Ramón Senra Àlvarez
In July 1936, Julio Salvador Díaz-Benjumea was sent to Gancedo’s squadron, at Tablada, and moved with them to Algeciras and Malaga on the morning on 18 July. Salvador then began flying in Nieuport 52s, and quickly moved to Burgos with Ramón Senra Àlvarez.
On 20 July, the first fighter operations in the south began at Tablada, with aircraft supplied by the Parque Regional (now Maestranza Aerea). On the same day brigada Senra was instructed to take Nieuport aircraft No 66 to Tetuan, and while he was there capitán Manrique Montero suggested that they should join forces to try and form a fighter squadron. Senra would not fall in with this suggestion as he had orders to return to his base at Tablada.
In August, a small fighter squadron was formed in Burgos and for a brief period it was under the command of capitán Chamorro, although he soon went on to pilot Dragon Rapides and an Airspeed Envoy, in which he was killed whilst escorting General Mola. Pilots who flew with this squadron included Julio Salvador, Miguel Guerrero García, Martín Campos and Senra, tenientes Miguel García Pardo and Ramiro Pasual, and occasionally capitán Ángel Salas.
In the middle of August, Ángel Salas collected the only Fokker XII to arrive in Vitoria, and ferried this to the Dragon-Fokker Group in Burgos.
He then flew to Saragossa with a Nieuport 52.
During the succeeding days Salas operated at Teruel and Senra at Huesca.
The all-Spanish Fiat Grupo, with the designation 2-G-3, was formed in Cordoba on 4 May 1937 from the escuadrillas led by capitán Joaquín García Morato and capitán Ángel Salas (2-E-3). Morato assumed command of the Grupo, and Julio Salvador took over leadership of Morato’s old escuadrilla (1-E-3).
This had been made possible after a further consignment of eight CR.32s had been passed on to the Nationalist air force in April 1937, and they joined the five previously handed over four months earlier to form the basis of the first Spanish grupo equipped with Fiat fighters. Grupo 2-G-3 consisted of 13 aircraft and 15 pilots, which were divided into two escuadrillas of six fighters each. The final CR.32 was Morato’s personal (3-51).
Of the pilots assigned to its escuadrillas, two of them had previously served as wingmen in the Patrulla Azul, while the remaining 12 were chosen according to their experience in fighters.
Teniente Julio Salvador (CO)
Teniente Miguel Guerrero García
Alférez Manuel Vázquez Sagastizábal
Alférez Arístides García López Rengel
Alférez Rafael Mazarredo Trenor
Alférez Jesús Rubio Paz
Capitán Ángel Salas
Capitán Narciso Bermúdes de Castro
Capitán Javier Murcia Rubio
Teniente Miguel García Pardo
Alférez Javier Allende Isasi
Alférez Joaquín Ansaldo Vejarano
Alférez Jorge Muntadas Claramunt
Around midday on 24 March 1938, 18 Fiats from all six Spanish CR.32 escuadrillas led by capitán Ángel Salas provided escort for the He 51s and SM.79s attacking Quinto. Between Quinto and Farlete they encountered eleven Ratas and 30 Chatos. In the ensuing combats four Chatos were claimed; capitán Salas, alférez Arístides García López Rengel (1-E-3), brigada Senra (1-E-3) and Rúiz Jiménez each claiming one. Teniente José Jurado González (3-E-3), flying Fiat No 3-104, was killed in action when Republican fighters shot him down between Caspe and Quinto.
Legion Condor Bf 109s also joined the fray, while He 51s flown by Spanish pilots performed ground attack missions below the swirling dogfight and one of the He 51s were destroyed, although its pilot survived.
At the end of this air battle, Salas almost succeeded in capturing a Chato. He had attacked one of the enemies and, although unable to destroy the machine, he so clearly held the upper hand that the Chato pilot descended to a low altitude and was making for Nationalist lines, with Salas in close attendance. Just as the Chato was about to land, it was attacked by a Bf 109B (No 51) flown by Oberleutnant Wolfgang Schellmann, staffelkapitän of 1.J/88, and destroyed, prompting Salas to lodge a formal complaint with the Legion Condor.
The German Bf 109s from 1.J/88 claimed two more I-15s in this combat when Leutnant Fritz Awe and Unteroffizier Alfred Stark claimed one I-15 each.
Totally the CR.32 pilots claimed four I-15s and five probable and the Bf 109s were credited with three I-15s.
In this battle Government aircraft Nos. CA-006, CA-032, CA-037 and CA-052, piloted respectively by Antonio Sánchez, Benigno Domingo Hueso, Jesús Pérez Pérez and Fernando Villins León, were destroyed and the pilots KIA; teniente Francisco Viñals Guarro and Elías Hernández flying machines Nos. CC-030 and CC-027 collided; and Alfredo Dealbert, aircraft No. CA-038 force-landed outside the airfield.
Teniente Viñals of the 2a/26 had sortied from Pomar de Cinca airfield and he bailed out and landed between Pina and Osera.
The Government Air Force had not previously lost so many aircraft in a single battle. The Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed four CR.32s and one Bf 109 with one CR.32 and one He 51 as probably destroyed.
On 16 June 1938, the pilots of the first fighter course held in the Nationalist zone were graduated. The large number of accidents caused by new and inexperienced Fiat pilots in December and January had showed that it was essential to set up a school of this type.
Gallur was chosen as the aerodrome and Maggiore Guido Nobili and teniente Senra (from Group 2-G-3), were posted there as instructors.
The first fighter course lasted for two months and was attended by 22 pupils. Of these, six were sent to 2-G-3 (José Luis Bernal de Mérida, José M.a Etayo Elizondo, Luis Alcocer Moreno Abellá, Antonio Manrique Garrido, Abundio Cesteros García and Diego Vigueras), eight to 3-G-3 (Heraclio Gautier Larrainzar, Enrique Munaiz de Brea, Fernando Arrechea Belzunce, Carracido, Acuña, Alonso Fariña, P. Téllez Rivas and Epelde), and of the remainder four were posted to fly He 51s, three to the He 45s and one to the Aero 101s.
Senra ended the war with 4 biplane victories.
|Kill no.||Date||Time||Number||Type||Result||Plane type||Serial no.||Locality||Unit|
|?||24/03/38||midday||1||I-15 (a)||Destroyed||CR.32||Quinto area||1-E-3|
Biplane victories: 4 destroyed.
TOTAL: 4 destroyed.
(a) The Nationalist side claimed seven I-15s (4 by Spanish CR.32s and 3 by 1.J/88) while losing one CR.32 and one He 51. The Government admitted the loss of 6 and 1 force-landed while the Escuadra de Caza No 11 claimed four CR.32s and one Bf 109 with one CR.32 and one He 51 as probably destroyed.
Air Aces - Christopher Shores, 1983 Presidio Press, Greenwich, ISBN 0-89141-166-6
Air War over Spain - Jesus Salas Larrazabal, 1974 Ian Allan Ltd, Shepperton, Surrey, ISBN 0-7110-0521-4
Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Joaquin Garcia-Morato - Best Ace of Spanish Civil War (WWII Ace Stories) - Mihail Zhirohov, 2003
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A. Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4
The Legion Condor - Karl Ries and Hans Ring, 1992 Schiffer Publishing, ISBN 0-88740-339-5
Wings Over Spain - Emiliani Ghergo, 1997 Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milano
Additional information kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso and Ondrej Repka.