Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Maresciallo Olindo Simionato

Olindo Simionato served as a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, where he served in the XXIII Gruppo.

During his time in Spain, he claimed 1 victory with the Fiat CR.32.

During the Second World War, he served in the 150a Squadriglia.

At 16:45 on 17 June 1941, 204 Group ordered the despatch of a dozen Hurricanes to carry out ground strafing sorties along enemy lines of communication and to attack dumps, camps and M/T in the Sidi Omar area. Six of the aircraft were drawn from the 33 Squadron detachment led by Flight Lieutenant Vernon Woodward, and two from 229 Squadron detachment, plus one from 73 Squadron, with Flight Lieutenant Dudley Honor leading the 274 Squadron section. Shortly into the flight a large number of enemy aircraft were sighted - Ju 87s from II./StG2 and 239a Squadriglia, with escort provided by Bf 109s of 3./JG27 and G.50bis from 150a Squadriglia (take-off at 15:30).
Three of the pilots managed to successfully engage the Stukas, of which 229 Squadron’s Pilot Officer Douglas Edghill (Z4366) claimed two (victories nos. 5 to 6 of a total of 7) and Pilot Officer R. R. Mitchell (Z4630) one, while Flying Officer D. T. Moir (Z4175) of 33 Squadron also claimed one. At least one aircraft of II./StG2 was totally lost (Ju 87 WNr 6047) in which Leutnant Franz Lauberger and Unteroffizier Thomas Mantsch were killed.
Meanwhile, the other Hurricanes soon became embroiled in a series of dogfights with the escort, Flight Lieutenant Woodward (Z4377) shooting down the G.50bis flown by Tenente Serafino Molinari, who was killed, before he engaged and damaged a second. Sergeant Eric ‘Jumbo’ Genders (Z4174), also of 33 Squadron, claimed two more (victories nos. 6 to 7 of a total of 8). Gender’s claims were initially claimed only as damaged but were later confirmed by the Army. Flight Lieutenant Honor (Z4614) claimed a Messerschmitt damaged and Lieutenant Dudley Dove SAAF (W9298), who was attached to 33 Squadron, reported that he had shot down another, but four Hurricanes failed to return including one (Z4509) flown by 33 Squadron’s Flying Officer Eric Woods, who was killed. The 274 Squadron section lost two pilots, Frenchman Sous-Lieutenant Robert Grasset (Z4110) and Pilot Officer Terrence Officer (Z4533), both of whom survived to be taken prisoner, Montpellier-born Grasset’s aircraft crashing in the Hasbardia area of Tobruk. The fourth missing Hurricane (W9198) was flown by the sole 73 Squadron representative, Pilot Officer ‘Bert’ Reynolds, though he returned next day and reported that he had been shot down by AA fire.
The Messerschmitt pilots returned reporting four victories north-east of Gambut. Unteroffizier Heinz Schmidt claiming two at 17:10 and 17:12 (this was Schmidt’s victories nos. 5 to 6 and his last before being killed on 28 June 1941), Oberfähnrich Hans-Joachim Marseille claimed one at 17:15 (victory no. 12 of a total of 158) and Feldwebel Karl Mentnich claimed one at 17:20 (his first of a total of 7). The G.50bis pilots also submitted claims for three Hurricanes shot down south of Halfaya, Sottotenente Agostino Celentano, Maresciallo Simionato and Sergente Maggiore Patriarca being the claimants.
This was 33 Squadron’s first encounter with the enemy since Crete.

Early on 25 June a large incoming raid was plotted on the radar at Malta. Nine Hurricanes each from 46 and 249 Squadrons took off and climbed hard. Only 46 Squadron was to intercept the incoming formation, which was reported as one S.79 and 24 MC.200s at 21,000 feet, 15 miles south of Sicily. The force, which had left the coast of that island, included a lone S.79 of the 58a Squadriglia, 32o Gruppo B.T. flown by Colonnello Ranieri Cupini, the Stormo commander, with an escort of no less than 48 MC.200s, ten from the 10o Gruppo and 12 from the 16o Gruppo in the lead. Twelve of these fighters were forced to return almost at once with various technical troubles, but the bomber and the remaining 36 fighters continued.
Squadron Leader A. C. Rabagliati (Hurricane Z2481) led the attack straight into the formation, concentrating his own fire on the Savoia. Several pilots saw the undercarriage fall into the ‘down’ position and the bomber was last seen heading home, losing height and streaming oil; Rabagliati was credited with a probable.
Pilot Officer Anderson, flying No. 2 to Rabagliati, fired at one Macchi, then attacked two more, firing at them continually in a dive from 18,000 feet to sea level, where one crashed into the sea 20 miles south of Delimara Point. Sergeant Copp attacked an MC.200 at 10,000 feet, hitting it with a four-second burst from dead astern, and then a two-second burst from the starboard beam. The fighter turned hard to port, pulling its nose up high. This allowed Copp to get another good burst into the cockpit and it dropped “like a plummet, apparently out of control”. It was seen to go into the sea 11 miles south of Cap Religione. Meanwhile Pilot Officer Main, having fired at the Savoia briefly, dived on seven Macchis, firing many bursts from beam and astern at 250 yards’ range into one. He was then attacked by a second, but turned on this and chased it to within ten miles of the Sicilian coast. He last saw it going down steeply towards land at 8,000 feet after he had fired four short bursts into it, and he was awarded a confirmed destroyed for this bringing the number of Macchis believed to have been shot down to three.
Actually, losses to the Italians amounted to two Macchis of the 16o Gruppo; Maresciallo Giovanni Bravin was killed, but Maresciallo Simionato came down in the sea 20 miles from the coast, and was rescued by a Z.506B. One Hurricanes was claimed as a shared by Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta, all from the 90a Squadriglia. Other pilots claimed a shared probable. On this occasion, no British losses were suffered.

At 18:10 on 10 May 1942, five Z.1007bis again were out to attack Malta. The Italian bombers, which came from 50o Gruppo B.T., were escorted by twenty MC.202s from 4o Stormo and ten Re.2001s from 2o Gruppo (making their combat debut over Malta). Twenty Ju 87s of III/StG3 and Ju 88s followed the Italian aircraft with a large escort of Bf 109s.
At 17:40 ten Spitfires from 601 Squadron had been scrambled to intercept the incoming raid and these aircraft attacked the Italian aircraft.
In the ensuing melee, Squadron Leader Bisdee leading an attack on Tenente Domenico Robillotta’s 211a Squadriglia bomber (MM23417), which blew up, the wreckage crashing into a field near Kalkara; three of the crew were killed and one injured, whilst a fifth was seen to bale out and fall into Grand Harbour when his parachute failed to open properly. Sergeant Farfan claimed a second bomber as probably destroyed, and Sergeant Jim Innes damaged a third; one of these, MM23400, was hit hard and landed at Gela airfield with two members of the crew wounded, one dying later in hospital. One of the Macchis was shot down by Pilot Officer Wally Caldwell (BR344/4-H), in which Capitano Roberto Dagasso, commander of 97a Squadriglia lost his life. Two Re.2001s sustained combat damage but were able to return to Sicily. 601 Squadron suffered no losses despite claims by the Italian pilots for six enemy fighters shot down.
The Italian aircraft claimed six fighters, two probables and two damaged as well as one Beaufighter. Pilots of 4o Stormo claimed three, one by Sergente Teresio Martinoli, another by Tenente Mario Massa (identified as a Defiant!), the third (also identified as a Defiant) jointly by Sottotenente Alvaro Querci (73a Squadriglia), Tenente Emanuele Annoni (96a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Leo Boselli (97a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore (97a Squadriglia). According to some sources is Capitano Dagasso also included in this shared. 2o Gruppo pilots claimed the remainder. Tenente Remo Cazzolli and Maresciallo Simionato each claimed one, while a third was shared by Capitano Roberto Fassi and Maresciallo Antonio Patriarca, the latter also claiming a probable; Tenente Carlo Seganti claimed the Beaufighter (probably a transit aircraft encountered over the sea) while two Spitfires were reported damaged by Capitano Salvatore Teja and Sergente Giuseppe Baraldi, and another pilot was awarded a probable.

In the early afternoon of 7 July, twenty-three MC.202s of 155o Gruppo (seven of 351a Squadriglia, nine of 360a Squadriglia and seven of 378a Squadriglia; one from 378a Squadriglia returned however due to technical problems) and twelve of 20o Gruppo, led by Duilio Fanali, and twelve Re 2001s of 2o Gruppo (two turned back), escorted nine Cant Z.1007bis of 9o Stormo, which were out to attack Luqa.
Twenty-two Spitfires Mk.Vs of 126 and 185 Squadrons were scrambled and attacked, diving in two groups; one group attacking the bombers and the other the escort.
Two Spitfires of 185 Squadron were shot down when 20-year-old Flight Sergeant Peter Terry (RAF no. 1257673) crashed on land with BR317 and 21-year-old Flight Sergeant Haydn Haggas (RAF no. 1282139) crashed into the sea in BR283. Both pilots were killed. One of the Spitfires was claimed by Maresciallo Simionato (150a Squadriglia, 2o Gruppo) and one was shared by pilots of the 20o Gruppo (including possibly also by Fanali). The 20o Gruppo also claimed damaged five Spitfires; two of them by Capitano Carlo Miani (CO of the 360a Squadriglia) and Sottottenente Romano Biasiol (360a Squadriglia) on the way home. One of the damaged Spitfires crashed during landing.
Flight Sergeant J. W. Yarra (BR387 “W”) of 185 Squadron shot down the MC.202 (MM9033) of Tenente Fabrizio Cherubini (353a Squadriglia, 20o Gruppo) and he became MIA. Yarra claimed one more fighter as a Re.2001. Flight Sergeant J. E. MacNamara of 185 Squadron claimed two Z.1007 damaged and Pilot Officer W. L. Miller of 126 Squadron claimed a third damaged while another Z.1007 (MM23243) of 60a Squadriglia, 33o Gruppo, flown by Tenente Francesco Antonelli was shot down by AA fire; five of the crew jumped but three were KIA.

Simionato ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 6.
During the war, he was decorated with two Medaglie d’argento al valor militare and two Medaglie di bronzo al valor militare.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  193?                
1 ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed CR.32   Spain XXIII Gruppo
  1941                
2 17/06/41 15:30- 1 Hurricane (a) Destroyed G.50bis   S Halfaya 150a Squadriglia
  1942                
3 10/05/42 18:10- 1 Spitfire (b) Destroyed Re.2001   Malta area 150a Squadriglia
4 07/07/42 p.m. 1 Spitfire (c) Destroyed Re.2001   Malta area 150a Squadriglia
5 ??/??/4?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed       150a Squadriglia
6 ??/??/4?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed       150a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed.
TOTAL: 6 destroyed.
(a) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33, 73 and 229 Squadrons, which claimed 4 fighters and 2 damaged and 4 Stukas destroyed while losing 4 Hurricanes. Axis fighters claimed 7 Hurricanes without losses.
(b) Claimed in combat with Spitfires from 601 Squadron, which claimed one Italian fighter withour suffering any losses. The 4o Stormo and the 2o Gruppo claimed six fighters, two probables and two damaged for the loss of one MC.202.
(c) Claimed in combat with Spitfires from 126 and 185 Squadron.

Sources:
Air War over Spain - Jesus Salas Larrazabal, 1974 Ian Allan Ltd, Shepperton, Surrey, ISBN 0-7110-0521-4
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - Giovanni Massimello, 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999, Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6




Last modified 02 June 2017