Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Sergente Giuseppe Scaglioni

On 12 June, the 2o Stormo’s fighters were joined by those of the 10o Gruppo (84a, 90a and 91a Squadriglie) of the Gorizia based 4o Stormo C.T.. The Gruppo was commanded by Tenente Colonnello Armando Piragino and started the war at Tobruk T2 with 27 CR.42s.
At the beginning of the hostilities the 84a Squadriglia C.T. was composed of the following pilots: Capitano Luigi Monti (CO), Capitano Aldo Lanfranco, Tenente Vincenzo Vanni, Maresciallo Emiro Nicola, Maresciallo Mario Bandini, Sergente Maggiore Ugo Corsi, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Roberto Steppi, Sergente Scaglioni, Sergente Corrado Patrizi and Sergente Narciso Pillepich. The eleven pilots had only eight Fiat CR.42s. It seems that Sergente Maggiore Corsi and Sergente Pillepich didn’t take part in the move of the unit from Gorizia on 7 June but were however in T2 with the unit from at least 13 June and 15 June.
On 12 June, the first fighter of the 10o Gruppo to arrive at El Adem T2 was that of Capitano Luigi Monti, who landed in the morning. His Squadriglia’s mates arrived later, obliged to turn back by the bad weather. Then the other Squadriglie followed.

Nine aircraft from both 113 and 55 Squadrons were briefed to attack the airfields of El Adem and El Gubbi at dawn on 16 June. Three Blenheims (L8664, L8397 and L8390) of the latter Squadron failed to reach the target due to engine problems (a penalty of operating from desert airstrips). Reportedly, 25 Italian fighters, which spoiled their aim, heavily engaged those that bombed and although bombs were seen to fall among the parked aircraft, damage was estimate as slight. All bombers returned to base.
It seems that four aircraft (probably fighters) were slightly damaged at T2 and that Tenente Vincenzo Vanni of the 84a Squadriglia was wounded.
During the attack on T2, four pilots (Tenente Enzo Martissa, Maresciallo Vittorio Romandini, Sergente Alessandro Bladelli and Sergente Elio Miotto) of the 91a Squadriglia were scrambled immediately. They intercepted three of the Blenheims and claimed two of them shot down. The victories were credited as shared to the four pilots as was common use for the 4o Stormo at this stage of the war. In fact, because of this combat, Martissa was awarded with a Medaglia d’argento al valor militare for bravery and the official motivation of this award stated that he had shot down one of the British bombers individually.
Maresciallo Mario Bandini, Sergente Scaglioni and Sergente Corrado Patrizi (all of the 84a Squadriglia) went to T3 on alarm duty and met six bombers coming back from that airfield. Bandini single-handed attacked the British planes claiming one of them. During the attack, he was wounded in the left arm by return fire but succeeded in coming back to T2 and displaying great calm, made a perfect landing and a complete debriefing before being carried to Tobruk’s hospital. Bandini was also awarded a Medaglia d’Argento al valor militare for bravery for this mission.
Scaglioni and Patrizi meanwhile attacked two Blenheims, empting their guns on them without seeing their opponents going down.
The only reported intercepted British bomber was Blenheim Mk.I L8531 from 55 Squadron flown by Flying Officer M. F. H. Fox (Observer Sergeant Nicholas and Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Leading Aircraftman Klines), which reported being attacked by a fighter that followed it opening fire and hitting both spars of the mainplane, the radio set and the stern frame. The plane was however able to return to Fuka without difficulty. Nothing is known about 113 and 211 Squadrons because of the total lack of records of these units for the period.

At 07:45 on 19 June, four Gladiators from 33 Squadron flown by Squadron Leader D. V. Johnson (N5782), Flight Lieutenant G. E. Hawkins (N5765), Flying Officer A. H. Lynch (N5764), and Sergeant Roy Leslie Green (L9043) accompanied by Flying Officer Peter Wykeham-Barnes (Hurricane Mk.I P2639) of 80 Squadron and two Blenheim IFs from 30 Squadron took off from Mersa Matruh to patrol between Bug Bug and Sollum.
At 09:40, they sighted a formation of nine Fiat CR.42s (in other sources it is stated that it was five CR.42s and either seven CR.32s or Ro.37s). The Fiats were slightly below and to the port side of the British fighters, who were in an ideal position to make an attack.
Wykeham-Barnes shot down the leader of the Italian fighters whilst he was doing a vertical turn, with a short burst at full deflection. The Gladiators claimed two more CR.42s, but lost 24-year-old Sergeant Green (RAF No. 44754) when he was shot down despite some violent aerobatics.
The returning RAF pilots reported that although the enemy was superior in numbers, they lacked the aggression of the Gladiator pilots and gradually retreated towards the Libyan border. Wykeham-Barnes found it difficult to get his sights on the Fiats, because they were so very manoeuvrable, but eventually one of them made a mistake and he was able to get in a good burst of shells, which caused the CR.42 to dive away with smoke trailing behind it. He did not actually see it crash, but it was later confirmed as being destroyed by the ground forces. The Gladiators and the Hurricane were then forced to break off the combat by lack of petrol and ammunition. On their way back to Mersa Matruh they had to land at Sidi Barrani to refuel and rearm. The Gladiators were back at 10:10 and Wykeham-Barnes at 10:30.
The Italian aircraft had been from the Tobruk T2 based 10o Gruppo C.T. At 08:40, five aircraft of the 84a Squadriglia took off to escort a formation of five Breda Ba.65/A80s of the 159a Squadriglia, 12o Gruppo Assalto and nine CR.32s from the 8o Gruppo, heading to attack enemy vehicles between Sollum and Sidi El Barrani. The Bredas took off at 07:20, commanded by Capitano Duilio Fanali. The Italian fighters of the 84a Squadriglia were flown by Tenente Colonnello Armando Piragino, Capitano Luigi Monti, Sergente Maggiore Ugo Corsi, Sergente Scaglioni and Sergente Narciso Pillepich (almost certain MM5552). Monti, who was the pilot with the longer war experience insisted with his commander to increase the number of aircraft participating in the escort, but without avail. The assault planes were out in a search-and-destroy mission and firstly they had to find targets. In doing so they started with a pass between Amseat and Bardia, then a second one going beyond Sollum then a third one. In this way, a lot of time was lost and the RAF could scramble its aircraft. The Fiats were over the Bredas, turning at 2000 metres when a number of Glosters and Hurricanes (the Blenheims were not seen at all while the Hurricane was, as usual, misidentified as a Spitfire) suddenly attacked them. After a sharp engagement, three pilots came back to T2. The missing pilots were Corsi and Piragino. A CR.42s (Corsi, who was killed) was clearly seen to fall into the sea after being hit by a Hurricane, while nothing was known of the second CR.42. The Ba.65s came back safely, without seeing enemy planes that were obviously too busy with the 4o Stormo planes and didn’t engage them. However, returning to T2, the Breda flown by Sergente Maggiore Pietro Scaramucci suffered an engine breakdown and crash-landed, being written-off as a consequence.
Sergente Scaglioni returned claiming a Gladiator (probably Green) and a damaged Spitfire, Sergente Pillepich claimed two damaged Gladiators and Capitano Monti claimed a damaged Gladiator. The same evening a “British communiqué” advised that six (!) British fighters were lost in exchange for two Italians. So all participating pilots in this combat were credited with six shared victories because this was the only combat of the day for Italian units. Some days after, a British message dropped on Bardia informed that Piragino was wounded in a leg after crashing at Sollum and prisoner. Scaglioni described the combat:

“Over Bir el Gib we were surprised by a number of Glosters and a Hurricane that attacked with height advantage giving us a lot of trouble. I saw the commander doing a violent overturning while I was doing a break on the left, this manoeuvre put me behind a Gloster that I shot down with my 12,7 mm guns.
I lost sight of the commander immediately and after landing I knew he was missing. In the same combat we lost Sergente Maggiore Corsi shot down by a Hurricane that I attacked trying to distract it from its action but in vain. For sure Corsi was taken by surprise because he was considered a pilot of exceptional skill and the very best aerobatic pilot of the Stormo.”

The nine CR.32s from the 8o Gruppo had taken off at 08:25. The formation included six CR.32s of the 92a Squadriglia (Capitano Martino Zannier, Tenente Ranieri Piccolomini, Tenente Giorgio Savoja, Sergente Maggiore Guglielmo Gorgone, Sergente Nadio Monti and Sergente Ernesto Pavan) and three from the 94a Squadriglia (Capitano Franco Lavelli, Sottotenente Giacomo Maggi and Sottotenente Nunzio De Fraia), which took off loaded with two-kilo bombs with the dual role of escorting the Bredas from the 159a Squadriglia and ground attack.
The formation of the 92a Squadriglia was back at 10:35 claiming the destructions of many trucks (left in flames) with the use of 2765 rounds of ammunition and 96 two-kilo bombs. Tenente Savoja’s aircraft was damaged by AA fire but no enemy planes were noted. Lavelli’s group was back at 10:55 without suffering losses. They claimed the destruction of Sollum’s electrical station by the use of 36 two-kilo bombs but noted enemy fighters that had attacked them. It seems that they also had been engaged by the Gladiators from 33 Squadron, the 80 Squadron Hurricane and the two Blenheims from 30 Squadron.
This was 80 Squadron's first action during the Second World War.

In the early morning on 21 June, from 05:48 to 06:10, a British fleet composed by the cruisers HMS Orion, HMS Neptune and HMAS Sidney, the French battleship Lorriane and four destroyers under command of Vice-Admiral Tovey bombarded Bardia, while a flight from 33 Squadron protected them.
HMAS Sydney’s Seagull Mk.V amphibian, A2-21 (Flight Lieutenant T. MacBride, RAAF, and Lieutenant J. C. Bacon, RN) was erroneously attacked by Gladiators during the bombardment. The badly damaged aircraft reached Mersa Matruh safely but its port undercarriage collapsed on landing and the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.
33 Squadron reported that at 04:45, Blenheims and a Hurricane had left Qasaba to patrol over Bardia and to protect three Seafoxes and one French naval spotter during the naval bombardment. At 05:15, six ‘B’ Flight Gladiators took off to patrol between the border and Bardia. Pilots known to have taking part were Flying Officer Ernest Dean (Gladiator N5774), Sergeant Shaw (N5783), Pilot Officer Vernon Woodward (L9046), Pilot Officer Preston (N5761) and Sergeant J. Craig (N5768). They returned at 07:00 with nothing to report.
As preparation for the bombardment 113 Squadron had photographed the harbour. Nine Blenheims of 55 Squadron under Flight Lieutenant Cox, set out at 04:30 to bomb the warships in the port but only seven reached the target (L8393 and L8664 aborted), over Tobruk they met a heavy anti-aircraft barrage and were chased by two CR.42s or CR.32s, which did not attack. They reported that three bombs straddle a ship in the harbour and reported seeing smoke pouring from the middle of a ship after their attack.
The bombers from ‘A’ and ‘C’ Flights arrived about ten minutes after ‘B’ Flight over the target where they were attacked by an CR.42, which was flying with another. This aircraft attacked from the starboard beam and at the same height of the formation. The Blenheim’s gunners opened fire and it fell away dropping behind, the gunners claimed it hit.
It seems likely that the 55 Squadron Blenheims had run into Sergente Corrado Patrizi and Sergente Scaglioni of the 84a Squadriglia, who scrambled from Tobruk T2 and intercepted a Blenheim that seemed directed to attack the airfield. Patrizi with the guns jammed, had to disengage almost immediately, while Scaglioni, hit by return fire coming from the bomber was forced to land back at base.

On 28 July Tenente Franco Lucchini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta of the 90a Squadriglia and Scaglioni of the 84a Squadriglia took off from El Adem following an air alarm and intercepted three Bristol Blenheims. One bomber was shot down, another so heavily damaged that the Italian pilots claimed it would not made it back while the third escaped. While landing back at base Scaglioni’s aircraft, damaged in the engine and with a wheel pierced by the return fire of the Blenheims, capsized and was written off. The two victories were shared among the three pilots.
They had intercepted Blenheim Mk.IFs of 30 Squadron, which were out to escort Blenheim MK.IVs of 113 Squadron on reconnaissance missions over the border area. A couple of Blenheim Mk.IFs (K7099 piloted by Flight Sergeant Innes-Smith and K7178) escorted a reconnaissance Blenheim of 113 Squadron taking off at 06:10, while another couple (K7106 piloted by Flying Officer D. R. Walker and K7120 piloted by Pilot Officer S. N. Pearce) escorted another reconnaissance Blenheim of 113 Squadron. The first couple immediately became separated in low clouds and while Innes-Smith continued alone trying to rejoin his formation, the other two aircraft were intercepted by a reportedly five CR.32s. One of the 30 Squadron Blenheims (K7178) was shot down, killing the crew (pilot 21-year-old Flight Lieutenant Ian Cheesman Swann (RAF no. 39950), observer 32-year-old Pilot Officer Herbert Paul Greenwood Fisher (RAF no. 78443) and wireless operator/air gunner 23-year-old Sergeant John Young (RAF no. 523927)). The Blenheim from 113 Squadron returned to base badly damaged reportedly (incorrectly) by anti-aircraft fire. The other Blenheims became separated too and Walker, who remained with the reconnaissance Blenheim, met another reconnaissance aircraft “very badly damaged by machine gun and pom-pom fire” five miles from Bardia. He escorted it as far as 20 miles south of Sidi El Barrani, while at 07:40, Pearce encountered a CR.42, which he tried to attack but without success due to the manoeuvrability of his opponent. He was then chased for a short while by three CR.32s or CR.42s, landing finally at Ma’aten Bagush at 09:15.

Later in the war, he flew the Macchi MC.200, the Macchi MC.202 and the Macchi MC.205.

Giuseppe Scaglioni ended the war with 8 shared victories, these being claimed while flying the Fiat CR.42.

During the war he was also decorated with a Medaglia d’argento al valor militare “in the field”.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940              
  19/06/40 1/5 Enemy fighter (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  19/06/40 1/5 Enemy fighter (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  19/06/40 1/5 Enemy fighter (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  19/06/40 1/5 Enemy fighter (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  19/06/40 1/5 Enemy fighter (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  19/06/40 1/5 Enemy fighter (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sollum area 84a Squadriglia
  28/07/40 1/3 Blenheim (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   El Adem 84a Squadriglia
  28/07/40 1/3 Blenheim (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   El Adem 84a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 8 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 8 shared destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with 33 Squadron, which claimed four victories for the loss of Sergeant Roy Leslie Green (RAF No. 44754), who was shot down and killed. The 84a Squadriglia claimed six victories for the loss of two CR.42s (Tenente Colonnello Armando Piragino POW and Sergente Maggiore Ugo Corsi killed).
(b) Claimed in combat with two Blenheim Mk.IFs of 30 Squadron and a Blenheim MK.IV of 113 Squadron. One aircraft of 30 Squadron was lost with its crew while the aircraft from 113 Squadron was badly damaged.

Sources:
Ace of Aces: M T StJ Pattle - E C R Baker, 1992 Crécy Books, Somerton, ISBN 0-947554-36-X
Desert Prelude: Early clashes June-November 1940 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2010 MMP books, ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4
Diario Storico 92a Squadriglia C.T. kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
Diario Storico 94a Squadriglia C.T. kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Il Breda 65 e l'Aviazione d'Assalto - Giancarlo Garello, 1980 Ed. dell'Ateneo & Bizzarri, Rome, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Il Fiat CR 42 l’ultimo biplano da caccia Italiano – Nicola Malizia, 2003 Editrice Innocenti, Grosseto, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
L’8oGruppo caccia in due conflitti mondiali - Giuseppe Pesce, 1974 S.T.E.M. Mucchi, Modena, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
L’aeronautica Italiana nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale I volume - Giuseppe Santoro, 1966 Second Edition, Editore Esse, Milano-Roma, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
The Bristol Blenheim: A complete history – Graham Warner, 2002 Crécy Publishing Limited, Manchester, ISBN 0-947554-92-0
The Desert Air War 1939 – 1945 – Richard Townshend Bickers, 1991 Leo Cooper, London, ISBN 0-85052-216-1, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Additional info kindly provided by Roberto Scaglioni, Flavio Silvestri and Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 25 September 2010