Biplane fighter aces


Capitano Claudio Solaro

10 February 1914 -

Date Decoration Note
??/??/41 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (1st) 1940-43
??/??/52 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (2nd) 1940-43
??/??/41 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare (1st) 1940-43
??/??/?? Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare (2nd)  
??/??/?? Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare (3rd)  
??/??/40 Croce di guerra al valor militare 1940-43
??/??/?? Croce al merito di guerra 1940-43
??/??/?? Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Spagna (1936-1939) O.M.S.
??/??/?? Medaglia di benemerenza per i volontari della guerra Spagna O.M.S.
??/??/?? Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse 1940-43

Claudio Solaro was born in Crusinallo d'Omegna, in the province of Novara on 10 February 1914.

On 5 August 1936, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo).

He volunteered to the Spanish Civil War in 1936 after having got his commission as Sottenente. In Spain he served in the 26a Squadriglia of the XVI Gruppo “La Cucaracha”. This unit was equipped with Fiat CR.32s.

On 23 August 1938 he claimed a Polikarpov I-16 “Rata”.

On 30 October 1938 he was shot down over enemy territory. He parachuted successfully but was taken POW. He was released from prison in February 1939.

When he returned to Italy in September 1939, he received a permanent commission ‘by war merits’.
He was promoted to Tenente in October and posted to the 70a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo, 3o Stormo C.T. This unit was equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

When the war started on 10 June 1940 3o Stormo was sent to the French border to take part in the attacks on southern France.

Solaro took part in the big attack on French airfields on 15 June.

After a very short resettling period at 3o Stormo’s home base at Mirafiori, the 23o Gruppo became Autonomo on 9 July and moved to Sicily to take part in the attacks on Malta.

On 28 July 1940 Solaro took command of the 70a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo Autonomo C.T., which was at this time equipped with Fiat CR.42s. Solaro was to command the 70a Squadriglia until 1943.

Newly arrived reinforcement of Hurricanes allowed a strong reception of a raid over Malta during the morning on 23 November 1940. Ten 34o Stormo S.79s escorted by eighteen CR.42s of 23o Gruppo raided Takali and eight Hurricanes scrambled to intercept the raid as it came over Fifla at 16,000 feet. George Burges in Hurricane V7548 attacked five of the bombers in company with a couple of fighters. He thought he hit one “pretty hard”, and saw it going down, although he did not see it crash. He then shot pieces of another. Sergeant Robertson in V7474 (which had arrived on the island on the 17th November) also tried to attack the bombers, but was attacked himself by six CR.42s. He took evasive action, and fired at four, reporting that his fire tore the fabric from the top wing of one, which went into cloud. He claimed this as a probable, but it was only credited as a damaged. Meanwhile the Italian pilots were after the Hurricanes, Capitano Guido Bobba, Tenente Claudio Solaro and Sergente Pardini each claiming one shot down, while all the pilots of the 75a Squadriglia claimed a fourth between them. Flight Lieutenant H. F. R. Bradbury’s aircraft was hit badly and he force-landed at Luqa. All the Italian fighters returned safely to their base.

At sunset on 24 November, six CR.42s of the 23o Gruppo C.T. from Comiso attacked the airfield of Luqa (called Mikabba by the Italians) on Malta. The pilots participating in the attack had been selected among the best of the unit (Maggiore Tito Falconi (Gruppo CO), Tenente Solaro, Capitano Guido Bobba (CO 74a Squadriglia), Capitano Ottorino Fargnoli (CO 70a Squadriglia), Tenente Ezio Maria Monti and Sottotenente Domenico Tessera). They strafed from very low altitude, claiming one plane in flames for sure and additional damage. Back at base, the Italian War Bulletin credited them of three ground victories. They had in fact managed to burn Wellington “F” of 38 Squadron (the machine of Pilot Officer Timmins) in transit from Marham to Egypt, and according to post war British studies, they had possibly destroyed an additional machine of 148 Squadron. During the return journey, Tenente Monti became disoriented while escaping the attentions of a British night fighter and used all its fuel before reaching Comiso, being obliged to bale out over Stagnone di Marsala.
Pilot Officer Timmins was immediately sent back to England to collect a replacement machine.

On 16 December 1940, the 23o Gruppo (previously part of 3o Stormo but now Autonomo) with 20 Fiat CR.42s (70a, 74a and 75a Squadriglie) and three hack Caproni Ca.133s arrived in Tripoli to help trying steam Operation Compass, which was mauling the Italian forces. The Gruppo had experienced brief (and quite unlucky) action at the beginning of the war against France, and then it had moved to Sicily where they had seen extensive action against Malta.
They were led by their CO, Maggiore Tito Falconi (a famous aerobatic pilot that had held the world record in inverted flight going in a Caproni 113 biplane racer from St. Louis to Chicago in 1933 and a veteran of the Abyssinian Campaign where he had gained some ground victories and of the Spanish Civil War where he had claimed many (mostly shared) aerial victories) in a 70a Squadriglia fighter.
Pilots in the 70a Squadriglia were Tenente Solaro (acting CO), Tenente Gino Battaggion, Sottotenente Oscar Abello, Sergente Ubaldo Marziali, Sergente Balilla Albani, Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella and Sergente Cesare Sironi.
Pilots in the 74a Squadriglia were Capitano Guido Bobba (CO and already credited with one over Spain and three individual and a probable Hurricanes over Malta, which made him one of the top scoring Italian pilots up to that moment), Tenente Mario Pinna, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca, Sergente Emilio Stefani, Sergente Giuseppe Sanguettoli and Sergente Manlio Tarantino.
Pilots in the 75a Squadriglia were Tenente Pietro Calistri (CO), Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Sottotenente Giuseppe De Angelis, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello and Maresciallo Carlo Dentis.
The pilots in the Ca.133s were Tenente Marino Commissoli, Sergente Pardino Pardini (70a Squadriglia), Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni (74a Squadriglia), Tenente Milano Pausi, Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni (brother in law of Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli) and Sergente Leo Mannucci (75a Squadriglia)).
The Gruppo landed at Tripoli-Castel Benito at 17:15. Celso Zemella’s fighter was left behind at Pantelleria after an engine breakdown.

On 19 December the 23o Gruppo moved to Z1 landing ground at Ain el Gazala.

At 09:15 on 26 December, eight Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron took off from the LG south-west of Sollum to escort a Lysander doing artillery reconnaissance over Bardia. The Lysander failed to appear. At approximately 14:05 (obviously during a third patrol) two flights of five SM 79s escorted by a number of CR.42s were observed a few miles north-east of Sollum Bay. A separate formation of 18 CR.42s was following the bomber formation and escort 2,000 feet higher as top cover. Two Gladiators attacked the bomber formation whilst the remainder climbed to meet the higher formation. The attack on the bombers was broken off when the higher formation attacked the Gladiators. In the ensuing combat, Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege and Flying Officer Wilfred Arthur each claimed a destroyed (seen to fall into the sea) and a damaged CR.42. Flying Officer Peter Turnbull, Flying Officer John Perrin and Flying Officer Alan Rawlinson each claimed one probable.
The CR.42s were 14 fighters from the newly arrived 23o Gruppo led by the CO, Maggiore Tito Falconi and 22 CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo. The CR.42s from the 23o Gruppo included three from the 70a Squadriglia (Tenente Solaro, Sergente Pardino Pardini and Tenente Gino Battaggion), five from the 74a Squadriglia (Capitano Guido Bobba, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca (forced to return early due to a sudden illness) and Sergente Manlio Tarantino) and five from the 75a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Monti, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni and Maresciallo Carlo Dentis). The fighters from the the 10o Gruppo included seven from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Capitano Mario Pluda, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato and Sergente Elio Miotto), nine from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Luciano Perdoni and Sergente Mario Veronesi) and six from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Luigi Contarini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta), which had taken off at 13:00.
They were escorting ten SM 79s from the 41o Stormo under Tenente Colonnello Draghelli and five SM 79s 216a Squadriglia, 53o Gruppo, 34o Stormo, led by Tenente Stringa. The SM 79s had taken off from M2 at 12:25 and attacked Sollum harbour’s jetty (reportedly hit) and two destroyers inside Sollum Bay (with poor results because of the heavy AA fire). AA from the ships hit four bombers from the 34o Stormo; one of them, piloted by Sottotenente Bellini had to force land close to Ain El Gazala with the central engine out of action. Returning pilots reported an attempt to intercept by some Gladiators but the escort repulsed the British fighters. They landed without further problems at 15:15.
Over the target, immediately after the bombing, the Italian fighters reported the interception of “enemy aircraft” alternatively “many Glosters” or “Hurricanes and Glosters”. The 70a Squadrigli pilots claimed a shared Hurricane, this was possibly an aircraft from 33 Squadron. This unit’s ORB reported that during the day’s patrols many SM 79s and CR.42s were intercepted with one CR.42 believed damaged. Two Gladiators confirmed and two probables were shared between the whole 10o Gruppo. Another Gladiator was assigned to the 23o Gruppo (in the documents of 75a Squadriglia but this is not confirmed by the other two Squadriglie). Many Glosters were claimed damaged by Tenente Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Schiroli, Sergente Tarantino, Sottotenente Marangoni, Tenente Calistri, Tenente Monti and Sottotenente Villa. The CR.42s were back between 14:30 and 15:05.
No Gladiators were lost even if three of them were damaged (all repairable within the unit). The Australians had done a very good job indeed, facing a formation four times more numerous (even if it seem improbable that all the Italian fighters were able to join the combat). From the Italian reports it seems that only the front sections of the escort (including the 74a, 75a and the 84a Squadriglie) were engaged in a sharp dogfight with the Gladiators. The Australians were able to shot down the CO of the 74a Squadriglia, Capitano Guido Bobba, who was killed when his fighter fell in flames into the sea and damaged Tenente Lorenzoni’s fighter, who landed at T2 (and came back to Z1 the day after). Three more CR.42s were damaged when Tenente Angeloni was forced to land at T5 before reaching Z1, Sergente Veronesi’s fighter was damaged and Sottotenente Prati was forced to make an emergency landing short of T2 (his fighter was reportedly undamaged and only suffering for a slight engine breakdown). Maggiore Falconi’s fighter was also heavily damaged but managed to return. The morning after Angeloni was able to return to Z1 with his aircraft.
Capitano Guido Bobba was awarded a posthumously Medaglia d’Argento al valor militare. He was replaced as CO of the 74a Squadriglia by Tenente Mario Pinna.

The last Italian bombing mission of the day on 27 December was again against Sollum. Four SM 79s from the 41o Stormo under Tenente Colonnello D’Ippolito and four bombers from the 216a Squadriglia, 34o Stormo, led by Tenente Romanini took off from Tmini at 14:30.
They were escorted by fighters from the 23o Gruppo and 10o Gruppi. Maggiore Tito Falconi was at the head of the formation of the first unit, which also included Tenente Solaro, Sottotenente Oscar Abello and Sergente Ubaldo Marziali from the 70a Squadriglia, Tenente Mario Pinna, Sottotenente Milano Pausi and Sergente Giuseppe Sanguettoli from the 74a Squadriglia and Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello, Sergente Leo Mannucci and Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni from the 75a Squadriglia.
It seems that the bomber formation split and the 41o Stormo attacked British mechanized units in Halfaya and Gabr Bu Fares under heavy AA that damaged, although slightly, all the aircraft. The SM 79s of the 34o Stormo attacked ships in Sollum harbour and were intercepted by many Hurricanes. The SM 79s were totally unable to defend themselves because of icing on all the guns and one of them was shot down. This was Sottotenente Aldo Peterlini’s bomber and Peterlini was killed together with three of his crew (Sergente Maggiore Arturo Scagnetti (second pilot), Aviere Scelto Motorista Alcide Frizzera and Aviere Scelto Radiotelegrafista Gioacchino Scuderi). The other two members of the crew (Primo Aviere Armiere Ciancilla and Primo Aviere Montatore Fiore) where able to bale out. Tenente Pandolfi’s aircraft was riddled by enemy bullets (probably RD) while the other two SM 79s were less seriously damaged although suffering some wounded among their crews.
They had been intercepted by 33 Squadron which claimed three SM 79s and one probable and probably two CR.42s during offensive patrols performed by pairs of Hurricanes over Sollum. They also claimed one SM 79 and one CR.42 damaged. Vernon Woodward claimed one of the probable CR.42s and the damaged CR.42.
Falconi’s pilots recorded combat with many Hurricanes, one of which was claimed as probable by the 70a Squadriglia and six more were damaged. Tenente Solaro and Sottotenente Abello returned with damaged fighters. Solaro had been hit by AA fire and Sottotenente Abello by British fighters. Calistri and his men claimed a shared Hurricane and four more damaged. They landed back at 16:55. A shot down Hurricane was also recorded by the 74a Squadriglia, which also recorded a SM 79 shot down by AA fire.
The CR.42 escort from the 10o Gruppo was composed of seven fighters from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Franco Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo, Sergente Bruno Bortoletti and Sergente Enrico Botti), six from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli, Sergente Domenico Santonocito and Sergente Piero Buttazzi) and six from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Orlando Mandolini, Sottotenente Ennio Grifoni and Sergente Elio Miotto). Tenente Guiducci reported that the heavy AA immediately hit one of the SM 79s, which was shot down. Then five monoplanes (Hurricanes and Spitfires(!)) tried to attack but were immediately counterattacked and one of them was shot down. Later, another attempt by a lone British fighter failed after the intervention of the Italian escort. The 90a Squadriglia pilots expanded 320 rounds of ammunition and it seems that in the end the victory was assigned to the whole formation as a Gruppo victory. It seems that it was the same aircraft claimed independently by the two Squadriglie of the 23o Gruppo.

At 15:00 on 3 January 1941, Maggiore Tito Falconi led four CR.42s of the 70a Squadriglia (Tenente Solaro, Tenente Gino Battaggion, Sergente Maggiore Balilla Albani and Sergente Cesare Sironi), five of the 74a Squadriglia (Tenente Mario Pinna, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca and Sergente Giuseppe Sanguettoli) and seven of the 75a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Maria Monti, Sottotenente Giuseppe De Angelis, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Maresciallo Giovanni Carmello, Maresciallo Luigi Pasquetti and Sergente Leo Mannucci) in an escort mission for SM 79s attacking mechanized vehicles around Bardia. Fighters from the 10o Gruppo were also present including Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Mario Veronesi, Sergente Piero Buttazzi and Sergente Luciano Perdoni of the 84a Squadriglia and Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sottotenente Orlando Mandolini, Sergente Luigi Contarini and Sergente Alfredo Sclavo of the 90a Squadriglia. Hurricanes were intercepted and two of them were claimed damaged by the 70a Squadriglia’s pilots. During the return journey, the CR.42s went down to strafe, claiming three armoured vehicles.
They landed back at 17:20.

On 4 January, Hurricane Mk.Is of 33 and 274 Squadrons patrolled the battle area during the British push towards Tobruk in Cirenaica. A pilot from 33 Squadron claimed a CR.42 over Bardia-Tobruk, Pilot Officer S. Godden (V7558) of 274 Squadron claimed two more and Flight Sergeant T. C. Morris also of 274 Squadron claimed a forth. Morris’ aircraft (V7293) was however hit in the radiator and he made a forced-landing. Flying Officer T. L. Patterson (P2643) was also hit and obliged to force-land.
These actions had been fought against S.79-escorting CR.42s of 10o and 23o Gruppi. The Italian pilots returned reporting that they had attacked a large British formation and claiming two Hurricanes and a probable Blenheim. One Hurricane was claimed by Tenente Colonello Carlo Romagnoli, 10o Gruppo commander, and the other by Maresciallo Leonardo Ferrulli of 91a Squadriglia. Tenente Solaro returned claiming the probable Blenheim.
The Italians lost three aircraft, Sottotenente Ennio Grifoni of 91a Squadriglia was shot down in flames, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto force-landed at Tobruk’s T5 landing ground and Tenente Gino Battaggion of 70a Squadriglia was wounded and force-landed at Ain el-Gazala. Battaggion who had been escorting S.79s bombing armored cars in the Bardia area, recalled:

”At 18,000 feet I saw two Hurricanes in front of me. I began shooting. They shot at me too. Suddenly, I felt a hit. An explosive bullet broke the windshield into many pieces and I was slightly wounded in the head. The explosion broke my goggles and wounded me in one eye. With blood oozing down my face, I lost consciousness for some seconds, perhaps ten or twenty. I recovered consciousness due to the air rushing into the cockpit and found that the aircraft was spinning. I managed to recover from the spin and when I was near the ground fired a burst at some trucks. My wingman signalled to me that one wheel of my aircraft was damaged but I managed to land at Ain el-Gazala, near an ambulance. I landed at the slowest speed possible, holding the weight of the aircraft on the one serviceable wheel, and succeeded in stopping without overturning. The personnel near the ambulance recovered me and for about three months I could not fly because the eye gave me a lot of trouble. Some splinters had been extracted from my head – some of them are still there.”

Between 07:55 and 10:05 on 28 January, an offensive patrol was flown by Tenente Solaro, Tenente Marino Commissoli, Sergente Maggiore Balilla Albani of the 70a Squadriglia together with some other pilots of the Gruppo over Derna-Mechili where they strafed British armoured vehicles.

On 1 March 1941, Tenente Colonnello Tito Falconi and Tenente Solaro of the 23o Gruppo flew two S.79s which they had found at Tripoli, to Ciampino, carrying most of the unit’s pilots back to Italy.

23o Gruppo returned to Sicily in April 1941.

He was promoted to Capitano on 23 July 1941.

On 28 September 1941, he destroyed one Blenheim, which fell in the sea about 30km south-east of Capo Granitola, Sicily. At the time Solaro was flying a MC.200, a few which had now been received by the unit.

Solaro also flew in the night defence of Palermo during this period together with 23o Gruppo's commander Maggiore Tito Falconi. In this task they used an all black MC.200. During one of his night sorties, he fired his guns at a twin-engined aircraft, but wasn’t able to ascertain the outcome of his attack.

At the beginning of 1942, the 23o Gruppo joined the 18o Gruppo to establish the 3o Stormo again. The units reassembled at Mirafori to be re-equipped with Macchi MC.202s.

The unit returned to North Africa and took part of the Axis offensive into Egypt during the summer and fall of 1942.

On 16 July, the 74a and 75a Squadriglie of the 23o Gruppo CT, led by Maggiore Luigi Filippi, arrived at Abu Haggag with 18 MC.202s. 70a Squadriglia was still at Naples/Capodichino due to bad weather. As the 3o Stormo CT was delayed from reaching Africa since the commanding officer, Tenente Colonnello Tito Falconi, was still in Italy with the 18o Gruppo, Generale Venceslao D'Aurelio, commander of the Eastern Sector, temporarily assigned the 23o Gruppo to the command of the 4o Stormo.
The 70a Squadriglia of 23o Gruppo arrived at Wadi Tamet on 18 July with eleven MC.202s led by Capitano Solaro.

Taking off at 07:20 on 25 July, Capitano Giorgio Tugnoli (74a Squadriglia) led eleven MC.202s from the 23o Gruppo on a free sweep south of El Alamein. One hour later, they engaged a large formation of enemy aircraft and three P-40s were claimed shot down by Capitano Tugnoli, Tenente Giorgio Solaroli (74a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Mario Mantelli (74a Squadriglia). A fourth P-40 was claimed as a probable by Capitano Solaro (70a Squadriglia).
They had clashed with eight Kittyhawks from 450 Squadron, which had carried out an early morning armed reconnaissance. They lost one Kittyhawk, but Sergeant O’Neil safely returned on foot later.

In less than three months, from 31 July to 20 October, Solaro claimed nine enemy aircraft. He also claimed several shared during this period, being engaged in dozens of aerial combats.

Between 09:15-10:30 on 31 July, a formation of 12 MC.202s from the 23o Gruppo led by Capitano Giorgio Tugnoli flew a free sweep over the lines. Over Bir el Mukheisin they surprised a squadron of Kittyhawks, who were attacking the German lines with a squadron of Spitfires as escort (they reported meeting 20 enemy aircraft). The Italian fighters returned claiming five P-40s destroyed, two probables and many more being damaged (they reported shooting at eleven).
Pilots claiming victories were Capitano Tugnoli (74a Squadriglia), who also claimed a probable, Capitano Solaro (70a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella (70a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Mario Mantelli (74a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Emilio Stefani (74a Squadriglia). Sottotenente Carlo Brigante Colonna (74a Squadriglia) claimed the second probable. They didn’t suffer any losses, and all returned even if Sottotenente Brigante Colonna’s MC.202 MM8375 was damaged in the combat, but returned safely.
They seem to have been in combat with Kittyhawk Ias from 250 and 260 Squadrons which only suffered the loss of Kittyhawk AK671, which was shot down and the pilot, Pilot Officer N. E. McKee was wounded in combat. Warrant Officer L. G. Edwards (AK779/Z) and N. P. W. Hancock (ET525/Y) from 250 Squadron returned claiming a shared damaged MC.202 4miles south-west of El Mreir 11:00-11:30. Warrant Officer Edwards returned with his fighter with Cat. 1 damage as did Pilot Officer D. W. M. Rogerson (AK811/V).

At 10:05 on 29 August, eleven Kittyhawks from 2 SAAF Squadron and eleven Tomahawks from 5 SAAF Squadron patrolled the forward areas, meeting a reported ten plus Bf 109s and MC.202s.
The 2 SAAF Squadron claimed one fighter shot down and five damaged at 10:45 10-25 miles south-south-west of El Alamein when Lieutenant B. R. Bennetts (AL181/DB-W) claimed a MC.202, Lieutenant Lancelot Charles Henry Hope (EV351/DB-U) claimed a damaged Bf 109 and a damaged MC.202 (both 10 miles south-south-west of El Alamein), while Captain J. E. Parsonson (ET1019/DB-Q) and Lieutenant R. C. Hojem (ET9699/DB-I) each claimed a damaged MC.202. Lieutenant A. Morrison (EV366/DB-L) claimed a damaged Bf 109. Lieutenant Joseph Kourie (SAAF no. 104000) of the unit was shot down and killed in AK760/DB-K while Captain Parsonson returned with his Kittyhawk damaged with a bullet in the coolant system.
5 SAAF Squadron claimed two fighters and two probables at 11:00 south of El Alamein when Second Lieutenant H. Smith (AN238/GL-O) claimed a MC.202 (12 miles south of El Alamein), Lieutenant J. V: Lindebergh (AN446/GL-V) a Bf 109 and Captain E. N. Colman (AN366/GL-N) and Major L. B. Pearce (AN231/GL-X) claimed a probable Bf 109 each. Pearce aircraft was damaged in this combat.
No Luftwaffe aircraft seems to have been in the air at this occasion, but they had clashed with eleven MC.202s from the 23o Gruppo, which scrambled at 09:15 to intercept and identify eleven P-40s. During the following combat at 09:50, the Italian pilots claimed five SAAF aircraft and one probable. One was claimed by Maggiore Luigi Filippi (CO 23o Gruppo), one by Capitano Solaro (CO 70a Squadriglia), two by Sottentente Pietro Farinetti (75a Squadriglia) and one by Sergente Luigi Bandini (70a Squadriglia). One P-40 was claimed as a shared probable by Capitano Solaro, Sergente Bandini and Tenente Marco Marinone (70a Squadriglia). Sottotenente Farinetti (MM8385) was shot down and killed and a second MC.202 was written-off when Sottotenente Giuseppe Spinelli-Barrile (70a Squadriglia) force-landed wounded with MM9048 within Axis lines. Sergente Aldo Bianchini (75a Squadriglia) crash-landed wounded with his damaged fighter (MM8371) at Abu Haggag while Sottotenente Giuseppe Melandri (70a Squadriglia) damaged MM8117 when landing at Tamet (pilot safe).

At 06:10 on 1 September, two formations of the 23o Gruppo Macchis, the first of eight led by Maggiore Luigi Filippi, and the second of ten led by Capitano Solaro, took off to provide cover for the ground troops south-east of El Adem.
At 07:15, Maggiore Filippi and his pilots spotted 24 Bostons south-east of El Alamein and attacked their escorts, claiming two P-40s shot down. These being claimed by Filippi and Capitano Mario Pinna (CO 75a Squadriglia).
Almost at the same time Capitano Solaro’s pilots joined the attack, claiming two fighters; Maresciallo Balilla Albani (70a Squadriglia) claiming a P-40 and Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella (70a Squadriglia) claiming a Spitfire. Tenente Marco Marinone (70a Squadriglia) claimed a probable P-40 but was then hit and he force-landed near El Alamein, within Axis line, badly damaging MC.202 MM9060/70-11 but escaping unhurt himself. The Italian fighters landed again at 07:40.

Soon after 15:00 on 2 September, nine Spitfires of 92 Squadron covered Hurricanes of 80 and 238 Squadrons on a tactical reconnaissance mission, which was intercepted by some Bf 109s, the Spitfire pilots claiming two of these shot down. These were claimed by Flight Lieutenant John Milne (BR525/QJ-S) and Squadron Leader Jefferson Wedgewood (BR476/QJ-B) west of El Alamein between 15:15-16:35.
238 Squadron lost two Hurricane IIcs as shot down by fighters around 15:45 but both pilots were safe; Sergeant J. J. Webb (Hurricane “K”) and Pilot Officer D. L. G. Turvey (BE681/Z).
They may have been engaged with Macchis, 18 MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo. Led by Maggiore Luigi Filippi, patrolling over the Axis armoured columns between 15:45-17:30, they engaged large formations of P-40s and Spitfires. Tenente Antonio Maccani (70a Squadriglia) and Capitano Giorgio Tugnoli (70a Squadriglia) returned claiming one P-40 each south of El Alamein. The returning Italian pilots also believed to have hit other aircraft. Capitano Solaro (CO 70a Squadriglia) ran out of fuel and landed at the Luftwaffe airfield at Sanyet Qotaifiya, returning next day.

Shortly after lunch on 3 September a number of engagements took place in the El Alamein area with Italian fighters involved.
Seven Bf 109s of III./JG 53 escorted Jabos at 12:25, fighting 20 British fighters near El Alamein. Twelve Macchis suddenly appeared and made a reportedly spirited attack, but without success.
Six Kittyhawks of 3 RAAF Squadron and five of 450 Squadron (13:52-15:09) escorted 18 Baltimores to Deir el Raghil at 13:55 but were attacked by 16 Bf 109s and 13 MC.202s, Sergeant W. W. Thomas of 3 RAAF being severely wounded and his aircraft (Kittyhawk I EV167) badly damaged, but he reached base where he crash-landed. Flight Sergeant Raymond Dyson (EV158) and Sergeant H. R. Hannaford (EV367) of 450 Squadron each claimed to have probably shot down a Bf 109E, but Hannaford was also wounded, and his aircraft damaged, crash-landing at base like Thomas.
MC.202s of the 10o Gruppo were involved in actions between 11:40-13:20. Maggiore Giuseppe D’Agostinis (CO) led 13 fighters on a free sweep mission over the El Alamein area; a formation of 12 Hurricanes, covered by ten P-40s was engaged and two ‘Hurribombers’ were claimed. One of them was credited to Tenente Luigi Padovani south-east of El Alamein and the second was credited over El Alamein as a shared between eight pilots including Capitano Franco Lucchini (MM7901/84-3). At the end of this combat another formation was encountered comprising 12 Bostons escorted by ten P-40s and eight Spitfires. A long fight followed and two P-40s were claimed by Maggiore D’Agostinis and Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Battista Ceoletta (90a Squadriglia) plus one Boston probable by Tenente Luigi Giannella (84a Squadriglia), for no losses.
Following an uneventful morning sortie 19 MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo had taken off again at 12:40 to patrol over the front line. A large formation of 18 twin-engined bombers, identified as Bostons, escorted by about 35 P-40s, was reported and three of the fighters were claimed as destroyed, plus two probables. Attacks were made on several others and one more was claimed damaged. Three of the claims were made by the 75a Squadriglia 30 kilometres south of El Alamein when Sergente Luigi Bozzolan claimed one destroyed, Maggiore Luigi Filippi one damaged and Sergente Aldo Orsucci a second destroyed. 70a Squadriglia made two claims over El Alamein when Sergente Carlo Papa claimed one probable and Capitano Solaro claimed one destroyed. The last claim, also over El Almein, was claimed as a probable by Tenente Giorgio Solaroli di Briona of 70a Squadriglia. The MC.202 flown by Sergente Papa was damaged and force-landed south of El Alamein. The 23o Gruppo landed again at 14:25
It is possible that 3 RAAF Squadron took part in this engagement since Sergeant G. G. Scribner (Kittyhawk Ia AL167/F) claimed a probable MC.202 over Deir el Raghil at 14:30.
Around this time seven Bf 109s of II./JG 27 carried out a Freie Jagd, first engaging ten Curtiss fighters, followed by 15 more Curtiss or Hurricanes, and 15 Spitfires. Oberleutnant Sinner claimed one P-40 at 14:25 south of El Hammam and a Spitfire south of Bir Ibrahim at 14:35.
Three Kittyhawks of 4 SAAF Squadron provided top cover to 15 Bostons and six B-25s, 260 and the 66th US Squadron flying close and medium covers. Six plus enemy aircraft were reported and three were seen, Pilot Officer J. C. Joerns (Kittyhawk I EV352) failing to return, his aircraft last being seen going down at 15:15 pouring black smoke. He was reported safe in hospital next day.

At 10:15 on 5 September, six Hurricane IIds of 6 Squadron took off to attack a reported nine or more tanks. Six Hurricane IIbs of 7 SAAF Squadron gave medium and twelve of 127 Squadron were above. The formation was ordered back due to the presence of hostile fighters, but 127 Squadron was attacked by some 20 or more and Pilot Officer A. L. Rebman was shot down, crash-landing north of Lake Maghra. He was picked up safely by an army unit. He had probably fallen foul of the 15 MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo which were providing protection to Italian armoured forces. The pilots of these reported meeting a large formation of Spitfires and P-40s at 09:30, claiming four P-40s shot down and one probable south of El Alamein. Three claims were made by Tenente Ezio Monti (75a Squadriglia), Sergente Aldo Orsucci (75a Squadriglia) and Tenente Milano Pausi (75a Squadriglia) while the fourth was claimed as a shared between Capitano Giorgio Tugnoli (74a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella (70a Squadriglia). The probable was claimed by Sergente Maggiore Emilio Stefani (70a Squadriglia).
Capitano Solaro (70a Squadriglia) force-landed with MC.202 MM9059 within Italian lines.

Eight Bf 109s from III./JG 27 provided top cover for Ju 87s, taking off at 08:30 on 2 October 1942. They were joined by 21 MC.202s from the 23o Gruppo. Both formations of fighters reported large formations of British fighters intercepting. Ten Kittyhawks from 3 RAAF Squadron and six from 112 Squadron had been scrambled over El Alamein at 08:50, reporting 20 enemy aircraft at 6 100 meters to the south. A lone Bf 109 was then seen approaching from the west and this was at once attacked and claimed shot down by Flight Lieutenant G. H. F. Plinston (Kittyhawk Ia EV346/O) at 09:50. It seems the Spitfires from 601 Squadron also took part in the interceptions since the only other WDAF claim to be made at this time was for another Bf 109 by Flight Sergeant E. G. Shea (Spitfire Vc AB253) of 601 Squadron between 08:50 and 09:45.
In the combat at this time 07:25-09:00), the Italian pilots from the 70a Squadriglia claimed one Spitfire shot down by Capitano Solaro, one probably destroyed by Sottotenante Giuseppe Melandri and one damaged by Maresciallo Balilla Albani but lost one MC.202 (MM9500) from which Tenente Riccardo Bignamini (74a Squadriglia) baled out, becoming a PoW.
8./JG 27 also claimed two Spitfires when Unteroffizier Hans-Joachim Rohrlack claimed on south-south-east of El Alamein at 08:25 and Unteroffizier Erich Krainik claimed one south-south-west of El Alamein.
At 10:10, as the Kittyhawks were landing, four more from 112 Squadron took off on a practice flight. 20-years-old Flight Sergeant George Rae’s (RAF no. 1179958) aircraft (AL192) suddenly burst into flames and crashed; the pilot was thrown clear but was killed instantly.

During a test flight between 15:05-15:55 on 10 October, Capitano Solaro encountered three Albacores and claimed to have shot down two, which he reported were seen crashing into the sea. Solaro’s MC.202 was hit in the windshield by return fire but he was unharmed.

Seven MC.202s from the 70a Squadriglia scrambled at 08:20 on 20 October led by Capitano Solaro. Hostile aircraft was engaged over Daba and Capitano Solaro claimed two P-40s while Sergente William Dusi claimed a Spitfire. However, Tenente Giorgio Santamaria (MC.202 MM9050/70-7) failed to return and was reported as MiA. The 70a Squadriglia landed again at 09:50.

23o Gruppo flew a mission between 09:05-10:00 on 23 October meeting P-40s north of El Daba. Tenente Marco Marinone (70a Squadriglia) claimed one damaged, Capitano Solaro (70a Squadriglia) claimed two damaged, Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella (70a Squadriglia) claimed one damaged, Tenente Giorgio Solaroli (74a Squadriglia) claimed one probable and Maresciallo Gino Giannelli (75a Squadriglia) claimed one destroyed.

As of 8 November 1942 (on the launch of Operation Torch in North Africa), Capitano Solaro served as CO of the 70a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo CT. The unit was based at Bu Amud, Libya, and equipped with MC.202s.

Eight MC.202s from the 23o Grupoo, led by Capitano Solaro, escorted fighter-bombers strafing Sidi Barrani on 10 November.
On return to Bu Amud, Solaro belly-landed, damaging his aircraft but he was unscathed.

MC.202s from the 3o Stormo scrambled at 16:40 on 17 January 1943 to intercept a formation of B-24s flying at 7,600 meters to bomb Tripoli’s harbour. At that height the MC.202s were much less effective than at lower level and the pilots failed to press home their attacks effectively. The intense return fire hit some fighters damaging them, among them those of Capitano Solaro (70a Squadriglia) and Tenente Giorgio Solaroli (95a Squadriglia).

The 3o Stormo was the last unit to leave Tripoli’s sky and withdraw from Libya to Tunisia and from this the war’s end was not far.

Solaro ended the war with 2 biplane victories and a total of 11 destroyed.

Solaro remained in service after the war and took an active part in the rebirth of the Italian Air Force. During this period, he was posted both to operational units and to the Headquarters.
He retired as Generale di Squadra Aerea.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 23/08/38   1 I-16 Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Spain 26a Squadriglia
2 23/11/40   1 Hurricane (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Fifla 70a Squadriglia
  24/11/40 sunset 1/6 Enemy aircraft (b) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Luqa 70a Squadriglia
  24/11/40 sunset 1/6 Enemy aircraft (b) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Luqa 70a Squadriglia
  24/11/40 sunset 1/6 Enemy aircraft (b) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Luqa 70a Squadriglia
  26/12/40 -15:05 1/3 Hurricane (c) Shared destroyed CR.42   Sollum area 70a Squadriglia
  26/12/40 -15:05 1/13 Gladiator (c) Shared destroyed CR.42   Sollum area 70a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30- 1/3 Hurricane (d) Shared probably destroyed CR.42   Sollum area 70a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30- 1/3 Hurricane (d) Shared damaged CR.42   Sollum area 70a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30- 1/3 Hurricane (d) Shared damaged CR.42   Sollum area 70a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30- 1/3 Hurricane (d) Shared damaged CR.42   Sollum area 70a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30- 1/3 Hurricane (d) Shared damaged CR.42   Sollum area 70a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30- 1/3 Hurricane (d) Shared damaged CR.42   Sollum area 70a Squadriglia
  27/12/40 14:30- 1/3 Hurricane (d) Shared damaged CR.42   Sollum area 70a Squadriglia
  03/01/41 15:00-17:20 1/4 Hurricane Shared damaged CR.42   Bardia area 70a Squadriglia
  03/01/41 15:00-17:20 1/4 Hurricane Shared damaged CR.42   Bardia area 70a Squadriglia
  04/01/41   1 Blenheim Probably destroyed CR.42   Bardia-Tobruk 70a Squadriglia
3 28/09/41   1 Blenheim (e) Destroyed MC.200   off Sicily 70a Squadriglia
  25/07/42 08:20 1 P-40 (f) Probably destroyed MC.202   S El Alamein 70a Squadriglia
4 31/07/42 09:15-10:30 1 P-40 (g) Destroyed MC.202   Bir el Mukeisin 70a Squadriglia
5 29/08/42 09:50 1 P-40 (h) Destroyed MC.202   SE Bir el Mukheisin 70a Squadriglia
  29/08/42 09:50 1/3 P-40 (h) Shared probably destroyed MC.202   SE Bir el Mukheisin 70a Squadriglia
6 03/09/42 12:.40-14:25 1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   El Alamein 70a Squadriglia
7 02/10/42 07:25-09:00 1 Spitfire (i) Destroyed MC.202   S El Alamein 70a Squadriglia
8 10/10/42 15:05-15:55 1 Albacore (j) Destroyed MC.202   N Ras Kenayis 70a Squadriglia
9 10/10/42 15:05-15:55 1 Albacore (j) Destroyed MC.202   N Ras Kenayis 70a Squadriglia
10 20/10/42 08:20-09:50 1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   El Daba 70a Squadriglia
11 20/10/42 08:20-09:50 1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   El Daba 70a Squadriglia
  23/10/42 09:05-10:00 1 P-40 Damaged MC.202   N El Daba 70a Squadriglia
  23/10/42 09:05-10:00 1 P-40 Damaged MC.202   N El Daba 70a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 2 and 2 shared destroyed, 1 and 1 shared probable, 2 and 8 shared damaged, 3 shared destroyed on the ground.
TOTAL: 11 and 14 shared destroyed, 2 and 2 shared probable, 8 shared damaged, 20 destroyed on the ground.
(a) Regia Aeronautica claimed four destroyed; Flight Lieutenant H.F.R. Bradbury’s Hurricane badly damaged and he force-landed at Luqa.
(b) The 23o Gruppo claimed three destroyed on the ground but only one Wellington of 148 Squadron was destroyed.
(c) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron, which claimed 2 and 3 probables without any losses, and possibly Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed a damaged CR.42 during the day. The 23o Gruppo claimed 1 Hurricane and 1 Gladiator and the 10o Gruppo claimed 2 and 2 probable Gladiators while losing one CR.42 and getting five more damaged.
(d) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed two probable CR.42s and one damaged without losses. The 10o and 23o Gruppi claimed 3 Hurricanes and 1 probably shot down with another 10 damaged while suffering 3 damaged CR.42s.
(e) Probably Sergeant H. Crossley in a Blenheim fighter (T1821) from 113 Squadron, who failed to return on this day.
(f) Claimed in combat with 450 Squadron, which lost 1 Kittyhawk (pilot safe). 23o Gruppo claimed 3 and 1 probable P-40s without losses.
(g) Claimed in combat with 250 and 260 Squadrons, which lost 1 Kittyhawk (pilot safe) and got 2 more damaged. 23o Gruppo claimed 5 and 2 probable P-40s while getting 1 MC.202 damaged.
(h) Claimed in combat with Kittyhawks from 2 SAAF Squadron and Tomahawks from 5 SAAF Squadron, which totally claimed 3 fighters, 2 probables and 5 damaged while losing 1 fighter and getting 2 damaged. 23o Gruppo claimed 5 P-40s and 1 probable while losing 3 MC.202 (1 pilot KIA) and 1 damaged.
(i) Claimed in combat with Kittyhawks from 3 RAAF and 112 Squadrons and Spitfire Vs from 601 Squadron, which claimed two Bf 109s without losses. Axis fighters claimed 3 Spitfires destroyed, 1 probable and 1 damaged while losing 1 MC.202 (pilot PoW).
(j) Can’t be verified with any Allied losses.

3o Stormo, storia fotografica - Dai biplani agli aviogetti - C. Lucchini and E. Leproni, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala with translations kindly provided by Birgitta Hallberg-Lombardi
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume One – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN 978-1908117076
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Two – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781909166127
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Three – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2016 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781910690000
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
Assi Italiani Della Caccia 1936-1945 - 1999 Aerofan no. 69 apr.-giu. 1999, kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala
Courage Alone - Chris Dunning, 1998 Hikoki Publications, Aldershot, ISBN 1-902109-02-3
Capitano Claudio Solaro (Galleria degli Assi) - Giovanni Massimello, 1998 Aerofan nr. 64 gen-marzo 1998, kindly provided by Jean Michel Cala.
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
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell' A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 2 Volume M - Z
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Additional information kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 26 June 2023