Biplane fighter aces

Italy

Colonnello Ferruccio Vosilla

21 July 1905 –

Ferruccio Vosilla was born on 21 July 1905.

On 12 August 1929, he was commissioned (in Servizio Permanente Effettivo).

Tenente Guido Bobba left the command of the 367a Squadriglia, 151o Gruppo, in May 1937, when Capitano Vosilla took command of the unit.

Capitano Vosilla left the command of the 367a Squadriglia, 151o Gruppo, in October 1937, when Sottotenente Natale Veronesi took command of the unit.

Vosilla took part in the Spanish Civil War.

In early August 1938 there were ten Italian CR.32 Squadriglie present on the Ebro front, namely the 24a, 25a and 26a Squadriglie of XVI Gruppo (CO Maggiore Armando François) at Caspe; 18a, 19a and 20a Squadriglie of XXIII Gruppo (CO Maggiore Aldo Remondino) at Sarinena; 31a, 32a and 33a Squadriglie of VI Gruppo (commanded by Maggiore Rossi) at Puig Moreno; and the Squadriglia Autonoma Caccia Mitragliamento (CO Tenente Vosilla, who was replaced on the 15th by Tenente Zannetti) at Caspe.

In February 1939, the 3o Stormo was under the command of Colonello Fortunato Rolando and equipped with Fiat CR.32s (complemented with a Ca.133 to each squadriglia for transports). The Stormo consisted of two Gruppi; 23o and 18o.
23o Gruppo was commanded by Maggiore Tito Falconi and based at Mirafori. The squadriglia commanders were Capitano Ottorino Fargnoli (70a Squadriglia), Capitano Guido Bobba (74a Squadriglia) and Capitano Luigi Filippi (75a Squadriglia).
18o Gruppo was commanded by Maggiore Ferruccio Vosilla and based at Mondovì. The squadriglia commanders were Capitano Edoardo Molinari (83a Squadriglia), Capitano Giulio Anelli (85a Squadriglia) and Capitano Gino Lodi (95a Squadriglia).
In October 1939 the 23o Gruppo started to re-equip with Fiat CR.42s and from November the 18o Gruppo did the same.

When the war started on 10 June 1940 the 3o Stormo was sent to the French border to take part in the attacks on southern France.

On 15 June 1940, the Italian Headquarters ordered the 150o, 18o and 23o Gruppi C.T. to attack the French airfields in Le Cannet des Maures (2km south-east of Le Luc) and Cuers Pierrefeu (close to the naval base of Toulon), in Provence, with the purpose of destroying and disrupting the French fighter force on the ground.
Le Cannet des Maureswas the base of the GC III/6, which had arrived there on 3 June with its Morane Saulnier MS.406 fighters and was in the midst of converting from that type to the new Dewoitine D.520 (on 15 June 1940 the groupe had at least 13 D.520s on hand). The airfield of Cuers Pierrefeu was the base of the escadrille de chasse AC 3 of the Aéronautique Navale, equipped with eleven Bloch 151 fighters, and the escadrille de bombardement en piquè AB 3 of the Aéronautique Navale, equipped with eleven Vought 156 dive-bombers.
At noon 25 CR.42s from the 23o Gruppo departed from Cervere (a small town in Piedmont near the French border) to attack Le Cannet Des Maures airfield. The first group, under the command of Maggiore Tito Falconi (CO of the 23o Gruppo in a CR.42 from the 70a Squadriglia) was to make the strafing attack. The group was composed of Capitano Luigi Filippi (CO of the 75a Squadriglia), Tenente Mario Rigatti, Tenente Calogero Mazza, Sottotenente Malvezzi, Maresciallo Luigi Pasquetti, Sergente Maggiore Renzo Borro, Sergente Maggiore Davini, Sergente Maggiore Germano Gasperoni (all from the 75a Squadriglia), Capitano Guido Bobba (CO of the 74a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Arnaldo Sala and Sottotenente Domenico Tessera (all from the 74a Squadriglia). The rest of the formation, with fighters from all three Squadriglie, was to act as top cover. This formation was composed of Capitano Ottorino Fargnoli (CO of the 70a Squadriglia), Tenente Claudio Solaro (70a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Oscar Abello (70a Squadriglia), Tenente Ezio Monti (75a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Balilla Albani (70a Squadriglia), Sergente Carlo Scarselli (70a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Celso Zemella (70a Squadriglia), Tenente Lorenzo Viale (74a Squadriglia), Tenente Mario Benedetti (74a Squadriglia), Tenente Mario Pinna (74a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Renzo Bocconi (74a Squadriglia), Sergente Raffaele Marzocca (74a Squadriglia) and Sergente Emilio Stefani (74a Squadriglia).
They arrived over the target at 13:00 and attacked under heavy AA-fire. They claimed to have hit fifteen “Curtis” fighters and four old bombers that lay on the sides of the airstrip, in particular Capitano Bobba claimed hits on three aircraft as did Sottotenente Tessera while Sergente Sala claimed to have hit two aircraft on the ground (it seems that at least three D.520s were destroyed when Dewoitine D.520 nos. 257, 294 and 304 of GC III/6 went up in flames).
During the strafing a number of French fighters identified as “four or five Morrane” or alternatively “Dewoitine” engaged the strafing Fiats. Capitano Filippi (MM4361), was shot down by Adjutant Pierre Le Gloan of GC III/6. Filippi baled out and was captured. Maresciallo Pasquetti claimed a “Morane” but was also hit, wounded (reportedly by AA fire but possibly by Le Gloan) and returned to Cervere despite large problems. He was later decorated with the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare in the field for this mission. Tenente Rigatti’s and Sottotenente Malvezzi’s fighters were also damaged (reportedly by AA). Among the pilots of the covering patrol, Sergente Stefani claimed a “Morrane”, Tenente Benedetti a probable “Morrane” and Sergente Marzocca a damaged “Morrane”. The pilots of the 70a Squadriglia reported an indecisive engagement with no losses caused or suffered and finally Tenente Viale had his fighter seriously damaged by an explosive bullet that hit the junction between the lower wing and the fuselage. Back at base the plane was declared RD (Riparabile in Ditta - Repairable but only in the manufacturer’s workshop) and sent to the Aeritalia-Fiat workshops in Turin.
The pilots of the 23o Gruppo observed that despite hits on aircraft on the ground they hadn’t burnt. This was found to have been caused by a defective batch of incendiary ammunition.
The formation from the 150o Gruppo departed from Villanova D’Albenga (in Liguria near the sea) at 12:00 and was composed of 27 Fiat CR.42s divided in three groups. Their target was the airfield of Cuers Pierrefeu and they arrived there at 13:00. A first group of eight aircraft commanded by Capitano Giorgio Graffer (CO of the 365a Squadriglia) and composed of Tenente Franco Gatti, Sottotenente Lorenzo Clerici, Maresciallo Felice Sozzi, Maresciallo Virginio Bodini, Sergente Maggiore Guido Fibbia, Sergente Maggiore Felice Squassoni and Sergente Bruno Zotti (all from the 365a Squadriglia) attacked the airfield of Cuers itself. A second group of nine fighters from the 363a Squadriglia led by the Gruppo CO Tenente Colonnello Rolando Pratelli (Capitano Luigi Mariotti (Squadriglia CO), Tenente Pietro Garfagnoli, Sottotenente Mario Daverio, Maresciallo Giuseppe Salvadori, Sergente Maggiore Natale Viola, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Benassi, Sergente Paolo Rossi, Sergente Antonio Lazzari) and a third group of eight aircraft from the 364a Squadriglia under command of the 53o Stormo commander Colonnello Arrigo Tessari (Capitano Nicola Magaldi (Squadriglia CO), Capitano Nino Caselli, Tenente Giuseppe Enrico Zuffi, Tenente Alberto Spigaglia, Maresciallo Delfino Fratini, Maresciallo Ugo Guidi, Sergente Maggiore Virgilio Pongiluppi, Sergente Giovanni Negri and Sergente Achille Pacini) covered Graffer and his men during the strafing attack.
The covering group led by Colonnello Tessari engaged six French fighters, while Graffer’s group, after four or five strafing passes enter combat against “Morane fighters” while regaining height. All in all four Morane were claimed shot down (all Bloch 151s from AC 3 and confirmed with French records) and 15 Moranes were claimed on ground (in fact at least six Vought 156s of AB 3 were destroyed). The victories were credited as “shared” to all the pilots of the Gruppo.
The aircraft of Capitano Nino Caselli (MM5579) and Tenente Zuffi of the 364a Squadriglia (MM5590) were lost. Caselli’s Fiat was shot down by French fighters and he was killed, while Zuffi landed on Cuers Pierrefeu undamaged due to a breakdown of the throttle. Zuffi was taken prisoner and his undamaged fighter was taken by the French (the only aircraft captured by the Aéronautique Navale), which in the following days painted it with French colours and duly photographed this trophy with pilots posing near it. After the war the Italians had to do great efforts with the Vichy Authorities to finally have back the fighter in August. Additionally the Fiats of Graffer and Clerici were damaged by French fighters during the dogfight.
Finally, 15 Fiat CR.42s the 18o Gruppo took off from Villanova D’Albenga immediately after the 150o Gruppo. They patrolled along the direction of Cuers Pierrefeu - Cannet des Maures - Hyères (the latter an airfield 13 km east of Toulon) to prevent any interference from the French fighter force. Led by the 18o Gruppo’s CO Maggiore Vosilla the formation was composed by Capitano Giulio Anelli (CO of the 85a Squadriglia), Tenente Giulio Cesare Giuntella and Sergente Maggiore Giuseppe Ruzzin of the 85a Squadriglia, Capitano Gino Lodi (CO of 95a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Eugenio Salvi, Maresciallo Felice Longhi, Maresciallo Giovanni Ferrari and Sergente Maggiore Giacomo Grillo of the 95a Squadriglia (Vosilla flew with Salvi and Longhi as wingmen) and finally the 3o Stormo Commander Colonnello Fortunato Rolando in a 83a Squadriglia fighter with Maresciallo Francesco Colombo and Sergente Maggiore Evdo Formentini as wingmen together with Capitano Edoardo Molinari (CO of 83a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Carlo Lolli and Maresciallo Gaetano Bortolini.
At a height of 5500 meters over Beau Champ they were intercepted by enemy fighters, which suddenly appeared from a cloud bank. They were identified as “Morane 406 plus another type not sure” and in the ensuing combat three of them were claimed shot down plus four others hit without being able of ascertain the damage inflicted (these claims can’t be verified with French sources). It seems that no individual credit was given for these victories that went as shared to all the fifteen pilots participating in the mission. During the combat, two aircraft of the 83a Squadriglia were lost when Sergente Maggiore Formentini (MM4449) and Maresciallo Colombo (MM4366) both were shot down and killed (both were probably shot down by Le Gloan and Assolant of GC III/6, which had attacked the “vic” of the Stormo commander). All the fighters of the 85a Squadriglia suffered gun-jams and were forced to flee, Capitano Anelli, in particular, had to escaped into clouds to get away from enemy fighters, got lost and was obliged to force-land at Dorniella near Grosseto in Tuscany where his plane (MM4372) broke the landing gear and was heavily damaged (RD). Finally Maresciallo Gaetano Bortolini’s Fiat was hit by a cannon shell that opened a hole of 60 centimetres in the upper wing. Later during the day two more fighters were heavily damaged (RD) on landing back in Villanova D’Albenga returning from scrambles because of the bad conditions of the ground flooded by heavy rain but this was not connected with the above described combat.
The French reported that in the early hours of 15 June bad wheatear halted flight activities, then, at mid morning, it cleared up. At 10:00, a patrouille composed by Adjutant Diaz, Sergent Pimont and Sous-Lieutenant Stage took-off to cover the reconnaissance mission of a Potez 63. The mission was completed successfully.
At 11:40, the fighter control centre of Toulon signalled big formations of heavy fighters and bombers passing the border and heading south-west. Five minutes later a patrouille simple (three planes group) of Dewoitine D.520s (Adjutant Pierre Le Gloan, Capitaine Jacobi and Capitaine Assolant) of the 5th escadrille of groupe de chasse III/6 (GC III/6) took-off.
The patrouille made for Saint Raphael (on the coast, near the Italian border), where a group of fifteen enemy planes was signalled. Four minutes later (11:49), a second patrouille simple (Capitaine Guerrier, Adjutant Japiot, Sous-Lietuenant Capdeviolle), this time of the 6th escadrille, took off to help the first. However, it took off to late and didn’t participate in the combat.
After arriving over Saint Raphael, the patrouille of Le Gloan received by radio the order of going over Saint Tropez (around 30km south-west). At the same time, Capitaine Jacobi was forced to turn back with engine problems.
Le Gloan saw a formation of twelve Fiat CR.42s in the direction of Saint Tropez heading south-west. He reached them rapidly and attacked at 12:00. In a brief combat, Le Gloan and Assolant claimed two shared aircraft shot down. These were the last two aircraft of the Italian formation and one of the Italian fighters (Maresciallo Colombo of the 83a Squadriglia) was seen to go down in flames near Beauvallon (4km south of Grimaud) while the other went down in flames near Ramatuelle; the pilot was seen to bale out (probably Sergente Maggiore Evdo Formentini of the 83a Squadriglia).
At this moment the two pilots of the patrouille was split up. Le Gloan turned over Saint-Tropez and lost contact with the enemy while Capitaine Assolant attacked a third Italian fighter (perhaps Maresciallo Bortolini of the 83a Squadriglia), but his guns ceased to fire and he had to disengage coming back to Le Cannet des Maures.
Adjutant Le Gloan in the meantime, saw anti-aircraft fire in the direction of Hyères airfield (being over Saint Tropez this direction is quite close to the direction of Toulon-Cuers Pierrefeu that was under attack at that moment). Le Gloan flew in that direction and discovered a group of three Fiat CR.42s heading east. He attacked the right hand Fiat of the group and saw that after the first burst of fire it went down near Saint-Amèe, in the bay of Pampalonne. This claim is not confirmed with Italian records but perhaps claimed in combat with an aircraft from 150o Gruppo returning from the attack on Cuers or alternatively against stragglers of the 18o Gruppo formation. He was then attacked by eight Italian fighters and he disengaged by diving away.
At the same time (around 12:15), he received by radio the order of coming back to Le Cannet des Maures which was under attack. He obeyed immediately, arriving over his airfield while the Italians were strafing it. He dived on a couple of fighters and with a single burst of cannon fire he shot down one of them (Capitano Filippi). This plane went down near the farm of the Thermes, just 1km from the airfield of Le Cannet. Continuing his patrol Le Gloan saw a Fiat BR.20 bomber flying a reconnaissance mission over Le Cannet des Maures, probably with the aim of checking the damage inflicted to the airfield. Le Gloan attacked it and, even with no more cannon ammunitions left, shot it down with five passes of his remaining four guns. The bomber fell down near the farm of the Moulin Rouge. This was Fiat BR.20 MM21873 of the 172a Squadriglia Ricognizione Strategica, which in fact went down over Le Luc. Two of the crew were killed; Aviere scelto motorista Giovanni Bonanno and Aviere scelto fotografo Egisto Di Croce. The rest of the crew were taken POWs; Maggiore Mario Salvadori (an intelligence Officer from the Air force HQ aboard as a passenger), Capitano Giorgio Parodi (the Squadriglia’s CO) and Aviere scelto armiere Attilio Imparato. Bonanno was posthumously decorated with the Medaglia d’Oro al valor militare for this action because he helped his commander, who was wounded, to jump out of the falling plane, but after that he was unable to jump himself and died in the subsequent crash.
At Cuers Pierrefeu (attacked by the 150o Gruppo), the French reported that the Italian fighters attacked the parked Voughts of AB 3 and destroyed six of them. A section of three fighters of AC 3 had taken took off just minutes before the Italian attack. It was commanded by the Enseigne de Vaisseau Carmeille and included Second-Maitres Saint Vanne and Heff. The section had to patrol between Le Luc en Provence and St Raphael. Near the first locality it became involved in combat with 15 Italian fighters (possibly the 18o Gruppo). The section didn’t claim anything and didn’t suffer any losses even if, later, it was credited with two shared Italian fighters shot down. After this combat, the three pilots went on patrolling over Toulon.
Two other sections of AC 3 took off while the Italians arrived over Cuers. The section commanded by the Lieutenant de Vaisseau Ziegler (CO AC 3) was composed by the Second-Maitres Miramont and Briet. Gaining altitude over Cuers the section was attacked by the Italian fighters. Ziegler had his Bloch 151 (numbered AC3.1, serial number 77) seriously damaged and wounded, he was forced to crash-land at base with his left landing gear cut in half. Briet was rapidly in difficulties under the attack of the numerically superior Italians, with the ailerons damaged and the reservoir holed he disengaged, rejoining the first section over Toulon. Miramont engaged combat north-east of the airfield, over the hills of Hyères. His Bloch 151 (numbered AC3.3, serial number 69) was seriously damaged, but in the heat of the fight, he found himself 50 meters behind a Fiat CR.42 (Capitano Nino Caselli) and with a single burst of his four MAC guns he shot it down. Miramont was not able to continue the fight after this and had to land at Hyères.
The third section of AC 3 suffered worst. It was commanded by the Adjutant Chef Hourcade (a pilot of the Armée de l’Air attached to the Aéronautique Navale since 1939) (Bloch 151 AC3.15 serial 51) and included Soulimont (Bloch 151 AC3.8 serial 348) and Second-Maitre Le Bihan (Bloch 151 AC3.9 serial 37). A few second after the take-off, Hourcade was shot down and killed by the marauding Fiats; Soulimont engaged the Italians but was immediately put out of action and obliged to force-land with his aircraft riddled with bullets. Le Bihan received a burst of fire in the engine and five minutes after took-off had to land in the narrow of Rocbaron. Unfortunately, his plane hit a tree and burst into flames hitting the ground. He succeeded in extricate himself from the burning wreck, but died five hours later at the hospital. Some time later Le Bihan was credited with an aerial victory obtained by collision, but looking in the initial reports of this combat there is no trace of this victory.
It is interesting to note that all of Le Gloan’s claims were homologated by the CO of the Zone D’Opérations Aériennes Alpes (ZOAA). (“L’homologation” was the definitive confirmation of an aerial victory corroborated by evidences, was a recognition quite difficult to obtain in the French Air Force). The victories were credited as follows:
Fiat CR.42 individual, Ramatuelle.
Fiat CR.42 shared with Assolant, Saint-Amé bay of Pampelonne.
Fiat CR.42 individual, Beauvallon.
Fiat CR.42 individual , ferme des Termes near Le Luc.
Fiat BR.20, ferme du Moulin-Rouge near Vidauban.
That is not in complete accordance with the reconstruction above. It is also interesting to note that the victories claimed by AC 3 were apparently not homologated.

Vosilla was then part in the C.A.I. operations over Britain when 18o Gruppo was temporarily assigned to the 56o Stormo. They were based at the Saturn base (Ursel).

On the 23 November a fighter sweep was flown by 29 CR.42s of the 18o Gruppo led by Maggiore Vosilla with Sottotenente Franco Bordoni-Bisleri as his wingman. The course was Dunquerque - Margate - Eastchurch - Folkestone - Calais while 24 G.50s of the 20o Gruppo covered them, operating a little further inland. At 11:40, 12 Spitfires Mk.IIs (P7550, P7597, P7311, P7496, P7529, P7388, P7289, P7543, P7389, P7449, P7528, and P7324) from 603 Squadron were scrambled from Hornchurch and headed south. Off Folkestone, 603 Squadron spotted the Italian CR.42s travelling west and the Spitfires hit them from astern. The CR.42s were badly bounced and two of them were lost when MM5694 of the 83a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Guido Mazza and MM5665 of the 95a Squadriglia flown by Sergente Maggiore Giacomo Grillo were shot down into the sea and reported missing. On return to base Sergente Maggiore F. Campanile and Sergente P. Melano of the 83a Squadriglia had to force-land and both pilots were slightly injured. Later it was found out that Campanile had, due to the lack of armour plating, been saved by his parachute pack, which had stopped several machinegun bullets. During the combat Tenente Giulio Cesare Giuntella’s CR.42 was hit several times but he returned claiming hits on a Spitfire. Maresciallo Felice Sozzi of the 83a Squadriglia (83-15) attacked and chased off a Spitfire on the tail of Sergente Maggiore Luigi Gorrini’s aircraft, who in his turn were attacking other British Spitfires. Sozzi was however hit in return by two other Spitfires, who attacked him from behind. He was seriously wounded with three bullets in his lungs, but he succeeded despite pain and a damaged aircraft, to return for an emergency landing on a Belgian beach. He survived his ordeal and recovered to receive the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare “in the field”.
603 Squadron reported that they were to patrol Hornchurch at 4500 meters together with 64 Squadron. They were then ordered on to the Maidstone Patrol Line, then to the Rochford Line. When over Rochford they were detailed to Raid 44 and the squadron went south at 8500 meters. They were given correct height and direction of the enemy raid and dived through misty clouds which was 10/10 from 5500 meters to 7900 meters. When about 16km south-west of Dover they saw about 20 Fiat CR.42s at about 6000 meters flying west parallel to the English coast. There appeared to two separate groups of CR.42s flying one behind the other.
In the front group were four CR.42s in vic echelon starboard, flying wing tip to wing tip. To the right and slightly behind was one CR.42, which was attacked and shot down. There were several CR.42s to the left of this formation.
The second formation consisted of vics, pairs and single aircraft in no special order. Behind and about 90 meters above were two CR.42s flying absolutely straight (no weaving). The Cr42s were flying at about 320km/h.
603 Squadron dived and attacked the rear formation. On the whole, the Italian aircraft took no evasive action and those not attacked flew straight on, keeping their formation although Spitfires were weaving in and out of them. 603 Squadron reported that this was like attacking bombers.
Of those attacked from the rear, one climbed almost vertically, one turned slightly to port and one reduced speed considerably and made a sharp turn.
Pilot Officer Gilroy made head-on attacks on three separate CR.42s, the first of which took no evasive action and he had to pull out over the top of it at the last moment. When at 180 meters range the second CR.42 turned to the right and he had to pull out over the top of the third. All three aircraft fired at him, and twin streams of tracer were seen. Pilot Officer Gilroy’s Spitfire was hit by an amour piercing 7.7mm bullet in the spinner.
Pilot Officer Ronald Berry (P7449) thought that he had hit a reserve petrol in the top wing of an aircraft he attacked. He had a five-minute dogfight with two CR.42s which were on his tail and turned inside him every time. He spun three or four times but the CR.42s were always waiting for him and eventually he had to dive out of range.
Flying Officer Brian MacNamara (P7388), on attacking an enemy aircraft, reported first white and then black smoke coming from in front of the pilot, followed by a shower of small white objects., After this the CR.42 caught fire.
Pilot Officer Archie Winskill (P7389) had four CR.42s on his tail, one of which splintered his Perspex hood. He climbed straight up and left them behind.
The CR.42s had yellow nose, white engine cowlings, green and black camouflage resembling a mackerel, white crosses on tail and white circles with three red fasces on their wings.
None of the Italian pilots baled out and it was thought from the reactions of the aircraft after being fired on that in almost every case the pilot was killed.
It was not understood why the CR.42s kept formation when they were not being attacked and flew straight on. The two CR.42s flying behind the formation did not appear to be guarding it.
603 Squadron was very impressed by the willingness of the Italian pilots to dogfight when attacked, compared to previous experience with Bf 109s and in general their morale was far higher than they had been given to understand.
603 Squadron didn’t suffer any casualties and ten Spitfire landed at Hornchurch at 13:30, one aircraft landed at Rochford while one aircraft landed at Hawkinge. 603 Squadron claimed seven destroyed, two probables and two damaged:
Pilot Officer Winskill claimed two CR.42s destroyed (one in flames, one in sea).
Sergeant Andrew Darling (P7324) claimed two CR.42s destroyed (both in sea).
Flying Officer MacNamara claimed one CR.42 destroyed (in flames).
Flying Officer Colin Pinckney (P7529) claimed one CR.42 destroyed (in sea).
Pilot Officer Berry claimed one CR.42 destroyed (in sea) and one probably destroyed CR.42 (out of control).
Flight Lieutenant John Boulter (P7597) claimed one probably destroyed CR.42 (clouds of smoke and thinks it caught fire).
Pilot Officer David Scott-Malden (P7278 (?)/D) claimed two damaged CR.42s (1 bits of rudder, 1 tracer entered fuselage).
Squadron Leader George Denholm (P7550), CO 603 Squadron, described the combat:

The Italians looked quite toy-like in their brightly-coloured camouflage, and I remember thinking that it seemed almost a shame to shoot down such pretty machines. I must have been wrong, for the pilot who saw six going down at the same time said afterwards that it was a glorious sight. But I must say this about the Eye-ties: they showed fight in a way the Germans have never done with our squadron.
Denholm chased one Fiat halfway across the Channel but had to let it limp home as his own engine started to splutter.
18o Gruppo claimed five enemy fighters. However, it appears that only one Spitfire was actually damaged when Pilot Officer Winskill returned to base with the canopy shattered and the Spitfire damaged by return fire from the CR.42s. Winskill was however safe.
As 603 Squadron disengaged, more RAF units were alerted to the presence of furthers enemy units. 92 Squadron left Biggin Hill at 12:25 together with 74 Squadron. Aircraft identified as Bf 109s were sighted by 92 Squadron pilots some miles south of Dover, but these particular fighters avoided combat. It seems that it is likely that these were the Fiat G.50s of the 20o Gruppo. The Italian pilots reported sighting a formation of British fighters but did not engage them.

On 29 January, reinforcements started to arrive in North Africa from Italy. The 18o Gruppo CT with its three Squadriglie (83a Squadriglia commanded by Capitano Edoardo Molinari. 85a Squadriglia commanded by Capitano Giulio Anelli and 95a Squadriglia commanded by Capitano Gino Lodi) arrived directly from the British Channel Front led by Maggiore Vosilla and landed at Tripoli Castel Benito.

He was promoted to Tenente Colonnello on 27 February 1941.

On 24 May 1942, the 50o Stormo Assalto moved to Derna’s El Fteiah airfield, ready for operations. This Stormo was newly-established under Tenente Colonnello Vosilla with the arrival of 159o Gruppo (389a, 390a, 391a Squadriglie) to join 158o Gruppo, both units equipped with CR.42s fitted as fighter-bombers.

Seven MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo, led by Capitano Mario Pinna (CO 75a Squadriglia), took off at 14:35 on 27 October to escort 17 Ju 87s and 42 CR.42s of the 50o and the 5o Stormi. Near Daba a formation of P-40s was intercepted and engaged, two P-40s being claimed; one of them was claimed by Sergente William Dusi (70a Squadriglia) while the second was shared by Tenente Giorgio Solaroli di Briona (74a Squadriglia), Sergente Maurizio Mandolesi (75a Squadriglia) and Capitano Pinna. The fighters from the 23o Gruppo landed again at 16:00.
At 15:10 four Spitfires of 601 Squadron escorted Kittybombers over Daba, but their pilots then spotted at least 30 fighters which were escorting 30 CR.42s of the 50o Stormo to strafe positions at E1 Alamein, attacking many vehicles and armoured cars by dive-bombing. Just after these biplanes had completed their dives, they were attacked by a formation of fighters and combat commenced. Following several earlier missions, in the air at this time were eight bomb-carrying P-40Fs of the US 65th FS (15:10-16:35), escorted by eight more of the 64th FS.
According to the Luftwaffe, the Axis formation included Ju 87s, and also placed the number of CR.42s involved at 43 (the Allied units involved put the size of the biplane formation at 20-24!). Apart from the MC.202s, ten Bf 109s of II./JG 27 and eight of III./JG 27 had also taken off at 15:40 to take part in the escort. To add to the confusion, the Hurricanes of 33 Squadron were scrambled at 15:45 to intercept the raid, covered by 213 Squadron. These pilots reported that the biplanes were flying in four vics each of six aircraft, the vics following each other in line astern, and that they were just entering their dives at this point. The Germans reported that as the formation was assembling (or re-assembling) aircraft identified as ’Curtiss, Airacobras and four Spitfìres’ attacked; once more the reference to Airacobras seems to have been a give-away that US P-40Fs were involved. Oberleutnant Ernst Börngen (5./JG 27) claimed one Spitfire V north of Turbiya at 15:03 and a Hurricane II north-west of El Alamein at 15:32. Hauptmann Gustav Rödel (Stab II./JG 27) claimed one ’Airacobra/P-39’ at 15:05 north of El Daba. Hauptmann Gerhard Homuth (Stab I./JG 27) claimed a Spitfire V south of Bir Mumin Busak at 15:15. Leutnant Werner Schroer (8./JG 27) meanwhile, claimed three P-40s north-east of El Daba, north-east of Quotaifiya and north-west of Quotaifiya, all of which he reported crash-landed. Losses during this very busy combat included two Bf 109s, one flown by Oberfeldwebel Fritz Lüer of 6./JG 27 (Bf 109 F-4 WNr. 7151 Yellow 10), which crashed into the sea 15km north-east of El Daba with the pilot being KIA II.Gruppe and one of 8./JG 27 (Bf 109 F-4 WNr. 7489), which force-landed at Daba with 80 % damaged (pilot safe).
Meantime, the American pilots were enjoying a very successful engagement. The pilots of the 65th FS released their bombs on LG.20, having spotted about six Bf 109s. They then saw more than 20 CR.42s coming in from out to sea, heading south-west. These were intercepted and following a confused engagement claims were made for three shot down, three probables and three damaged. Captain Thomas Clark (P-40F #41) claimed one damaged, Lieutenant Harry Stanford (#43) claimed one probable, 1st Lieutenant Roy Whittaker (#54) claimed one destroyed, one probable and one damaged while 1st Lieutenant Gilbert Wymond (#48) claimed two destroyed, one probable and one damaged. During the fight Captain Marshall Sneed’s aircraft was attacked by a Bf 109 and was quite badly damaged, although he managed to return safely.
Meanwhile, six more P-40s, this time from the 66th FS (15:00-17:15), had been sent out to strafe MT on the coast road west of Mersa Matruh which their pilots had been unable to locate. Flying at 3 meters altitude, they spotted a lone CR.42 at about the same height which had apparently just taken off. Pulling up together, four of the pilots opened fire simultaneously at which the biplane turned sharply and landed, then being destroyed by a further burst. The pilot was seen to leap out but was fired on by 1st Lieutenant William Taylor (#74) and fell to the ground. The four pilots credited with this victory were 1st Lieutenant William Campbell (#77), 1st Lieutenant Taylor, 1st Lieutenant Thomas Tilley (#75) and Captain William Yates (#70).
At the same time the pilots of the 64th FS who were providing escort for the 65th FS fighter-bombers, observed a reported 20 Ju 87s approaching from the west without close escorts. Nonetheless, four Messerschmitts then appeared from the east and six more from out to sea. Some of these were engaged at 15:50 and Lieutenant Lyman Middleditch (#13) became the star of the day after claiming three Bf 109s:

“got in bursts on one Me, saw smoke come out, dove down on another e/a, missed this one, stayed near the deck trying to control the plane and saw the first e/a hit the deck. Was attacked by three e/a. Turned into them, one by one, and let them have good bursts. Hit first one and saw it hit the sea. Other two kept attacking. Got close bursts on second e/a in mid-section. E/a half rolled and went into sea. Last one kept attacking.”
By now Middleditch had only two guns firing, so continued to turn into ”e/a until it ‘pooped off'”. The last two aircraft were confirmed to have been shot down by Captain Burman. By then out of ammunition, he returned safely.
However, the Hurricane IIcs had also entered the fray, pilots of 213 Squadron (15:45-16:40) claiming one more CR.42, plus two probables and two damaged west of El Alamein, although one British aircraft was lost. The claims were made by Pilot Officer C. Luxton (Hurricane IIc HL613) who claimed one damaged, Sergeant D. J. McKay (BM354) who claimed one damaged east of LG.105, Pilot Officer G. R. S. McKay (BP507) who claimed one destroyed, Pilot Officer C. D. A. Smith (BP237) who claimed one probable and Sergeant W. G. Sweney (HL680) who claimed one probable. The lost Hurricane IIc (HL987) was reportedly shot down by MC.202s or CR.42 near El Alamein with the pilot, Flight Sergeant S. G. Brookes becoming PoW. It was probably against the Hurricanes that Leutnant Schroer gained his own big success (claimed as P-40s), for apart from the 127 Squadron aircraft, Squadron Leader R. M. Lloyd, the 243 Wing sweep leader and Pilot Officer Gardner (HV398) from 33 Squadron’s top flight were both shot down (Gardner KiA) and two more Hurricanes in the lower flight were damaged (both Sergeant F. J. Bateson and Sergeant M. D. Marcus safe). By this time the other 33 Squadron (15:40-16:35) pilots had spotted 40 or more Stukas west of El Alamein, claiming one shot down, one probable and one damaged before they were driven off. These claims were made by Flight Sergeant J. W. E. Belec (HL626/L) who claimed one probable, Flight Lieutenant O. C. ‘Sandy’ Kallio (HL654/Q) who claimed one destroyed and one damaged and Pilot Officer L. H. Peterson (BP130/R) who claimed one damaged. These dive-bombers had taken off at 15:55, escorted by 22 Bf 109s of the just-returned I./JG 27. The pilots of the latter reported combat with nine Spitfires, Hauptmann Homuth claiming one shot down (possibly one of the Hurricanes). It seems that only one Ju 87 suffered combat damage during the day when Ju 87 D-3 (WNr. 2387) was shot up by AA, suffering 30 % damage and crash-landing at El Daba with the pilot Unteroffizier Adolf Ebner KIA and the gunner safe.
According to Italian records, 30 CR.42s led by Tenente Colonnello Vosilla, the 50o Stormo commander, strafed enemy positions at El Alamein from 14:10-16:00. They were joined in this operation by 12 CR.42s of the 5o Stormo, led by Maggiore Carlo Alberto Rizzi (238a Squadriglia). Many vehicles and armoured cars were dive-bombed. Just after the dive, despite the intervention of the MC.202s of the 23o Gruppo, they were jumped by a formation of P-40s and a long fight ensued, where the biplanes apparently achieved some success. The 39la Squadriglia reported that they flew a mission between 14.10 and 15.05 with a formation of five CR.42s from the Squadriglia (equipped with three aircraft of their own and two borrowed from 389a and 390a Squadriglie) to attack armoured vehicles in the Tell el Tisa area. In this area the 9th Australian Division with support from 51st British Division and 1st British Armoured Division was attacked by the 164th German division at the Kidney Ridge. The 15th Panzer Division and the Littorio Division supported the German division. The Squadriglia became heavily engaged by enemy fighters and in the ensuing combat one P-40 was claimed by Tenente Pietro Vodret who also claimed a second as a damaged. His aircraft was then hit in the oil cooler and he is forced to make an emergency landing at El Ostegia. Tenente Francesco Jadanza claimed a P-40 and a second as a damaged while Sottotenente Armando Marini claimed a damaged. Also, Maggiore Rizzi, Capitano Edmondo Massi (238a Squadriglia) and Sottotenente Stelio Zaganelli (238a Squadriglia) scored some hits on the attacking fighters, while Maresciallo Urbano Suzzi (MM8936) of the 238a Squadriglia was shot down and crashed into the sea in flames (pilot MiA). Three CR.42s were forced to crash-land in Axis controlled territory, and eight returned damaged. The lost CR.42s were MM8856 from the 389a Squadriglia which force-landed but was later recovered (Tenente Mario Aimi safe), MM8851 from the 389a Squadriglia, force-landed near El Daba and later recovered (Sergente Maggiore Costante Cipitelli safe) and MM8491 from the 387a Squadriglia, which caught fire and crash-landed 60km south-east of El Daba; Capitano Bruno Rossoni was WiAand rescued the next day by a Fi 156 flown by Maggiore Simeone Marsan from the 4o Stormo.

As of 8 November 1942 (on the launch of Operation Torch in North Africa), Tenente Colonnello Vosilla served as CO of the 50o Stormo Assalto. The unit was based at Martuba, Libya, and equipped with eleven CR.42s.

In 1943, he served as commander of the 50o Stormo.

Vosilla ended the war with 3 shared biplane victories.
During the war, he was decorated with the Medaglia d’argento al valor militare, the Medaglia di bronzo al valor militare, the Croce di Guerra al valor militare, the Croce al merito di guerra, the Medaglia a ricordo dell’ Unità d’Italia, the Medaglia commemorativa operazioni militare in A. O. I. and the Medaglia di benemerenza per i volontari della guerra A. O. I.

Claims:
Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  1940                
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 18o Gruppo
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 18o Gruppo
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 18o Gruppo
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 18o Gruppo
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 18o Gruppo
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 18o Gruppo
  15/06/40 12:00- 1 ”Morane 406” (a) Shared damaged Fiat CR.42   Beau Champ area 18o Gruppo

Biplane victories: 3 shared destroyed, 4 shared damaged.
TOTAL: 3 shared destroyed, 4 shared damaged.
(a) Probably claimed in combat with Dewoitine D.520s from the GC III/6, which didn’t suffer any losses.

Sources:
53o Stormo - Marco Mattioli, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-977-5
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Two – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781909166127
Annuario Ufficiale Delle Forze Armate Del Regno D’Italia Anno 1943. Part III Regia Aeronautica – 1943 Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, Roma
L’Aéronautique navale francaise de septembre 1939 à juin 1940 (Hors série Avions nr.1) - Lucien Morareau, January 1994 Le La Presse, Boulogne sur Mer, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
La campagne de France, les combars franco-italiens 10 juin-25 juin (Batailles Aeriennes nr. 11) - Matthieu Comas, January 2000 Le La Presse, Boulogne sur Mer, kindly provided by Ludovico Slongo
Additional information kindly provided by Stefano Lazzaro and Ludovico Slongo.




Last modified 03 November 2022