Biplane fighter aces


Tenente Alberto Veronese

23 November 1915 – 4 November 1944

Pilots of 410a Squadriglia in a sandbagged shelter at Jigga.
On the left is Sottoten Alberto Veronese and on the right, enjoying a banana, Capitano Corrado Ricci.

Date Decoration Note
??/??/41 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (1st) 1940-43
??/??/42 Medaglia d’argento al valor militare (2nd) 1940-43

Alberto Veronese was born on 23 November 1915 in Vicenza.

Alberto Veronese was a veteran from the Spanish Civil War, were he served with the XXIIIo Gruppo.

He 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, 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 Veronese, Sottotenente Osvaldo Bartolozzi, Sergente Maggiore Antonio Giardinà, Sergente Maggiore Enzo Omiccioli, Sergente Maggiore Alberto Puliti, Sergente Maggiore Athos Tieghi, Sergente Giovanni Tellurio and Sergente Ugo Zoino.

On 11 July 1940 Blenheim L8505 of 8 Squadron, flown by Flying Officer P. A. Nicholas, from Aden, made a reconnaissance over Jigga. Here CR.32s of the 410a Squadriglia flown by Sottotenente Veronese and Sergente Maggiore Giardinà, intercepted and attacked the bomber, claiming to have probably hit it. The aircraft was in fact badly damaged and force-landed at Jibuti.
Nicholas and Pilot Officer James (observer) were injured and taken to hospital; the wireless operator/air gunner, Sergeant Hannan was uninjured. The aircraft was recovered.

In the morning on 12 August 1940, three Blenheims from 39 Squadron out on a reconnaissance in cooperation with Somali forces attacked Italian guns in the Darboruk area. Over the front, a CR.32 flown by Veronese attacked the leading bomber, but Flight Sergeant Bertram James Thomas in the third Blenheim (L8402/XZ-N), saw this, jettisoned his bombs and attacked. Veronese made a head-on attack on this aircraft, the observer, 23-year-old Sergeant Geoffrey Mortimer Hogan (RAF no. 521035) being killed and Thomas badly wounded in the right shoulder. Stemming the flow of blood with a handkerchief, he managed to reach Berbera, 40 miles away, and crash-land; he subsequently received a DFM for this courageous action. The wireless operator/air gunner, Corporal Wintle escaped uninjured.
Veronese was also slightly wounded in this encounter.
Thomas recovered sufficiently from the wounds received to spend the rest of the war, after a year's convalescence, as a flying instructor, in India and the UK.

Bristol Blenheim L8402 (XZ-N) of 39 Squadron, crash-landed near Berbera, Somaliland, with pilot Flight Sergeant Thomas wounded, after being shot down on 12 August 1940 by Alberto Veronese.
Image kindly via Alfredo Logoluso.

Leaving Aden at 05:35 on 18 August, three Blenheims of 11 Squadron made a high-level bombing attack on Italian vehicles near Laferug but were attacked by two CR.32s flown by Sottotenente Veronese and Sergente Maggiore Volpe of 410a Squadriglia. Blenheim L1479 (from 8 Squadron) flown by Sergeant Gay was shot down in flames by Veronese north-west of Laferug. All of the crew (Observer Leading Aircraftman Ernest C. Clarke (RAF no. 568541) and Wireless Operator/Air gunner 24-year-old Leading Aircraftman Matthew E. Porter (RAF no. 540651)) managed to bale out, but only Sergeant Gay survived, wounded and badly burned to be taken PoW; Porter died almost at once, and Clarke in hospital on 25 August.

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 Veronese and Sergente Maggiore Athos 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 10 October 1940, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo).

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, 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 Athos 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.

From Aden two Blenheim IVFs of 203 Squadron, flown by Squadron Leader J. M. N. Pike and Flight Lieutenant J. P. D. Gethin, made a low-level strafing attack on Makale airfield, on 4 February.
Tenente Luciano Cacciavillani of the 413a Squadriglia together with two CR.32s from the 410a Squadriglia flown by Sottotenente Veronese and Sottotenente Vincenzo Forcheri, scrambled at 10:30 under the enemy strafing and attacked the two Blenheims, which were both badly damaged, one losing a propeller and crash-landing at its base. Notwithstanding this, they claimed a CR.42 shot down. Indeed, hit by defensive fire in his engine, Cacciavillani was forced to land. He had fired 120 rounds of 7.7mm and 74 of 12.7mm.

Early in the morning of 18 February 1941 two Blenheim IVFs of 203 Squadron from Aden again strafed Makale airfield. Veronese attacked and shot down Blenheim T2053, flown by Squadron Leader A.L.H. Solano, the aircraft force-landed in the Piana del Sale with two of the crew dead. He then chased the other Blenheim, T9173, flown by Squadron Leader Scott, out to sea and fired at it without apparent effect. It was badly damaged however and crash-landed on its return to Aden.

On 23 February 1941, seven Hurricanes of 1 SAAF Squadron flew forward to Tole where they refueled. At noon, Major Lawrence Wilmot (V7733?) led Captain Brian Boyle and Lieutenant Andrew Duncan to strafe Makele airfield while Captain K. W. Driver, Lieutenant Servaas de K. Viljoen, Lieutenant E. A. Jarvis and Lieutenant Leonard le Clues Theron provided top cover to the Vickers Wellesley acting as the navigation leader and which was intended to distract the Italians from the three low-flying Hurricanes as they went in. However, the RAF bomber lost its way soon after take-off, being dutifully followed by the top cover formation. In the target area, Major Wilmot realised that something was wrong when he saw a rising dust cloud to his left. He led his two companions toward this.
Finding Makele, the trio went in to strafe. Major Wilmot set fire to a CR.32, which was on the ground with its pilot Sottotenente Vincenzo Forcheri of the 410a Squadriglia in the cockpit, about to take off. He leapt out under fire and managed to reach a trench.
Without their top cover, the Hurricanes were vulnerable to surprise attack, and at that moment reportedly three CR.32s arrived (the dust had been the sign of their scramble). Two fled but Sottotenente Veronese made good use of their advantageous position and dived on Major Wilmot’s aircraft, shooting it down. Lieutenant Duncan was on him like a flash and shot him down in flames. Veronese managed to parachute to safety, slightly wounded.
Wilmot had in the meantime carried out a crash-landing after that his Hurricane had been hit in the radiator, and became a POW.
Captain Driver, leading the four top-cover Hurricanes, now saw smoke rising, and dived down to join the strafing, the formation claiming five S.79s and three CR.32s set on fire and three S.79s as damaged.

Veronese’s wounds prevented him taking any further part in the fighting; up to this time he had been the most successful pilot in the 410a Squadriglia, and on the CR.32 in East Africa, with 6 individual and 2 shared victories. He was evacuated home to Italy by air, via Arabia.

He was promoted to Tenente on 13 April 1942.

Later in the war he served in the night-fighting 303a Squadriglia.

In 1943, he served in the 167o Gruppo Autonomo.

After the Italian surrender in September 1943 he served with the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force, on the Allied side, in the 356a Squadriglia, 20o Gruppo, 51o Gruppo.

He was killed on 4 November 1944 when his Spitfire Mk.Vc/Trop. JK803 was shot down by ground fire during a strafing attack on German armour and transports near Vrbnica, Kosovo.

At the time of his death, Veronese was credited with 6 biplane victories.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  11/07/40   ½ Blenheim (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Jigga 410a Squadriglia
? 12/08/40   1 Blenheim (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Darbrouk area 410a Squadriglia
? 18/08/40   1 Blenheim (c) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Laferug 410a Squadriglia
  12/09/40   ½ Battle (d) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Shashamanna 410a Squadriglia
  16/12/40   ½ Martin 167F (e) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Diredawa 410a Squadriglia
  04/02/41 10:30- 1/3 Blenheim (f) Shared damaged Fiat CR.32   Makale airfield 410a Squadriglia
  04/02/41 10:30- 1/3 Blenheim (f) Shared damaged Fiat CR.32   Makale airfield 410a Squadriglia
? 18/02/41   1 Blenheim (g) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Makale airfield 410a Squadriglia
  18/02/41   1 Blenheim (h) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Makale airfield 410a Squadriglia
? 23/02/41 p.m. 1 Hurricane (i) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Makele airfield 410a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 6 destroyed, 3 shared destroyed, 2 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 6 destroyed, 3 shared destroyed, 2 shared damaged.
(a) Blenheim L8505 of 8 Squadron, flown by Flying Officer P. A. Nicholas, badly damaged and force-landed. Nicholas and Pilot Officer James (observer) were injured. The aircraft was recovered.
(b) Blenheim (L8402/NX-Z) of 39 Squadron, flown by Flight Sergeant Thomas; crash-landed, pilot wounded and observer, Sergeant G. M. Hogan, killed.
(c) Blenheim (L1479) of 11 Squadron, flown by Sergeant Gay; shot down in flames, only one in the crew survived.
(d) Fairey Battle flown by Lieutenant Edward George Armstrong DFC of 11 SAAF Squadron shot down in flames and the crew was lost.
(e) 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.
(f) Blenheim IVFs of 203 Squadron, flown by Squadron Leader J. M. N. Pike and Flight Lieutenant J. P. D. Gethin; both damaged and one had to crash-land at base in Aden.
(g) Blenheim IVF (T2053) of 203 Squadron flown by Squadron Leader A.L.H. Solano; destroyed with two of the crew killed.
(h) Blenheim IVF (T9173) of 203 Squadron flown by Squadron Leader Scott; badly damaged.
(i) Hurricane of 1 SAAF Squadron; destroyed, pilot Major Wilmot POW.

Luciano Cacciavillani's personal logbook courtesy of Cacciavillani family (Luciano jr and Alberto)
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
Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
Elenco Nominativo dei Militari dell' A. M. Decorati al V. M. Durante it Periodo 1929 - 1945 2 Volume M - Z
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
Regia Aeronautica 1935-1943 - M.Wawrzynski and Z. Lalak, 1998 kindly provided by Ondrej Repka
Spitfire International – Helmut Terbeck, Harry van der Meer and Ray Sturtivant, 2002 Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd, Kent, ISBN 0-85130-250-5
The Bristol Blenheim: A complete history – Graham Warner, 2002 Crécy Publishing Limited, Manchester, ISBN 0-947554-92-0
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro, Alfredo Logoluso, Giovanni Massimello, Michele Palermo, Laurent Rizzotti, Ludovico Slongo and Peter Thomas.

Last modified 14 September 2021