and test of a Reggiane Re.2000 (MM8281), modified to be launched by a ship catapult from the Italian battleships of the Vittorio Veneto class. Reiner performed the first launch on 9 May 1942 from RN Miraglia off coast from Taranto, with success. Other launches were performed on 13, 18, 20 and 23 of the same month.

He then asked to be posted back to the 4o Stormo but was denied by his commander Generale Bernasconi that intended to use his experience for the trials of a new piercing anti-shipping bomb.
Remembering the extremely long time necessary to test the Reggiane Re.2000, Reiner decided to escape to the frontline and with the help of Maggiore Ernesto Botto that was acting as secretary of Generale Rino Corso Fougier (then Commander in Chief of the Italian Air Force), managed to embarked on a postal S.81 directed to Derna.

On 16 July Reiner was back with the 4o Stormo at Fuka. The 4o Stormo had been in North Africa (at Martuba 4) since 25 May and was at this time equipped with Macchi MC.202s. Following Rommel's offensive, the 9o Gruppo had advanced to El Adem on 23 June, to Sidi el Barrani two days later, and to Fuka on 1 July.
Reiner officially returned in the Stormo’s strenght only from 14 of August, because in the meantime Generale Bernasconi accused him of desertion and Maggiore Ernesto Botto had to work somewhat to solve the problem.

After that Capitano Luigi Mariotti was wounded during a bombing attack on Fuka, on 20 July, Tenente Reiner was appointed CO of the 73a Squadriglia. He was to hold this command until the Italian surrender on 8 September 1943.
During the course of his second tour, Reiner shot down seven aircraft (four Spitfires, a P-40, a Boston and a Wellington) in the space of six months.

At 08:30 on 19 August 1942 four MC.202 of the 73a Squadriglia and four of the 96a Squadriglia led by Reiner (MM7823/73-7), took off for a free-hunt mission over the front of El Alamein, After 20 minutes, at 5000 m over El Hammam, they spotted eight P-40s escorted by ten Airacobras. Reiner decided to attack and dived, but before he could reach them the Macchis were jumped from above by ten unseen Spitfires. After Reiner saw the Spitfires some 1000 meters above his left wing, he steepened the dive followed by the other MC.202s and then made a tight left banking turn, thus finding himself under the belly of a Spitfire. He recalled:

"His nose filled three-quarters of my gun sight, and it was easy to hit him after a short deflection shot to correct my fire."
His victim was probably Pilot Officer C. J. 'Sammy' Samouelle of 92 Squadron, who crash-landed his Spitfire Vc Trop. (BR523), but survived (this was Reiner’s third kill).
Soon after, Reiner saw his wingman, Sottotenente Renato Gibellini (MM7936/73-10) (a 22-years-old courageous but inexperienced pilot on his first combat mission) shooting at another Spitfire heading east. To do this, Gibellini had made the mistake of leaving his leader, so immediately he had two other Spitfires at his back. Reiner, who was himself pursued by a Spitfire, manoeuvred to evade and turned to save his wingman. He fired a burst from a long distance that caused one of the Spitfires to leave, but the second one hit Gibellini’s MC.202, which started to leave a smoke trail. Reiner tried to reach them, but he was himself alone and four more Spitfires were shooting at him. In an attempt to deceive the enemies, Reiner simulated to have troubles, with an irregular flight and losing speed and level. Believing to have shot him down, three of the Spitfires left. With only one fighter in his back, suddenly Reiner turned west at full throttle, but he was attacked again. Desperately, he started to make a number of tight "Schneider" manoeuvres (a very tight turn with the wing perpendicular to the ground, commonly used by the seaplanes of the Schneider Trophy) a few meters over the ground. Slowly the Macchi regained the Italian lines, Reiner repeated his evasive tactic three times, but on the last one the British pilot, obviously a very determined one, decided to enter inside the turning of the Italian fighter to deliver the “coup de grace”. Starting to turn at the same height as Reiner, he suddenly lost control of his plane, crashing in the middle of no-man's-land between the frontlines. Reiner landed back at Fuka low on fuel; his aircraft was riddled by 107 bullet holes. In this action a Spitfire was also claimed by Tenente Mario Mecatti (73a Squadriglia), another probable by Gibellini, a P-40 and an Airacobra destroyed by the four pilots of the 96a Squadriglia’s pilots. Other than "73-7", another MC.202 was damaged and had to do a forced-landing due to combat damage; the pilot was unhurt. Gibellini, severely wounded, parachuted from his stricken fighter and was taken POW. Unfortunately he perished of his wounds during the night. The same night the military chaplain of Divisione Folgore identified and mercifully buried the pilot of the Spitfire, which crashed while pursuing Reiner; a young Warrant Officer of RAF (this claim wasn’t officially acknowledged to Reiner).
It is possible that the Spitfires encountered by the Italian pilots were part of a twelve strong formation of 92 Squadron, that was giving high cover to two formations of Hurricane Mk IIs of 274 Squadron and 1 SAAF Squadron at 09:15. No P-40s or B-39s were reported up and the Italian pilots probably misidentified the Hurricanes for P-39s and P-40s. At the same hour and in the same place of the combat reported by the 9o Gruppo the British fighters claimed four Bf 109s plus five probables; the claimants were Squadron Leader Wedgwood, Pilot Officers Chisholm, Cooke and Bradley-Smith, while the probables went to Pilot Officers Samouelle, Smith, Rose, Chisholm and Buckley. Additional damaged were claimed by Squadron Leader Wedgwood, Pilot Officers Samouelle and Buckley and Sergeant Titmus. In exchange Samouelle was shot down and obliged to crash-land, returning later. Even if the British reported only a combat with Bf 109s and at the same hour and in the same place eight Messerschmitts of II/JG 27 recorded a combat with twelve Spitfires claiming three of them (two by Oberfeldwebel Bendert at 09:01 and 09:05 and one by Oberleutnant Vögl at 09:07) it is more probable that 92 Squadron fought with the 9o Gruppo. In fact II/JG 27 didn’t suffer any loss (against the four/five/four RAF claims) and it is well known that the Macchis were generally misidentified for Messerschmitts by the British pilots.

In an attempt to oppose at RAF's night intruding missions that were hammering Italian airfields, on 25 August the 4o Stormo borrowed four radio-equipped CR.42s, two by the 208a and two by the 238a Squadriglie of the 101o Gruppo Bombardamento a Tuffo, based at Abar Nimeir. These were to be used as night interceptors.
That same night, at 20:20, Stormo Commander Tenente Colonnello Armando François took off in a CR.42 (probably from the 238a Squadriglia) and circled over Fuka at 500 m. He met and attacked an unidentified enemy twin-engined bomber, which fell on the sea 4 km off coast.
After the landing and refurbishing, at 22:45, Tenente Reiner took off in the same aircraft, and climbed to 2500 m, radio-guided to intercept another bomber. Once arrived, Reiner saw on the cloud overcast below him two shadows of aircraft; he waved his wings and realized that he was one of them, so he looked around and spotted a bomber above him, just in the same moment that the twin-gun tail turret of it started to shoot at him. He dived to gain speed, and then he pulled up vertically and shot at the belly of the bomber. Since the SAFAT machine guns had not flash hiders, he was dazzled by his guns' flashes, and to avoid a collision he turned over and dived again. During approach to landing, Reiner saw a big explosion followed by a fire, on the ground south-east of Fuka.
On the following morning, Reiner and Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (CO of the 90a Squadriglia, 10o Gruppo) took off with an Italian Fiesler Storch and headed 10 km south-east of Fuka, where they found the burned wreck of a Wellington. The bombers bomb load had exploded and eight of the crew were dead.
Wellington DV514/U of 70 Squadron was lost during the night. The aircraft had taken off at 22:10-22:40 from LG 86 to seek out targets of opportunity over the battle area. The aircraft was shot down by a night-fighter, crashing in flames. However, all six of the crew managed to bale out successfully (Squadron Leader E. B. Panter wounded), but were all taken prisoners.

In the morning of 31 August, Tenente Reiner led seven MC.202s from the 9o Gruppo and four from the 10o Gruppo on a free hunt mission over the Qaret el Shirab area. At 7000 m they were jumped by twenty-five Spitfires diving out of the sun from above. The Italians split their formation and counter-attacked; Sergente Maggiore Alessandro Bladelli and Sergente Teresio Martinoli claimed a Spitfire each while Tenente Mario Mecatti (73a Squadriglia) claimed one probable. Reiner and Sergente Mario Guerci (73a Squadriglia) together with the pilots from the 10o Gruppo damaged five. Reiner’s and Guerci’s fighters were both slightly damaged in this combat.
The RAF reported the loss of three Hurricanes during the morning’s fights (one of them to AA fire), plus a Spitfire in the evening and a Hurricane and a Spitfire at an unknown time during the day. It is known that the German pilots claimed four Hurricanes in the morning and a Spitfire plus two fighters of unrecorded type in the evening, additionally Capitano Franco Lucchini claimed a Spitfire over Dein El Hima in the afternoon during an escort mission to CR.42s on an assault sortie. So it is not clear if Reiner’s formation obtained concrete results during his combat.

At 09:00 on 9 October, 18 fighters of the 73a and the 96a Squadriglie, led respectively by Tenente Reiner and Capitano Emanuele Annoni (CO of the 96a Squadriglia), took off to escort some Ju 87s.
The weather was cloudy and at 09:15, at 5500 m over the El Quteifiya area (the Italian name of the airfield base of the Stab and II/JG 27 in the Daba area), they spotted eighteen Bostons escorted by 20 P-40s and 20 Spitfires. The 73a Squadriglia initially attacked the Bostons, but was chased by the P-40s, while the 96a Squadriglia engaged the Spitfires. After a hard and long combat, the fighters disengaged low on ammunition. Reiner claimed a Boston in flames and a P-40 while Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Teresio Martinoli (who claimed one additional as a shared) and Maresciallo Paolo Perno (96a Squadriglia) claimed a Spitfire each. Seven more P-40s were credited to Sergente Armando Angelini (73a Squadriglia), Tenente Giuseppe Oblach, Annoni, Tenente Enrico Moretto (96a Squadriglia), Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Giuseppe Zardini (96a Squadriglia) (two). Four more P-40s were claimed probably destroyed by Reiner, Oblach, Squarcia and Annoni, who also claimed a Spitfire was probably shot down. Five enemy bombers and nine fighters were damaged. The Italian fighters didn’t suffer any losses but the aircraft of Reiner, Oblach, Angelini, Martinoli and three of the 96a Squadriglia were damaged (one of them made a wheels-up landing).
German claims in the morning’s combats were the following: Hauptman Erich Woitke (5./JG 27) one Airacobra south-east of El Daba at 09:25, Hauptman Gustav Rödel (Stab II/JG 27) three Airacobras (one 09:23 north of Türbiya, one 09:27 north north-east El Daba and one 09:35 at 4000 m 25 km north-west of Sanyet Quotaifiya), Unteroffizier Otto Monska (5./JG 27) one Curtiss P-36 at 09:24 north-west of El Daba. Leutnant Werner Schroer (8./JG 27) one Boston at 09:25 north-east of El Daba, Unteroffizier Erich Krainik (8./JG 27) a Hurricane II north of El Daba, Leutnant Erich Schöfböck (7./JG 27) one Hurricane north-east of El Daba, Leutnant Jürgen Harder (7./JG 53) two P-40s at 09:15 and 09:25. Totally nine fighters and one bomber were clamed by the Luftwaffe for the loss of three fighters, one pilot killed, one POW and one wounded.
The RAF formations were composed of 67 Kittyhawks of 112, 250,450, 3 RAAF, 2 SAAF and 4 SAAF Squadrons plus an unknown number of Tomahawks of 5 SAAF Squadron, backed by P-40Fs of 66th US FS, 16 Spitfires Mk Vc of 601 and 92 Squadrons and Hurricanes. They escorted a formation of 18 Bostons and six Baltimores of 223 Squadron in an all-out effort to destroy the Axis air forces on the ground.
The Allied formation lost one Baltimore (victim of Reiner, Schroer or both?), two Kittyhawks and two Tomahawks with two more Kittyhawks badly damaged. The RAF fighters claimed “only” nine victories in the morning, which considering the four actual losses was a quite accurate assessment.
This was the day of the so called “Daba Prang”; a day of heavy overclaiming with at least 28 victories claimed by the Luftwaffe and 20 victories claimed by the Regia Aeronautica (nineteen by the 4o Stormo and one by the 23o Gruppo of the 3o Stormo). In exchange only 16 RAF planes were lost, mostly fighters. During the morning, in particular, against ten claims made by the Luftwaffe and twelve by the Regia Aeronautica, only four fighters and a bomber were reported lost by the Desert Air Force. The Desert Air Force claimed ten victories during the day and at least 50 aircraft destroyed on the ground. The Luftwaffe reported that four aircraft were lost in combat, ten aircraft was destroyed on the ground and 20 damaged.

In the morning on 22 October fifteen MC.202s of the 9o and the 10o Gruppi, led respectively by Capitano Reiner and Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, scrambled to intercept eighteeen Bostons, escorted by twenty-five Spitfires, that were going to bomb the airfield of Fuka. The bombers were scattered, jettisoned their bombs 20 km south of Bir Sarahat and tried to get home. The escorting Spitfires dived on the Macchis. In the ensuing combat three Spitfires were claimed shot down, one each by Tenente Mario Mecatti (91a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan, and one shared by Piccolomini, Tenente Pietro Dell'Antonio (90a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Natale Molteni and Sottotenente Sforza Libera. Reiner and other four pilots of his Squadriglia damaged three Bostons and a Spitfire. Two Macchis returned lightly damaged.

At 11:35 on the same day, Reiner and Ranieri Piccolomini scrambled again, this time with eleven MC.202s, to intercept forty Spitfires flying in two formations at 5000 and 6000 meters south-east of Fuka. They spotted the enemy while only at 4000 meters, so they made a big turn and climbed unseen to 7000 meters. With the sun at 6 o’clock the Italians attacked the higher group of Spitfires. Maresciallo Antonio Sacchi claimed setting fire on one, Reiner claimed one as a probable that fell leaving a smoke trail, while three more were claimed as shared probably destroyed by Piccolomini and the other pilots. Sacchi, who remained alone among a gang of ten Spitfires, was shot down, but parachuted, with slight wounds, behind Axis lines. Three other MC.202s were damaged in the combat.

During the morning on 23 October, after an uneventful scramble with six MC.202s, Tenente Reiner took off again with ten Macchis and, being radio-guided by Freya radar, met thirty P-40s heading west at 5500 meters north-east of Ras Gibeisa. The Italian fighters attacked them head-on and Sergente Armando Angelini (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Leonardo Rinaldi (73a Squadriglia) claimed one each, which both exploded when hitting the ground north El Sawany el Samalus. Three more were claimed probably destroyed by Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) and Angelini (two). All MC.202s returned to Fuka, those of Sergente Teresio Martinoli and Rinaldi slightly damaged.
There was just time to refuel and rearm the fighters before Reiner scrambled again with twelve Macchis. This time they had the opportunity to surprise the enemy and attack them out of the sun from behind. They surprised twenty P-40s and five P-39s heading west at 4000 meters, escorted by ten Spitfires, coming from Sidi Abd el Raman. When attacked the P-40s and P-39s scattered while the Spitfires tried to intervene, but were chased by Tenente Giuseppe Oblach and his three wingmen. The fight moved over El Dabà and Reiner and Squarcia claimed a Spitfire each while Martinoli claimed a P-39 and Tenente Mario Mecatti (91a Squadriglia) a P-40. Two Spitfires were claimed as probables by Reiner and Mecatti while a P-40 was claimed as a probable by Squarcia together with Rinaldi. Oblach, Rinaldi, Angelini, Sergente Maggiore Natale Molteni (90a Squadriglia) and others damaged several enemy fighters. Two of the MC.202s were damaged in this combat.
Martinoli’s claim was probably a Kittyhawk from 260 Squadron, although it was officially, and incorrectly, identified as a P-39 Airacobra.
It seems that the 9o Gruppo formation intercepted a mixed group of twelve Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron that were covering Tomahawks of 5 SAAF Squadron with a top cover of nine Spitfires of 145 and nine Spitfires of 601 Squadrons doing a sweep over El Daba around midday. They were reportedly intercepted by four Bf 109s. Flight Lieutenant Curry claiming to have damaged one while Warrant Officer Tomlinson of 260 Squadron failed to return and Sergeant Colley force-landed. No Luftwaffe records seem to correlate with this combat.

During the morning on 23 October, after an uneventful scramble with six MC.202s, Tenente Reiner took off again with ten Macchis and, being radio-guided by Freya radar, met thirty P-40s heading west at 5500 meters north-east of Ras Gibeisa. The Italian fighters attacked them head-on and Sergente Armando Angelini (73a Squadriglia) and Sergente Leonardo Rinaldi (73a Squadriglia) claimed one each, which both exploded when hitting the ground north El Sawany el Samalus. Three more were claimed probably destroyed by Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) and Angelini (two). All MC.202s returned to Fuka, those of Sergente Teresio Martinoli and Rinaldi slightly damaged.
There was just time to refuel and rearm the fighters before Reiner scrambled again with twelve Macchis. This time they had the opportunity to surprise the enemy and attack them out of the sun from behind. They surprised twenty P-40s and five P-39s heading west at 4000 meters, escorted by ten Spitfires, coming from Sidi Abd el Raman. When attacked the P-40s and P-39s scattered while the Spitfires tried to intervene, but were chased by Tenente Giuseppe Oblach and his three wingmen. The fight moved over El Daba and Reiner and Squarcia claimed a Spitfire each while Martinoli claimed a P-39 and Tenente Mario Mecatti (91a Squadriglia) a P-40. Two Spitfires were claimed as probables by Reiner and Mecatti while a P-40 was claimed as a probable by Squarcia together with Rinaldi. Oblach, Rinaldi, Angelini, Sergente Maggiore Natale Molteni (90a Squadriglia) and others damaged several enemy fighters. Two of the MC.202s were damaged in this combat.
Martinoli’s claim was probably a Kittyhawk from 260 Squadron, although it was officially, and incorrectly, identified as a P-39 Airacobra.
It seems that the 9o Gruppo formation intercepted a mixed group of twelve Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron that were covering Tomahawks of 5 SAAF Squadron with a top cover of nine Spitfires of 145 and nine Spitfires of 601 Squadrons doing a sweep over El Daba around midday. They were reportedly intercepted by four Bf 109s. Flight Lieutenant Curry claiming to have damaged one while Warrant Officer Tomlinson of 260 Squadron failed to return and Sergeant Colley force-landed. No Luftwaffe records seem to correlate with this combat.

Around 13:00 on 25 October Tenente Reiner, Tenente Giuseppe Oblach, Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia), Tenente Mario Mecatti (91a Squadriglia) and Sergente Armando Angelini (73a Squadriglia) scrambled from Fuka, under the falling bombs of a reported twenty-one Bostons, that were escorted by twenty-five P-40s and ten Spitfires. They intercepted the enemy 15 kilometres south-west of Fuka. Reiner led the attack on the bombers and damaged four plus the bombers' leader, which was hit in the left engine. Realizing that he had a Spitfire at his six-o'-clock, Reiner manoeuvred and opened fire on it, hitting it in the cockpit and seeing it falling, probably shot down. Oblach claimed a P-40 while some MC.202s from the 91a Squadriglia arrived to help. Reiner, Squarcia and Angelini jointly claimed a Spitfire, while Mecatti, Sergente Ferruccio Terrabujo (91a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Bladelli and other pilots shared a P-40. During the return flight Reiner spotted a Spitfire below, heading opposite, that seemed to have some trouble. He dived and fired at it with the few remaining rounds in his SAFATs. The Spitfire made an emergency wheels-up landing 60 kilometres south-east of Fuka. No losses were suffered by the Italians.
Once back at base Reiner and Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini hurriedly took off with the Stormo's Storch and went to the rescue, but when they arrived they found to their surprised another Storch, this time a Luftwaffe machine, with the British pilot still aboard. In a brief conversation the RAF pilot, Sergeant A. F. Richardson, admitted that he’d been shot down by a Macchi. Notwithstanding this Piccolomini didn’t press to obtain back the prisoner from the Germans.
RAF records shows that twelve Kittyhawks of 3 RAAF Squadron were up escorting twenty-one bombers at 13:30. They were attacked by four fighters that shot down the plane of Sergeant Richardson. Pilot Officer Harris claimed to have damaged a MC.202. Obviously Reiner had mistaken his opponent for a Spitfire. For the Italian pilots the misidentification of P-40s and even Hurricanes for Spitfires was as frequent as the misidentification of Macchis for Bf 109s made by their opponents.

At around 09:00 in the morning on 26 October, seven MC.202s of the 9o and 10o Gruppi (Tenente Reiner (leader), Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Giorgio Bertolaso (91a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Alessandro Bladelli, Sergente Ferruccio Terrabujo (91a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara (97a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici (90a Squadriglia)) took off to intercept a reportedly eighteen Bostons, escorted by thirty P-40s and ten Spitfires, heading to bomb Fuka. A few minutes earlier, at 08:50, twelve MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo, 3o Stormo, (four from the 70a Squadriglia, three of the 74a Squadriglia and five of the 75a Squadriglia) led by Capitano Mario Pinna (CO of the 75a Squadriglia) had taken off from Abu Aggag for a patrol mission (one of the aircraft was flown by Sottotenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri of the 83a Squadriglia, 18o Gruppo).
Both Italian formations spotted the enemy bombers at the same time and the attack of the 4o Stormo and the 23o Gruppo made the bombers aiming inaccurate, so most of the bombs fell out of the target. Daffara claimed the left wingman of the head formation of Bostons, and damaged two more. Reiner strafed the bomber leader, which began to slip out of formation sideways. He then climbed and found a Spitfire in front of him, fired and hitting it. The Spitfire exploded when hitting the ground 20 kilometres south-east Fuka. Another Spitfire was claimed as a probable by Bertolaso, who also damaged two Bostons. Squarcia, after having damaged several Bostons and a P-40, pursued another Curtiss together with pilots of the 23o Gruppo, and forced it to make a wheels-up landing south of El Daba (the pilot, Sergeant Emy Meredith, was subsequently rescued by the same Squarcia together with Maggiore Simeone Marsan in the Stormo's Fiesler Storch). Bladelli damaged four Bostons and a P-40, but was hit and had to made an emergency landing at Fuka. Another P-40, shared by many, was seen to explode when hitting the ground. Monterumici, after having fired at the bombers, was hit by three rounds from a P-40; one stopped against the head armour, one hit the armoured windshield and one destroyed the instrument panel. Monterumici recalled:

"A sharp overturn when my armoured windshield explode, whose splinters injured my face. Meanwhile, the canopy exploded too and I, while slowing down a bit to take breath, was attacked by five or six P-46 [Note: in the reports of the time, "P-46" probably meant the P-40F], that were firing at me from everywhere. Pieces of the rudder and of the right wing flew off, many bullets hit the fuselage. To escape, I decent to the ground until my propeller touched the ground. Then I shut off the engine, but the aircraft at 700 km per hour seemed to never end to skim over the desert; I'll never forget that endless run [...]"
Monterumici was rescued same day around 18:00 by a companion that was patrolling on a motorcycle, after being missed by an Italian Storch (probably that one of Squarcia).
From the 23o Gruppo formation Bordoni-Bisleri claimed one of the fighters, which crash-landed about 15 km south-east of Fuka and Pinna claimed one probable Boston and a damaged fighter while Sergente Antonio Franciosi claimed a probable Kittyhawk and two damaged Bostons. Sergente Maurizio Mandolesi damaged two fighters and two bombers and all of the Gruppo's pilots damaged twelve aircraft. Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella jumped and parachuted in the El Quteifiya area due to an engine failure. According to some sources Bordoni-Bisleri’s victim was Sergeant J. G. Meredith of 344 Squadron (i.e. the same pilot as was claimed by Squarcia).
It is possible that the Allied fighters were those of 2 Squadron SAAF, whose Flight Lieutenant Pearson claimed a "Bf 109", Flying Officer Burlus claimed a MC.202, Pilot Officer Blignault claimed a probable "Bf 109", Pilot Officer Allen-White and Pilot Officer Lowens damaged respectively a "Bf 109" and a MC.202. It is also possible that 260 Squadron RAF encountered the Italian fighters of the 23o Gruppo and Pilot Officer Aitchison and Meredith claimed a shared MC.202.
Meredith was taken to Fuka but the same evening the 4o Stormo was obliged to hand him over to the Germans by an order coming directly from the HQ.
The Luftwaffe claimed only two planes in these combats (one Kittyhawk each by Unteroffizier Erich Krainik of III/JG 27 and Leutnant Jürgen Harder of III/JG 53).
The Desert Air Force reported a general attack in the Fuka and Daba areas conducted by twenty-four Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron and 2 SAAF covering twelve Bostons and six Baltimores bound for Fuka while twelve Kittyhawks of 112 Squadron escorted bombers. Ten Hurricanes of 274 Squadron covered by others of 127 Squadron, six Kittyhawks of 450 Squadron and seventeen Spitfires of 92 and 601 Squadron were also up, the Spitfire doing a “delousing” sweep. These large formations reported widespread combat with enemy fighters and while no bombers were reported lost five fighters failed to return, one Hurricane of 274 Squadron (Flying Officer Graves MIA), two Kittyhawks of 112 Squadron (Pilot Officer Wright wounded and 21-year-old Flying Officer Keith Ronald Gardener (RAF No. 103554) KIA), and two Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron (Flying Officer Meredith POW and 22-year-old Pilot Officer Charles Edwin Ody (RAF No. 135396) KIA). The RAF claimed eight Bf 109s (in fact only a Messerschmitt and one Macchis were lost).

After the battle of El Alamein, on 29 October the 4o Stormo was ordered to retreat to Martuba.
On 10 November, it was at Benghazi K3 and Ara Fileni.

On 1 December, four MC.202s of the 73a Squadriglia and four of the 96a Squadriglia, led respectively by Capitano Reiner and Capitano Emanuele Annoni, were scheduled to escort four (or eight) MC.200s of the 8o Gruppo, 2o Stormo, led by Capitano Orfeo Cecchet (CO of the 94 Squadriglia) and armed with 50 kg and 15 kg bombs, to strike enemy vehicles south-west of El Ahmar.
The fighter-bombers took off around 06:50 and joined their escort at 3000 meters above Ara dei Fileni before heading east to El Gtafia, with the escort 500 m above the fighter-bombers. The MC.200s dive-bombed and then strafed the targets, destroying or damaging more than thirty vehicles, while the Folgores stayed at 800 m to cover. They then returned home, with the MC.200s at 2000 m and the escort 1000 m above. It seemed all quiet, but Reiner saw Tenente Giuseppe Oblach and his wingman Sottotenente Omero Alesi climbing, without giving any sign of alarm. When they passed Marsa el Brega, Reiner realized that Oblach and Alesi were missing, so he waved the wings to alert his pilots and turned back, but he could not see any aircraft. When he returned at the base, around 08:30, he found Alesi, who told him that Oblach had spotted twelve P-40Fs that were going to attack the Macchis, and, having no time to give the alarm, immediately jumped them. The Curtiss counterattacked the two MC.202s, but while Alesi escaped and returned home, Oblach was surrounded, shot down and killed. Regio Esercito infantry troops watched the combat, and witnessed that a Macchi shot down an enemy aircraft before being overwhelmed.
Oblach was posthumously decorated with the Medaglia d’Oro al valor militare.

On 16 November the 10o Gruppo transferred to Misurata, while the 9o Gruppo on 7 December was at Castelbenito.
The Stormo was withdrawn from North Africa between December and January.

On 12 January 1943, Reiner was promoted to Capitano.

On 20 January, Reiner returned to the home base at Campoformido, Italy, together with the 9o Gruppo.

On 19 March, the 9o Gruppo transferred at Bresso to re-equip with new fighters.

In May it moved to Ciampino Sud for the defence of Rome, and some pilots began to be trained on the Messerschmitt Bf 109, that were to equip the 73a and 84a Squadriglie.
On 17 June, Reiner and ten pilots of the 9o and the 10o Gruppi went to Vicenza to collect the Messerschmitts, and two days later they reached the Stormo at Ciampino with four Bf 109G4/R3 and six G6/R3. But they had no opportunity to use the Gustavs in combat, because the following day they were ordered to pass them to the 70a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo, 3o Stormo at Cerveteri.

From 28 June, the 9o Gruppo was based at Sigonella (near Catania), Sicily, equipped with Macchi MC.202 Folgores and MC.205 Veltros.

It is not known whether Reiner used the MC.202 and/or the MC.205 in the following actions, but at least some of them were flown in the MC.205 since the first few of them were assigned mainly to the high-score aces.
During this period the Italian fighters had to engage huge formations of bombers, heavily armed and escorted. Reiner explained how they did attack them:

"We placed ourselves by side of them, same direction, at a higher level. Then, with a half overturn, and pitching to gain speed, we run into them by side, aiming at the nose of a bomber. Due to the high speed, its shape grew rapidly in the aiming sight. At a close distance we fired, and when the crash seemed to be unavoidable, we dived vertically, then we climbed and repeated the attack. In this way, we tried to hit the weakest parts of the aircraft, as cockpit, engines, fuel tanks, and it was less probable to be hit by defensive fire, but also our fire was less precise due to high relative speed. The bomber pilots saw us firing at them: this put them in a different psychological condition than being attacked by rear, and obliged them to widen and sometimes leave the formation, so increasing our possibility to set apart and shot down some of them.”

The 5 July 1943 was to become a tough day for the Macchis of 9o and 10o Gruppi with heavy combat and serious losses.
From 07:15 to 09:25 Tenente Giorgio Bertolaso and Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi of the 91a Squadriglia flew a reconnaissance mission from Sigonella over the sea, searching enemy shipping or signs of sunken ships.
At 10:25, 27 MC.202s and MC.205s of the 4o Stormo scrambled to intercept 52 bombers escorted by about 20 Spitfires, that were heading to bomb the airfields around Catania. The 9o Gruppo was led by Capitano Reiner, while Capitano Franco Lucchini was leading the 10o Gruppo. The 10o Gruppo consisted of the 84a Squadriglia (Lucchini, Sottotenente Francesco Palma, Sottotenente Enzo Dall'Asta and Capitano Luigi Giannella (CO of the 84a Squadriglia) flying MC.202s and Tenente Alessandro Mettimano, Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi and Sergente Livio Barbera flying MC.205s), the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Luigi Cima, Maresciallo Massimo Salvatore and Sergente Maggiore Giambattista Ceoletta flying MC.202s) and 91a Squadriglia (Tenente Mario Mecatti (CO), Sottotenente Giovanni Silvestri and Sottotenente Elio Miotto).
Giannella and Palma was a few minutes late to take-off because the ground crew were checking their weapons.
The Italian fighters made a frontal attack over Gerbini ignoring the escorting Spitfires. Two B-17s were claimed by Salvatore and Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) together with some Bf 109s. Lucchini claimed a Spitfire while Reiner, Salvatore and Mecatti claimed a probable bomber each. Three bombers were claimed damaged by Lucchini, Giannella, Mettimano, Dall’Asta and Buttazzi. Additional damaged bombers were claimed by Reiner, Salvatore, Mecatti (who also claimed a damaged Spitfire), Sergente Ettore Chimeri (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia), Cima and Ceoletta.
When the Italian fighters landed again at 11:55, Lucchini was missing. He had been seen by Dall’Asta attacking the bombers against heavy defensive fire and then diving into the ground east of Catania. During the alarm, some of the ground crew also reported to have seen a MC.202 falling with the canopy closed, some kilometres east of the airfield. A car from the unit tried to reach the place, but it couldn't go on due to the bombing of the area. Lucchini’s body wasn’t found until two days later.
Taking part in this interception were also more than 100 Bf 109Gs from I, II and III/JG 53 and I and II/JG 77. They claimed twelve bombers for the loss of four Bf 109s including Major Johannes Steinhoff, Kommodore of JG 77, who force-landed his stricken aircraft.
It seems that the Italian fighters had been in combat with USAAF B-17s from 99th Bomber Group, which were out to attack Gerbini. They were intercepted near Ragusa at 23,000 feet but the escorting Spitfires from 72 and 243 Squadrons intervened. The Spitfires claimed one and one damaged Bf 109 while the bombers gunner claimed 45 enemy fighters shot down! According to American records, three B-17s from the 99th BG (42-29486 and 42-29483 of the 348th BS and 42-29492) were lost during the day.
After this combat, an American pilot of a shot down bomber was brought to San Salvatore airfield.
At 11:55, four aircraft from the 91a Squadriglia scrambled. Tenente Vittorino Daffara damaged two four-engined bombers, claimed a P-38 shot down and hits on two Spitfires. Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli damaged two four-engined bombers while Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani damaged a P-38.
At 13:00, Tenente Renato Baroni of the 90a Squadriglia scrambled from San Salvatore and had an in-conclusive contact with enemy fighters, returning to land at 15:00.
At 13:25 there was a new alarm and three MC.202s and two MC.205s of the 84a Squadriglia took off flown by Capitano Luigi Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi, Segente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano and Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi. At least three additional Macchis flown by Sottotenente Sforza Libera (90 a Squadriglia), Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) and Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli (91a Squadriglia) also scrambles.
During the alarm an enemy formation released bombs on San Salvatore airfield; luckily, only a few bombs hit the strip but many others exploded around it and the tent of the 90a Squadriglia became surrounded by large craters. The American pilot quivered during the bombing and showed a little fear; to excuse himself, he stated that he was unaccustomed to be at the receiving end of bombers. More huge formations passed over the heads and bombed the other airfields.
The eight Macchis intercepted a reported 70 four-engined bombers escorted by 30 P-38s in the area between Gela, Enna and Caltagirone. The Allied aircraft were returning from a bombing mission over Catania.
Sottotenente Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Veronesi, Sottotenente Libera and Tenente Mettimano each claimed a P-38 in this in combat. Two probables were claimed by Mettimano and Sergente Patrizi. Mettimano, Patrizi, Squarcia and Martelli damaged several bombers. Libera was subsequently shot down and killed in this combat while Veronesi, after receiving hits in the engine and in the water cooler, made a gear-up emergency landing near Comiso.
The Italian fighters landed back at 13:55.
It is possible that they had been involved in combat with P-38Gs from 96th and 97th Fighter Squadrons, which returned claiming five enemy fighters at 13:30. First Lieutenant Gerald Lynn Rounds and Second Lieutenant Russell C. Williams from 97th FS claimed one Bf 109 each. First Lieutenant William Judson Sloan of 96th FS claimed one Bf 109 and one Re.2001 while Second Lieutenant James V. O’Brien from the same unit claimed a second Re.2001.
While the aircraft were refurbished with fuel and ammunition, a MC.202 flown by Sergente Maggiore Patrizi, scrambled. He took off at 14:15 and didn’t return.
At 14:20, three MC.202s from 91a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Bertolaso, Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Giulio Fornalé took off for another scramble. It seems that they became involved in combat with B-17s, which were out to bomb Gebrini in the afternoon with a close escort of P-38s while 20 Spitfires from 126 and 1435 Squadrons provided top cover. Bf 109s and Macchis tried to intercept over Gerbini. A Bf 109 was claimed damaged by Flight Sergeant F. K. Halcombe (JK368/V-J) of 1435 Squadron, Pilot Officer Chandler (JK139/V-X) similarly claimed a Macchi damaged, while Flying Officer Geoff White (JK611/MK-M) of 126 Squadron shot down a Macchi. His victim was possibly Sergente Patrizi of the 84a Squadriglia who baled out of his disabled MC.205V near Gibrini. In the combat Leonardo Ferrulli was seen to shoot one of the bombers down, from which three men baled out, along with an escorting P-38 before he was in turn jumped by a flight of Spitfires that had been patrolling over the B-17s. Ferrulli baled out of his damaged MC.202 but was to low, his parachute failing to deploy before he hit the ground near Scordia, killing him. Tenente Bertolaso returned claiming damage to four four-engined bombers while Sergente Fornalé claimed hit on a bomber.
At 15:35 there was a new scramble with Capitano Giannella in a MC.202 and Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi in a MC.205. They returned after 30 minutes with no news.
At 17:35, there was again a new scramble by a MC.202 (pilot unknown) and Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini in a MC.205. These two fighters returned at 18:00.
In the late afternoon, a German car arrived at San Salvatore airfield, and Sergente Maggiore Patrizi got out of it, aching all over and with scratches on many parts of his body; the pilot was welcomed with happiness by the personnel that crowded round him to listen to his adventure. He told that he chased a formation of Spitfires; while he was shooting at one of them, another one attacked him at six-o'-clock, and did not let him go, forcing him to jump from his burning aircraft and parachute. He touched down near Gerbini and was picked up by the Germans.
Towards the evening an aircraft from Comiso landed, carrying Sergente Maggiore Veronesi.
From 17:30 to 17:55, Tenente Fabio Clauser of the 90a Squadriglia flew a sortie together with Marescialo Salvatore but they didn’t encounter any enemy aircraft.
Tenente Clauser flew another sortie from 20:00 to 20:15 over San Salvatore.

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 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 Alvaro 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.

On 8 July the 73a Squadriglia was still at Finocchiara. At this time the pilots (Capitano Reiner, Sottotenente Pier Ugo Gobbato, Sottotenente Paolo Voltan, Sottotenente Armando Dal Molin, Sergente Teresio Martinoli, Sergente Ettore Chimeri, Sergente Leonardo Rinaldi, and Sottotenente Enrico Dallari) had just two Macchis serviceable!

In the afternoon on 13 July Reiner led four MC.202s and four MC.205s on a scramble from Finocchiara. They intercepted six P-38s that were going to bomb the road north of Gela, escorted by twelve other P-38s flying higher. The Macchis dived on the fighter-bombers, which hurriedly released their bombs short of the target. The escort intercepted but the Macchis claimed three of these damaged. Reiner claimed a P-38, which exploded when it hit the ground 10-15 km north of Gela, while its pilot parachuted. Then, while pursuing another enemy in a dive, he had his left eardrum ruptured by the rapid variation of pressure. Being attacked by other P-38s and with a strong pain in his ear, he disengaged and return to Finocchiara with his Macchi damaged in the engine and in the tail.

At 18:00 in the evening on the same day, the 4o Stormo was ordered to retreat to Ciampino Sud to re-equip with new aircraft. Reiner transferred his Squadriglia the following day, after having destroyed the non-flyable aircraft.
The Stormo was back in the front again on 2 August, based at Castrovillari.

On 14 August, Reiner performed a test flight on a MC.205, which he had collected for his unit. While dismounting the aircraft he slid and broke an ankle.
He was back again at his unit at the end of that month, flying a MC.205, after having convinced the orthopaedists that he was able to fly with a plaster on his foot!

On 29 August the 9o Gruppo was transferred to Gioia del Colle.

In the morning on 4 September 1943, Macchis of the 4o Stormo were escorting twelve Reggiane Re.2002 of the 101o Gruppo (Capitano Dino D'Ottaviano (CO), Tenente Carlo Graziani, Tenente Ugo Bassi and Sergente Walter Banfi of the 208a Squadriglia, Tenente Eolo Morichelli d'Altemps, Sottotenente Paolo Ruggiero, Tenente Felice Fox and Sottotenente Stelio Zaganelli of the 238a Squadriglia) and of the 102o Gruppo (Tenente Renato Moglia and Sergente Faliva of the 209a Squadriglia, Maresciallo Aldo Dagnino of the 239a Squadriglia), led by the 5o Stormo's CO Maggiore Giuseppe Cenni.
The Reggianes had taken off from Manduria at 11:25 and were going to bomb the area of Gallico, when they were intercepted by some Spitfire Mk.Vs and Mk.IXs of 111 and 243 RAF Squadrons. In the ensuing dogfight, two Spitfires were claimed; one by Capitano Luigi Mariotti (CO of the 9o Gruppo) and one shared by several pilots including Reiner. Three more Spitfires were claimed as damaged while Reiner returned with a damaged MC.205. Sottotenente Aldo Vitale was attacked by four Spitfires, shot down and killed.
In the meanwhile, the Reggiane fighter-bombers were releasing thirty 100 kg bombs and spending 6100 .50 cal and 3600 .303 cal rounds; four LCF were claimed sunk and many trucks and barracks were destroyed. At this point, four Spitfires of 111 Squadron flown by Flying Officer I. F. Kennedy, Sergeant R. Throwbridge, Sergeant R. Gray and Sergeant Eccleston, disengaged from the escorting fighters and attacked the Re.2002s in the Aspromonte mountain area. After a fierce chase, three Reggianes were shot down between Villa S. Giovanni and Reggio Calabria; Cenni ("239-4", possibly MM7340) and Moglia were shot down and killed while Banfi parachuted claiming two Spitfires destroyed (two more were claimed in this combat). Cenni was posthumously awarded with the Medaglia d'oro al valor militare.
RAF declared to have lost only a Spitfire Mk.IX of 111 Squadron when Sergeant M. S. Murray was shot down.

After the Armistice of 8 September, as many pilots of the 4o Stormo, Reiner joined the Allied Forces with his Macchi MC.205 Veltro serie III (MM92182), reaching Galatina on 12 September.

From 16 October the 4o Stormo was again in combat, this time against German troops in the Balkans.

He was eventually promoted to Maggiore due to his wartime service.

During the war he was awarded with one Medaglia d'argento al valor militare (two further citations were lost in the chaos following the Armistice), one Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare and the German Iron Cross, Second Class.

He ended the war with 3 biplane victories and a total of 10.
According to his logbook he also claimed 57 shared victories and 6 and 23 shared probables during the war. However other sources only credits him with 10 destroyed, 8 probables and 3 destroyed on the ground.

Reiner left the service in 1949.

He worked as an engineer in Como, regularly flying at the local aero club.

Reiner passed away on 6 September 2002.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
1 12/10/40   1 Blenheim (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   El Adem area 73a Squadriglia
2 12/10/40   1 Blenheim (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   El Adem area 73a Squadriglia
  09/12/40 14:55- 1 Hurricane (b) Probable Fiat CR.42   30 km S Bir Enba 73a Squadriglia
  13/12/40 08:45- 1 Gladiator (c) Probable Fiat CR.42   Sidi Omar - Sollum 73a Squadriglia
  17/12/40 09:45-11:45 ½ Hurricane (d) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 73a Squadriglia
  17/12/40 09:45-11:45 ½ Hurricane (d) Shared probable Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 73a Squadriglia
  1941                
  10/04/41   1 Seaplane Destroyed on the ground MC.200   Slosella 73a Squadriglia
  10/04/41   1 Seaplane Destroyed on the ground MC.200   Slosella 73a Squadriglia
  10/04/41   1 Seaplane Destroyed on the ground MC.200   Slosella 73a Squadriglia
  11/04/41   1 Seaplane Shared destroyed on the ground MC.200   Slosella 73a Squadriglia
  11/04/41   1 Seaplane Shared destroyed on the ground MC.200   Slosella 73a Squadriglia
  11/04/41   1 Seaplane Shared destroyed on the ground MC.200   Slosella 73a Squadriglia
  1942                
3 19/08/42   1 Spitfire (e) Destroyed MC.202 MM7823/73-7 El Hammam area 73a Squadriglia
  19/08/42   1 Spitfire (f) Destroyed MC.202 MM7823/73-7 El Hammam area 73a Squadriglia
4 25/08/42 22:25- 1 Wellington (g) Destroyed CR.42   SE Fuka 73a Squadriglia
  31/08/42   1/6 Spitfire Shared damaged MC.202   Qaret el Shirab area 73a Squadriglia
  31/08/42   1/6 Spitfire Shared damaged MC.202   Qaret el Shirab area 73a Squadriglia
  31/08/42   1/6 Spitfire Shared damaged MC.202   Qaret el Shirab area 73a Squadriglia
  31/08/42   1/6 Spitfire Shared damaged MC.202   Qaret el Shirab area 73a Squadriglia
  31/08/42   1/6 Spitfire Shared damaged MC.202   Qaret el Shirab area 73a Squadriglia
5 09/10/42   1 Boston Destroyed MC.202   El Quteifiya area 73a Squadriglia
6 09/10/42   1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   El Quteifiya area 73a Squadriglia
  09/10/42   1 P-40 Probable MC.202   El Quteifiya area 73a Squadriglia
  22/10/42   1/5 Boston Shared damaged MC.202   20km S Bir Sarahat 73a Squadriglia
  22/10/42   1/5 Boston Shared damaged MC.202   20km S Bir Sarahat 73a Squadriglia
  22/10/42   1/5 Boston Shared damaged MC.202   20km S Bir Sarahat 73a Squadriglia
  22/10/42   1/5 Spitfire Shared damaged MC.202   20km S Bir Sarahat 73a Squadriglia
  22/10/42   1 Spitfire Probable MC.202   SE Fuka 73a Squadriglia
7 23/10/42   1 Spitfire (h) Destroyed MC.202   El Dabà area 73a Squadriglia
  23/10/42   1 Spitfire (h) Probable MC.202   El Dabà area 73a Squadriglia
  25/10/42   1 Boston Damaged MC.202   Fuka area 73a Squadriglia
  25/10/42   1 Spitfire (i) Probable MC.202   Fuka area 73a Squadriglia
  25/10/42   1/3 Spitfire (i) Shared destroyed MC.202   Fuka area 73a Squadriglia
8 25/10/42   1 Spitfire (j) Destroyed MC.202   60 km SE Fuka 73a Squadriglia
9 26/10/42   1 Spitfire Destroyed MC.202   20 km SE Fuka 73a Squadriglia
  1943                
  05/07/43   1 Enemy bomber (k) Probable MC.202   Gerbini area 73a Squadriglia
  05/07/43   1 Enemy bomber (k) Damaged MC.202   Gerbini area 73a Squadriglia
10 13/07/43   1 P-38 Destroyed MC.202   10-15km N Gela 73a Squadriglia
  04/09/43   1 Spitfire (l) Shared destroyed MC.205   Gallico area 73a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 3 and 1 shared destroyed, 2 and 1 shared probably destroyed.
TOTAL: 10 and 57 shared destroyed, 7 and 23 shared probably destroyed, 2 and 9 shared damaged, 3 and 3 shared destroyed on the ground.
(a) Claimed in combat with three Blenheims from 55 Squadron. All three was claimed shot down but the three Blenheims (L6659, L8530 and L1538) were all damaged; L8530 beyond repair.
(b) Probably claimed in combat between 9o and 151o Gruppi and 33 and 274 Squadrons. 9o Gruppo claimed eight shot down, three probables and several damaged while losing two CR.42s and four force-landed. The 151o Gruppo claimed one Hurricane without losses. 33 and 274 Squadrons claimed seven or eight CR.42s and three probables while one Hurricane (33 Squadron) had to force-land and a second (274 Squadron) was damaged.
(c) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron, which claimed one SM 79 and one probable and two CR.42s for the loss of four Gladiators destroyed and one force-landed. The 9o Gruppo claimed six Gladiators and three probables for four Fiats damaged (one of them was lost). The SM 79s from the 60a Squadriglia claimed two Gladiators without losses (the CO was however killed).
(d) Possibly claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 or 274 Squadron, which claimed one CR.42 and another probable while one Hurricane force-landed. The Italian fighters claimed two Hurricanes, one probable and two damaged while losing one CR.42 and getting a second damaged.
(e) Possibly claimed in combat with Spitfires from the 92 Squadron.
(f) Hit the ground during dogfight. This claim isn’t included in his total.
(g) Wellington DV514/U of 70 Squadron shot down and the crew became PoWs.
(h) Probably claimed in combat with Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron, Tomahawks of 5 SAAF Squadron and Spitfires of 145 and 601 Squadrons, which lost one Kittyhawk and a second force-landed while claiming one enemy fighter damaged. 9o Gruppo claimed four enemy fighters destroyed and three probables for two damaged MC.202s.
(i) Claimed in combat with P-40s from 3 RAAF Squadron which claimed one damaged MC.202 and lost one P-40 (Sgt A. F. Richardsson PoW). The 73a Squadriglia and the 91a Squadriglia claimed four fighters and 1 probable without losses.
(j) Sergeant A. F. Richardson of 3 RAAF Squadron shot down and taken PoW.
(k) Possibly claimed in combat with B-17s from 99th Bomber Group, which seems to have lost three B-17s during the day.
(l) Claimed in combat with Spitfires from 111 and 243 RAF Squadrons. The Italian fighters claimed 6 Spitfires while losing four fighters. RAF claimed at least four Italian fighters while losing one Spitfire from 111 Squadron.

Sources:
3o Stormo, storia fotografica - Dai biplani agli aviogetti - Carlo Lucchini and Leproni Enrico, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore
9o Stormo da Bombardamento Terrestre (1934-1943) - Giovanni Tonicchi, 1997, Tarquinia kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
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
Buscaglia e gli Aerosiluranti - Orazio Giuffrida, 1994 Ufficio Storico Aeronautica Militare, Rome kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Dai Biplani agli Aviogetti - Carlo Lucchini and Enrico Leproni, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore, Valdagno kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Desert Prelude: Operation Compass - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2011 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-61421-18-4
Enrico Leproni in Storia Militare No. 12, September 1994 kindly provided by Vincent Biondi
Ernesto Botto, Gamba di Ferro - Ferdinando Pedriali, Storia Militare no. 96 (IX), September 2001 kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Il 5o Stormo - Giuseppe Pesce and Nicola Malizia, 1984 STEM Mucchi, Modena kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il 23o Gruppo Caccia - Nicola Malizia, 1974 Bizzarri, Roma kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il 101o Gruppo Tuffatori - Giuseppe Pesce, 1975 STEM Mucchi, Modena kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il Caccia Re 2000 e la storia delle "Reggiane" - Sergio Govi, 1983 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il caccia RE 2001 - Sergio Govi, 1982 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il Fiat CR 42 l’ultimo biplano da caccia Italiano – Nicola Malizia, 2003 Editrice Innocenti, Grosseto, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Il Walzer del 102o Gruppo - Giuseppe Pesce, 1976 STEM Mucchi, Modena, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
La Regia Aeronautica - volume I: Dalla non belligeranza all'intervento – Nino Arena, 1981 USSMA, Rome kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Messerschmitt Bf 109 - Gregory Alegi and Marco Gueli, 2002 Ali Straniere in Italia no. 1, La Bancarella Aeronautica, Turin, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
National Archives of Australia
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma
Royal Air Force Aircraft L1000-N9999 - James J. Halley, 1993 Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd, Kent, ISBN 0-85130-208-4
Royal Air Force Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean, Volume 1: 1939-1942 - David Gunby and Pelham Temple, 2006 Midland Publishing, ISBN 1-85780-234-9
Storia degli Aerosiluranti Italiani - Carlo Unia, 1974 Edizioni Bizzarri, Rome, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Stormi d'Italia - Giulio Lazzati, 1975 Mursia, Milan kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
The Messerschmitt 109 in Italian service 1943-1945 - Ferdinando D'Amico and Gabriele Valentini, 1989 Monogram Aviation Publication, Boylston, ISBN 0-914144-30-8, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
USAAF (Mediterranean Theater) Credits For The Destruction Of Enemy Aircraft In Air-To-Air Combat World War 2 - Frank Olynyk, 1987 Victory List No.6
Woody - A Fighter Pilot's Album - Hugh A. Halliday, 1987 Canav Books, Toronto, ISBN 0-9690703-8-1
Additional information kindly provided by Russell Guest, Stefano Lazzaro, Ludovico Slongo and Pelham Temple.




Last modified 05 March 2012