Biplane fighter aces


Capitano Torquato Testerini

Soria, October 1937. From left to right:
Sottotenente Ranieri Piccolomini, Tenente Leopoldo Sartirana, Capitano Desiderio, Capitano Duilio Fanali and Sottotenente Testerini.

Torquato Testerini served as commander of the 393a Squadriglia of the 160o Gruppo during the Greek campaign. The unit was at this time equipped with Fiat CR.42s

On 14 November the Greek army launched an offensive against the whole front, which quickly begun to crumble the Italian defence. To support this the Elleniki Vassiliki Aeroporia (Royal Hellenic Air Force) made a maximum effort. Blenheims, Potez 63s and Battles from 31, 32 and 33 Miras made frequent attacks on the northern and southern airfields at Koritza, and on Argyrokastron.
At 09.45 two Blenheims (a third having become stuck in the mud and failed to take off) and two Battles attacked the southern airfield at Koritza. Here the Italian defences claimed two Blenheims shot down, one by AA and one shot down by Tenente Testerini.
Sminagos Demetrios Papageorgiou's Blenheim disintegrated in mid-air as the result of a direct AA hit, but the other Blenheim, damaged by the same explosion and attacked by a reported three CR.42s, managed to release its bombs on target and get back to Larissa with a shattered tailplane and more than 100 bullet holes in the airframe. The gunner claimed one of the attackers shot down.
Other 393a Squadriglia pilots then saw the two Battles taking off from a nearby Greek forward airfield, and one of these was claimed shot down by Sergente Maggiore Walter Ratticchieri. In fact the bomber regained its base at Kouklaina, having suffered severe damage. During these operations the Greeks claimed to have destroyed ten Italian aircraft on the ground and damaged many others; the actuality was more prosaic.

On 18 November, during two separate combats over the front of Koritza, the fighters of 393a Squadriglia claimed six Greek fighters without losses.
The first action happened during the morning after the scramble at 10:05 of two Falcos piloted by Tenente Mario Gaetano Carancini and Sergente Teofilo Biolcati. They met a reportedly three PZLs and claimed two (one apiece) landing back at 11:35.
The second action was in the early afternoon when three machines of the same Squadriglia, which had taken off at 13:16 reportedly met four PZLs claiming all of them, three of the EVA pilots were seen to jump with parachute and followed during their descent were seen to land inside their own territory. Tenente Testerini claimed one victory while Sergente Maggiore Arturo Bonato claimed two and Sergente Luca Minella claimed the last one.
Greek sources show that Hiposminagos Costantinos Yanikostas of 22 Mira was killed during the day, as was Episminias Gregorios Valcanas of 23 Mira, although this pilot was reported to have voluntarily crashed on an Italian bomber, while Hiposminagos Corneleus Kotrones of 22 Mira was wounded in one leg, but managed to force-land his shot-up aircraft at an emergency airfield. Additionally according with other sources Episminias Dimitrakopoulos was shot down and jumped with parachute while Anthyposminagos Giannikostas of 22 Mira made it back to its base although seriously wounded reporting two kills, thus possibly confirming at least three of the six Italian claims. Additionally, the Greeks claimed two CR.42s shot down, one each by Hiposminagos G. Laskaris of 23 Mira and Anthyposminagos Ioannis Katsaros of 21 Mira.

At 10.30 on 21 December 1940 80 Squadron took off from Yanina for the front in Greece. They were led by Squadron Leader William Hickey and flew in three sections. The first comprised four aircraft and was led by Hickey, the second of three was led by Flight Lieutenant "Pat" Pattle and the third trio was led by Flying Officer Sidney Linnard.
Near Argyrokastron three enemy trimotor bombers were seen. They were identified as S.79s, and then three more aircraft with twin tails were seen, recognised in this case as Fiat BR.20s. All six were in fact Cant Z.1007bis aircraft from the 47o Stormo B.T. from Grottaglie. The Italian bombers were attacked by the Gladiators and Pattle believed that he had hit one.
At this moment however 15 CR.42s of the 160o Gruppo appeared on the scene. Maggiore Oscar Molinari, the Gruppo commander, was leading these Italian aircraft on an offensive reconnaissance over Yanina, Paramythia and Zitsa. Seeing the bombers under attack by an estimated 20 Gladiators, the Italian attacked, joined by other aircraft from the 150o Gruppo so that 80 Squadron pilots assessed the number of their opponents at 54!
After 25 minutes the air battle broke up and eight of the British pilots returned to claim eight confirmed and three probables. Pilot Officer 'Bill' Vale claimed three, one of them in flames. Sergeant Charles Casbolt claimed one, which blew up and another, which spun down (later down-graded to a probable). Sergeant Donald Gregory claimed another two, again one in flames, but his own aircraft was badly shot up and he was wounded in the right eye. He however managed to return to Yanina. Pattle and Flight Sergeant S. A. Richens also claimed one CR.42 each, Pattle reporting that his victim fell in flames, whilst Flying Officers W. B. Price-Owen and F. W. Hosken both claimed probables. However Flying Officer A. D. Ripley in N5854 was seen to be shot down in flames and killed, while Squadron Leader Hickey was spotted bailing out of N5816; sadly his parachute caught fire, and he died from injuries soon after reaching the ground. Greek troops recovered the bodies of both pilots. Flying Officer Sidney Linnard's aircraft (N5834) was also badly hit and he was hit in the left calf by an explosive bullet and was taken to hospital after landing at Yanina.
In return the 160o Gruppo pilots claimed six Gladiators, two each by Maggiore Molinari and Tenente Edoardo Crainz (in CR.42 '394-7'), and one apiece by Tenente Eber Giudici and Capitano Paolo Arcangeletti. Probables were claimed by Tenente Testerini, Sergente Maggiore Francesco Penna and Sergente Maggiore Domenico Tufano. The 150o Gruppo pilots claimed two more Gladiators in collaboration, while 47o Stormo gunners claimed one more and a probable. As in the case of the British fighters, actual Italian losses totalled only two aircraft, Tenente Mario Gaetano Carancini and Tenente Mario Frascadore of the 160o Gruppo being lost, while Maggiore Molinari was wounded in the right foot and force-landed near Tepelene with a damaged engine.

Capitano Testerini led the 236a Squadriglia, 158o Gruppo, 50o Stormo from May 1942 to the Armistice.

Early in the morning on 10 July 1942, eleven MC.202s from the 10o Gruppo led by Capitano Franco Lucchini (84a Squadriglia) took off to escort CR.42s from the 158o Gruppo out to attack Commonwealth troops attacking an Italian division in difficulties in the costal area in the El Alamein area. The MC.202s where then to continue on a free hunt mission.
In the target area, Lucchini spotted a formation of 15 P-40s approaching from the east at 2,600 meters. After a short attack made with height advantage (the Italian fighters were at 4,000 meters), the P-40s went into a ’Lufberry’ circle. The combat ended after 30 minutes when the ammunition was exhausted.
Lucchini, Sottotenente Luigi Giannella (84a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan (90a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici (90a Squadriglia) returned claiming one P-40 each. Four more were claimed by the pilots from the 91a Squadriglia; two by Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli and one each by Sergente Elio Miotto and Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato. Monterumici remained to defend the CR.42s from the attacks from the P-40s and this he made so successfully that the formations leader, Capitano Testerini (236a Squadriglia) later visited them at Fuka to show his gratitude.

After the Armistice he joined the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force and served with the 4o Stormo.

Testerini ended the war with 2 biplane victories.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 14/11/40   1 Blenheim (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Koritza area 393a Squadriglia
2 18/11/40 13:16- 1 PZL P.24 (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Koritza area 393a Squadriglia
  21/12/40   1 Gladiator (c) Probable Fiat CR.42   Argyrokastron area 393a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 2 destroyed, 1 probable.
TOTAL: 2 destroyed, 1 probable.
(a) Claimed in combat with Blenheims from 32 Mira. The Greek aircraft returned to base damaged.
(b) Claimed in two combats with PZL P.24s of 21, 22 and 23 Mire. 393a Squadriglia claimed six without losses. The Greek fighters lost at least three aircraft, possibly four, while claiming four CR.42s shot down.
(c) In this combat 80 Squadron claimed 8 and 3 probables while the 160o Gruppo C.T. lost 2 aircraft and 1 one force-landed. Regia Aeronatica claimed 9 and 4 probables while 80 Squadron lost 2 aircraft and 2 damaged.

50o Stormo d'Assalto - Nino Arena, 1979 STEM Mucchi, Modena, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Air war for Yugoslavia, Greece and Crete - Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-07-0
Ali nella tragedia - Giulio Lazzati, 1970 Mursia, Milan, ISBN 88-425-2132-9, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Fiat CR.42 Aces of World War 2 - Håkan Gustavsson and Ludovico Slongo, 2009 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-427-5
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.

Last modified 12 June 2012