Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Sottotenente Fiorindo Rosmino

In October 1940, Sottotenente Fiorindo Rosmino served in the 412a Squadriglia Autonoma Caccia in the Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana - AOI).

Having known since 13 October, by aerial reconnaissance, that a Flight of 47 Squadron had been detached to Al Qadarif (Gadaref), pilots of Regia Aeronautica planed a strafing attack on that field. On the 16 October, taking off at 06:00 from the Italian advanced field of Barentu, an S.79 flown by Generale Pietro Piacentini (CO of Settore Aeronautico Nord AOI) himself led in eight CR.42s of the 412a Squadriglia flown by Capitano Antonio Raffi, Tenente Mario Visintini, Tenente Carlo Canella, Tenente Di Pauli, Sottotenente Rosmino, Sottotenente Levi, Sergente Maggiore Lugi Baron, and Sergente Pietro Morlotti. Some sources say that nine CR.42s were involved in this strike, but possibly the ninth pilot, newly arrived Sergente Carlo Scarselli, was left to protect Barentu.
At 06:55, the Savoia dropped its bombs on the field, then the fighters strafed between 07:00-07:20 and totally destroyed all eight Wellesleys of 47 Squadron detachment (K7742, K7762, K7779, K7781, L2650, L2675, L2677 and L2688) and, personally by Capitano Raffi, two of 430 Flight’s Vincents (K4657 and K4731) while they were taking off, which were claimed as Gladiators shot down. An attempt to call the 1 SAAF fighter detachment at Azaza (some 20 kilometers north-east) was foiled, as the telephone line between Al Qadarif and Azaza was found to have been cut. Italian claims were quite accurate, eleven aircraft being claimed destroyed, together with a munitions dump, some lorries, a searchlight and, it seems, a Packard car, the latter fired on by Tenente Canella.
Capitano Raffi was decorated with a Medaglia d’argento al valor militare as the organizer of the attack, while the other pilots gained a Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare each.

On the 6 November, the British forces in Sudan launched an offensive to capture the Italian fort at Gallabat as well as occupy Metema, which was just across the frontier. All that the RAF could provide in way of support was six Wellesleys, two Vincents, six Gauntlets, ten Gladiators (drawn from ‘K’ Flight and 1 SAAF Squadron) and four Hawker Hardys (from the Rhodesian Air Force). The Wellesleys were first into action bombing Gallabat, with the Gladiators requested to over fly the area in large formations. Three Gladiators of ‘K’ Flight arrived over the advancing troops at low level. They were patrolling to the east of Metema when a formation of an estimated six or seven CR.42s from 412a Squadriglia led by the unit commander Capitano Antonio Raffi attacked them from out of the sun. The Gladiator pilots were taken by surprise; 24-year-old Flight Lieutenant Kenneth Howard Savage (RAF no. 37483) (L7614) was shot down and killed while Pilot Officer Kirk (K7969) was forced to take to his parachute; neither pilot saw their attacker. Pilot Officer Jack Hamlyn evaded the initial onslaught but his aircraft (L7612) was badly damaged and he force-landed, returning later on foot. These three victories were claimed by Capitano Raffi, Tenente Niso Provinciali and Sergente Pietro Morlotti.
Meanwhile, Major Schalk van Schalkwyk (N5855) of 1 SAAF Squadron had also taken off from Azzoza, but on arriving over the front was also attacked by the CR.42s. Observers on the ground at once rang the strip at ‘Heston’ to report the lone Gladiator in combat with eight opponents, and despite thick mud caused by an unexpected downpour during the night, Captain Brian Boyle at once took off, arriving just in time to see the commanding officer's Gladiator going down in flames, the pilot taking to his parachute with his clothes on fire; he did not survive. Immediately Boyle was also attacked, bullets entering the cockpit and wounding him in hands and legs; desperately he fought on until the engine of N5852 stopped, and he had to crash-land between the lines. Boyle was brought in by Indian troops and sent by ambulance to Wadi Seidna where he was hospitalised for some weeks. He was subsequently warded a DFC (1 SAAF Squadron’s first) on 7 January 1941 for his gallant action in going single-handed to van Schalkwyk’s assistance.
It seems that Captain Boyle was credited to Sottotenente Rosmino.
Capitano Raffi reported that four victories were claimed as a result of these engagements, but Sottotenente Rosmino’s aircraft was hit and he returned with his parachute pack riddled with bullets.
During the morning another ‘K’ Flight Gladiator was flown up to the front, and shortly after midday Flying Officer Jack Maurice Hayward (RAF no. 40111) joined four Gladiators of 1 SAAF Squadron from ‘Heston’, which took off at 13:20 in another patrol over the front. There, five Ca.133s were seen at 7,000 feet, 2,000 feet lower than the Gladiators, approaching the battle area. As the fighters prepared to attack, they were bounced from above by six CR.42s and 21-years-old Hayward’s aircraft (K7977) was seen to crash in flames, the pilot being KIA (possibly shot down at 15:30 by Tenente Mario Visintini of the 412a Squadriglia). The South Africans at once split up into pairs, Lieutenants John Coetzer and Robin Pare taking on the fighters while Lieutenants Andrew Duncan and John Hewitson went after the bombers. The Caproni attacked by Duncan crashed on the Metema-Gondar road, while Hewitson’s fell out of control after he’d fired three burst and crashed; he also damaged a third bomber on the ground. The crew of one of the shot-down bombers survived, and was to return on foot several days later.
While this was going on, the two pilots fighting the CR.42s had managed to drive them off, each claiming one of the fighters shot down; no losses of CR.42s were recorded however, although either or both of those attacked may have been damaged, and force-landed.
By the end of the day, despite the loss of air superiority by the British forces, Gallabat Fort had been captured and the garrison virtually annihilated, only to be lost again the following day, under Italian ground counter-attacks supported by continuous hammering by Caproni and SIAI bombers, as in that moment the Regia Aeronautica had the main control of the air space.

Rosmino ended the war with 1 biplane victory.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (a) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (a) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (a) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (a) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (a) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (a) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (a) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (a) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (a) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Gladiator (a) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Gladiator (a) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
1 06/11/40   1 Gladiator (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   E Metema 412a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed, 11 shared destroyed on the ground.
TOTAL: 1 destroyed, 11 shared destroyed on the ground.
(a) According to British sources eight Wellesleys of 47 Squadron (L2650, L2675, L2677, L2688, K7742, K7762, K7779 and K7781) and two Vincents of 430 Flight (K4657 and K4731) were burned on ground, against claims for nine Wellesley destroyed on the ground and two Gladiators shot down during take-off. The latter were unofficially credited to Capitano Raffi.
(b) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 1 SAAF Squadron and ‘K’ Flight, which this day lost six aircraft while claiming two CR.42s and two Ca.133s. 412a Squadriglia claimed six Gladiators during the day with no losses, although at least the CR.42 of Sottotenente Rosmino was damaged. Flight Officer Hayward (Gladiator II K7797) of ‘K’ Flight shot down and killed in the action.

Sources:
Luciano Cacciavillani's personal logbook courtesy of Cacciavillani family (Luciano jr and Alberto)
Giovanni Levi’s personal logbook, courtesy of Michele Palermo
Fiorindo Rosmino’s personal logbook, courtesy of Rossella Baron
Aroldo Soffritti’s personal logbook, courtesy of Ariella Soffritti
Various documents belonged to Luigi Baron, courtesy of Rossella Baron
Various documents belonged to Antonio Raffi, courtesy of Alide Comba
Collection of Comando Aeronautica AOI War Bulletins, USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Michele Palermo
410a Squadriglia war diary (1940) kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro.
Comando Aeronautica Africa Orientale war diary (June 1940) kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro.
Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War – Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Guerra di Spagna e Aviazione Italiana – Ferdinando Pedriali, 2nd ed., 1992 Ufficio Storico Stato Maggiore Aeronautica, Rome, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
In cielo e in terra - F. Pagliano, 1969 editore Longanesi, Milan, kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso.
Mario Visintini. Storia e Leggenda di un Asso Italiano – Gianni Bianchi, Associazione Culturale Sarasota, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Le Vittorie Aeree di Mario Visintini in Africa Orientale – Eugenio Eusebi, Stefano Lazzaro, Ludovico Slongo, in: Storia Militare no. 246 (XXII), March 2014, Albertelli Edizioni Speciali, Parma, ISSN 1122-5289
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A. Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4
Springbok Fighter Victory: East Africa Volume 1 1940 – 1941 – Michael Shoeman, 2002 African Aviation Series No. 11, Freeworld Publications CC, ISBN 0-958-4388-5-4
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Story of no. 1 Squadron SAAF – Vivian Voss, 1952 Mercantile Atlas (Pty.) Ltd., Cape Town, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
Visintini, il Pilota Solitario - Silvio Platen, 1942 editore Rizzoli, Rome, kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso.
Additional info kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro, Alfredo Logoluso and Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 15 November 2014