Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Sergente Maggiore Athos Tieghi

Sergente Maggiore Athos Tieghi served with 410a Squadriglia, equipped with Fiat CR.32s, in the East African campaign of 1940-41.

When the war started in East Africa on 10 June 1940, the 410a Squadriglia was equipped with nine Fiat CR.32s and based at Diredawa. Pilots in the unit were Colonnello Mario Pezzi, Capitano Corrado Ricci, Tennete Elio Pesce, Sottotenente Vincenzo Forcheri, Sottotenente Alberto Veronese, Sottotenente Osvaldo Bartolozzi, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Giardinà, Sergente Maggiore Enzo Omiccioli, Sergente Maggiore Alberto Puliti, Sergente Maggiore Tieghi, Sergente Giovanni Tellurio and Sergente Ugo Zoino.

In the morning of 12 September, three Battles from 11 SAAF Squadron raided Shashamanna, dive-bombing the airfield, hitting the headquarters building and destroying a S.81 and damaging a second. Italian fighters were already in the air when the Battles approached, and four CR.32s attacked. The aircraft of Lieutenant Edward George Armstrong DFC (SAAF no. 102765) was shot down in flames and the crew was lost. This aircraft was claimed as a shared between Sottotenente Alberto Veronese and Sergente Maggiore Tieghi.
A fourth Battle, detailed to photograph the result of the bombing, then flew over the base at 2000 feet, but as it turned for home Maresciallo Gobbo of the 411a Squadriglia in one of the CR.32s suddenly appeared from the clouds below and opened fire. Air Gunner V. P. McVicar and Air Sergeant L. A. Feinberg, the photographer, were both wounded and the aircraft began to burn. Lieutenant J. E. Lindsay managed to force-land in clear ground between some trees, but while doing so the aircraft hit and killed a local villager, then burst into flames.
The Battle’s crew got out swiftly, but were once attacked by armed natives. At that moment the ammunition in the burning aircraft began to explode and the natives fled. Italian troops then arrived and took the crew prisoner. The Italians did not at first realise that the Battle had been brought down by one of their fighters and thought that the crew had burned it themselves after force-landing.

On the early morning on 16 December 1940, the single remaining French Martin 167F (No. 102) in Aden made a reconnaissance over Diredawa, where two 410a Squadriglia CR.32s were on a standing patrol. As the fast reconnaissance aircraft approached from the direction of Dancalia, the AA opened up, and seeing this, the two fighters - which had climbed much higher - dived almost vertically to intercept. Pulling out of his dive, Sottotenente Alberto Veronese arrived close behind the tail of the Martin and opened fire, but almost at once the great speed of the French aircraft began to tell, and he fell behind. He had hit the intruder however and it began to trail a thin tail of black smoke, and the starboard engine stopped. Feeling ill - probably from anoxia due to operating at high altitude with no oxygen supply - he then had to land as was taken to sick quarters.
The Martin was slowing down now, as it continued with only one engine, and Sergente Maggiore Tieghi then took up the attack, setting the aircraft on fire, whereupon it crashed. The observer, named as Flight Lieutenant J.M. Boulet (actually Captain J. Dodelier), was killed, the other two members of the crew bailing out; the parachute of Adjutant Chef Y. Trecan opened too soon and caught on the tail of the aircraft, the unfortunate pilot being carried to his death. Only the engineer, Sergeant Chef Cunibil, survived.

Tieghi ended the war with 2 shared biplane victories.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1941              
  12/09/40 ½ Battle (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Shashamanna 410a Squadriglia
  16/12/40 ½ Martin 167F (b) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Diredawa 410a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 2 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 shared destroyed.
(a) Fairey Battle flown by Lieutenant Edward George Armstrong DFC of 11 SAAF Squadron shot down in flames and the crew was lost.
(b) Martin 167F (No. 102) shot down in flames; pilot Adjutant Chef Y. Trecan and observer Captain J. Dodelier killed, engineer Sergeant Chef Cunibil parachuted to safety.

Sources:
Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
Regia Aeronautica 1935-1943 - M.Wawrzynski and Z. Lalak, 1998 kindly provided by Ondrej Repka
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro.




Last modified 14 February 2011