Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Tenente Riccardo Vaccari

Sottotenente Riccardo Vaccari was assigned to the 97a Squadriglia, IX Gruppo, 4o Stormo on 8 July 1938. At this time the unit was equipped with Fiat CR.32s and based at Gorizia. The Squadriglia CO was Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni.

On 10 June 1940 the 97a Squadriglia was transferred to Treviso to protect the area above Venice and the refinery plants of Porto Marghera. At this time the unit had re-equipped with Fiat CR.42s.

Two days later the Squadriglia returned to Gorizia.

On 20 June, the 9o Gruppo was transferred to Mirafiori (Turin), to participate to the operations against France.
Having seen no action, on 29 June it moved to Comiso (Sicily) to operate against Malta.

At dawn on 4 July, 24 CR.42s led by Maggiore Ernesto Botto took off from Comiso and headed south-east. When they reached the 36th Parallel, they headed towards Malta, thus having the rising sun at their backs. Approaching Hal Far airfield, Botto, Sergente Guglielmo Biffani, Sergente Maggiore Sergio Stauble, Capitano Giuseppe Mauriello (97a Squadriglia), Tenente Vaccari and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore dived to attack.
The escort was composed by six CR.42s of the 73a Squadriglia led by Tenente Vittorio Pezzè 600 m above, six of the 97a Squadriglia led by Capitano Antonio Larsimont at 2000 m and finally by six of the 96a Squadriglia led by Capitano Roberto Fassi at 4000 meters.
Botto and his pilots attacked Hal Far by grazing the ground, and strafed a bomber and seven Gladiators that however did not burn. Intense anti-aircraft fire damaged two aircraft of the 96a Squadriglai; Salvatore’s, which had the ailerons shot out of use and Vaccari’s, which was hit at the leading edge of left wing. Two British fighters were spotted at 2000 m but these didn't attack the Italians. After the strafe, Botto’s flight hid in a cast of clouds and all the CR.42s returned home.
The Italian War Bulletin no. 25 reported:

"A formation of fighters, defying bad weather and intense AA fire, performed a brilliant strafing attack on the airfield of Hal Far (Malta), disabling eight aircraft parked there. All our aircraft came back home."
According RAF records the actual result from the attack was two damaged Swordfishes from 830 Squadron of which both were repairable.

On 12 July 1940, the 9o Gruppo C.T. arrived at Tripoli from Comiso with thirty-three Fiat CR.42s under the command of Maggiore Ernesto Botto. The Gruppo consisted of 73a, 96a and 97a Squadriglie. The 97a Squadriglia included Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO), Capitano Giuseppe Mauriello, Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio, Sottotenente Vaccari, Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro, Maresciallo Vanni Zuliani, Sergente Maggiore Raffaello Novelli, Sergente Maggiore Otello Perotti, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Francesco Putzu, Sergente Franco Sarasino, Sergente Alcide Leoni and Sergente Angelo Golino (assigned on 22 July).
Together with the 10o Gruppo they formed the 4o Stormo C.T.
The Gruppo’s Fiat CR.42s was wisely retrofitted with tropical kits for guns and engines, to avoid the problems suffered by the other Gruppi.

On 5 August the 9o Gruppo was transferred to El Adem T3.
From this date Vaccari led an alarm flight of three CR.42s from Derna airfield.

In the evening of 17 September, during an evening patrol over Sidi el Barrani, Tenente Vaccari spotted some enemy ships north-east of Sollum. After he had landed, two SM 79 torpedo-bombers flown by Tenente Carlo Emanuele Buscaglia ("278-3"; second pilot Tenente Rinaldo "Aldo" Galimberti with Sottotenente Giuseppe Aurili of the 84a Squadriglia and Sottotenente Ezio Viglione Borghese of the 96a Squadriglia as observers) and Tenente Guido Robone ("278-1"; with Sottotenente Aldo Gon of the 96a Squadriglia as observer) of the 278 Squadriglia Autonoma Aerosiluranti took off at 21:55.
At 22:40, off Ras Assaz, Gon saw the shape of a heavy cruiser – it was HMS Kent. At 22:45 Buscaglia and Robone released their torpedoes; HMS Kent was hit in the stern near the screws and was severely damaged.

The 9o Gruppo was busy during 27 September covering troop movements towards Giarabub (the extreme outpost of the Italian army near the Sahara region, 240km south of El Adem). The first mission was flown by six CR.42s of 73a Squadriglia led by Maggiore Ernesto Botto, and the second mission made by aircraft from the 96a Squadriglia led by Capitano Roberto Fassi. Both these missions went on uneventfully.
The next mission of the day was flown by six CR.42s from the 97a Squadriglia (Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni, Sergente Franco Sarasino, Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro, Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese, Tenente Vaccari and Sergente Angelo Golino) to which a CR.42 of the 366a Squadriglia, 151o Gruppo (Tenente Mario Ferrero on the first mission for this unit over the North African front) was attached.
While circling over El Garn ul Grein (90 km south of Ridotta Maddalena) they spotted 14 bombers 500 meters above them heading towards the troops. The bombers were eleven Bristol Blenheims of 55 Squadron led by Flight Lieutenant R.B. Cox (acting Squadron Leader), which had taken off from Fuka at 12:00, to raid Italian M. T. concentrations near Giarabub. The Blenheims crossed the border 30 miles north of Giarabub and then followed the road southwards to this town. Not meeting any enemy, they attacked the fort at 13:45 where a direct hit caused a column of black smoke to rise from the building. After the attack, two aircraft from ‘C’ Flight lagged behind the rest of the formation. They where L8394 piloted by Pilot Officer Godrich and L8454 piloted by Pilot Officer I. Hook. The Blenheims then proceeded up to the border road and when 40 miles north of Giarabub they discovered some M. T. resting. At the same moment, seven CR.42s were seen on the port side of the formation. The Fiats immediately attacked the two stragglers. The first four fighters were seen to come up behind L8394 while the other three waited above. The bomber was seen to catch fire and crash, one occupant thought to be the Air Gunner was seen to jump from the back and escape by parachute. The bomber fell victim of the first trio from the 97a Squadriglia composed of Capitano Larsimont, Sergente Sarasino and Sottotenente Barcaro. These pilots in fact claimed the right wingman of the rear section shot down in flames. Larsimont observed a crewmember parachute from the burning bomber while Barcaro claimed to have set one of the bombers engines on fire with his fire; totally they expended more than 2000 rounds of ammunition. 21-year old pilot Flying Officer Ambrose Sydney Barnard Godrich (RAF no. 40532), 28-year old Observer Sergeant William Clarke (RAF no. 562044) and 22-year old Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Sergeant William Thompson (RAF no. 550519) were all killed when L8394 crashed.
Meanwhile, Tenente Ferrero attacked the front section, joined moments later by Larsimont, Sarasino and Barcaro. Ferrero claimed a probable Blenheim after expending 400 rounds. He was less effective than he believed, returning crews from 55 Squadron reported that apart from the two stragglers, the main formation was chased rather half-heartedly and no damage was done while an air gunner claimed one of the Fiats shot down but this was unconfirmed.
Tenente Viglione, Tenente Vaccari and Sergente Golino attacked the left wingman of the rear section, which was seen to dive to ground level. They pursued it for 80 kilometres over Egypt, until it reportedly crashed burning into the ground. Viglione and his wingmen then damaged other bombers before being forced to return to base due to lack of fuel. They had in fact chased L8454 (Pilot Officer Hook, Observer Sergeant W. F. Bowker and Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Sergeant J. Rigby). This Blenheim was seen by its comrades to dive to ground level and to continue evasive tactics that in the end made the following fighters to break off. The machine however was badly shot up and the crew was reputed very lucky not to have been hit. The ten surviving aircraft from 55 Squadron landed at base at 15:40.
The claim of
Ferrero was due to a misunderstanding, because once back at base, from a telephone call from the Army, it was reported that after the Italian fighters had left the area another formation of bombers arrived. It was assumed that this was the 55 Squadron formation, less three aircraft, which was back over its intended target and for this reason a third plane was presumed shot down. In fact, it now transpires that 55 Squadron didn’t come back for a second raid and the second formation were in fact eight Blenheims of 211 Squadron under the lead of Squadron Leader Gordon-Finlayson bound for the same target. Five of the 211 Squadron’s bombers overshot while three others claimed hits in the target area.
The loss of L8394 was the first operational loss of 55 Squadron due to fighter opposition. On 30 September, men of an Egyptian Frontier Post found the wrecked L8394 with one body in it (Clarke?) and a pilot’s parachute together with helmet marked Godrich, outside the aircraft. Footsteps led away from the aircraft towards an Italian outpost, thus assuming that the pilot survived the crash and now was a POW. This was not the case and in fact, all three had been killed.
A fourth uneventful mission was flown later during the day by the 73a Squadriglia.

On 12 November, Vaccari, flying a CR.42 from the 96a Squadriglia, took off from a forward airfield at Amseat, and performed a reconnaissance mission over the enemy airfield of Maaten Bagush.
The following day (in the same aircraft), he took off (in the same aircraft as previous day) at sunset and strafed the same airfield at Maaten Bagush, claiming a bomber and three fighters burnt on the ground before returning home in darkness.
The bomber was a Vickers Valentia, which was destroyed (the loss is recorded as on 12 November in 216 Squadron’s ORB) while the fighters were most probably from 33 Squadron even if this Squadron didn’t record any losses nor the attack on this date. The lost Valentia was one of the only three ground losses admitted by the RAF in the Western Desert during 1940 (the others were Lysanders).
The aircraft used by Vaccari in these sorties was CR.42 96-11/MM4383, which was field-modified with an additional fuel tank behind the pilot's seat. The tank was installed through a door in the right side of the fuselage (45 cm wide). Later the tank was removed and an AC 81 vertical camera was installed.
Five days later, on 18 November, Vaccari was awarded with a Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare for the mission on 13 November.

In the afternoon on 9 December, SM 79s were out to bomb British troops at the Sidi Barrani - Bir Enba area. They were to be escorted by 19 CR.42s of the 9o Gruppo led by Maggiore Ernesto Botto, which had taken off from El Adem at 14:55. The fighters included seven from the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Valerio De Campo (CO), Tenente Giulio Reiner, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci, Sergente Maggiore Guglielmo Biffani, Sergente Maggiore Enrico Dallari, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Valle and Sergente Santo Gino) seven from the 97a Squadriglia (Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO), Tenente Ezio Viglione Borghese, Sottotenente Vaccari, Sergente Maggiore Otello Perotti, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Angelo Golino and Sergente Alcide Leoni) and four from the 96a Squadriglia (Tenente Aldo Gon and Sergente Giuseppe Tomasi together with two unknown pilots).
More Italian fighters were up to escort the bombers and at 15:10, Sergente Maggiore Fiorenzo Milella of the 366a, 151o Gruppo, attached to a formation of nine CR.42s of the 368a Squadriglia (Capitano Bruno Locatelli, Sergente Maggiore Davide Colauzzi, Sergente Ernesto De Bellis, Sottotenente Furio Lauri, Sergente Maggiore Annibale Ricotti, Tenente Orfeo Paroli, Sergente Piero Hosquet, Sergente Stefano Fiore, Sergente Ottorino Ambrosi) were out to escorted Italian bombers in the Bir Enba area.
The rendezvous with the bombers over A3 failed and after 20 minutes, the fighters of the 9o Gruppo arrived and together they proceeded towards the front on a free sweep. Three SM 79s were discovered and escorted for a while. Over Buq-Buq, a Hurricane strafing along the coastal road was discovered and the SM 79s were left to the 9o Gruppo while the CR.42s of the 151o Gruppo attacked the British fighter. The Hurricane was claimed shot down in flames and credited to the formation (but in fact only Locatelli, Lauri, Paroli and De Bellis fired their guns).
The 151a Gruppo fighters returned to base at 16:50.
Meanwhile the fighters from the 9o Gruppo continued and 30 km south of Bir Enba they spotted some Gladiators at a lower level and dived on them, but suddenly the CR.42s were jumped by a reported two Squadrons of Hurricanes or Spitfires, attacking respectively the 73a Squadriglia and the 96a Squadriglia with the 97a Squadriglia. A large dogfight started and after 20 minutes of combat many claims were submitted by the Italian pilots
Tenente Vaccari fought alone against four Hurricanes, claiming one destroyed (as a Spitfire) and damaging the others before his Fiat was hit in the fuel tank and in the engine. He crash-landed near Sollum, the aircraft turning over and caught fire; he was burned in the face and hands. Sergente Maggiore Salvatore claimed a Spitfire and several damaged before being wounded in his left arm. He managed however to return to base. Sergente Golino was hit in his back, but managed to claim his attacker before being compelled to evade and land at Amseat A3. Sergente Maggiore Biffani (Fiat CR.42 MM5599/73-9) claimed a Hurricane but was at the same shot down by his victim and was captured. He recalled:

"In the afternoon of 9 December we were flying between Mersa Matruh and Buq-Buq, when my wingman, Sottotenente Alvaro Querci, warned me that we had enemies behind us. I alerted Botto by shooting a burst [Note that the CR.42 had no radio during this period], then I realized they were near my tail, so I made a 180-degree turn and I saw them pass: they were three Hurricanes. I climbed almost vertically and saw the 73a Squadriglia in front, the three Hurricanes behind it and 96a and 97a Squadriglia behind them, all in a vertical line that went down to the ground. Then I discovered a Hurricane that was breaking off from the combat, clearly he had seen the other Italian fighters on its tail. I continued to climb, now I was the highest fighter of them all, then I dived down at full throttle [towards the escaping Hurricane]. I arrived near it and then I reduced speed and put the revolutions between 1850 and 2250 because otherwise I would had cut my propeller as happened to Gon and others, because the airscrew went out of gear and the round was fired when it passed in front of the gun (…) . When I closed to it, I opened fire. I aimed and saw the explosive bullets that exploded on the wing. Why didn’t anything happen? Was there no fuel at all? I fired at the other wing but it was the same, the bullets exploded but nothing happened. I fired into the engine, nothing happened. I saw the tracers very well, and after all, it wasn’t the first time I was shooting. At Gorizia I used to hit the target balloon with ten rounds only. In the meantime, I was losing speed and falling behind, O.K. Goodbye! It passed and turned towards me again -so I hadn’t caused any damage to it- , and I did the same. We found ourselves face to face at a distance of around 500-600 metres. I started firing and saw my tracers hitting it, then its wings lit up and in the same moment my plane caught fire, it was just an instant. My plane was severely damaged and while I was trying to land I saw the Hurricane that dived into the ground and exploded. I saw no parachute. I force-landed among British MTs and was immediately taken prisoner. I went back home after 63 months of POW!"
Additional Hurricanes were claimed by Botto, Sergente Dallari, Sergente Valle and an unknown pilot of the 73a Squadriglia (it is possible that this was a shared claim). It seems possible that also Sergente Maggiore Perotti claimed a victory (this claim is disallowed in the 97a Squadriglia diary, who only credits him with some Spitfires damaged).
Sergente Gino claimed a probable before his aircraft was badly damaged and he made an emergency landing near the frontline. Additional probables were claimed by Sottotenente De Campo and Reiner. Sergente Alcide Leoni together with other pilots claimed several damaged fighters. Capitano Larsimont Pergameni was attacked but was able to evade without claiming any hits on any enemy aircraft. Tenente Viglione was soon hit by a Hurricane, but manoeuvred to shoot at and damage it; however he was hit again in the engine by another enemy fighter, so he had to made an emergency landing near Buq-Buq.
Totally the Italian pilots claimed seven shot down (
Biffani’s claim was not initially credited since he was taken POW) and three probables (it’s possible that some of the probables were claimed as shared). The Gruppo’s Diary reduced these claims to four confirmed and three probables.
Totally during the combat one Fiat was shot down (Biffani POW) and three CR.42s carried out emergency landings (Viglione, Vaccari and Gino). Three pilots were wounded; Vaccari, Golino and Salvatore. Both Reiner’s and Valle’s aircraft returned lightly damaged while Tenente Aldo Gon and Sergente Giuseppe Tomasi landed at Amseat due to lack of fuel.
It seems that they had clashed with fighter from at least two RAF Squadrons. 12 Hurricanes from 33 Squadron had taken off with 10 minutes intervals to ground strafe the enemy’s rear areas, concentrating on troops and motor transports. They reportedly caused much damage before they were intercepted by three formations of CR.42s. During the day, 33 Squadron’s pilots claimed three Italian fighters and reported another going down out of control. One of the Squadron’s Hurricanes had to force-land but the pilot was saved (this was probably claimed by the 151o Gruppo pilots). Considering that one of the claims should relate to the loss of Sergente Francesco Nanin in the morning then the other two are probably connected with this specific engagement. It is also known that Flying Officer Vernon Woodward shot down two of the Fiats claimed by his unit, one of them in flames, and damaged a third.
The second Squadron was five Hurricanes (Squadron Leader Patrick Dunn (P3723), Flight Lieutenant John Lapsley (V7293), Flying Officer Thomas Patterson (P3720), Flight Lieutenant Peter Wykeham-Barnes (V7300) and Pilot Officer Ernest ‘Imshi’ Mason (P3722)) from 274 Squadron, which had taken off at 15:00. They were flying in two vics at 15,000 feet when they spotted 27 CR.42s in tight vics (four main formations of 8, 7, 6 and 6 aircraft) over the Sidi Barrani-Sofafi area at 16:08. The Italian fighters were discovered at 9 o’clock, 10-12 miles away and stepped so that they were slightly above and 2000 feet below. The RAF pilots succeeded in approaching unobserved and then delivered a multiple direction attack followed by a general dogfight. The Hurricane pilots reporting five confirmed victories and three probables for one Hurricane damaged. In the unit’s ORBs Form 541 victories were claimed by Flight Lieutenant Wykeham-Barnes (plus one probable), Squadron Leader Dunn (plus two probables), Flying Officer Patterson, Flight Lieutenant Lapsley and Pilot Officer Mason. However, in the unit’s ORB Form 540, the number of confirmed victories raises to six with three more CR 42s severely damaged; the identity of the claimant of this last victory, however remained unknown even if the CFRs of the action would suggest Squadron Leader Dunn.
Squadron Leader Dunn (he delivered an aster attack) reported:
“The enemy engaged in dogfight. Claim one E a/c for certain (saw it hit the ground). Attacked two in tight vic and was at 200 yards point blank range and fell certain must have killed pilots. Got another good and point blank deflection shot at another. Closed from optimum to point blank range at first. Must (?) have shot down the first two but could not spare time to confirm. 3rd point blank deflection shot likely and fourth adversary saw it hit the ground (claim 1 confirmed and 2 others which I feel certain about but must go down as unconfirmed).”
Flight Lieutenant Lapsley (he delivered a head-on attack) reported:
“The enemy fired back. 1 CR 42 shot down and seen to hit the ground without burning. Several other machines were shot at individually. They can out manoeuvre a Hurricane but one can get away and then come back.”
Pilot Officer Mason (he was discovered during the approach and had to dogfight from the beginning) reported:
“The enemy tried to turn inside me. 1 CR 42 shot at short range from above into cockpit. Aircraft turned (unreadable) with sparks from it. Followed it down until attacked by others CR 42s. Using 15o flap climb (unreadable) but not quite equal to 42. Speed on level far superior. Possible when attacked from above to turn and deliver short head on burst.”
Flight Lieutenant Wykeham-Barnes reported:
“The enemy dog fought, during dogfight damaged two enemy and sent one down out of control but could not see it crash as another was in my tail. The enemy fairly aggressive.”
Flying Officer Patterson (he delivered a quarter attack from port side) reported:
“The enemy started a general dogfight. 1 CR 42 shot down and seen to burn out on the ground”.
The 274 Squadron Hurricanes all had landed at 17:00.
It is also highly likely that 112 Squadron’s Gladiators were present. They were up, patrolling the Bir Enba area, and were noted and attacked by 9o Gruppo’s pilots. The Squadron flew at least two patrols during the day but the unit’s ORB don’t report any engagement.
The escorted bombers were three SM 79s of the 29o Gruppo (one of 11a Squadriglia and two of 63a Squadriglia) commanded by Colonnello Mario Aramu that attacked at around 16:40 while the RAF fighters were busy with the CR.42s of 9o Gruppo. Aramu noted the combat between Italian and Commonwealth fighters and claime an effective bombing from 3000 metres coming back at Gambut at 17:50 while the other formation were four SM 79s of the 6a Squadriglia, 44o Gruppo, commanded by Maggiore Andrea Bosi who had taken off at 14:25 from Tmini M2. Before the mission Bosi had received order not to press home his attack (but to turn back) in case he failed the rendezvous with the escorting fighters over Sollum, so when the rendezvous with the escort failed he turned back and landed at Tmini M2 at 16:40. His were the bombers that were discovered by 9o Gruppo flying back towards Libya.

After recovery from his burns, Vaccari was back at his unit in March 1941. By this time the 9o Gruppo was at its home base at Gorizia, and was equipped with Macchi MC.200s.

On 9 April he was detached to Treviso for night alarm duties.

At the end of 1940, Vaccari and Tenente Rinaldo "Aldo" Galimberti had wondered if aerial dropped torpedoes were really effective against large targets as carriers or battleships. They thought that a fast single-engined fighter armed with a hard bomb could be less expensive and more effective than a torpedo-armed bomber - it had no limitations in case of anti-torpedo net or shallow depth water and it could be used also on ships in harbour. Galimberti suggested a high-speed horizontal attack, releasing a bomb on the side of the target "like a gun bullet". On 22 June 1941 they sent a memorandum to Ministero dell'Aeronautica.

On 14 October they were detached to Centro Sperimentale at Furbara. The aircraft chosen was the Reggiane Re.2001, since it could mount a centerline rack.
In the meanwhile, another experienced torpedo-bomber pilot, Tenente Guido Robone joined them at Furbara. Sadly, in the spring 1942, Galimberti was KIFA while doing aerobatic manoeuvres and crashing his CR.42 into the sea near the shore at Furbara.
After having tested an ordinary 500 kg bomb, which they found too powerless for the duty, Vaccari choose a 381 mm battleship shell, suitably bored to accommodate 120 kg of explosive, and fitted with cruciform tail fins. This special bomb was named 630 PD (Perforante-Dirompente, or piercing-disruptive). A special delayed fuse was build, but not tested. Some inactive bombs were successfully tested against 70 mm-thick steel sheet.
Some ballistic tests (among them, the effect on 150 mm sheet, the reliability of the fuse and an explosion test) had still to be completed, when Vaccari and Robone were ordered to suspend the trials and to be transferred on 27 July 1942 to the 359a Squadriglia, 22o Gruppo Autonomo, on Re.2001s, at Ciampino Sud, despite the protests from Vaccari.

However, the Ministero gave them a chance on 6 August since an enemy convoy with four carriers had left Gibraltar (Operation Pedestal), so Vaccari and Robone left Ciampino to Elmas.

At 13:05 on 12 August Vaccari and Robone took off on two Re.2001GV (for Galimberti-Vaccari) armed with a 630 PD each, and climbed to 4000 meters.
After twenty minutes they spotted the convoy. They dived and manoeuvred to perform a 90-degrees attack on the port side of the carrier HMS Victorious. At 13:40 they released the bombs at 80 meters distance from the target and at an altitude of 20 meters at full speed. After having passed over the ship, Vaccari turned his head to check the results, but saw no explosions. When he returned to look ahead, he saw two Hurricanes in front of him, at a distance of 150 meters. Moved by instinct (or better by fear, as he confessed later) he fired a burst and hit the cockpit area on one of them, which turned over and dived in the sea. During the return Robone spotted some smoke from the area, but it probably came from the Hurricane shot down. Vaccari and Robone landed at 14:35. Italian Intelligence reports from Gibraltar stated that the carrier had a side pierced, but the only internal damage was a crooked propeller's axle.
British records states that at 20 minutes past 13:00 defending British Fleet fighters had been in the air for over two hours, and they started to return to land on HMS Victorious since they were low on fuel. Two Sea Hurricanes had just put down on the carrier at 13:24, and three more were seen in the circuit. Suddenly two of these swept in low and dropped bombs! They were the two Re.2001s, which released their bombs on the carrier and making good their escape before the AA guns could respond. Watchers on HMS Indomitable recorded that two small bombs bounced ‘like cricket balls’ across the deck and went harmlessly into the sea although, in fact, one broke up on impact flying splinters killing four officers and two ratings.
One of the retreating Reggianes was intercepted by Fulmars from 809 Squadron but escaped attack because its yellow markings led the pilots to believe it was a Sea Hurricane. This remark is somewhat curious since the Reggiane Re.2001GVs had standard camouflage and national insignia (white band on fuselage, white cross on fin tail) and had no yellow markings! The only insignia was a triangle pointed in the direction of flight on each side of fuselage band, with inscribed the name ALDO GALIMBERTI.
In a post-war interview Vaccari declared:

"I'm absolutely sure that my bomb did not slip on the deck as many wrote. It pierced, or at least knocked, on ship's side or below the deck. I heard perfectly the bang of the impact that I knew for having heard it many times during tests at Furbara."

After the mission, Vaccari insisted to continue to develop his idea, but this was denied by the Ministero dell'Aeronautica; moreover, tests performed at La Spezia in the meanwhile had shown that the fuse could not explode, because it cracked during impact.

After this mission Vaccari returned to the 22o Gruppo.

Vaccari ended the war with 1 biplane victory and a total of 2.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  27/09/40   1/3 Blenheim (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   El Garn ul Grein area 97a Squadriglia
  13/11/40   1 Enemy bomber (b) Destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42 MM4383 Maaten Bagush 97a Squadriglia
  13/11/40   1 Enemy fighter Destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42 MM4383 Maaten Bagush 97a Squadriglia
  13/11/40   1 Enemy fighter Destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42 MM4383 Maaten Bagush 97a Squadriglia
  13/11/40   1 Enemy fighter Destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42 MM4383 Maaten Bagush 97a Squadriglia
1 09/12/40 14:55- 1 Hurricane (c) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   30 km S Bir Enba 97a Squadriglia
  1941                
2 12/08/41   1 Sea Hurricane (d) Destroyed Re.2001GV   off Sardinia Sezione Speciale

Biplane victories: 1 and 1 shared destroyed. 4 destroyed on the ground.
TOTAL: 2 and 1 shared destroyed, 4 destroyed on the ground.
(a) Blenheim Mk.I L8454 from 55 Squadron badly shjot up but managed to return to base. The crew was safe.
(b) Vickers Valentia from 216 Squadron, which was destroyed (the loss is recorded as on 12 November in the Squadron’s ORB).
(c) Probably claimed in combat between 9o and 151o Gruppi and 33 and 274 Squadrons. 9o Gruppo claimed eight shot down, three probables and several damaged while losing two CR.42s and four force-landed. The 151o Gruppo claimed one Hurricane without losses. 33 and 274 Squadrons claimed seven or eight CR.42s and three probables while one Hurricane (33 Squadron) had to force-land and a second (274 Squadron) was damaged.
(d) This claim can’t be verified by British records.

Sources:
3o Stormo, storia fotografica - Dai biplani agli aviogetti - Carlo Lucchini and Leproni Enrico, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore
9o Stormo da Bombardamento Terrestre (1934-1943) - Giovanni Tonicchi, 1997, Tarquinia kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Aces High - Christopher Shores and Clive Williams, 1994 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-00-0
Aces High Volume 2 - Christopher Shores, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-03-9
Buscaglia e gli Aerosiluranti - Orazio Giuffrida, 1994 Ufficio Storico Aeronautica Militare, Rome kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Dai Biplani agli Aviogetti - Carlo Lucchini and Enrico Leproni, 1990 Gino Rossato Editore, Valdagno kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
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
Ernesto Botto, Gamba di Ferro - Ferdinando Pedriali, Storia Militare no. 96 (IX), September 2001 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
Fighters over the Desert - Christopher Shores and Hans Ring, 1969 Neville Spearman Limited, London
GORIZIA ed il QUARTO STORMO
Hurricanes over Tobruk - Brian Cull with Don Minterne, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-11-X
Il 5o Stormo - Giuseppe Pesce and Nicola Malizia, 1984 STEM Mucchi, Modena kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il 23o Gruppo Caccia - Nicola Malizia, 1974 Bizzarri, Roma kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il 101o Gruppo Tuffatori - Giuseppe Pesce, 1975 STEM Mucchi, Modena kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il Caccia Re 2000 e la storia delle "Reggiane" - Sergio Govi, 1983 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il caccia RE 2001- Sergio Govi, 1982 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il RE 2001 nell'impiego antinave - Riccardo Vaccari, 1978 Aerofan 1/78, Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Il Fiat CR 42 l’ultimo biplano da caccia Italiano – Nicola Malizia, 2003 Editrice Innocenti, Grosseto, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Il Walzer del 102o Gruppo - Giuseppe Pesce, 1976 STEM Mucchi, Modena, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
La Regia Aeronautica - volume I: Dalla non belligeranza all'intervento – Nino Arena, 1981 USSMA, Rome kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Malta: The Spitfire Year 1942 - Christopher Shores and Brian Cull with Nicola Malizia, 1991 Grub Street, London, ISBN 0-948817-16-X
Messerschmitt Bf 109 - Gregory Alegi and Marco Gueli, 2002 Ali Straniere in Italia no. 1, La Bancarella Aeronautica, Turin, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Quelli del Cavallino Rampante - Antonio Duma, 1981 Editore Dell'Ateneo, Roma, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Storia degli Aerosiluranti Italiani - Carlo Unia, 1974 Edizioni Bizzarri, Rome, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Stormi d'Italia - Giulio Lazzati, 1975 Mursia, Milan kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
The Bristol Blenheim: A complete history – Graham Warner, 2002 Crécy Publishing Limited, Manchester, ISBN 0-947554-92-0
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Messerschmitt 109 in Italian service 1943-1945 - Ferdinando D'Amico and Gabriele Valentini, 1989 Monogram Aviation Publication, Boylston, ISBN 0-914144-30-8, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Woody - A Fighter Pilot's Album - Hugh A. Halliday, 1987 Canav Books, Toronto, ISBN 0-9690703-8-1
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 19 February 2012