Biplane fighter aces


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 during a mission against the aerodrome of Candasnos when it exploded in flight for reasons unknown. 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 (one of them seems to have been claimed by Sergente Aldo Buvoli from the 19a Squadriglia), 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 Leitenant N. I. Marthishchenko from 2a Escuadrilla and Leitenant 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; the CR.32 seems to have been shot down by Nikifor Livanskii (I-16).

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).

On 31 August, CR.32s from the XVI Gruppo was indirectly escorting S.79 and BR.20 bombers to the front of Gandesa. At the end of the bombing, the fighters stayed in the area for interdiction. As in the previous week, the 25a Squadriglia had the duty to cover at 7,000m while the fighters from 26a and 24a Squadriglie flew at 5,500m.
The XVI Gruppo had taken off from Caspe at 16:30 and the eight CR.32s from the 25a Squadriglia flew in four sections of two aircraft:
1st section – Capitano Roberto Fassi (CO) and Tenente Pietro Raimondi
2nd section – Sottotenente Visintini and Sergente Giuseppe Marini
3rd section – Sottotenente Bongiovanni and Sottotenente Mario Pinna
4th section – Sottotenente Emilio Marchi and Maresciallo Luigi Acerbi
Around 18:00, Capitano Giuseppe Majone (CO 24a Squadriglia) spotted six SBs in two formations of three each heading from the Segre river towards Villalba.
They were soon attacked by the Italian fighters. Suddenly, a dozen of escorting I-16s dived on the CR.32s of the 24a Squadriglia, but they were in turn jumped by the 25a Squadriglia, which soon was joined by all the Fiats. In the ensuing dogfight Italians claimed two Ratas destroyed and one probable, that were officially shared among the three Squadriglie, though one of the kills was unofficially credited to Capitano Fassi. Sottotenente Visintini (25a Squadriglia) shot at four I-16s, one of which “effectively and by short distance” and saw a Rata falling in flames, which considering the place and the time should be the one shot down by Capitano Fassi. Visintini’s Fiat was however damaged in the action.
As a result, the commander of the XVI Gruppo, Tenente Colonnello Arrigo Tessari, proposed that each Squadriglia should be creited with one shared destroyed I-16.

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 (25a Squadriglia), 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).
Other known Republican fighter pilots killed in the Ebro area during the day were Manuel Araza Sabaté (killed in combat), José Correa Antón and Antonio Pascual Gaset (disappeared).
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.

On 15 January 1940, he was promoted to Tenente for war merits and with a seniority from 14 October 1938.

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.

On 14 June, the Wellesleys of Flight Lieutenant Irvine (K7723) and Pilot Officer Reginald Patrick Blenner Hassett Plunkett (K7743), both of 14 Squadron, took off to bomb the oil installations of Archìco. Over Massawa at 19:15, they were targeted by an intense anti-aircraft fire before bombing the target without being able to ascertains the results. On their way back they are attacked by two CR.42s, piloted by Tenente Visintini and Sergente Lugi Baron. Flight Lieutenant Irvine managed to disengage but Pilot Officer Plunkett (RAF No. 40849), without a gunner on board, tried to escape out to the sea, but was pursued and finally shot down.
This was Visintini’s first claim in the Second World War but should possibly be shared with Sergente Baron.
The AOI Aviation Operations Bulletin No. 5 states one bomber shot down by fighters and a second by anti-aircraft.
It seems Flight Lieutenant Irvine had in fact convinced Pilot Officer Plunkett that it was possible to bomb Archìco without running too many risks even without a gunner on board, perhaps because they were both unaware of the presence of fighters in nearby Massawa. Because of his heavy responsibility in the death of his colleague, Irvine was sent back to Amman the same evening.

At 04:35 on 30 June, six Wellesleys from 223 Squadron took off from Summit to attack the airfield of Massawa and fuel depots at Hirgigo, 3 km south of it. Participating pilots were Flight Lieutenant Pelly-Fry (Wellesley L2695), Flying Officer Joel (L2673), Pilot Officer Shepherd (K7750), Flying Officer Ross (K7724), Sergeant Poskitt (L2694) and Sergeant Young (K8524). The formation reached their target at 07:48 (Italian time – GMT+3) and dropped their load of bombs causing damage defined as insignificant by the Italians. An intense and precise anti-aircraft reaction, coming from the airport and from ships at anchor, was unleashed during the bombers’ dive, hitting Flying Officer Ross’ aircraft. After the drop, the Wellesleys turned left to the south. The British crews saw Sergeant Poskitt's Wellesley suddenly make a sharp turn to avoid the dive attack led by two CR.42s (Tenente Visintini and Sergente Lugi Baron, both from the 412a Squadriglia) and a CR.32 that had unexpectedly appeared, after which they lost sight of them. Wellesley L2654 was shot down 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).
Shortly afterwards, the two CR.42s also attacked the aircraft of Ross and Flying Officer Joel who, in order to escape the Italian fighters, descended to a very low altitude, respectively 30 and 10 meters above the sea surface and they managed to escape.
Tenente Visintini was officially credited with shoting down Sergeant Poskitt while Sergente Baron was credited with another and a third was credited to Massawa AA.

In a mission around 14:00-15:00 on 3 July, Tenente Visintini 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 (flown by Pilot Officer Ferguson in L2710 and Pilot Officer Smith in L2649) 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 and then buried in Asmara War Cemetery.
During the combat, one of the two Fiats (the second participating pilot was Tenente Carlo Canella in a CR.32) were hit by the machine-gunners on board, but the pilot, unharmed, succeeded however to return to base.
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. The Wellesleys were piloted by Flight Lieutenant Magill (K7771), Pilot Officer James (L2675), Sergeant Oakley (L2704), Sergeant Osbourn (L2641) and Sergeant Wragg (L2667). The target was however obscured by clouds, and they diverted to Otulma (Massawa), which they attacked at 15:0, believing that they had hit buildings and hangars there. Immediately afterwards, they were attacked by Tenente Visintini and probably Sergente Lugi Baron, which claimed a shared probable kill.
The fight went on for 10-15 minutes, until the Wellesleys managed to take refuge in a thick blanket of clouds that at about 4,600 meters covered the entire area. Sergeant J. S. F. Lawley, navigator in K7771 recalled:

“We by no means thought that most of those attacking us were harmless. But many tended to approach us from a relatively long distance, with an apparent reluctance to get too close to our defensive fire. But, to our considerable disappointment, there were some notable exceptions, who pressed their attacks with the determination we would have expected from our own boys... I cannot vouch for the number of those who made this exception, but there were enough! If I remember rightly, on this occasion we disengaged by climbing slowly up into medium height clouds, and fortunately so, because there were few of those in those parts at that time of year. “
All the Wellesleys made it back to base, but L2704 was so badly damaged that it would not be back in action until the end of August.

On 12 July, 254 Wing ordered a joint action for 14 and 47 Squadron, which took off from their bases with four (Flight Lieutenant Stapleton in K7722, Pilot Officer Green in K7726, Pilot Officer Le Cavalier in K7723) and Pilot Officer Illsey in L2691) and five Wellesleys (Flight Lieutenant Magill in K7771, Pilot Officer Joyce in L2641, Pilot Officer Harrison in K8527, Sergeant Aldus in L2667 and Sergeant Nelson in K8520) respectively. The two squadrons assembled at Suàkin and, with 14 Squadron leading the formation, headed out to sea before returning to the coast at Dáhalac Chebìra Island and making a low-level attack, at about 15.00, on the hangars at Otumlo. While still approaching the objective, aircraft n. 5 (external wingman on the left) of the second formation, the Wellesley K8520/KU-B of 47 Squadron, was attacked in a dive and damaged by CR.42s, and smashed to the ground in an attempt to make an emergency landing. Flight Sergeant Frederick "Freddy" Nelson (RAF no. 516778) was killed on impact, which completely smashed the Wellesley’s nose, while the rest of the crew, Sergeant Brixton and LAC Woods, became PoWs. The other bombers arrived on target shortly afterwards, met by a precise and intense anti-aircraft reaction, also coming from the ships at anchor in the port of Massawa.
The remaining eight aircraft all landed at their respective bases, although an analysis of the ORBs revealed that Wellesley L2667 would not return to action on this front after this mission. The only damage sustained on the ground was to an aircraft hangar.
Two Italian fighters (Tenente Visintini and Sergente Lugi Baron) had intercepted them with Tenente Visintini credited with shooting down K8520.
After the first attack, Visintini and Baron returned to altitude, to pounce again on the bombers as they came out of anti-aircraft range, and attack them for another 10-15 minutes. Baron believed he had hit a second Wellesley, which, at first, was believed to have landed four kilometres from Massawa.
According the Italian Bulletin it seems that this was claimed as a probable (as a shared by both pilots) between 15:00-15:10.

On 23 July, five Wellesleys from 223 Squadron (Squadron Leader Larking (L2713), Pilot Officer Willing (L2668), Sergeant Collis (K7774), Sergeant Bathe (K7750) and Pilot Officer Ellis (L2798) ) took off for Archìco to hit the fuel depots. At 14:15 they dropped from 4,600 meters in one pass. As the anti-aircraft, taken completely by surprise, began to fire with great delay, the bombers saw two biplanes take off from the airport and gain altitude, soon disappearing from sight.
After about five minutes, two fighters, flown by Tenente Visintini and Sergente Lugi Baron, swooped down on the bombers as they are on their way back. The two FIATs concentrated for 25 minutes on the second wingman on the left, Pilot Officer Ellis, hitting his aircraft repeatedly in the tail planes, the main tank, the bomb bay, various parts of the geodesic structure, the radio and the hydraulic system, which caused the undercarriage and bomb bays to open. This inevitably caused the aircraft to slow down, so Pilot Officer Willing was ordered by Squadron Leader Larking to flank the aircraft and escort it back to base. The British gunners put up a fierce fight, firing a total of 1,800 .303-inch rounds at the Italian fighters, apparently without effect.
L2978 managed to return to base at 16:45, a quarter of an hour after the others, but due to the serious structural damage suffered, this Wellesley was declared Damaged Beyond Repair (DBR).
The Italian Comando AOI Bulletin no. 44 stated: “Our fighters reaction chased effectively enemy action […] A hit enemy aircraft is reported to have fallen on our territory. A search is being held.”. This was however revoked the following day.
Tenente Visintini and Sergente Baron returned claiming a shared probable over the Eritrean coast, north of Massawa. However, in some modern literature it seems that Sergente Baron was credited with a victory at this occasions but this seems not to have been the case.

On 29 July, Visintini was decorated with a Medaglia d’argento al valor militare that was given him for his victories of “12 June” and “4 July” (both dates wrong), strangely forgetting the kill of 30 June.

At 10:35 on 4 August, ten Wellesleys of 14 and 47 Squadrons and three Blenheim Is of 45 Squadron attacked Hirgigo and the submarine base at Massawa. Tenente Visintini, Sergente Lugi Baron and a third pilot scrambled and attacked them.
The Italians claimed one destroyed and one probable (as a shared between Visintini and Baron). Wellesley I L2676 of Sergeant Patey (14 Squadron) was badly damaged and crash-landed at landing, being later declared not repairable. Two more Wellesley Is (L2657 and L2645) were damaged too and went out of order for several weeks.

Around 10:00 on 1 September, a single Wellesley (L2669) from 14 Squadron flown by Sergeant Norris made a photographic reconnaissance over Hermil Island, but was intercepted by three fighters of 412a Squadriglia scrambled from Massawa and it crash-landed on the island. The crew was taken prisoner, but the gunner, 22-years-old Leading Aircraftman Charles David Lampard (RAF No. 615948) had been badly wounded by Italian bullets and died soon after.
The aircraft was credited to Tenente Visintini, who wrote to his parents about that his “fifth victory”, but it should be at least shared with Tenente Raimondo Di Pauli and Sergente Lugi Baron.

On 20 September, the Massawa section of 412a Squadriglia was called back to Gura. From the beginning of the war and until then, it was credited with 18 aerial combats, in which its pilots shot down 9 Wellesleys and four more probable.
Tenente Mario Visintini was credited with three individual and two shared kills, plus four probables. Note that in Regia Aeronautica individual kills weren’t officially allowed, hence there was no difference between individual and shared kills.

At 12:50 on 30 September, three 45 Squadron Blenheim Is raided Gura, but, once there, all the bombers were attacked by CR.32s and CR.42s. Blenheim L6665 flown by 28-years-old Squadron Leader George Justin Bush (RAF No. 37061) was soon damaged in an engine by Tenente Visintini who, with Sergente Lugi Baron and perhaps Sottotenente Giovanni Levi, surrounded the bomber and ordered it by gestures to land. But the Blenheim couldn’t remain in the air with just one engine and crashed, killing Bush and his crew (20-years-old Observer Sergeant John C. Usher (RAF no. 580912) and 21-years-old Wireless Operator/Air gunner Sergeant James Corney DFM (RAF no. 541684)).

At around 10:00 on 8 October, a Blenheim I (L8473) of 45 Squadron was attacked by a single CR.42 over Sabdarat, during a photo-recon mission. The fighter compelled the Blenheim to break off the mission and return home. The Italian Bulletin claimed it “badly damaged” or possibly shot down, but actually, it seems it was just damaged.
Postwar, Capitano Raffi recalled that Visintini had shot down four Blenheims in just a month, after his return to Gura. In that period five Blenheims were officially claimed over Eritrea, three of them were given to Visintini and two to Lugi Baron. It is possible that, later, the Blenheim of 8 October was considered destroyed by the Italians, or by the pilot himself. To support this, it stands the unusual single attacker witnessed by British crew. He was indeed known by the contemporaries also as “il pilota solitario” (the Lone Pilot).

On 13 October, Visintini had his first double kill. At 16:30, two Blenheim Is of 45 Squadron went to bomb Dekemhare, but were soon attacked by him. After having placed himself, for mere challenge, exactly between the bombers, so that each of them couldn’t fire at him to not hit the respective companion, soon moved in a dead point of bombers’ MG range and shot down them both in a matter of seconds. The two Blenheims fell near Sageneyti, a hamlet some 15 kilometers East of Dekemhare, a distance that could be covered by an escaping Blenheim in slightly more than two minutes. All the crews were KIA: 25-years-old Flight Officer Gordon Cyril Butler Woodroffe (RAF No. 39837), 24-years-old Sergeant Eric Bromley Ryles (RAF No. 581161), Sergeant Albert Alfred Meadows (RAF No. 612422), and 28-years-old Pilot Officer George Angus Cockayne (RAF No. 41779), 24-years-old Sergeant Trevor Ascott Ferris (RAF No. 566370), Sergeant Robert William Reader (RAF No. 548764).

Having known since 13 October, by aerial reconnaissance, that a Flight of 47 Squadron had been detached to Al Qadarif (Gadaref), pilots of Regia Aeronautica planed a strafing attack on that field. On the 16 October, taking off at 06:00 from the Italian advanced field of Barentu, an S.79 flown by Generale Pietro Piacentini (CO of Settore Aeronautico Nord AOI) himself led in eight CR.42s of the 412a Squadriglia flown by Capitano Antonio Raffi, Tenente Visintini, Tenente Carlo Canella, Tenente Di Pauli, Sottotenente Fiorindo Rosmino, Sottotenente Levi, Sergente Maggiore Lugi Baron, and Sergente Pietro Morlotti. Some sources say that nine CR.42s were involved in this strike, but possibly the ninth pilot, newly arrived Sergente Carlo Scarselli, was left to protect Barentu.
At 06:55, the Savoia dropped its bombs on the field, then the fighters strafed between 07:00-07:20 and totally destroyed all eight Wellesleys of 47 Squadron detachment (K7742, K7762, K7779, K7781, L2650, L2675, L2677 and L2688) and, personally by Capitano Raffi, two of 430 Flight’s Vincents (K4657 and K4731) while they were taking off, which were claimed as Gladiators shot down. An attempt to call the 1 SAAF fighter detachment at Azaza (some 20 kilometers north-east) was foiled, as the telephone line between Al Qadarif and Azaza was found to have been cut. Italian claims were quite accurate, eleven aircraft being claimed destroyed, together with a munitions dump, some lorries, a searchlight and, it seems, a Packard car, the latter fired on by Tenente Canella.
Capitano Raffi was decorated with a Medaglia d’argento al valor militare as the organizer of the attack, while the other pilots gained a Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare each.

Towards the end of October, Tenente Visintini, Sergente Maggiore Lugi Baron and Sottotenente Levi moved to Bahir Dar, on the south side of Lake Tana, for operations in the Metema-Gallabat border front. Previously, another section led by Capitano Raffi himself had been transferred by Gura to Gondar airport, on the north side of the same lake. In early November, Visintini joined them at Gondar.

On the 6 November, the British forces in Sudan launched an offensive to capture the Italian fort at Gallabat as well as occupy Metema, 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 Metema when a formation of an estimated six or seven CR.42s from 412a Squadriglia led by the unit commander Capitano Antonio 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 Jack Hamlyn evaded the initial onslaught but his aircraft (L7612) was badly damaged and he force-landed, returning later on foot. These three victories were claimed by Capitano Raffi, Tenente Niso Provinciali and Sergente Pietro Morlotti.
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.
It seems that Captain Boyle was credited to Sottotenente Fiorindo Rosmino.
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 Jack Maurice Hayward (RAF no. 40111) 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 21-years-old Hayward’s aircraft (K7977) was seen to crash in flames, the pilot being KIA (possibly shot down at 15:30 by Tenente Visintini of the 412a Squadriglia). 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 Metema-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.
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, only to be lost again the following day, under Italian ground counter-attacks supported by continuous hammering by Caproni and SIAI bombers, as in that moment the Regia Aeronautica had the main control of the air space.

On 11 November, a reconnoitring Hardy of 237 (Rhodesian) Squadron bombed Italian lorries on the road to Gondar. Around 12:30 some Fiat fighters scramble to intercept it, but instead had a clash with three Gladiators which were patrolling the area.
Lieutenants John Coetzer, Andrew Duncan and Servaas de K. Viljoen of 1 SAAF Squadron had set off for Gallabat to intercept bombers. West of the town they ran into a reported eight enemy fighters instead. These were stepped up in echelon in three groups, 1524 meters above the three Gladiators. Despite tactical and numerical disadvantage, the South Africans attacked, chasing two of the Fiats down to ground level before they escaped, while the rest made one pass on the Gladiators and then fled. One Gladiator returned damaged by a single explosive bullet.
The Italians from 412a Squadriglia returned claiming a Gladiator destroyed (probably by Tenente Visintini) and two more probables, the latter one each to Sottotenente Giovanni Levi and Sergente Maggiore Lugi Baron.

Some sources state that Visintini was credited of two or three victories in these early days of November 1940. Since no other claims were declared by Italian fighters in the period in which Visintini was detached there, it is supposed that Visintini could have been responsible of the killing of Flight Officer Hayward on 6 November and the claim of 11 November. To support this, it stands the motivation of his Medaglia d’oro al valor militare, which was allowed to him for his victories in the “skies of Eritrea, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and Amhara”. The Amhara is the region where Metema is.

On 23 November, six CR.42s from the 412a Squadriglia (among them Capitano Antonio Raffi, Tenente Visintini, Sottotenente Giovanni Levi and Sergente Maggiore Lugi Baron) returned to Gura, leaving at Gondar a section of another six fighters, commanded by Tenente Niso Provinciali.

On 26 November, six Blenheims IV of 14 Squadron went to bomb the Railway station at Nefasit, a town near Asmara on the road to Massawa. Three Fiats (Tenente Visintini, Sergente Aroldo Soffritti and another pilot) intercepted them over the island of Dessei at 08:30, damaging the aircraft (R3593) of Flight Officer MacKenzie, which was forced to land on the coast north of Massawa. This claim seems to have been credited to Tenente Visintini. The leader of the flight, Squadron Leader Stapleton, landed alongside and recovered the crew.
In the same action, Sergente Aroldo Soffritti claimed a damaged Blenheim.

Around 09:00 on 4 December, Tenente Visintini claimed a Blenheim over the Red Sea.
This was Blenheim IV R2770 of 14 Squadron, piloted by Flying Officer Thomas G. Rhodes, failed to return by a reconnaissance mission. The crew was MIA.

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 Carlo Canella and Tenente Visintini) attacked the parked Hawker Hardys, destroying K4053, K4308, K4055 and K4307 while the other two CR.42s (Tenente Luciano Cacciavillani (detached from the 413a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Giovanni Levi) remained above as cover.
Capitano 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 Atbarah River. Tenente Visintini landed alongside, took his CO aboard and seated on Raffi's knees after dispensing his parachute, took off and returned successfully. Once at Barentu, after refurbishing, Tenente Visintini, Tenente Cacciavillani and Sottotenente Levi returned to destroy Raffi's abandoned fighter to ensure its total destruction.
The Italian pilots claimed to have destroyed five Vickers Vincents on the ground at Qawz Rajab, together with three armoured cars near the downed Fiat.

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

In the beginning of December, a British convoy was sailing through the Red Sea to Port Sudan, carrying Indian divisions to reinforce British troops in Sudan. Italian bombers were in search of it and, to disrupt them, Wellesleys of 223 Squadron managed to bomb Gura by night.
On 14 December, Squadron Leader Roulston (L2714) arrived over Gura at 19:15 and was attacked two times by the CR.42 of Tenente Visintini, before distancing it by a low-level flight. Sergeant Ballantyne in the second Wellesley (L2690) at 19:50 was also attacked by Tenente Visintini, from less than 40 meters and for about three minutes, “having several bullet holes on his aircraft” as stated by unit logbook. A third Wellesley was damaged by AA and crash-landed on return. Comando AOI Bulletin no. 189 claimed for a Wellesley shot down and another probable by fighters, but the former was probably the Blenheim T2167 of 14 Squadron, which fell in the sea for unknown causes off Eritrean coasts, on returning from a mission over Zula.

The following night, 15 December, three more Wellesleys of 223 Squadron were over Gura. At 03:23, the first bomber (L2714) was attacked by a single CR.42, but managed to return harmlessly. The second (L2690) was attacked at 04:20 by a lone Fiat, which badly damaged it, as the bomber made a one-leg landing at home, being destroyed. The third Wellesley (K7720) was intercepted before arriving over the target by two CR.42s at 04:55, and riddled by several rounds, it was compelled to run away without releasing and land home badly damaged and with full bomb load. Capitano Antonio Raffi recalled that the Italian pilots were Tenente Visintini and he himself. The Italians claimed two bombers damaged that night.

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

In January, Commonwealth forces had passed the borders of Eritrea. The main attack to Eritrea was through the Teseney-Barentu-Akordat-Keren road. In the latter town, Italians put up a strong resistance and on 1 February, the fierce Battle of Keren started and the 412a Squadriglia was constantly in the skies of the battle to match RAF and SAAF aircraft and to strafe enemy positions.

On 4 February, four Hurricanes from 1 SAAF Squadron, in pairs, were ranging ahead of a Wellesley raid on Gura aerodrome when one pair saw what they took to be a two S.79s approaching Asmara in the glare of noon at 12:15. Captain Brian Boyle (V7711) and Lieutenant Robin Pare, both by now experienced fighters, had already initiated firing passes when, to their horror, they identified them as RAF Blenheims! They broke off immediately, but one 14 Squadron Blenheim had been badly damaged, crash-landing at Port Sudan. Blenheim VI T2115 had taken-off from Port Sudan at 08:00 as one of three detailed to bomb Italian motor transports retreating along the Keren/Asmara road. It was attacked despite using correct recognition signals. It was badly damaged in the crash-landing when the landing gear failed to lower and it was was destroyed beyond repair but the pilot Flying Officer M. MacKenzie and his crew of Sergeants D. Farell and W. J. McConnell were safe.
30 minutes later, at 12:45, the four Hurricanes were bounced by four CR.42 over Asmara. Major Lawrence Wilmot pursued one over Asmara LG, firing a long burst at about 180m. It fell off to the left, towards the town. He broke right, losing sight of his victim, though a large cloud of dust was seen rising amongst the buildings between the LG and the town. Captain Boyle went after another, which evaded by steep turns before diving away. He had seen his fire enter the Italian aircraft, but no results were observed. Neither he nor Wilmot made any claim.
T2115 had been part in a force of three Blenheims from 14 Squadron out to bomb Gura. The remaining two were on their way attacked by two CR.42s over Gura around 13:15 and suffered mild damage. One of the Italian fighters was probably Capitano Visintini, as Capitano Antonio Raffi recalled that he claimed seven probables during the campaign. That day, the Italians claimed three Blenheims probably shot down and one damaged.

In the morning on 7 February, two Wellesley IIs of 47 Squadron took off from Barentu and flew a recon mission over Adi Ugri (a town now called Mendefera). Capitano Visintini took off from Asmara with Sergente Aroldo Soffritti and shot down both.
The two Wellesleys were K8525 (F/O R. R Helsby PoW, 31-years-old Pilot Officer Ernest John Bainbridge (RAF 78988) KIA and 20-years-old Sergeant Arthur Harold Paine (RAF 794557) KIA) and K7759 (26-years-old Flight Sergeant Edwin Ellis Blofield (RAF 564554) KIA, 27-years-old Sergeant John Herbert Davies (RAF 563111) KIA and Sergeant L. Bird PoW).
It seems that Sergente Soffritti was credited with one of these Wellesleys.
On a later mission the same day, Soffritti claimed a Hurricane.

At dawn on 9 February, Capitano Visintini led an attack on Akordat airfields and its satellite airfield with Tenente Carlo Canella, Tenente Raimondo Di Pauli, Sergente Aroldo Soffritti and Sergente Pietro Morlotti (all from the 412a Squadriglia).
The attack was repeated in the same evening on Akordat and Bisha airfields.
A total of 16 aircraft were claimed by Italians in these two missions: 11 burned and 5 damaged including 5 Hurricanes, 5 Hawker biplanes, 2 Gladiators, 2 Wellesleys, 1 Valentia and 1 ‘Martin’ Lysander.
The 203 Group diary admitted 6 destroyed and 4 badly damaged in the morning, 1 burned and 4 damaged in the evening, for a total of 15 out-of-use aircraft. Destroyed aircraft included two Wellesleys (K7713 and L2665) of 47 Squadron, two Hardys (K5921 and K4319) and two Lysanders L1026 and R2044) of 237 Squadron.
At this point, Visintini was granted with a Medaglia d’oro al valor militare for his outstanding combat record, while the other four pilots each gained a Medaglia d’argento al valor militare for the daring missions.

At 14:45 on 10 February, six 1 SAAF Hurricanes led by Captain K. W. Driver took off for an offensive patrol in the Asmara region, flying in two sections each of three aircraft. It was a cloudy day and five CR.42s were spotted climbing at Asmara at 16:20. Captain Driver led the attack but the Italian aircraft escaped in the clouds. In the ensuing search, Captain Driver became separated from the rest. Finding three Blenheims under attack by a CR.42, he went to their assistance. The Fiat managed to get back into the clouds after one burst from Driver. 35 minutes after the initial sighting, Driver decided to make a last run over Asmara before coming home. Spotting four CR.42s, he attacked. His first target spun away (probably Tenente Mario Coscia of 412a Squadriglia, who took evasive action by diving) and the second burst into flames before he lost sight of it. An explosive bullet had already hit his tailplane and, being low on fuel now, he had no option but to run for it. The remaining Fiats pursued him, one cutting him off and turning onto his tail. With insufficient fuel to both engage them and to get home, Driver had to weave at ground level. The Fiat fired approximately 10 bursts, inflicting considerable damage, but failed to bring the Hurricane down. Although hit in the tailplane and elevator, port gun bay, starboard fuel tank, the fairing behind the cockpit, and with one aileron jammed, Driver lost his attacker in the mountains and landed safely at Agordat (the aircraft was later sent to Khartoum “for repair or disposal”). The Italians claimed his Hurricane as shot down, this claim being made by Capitano Visintini.
Captain Brian Boyle (V7711) had meanwhile led his section into the clouds, in pursuit of the climbing Fiats. Emerging above, he saw one and made an attack from the quarter. It half rolled away with Boyle in pursuit. He made several attacks from abeam and astern as it tried to get away, setting it on fire. The Italian pilot baled out.
During this combat only one Italian fighter was shot down and this was a CR.42 flown by Maresciallo Arturo Martini of the 412a Squadriglia, who was attacked by Hurricanes (Driver or Boyle) from above in cloud and shot down. He baled out at low altitude as his fighter fell below the clouds, but was found dead near the wreckage of his fighter with his parachute unopened.

On 11 February, 1 SAAF Squadron had 11 aircraft on patrols over Keren during the day. During the morning, two of them encountered three CR.42s flown by Tenente Visintini, Tenente Ubaldo Buzzi and Sergente Maggiore Baron engaged in strafing British troops in front of Keren. After the first brief clash the Fiats hid in a thick cloud. Lieutenant Servaas de Kock 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 Akordat on foot. His aircraft was later recovered and repaired.
Tenente Buzzi and Sergente Maggiore Lugi Baron landed at ‘Sabarguma’ airstrip (Gahtelay, in the Wekiro river valley between Asmara and Massawa) due to bad weather, while Tenente Visintini had reached Asmara.
In the afternoon, Visintini took off to fly back to guide these pilots home. It seems that during the flight he was perhaps blown off course by high winds and while descending through clouds he crashed into the sides of Mount Bizen, near the hamlet of Nefasit, and was instantly killed.

Visintini received Medaglia d'oro al valor militare posthumously for his outstanding combat record, and for noteworthy work as deputy commander of the Squadriglia.
The number of 17 kills is written on his tombstone and in Comando Aeronautica AOI Bulletin no. 247 of 11 February 1941. The attached document to his Medaglia d’oro instead states 50 combats, 16 aircraft destroyed in combat and 32 shared destroyed on ground, as it was given to him the day before his last claim. So, at the time of his death, Visintini had at least 19 overall victories (2 claimed in Spain), all of them claimed while flying biplane fighters. In WWII, Visintini was at this date not only the first ace of Regia Aeronautica and the top-scorer in the Italian East African campaign of 1940-41, but also he had the best tally among all the belligerents in the Mediterranean and Africa fronts, a score achieved in just exactly eight months of war.

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 his kills in Spain, though not officially allowed as individuals, are certified by official reports.
In WWII, victories of 12 (or most probably 14) June and 4 (actually 3) July are mentioned in his Medaglia d’argento al valor militare.
His wrote about his kill of 30 June in a letter to his parents on the following day.
He declared his fifth kill on 1 September, in a letter to his parents on the following day. Hence, the fourth kill in AOI should have been that of 12 July. In facts, an article of war correspondent Vincenzo Garofalo, taken by official documents, talks about three individual kills, two shared and four probables during his stay in Massawa (11 June to 20 September 1940 - Note there was no official distinction between individual and shared victories).
The sixth kill, on 30 September, was recalled by Antonio Raffi, who was interviewed post-war by pilot, historical researcher and writer Franco Pagliano.
The double kill of 13 October is testimonial from various newspapers articles and is still part of his legend.
Antonio Raffi also recalled of four Blenheims shot down by him in less than one month, after having left Massawa on 20 September. By exclusion, the fourth Blenheim should have been that one of 8 October, officially claimed “badly damaged” but possibly believed shot down.
The two claims of 6 and 11 November are supposed to after the motivation of his Medaglia d’oro al valor militare, which cites the region of Amhara.
The claims of 26 November, 4 December and 14 December are written in a letter to his mother (his father had died in the meanwhile) of 15 December.
His 15th and 16th victories were officially declared by Comando Aviazione AOI Bulletin no. 243.
His 17th and last claim in WWII is witnessed by the inscription in his tombstone at Asmara War Cemetery, and stated in an article by war correspondent Mario Melani, who interviewed him soon after the action of 10 February.
According to his Commander, Antonio Raffi, Mario Visintini also claimed in AOI seven aircraft probably destroyed. Five on them are known, two are currently supposed.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  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 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 ca 1 I-16 (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.32   Sierra de los Caballos 25a Squadriglia
  05/09/38 09:30 ca 1 I-15 (b) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Venta de los Camposines 25a Squadriglia
  05/09/38 09:30 ca 1 I-15 (b) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Venta de los Camposines 25a Squadriglia
  05/09/38 09:30 ca 1 I-15 (b) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Venta de los Camposines 25a Squadriglia
  05/09/38 09:30 ca 1 I-16 (b) Damaged Fiat CR.32   Venta de los Camposines 25a Squadriglia
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 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 ca 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 ca 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 ca 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 ca 1 Blenheim IV (r) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Red Sea 412a Squadriglia
  12/12/40 06:10- 1/3 Vincent (s) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Qawz Rajab 412a Squadriglia
  12/12/40 06:10- 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 06:10- 1/3 Vincent (s) Shared destroyed on ground Fiat CR.42   Qawz Rajab 412a Squadriglia
  12/12/40 06:10- 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
  04/02/41 13:15 ca 1 Blenheim IV (w) Probably destroyed Fiat CR.42   Gura 412a Squadriglia
  04/02/41 13:15 ca 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 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 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 10/02/41 16:20- 1 Hurricane (z) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Keren 412a Squadriglia

Biplane victories: 19 and 1 shared destroyed, 3 and 4 shared probably destroyed, 9 and 1 shared damaged, 28 shared destroyed on the ground, 5 shared damaged on the ground.
TOTAL: 19 and 1 shared destroyed, 3 and 4 shared probably destroyed, 9 and 1 shared damaged, 28 shared destroyed on the ground, 5 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 (crew 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 1 destroyed and 1 shared probable in a formation of 9 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 as a shared probably destroyed with Sergente Baron. Wellesley L2798 from 223 Squadron damaged, later struck off charge due to enemy fighters damage.
(i) Claimed probably destroyed, shared with Sergente 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 DOW). Usually credited to him, but possibly to be shared with Tenente Di Pauli and Sergente 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 KIA.
(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) Claimed in 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 Baron and Sergente 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 destroyed, 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 Tenente 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 Capitano Raffi and Tenente 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) 412a 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”.

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
I Cavalieri Erranti - Ludovico Slongo, Stefan Lazzaro, Eugenio Eusebi, Michele Palermo and Danilo Ventura, 2023, ISBN 978-88-87952-37-7
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 10 June 2024