Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Capitano Mario Visintini Medaglia d'oro al valor militare


Sottotenente Mario Visintini
Photo kindly via Gianmaria Spagnoletti.

Mario Visintini was born in Parenzo d’Istria (now Porec, Croatia) on 26 April 1913.
His birth-name was Visentin but this was later “Italianized” to Visintini.

On completing his higher education, he applied to enter the Accademia Aeronautica (Air Force Academy) but failed the medical test.
Instead he undertook a civilian course and received his civil pilot-license at Taliedo, Milan, in June 1936, when he qualified on a Caproni Ca.100.
This civil license enabled him to join the Regia Aeronautica as an Allievo Ufficiale Pilota di Complemento (Pilot Officer Cadet).

He received his military wings in September 1936 and after qualifying as a military pilot at Grottaglie on 14 November 1936, on Breda 25s and Fiat CR.20s, he was posted as Sottotenente to the 91a Squadriglia, X Gruppo, 4o Stormo, at Gorizia. Here he trained on CR.30 and CR.32 fighters.

He volunteered for service in the Spanish Civil War and by 8 November 1937, he was posted to 25a Squadriglia of XVI Gruppo "La Cucaracha". This unit was at this time equipped with Fiat CR.32s.

On 10 December 1937 and in order to camouflage a planned Nationalist offensive towards Madrid on the Guadalajara, the Republican air forces were to be destroyed on their airfields east of Zaragoza. A Nationalist force of 88 bombers and 56 fighters took part in the operation. The slower bombers (SM.81s and Ju 52/3ms) were to attack the nearby airfields in the Barbastro zone; the faster bombers (SM.79s, Breguet 20s, He 111s and Do 17s) those at Sariñena, Bujaraloz, Candasnos, Puebla de Híjar, Selgua, Pomar, Lérida and Balaguer. The Condor Legion’s bombers, which had to operate from more distant bases, would require refuelling before making their return flight, and facilities were provided at Sanjurjo.
The attacks failed to achieve the desired success, however; the airfields were empty and about 70 fighters were waiting in the air. It must be said that the Republicans were very well prepared to deal with surprise air attacks. They had constructed a large number of airfields and at each was based at most a single squadron, its aircraft widely dispersed around the airfield perimeter. In addition they had built a number of decoy airfield on with mock-up aircraft.
At least, the VI and XVI Gruppi of the Aviazione Legionaria took part in this combat and Tenente Corrado Santoro of the 31a Squadriglia (VI Gruppo) took part in an escort mission to bombers attacking Sariñena and Sottotenente Visintini of the 25a Squadriglia (XVI Gruppo) took part in his first combat, firing at some enemy aircraft but without claiming anything.
At the end of the battle, the Italians claimed eight I-15s shot down for just one CR.32 lost and its pilot KIA when Sottotenente Vittorio Barberis of the 32a Squadriglia, was killed in action near Alcubierre when his CR.32 collided with I-15 CC-022, flown by Soviet pilot Mikhail Vasilhevich Kotyhov from the 1a/26. The latter pilot also perished.
Group 2-G-3, which was flying below the Italians, climbed to their assistance and claimed seven I-15s without losses.
1.J/88 was airborne, with 15 Bf 109s flying deep into enemy territory. They were attacked by 30 enemy fighters. Oberleutnant Harro Harder recounted:

”Another major action on December 10. The Fiats patrolled the front, we flew deep into enemy territory with fifteen Bf 109s. Fifteen Curtisses and fifteen Ratas climbed up in close formation. There was nothing else to do, we attacked repeatedly, but so many aircraft immediately dove on us that we were happy just to escape in one piece.”
The German fighters didn’t claim anything during the day.
Totally, the Nationalist and the Italian fighters claimed to have together shot down 15 Chatos while losing only one aircraft.
It seems that Republicans lost two I-15s and two I-16s, while 21 other fighters returned with various damages to their bases.
The 2a/26 claimed to have downed five CR.32s, one of them falling to capitán Chindasvinto González García (CO). The remaining four were credited to teniente Nicomedes Calvo Aguilar and sargentos Vicente Castillo Monzó, Jaime Torn Roca and A. Martín García.
During an engagement on the Aragon front, teniente Miguel Zambudio Martínez and Antonio Britz Martínez of the 3a/26 (I-15) claimed a shared Legion Condor He 111. This seems to have been a He 111 from K/88, which was lost over Candasnos and the crew (Leutnant Friedrich-Karl Beucke, Leutnant Heinrich Klein, Feldwebel Anton Bergmann, Unteroffizier Fritz Brühl and Obergefreiter Alois Ehlen) were all KIA.

During the afternoon on 23 May 1938, the XXIII Gruppo escorted 20 S.79s and five BR.20s over the Balaguer bridgehead in Catalonia in support of the Spanish Nationalist Army. The XXIII Gruppo clashed with 25 I-15s, of which six were claimed shot down, for the loss of Maresciallo Mario Boschelli of the 19a Squadriglia, who was killed.
About half an hour later, at 14:35, Maggiore Armando François led 28 CR.32s from his XVI Gruppo on an interdiction patrol over the area. The Italian formation consisted of 12 fighters from the 24a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Luigi Bianchi, nine machines from the 25a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Roberto Fassi, and seven CR.32s from the 26a Squadriglia, led by Capitano Vincenzo La Carubba.
As the Fiat fighters of XVI Gruppo approached the bridgehead to escort the last of the S.79s home, they attacked nine Republican Tupolev SBs when they were set upon by 27 I-16s of Grupo de Caza No 21. Diving on the Italian aircraft from 19,000 ft, the Republican machines enjoyed a height advantage over the CR.32s. Nevertheless, Maggiore François successfully led his fighters against the enemy machines. Indeed, the XVI Gruppo pilots claimed five ’Ratas’ destroyed and three more probably destroyed and one SB. One of the confirmed fighters was credited to Maggiore François, whose aircraft was shot up during the engagement. Sottotenente Visintini of the 25a Squadriglia took part in this combat and claimed a pair of I-16s damaged.
In return, XVI Gruppo lost two CR.32s in a mid-air collision while chasing an I-16 when Tenente Pericle Baruffi of the 26a Squadriglia and Sottotenente Alfonso Caracciolo of the 25a Squadriglia collided; both parachuted and were captured. Three biplane fighters were also damaged by enemy fire.
Republicans admitted the loss of three fighters and a bomber. Soviet patrol leaders Leytenant N. I. Marthishchenko from 2a Escuadrilla and Leytenant I. I. Turchin from 5a Escuadrilla, both of whom were flying newly delivered Tip 10 versions of the I-16, perished in this clash. The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed one CR.32 and one He 111 during the day.

In a report written at Caspe on 15 August 1938, Maggiore Armando François (just before leaving as CO of the XVI Gruppo Aviazione Legionaria), stated that during the Spanish campaign Sottotenente Mario Visintini had performed, until then, 123 missions for over 300 hours of escorts, cruises and ground strafes, with three aerial combats, but no mention of claims.

On 24 August, the XVI Gruppo, led by its CO Tenente Colonnello Arrigo Tessari, together with the Squadriglia Autonoma Mitragliamento “Frecce”, was patrolling over the Gandesa front. The 25a Squadriglia was covering at 7,000m.
At 08:50 they spotted a formation of six Martin Bombers, followed by an escort of about 30 Ratas. The 24a and 26a Squadriglie attacked the bombers, and the 25a Squadriglia chased the fighters. The combat lasted 15 minutes, and at the end the Italians claimed seven I-16s destroyed, plus two more probably destroyed and a Martin Bomber also probable. Sottotenente Visintini claimed a Rata which crashed in the Montblanc valley (it seems that the combat occurred between La Palma-Margalef).

In the morning on 5 September, CR.32s from both Aviazione Legionaria gruppi, as well as the Comando di Stormo, escorted S.81 bombers sent to attack Republican targets on the Gandesa front. XXIII Gruppo, in particular, stuck closely to the three flights of Italian tri-motors, thus deterring formations of I-15s and I-16s from attacking the S.81s. Some 50 Polikarpov fighters in two formations circling above were then spotted below the CR.32s by pilots from XVI Gruppo (which had taken off from Caspe at 09:00), which was indirectly supporting the operation. A large scale engagement involving more than 100 fighters then broke out, lasting over 30 minutes, this swirling mass of aircraft drifting east over Republican territory beyond Falset.
Pilots of XVl Gruppo were subsequently credited with shooting down four “Curtiss fighters” and four Ratas, while six other fighters were classified as probably destroyed. Individual victories were awarded to 24a and 25a Squadriglie commanders, Capitani Giuseppe Majone and Roberto Fassi. Sottotenente Visintini, whose aircraft was again hit, was credited with a I-15 destroyed, which fell in the Sierra de los Caballos, and three more I-15s and an I-16 as damaged.
It seems that the XXIII Gruppo claimed five “Curtiss fighters” and two Ratas.
The Republicans lost five I-15s and four I-16s, including a Type 10 from 2a Escuadrilla. Three more Type 10s returned to base with varying degrees of battle damage, the Spanish pilot of a 3a Escuadrilla machine making a wheels-up landing at Pla de Cabra airfield when wounds to his arm prevented him from manually lowering the fighter’s undercarriage. It is possible that one of the I-16 was flown by Ivan Galaktionovic Saulo who was killed on 5 or 6 September (Saulo had flown 13 missions and taken part in 6 combats at the time of his death).
No losses were suffered by the CR.32s, although several pilots from XVI Gruppo returned with bullet holes in their aircraft.

On 20 September, Sottotenente Visintini returned to Italy and 4o Stormo, having claimed at least two individual and one shared victories, one shared probable and eight enemy aircraft damaged during his duty tour in Spain.
For his service in Spain he was decorated with the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare.

Back in Italy, he was given a permanent commission (Servizio Permanente Effettivo) in the Regia Aeronautica due to his record from Spain. After his return, he trained on the then new standard fighter of Regia Aeronautica, the CR.42s, but also on Ca.133s and S. 79 trimotors.

During the Italian conquest of Albania (7 to 9 April 1939) he transported troops and material flying a Caproni Ca.133.

In January 1940 he was promoted to Tenente for war merits.

In early 1940, the new 412a Squadriglia Autonoma Caccia was formed at Gorizia under the command of Capitano Antonio Raffi, with the purpose to be sent to Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana - AOI). Visintini was posted as vice-commander of the unit. The personnel sailed by Naples on 5 April, and arrived to Massawa on 13 April. The base of 412a Squadriglia was Gura, 30 kilometres South of Asmara, at that time one of the largest airport of the whole continent.

On 11 June 1940, the first day of war, a section of four CR.42s led by Visintini was detached to Massawa, to protect the main port of Eritrea.

At 19:15 on 14 June 1940, Visintini claimed his first victory in the Second World War when over Massawa, he shot down Wellesley K7743 of 14 Squadron flown by Pilot Officer Reginald Patrick Blenner Hassett Plunkett (RAF No. 40849). Pilot Officer Plunkett was killed when his aircraft fell in the sea; he was the only person on board and there is a suggestion that he flew this mission when he was convinced by other squadron pilots in a jolly up in the squadron mess that providing one of the attacking Wellesleys carried a gunner, that one was not required by himself on the mission. In all cases when a rescue mission was sent out Plunkett was the only one mentioned and he’s the only one recorded as missing on this day.

At 04:35 on 30 June 1940, five Wellesleys from 223 Squadron took off from Summit to attack the airfield of Massawa and fuel depots at Hirgigo, 3 km south of it. The formation reportedly met heavy AA fire and was attacked by one CR.32 and two CR.42s (flown by Tenente Visintini and Sergente Lugi Baron; both from the 412a Squadriglia) at 07:50 (Italian time – GMT+3).
Tenente Visintini shot down Wellesley L2654 into the sea with the loss of the pilot 24-year-old Sergeant Bernard Poskitt (RAF no. 522475) and 20-year-old Leading Aircraftman Lewis Peter Jepp (RAF no. 550735).
Another Wellesley was officially credited to Sergente Baron, and a third to Massawa AA, but actually the remaining four bombers landed safely.

In a mission around 14:00-15:00 on 3 July, he shot down Wellesley L2652 of 14 Squadron over Decamere. This aircraft was leading two other Wellesleys on a reconnaissance over Zula, Decamere, Gura, Asmara and Massawa. On leaving Decamere, L2652 was seen by the other two aircraft to turn suddenly and sharply eastwards to the coast, but they then lost sight of it in clouds. It was subsequently attacked by Visintini and shot down off the coast at Mersa Kuba. The pilot, 26-years-old Flying Officer Samuel Gustav Soderholm (RAF No. 40194), 27-years-old Sergeant Bernard Lloyd Trayhurn (RAF No. 562891) and 21-years-old Leading Aircraftman John Clark Dawson (RAF No. 545075) perished in the sea crash. Only the body of the latter was recovered by Italians, then buried in Asmara War Cemetery.
The date of this kill is usually mistaken to 4 July, as this was wrongly stated in the motivation of his Medaglia d’argento al valor militare. According with official sources, no aerial combat happened over Eritrea on 4 July.

On 8 July, five Wellesleys of 47 Squadron were charged to bomb Zula airfield; since that target was obscured by clouds, they diverted to Massawa, where they were attacked between 15:00-15:15 by Tenente Visintini and Sergente Lugi Baron (both from the 412a Squadriglia), which claimed a shared probable kill.
Wellesley L2704 was indeed damaged and passed a couple of months under repair.

On 12 July, eleven Wellesleys from 14 and 47 Squadrons attacked Massawa airfield. Two Italian fighters (Tenente Visintini and Sergente Lugi Baron) intercepted them, Tenente Visintini shot down Sergeant Frederick “Freddy” Nelson (RAF No. 516778) of 47 Squadron, in K8520 at 15:00. The pilot was killed, but the rest of the crew was taken prisoner.
Italian Bulletin also claimed another probable (as a shared by both pilots between 15:00-15:10), the latter should have been Wellesley I (L2667) of 47 Squadron that managed to land at home, but was so damaged that it was considered written off.

On 14 August Sergente Maggiore Lugi Baron claimed a shared Wellesley over Harmil Island. This claim can’t be verified with British records. It is also possible that this claim is one presumed to have happened on an unknown date in July when Baron claimed a shared Blenheim with Tenente Visintini in the Gura-Decamere area.

On 29 July, he was decorated with the Medaglia d'argento al valor militare.

On 1 September, a single Wellesley (L2669) from 14 Squadron flown by Sergeant Norris made a photographic reconnaissance over Harmil Island, but was intercepted by fighters scrambled from Massawa and crash-landed on the island, the crew being taken prisoner.
Visintini shared this claimed with two other pilots.

Early in the morning on 30 September three 45 Squadron Blenheim Is raided Gura, but there all the bombers were attacked by CR.32s and CR.42s, Blenheim L6665 flown by 28-year-old Squadron Leader George Justin Bush (RAF No. 37061) being shot down, killing Bush and his crew (Observer 20-year-old Sergeant John C. Usher (RAF no. 580912) and Wireless Operator/Air gunner 21-year-old Sergeant James Corney DFM (RAF no. 541684)). An hour later six more of the Squadron’s aircraft appeared over Gura and on this occasion suffered no loss, although fighters were seen again.
It seems that Tenente Visintini had shot down Bush since he claimed two victories over Gura on this day as recorded by his commanding officer.

In the early hours of 16 October Flight Lieutenant Mitchell of 430 Flight, piloting a Vincent, attacked Tessenei airfield. He was followed back to Gedaref by a Ca.133, which bombed the landing ground without effect. But the Italians now knew where the aircraft, which had been operating around the Lake Tana region during recent weeks, were based.
A strike was laid on at once. At 0525 an S.79 flown by Generale Piacentini himself led in six CR.42s of the 412a Squadriglia flown by Capitano Antonio Raffi, Tenente Vinsintini, Tenente Carlo Canella, Sergente Maggiore Lugi Baron, Scarselli and Tenente De Pauli. Some sources claims that nine CR.42s were involved in this strike and the British identified the attackers incorrectly as one S.79, four CR.42s and three CR.32s.
The Savoia dropped its bombs without causing much damage, but the fighters then strafed and totally destroyed all eight Wellesleys of 47 Squadronss detachment (K7742, K7762, K7779, K7781, L2650, L2675, L2677 and L2688) and two of 430 Flight’s Vincents (K4657 and K4731). An attempt to telephone the fighter detachment at Azzoza was foiled, as the line between Gedaref and Azzoza was found to have been cut. Italian claims were very accurate, eleven aircraft being claimed destroyed, together with a munitions dump and a lorry.
For his part in this action Vinsintini was decorated with a Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare.

On the 6 November the British forces in Sudan launched an offensive to capture the Italian fort at Gallabat as well as occupy Metemma, which was just across the frontier. All that the RAF could provide in way of support was six Wellesleys, two Vincents, six Gauntlets, ten Gladiators (drawn from ‘K’ Flight and 1 SAAF Squadron) and four Hawker Hardys (from the Rhodesian Air Force). The Wellesleys were first into action bombing Gallabat, with the Gladiators requested to over fly the area in large formations. Three Gladiators of ‘K’ Flight arrived over the advancing troops at low level. They were patrolling to the east of Metemma when a formation of an estimated six or seven CR.42s from 412a Squadriglia led by the unit commander Capitano Raffi attacked them from out of the sun. The Gladiator pilots were taken by surprise; 24-year-old Flight Lieutenant Kenneth Howard Savage (RAF no. 37483) (L7614) was shot down and killed while Pilot Officer Kirk (K7969) was forced to take to his parachute; neither pilot saw their attacker. Pilot Officer J. Hamlyn evaded the initial onslaught but his aircraft (L7612) was badly damaged and he force-landed, returning later on foot.
Meanwhile Major Schalk van Schalkwyk (N5855) of 1 SAAF Squadron had also taken off from Azzoza, but on arriving over the front was also attacked by the CR.42s. Observers on the ground at once rang the strip at ‘Heston’ to report the lone Gladiator in combat with eight opponents, and despite thick mud caused by an unexpected downpour during the night, Captain Brian Boyle at once took off, arriving just in time to see the commanding officer's Gladiator going down in flames, the pilot taking to his parachute with his clothes on fire; he did not survive. Immediately Boyle was also attacked, bullets entering the cockpit and wounding him in hands and legs; desperately he fought on until the engine of N5852 stopped, and he had to crash-land between the lines. Boyle was brought in by Indian troops and sent by ambulance to Wadi Seidna where he was hospitalised for some weeks. He was subsequently warded a DFC (1 SAAF Squadron’s first) on 7 January 1941 for his gallant action in going single-handed to van Schalkwyk’s assistance.
Capitano Raffi reported that four victories were claimed as a result of these engagements, but Sottotenente Rosmino's aircraft was hit and he returned with his parachute pack riddled with bullets.
During the morning another ‘K’ Flight Gladiator was flown up to the front, and shortly after midday Flying Officer Haywood (K7977) joined four Gladiators of 1 SAAF Squadron from ‘Heston’, which took off at 13:20 in another patrol over the front. There five Ca.133s were seen at 7,000 feet, 2,000 feet lower than the Gladiators, approaching the battle area. As the fighters prepared to attack, they were bounced from above by six CR.42s and Haywood’s aircraft was seen to crash in flames. The South Africans at once split up into pairs, Lieutenants John Coetzer and Robin Pare taking on the fighters while Lieutenants Andrew Duncan and John Hewitson went after the bombers. The Caproni attacked by Duncan crashed on the Metemma-Gondar road, while Hewitson’s fell out of control after he’d fired three burst and crashed; he also damaged a third bomber on the ground. The crew of one of the shot-down bombers survived, and was to return on foot several days later.
While this was going on, the two pilots fighting the CR.42s had managed to drive them off, each claiming one of the fighters shot down; no losses of CR.42s were recorded however, although either or both of those attacked may have been damaged, and force-landed. Two more victories were claimed by the Italians to raise their total for the day to six, two or three of which were credited to Tenente Visintini, who claimed two destroyed and one probable enemy aircraft in the Gondar area during the day.
By the end of the day, despite the loss of air superiority by the British forces, Gallabat Fort had been captured and the garrison virtually annihilated.

On 12 December, the 412a Squadriglia launched an airfield strafe on the advanced strip at Gaz Regeb, where 237 Squadron’s ‘B’ Flight was based.
In the morning, five aircraft took off led by a S.79 (Tenente Colonnello Liberati). At 06:10, three of them (Capitano Antonio Raffi, Tenente Luciano Cacciavillani and Tenente Visintini) attacked the parked Hawker Hardys, destroying K4053, K4308, K4055 and K4307 while the other two CR.42s remained above as cover.
Capitao Raffi, CO of the 412a Squadriglia, made several attacks on one aircraft, which consistently refused to burn, but his own aircraft was then hit in the oil sump by fire from the Sudan Defence Force detachment guarding the airfield. Trailing smoke, he headed for his base, but the engine finally seized and stopped some 100 kilometres from the target and he force-landed east of Aroma, near the Atbara River. Tenente Visintini landed alongside, took his CO aboard and seated on Raffi’s knees after dispensing his parachute took off after setting fire to the CO’s crippled CR.42. They returned successfully to Asmara.
The Italian pilots claimed to have destroyed five Vickers Vincents on the ground at Gaz Regeb, together with some armoured cars. Once at Barentu, after refurbishing, Visintini and Cacciavillani returned to destroy Raffi's abandoned fighter to ensure its total destruction.


Mario Visintini (left) and Raffi in a Fiat CR.42.

On 16 January 1941 he was promoted to Capitano and Commander of 412a Squadriglia.

In January he claimed an enemy aircraft during a night interception on an unknown date and place.
It is also possible that this claim was made during the night of 12/13 December 1940 when he, according to some sources, claimed a bomber shot down with a second probably destroyed over Eritrea. No losses were however reported by the British squadrons during this night.

On 26 January he claimed a Blenheim and scattered five more.

A Blenheim was claimed on 4 February.

During the morning on 9 February he took part in an attack together with four other pilots from 412a Squadriglia on Agordat and its satellite airfield. 16 aircraft were claimed shared destroyed on the ground including 5 Hurricanes, 5 Hawker biplanes, 2 Gladiators, 2 Wellesleys, 1 Valentia and 1 ‘Martin’ Lysander.
Actual losses were two Wellesleys (K7713 and L2665) of 47 Squadron, two Hardys and two Lysanders of 237 Squadron, while four other aircraft were damaged.

On the afternoon on 9 February he claimed two enemy aircraft intercepted while they were attacking Asmara and Adi Ugri.
These claims were reported in Italian War Bulletin N. 247 as Visintini’s 15th and 16th victories during the Second World War.

Some sources state that he claimed three Blenheims in three separate combats in the beginning of the year. This probably means that at least one of the claims in January or 9 February against unknown enemy aircraft was of this type.
On one occasion he set an engine of one of these bombers on fire, then flew alongside signaling the pilot to land. Only when the pilot ignored these signals and continued to fly out to sea, did Vinsintini administer the coup de grâce.

On 11 February Visintini claimed a Hurricane over Keren. This claim was probably made in combat with Hurricanes from 1 SAAF Squadron, which had 11 aircraft on patrols over the area during the day. Two of them encountered three CR.42s, which dived away in thick cloud. Lieutenant S. de K. Viljoen followed and failed to return. Running low on fuel, he had to land near a village, fortunately within territory in British hands. He obtained petrol, and attempted to take off next morning, but crashed. He returned to Agordat on foot. His aircraft was later recovered and repaired.
It seems that Viljoen had chased aircraft from 412a Squadriglia, engaged in strafing British troops in front of Keren. Two of these fighters flown by Sergente Maggiore Lugi Baron and another pilot, force-landed at a forward landing strip due to bad weather.
Later on the day Visintini took off to fly back to guide these pilots home. It seems that during the flight he was however blown off course by high winds and while descending through clouds he crashed into the side of Mount Nefasit and was instantly killed.

He received Medaglia d'oro al valor militare posthumously for his outstanding combat record, and for noteworthy work as deputy commander of the Squadriglia. Visintini was the Italian top-scorer in the East African campaign of 1940-41.
According to Italian War Bulletin N. 252 of 14 February 1941 he was credited with 17 confirmed victories in A.O.I. The attached document to his Medaglia d’Oro states 50 combats, 16 destroyed and 32 shared destroyed.

At the time of his death, Visintini had 19 victories, all of them claimed while flying biplane fighters.

Please note that all Visintini’s claims were and are unofficial, as up to date there isn’t any official confirmed listing of Italian aces. His claims in Spain have been especially difficult to verify with various sources and most of them only credit him with one victory there. However most sources agree that he claimed 16 or 17 victories during the operations in the A.O.I.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1938                
  23/05/38 14:35 1 I-16 (a) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Balaguer 25a Squadriglia
  23/05/38 14:35 1 I-16 (a) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Balaguer 25a Squadriglia
1 24/08/38 08:45-09:05 1 I-16 Destroyed Fiat CR.32   La Palma-Margalef 25a Squadriglia
  31/08/38 18:00- 1/8 I-16 Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32   Gandesa 25a Squadriglia
  31/08/38 18:00- 1/8 I-16 Shared probably destroyed Fiat CR.32   Gandesa 25a Squadriglia
  31/08/38 18:00- 1 I-16 Damaged Fiat CR.32   Gandesa 25a Squadriglia
  31/08/38 18:00- 1 I-16 Damaged Fiat CR.32   Gandesa 25a Squadriglia
2 05/09/38 ~09:30 1 I-16 (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Sierra de los Caballos 25a Squadriglia
  05/09/38 ~09:30 1 I-15 (b) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Venta de los Camposines 25a Squadriglia
  05/09/38 ~09:30 1 I-15 (b) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Venta de los Camposines 25a Squadriglia
  05/09/38 ~09:30 1 I-15 (b) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Venta de los Camposines 25a Squadriglia
  05/09/38 ~09:30 1 I-16 (b) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Venta de los Camposines 25a Squadriglia
  1940                
3 14/06/40 19:15 1 Wellesley (c) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Massawa 412a Squadriglia
4 30/06/40 07:50 1 Wellesley (d) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Massawa 412a Squadriglia
5 03/07/40 ~14:00-15:00 1 Wellesley (e) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Mersa Kuba 412a Squadriglia
  08/07/40 15:00-15:15 1/2 Wellesey (f) Shared probably destroyed Fiat CR.42   Massawa 412a Squadriglia
6 12/07/40 15:00 1 Wellesey (g) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Massawa 412a Squadriglia
  12/07/40 15:00-15:10 1/2 Wellesey (g) Shared probably destroyed Fiat CR.42   Massawa 412a Squadriglia
  23/07/40 14:20-14:45 1/2 Wellesey (h) Shared probably destroyed Fiat CR.42   Eritrean coast, N Massawa 412a Squadriglia
  04/08/40 10:35- 1/2 Wellesey (i) Shared probably destroyed Fiat CR.42   Hirgigo 412a Squadriglia
7 01/09/40 ~10:00 1 Wellesley (j) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Hermil Island 412a Squadriglia
8 30/09/40 12:50 1 Blenheim (k) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Gura 412a Squadriglia
9 08/10/40 ~10:00 1 Blenheim (l) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Sabdarat 412a Squadriglia
10 13/10/40 16:30 1 Blenheim I (m) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Dekemhare-Segeneyti 412a Squadriglia
11 13/10/40 16:30 1 Blenheim I (m) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Dekemhare-Segeneyti 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (n) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (n) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (n) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (n) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (n) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (n) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (n) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (n) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Wellesley (n) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Gladiator (n) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
  16/10/40 07:00-07:20 1/8 Gladiator (n) Shared destroyed on the ground Fiat CR.42   Al Qadarif 412a Squadriglia
12 06/11/40 15:30 1 Gladiator (o) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Metema 412a Squadriglia
13 11/11/40 ~12:30 1 Gladiator (p) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Metema 412a Squadriglia
14 26/11/40 08:30 1 Blenheim (q) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   I. Dessi 412a Squadriglia
15 04/12/40 ~09:00 1 Blenheim IV (r) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Red Sea 412a Squadriglia
  12/12/40 07:10- 1/3 Vincent (s) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Qawz Rajab 412a Squadriglia
  12/12/40 07:10- 1/3 Vincent (s) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Qawz Rajab 412a Squadriglia
  12/12/40 07:10- 1/3 Vincent (s) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Qawz Rajab 412a Squadriglia
  12/12/40 07:10- 1/3 Vincent (s) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Qawz Rajab 412a Squadriglia
  12/12/40 07:10- 1/3 Vincent (s) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Qawz Rajab 412a Squadriglia
  14/12/40 19:15- 1 Wellesey (t) Probably destroyed Fiat CR.42   Gura 412a Squadriglia
16 14/12/40 19:50-19:53 1 Wellesey (t) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Gura 412a Squadriglia
  16/12/40 04:23-04:24 1 Wellesey (u) Damaged Fiat CR.42   Gura 412a Squadriglia
  16/12/40 04:55- 1/2 Wellesey (v) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Gura 412a Squadriglia
  1941                
  04/02/41 ~13:15 1 Blenheim IV (w) Probably destroyed Fiat CR.42   Gura 412a Squadriglia
  04/02/41 ~13:15 1 Blenheim IV (w) Probably destroyed Fiat CR.42   Gura 412a Squadriglia
17 07/02/41 Morning 1 Wellesley (x) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Adi Ugri area 412a Squadriglia
18 07/02/41 Morning 1 Wellesley (x) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Adi Ugri area 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Dawn 1/5 Hurricane (y) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Dawn 1/5 Hurricane (y) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Dawn 1/5 Valentia (y) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Dawn 1/5 Hardy (y) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Dawn 1/5 Hardy (y) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Dawn 1/5 Hardy (y) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Dawn 1/5 Hardy (y) Shared damaged on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Dawn 1/5 Gladiator (y) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Dawn 1/5 Wellesley (y) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Dawn 1/5 Wellesley (y) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Dawn 1/5 Lysander (y) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Evening 1/5 Hurricane (y) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Evening 1/5 Hurricane (y) Shared damaged on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Evening 1/5 Hurricane (y) Shared damaged on ground Fiat CR.42   Akordat 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Evening 1/5 Gladiator (y) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Bisha 412a Squadriglia
  09/02/41 Evening 1/5 Hardy (y) Shared damaged on ground Fiat CR.42   Bisha 412a Squadriglia
19 11/02/41 16:20- 1 Hurricane (z) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Keren 412a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 19 and 1 shared destroyed, 3 and 5 shared probable, 9 and 1 shared damaged, 28 shared destroyed on the ground, 4 shared damaged on the ground.
TOTAL: 19 and 1 shared destroyed, 3 and 5 shared probable, 9 and 1 shared damaged, 28 shared destroyed on the ground, 4 shared damaged on the ground.
(a) In this combat the XVI Gruppo claimed 5 I-16s and 3 probables and at least 2 damaged and 1 SB while losing 2 CR.32. It seems that Republican fighters claimed 1 CR.32 while losing 3 fighters and 1 bombers.
(b) XVI Gruppo claimed 4 I-15s and 4 I-16s and 6 others as probable without losses. XXIII Gruppo claimed 5 I-15 and 2 I-16 without losses. The Republicans lost 5 I-15s and 4 I-16s and 3 damaged I-16s.
(c) Wellesley K7743 of 14 Squadron flown by Pilot Officer R. P. B. H. Plunkett (KIA) shot down over Massawa. AA also claimed this aircraft.
(d) 412a Squadriglia claimed 2 Wellesleys and AA a third. Wellsley (L2694) of 223 Squadron flown by Flight Sergeant Poskitt failed to return. The crew was MIA.
(e) Wellesley (L2652) of 14 Squadron flown by Flight Officer S. G. Soderholm last seen over Dekemhare. Aircraft failed to return, one of the crew was KIA, the rest MIA.
(f) Claimed probably destroyed, shared with Sergente Baron. Wellesley (L2704) of 47 Squadron damaged and under repair for a couple of months.
(g) 412a Squadriglia claimed one destroyed and one shared probable in a formation of eleven Wellesleys from 14 and 47 Squadrons. Officially, only Sergeant F. Nelson in K8520 was admitted shot down, but Wellesley L2667, though returned home, was later struck off charge due to enemy fighters’ damage. These were both by 47 Squadron.
(h) Claimed probably destroyed, shared with Sergente Lugi Baron. Wellesley (L2798) from 223 Squadron damaged, later struck off charge due to enemy fighters damage.
(i) Claimed probably destroyed, shared with Sergente Lugi Baron. Wellesley (L2676) from 14 Squadron damaged, later struck off charge due to enemy fighters damage.
(j) Wellesley I (L2669) from 14 Squadron flown by Sergeant Norris shot down. The aircraft cash-landed and the crew was taken prisoner (gunner LAC Lampard soon died by wounds). Usually credited to him, but possibly to be shared with Tenente Di Pauli and Sergente Lugi Baron.
(k) Claimed in combat with Blenheim Is of 45 Squadron. Blenheim L6665 flown by Squadron Leader G. J. Bush was lost together with its crew. Usually credited to him, but possibly to be shared with Sergente Baron and perhaps Sottotenente Levi.
(l) Blenheim (L8643) attacked by a lone CR.42 over Sabdarat, suffered mild damage. Italian Bulletin claimed for one Blenheim “badly damaged” or perhaps believed destroyed. Lacking official sources, this claim is an educated guess, and could be attributed to Visintini by exclusion criteria.
(m) Two Blenheims I of 45 Squadron (L8463 and L8502), led respectively by Flight Officer Gordon C.B. Woodroffe and Pilot Officer George A. Cockayne, both crashed at Segeneyti. All crews died.
(n) According to British sources eight Wellesleys of 47 Squadron (L2650, L2675, L2677, L2688, K7742, K7762, K7779 and K7781) and two Vincents of 430 Flight (K4657 and K4731) were burned on ground, against claims for nine Wellesley destroyed on the ground and two Gladiators shot down during take-off. The latter were unofficially credited to Capitano Antonio Raffi.
(o) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 1 SAAF Squadron and ‘K’ Flight, which this day lost six aircraft while claiming two CR.42s and two Ca.133s. 412a Squadriglia claimed six Gladiators during the day with no losses, although at least the CR.42 of Sottotenente Rosmino was damaged. Flight Officer Hayward (Gladiator II K7797) of ‘K’ Flight shot down and killed in the action. Lacking official sources, this claim could be attributed to Visintini as an educated guess.
(p) Combat with three fighters of 1 SAAF. Italians claimed a Gladiator destroyed and two probable. Official 1 SAAF documents are missing for this period, but it seems that just one Gladiator suffered mild damage. Lacking official sources by Italian side too, an attribution of this claim to Visintini is an educated guess.
(q) Blenheim IV (R3593) of 14 Squadron emergency landed in Italian territory, after having been damaged at an engine by enemy fighters. Crew rescued by another Blenheim, aircraft captured. Possibly to be shared with Sergente Maggiore Lugi Baron and Sergente Aroldo Soffritti.
(r) Blenheim IV (R2770) of 14 Squadron, piloted by Flying Officer Thomas G. Rhodes, failed to return by a recon mission. The crew was MIA.
(s) Five Vickers Vincents were claimed destroyed by 412a Squadriglia while actually four Hawker Hardys (K4053, K4308, K4055 and K4307) of ‘B’ Flight, 237 Squadron were totally burned on ground.
(t) Night claim. Wellesleys I (L2714 and L2690) of 223 Squadron attacked by a lone CR.42, which damaged L2690. Italians claimed a probable and a kill, probably after notice of the gathering of signs or relics of Blenheim IV (T2167) of 14 Squadron, fallen in sea for unknown causes after a mission over Zula.
(u) Night claim. Wellesley I (L2690, the same of previous night) again damaged, but this time in a worse way and destroyed during one-leg landing. Italians claimed it damaged, attributable either to Visintini or Capitano Raffi.
(v) Night claim. Wellesley II (K7720) of 223 Squadron badly damaged, out of service for over three months. Claimed damaged, shared between Raffi and Visintini.
(w) Two Blenheims IVs (T1822 and N3582) of 14 Squadron attacked over Gura by a CR.42 each, went home with mild damage. Italians claimed that day three Blenheims probably destroyed and one damaged. Two could be attributable to Visintini by exclusion criteria.
(x) Two Wellesleys IIs (K8525 and K7759) of 47 Squadron, piloted respectively by Flight Officer Helsby and Sergeant Blofield, destroyed with two of the crews POW, the rest KIA. At least one bomber possibly to be shared with Sergente Aroldo Soffritti.
(y) 412 Squadriglia claimed 11 aircraft destroyed and 5 damaged on the ground (i.e. 2 Hurricanes, a Valentia, 3 Hardys, 2 Gladiators, 2 Wellesleys and a Lysander burned, 3 Hurricanes and 2 Hardys damaged). Actual losses were: in the morning, two Wellesleys (K7713 and L2665) of 47 Squadron, two Hardys (K5921 and K4319) and two Lysanders (L1026 and R2044) of 237 Squadron all burned, and four not specified aircrafts damaged at Akordat; in the evening, a Hurricane burned and two more damaged at Akordat, and a Vincent and a Gladiator damaged at Bisha, for a grand total of 15 destroyed or damaged aircrafts.
(z) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 1 SAAF Squadron, which officially didn’t sustain any losses. Actually the Hurricane I of Lt. Driver landed at Akordat so badly damaged that it was sent to Khartoum for “disposal or repair”.

Sources:
Luciano Cacciavillani's personal logbook courtesy of Cacciavillani family (Luciano jr and Alberto)
Giovanni Levi’s personal logbook, courtesy of Michele Palermo
Fiorindo Rosmino’s personal logbook, courtesy of Rossella Baron
Aroldo Soffritti’s personal logbook, courtesy of Ariella Soffritti
Various documents belonged to Luigi Baron, courtesy of Rossella Baron
Various documents belonged to Antonio Raffi, courtesy of Alide Comba
Collection of Comando Aeronautica AOI War Bulletins, USSMA, Rome, kindly provided by Michele Palermo
410a Squadriglia war diary (1940) kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro.
Comando Aeronautica Africa Orientale war diary (June 1940) kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro.
Dust Clouds in the Middle East - Christopher Shores, 1996 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-898697-37-X
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War – Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Gloster Gladiator Home Page - Alexander Crawford.
Guerra di Spagna e Aviazione Italiana – Ferdinando Pedriali, 2nd ed., 1992 Ufficio Storico Stato Maggiore Aeronautica, Rome, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
In cielo e in terra - F. Pagliano, 1969 editore Longanesi, Milan, kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso.
Italian Aces of World War 2 - Giovanni Massimello and Giorgio Apostolo, 2000 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 1-84176-078-1
Mario Visintini. Storia e Leggenda di un Asso Italiano – Gianni Bianchi, Associazione Culturale Sarasota, kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro
Le Vittorie Aeree di Mario Visintini in Africa Orientale – Eugenio Eusebi, Stefano Lazzaro, Ludovico Slongo, in: Storia Militare no. 246 (XXII), March 2014, Albertelli Edizioni Speciali, Parma, ISSN 1122-5289
RAF 1939-45 - D. Richards and H. St. Georges Saunders kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso.
Royal Air Force Bomber Losses in the Middle East and Mediterranean, vol. 1 1939-1942 – David Gunby & Pelham Temple, 2006 Midland publishing, ISBN 1-85780-234-9
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A. Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4
Springbok Fighter Victory: East Africa Volume 1 1940 – 1941 – Michael Shoeman, 2002 African Aviation Series No. 11, Freeworld Publications CC, ISBN 0-958-4388-5-4
Storia Aeronautica Italiana
The Bristol Blenheim: A complete history – Graham Warner, 2002 Crécy Publishing Limited, Manchester, ISBN 0-947554-92-0
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The Story of no. 1 Squadron SAAF– Vivian Voss, 1952 Mercantile Atlas (Pty.) Ltd., Cape Town, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo.
Visintini, il Pilota Solitario - Silvio Platen, 1942 editore Rizzoli, Rome, kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso.
Additional info kindly provided by Sergey Abrosov, Stefano Lazzaro, Alfredo Logoluso, Giovanni Massimello, Michele Palermo, Ondrej Repka, Ludovico Slongo and Pelham Temple.




Last modified 15 October 2014