Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Capitano Giorgio Tugnoli

13 December 1912 –

Decorations
Date Decoration Note
??/??/37 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (1st) A.O.I.
??/??/40 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (2nd) O.M.S.
??/??/43 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (3rd) 1940-43
??/??/40 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare (1st) O.M.S.
??/??/41 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare (2nd) 1940-43
??/??/41 Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare (3rd) 1940-43
??/??/?? Croce al merito di guerra 1940-43
??/??/?? Medaglia commemorativa operazioni militari in Africa Orientale A.O.I.
??/??/?? Medaglia commemorativa della campagna di Spagna (1936-1939) O.M.S.
??/??/?? Medaglia di benemerenza per i volontari della guerra Spagna O.M.S.

Giorgio Tugnoli was born on 13 December 1912 and was from Rome.

Tugnoli served in East Africa (A.O.I.) and was decorated for this.

On 31 December 1935, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo).

Tugnoli served in the Spanish Civil War where he claimed 1 victory while serving in the VI Gruppo C.T.

He was promoted to Capitano on 31 December 1938.

In November 1940, he belonged to the 153a Squadriglia, 3o Gruppo Autonomo CT which was equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

At around midday on 27 November, the British and Italian fleets clashed in what was later called the Battle of Cape Spartivento. Eleven Swordfishes from 810 Squadron of HMS Ark Royal led by Lieutenant Commander M. Johnstone attacked at around 12:40, claiming a hit on the battleship Vittorio Veneto (in fact, they all missed).
In the early afternoon, nine Swordfishes from 820 Squadron of HMS Ark Royal led by Lieutenant Commander J. A. Stuart-Moore attacked the Italian cruisers, claiming two hits (none achieved). Three CR.42s of 154a Squadriglia piloted by Capitano Tovazzi, Tenente Giannini and Sergente Maggiore Bortolani intercepted a British plane identified as a “Blackburn” during a cruise over the Italian fleet and Giannini claimed it shot down. Ten SM 79s of the 32o Stormo, escorted by CR.42s of the 3o Gruppo Autonomo then arrived over Force “H” and seven Fulmars of 808 Squadron, which were up, intercepted at 14:30 claiming two or three victories without being able to stop them. Green Section’s Lieutenant Rupert Tillard claimed one SM 79 shot down but then he and the men of his section were bounced by the CR.42s. A formation of five CR.42s of the 153a Squadriglia led by Capitano Tugnoli and including Tenente Alfonso Mattei, Sottotenente Cesare Ciapetti (154a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Visconti and Sergente Lucato (154a Squadriglia) reported a combat against seven British fighters probably “Hurricanes” over the sea 200 km south-west of Cagliari. They claimed five victories with the use of 1080 rounds, one of the victories was claimed individually by Ciapetti while Lucato failed to return. In fact, unable to fight back because low on ammunitions and after having mistaken the Fiats for Sea Gladiators, Fulmar N1941 (pilot Sub Lieutenant Richard Maurice Scott Martin and TAG L/A Alexander Laird Milne Noble (FAA/FX 79397)) was shot down into the sea with the loss of the crew. The FAA pilots were unable to claim anything and the missing CR.42 probably run out of fuel after the combat and disappeared in the sea with its pilot.
All the SM 79s from the 32o Stormo returned to base, even if eight out of ten were damaged by the Fulmars and the AA, two of them seriously. However, a transit Vichy French Farman 223 was involved in the combat and shot down, most likely by the Fulmars.
One hour later, seven Skuas of 800 Squadron led by Lieutenant Richard Smeeton dive bombed the Italian ships without success but while coming back to HMS Ark Royal they run across the Ro.43 seaplane spotter of Vittorio Veneto (piloted by Capitano Violante with observer Sottotenente di Vascello Davide Sovrano). Four of the Skuas shot it down into the sea (Lieutenant Rooper/Sub Lieutenant Woolston in L3015, Petty Officer (A) ‘Bert’ Sabey/L/A Cooles in L2900, Petty Officer (A) Burston/N/A Holmes in L3007 and Petty Officer (A) Jopling/N/A Glen in L3017).

In the beginning of May 1941, a convoy of five fast freighters steamed for Alexandria (Operation Tiger) together with Force H from Gibraltar. To meet this convoy the Mediterranean Fleet left Alexandria on 6 May to rendezvous with it south of Malta. The Tiger convoy escaped discovery until 8 May due to bad weather and poor visibility but was then on to became the focus for the air battles for the next four days.
HMS Ark Royal of Force H had embarked a second squadron of Fulmars to replace the low-performance Skuas of 800 Squadron. This was 807 Squadron under Lieutenant Commander J. Sholto Douglas who was to assist the resident Fulmars of 808 Squadron under Lieutenant Commander Rupert Tillard. However, only twelve aircraft were serviceable this morning.
The early morning patrol had been vectored towards an Italian ‘shadower’ and although this was spotted it could not be intercepted, so all now knew that the assault would soon commence.
The first incoming raid was reported at about 13:45, still 32 miles from the ships. This first raid comprised of five torpedo bombers (SM 79s) of the 280o Squadriglia, which had taken off from Elmas airfield near Calgari, Sardinia. These were flown by Capitano Dante Magagnoli, Capitano Amedeo Moioli, Capitano Ugo Rivoli, Tenente Marino Marini and Sottotenente Francesco Cappa. They were escorted by 15 CR.42s of 3o Gruppo C.T., eight from 153a Squadriglia and seven from 154a Squadriglia, all led by the gruppo commander Tenente Colonnello Innocenzo Monti; these fighters departed Monserrato (also near Cagliari) at 12:05, nine providing close escort with the other six as top cover. Weather conditions were very poor, with a low cloud ceiling and limited visibility. Nonetheless, the British ships were sighted at 13:40, some 120 miles south of Sardinia.
Two sections (four aircraft) of 807 Squadron were scrambled to join the four Fulmars of 808 Squadron on patrol, these latter aircraft intercepting the incoming SM 79s, but as Lieutenant Commander Tillard led the attack they were themselves bounced by a dozen of the escorting CR.42s. Almost immediately Tillard’s Fulmar was shoot down after having ignored the advice he had been given to not get involved in a turning ‘dogfight’ with the CR.42s. He and his observer, Lieutenant Mark Somerville, were killed. 34-year-old Lieutenant Commander Tillard was credited with 6 and 1 shared destroyed enemy aircraft at the time of his death. The three other Fulmars were also hit, the aircraft of both Lieutenant G. C. McE. Guthrie and Petty Officer (A) R. E. Dubber sustaining damage to their tail units, while in Lieutenant Taylour’s aircraft the TAG, Petty Officer (A) L. G. T. Howard received a severe leg wound, an explosive bullet shattering both tibia and fibula. One CR.42 overshot their aircraft and Taylour managed to score hits on it, forcing it into a spin from which he considered it would not be able to recover. Having evaded the other CR.42s, Taylour headed for the carrier with his wounded TAG, where only prompt and skilful action by HMS Ark Royal’s surgeon prevented the loss of Howard’s leg.
The 280o Squadriglia reported that all pilots managed to release torpedoes, Moioli and Magagnoli claiming to have hit a cruiser. However, all five SM 79s had been badly damaged, and although three got back to Elmas, Sottotenente Marini’s aircraft was hit and crashed near La Galite (they got ashore on the island in their dinghy and a French flying boat took the crew to Tunisia, from where they later was repatriated) and Sottotenente Cappa (SM 79 MM23872), hit by cannon fire, launched a torpedo against a large ship from close range, and then disappeared into the water with the loss of all the crew. Cappa was awarded a posthumous Medaglia d’oro al valor militare.
All but three of the CR.42s would return to base 14:30 and 14:40 but Tenente Massimino Mancini’s (153a Squadriglia) had been damaged and he had to crash-land, as did Sergente Maggiore Guerrino Cavalca, who had run out of fuel. Sergente Giuseppe Zani of the 153a Squadriglia was MiA in MM7203.
Meanwhile, a further formation of five SM 79s from the 32o Stormo had taken off from Decimomannu some time after the initial raiding force, covered by ten more 3o Gruppo CR.42s led by Capitano Tugnoli (five from each squadriglie). It would seem to be with this formation that the four 807 Squadron Fulmars made contact, Lieutenant N. G. Hallett and his No. 2 – Petty Officer (A) A. G. Johnson – hitting one bomber; however, the gunner returned fire, hitting Hallett’s engine forcing him to ditch. Both he and his Australian observer, Lieutenant V. A. Smith, managed to scramble out and were soon picked up by the destroyer HMS Foresight. Meanwhile the two Blue Section aircraft flown by Lieutenant R. E. ‘Jimmie’ Gardner and South African Lieutenant K. Firth attacked the same SM 79, which was probably that flown by Capitano Armando Boetto, commanding officer of the 49a Squadriglia; Blue 1 got in the final burst before it disinter grated and fell into the sea. A second SM 79 flown by Sottotenente Michele Fonseca of 228a Squadriglia was also lost. Eight of the bombers broke through the defences to launch torpedoes at the HMS Ark Royal and the battlecruiser HMS Renown, but without obtaining hits.
Totally, the Italian pilots from the 3o Gruppo claimed five Fulmars shot down (two more were claimed by the SM 79 gunners). Claimants were Capitano Tugnoli, Tenente Mancini (153a Squadriglia), Tenente Elio Broganelli (154a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Cesare Ciapetti (154a Squadriglia). The fifth was claimed as a shared between Sottotenente Ciapetti, Sergente Angelo Zanaria and an unknown pilot. Five further Fulmars were credited to the fighter units as probables.
These were the only combat with biplane fighters over the convoy during the day but the battle continued all day. The protecting Fulmars nevertheless managed to protect the fleet and no ships were sunk.

In the beginning of November 1941 and at the eve of the British offensive Operation Crusader, Capitano Tugnoli served as CO of the 153a Squadriglia, 3o Gruppo C.T. This unit was still equipped with CR.42s and based at Sorman/Misurata.

Later in the war Tugnoli was transferred first to the 74o Squadriglia (which he commanded) and later to the 23o Gruppo C.T., which he also commanded.

Taking off at 07:20 on 25 July 1942, Capitano Tugnoli (74a Squadriglia) led eleven MC.202s from the 23o Gruppo on a free sweep south of El Alamein. One our 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 Claudio 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.

Between 09:15-10:30 on 31 July, a formation of 12 MC.202s from the 23o Gruppo led by Capitano 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 Claudio 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).

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 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 Claudio Solaro (CO 70a Squadriglia) ran out of fuel and landed at the Luftwaffe airfield at Sanyet Qotaifiya, returning next day.

On 4 September, the 23o Gruppo flew three sorties in support of the ground forces. The first was between 06:05-07:45. At 06:15 a formation of Bostons and P-40s was reported at about 4000 metres 50km east of Taga. The Italian fighters engaged them and claimed five P-40s destroyed and two probables. These were claimed by Capitano Tugnoli (74a Squadriglia), Tenente Giorgio Solaroli (74a Squadriglia; 2 destroyed), Sottotenente Giuseppe Melandri (70a Squadriglia; 1 probable), Sergente William Dusi (70a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Mario Mantelli (74a Squadriglia; 1 probable) and Sergente Maggiore Felice Papini (74a Squadriglia).
Solaroli later recorded in his diary:

‘My wingman, Sergente Maggiore Mantelli, and I swept down onto the left flank of the escort. I immediately began to fire at a P-40 which filled my gunsight. There was absolutely no reaction from the English pilot – so much so that I got within a few metres before I saw him explode, turn on his back and crash into the ground. I vigorously pulled up, for I had to avoid other enemy fighters which were snapping at my heels. With the speed I had gained in the dive I soon found myself at a favourable altitude to attack another formation. This time I again managed to machine-gun a P-40 at close quarters. I hit the aircraft and observed that it caught fire.’
He strafed a third P-40 before being badly hit. His MC.202 (MM8095/74-9) was set on fire and he was wounded in the head and in a leg. He was forced to crash-land in the desert.
When he had struggled out of the cockpit and started to limber back towards the Italian lines, he saw at a distance three soldiers (later identified as a patrol from the 8o Regiment Bersaglieri) waving frantically their hands to stop him. He had landed in a minefield succeeding - miraculously - to have no devices exploded. With the help of Italian soldiers, he managed to get out of it and to reach a field hospital.
After some twenty days Solaroli was flying again.
The main opponents in this combat appear to have been seven Kittyhawk IIas of 260 Squadron (in the air 07:30-08:30) which were escorting 15 Bostons and three B-25s, when being attacked by a reported two or three MC.202s. One was claimed shot down by Sergeant N. S. Stebbing in the Alam el Halfa area (Solaroli). No British losses were listed on this occasion. US P-40Fs were also involved during this engagement and 2nd Lieutenant Thomas Williams (“95” from 66th FS, 57th FG) claimed a probable Bf 109.

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 Tugnoli (74a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella (70a Squadriglia). The probable was claimed by Sergente Maggiore Emilio Stefani (70a Squadriglia).
Capitano Claudio Solaro (70a Squadriglia) force-landed with MC.202 MM9059 within Italian lines.

Twelve MC.202s from 23o Gruppo scrambled at 14:45 on 20 October, led by Capitano Tugnoli (74a Squadriglia). They engaged a large formation of fighters and bombers over El Alamein. When they landed again at 16:20 they claimed seven enemy aircraft destroyed: Capitano Tugnoli one P-40, Sergente Mario Mandolesi (75a Squadriglia) one P-40, Sergente Luigi Bozzolan (75a Squadriglia) one Boston, Sergente Aldo Orsucci (75a Squadriglia) one P-40, Capitano Mario Pinna (CO 75a Squadriglia) two P-40s and Tenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri (95a Squadriglia) one Boston.
Sergente Luigi Bozzolan (75a Squadriglia) returned with a damaged MC.202 (MM8373/75-12) while Tenente Milano Pausi (MM8370) from the same Squadriglia failed to return and was posted as MIA.

As of 8 November 1942 (on the launch of Operation Torch in North Africa), Capitano Tugnoli served as CO of the 74a Squadriglia, 23o Gruppo CT. The unit was based at Bu Amud, Libya, and equipped with MC.202s.

Capitano Tugnoli became CO of the 23o Gruppo on 20 February 1943.
He was to remain in this position until the Italian surrender in September when the Gruppo was dissolved.

On 11 March 1943 Capitano Tugnoli of 23o Gruppo spotted 20 twin-engined bombers escorted by 25 Spitfires over Tunisia. In the ensuing combat one bomber was claimed shot down and Maresciallo Felice Longhi claimed one of the fighters.
MC.202s from 6o Gruppo also participated in this combat.

Tugnoli ended the war with 2 biplane victories and a total of 7 destroyed.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  193?                
1 ??/??/3?   1 Enemy aircraft Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Spain VIo Gruppo
  1940                
  27/11/40 p.m. 1/5 ’Hurricane’ (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   200km SW Cagliari 153a Squadriglia
  27/11/40 p.m. 1/5 ’Hurricane’ (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   200km SW Cagliari 153a Squadriglia
  27/11/40 p.m. 1/5 ’Hurricane’ (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   200km SW Cagliari 153a Squadriglia
  27/11/40 p.m. 1/5 ’Hurricane’ (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   200km SW Cagliari 153a Squadriglia
  1941                
2 08/05/41 13:45-14:40 1 Fulmar (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   off Sardinia 153a Squadriglia
  1942                
3 25/07/42 08:20 1 P-40 (c) Destroyed MC.202   S El Alamein 74a Squadriglia
4 31/07/42 09:15-10:30 1 P-40 (d) Destroyed MC.202   Bir el Mukeisin 74a Squadriglia
  31/07/42 09:15-10:30 1 P-40 (d) Probable MC.202   Bir el Mukeisin 74a Squadriglia
5 02/09/42 15:45-17:30 1 P-40 (e) Destroyed MC.202   S El Alamein 74a Squadriglia
6 04/09/42 06:15-07:45 1 P-40 (f) Destroyed MC.202   50km E El Taga 74a Squadriglia
  05/09/42 09:30 1/2 P-40 (g) Shared destroyed MC.202   S El Alamein 74a Squadriglia
7 20/10/42 14:45-16:20 1 P-40 Destroyed MC.202   El Alamein 74a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 2 and 4 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 7 and 5 shared destroyed, 1 probable.
(a) Probably claimed in combat with Fulmars from 808 Squadron. The 3o Gruppo claimed five shot down without losses. 808 Squadron didn’t claim anything and lost Fulmar N1941 and the crew was KIA.
(b) Claimed in combat with Fulmars from 807 and 808 FAA Squadrons, which claimed one probable CR.42 while losing two Fulmars and getting three damaged. 3o Gruppo claimed five Fulmars and five more probable while losing three CR.42s.
(c) Claimed in combat with 450 Squadron, which lost 1 Kittyhawk (pilot safe). 23o Gruppo claimed 3 and 1 probable P-40s without losses.
(d) 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.
(e) Probably claimed in combat with Spitfire Vcs from 92 Squadron and Hurricanes IIcs from 238 Squadron. 92 Squadron claimed 2 Bf 109s while 238 Squadron lost 2 Hurricanes. 23o Gruppo claimed 2 P-40s without losses.
(f) Probably claimed in combat with Kittyhawks from 260 Squadron and P-40Fs from 66th FS. 260 Squadron claimed 1 MC.202 and 66th FS 1 probable Bf 109, both without losses. 23o Gruppo claimed 5 and 2 probable P-40s while losing 1 MC.202.
(g) Probably claimed in combat with Hurricane IIbs from 260 Squadron, which lost 1 Hurricane (pilot safe). 23o Gruppo claimed 4 and 1 probable P-40s while losing 1 MC.202.

Sources:
3o Stormo, storia fotografica - Dai biplani agli aviogetti - Carlo Lucchini and Leproni Enrico, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore
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
Diario Storico 153a Squadriglia anno 1940.
Diario Storico 154a Squadriglia anno 1940.
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell' A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 2 Volume M - Z
Malta: The Hurricane Years 1940-41 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1987 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-89747-207-1
Additional information kindly provided by Bruce Buchanan, Antonio Maraziti, Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 07 July 2022