Biplane fighter aces


Capitán Alfonso Jiménez Bruguet

The Soviet command in Spain eventually permitted the best Spanish fighter pilots to join the two escuadrillas that had been established upon the I-15s’ arrival. Aviators such as Andrés García La Calle, Fernando Roig Villalta and Augusto Martín Campos soon began flying the biplanes, and although the latter pilot was quickly dismissed because the Soviet command did not trust him, further Spanish pilots joined the escuadrillas. They included José Cuartero, Emilio Galera, Jesús García Herguido, Alfonso Jiménez Bruguet, Manuel Aguirre López, Roberto Alonso Santamaría and Rafael Robledano Ruiz.
Andrés García La Calle was transferred to the 1a Escuadrilla de “Chatos” at Alcalá de Henares, in Madrid, commanded by the Russian volunteer, Pavel Rychagov in October and with this unit, he took part in the defence of Madrid from 4 November 1936.

In November, the Soviet I-15 escuadrilla (1a/Gr.26) led by kapitan Pavel Rychagov at Alcalá de Henares, in Madrid, included tenientes Andrés García La Calle (he was promoted to teniente during November), Roberto Alonso Santamaría, López Trinidad, Galera Macías, Cuartero Pozo, Guaza Marín, Roig Villalta, Jesús García Herguido, Alfonso Jiménez Bruguet, Manuel Aguirre López and Robledano Ruiz. The escuadrilla fought on the Madrid front.

On 2 February 1937, Leitenant Yemel’yan Kondrat and capitán Jiménez claimed a shared SM.81 over Malaga.

Frank Tinker took off in an I-15 (CA-056) from Guadalajara on 14 March. During the two-hour mission he claimed one CR.32 before landing at Valencia.
A second CR.32 was claimed as a shared by capitán Jiménez and Vladimir Puzeikin over Trijueque in the Guadalajara area.

Capitán Andrés García La Calle’s 1a Escuadrilla participated in the battle of Guadalajara in March, during which “Escuadrilla La Calle” suffered the loss of teniente piloto Antonio Blanch Latorre of the Aeronautica Naval. Guatemalan pilot Manuel García Granados was also shot down on 20 March.
Following the conclusion of the battle on 23 March, La Calle was succeeded by capitán Jiménez for a short period.

In May significant fighter reinforcements had to be sent to the threatened Northern front. Two Spanish I-15 Chato units were moved via France, one led by capitán Jiménez and the second commanded by capitán Javier Jover Rovira. In both cases the aircraft were stopped by the French authorities at Pau and Toulouse.
One of the units was 2a/16, which made a first attempt to fly north on 8 May. This effort wasn’t successful and included sargento Manuel Zarauza Clavero in I-15 ‘54’, who landed in Toulouse.
On 17 May the unit again attempted to fly north via France, with mayor Antonio Martín Luna-Lersundi leading in a DC-2. The formation crossed the Pyrenees in a snowstorm, but despite poor visibility alferéz Juan Comas Borrás stuck to the DC-2’s tail, followed by the other I-15 fighter pilots. However, the patrulla comprising teniente Angel Cristiá and sargentos Manuel Zarauza Clavero (returned due to engine problems) and José Marín had to return to Lerida. The remaining I-15 pilots, meanwhile, landed safely at Pont-Long airfield, in Pau (including teniente Gerardo Gil Sánchez flying I-15 ‘31’), and two days later they were allowed to return to Spain.
Finally, two forces, commanded by teniente Gerardo Gil Sánchez (six I-15s arriving on 22 May) and teniente José Riverola Grúas (ten I-15s arriving 24 May), managed to reach Santander and Bilbao from Madrid.
The two forces were the former Grupo No 16 and was led by teniente Riverola. One of the pilots flying with Riverola´s patrulla was sargento Rafael Magriña Vidal in I-15 ‘62’. The only patrulla that managed to land at La Albericia airfield was comprised of Comas, Alarcón and Palomar. Sargento Zarauza turned back with engine trouble just after crossing the Sierra in Madrid, while teniente José Bastida ditched off San Sebastian and was captured. The other aircraft, led by Riverola, landed at Sondica.
On arrival Riverola became CO of the Escuadrilla de Caza del Norte.

Jiménez ended the Spanish Civil War with with 2 shared biplane victories.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  02/02/37   1/2 SM.81 Shared destroyed I-15   Malaga Escuadrilla Rychagov
  14/03/37   1/2 CR.32 Shared destroyed I-15   Trijueque, Guadalajara area 1a/16

Biplane victories: 2 shared destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 shared destroyed.

Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War - Alfredo Logoluso, 2010 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84603-983-6
Soviet airmen in the Spanish civil war 1936-1939 - Paul Whelan, 2014 Schiffer Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-0-7643-0
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4

Last modified 25 May 2019