Unit: 84 Squadriglia, 10 Gruppo, 4 Stormo
Serial: 84-12 (MM7919)
Pilot - Sqn CO Capt. Franco Lucchini, Northern Africa. This aircraft forced landed on October 24th, 1942 after aerial combat over El-Alamein.
Camouflage: Verde Mimetico 2; later it was repainted Nicciola Chiaro 4. Undersides: Grigio Azzuro Chiaro. Lucchini Franco
Artist: © Krzysztof Wolowski Source: 'Macchi C.202 Folgore' by Przemislaw Skulsky. Published in Poland in 2005 by STRATUS Artur Juszczak, Po. Box 123, 27-600 Sandomierz 1, Poland for Mushroom Model Publications. (c) 2005 Mushroom Model Publications. ISBN 83-89450-06-2.
Macchi C.202 Folgore 4° Stormo 10° Gruppo 84° Squadriglia 84-1 flown by Sqn CO Capt. Franco Lucchini, Fuka, Northern Africa, September-October 1942
Unit: 84 Squadriglia, 10 Gruppo, 4 Stormo
Serial: 84-1 (MM7720)
Pilot - Sqn CO Capt. Franco Lucchini, Fuka, Northern Africa, September-October 1942. Camouflage: Verde Mimetico 2; later it was repainted Nicciola Chiaro 4. Note: cowling from other aircraft (probably '84-12').
Artist: © Krzysztof Wolowski Source: 'Macchi C.202 Folgore' by Przemislaw Skulsky. Published in Poland in 2005 by STRATUS Artur Juszczak, Po. Box 123, 27-600 Sandomierz 1, Poland for Mushroom Model Publications. (c) 2005 Mushroom Model Publications. ISBN 83-89450-06-2.
Macchi C.202 Folgore 4° Stormo 10° Gruppo 84° Squadriglia 84-7 flown by tenente Alessandro Valignani Campoformido, Italy, Spring 1942
Unit: 84 Squadriglia, 10 Gruppo, 4 Stormo
Pilot - tenente Alessandro Valignani. Campoformido, Italy, Spring 1942.
Artist: © Roberto Gualdoni Source: "Aermacchi C.202" by Gianni Cattaneo and Giovanni Massimello. Ali d'Italia. Collana di monografie aeronautiche diretta da Giorgio Apostolo. (c) La Bancarella Aeronautica - Torino, 2006.
Capitano Franco Lucchini
Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare
24 December 1914 – 5 July 1943
Franco Lucchini was born in Rome on 24 December 1914, son of a railway official. As a child, he was fascinated by aviation. At the age of sixteen, he took out a glider licence. At eighteen, he had his first, harmless, flying accident.
In 1935, he enrolled in Regia Aeronautica as a Reserve Officer, with the rank of Sottotenente Pilota di Complemento. In July the following year he gained the military flight licence at Foggia flying school and in August 1936 he was assigned to 91a Squadriglia, X Gruppo, 4o Stormo C.T. at Gorizia. At this time, the unit was led by Capitano Mario Rossi and was passing from Fiat CR.30s to CR.32s.
In 1937, Lucchini volunteered for the Spanish Civil War, and on 22 July, he left Ostia to Cadiz on a cargo ship. He was assigned to the 19a Squadriglia, XXIII Gruppo Caccia Aviazione Legionaria, based at Torrido.
This Gruppo had been formed on 22 April 1937, under the command of Maggiore Andrea Zotti. It was named 'Asso di Bastoni' ('Ace of Clubs') after its badge. The three Squadriglie were the 18a Squadriglia (Capitano Guido Nobili 'Notabili'), the 19a Squadriglia (Capitano Enrico Degli Incerti 'Tocci') and the 20a Squadriglia (Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni 'Laimo').
In Spain, Franco Lucchini used nom de guerre 'Franco Lunigiano'. He soon became renowned for having an exceptional sharpness of sight, which allowed him to spot the enemy far before his companions.
On 28 September, XXIII Gruppo transferred to Almaluèz, near Belchite.
On 12 October, the Republican Air Force intervened heavily to support International battalions and tanks in an attempt to break through the enemy lines at Fuentes del Ebro.
During the day, the VI Gruppo lost a good part of numerical, considering that part of the 31a Squadriglia had previously been detached to Cordoba. Therefore, immediately the same morning, the Comando dell'Aviazione Legionaria ordered the XXIII Gruppo to transfer to Sanjurio (Zaragoza).
At 10.30, 29 CR.32s led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti, took off from Almaluèz and arrived over Sanjurio around noon. However, before landing, Maggiore Zotti decided to lead his pilots to explore the area between Villafranca and Fuentes del Ebro. Here they spotted four Polikarpov RZ 'Natachas' escorted by nine I-16s 'Ratas' (above them) and 15 I-15 'Curtiss' (below them). The Italian fighters attacked the Republican aircraft and at the end of the dogfight, that lasted about fifteen minutes, the Italians claimed seven (eleven according to other sources) fighters destroyed for no losses, although several CR.32s were hit and damaged. Combat was very hard for the Italians because their fighters were weighted by pilots' personal luggage. Pilots that scored, either individually or jointly, were Sergente Giuseppe Mottet (20a Squadriglia) (1 I-16), Sottotenente Giampiero Del Prete, Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni (CO of the 20a Squadriglia), Sergente Francesco Penna, Sottotenente Aldo Felici, Capitano Enrico Degli Incerti (CO of the 19a Squadriglia) (1 I-16), Sottotenente Pio Tomaselli (19a Squadriglia), Lucchini, Capitano Guido Nobili (CO of the 18a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Carmello (18a Squadriglia), Sergente Carlo Dentis, Sottotenente Giuseppe Enrico Zuffi, Sergente Federico Tassinari (19a Squadriglia), Sergente Maggiore Alfonso Mattei and Sottotenente Bruno Trevisan. It seems that Lucchini's, Tassinari's and Mattei's claims was a shared between these three pilots.
On 7 January 1938, he claimed a shared R-Z.
On 13 January 1938, the XXIII Gruppo transferred to Bello airfield.
On 21 February, all the serviceable Polikarpovs took off to try to oppose Nationalist bombers during the Battle of Alfambra. At 10:20, the Spanish Nationalist pilots Garcia Pardo and Allende took off on a routine reconnaissance flight over the Teruel front. There they discovered 20 'Chatos' and a similar number of 'Ratas' in combat with a few Bf109Bs. When Pardo and Allende went to assistance of the Messerschmitts, the German pilots failed to recognise them as allies and opened fire on them. They beat a hasty retreat, calling into battle another formation of CR.32s before continuing with their reconnaissance.
This new formation comprised 24 CR.32s of the XXIII Gruppo, led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti. At 11:04 over Teruel when they spotted about 40 Republican fighters split in three formations with I-15 'Chatos' at 3,500 and 4,000 meters, and I-16 'Moscas' at 5000 meters. The Republican fighters were already in combat with 17 Bf109s. Zotti immediately chased them, and sent part of the Gruppo to attack the 'Chatos', which tried to evade as they were over Republican lines. At Puebla de Valverde, the 'Moscas' intervened, but they were faced by the rest of the XXIII Gruppo, which at the end claimed two 'Chatos' and a 'Mosca' destroyed. One of the I-15s was claimed by Lucchini. The Gruppo lost Capitano Carlos Haya Gonzales, a Spanish pilot of the 19a Squadriglia, who collided with the 'Chato' of Sergeant Manuel Orozco Ovira, which he was pursuing. Haya fell near Puerto de Escadiòn, and was posthumously awarded with a Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare. Haya had arrived just as the Gruppo was about to take off after having attending his mothers funeral. Despite Zotti's opposition, he had insisted on taking his place in the formation.
The German pilots of J/88 claimed seven I-16s when 1 staffel claimed three near La Pueblé (Leutnants Fritz Awe, Hans-Karl Mayer and Erich Woitke) and 2 staffel claimed four near Sarrion and Teruel (Unteroffizier Herbert Ihlefeld, Leutnant Edgar Rempel, Unteroffizier Kurt Rochel and Oberleutnant Joachim Schlichting).
The Republican Air Force claimed that during three operations during the day, they had shot down five Bf109s, seven CR.32s and 1 twin-engined aircraft. Their own losses were quoted as two I-16s, which failed to return to base and two others which were damaged and whose pilots were injured. Sergeant Manuel Orozco Ovira, who managed to fly his aircraft back to base after its tail had been destroyed was recommended an award for outstanding bravery and skill.
In March, the Squadriglia COs of the XXIII Gruppo were Capitano Marco Larker (18a Squadriglia), Capitano Ettore Foschini (19a Squadriglia) and Capitano Carlo Calosso (20a Squadriglia). The new Gruppo CO was Maggiore Ciro Ajello.
On 14 March, around 09:00, 24 CR.32s of the XXIII Gruppo were surprised by 20 I-15s and 28 I-16s while strafing Republican troops east of Alcañiz. Four CR.32s were shot down: Maggiore Ciro Ajello, Sottotenente Luigi Armanino, Sottotenente Mario Montefusco ('Minervi') (24 Squadriglia, XVI Gruppo) and Sottotenete Alberto Brondi ('Buona'). Armanino returned home the following day, Montefusco and Brondi became POWs, and Ajello, who had been captured, escaped after having convinced his demoralized captors to release him!
Lucchini has previously been credited with two victories during the day but the XXIII Gruppo made no claims during the day.
The following day, at 17:00 on 15 March, fighters of the XXIII Gruppo again led by Maggiore Andrea Zotti, who had been called back to lead the unit, attacked twelve SBs escorted by 20 I-15s and 15 I-16s. The CR.32s claimed two I-15s and two I-16s. The bombers turned back without completing their mission, but one fell near Castelseras. During the combat, Lucchini was hit and shot down. He parachuted and hid in a cave, watching Republican militiamen looking for him. Only under the cover of darkness, he could reach Nationalist lines.
On 4 April, the Gruppo transferred to Puig Moreno.
On 20 July, XXIII Gruppo transferred to Teruel.
Sottotenente Lucchini while checking the route before a mission, at Teruel airfield in early summer 1938. His aircraft was '3-6' of the 19a Squadriglia, XXIII Gruppo.
During his tour in Spain, he is reputed to have flown 122 missions claiming 5 victories. He was also awarded with one Medaglia d'argento al valore militare and a promotion to Career Officer.
However his claims in Spain is surrounded with some controversy and resent research by Italian historians can only credit him with one victory and two shared during his time in Spain and this confirms a print clip, that appeared in Italian papers following his early successes in WW2, that speaks of him as a brave pilot with 'a personal victory obtained in Spain plus other collective'. In a book dedicated to him (Le giovani aquile by A. Trizzino, published in 1972) there is a reference of a single victory in Spain. The Lucchini's victories in Spain were possibly overestimated well after the end of the war, probably to establish him as the 'Baracca della seconda guerra mondiale'.
When the civil war ended he came back to 10° Gruppo, 4o Stormo C.T., at first with 91a Squadriglia, then with 90a Squadriglia from April 1940.
When Italy declared war on the Great Britain and France in June 1940 he served with the unit in Libya on the Front of Marmarica. At the time the unit was equipped with the Fiat CR.42.
In June 1940 the 90a Squadriglia was composed of the following pilots: Capitano Renzo Maggini (CO), Tenente Lucchini, Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Maresciallo Omero Alesi, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini, Sergente Amleto Monterumici, Sergente Silvio Crociati, Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo, Sergente Bruno Bortoletti, Sergente Paolo Guillet and Sergente Ernesto Keller.
14 June saw the first combats between opposing RAF and Regia Aeronautica fighters over North Africa. This was caused because the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert's Own), joined by elements of 4th Armoured Brigade and 1st Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps, assaulted Fort Capuzzo and Fort Maddalena (the two most important Italian frontier posts). The offensive was supported by attacks by Blenheims from 45, 55, 113 and 211 Squadrons. During early morning on 14 June, the 4o Stormo recorded its first victory and maybe this was the first clash between fighters from the Regia Aeronautica and the RAF.
A patrol of five aircraft of the 90a Squadriglia (Capitano Renzo Maggini, Tenente Giovanni Guiducci (a close friend to Lucchini), Tenente Lucchini, Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta and a fifth unknown pilot) was up, heading for the border when, at the height of 4000 metres over Buq Buq, Lucchini, famous for his exceptional eyesight, saw in the distance some small dots going eastwards.
Slowly, one of the dots remained behind his colleagues and revealed itself as a Gladiator.
Maggini, Guiducci and Lucchini, flying in a 'vic' formation, started to pursue the British fighter. Maggini and Lucchini on the flanks denied to him any evasive manoeuvre till he was left with the only option to nose dive. Guiducci, who occupied the central position in the formation and had an aircraft with the engine well tuned up, followed the Gloster in the dive, opening fire from the distance of 200 metres at the height of 1500 metres.
The British fighter caught fire and fell down in the sea off Sollum; the pilot was not seen to bale out. Initially the victory was assigned to the three pilots 'shared'. In fact it was a victory of Guiducci.
At dawn on 21 June, a Short Sunderland appeared over Tobruk harbour. Sergente Roberto Steppi of the 84a Squadriglia took off immediately and intercepted the seaplane 20 kilometres north of Tobruk were it already was under attack of two CR.32s flown by Tenente Ranieri Piccolomini and Tenente Giorgio Savoia of the 92a Squadriglia, which had scrambled from Tobruk T2 at 04:30. Diving on the Sunderland, Steppi opened fire aiming at the cockpit but after two bursts of fire, his guns jammed and he was obliged to leave the pursuit.
Tenente Lucchini of the 90a Squadriglia took off after Steppi and joined the fight, following the Sunderland far out over open sea and leaving it off coast with two engines smoking.
Neither Lucchini nor Steppi claimed any victory but, two days later, on 23 June, news arrived from the Navy base at Bardia, that the Sunderland, heavily damaged, had been forced to ditch in the sea off the coast and had been captured with all the crew dead except from the pilot, who was wounded. The victory was assigned to the four pilots collectively although it should be attributed to Lucchini.
This was the first reported Italian meeting with the lumbering Sunderland and its overall dimensions made a strong impression on them. Asked about his feelings during the combat, the 'Archduke', as Piccolomini was playfully nicknamed by his comrades, stated graphically – 'That was not a plane, that was a tram'.
According to British records, the intruder on the evening on 20 June was a 228 Squadron Sunderland (N9025/Y) piloted by Acting Flight Lieutenant T. M. W. Smith DFC and Flying Officer D. R. S. Bevan-John. The British crew reported heavy AA during an evening reconnaissance of Tobruk's harbour and landed at Alexandria by night, undamaged.
Then the attack of the Bombay followed and finally at 02:20, Sunderland L2160/X of 230 Squadron piloted by Wing Commander G. Francis and Flight Lieutenant Garside, took off from Alexandria for a reconnaissance of Tobruk's harbour. Over Tobruk they were intercepted by a reportedly four CR.32s or CR.42s claiming one of them shot down while the others broke off after a 15 minutes engagement. L2160 was however heavily damaged by explosive bullets (0.52'' diameter), principal damage being a large hole in hull (6'' x 8''). The fuel tanks were also extensively holed but these were stopped in air with plasticize.
From Alexandria L2166/U took off at 08:05 piloted by Flight Lieutenant Alington to escort L2160 as a safety aircraft in case it was unable to make it back. It was however unable to join with 'X', which in turn landed in Alexandria at 08:30 and was immediately put on the slipway of Imperial Airways for repairs (the aircraft was back in action on 9 July).
L2160 was undoubtedly the plane attacked by Piccolomini, Savoia, Steppi and Lucchini while there is the strong possibility that the aircraft ditched off Bardia was in fact the 216 Squadron's Bombay (perhaps previously hit by AA fire) that was incorrectly reported as a Sunderland and originated the Italian fighter's claim.
At 16:00 on 24 July, a formation of eleven CR.42s from the 10° Gruppo, backed by six more from the 13° Gruppo took off to patrol the Bir el Gobi – Sidi Omar – Sollum – Bardia area. Leading the 10° Gruppo formation was Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli (using an aircraft from the 91a Squadriglia) and with him were Tenente Lucchini, Maresciallo Omero Alesi and and Tenente Giovanni Guiducci of the 90a Squadriglia, Capitano Luigi Monti, Capitano Aldo Lanfranco, Tenente Vincenzo Vanni and Tenente Giuseppe Aurili of the 84a Squadriglia, Tenente Enzo Martissa, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato and Sergente Luigi Ferrario of the 91a Squadriglia. Pilots from the 13° Gruppo were Tenente Giulio Torresi, Tenente Eduardo Sorvillo and Sergente Maggiore Ernesto Scalet of the 77a Squadriglia, Sergente Francesco Nanin of the 82a Squadriglia and Capitano Giuseppe Dall'Aglio with Sottotenente Dario Magnabosco of the 78a Squadriglia.
During the patrol they met a British formation estimated to nine Blenheims, which was attacking Bardia, escorted by 15 Gladiators. The CR.42s attacked the bombers and was in turn attacked by the British escort. Tenente Lucchini was the first to enter combat and damaged three of the British bombers by using 510 rounds of ammunition while the others were dispersed. Tenente Guiducci claimed a Gladiator using 90 rounds of ammunition. The CR.42s of the 84a Squadriglia remained manoeuvring in close formation until a 90a Squadriglia aircraft (Lucchini?) drove them against the enemies breaking their formation. Three aircraft from the squadriglia returned to base one by one Tenente Giuseppe Aurili met three Gladiators and damaged one. Capitano Lanfranco became isolated and, attacked by a reported three enemy fighters, was shot down and obliged to bale out in the Sidi Azeiz area. A British patrol took him prisoner a little later. Lanfranco was one of the oldest pilots of the 4o and a few days later a British message was thrown down near Tobruk, telling that he was wounded in Alexandria hospital. Tenente Martissa forced an enemy fighter to force-land then, coming back to base, saw his wingman in difficulties against the determined attack of an enemy fighter and, even with his guns jammed, attacked it, forcing the Gladiator to break away. Sergente Ferrario returned to base with a damaged fighter. According to some sources Tenente Lucchini is credited with an additional Gladiator during the day, but this can't be verified with the Squadriglie's Diaries.
Tenente Giulio Torresi claimed another Gladiator with 250 rounds of ammunition. No losses were suffered by the 13° Gruppo formation, which landed back at base between 17:25 and 18:05.
It seems that the Italian formation had been involved in combat with five Gladiators from 'B' Flight of the 33 Squadron flown by Flying Officer Ernest Dean (Gladiator L9046), Pilot Officer Alfred Costello (N5776), Pilot Officer Vernon Woodward (N5768), Sergeant Ronald Slater (N5783) and Sergeant Shaw (N5775), which had taken off from Sidi Barrani at 17:40 and met a reported 18 CR.42s over Sollum at 18:30. In the combat Woodward claimed one of the enemy aircraft shot down and a second as a probable. Slater claimed a second CR.42 destroyed while Costello claimed a third. One more CR.42s were claimed by the other pilots and since Dean doesn't seems to have claimed anything during the day it is possible that this was claimed by Shaw but it haven't been possible to verify this. During the return flight Shaw was forced to land east of Bug Bug with engine troubles probably caused by combat damage (probably the aircraft claimed by Martissa). Enemy bombing soon afterwards destroyed his aircraft on the ground, although he rejoined his unit unharmed after a long walk across the desert. The other pilots from 33 Squadron landed back at base between 18:55 and 19:35.
On 28 July Tenente Lucchini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta of the 90a Squadriglia and Giuseppe Scaglioni of the 84a Squadriglia took off from El Adem following an air alarm and intercepted three Bristol Blenheims. One bomber was shot down, another so heavily damaged that the Italian pilots claimed it would not made it back while the third escaped. While landing back at base Scaglioni's aircraft, damaged in the engine and with a wheel pierced by the return fire of the Blenheims, capsized and was written off. The two victories were shared among the three pilots.
They had intercepted Blenheim Mk.IFs of 30 Squadron, which were out to escort Blenheim MK.IVs of 113 Squadron on reconnaissance missions over the border area. A couple of Blenheim Mk.IFs (K7099 piloted by Flight Sergeant Innes-Smith and K7178) escorted a reconnaissance Blenheim of 113 Squadron taking off at 06:10, while another couple (K7106 piloted by Flying Officer D. R. Walker and K7120 piloted by Pilot Officer S. N. Pearce) escorted another reconnaissance Blenheim of 113 Squadron. The first couple immediately became separated in low clouds and while Innes-Smith continued alone trying to rejoin his formation, the other two aircraft were intercepted by a reportedly five CR.32s. One of the 30 Squadron Blenheims (K7178) was shot down, killing the crew (pilot 21-year-old Flight Lieutenant Ian Cheesman Swann (RAF no. 39950), observer 32-year-old Pilot Officer Herbert Paul Greenwood Fisher (RAF no. 78443) and wireless operator/air gunner 23-year-old Sergeant John Young (RAF no. 523927)). The Blenheim from 113 Squadron returned to base badly damaged reportedly (incorrectly) by anti-aircraft fire. The other Blenheims became separated too and Walker, who remained with the reconnaissance Blenheim, met another reconnaissance aircraft 'very badly damaged by machine gun and pom-pom fire' five miles from Bardia. He escorted it as far as 20 miles south of Sidi El Barrani, while at 07:40, Pearce encountered a CR.42, which he tried to attack but without success due to the manoeuvrability of his opponent. He was then chased for a short while by three CR.32s or CR.42s, landing finally at Ma'aten Bagush at 09:15.
On 1 August, Tenente Lucchini, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo and Sergente Bruno Bortoletti, all of the 90a Squadriglia went to Tmini M2 airfield (around 100km west of Tobruk near the Gulf of Bomba) on alarm duty.
During the morning on 4 August, 80 Squadrons 'B' Flight received a signal from the headquarters to provide four Gladiators to escort a Lysander from 208 Squadron, which was to observe enemy troops movement at Bir Taieb el Esem on the other side of the Libyan border. 'Pat' Pattle (Gladiator Mk.I K7910) decided to lead the escort and took with him Flying Officer Peter Wykeham-Barnes (L8009), Pilot Officer Johnny Lancaster (K7923) and Sergeant Kenneth George Russell Rew (RAF no. 526687) (Gladiator K7908). They took of at 17:15 and reached the rendezvous point in ten minutes where they found the Lysander circling at 6000 feet. Wykeham-Barnes and Rew took up a position about 3000 feet above and immediately behind the Lysander, whilst Pattle and Lancaster climbed 1000 feet higher on the starboard flank. The aircraft crossed the border a few miles south of Sidi Omar twenty minutes later and followed the sand tracks leading to their target.
During the same morning eleven CR.42s of the 97a Squadriglia went from Benghazi-Berka to El Adem T3 to participate, together with twelve other CR.42s from the 96a Squadriglia, which had arrived the previous day, and with nine CR.42s of the 10° Gruppo, in an aerial covering flight of the 2a Divisione Libica of Regio Esercito. This Division was marching from Bir el Gobi to Gabr Saleh.
A concentration of British armoured vehicles was discovered in the Bir Sheferzen area, around 30 kilometres south-west of Sollum, near the border where a logistic outpost of the Western Desert Force was located and consequently an air attack was planned.
At 16:50, a formation of assault aircraft of the 50o Stormo took off together with an escorting group of Fiat CR.42 fighters of the 4o Stormo heading for it. The assault aircraft took off from Tobruk T2bis and were twelve aircraft of the resident 12° Gruppo Assalto. They included six Breda Ba.65/A80s of the 159a Squadriglia, armed with 2kg bombs (the Bredas could carry up to 168 of these small calibre bombs) commanded by the Squadriglia Commander Capitano Antonio Dell'Oro and flown by Tenente Adriano Visconti, Tenente Fioravante Montanari (who led the second section), Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Bianchelli, Sergente Maggiore Gianni Pappalepore and Sergente Maggiore Paolo Perno. The other six were Fiat CR.32quaters of the 160a Squadriglia, armed with eight 2kg bombs and divided in two groups of three. The first group led by Capitano Duilio Fanali (Squadriglia CO) included Sottotenente Giuseppe Mezzatesta and Sergente Maggiore Corrado Sarti as wingmen while the second group was lead by Sottotenente Giuseppe Rossi with Sottotenente Mirko Erzetti and Maresciallo Romolo Cantelli as wingmen.
The Italian fighter escort took off from El Adem T3 and was composed of 31 CR.42s (ten from the 97a Squadriglia, eleven from the 96a Squadriglia, one from the 73a Squadriglia and nine from the 10° Gruppo). At the head of the two formations were Maggiore Ernesto Botto (in the aircraft from the 73a Squadriglia) and Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli. Pilots from the 97a Squadriglia were Capitano Antonio Larsimont Pergameni, Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro, Sergente Franco Sarasino, Sottotenente Riccardo Vaccari, Sergente Angelo Golino, Sottotenente Jacopo Frigerio, Sergente Maggiore Otello Perotti, Maresciallo Vanni Zuliani, Sergente Maggiore Raffaello Novelli and Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore. Pilots from the 10° Gruppo were apart from Maggiore Romagnoli, Capitano Giuseppe D'Agostinis, Tenente Enzo Martissa, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali and Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato from the 91a Squadriglia, Capitano Luigi Monti and Tenente Giuseppe Aurili from the 84a Squadriglia and Tenente Lucchini and Sergente Amleto Monterumici from the 90a Squadriglia.
The two Italian formations met at a rendezvous point twenty kilometres east of El Adem and then headed for the target. The 4o Stormo's aircraft flew at heights between 3500 and 4500 meters, the Fiat CR.32s at 1000 meters and the Bredas at 300 meters.
On the way towards the frontline, at 5000 m over Ridotta Capuzzo, they spotted a formation of nine Blenheims heading to El Adem, escorted by many Glosters Gladiators. Aircraft of the 96a Squadriglia and the 10° Gruppo attacked the bombers and then chased the fighters. In the fierce combat Tenente Lucchini claimed a Gladiator with the use of 385 rounds of ammunition. Pilots from the 91a Squadriglia claimed two Gladiators and three Blenheims as shared, with two additional Gladiators as shared probables (one of the Glosters was most probably the same claimed by Lucchini). Capitano Monti and Tenente Aurili claimed to have damaged two Blenheims each and then reported being credited with the three Blenheims shot down by the Stormo's formation as shared. The pilots from the 90a Squadriglia claimed the same three Blenheims jointly with the 96a Squadriglia and other pilots of the 10° Gruppo plus the individual victory of Lucchini and recorded 'other Glosters shot down by pilots of 9o and 10o Gruppi'. The 96a Squadriglia's claims are lacking but were most probably the three Blenheims and the Gloster shared.
The 97a Squadriglia, covering at a higher altitude, spotted first six Blenheims, which were attacked by the other Squadriglie and then three other Blenheims that were heading towards Egyptian territory and dived to pursue them. Capitano Larsimont Pergameni and Sergente Sarasino chased them for a while, claiming hits on them.
The fighters from the 97a Squadriglia had most probably attacked a trio of Blenheim Mk.Is (L8667, L8391 and L8530) from 55 Squadron, which had been ordered on short notice to bomb up and meet two other flights from other squadrons over Maaten Bagush at 17:00 to attack an Italian M. T. convoy, 13 miles east of Bir El Gobi (obviously the Libyan division). Commanded by Pilot Officer T. O. Walker in L8667, they missed the rendezvous with the other Squadrons over Maaten Bagush and headed alone towards the front. After crossing the frontier, the trio spotted a big formation of about 25 CR.42s (4o Stormo's formation). Twelve of these fighters started in pursuit as the Blenheims turned for home (the 97a Squadriglia formation). A running engagement, which lasted seven minutes started after which the Italian fighters broke off without having caused or suffered any damage. The other two RAF Squadrons involved in this combat were 211 Squadron and most probable 112 and 113 Squadrons. 211 Squadron was up with two Blenheims piloted by Squadron Leader Bax (L8533) and Flight Lieutenant Jones (L8532), which were intercepted by 40-50 fighters; the only damaged recorded was the wounding in the forearm of Sergeant McIntosh, gunner of L8523. The total lack of records of 113 Squadron and the high level of incompleteness of those of 112 Squadron makes it quite difficult to reconstruct their contribution to the combat. It seems however probable that at least three Gladiators of 112 Squadron were around this area at the time, because it is known that Pilot Officers R. H. Clarke, Homer Cochrane and B. B. E. Duff left Maaten Gerawla during the day for Sidi el Barrani, with the task of patrolling over Sidi Omar (extremely close to the area where the evening combat developed). No encounters with the enemy are however recorded in the fragmentary reconstructed ORB of the unit.
At the end of the combat, Maggiore Botto, who personally claimed the damaging of a British bomber with the use of 200 rounds of ammunition, recorded the shooting down of ten enemy aircraft together with other units. Apart from the five confirmed and two probables already detailed, the remaining victories should be those of the 50o Stormo.
The formation from the 50o Stormo continued alone towards the border, arriving over Bir Sheferzen (around thirty kilometres south and slightly east of the position where the escort left it) at 17:20, where they discovered numerous British vehicles that were immediately attacked by the Bredas and Fanali's trio of CR.32s while Rossi's stayed at 1000 meters as cover. The Italian aircraft performed two passes over the vehicles and while they were preparing the third the 208 Squadron Lysander and 80 Squadron Gladiators came into the area. The crew of the Lysander spotted the Italians first and alerted the escort with a red Very light before heading due east at low altitude to reach safety.
Pattle and Lancaster dived down but failed to spot any enemy aircraft. Wykeham-Barnes and Rew had also disappeared but a few seconds later Pattle heard Wykeham-Barnes over the radio ordering Rew to attack. Immediately afterwards Pattle saw a reported seven Breda Ba.65s in two separate flights - one containing three aircraft in vic formation and the other made up of two pairs, heading east hunting the Lysander.
Wykeham-Barnes and Rew attacked the formation of four Bredas before they could reach the Lysander and Wykeham-Barnes shot down one of them in flames immediately but at the same time was Rew shot down and killed. Pattle and Lancaster meanwhile attacked the other three Italians from astern. The Bredas dispersed and all four Gladiators separated as they each selected a different enemy machine as a target. Pattle attacked two aircraft, which kept close together and turned in a complete circle. The Bredas dropped to around 200 feet and each released two bombs. This reduced weight meant that they slowly began to creep away from Pattle's slower Gladiator. Suddenly they however turned north towards the fighter base at El Adem. Pattle quickly cut inside their turn and closed in to 150 yards. He delivered a quarter attack on the nearest Breda but his two port guns almost immediately ceased firing. His aim had been good however and he had hit the Italian who slowed down considerably. He swung in directly astern of it and, after a few more bursts from his remaining two guns, saw a puff of white smoke from the starboard side of the engine. He continued to attack the Breda, which dropped lower and lower and finally crash-landed in a cloud of dust. The second Breda got away. Lancaster had also been having trouble with his guns. After his initial burst, all four guns jammed and he spent the next ten minutes frantically pulling his Constantinescu gear pistons and aiming at various enemy aircraft, but without any further bullets leaving his guns. Eventually he was forced to go on to the defensive and got an explosive bullet in the left arm and shoulder. Because he feared the loss of blood would cause him to lose consciousness, he wriggled out of the fight and with his right thumb pressed tightly against his left radial artery, held the stick between his knees and waggled his way home. In spite of his wounds and the serious damage to his Gladiator, he made quite a smooth landing before losing consciousness. It is reported, that the fitter who came to examine the aircraft shortly afterwards pronounced it too damaged to repair in situ and ordered it to be burned forthwith! However, in fact it seems that even if it wasn't any more flown by 80 Squadron, Gladiator Mk.I K 7923 was repaired and later in the year passed to the Greek Air Force.
After claiming the Breda, Wykeham-Barnes was attacked by the CR.32s. He claimed one of them before another, attacked him, which hit his Gladiator, in his Combat Fighter Report he recorded: 'The left side of the instrument panel and most of the windscreen went and two bullets came through the back of the seat before I could close the throttle, and the CR 32 passed under me. My machine then fell into a dive and I abandoned it, landing me by parachute.' He had received a shrapnel wound. He was also to receive a swollen tongue and a pair of very painful blistered feet before being rescued by a detachment of 11th Hussars, who brought him back to Sidi Barrani.
Four of the Bredas were damaged and in particular that of Sergente Maggiore Perno, which was hit fifty times and the pilot was slightly wounded in the leg, before Fanali's Fiats were able to intervene. In the meantime, it was the section of Sottotenente Rossi, which was waiting higher up for its turn to attack, that first fell over the RAF fighters, taking them by surprise. After the sharp initial attack of the Fiats the combat developed into a WW I style dogfight which lasted fifteen minutes. At the end all the Italian aircraft returned to base claiming three of the enemies; one by Fanali (probably Wykeham-Barnes) and two by Cantelli (probably Rew and Lancaster).
One of the damaged Bredas was piloted by Tenente Adriano Visconti who pressed home his attacks against the enemy armoured vehicles notwithstanding the enemy's fighter opposition. The behaviour of Visconti in this particular combat deeply impressed his commander Capitano Dell'Oro who proposed him for a Medaglia d'argento al Valor Militare. The motivation of this award that Visconti received 'in the field' stated that: 'During a strafing attack against enemy's armoured vehicles he pressed home his attacks careless of an enemy fighter that was following him shooting at him from short distance (…) and with its last ammunitions he succeeded in burning one of the armoured cars of the enemy(…)'.
After Pattle had finished off the Breda he turned towards the border while attempting, without much success, to clear his port fuselage gun. Ten miles south-east of El Adem he spotted five biplanes (claimed as CR.42s) diving towards him from the north-west. He flew on, pretending that he had not seen the Italians, until they were almost in position to open fire and then, with a flick of the wrist and a sharp prod of the foot, shot up and away from the Fiats. The Italians split up and attacked him independently from all directions. The Fiats made repeated attacks simultaneously from the quarter and beam, using the speed they gained in the dive to regain altitude. After each attack Pattle was forced on to the defensive and turned away from each attack, occasionally delivering a short attack on the most suitably target as it dived past. One CR.32 on completing its attack turned directly in front of his Gladiator, presenting him with an excellent deflection shot at close range. He fired a long burst with his remaining two guns, which caused the Italian fighter to turn slowly onto its back and then spin down towards the desert. Soon after it hit the ground his starboard wing gun also jammed but fortunately at the same time the remaining enemy fighters broke away. He was now 40 miles behind enemy lines with only one gun operational and he turned for home at 1000 feet altitude.
20 miles from the border he was spotted and attacked by twelve CR.42s and three Breda Ba.65s. The Bredas attacked first but he easily avoided their attacks before the CR.42s attacked. They used the same tactics as the five earlier had used with quarter and beam attacks. Within a few seconds Pattle's remaining gun jammed as a result of an exploded round in the breach, so he attempted to make the border by evasive tactics and heading east at every opportunity. He soon discovered that one of the enemy pilots was an exceptional shot who made repeated attacks using full deflection with great accuracy. Each time this particular Italian came in, he had to use all his skill and cunning to keep out of the sights of the Fiat. The remainder of the Italians as a whole lacked accuracy and did not press home their attacks to a decisive range. Nevertheless, their presence and the fact that he had to consider each attack made the work of the more determined pilot very much easier. He managed to keep this up for fully fifteen minutes before the determined Italian came out of a loop directly above Pattle's Gladiator and opened fire. Pattle turned away to avoid the bullets, but flew straight into the line of fire from another Fiat. The rudder controls were shot away, so he could no longer turn. He pulled back on the control column, climbed to about 400 feet and jumped. As he fell the pilot parachute caught his foot, but he managed to kick it free and the main chute opened just in time for him to make a safe landing off the first swing. The time was now around 19:15. He started to walk towards what he thought was Egypt during the night but found out at dawn to his horror that he had actually walked in the opposite direction, deeper into Libya. He turned around and crossed the border at around midday. Shortly after this, he was rescued by a detachment from 11th Hussars, which brought him back to Sidi Barrani.
It is possible that Pattle was shot down by Tenente Lucchini.
During the morning on 6 August Tenente Lucchini and Sergente Amleto Monterumici scrambled without success against an enemy's intruder which they failed to intercept. While landing Lucchini's aircraft capsized and was heavily damaged. He thus missed the actions of the subsequent days.
On 11 September, the 9o and 10° Gruppo were still employed in standing patrols over the troops. During the second patrol of the day, at 17:45 in the Sidi Omar – Bardia area, a Blenheim was discovered at 6000 metres.
The Italian formation was escorting three CR.32s and was led by Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli. It was composed of seven CR.42s from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Tenente Giuseppe Aurili, Sottotenente Paolo Berti, Sergente Roberto Steppi, Sergente Narciso Pillepich and Sergente Domenico Santonocito), five CR.42s from the 91a Squadriglia (Capitano Giuseppe D'Agostinis, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli, Sergente Elio Miotto and Sergente Alessandro Bladelli) and six CR.42s from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Lucchini, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Maresciallo Omero Alesi, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini and Sergente Bruno Bortoletti).
Capitano Vanni, Tenente Aurili and Sergente Steppi attacked first, followed by other pilots of the formation. During the combat Vanni's aircraft was hit by return fire and with the compressed air piping pierced, he was forced to turn back. His wingmen continued the pursuit and claimed the Blenheim shot down.
The bomber however was assigned as a shared to all the 10° Gruppo pilots presents (even if , for example, it is known that 90a Squadriglia pilots totally used only 140 rounds of ammunition so possibly only one of them was able to use his guns).
This claim can't be verified with RAF sources but it is possible that it was a Blenheim from 113 Squadron since this unit's ORB is lacking.
On 14 September, the 4o Stormo continued to protect the ground forces. A mixed formation of 23 CR.42s from the 9° Gruppo commanded by Maggiore Ernesto Botto with 15 CR.42s from the 10° Gruppo as high cover, took off at 10:25. At 11:00, over Sollum some 10° Gruppo pilots discovered a formation of four Bristol Blenheims. They attacked and claimed one shot down in flames. The bomber was credited as a shared to the whole formation from the 10° Gruppo (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Tenente Lucchini and Sergente Bruno Bortoletti of the 90a Squadriglia and Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Giuseppe D'Agostinis, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sottotenente Carlo Albertini and Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli of the 91a Squadriglia and Capitano Luigi Monti, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Tenente Giuseppe Aurili, Tenente Paolo Berti and Sergente Domenico Santonocito of the 84a Squadriglia).
This clam can't be verified with RAF records. The only known British actions for the day were a couple of afternoon bomber raids. Four Blenheims of 55 Squadron with others from 211 Squadron were ordered to attack Italian troops in the Sollum area in the first afternoon. The 55 Squadron quartet returned at 16:45 without suffering losses. Its pilots reported slight and ineffective AA fire and the presence of Italian fighters (but no interception occurred). Eight machines of 211 Squadron led by Gordon-Finalyson also attacked, claiming many hits in the target area. However no Italian fighters were seen and all the bombers were back at around 17:10.
At 10:45 on 1 December, Tenente Lucchini, suffered a bad flying accident at the end of a test flight on a recently repaired CR.42. The fighter (MM5516) was written off after overturning on landing but the pilot was practically unhurt.
At 09:15 on 26 December, eight Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron took off from the LG south-west of Sollum to escort a Lysander doing artillery reconnaissance over Bardia. The Lysander failed to appear. At approximately 14:05 (obviously during a third patrol) two flights of five SM 79s escorted by a number of CR.42s were observed a few miles north-east of Sollum Bay. A separate formation of 18 CR.42s was following the bomber formation and escort 2,000 feet higher as top cover. Two Gladiators attacked the bomber formation whilst the remainder climbed to meet the higher formation. The attack on the bombers was broken off when the higher formation attacked the Gladiators. In the ensuing combat, Flight Lieutenant Gordon Steege and Flying Officer Wilfred Arthur each claimed a destroyed (seen to fall into the sea) and a damaged CR.42. Flying Officer Peter Turnbull, Flying Officer John Perrin and Flying Officer Alan Rawlinson each claimed one probable.
The CR.42s were 14 fighters from the newly arrived 23° Gruppo led by the CO, Maggiore Tito Falconi and 22 CR.42s from the 10° Gruppo. The CR.42s from the 23° Gruppo included three from the 70a Squadriglia (Tenente Claudio Solaro, Sergente Pardino Pardini and Tenente Gino Battaggion), five from the 74a Squadriglia (Capitano Guido Bobba, Tenente Lorenzo Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Sante Schiroli, Sergente Maggiore Raffaele Marzocca (forced to return early due to a sudden illness) and Sergente Manlio Tarantino) and five from the 75a Squadriglia (Tenente Pietro Calistri, Tenente Ezio Monti, Sottotenente Renato Villa, Sottotenente Leopoldo Marangoni and Maresciallo Carlo Dentis). The fighters from the the 10° Gruppo included seven from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Capitano Mario Pluda, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Ruggero Caporali, Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato and Sergente Elio Miotto), nine from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Luigi Prati, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Luciano Perdoni and Sergente Mario Veronesi) and six from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Luigi Contarini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta), which had taken off at 13:00.
They were escorting ten SM 79s from the 41o Stormo under Tenente Colonnello Draghelli and five SM 79s 216a Squadriglia, 53° Gruppo, 34o Stormo, led by Tenente Stringa. The SM 79s had taken off from M2 at 12:25 and attacked Sollum harbour's jetty (reportedly hit) and two destroyers inside Sollum Bay (with poor results because of the heavy AA fire). AA from the ships hit four bombers from the 34o Stormo; one of them, piloted by Sottotenente Bellini had to force land close to Ain El Gazala with the central engine out of action. Returning pilots reported an attempt to intercept by some Gladiators but the escort repulsed the British fighters. They landed without further problems at 15:15.
Over the target, immediately after the bombing, the Italian fighters reported the interception of 'enemy aircraft' alternatively 'many Glosters' or 'Hurricanes and Glosters'. The 70a Squadrigli pilots claimed a shared Hurricane, this was possibly an aircraft from 33 Squadron. This unit's ORB reported that during the day's patrols many SM 79s and CR.42s were intercepted with one CR.42 believed damaged. Two Gladiators confirmed and two probables were shared between the whole 10° Gruppo. Another Gladiator was assigned to the 23° Gruppo (in the documents of 75a Squadriglia but this is not confirmed by the other two Squadriglie). Many Glosters were claimed damaged by Tenente Lorenzoni, Sottotenente Schiroli, Sergente Tarantino, Sottotenente Marangoni, Tenente Calistri, Tenente Monti and Sottotenente Villa. The CR.42s were back between 14:30 and 15:05.
No Gladiators were lost even if three of them were damaged (all repairable within the unit). The Australians had done a very good job indeed, facing a formation four times more numerous (even if it seem improbable that all the Italian fighters were able to join the combat). From the Italian reports it seems that only the front sections of the escort (including the 74a, 75a and the 84a Squadriglie) were engaged in a sharp dogfight with the Gladiators. The Australians were able to shot down the CO of the 74a Squadriglia, Capitano Guido Bobba, who was killed when his fighter fell in flames into the sea and damaged Tenente Lorenzoni's fighter, who landed at T2 (and came back to Z1 the day after). Three more CR.42s were damaged when Tenente Angeloni was forced to land at T5 before reaching Z1, Sergente Veronesi's fighter was damaged and Sottotenente Prati was forced to make an emergency landing short of T2 (his fighter was reportedly undamaged and only suffering for a slight engine breakdown). Maggiore Falconi's fighter was also heavily damaged but managed to return. The morning after Angeloni was able to return to Z1 with his aircraft.
Capitano Guido Bobba was awarded a posthumously Medaglia d'Argento al Valor Militare. He was replaced as CO of the 74a Squadriglia by Tenente Mario Pinna.
The last Italian bombing mission on 27 December was again against Sollum. Four S.79s from the 41o Stormo under Tenente Colonnello D'Ippolito and four bombers from the 216a Squadriglia, 34o Stormo, led by Tenente Romanini took off from Tmini at 14:30. It seems that the escort of 19 CR.42s from the 10° Gruppo stayed with the 41o Stormo, which attacked British mechanized units in Halfaya and Gabr Bu Fares under heavy AA that damaged, although slightly, all the aircraft. The unescorted S.79s of the 34o Stormo attacked ships in Sollum harbour and were intercepted by many Hurricanes. The S.79s were totally unable to defend themselves because of icing on all the guns and one of them was shot down. This was Sottotenente Aldo Peterlini's bombers and Peterlini was killed together with his three of his crew (Sergente Maggiore Arturo Scagnetti (second pilot), Aviere Scelto Motorista Alcide Frizzera and Aviere Scelto Radiotelegrafista Gioacchino Scuderi). The other two members of the crew (Primo Aviere Armiere Ciancilla and Primo Aviere Montatore Fiore) where able to bale out. Tenente Pandolfi's aircraft was riddled by enemy bullets (probably RD) while the other two S.79s were less seriously damaged although suffering some wounded among their crews.
They had been intercepted by 33 Squadron, which claimed three S.79s and one probable and probably two CR.42s during offensive patrols performed by pairs of Hurricanes over Sollum. They also claimed one S.79 and one CR.42 damaged. Vernon Woodward claimed one of the probable CR.42s and the damaged CR.42.
The CR.42 escort was composed of seven fighters from the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Giovanni Guiducci, Tenente Lucchini, Sottotenente Alessandro Rusconi, Sottotenente Neri De Benedetti, Sergente Alfredo Sclavo, Sergente Bruno Bortoletti and Sergente Enrico Botti), six from the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Luigi Monti, Tenente Antonio Angeloni, Sottotenente Bruno Devoto, Sergente Maggiore Salvatore Mechelli, Sergente Domenico Santonocito and Sergente Piero Buttazzi) and six from the 91a Squadriglia (Maggiore Carlo Romagnoli, Capitano Vincenzo Vanni, Sottotenente Andrea Dalla Pasqua, Sottotenente Orlando Mandolini, Sottotenente Ennio Grifoni and Sergente Elio Miotto). Tenente Guiducci strangely reported that the heavy AA immediately hit one of the S.79s, which was shot down. Then five monoplanes (Hurricanes and Spitfires(!)) tried to attack but were immediately counterattacked and one of them was shot down. Later, another attempt by a lone British fighter failed after the intervention of the Italian escort. The 90a Squadriglia pilots expanded 320 rounds of ammunition and it seems that in the end the victory was assigned to the whole formation as a Gruppo victory.
During the first tour of operations in North Africa, in seven months he flew 94 missions with 13 air combats and three strafing attacks against enemy armoured vehicles during which he claimed 3 victories and 15 shared victories. He was also awarded with one Medaglia d'argento al valore militare and two Medaglie di bronzo al valore militare.
Image from Ali di Guerra 1941.
In early 1941, the 10° Gruppo moved back to Italy to re-equip with Macchi MC.200s.
On 16 June 1941 10° Gruppo moved to Trapani, Sicily to take part in the attacks on Malta.
Early on 25 June a large incoming raid was plotted on the radar at Malta. Nine Hurricanes each from 46 and 249 Squadrons took off and climbed hard. Only 46 Squadron was to intercept the incoming formation, which was reported as one S.79 and 24 MC.200s at 21,000 feet, 15 miles south of Sicily. The force, which had left the coast of that island, included a lone S.79 of the 58a Squadriglia, 32° Gruppo B.T. flown by Colonnello Ranieri Cupini, the Stormo commander, with an escort of no less than 48 MC.200s, ten from the 10° Gruppo and 12 from the 16° Gruppo in the lead. Twelve of these fighters were forced to return almost at once with various technical troubles, but the bomber and the remaining 36 fighters continued.
Squadron Leader A. C. Rabagliati (Hurricane Z2481) led the attack straight into the formation, concentrating his own fire on the Savoia. Several pilots saw the undercarriage fall into the 'down' position and the bomber was last seen heading home, losing height and streaming oil; Rabagliati was credited with a probable.
Pilot Officer Anderson, flying No. 2 to Rabagliati, fired at one Macchi, then attacked two more, firing at them continually in a dive from 18,000 feet to sea level, where one crashed into the sea 20 miles south of Delimara Point. Sergeant Copp attacked an MC.200 at 10,000 feet, hitting it with a four-second burst from dead astern, and then a two-second burst from the starboard beam. The fighter turned hard to port, pulling its nose up high. This allowed Copp to get another good burst into the cockpit and it dropped 'like a plummet, apparently out of control'. It was seen to go into the sea 11 miles south of Cap Religione. Meanwhile Pilot Officer Main, having fired at the Savoia briefly, dived on seven Macchis, firing many bursts from beam and astern at 250 yards' range into one. He was then attacked by a second, but turned on this and chased it to within ten miles of the Sicilian coast. He last saw it going down steeply towards land at 8,000 feet after he had fired four short bursts into it, and he was awarded a confirmed destroyed for this bringing the number of Macchis believed to have been shot down to three.
Actually losses to the Italians amounted to two Macchis of the 16° Gruppo; Maresciallo Giovanni Bravin was killed, but Maresciallo Otello Simionato came down in the sea 20 miles from the coast, and was rescued by a Z.506B. One Hurricanes was claimed as a shared by Tenente Lucchini, Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini and Sergente Giovanni Battista Ceoletta, all from the 90a Squadriglia. Other pilots claimed a shared probable. On this occasion, no British losses were suffered.
On 27 June 1941 he claimed one Hawker Hurricane over Malta when 10° Gruppo totally claimed three Hurricanes and five probables over the island (another pilot claiming was Tenente Giovanni Guiducci). In fact RAF lost none. RAF in their turn claimed four destroyed and one damaged and Regia Aeronautica lost two MC.200s, both from 90a Squadriglia.
After 12 missions and three dogfights in which he had claimed 3 shared victories and 5 more probables, on 11 July the Regia Aeronautica launched a big fighter sweep over Malta. Eleven MC.200s from the 54o Stormo attacked Hal Far airfield in three sections, while forty-two more gave cover. Twelve Hurricanes of 185 Squadron were scrambled, and possibly others from other units on the island, for the Italians reported thirty Hurricanes intercepting, four of which were claimed shot down by pilots of the 10° Gruppo. Capitano Lucchini was credited with one and one shared while Maresciallo Leonardo Ferrulli was credited with one shared. Lucchini claimed his Hurricanes with his wingmen, after that he and another pilot had been bounced at low level by eight Hurricanes from 185 Squadron. Either side in fact suffered no losses even if five MC.200s returned with damage. Lucchini also claimed five shared destroyed Wellingtons and 3 shared damaged Blenheims on the ground.
During 17 July 1941, 49 MC.200s from the 7o, 10o and 16o Gruppi set off mid morning to escort one reconnaissance Z.1007bis over Malta. En route the 16° Gruppo fighters became separated and returned to base, but the rest of the formation reached the island where eight Hurricanes of 249 Squadron and eleven from 185 Squadron had been scrambled. The aircraft from the former unit made contact, Squadron Leader Robert Barton (Hurricane Z3262) claiming one MC.200 shot down in flames, while Pilot Officer P. G. Leggett claimed a second and Flying Officer C. C. H. Davis one damaged. Two MC.200s of the 10° Gruppo were in fact lost, Sergente Maggiore Enrico Botti (MC.200 MM6500) being killed, while Sergente Maggiore Natale Finito (MC.200 MM5217) was later rescued from the sea by an Axis ASR craft. In return the pilots of the 10° Gruppo claimed four Hurricanes and two probables. Tenente Colonnello Carlo Romagnoli and Capitano Lucchini each claimed one Hurricane shot down and Sergente Maggiore Elio Miotto two. Maresciallo Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Luigi Contarini each claimed probables. One Hurricane was lost when 22-year-old Sergeant Maurice Guest (RAF No. 920596) of 249 Squadron in Hurricane Z2818 failed to return.
On 19 August twelve Hurricanes from 126 Squadron were scrambled to intercept twelve MC.200s near Cap Passero at 23,000 feet. The Hurricanes chased the Italian fighters in over the Sicilian coast and during the ensuing combat 126 Squadron claimed 4 destroyed and 1 probable and 10° Gruppo claimed 2 destroyed and one probable. In fact neither side sustained any losses. In this combat Lucchini claimed one shared destroyed together with Sergente Giambattista Ceoletta.
On 4 September he claimed two Hurricanes during the day's heavy fighting over Malta.
On 27 September 1941 ten of 10° Gruppos MC.200s provided covering patrols for Italian naval units. In a string of bad luck they ran out of fuel in bad weather and all had to ditch. Two pilots were killed and two were injured. One of the injured was Lucchini whose face was badly hurt. All those who survived were subsequently picked up safely.
By September 1941, he had flown 37 more missions claiming 14 enemy aircraft shared and 16 more probables. For this he was awarded with another Medaglia d'argento al valore militare.
Lucchini was also the first pilot to successfully fly a photoreconnaissance mission over Malta with a specially modified Macchi MC.200 (prototype of several more).
On 30 November 1941, Capitano Lucchini took command of the 84a Squadriglia, 4o Stormo, after Capitano Luigi Monti.
By the end of 1941 10° Gruppo re-equipped with MC.202s and returned to Sicily on 2 April 1942. The unit flew in to Castelvetrano from Rome/Ciampino with 26 new MC.202 led by Capitano Lucchini.
At 17:45 on 9 May 1942, five Z.1007bis from the 210a Squadriglia BT were out to attack Malta. They were escorted by 16 MC.202s, eight from each 9° Gruppo and 10° Gruppo. To meet this threat, 33 Spitfires were scrambled, and eleven of these from 126 Squadron intercepted, led by Squadron Leader A. R. H. Barton. Barton's single section engaged the escort while Pilot Officer M. A. Graves led the rest to attack the bombers. During the following combat Spitfires were claimed by Capitano Lucchini, Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi (91a Squadriglia) and Sergente Teresio Martinoli (73a Squadriglia), while Maggiore Antonio Larsimont (9° Gruppo) claimed one damaged. No RAF aircraft was even damaged. RAF claimed three Z.1007s (two by Flight Sergeant Schade and one by Sergeant Goldsmith), one MC.202 (by Pilot Officer Bisley) and three damaged (claimed by Flight Sergeant Schade, Squadron Leader Barton and Pilot Officer Graves). Regia Aeronautica only got one Z.1007bis and one MC.202 damaged when Tenente Luigi Giannella's Macchi was hit by a 20mm shell.
At 09:15 on 15 May 1942, three S.84bis of 4° Gruppo BT, escorted by 30 MC.202s of 4o Stormo CT, were out to attack barracks at St Paul's Bay, Malta (probably Fort Cambell). A dozen Spitfires from 249 and 603 Squadron were scrambled and engaged the formation shortly after it had bombed. Flight Lieutenant N. W. Lee and from 249 Squadron each claimed damaged to one of the Savoias. The Italians reported that five Spitfires attacked over the target and Capitano Lucchini claimed one shot down and one damaged. Other Spitfires then came in over Gozo, and three of these were claimed by Tenente Jacopo Frigerio, Tenente Ferruccio Zarini and Sergente Maggiore Mario Guerci; the latter and Sottotenente Alvaro Querci also each claimed one probably destroyed. The two pilots from the 73a Squadriglia reported that they fired on two Spitfires, which dived towards the sea, leaving smoke trails. The two pilots were engaged in the battle, and they couldn't follow the Spitfires until the end, so these were considered probably destroyed. None of the Spitfires were however seriously hit. Pilot Officer Lawrie Verrall of 249 Squadron shot down one MC.202, killing the 91a Squadriglia commander Capitano Alberto Argento (MM7813).
On 19 May 10° Gruppo flew their last mission over Malta.
Having tested their MC.202s in action, they returned to Italy to modify the fighters with sand filters, and on 26 May 1942 they left for a second tour of desert operations in North Africa.
From April to 17 June 1942 he flew 47 missions over Malta at first and then on the North African front, being awarded another Medaglia d'argento al valore militare for having scored three individual victories, one probable and three shared ones.
On 4 June, he claimed a P-40 over Bir Hacheim.
In the morning on 12 June, 14 MC.202s from the 10° Gruppo led by the Gruppo commander Maggiore Paolo Tito Maddalena, together with German Bf109s were escorting Luftwaffe Ju87s to attack targets south-east of Acroma. At 3500 meters halfway between Ain el Gazala and Acroma the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Lucchini, Sottotenente Paolo Berti, Maresciallo Luigi Bignami, Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Sergente Roberto Ugazio and Sergente Piero Buttazzi) was attacked by three diving Spitfires. The formation broke up, while the 90a Squadriglia (Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan and Sergente Gregorio Taverna) counter-attacked and scattered the Spitfires. Soon after this, these three pilots spotted a lone P-40, which was hit several times. The P-40 made a wheels-up landing at Gambut and was claimed as a shared victory. After this was, Taverna shot down by ground fire. Vanzan was also hit over Tobruk, but was able to return at Martuba. Meanwhile Lucchini, Buttazzi and Veronesi had met eleven RAF fighters (Spitfires and P-40s) north-east of El Adem. In the combat, they claimed a shared Spitfire and damaged many others.
On 17 June, Capitano Lucchini claimed a P-40 over Sidi Rezegh while Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini (90a Squadriglia) claimed two more in the same area.
On 3 July 1942, Capitano Lucchini took temporarily command over the 10° Gruppo after Maggiore Paolo Maddalena.
In the morning on 4 July, Capitano Lucchini led six MC.202s of the 84a Squadriglia and six of the 90a Squadriglia over El Alamein. At 4500 m they met twenty Bostons escorted by many P-40 and Spitfires; at a lower level flew a formation of Hurribombers. Led by Lucchini, the Italians attacked both formations with success. Lucchini claimed a P-40, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini a Boston, Maresciallo Pietro Del Turco a Hurricane, Sottotenente Luigi Giannella a Spitfire, Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi another Spitfire and a probable Boston, while a P-40 was shared by all in the Gruppo. In addition Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini and Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan claimed a fighter probable each while Lucchini, Sottotenente Paolo Berti and Sergente Livio Barbera damaged many others. Sottotenente Sforza Libera (90a Squadriglia) in his first combat mission, damaged a Spitfire.
Early in the morning on 10 July, eleven MC.202s from the 10° Gruppo led by Capitano Lucchini (84a Squadriglia) took off to escort CR.42s from the 158° Gruppo out to attack Commonwealth troops attacking an Italian division in difficulties in the costal area in the El Alamein area. The MC.202s where then to continue on a free hunt mission.
In the target area, Lucchini spotted a formation of 15 P-40s approaching from the east at 2,600 meters. After a short attack made with height advantage (the Italian fighters were at 4,000 meters), the P-40s went into a 'Lufberry' circle. The combat ended after 30 minutes when the ammunition was exhausted.
Lucchini, Sottotenente Luigi Giannella (84a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan (90a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici (90a Squadriglia) returned claiming one P-40 each. Four more were claimed by the pilots from the 91a Squadriglia; two by Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli and one each by Sergente Elio Miotto and Sergente Maggiore Lorenzo Migliorato. Monterumici remained to defend the CR.42s from the attacks from the P-40s and this he made so successfully that the formations leader, Capitano Torquato Testerini (236a Squadriglia) later visited them at Fuka to show his gratitude.
On 16 July, Capitano Lucchini led MC.202s of the 84a Squadriglia (Sottotenente Luigi Giannella, Sottotenente Paolo Berti, Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Maresciallo Luigi Bignami and Sergente Corrado Patrizi), of the 90a Squadriglia (Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, Sottotenente Renalto Baroni, Sottotenente Sforza Libera, Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici and Sergente Sergente Giambattista Ceoletta) and of the 91a Squadriglia (Tenente Paolo Benedicti) to escort CR.42s. Over Deir el Qattara they intercepted ten Hurribombers flying at 500 m, escorted by ten P-40s at 2000 m, with fifteen of the same type at 5000 m and six Spitfires at 6000 m. The returning Italians claimed four P-40s; Berti and Veronesi one each, one shared by Lucchini, Giannella, Berti and Benedicti while the fourth also was claimed as a shared by Bignami, Veronesi, Piccolomini, Baroni and Monterumici. Many others were damaged. Baroni was wounded in the combat and with his MC.202 damaged, made an emergency landing at El Daba. Bignami was hit in the wings and on the windscreen. Berti was attacked by P-40s while returning home, but escaped. Lucchini's aircraft was hit by five bullets, one of them piercing a fuel tank in left wing root but he was able to land at El Quteifiya, although stunned by fuel vapour.
At 06:45 on 18 July, eight MC.202s; four of the 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Lucchini, Sottotenente Luigi Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi and Sergente Piero Buttazzi) and four of the 90a Squadriglia (Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, Sottotenente Virgilio Vanzan, Sergente Maggiore Angelo Savini and Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici), led by Lucchini, took off from Bu Amud for a 'free hunt' mission. Over the front, they spotted nine P-40s escorted by eleven Hurricanes. The P-40s jettisoned their bombs over the El Qasaba area and tried to escape home eastward. The Italian fighters caught the Allied aircraft over Burg el Arab, 50 km east of El Alamein. A P-40 was claimed as a shared destroyed by Lucchini and Buttazzi, a second was claimed as a shared by Giannella and Veronesi, a third was claimed by Savini and a fourth was claimed jointly by Piccolomini, Vanzan and Monterumici.
On the same day took Maggiore Giuseppe D'Agostinis command over the 10° Gruppo, relieving Capitano Lucchini from his temporary command.
In the afternoon on 24 July eleven MC.202 of the 9° Gruppo (six from 96a Squadriglia and five from 97a Squadriglia) led by Maggiore Roberto Fassi and ten of the 10° Gruppo led by Maggiore Giuseppe D'Agostinis intercepted a reported twelve P-40s and twelve Spitfires at 6000 meters. Capitano Lucchini and Sergente Maggiore Mario Veronesi claimed a probable P-40 each. One more P-40 was claimed by the 9° Gruppo. Several others were claimed as damaged.
After an alarm from the Freya radar in the morning on 5 August Capitano Lucchini (CO of the 84a Squadriglia) scrambled with twelve MC.202s of the 84a and 90a Squadriglie to intercept bombers. The fighters were radio-guided eastward over the sea, until 20 km from Alexandria, without having found any aircraft. On the way home, they met fifteen Hurricanes and P-40s at 4000 meters in the El Hammam - El Amirya area and attacked them. Lucchini and Sottotenente Paolo Berti (84a Squadriglia) claimed a P-40 each; a third was claimed as shared by all the pilots. Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, Sergente Maggiore Natale Molteni (90a Squadriglia) and a pilot of the 84a Squadriglia claimed a probable P-40 each.
On 11 August twelve fighters from the 84a and 90a Squadriglie, led by Maggiore Giuseppe D'Agostinis (new CO of the 10° Gruppo after the death of Maggiore Maddalena) and radio-guided by Freya radar, intercepted fifteen P-40s at 5000 m over El Hammam-Burgh el Arab. Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini claimed one while Capitano Lucchini claimed another as a probable.
In order to support Rommel's last advance, at 05:25 on 31 August, twenty MC.202s of the 10° Gruppo took off to strafe three enemy airfields in the Burg el Arab area, 60 km beyond the frontline. The plan was for eight pilots to strafe, while the others were to cover them. The eight pilots were Maggiore Giuseppe D'Agostinis with Capitano Lucchini (CO), Tenente Luigi Giannella, Tenente Ezio Bevilacqua and Sergente Livio Barbera of the 84 Squadriglia, Capitano Carlo Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa (CO) and Tenente Orlando Mandolini of the 91a Squadriglia, and Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara of 97a Squadriglia, 9° Gruppo.
During the approach, off El Alamein and at 4000 m over the sea, Giannella saw that Bevilacqua, Lucchini's wingman, had a water leakage in his cooler. Giannella notified Bevilacqua this by gestures (the Italian Allocchio-Bacchini radios were unreliable) and Bevilacqua turned back. Giannella decided to lead him home, so he gestured to his own wingman, Barbera, to continue to follow the Gruppo. However, Barbera misunderstood this communication, and he too followed Giannella. The engine on Bevilacqua's fighter sized after a couple of minutes and he and parachuted from 600 m into the sea; he swam westward for three hours and reached the shore seven kilometres inside friendly lines. Unaware of this, Giannella landed at Fuka with Barbera (perhaps mistaking him for Bevilacqua).
With the strafing force reduced to five, Maggiore D'Agostinis went inland well before the target. Sottotenente Paolo Berti (84a Squadriglia) spotted two Spitfires below them, but the enemy fighters didn't attack. The Italians first strafed the southern airfield, finding only few aircraft but an intense ground fire. Subsequently they attacked the other two fields with three passes, each one from a different direction, managing to make the last pass in northern direction towards the sea, in order to minimize ground reaction. Five Lysanders, five P-40s, three Gladiators, an Albacore and an unidentified monoplane were severely damaged, and a lot of material and trucks was destroyed. British fighters scrambled from Alexandria airfields and tried uneventfully to reach the intruders.
On the return flight, the 10° Gruppo's pilots met and attacked two P-40s, one of which was damaged.
In the afternoon on the same day, 31 August, Capitano Lucchini claimed a Spitfire over Dein El Hima during an escort mission to CR.42s on an assault sortie.
At 06:00 on 2 September Maggiore Giuseppe Giuseppe D'Agostinis led 18 Macchis of the 10° Gruppo for a free hunt mission. They met two squadrons of eighteen Bostons, escorted by twenty Spitfires, and one of twelve Bostons, escorted by fifteen Spitfires and P-40s, at 7000 m over the Bir Mseilikh area. In the combat Capitano Lucchini claimed a Boston and a Spitfire while D'Agostinis, Capitano Carlo Maurizio Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa (leader of the 91a Squadriglia), Sottotenente Luciano Barsotti (91a Squadriglia) and Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli (91a Squadriglia) also claimed a Spitfire each. Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini and Tenente Luigi Padovani (90a Squadriglia) claimed a Spitfire as a shared. Maresciallo Pietro Del Turco (90a Squadriglia) was probably shot down and MIA.
Next day on 3 September, he claimed a Hurricane over El Alamein.
The high number of aircraft flying in the area during these days caused such confusion that the German Freya radar personnel had troubles to identify friend or foe aircraft. So, many times the alarm was delayed, and Axis fighters scrambled late.
This happened on 20 October when at 10:55, 14 MC.202s of the 4o Stormo hurriedly scrambled to intercept 24 Bostons and Hudsons above Fuka, escorted by 30 P-40s and 20 Spitfires. The bombers were still releasing their cargo over the airfield when the 73a Squadriglia (Tenente Giuseppe Oblach, Tenente Vittorio Squarcia, Sergente Armando Angelini and Sergente Leonardo Rinaldi), 84a Squadriglia (Capitano Lucchini, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano and Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi), 91a Squadriglia (Capitano Carlo Maurizio Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa, Sergente Maggiore Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Maggiore Alessandro Bladelli), and 97a Squadriglia (Tenente Jacopo Frigerio, Sottotenente Giovanni Barcaro, Sottotenente Leo Boselli and Maresciallo Giovanni Bianchelli), attacked them. The escort intercepted the Italian fighters and a number of claims were made. Ruspoli, Oblach and Ferrulli claimed two P-40s each, Bladelli, Frigerio, Barcaro and Boselli claimed one P-40 each while Bianchelli claimed one Spitfire. Another Spitfire was claimed as a probable by Bladelli. Mettimano, in his first combat mission, damaged four Hudsons and a P-40 while Angelini, Rinaldi and Squarcia jointly claimed four damaged P-40s. Buttazzi claimed three damaged P-40s and Lucchini claimed a Hudson as a damaged. Lucchini's MC.202 was hit when a 20mm shell tore off the aircraft's spinner and he was forced to make an emergency landing.
Totally the 4o Stormo claimed 24 enemy aircraft shot down during the day, but of the 57 fighters (43 of which were combat-ready) on charge in the morning, only eleven were serviceable in the evening.
During the same day, Lucchini claimed a P-40 over Quteifiya.
On 23 October he claimed a shared P-40 near Fuka together with Tenente Francesco De Seta.
He was shot down again on 24 October 1942 and wounded after shooting down a P-40 and a B-25 bomber together with Tenente Francesco De Seta and Tenente Paolo Berti. During this mission he was flying MC.202 MM7919 '84-12'.
He was subsequently evacuated to Italy on a hospital ship.
At this time he had flown 59 missions and 21 combats, claiming 6 individual victories, 2 probables and 8 shared ones. He had also been awarded with the German 2nd Class Iron Cross and also forced to make two more emergency landings.
After the battle of El Alamein, the Axis forces gradually retreated. In early December, the 10° Gruppo was at Castelbenito to be sent back to Italy.
During the period January 1942 – January 1943, the 4o Stormo flew 7202 hours on missions, took part in 133 combats, claimed 289 aircraft destroyed (totally 501 from the beginning of the war) and lost 24 pilots KIA or MIA with 29 wounded and 2 POWs.
After a period of rest, on 24 February 1943, pilots of the 10° Gruppo rejoined to reorganize the unit at Bresso airfield, under the command of Maggiore Giuseppe D'Agostinis.
Pilots in the 84a Squadriglia were Capitano Lucchini (CO) (hospitalized), Tenente Luigi Giannella, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano, Sottotenente Francesco De Seta, Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini, Maresciallo Luigi Bignami, Sergente Maggiore Domenico Santonocito, Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi, Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi, Sergente Maggiore Luciano Perdoni and Sergente Livio Barbera.
Pilots in the 90a Squadriglia were Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini (CO), Sottotenente Sforza Libera, Sottotenente Renato Baroni, Sottotenente Luigi Cima, Sergente Maggiore Massimo Salvatore, Sergente Maggiore Bruno Bortoletti, Sergente Maggiore Giovanni Battista Ceoletta, Sergente Maggiore Amleto Monterumici and Sergente Maggiore Natale Molteni.
Pilots in the 91a Squadriglia were Capitano Luigi Mariotti (CO), Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani, Tenente Alvaro Bondi, Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli, Sottotenente Elio Miotto, Sottotenente Guerriero Silvestri, Sottotenente Vittorino Daffara, Maresciallo Alessandro Bladelli, Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli, Sergente Maggiore Ferruccio Terrabujo, Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi and Sergente Giulio Fornalé.
On 20 April, the Gruppo transferred to Ciampino Sud for the defence of Rome.
After several months at hospital and rest Lucchini rejoined his unit in July 1943 and took part in the defence of Sicily with a mixed array of MC.202s and (few) MC.205s.
On 20 June 1943, Maggiore Giuseppe D'Agostinis passed the command of the 10° Gruppo to Capitano Lucchini.
Capitano Luigi Giannella took at the same time command of the 84a Squadriglia, after Lucchini.
The 5 July 1943 was to become a tough day for the Macchis of 9o and 10o Gruppi with heavy combat and serious losses.
From 07:15 to 09:25 Tenente Giorgio Bertolaso and Sergente Ambrogio Rusconi of the 91a Squadriglia flew a reconnaissance mission from Sigonella over the sea, searching enemy shipping or signs of sunken ships.
At 10:25, 27 MC.202s and MC.205s of the 4o Stormo scrambled to intercept 52 bombers escorted by about 20 Spitfires, that were heading to bomb the airfields around Catania. The 9° Gruppo was led by Capitano Giulio Reiner, while Capitano Lucchini was leading the 10° Gruppo. The 10° Gruppo consisted of the 84a Squadriglia (Lucchini, Sottotenente Francesco Palma, Sottotenente Enzo Dall'Asta and Capitano Luigi Giannella (CO of the 84a Squadriglia) flying MC.202s and Tenente Alessandro Mettimano, Sergente Maggiore Piero Buttazzi and Sergente Livio Barbera flying MC.205s), the 90a Squadriglia (Tenente Luigi Cima, Maresciallo Massimo Salvatore and Sergente Maggiore Giambattista Ceoletta flying MC.202s) and 91a Squadriglia (Tenente Mario Mecatti (CO), Sottotenente Giovanni Silvestri and Sottotenente Elio Miotto).
Giannella and Palma was a few minutes late to take-off because the ground crew were checking their weapons.
The Italian fighters made a frontal attack over Gerbini ignoring the escorting Spitfires. Two B-17s were claimed by Salvatore and Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) together with some Bf109s. Lucchini claimed a Spitfire while Reiner, Salvatore and Mecatti claimed a probable bomber each. Three bombers were claimed damaged by Lucchini, Giannella, Mettimano, Dall'Asta and Buttazzi. Additional damaged bombers were claimed by Reiner, Salvatore, Mecatti (who also claimed a damaged Spitfire), Sergente Ettore Chimeri (73a Squadriglia), Sergente Bruno Biagini (96a Squadriglia), Cima and Ceoletta.
When the Italian fighters landed again at 11:55, Lucchini was missing. He had been seen by Dall'Asta attacking the bombers against heavy defensive fire and then diving into the ground east of Catania. During the alarm, some of the ground crew also reported to have seen a MC.202 falling with the canopy closed, some kilometres east of the airfield. A car from the unit tried to reach the place, but it couldn't go on due to the bombing of the area. Lucchini's body wasn't found until two days later.
Taking part in this interception were also more than 100 Bf109Gs from I, II and III/JG 53 and I and II/JG 77. They claimed twelve bombers for the loss of four Bf109s including Major Johannes Steinhoff, Kommodore of JG 77, who force-landed his stricken aircraft.
It seems that the Italian fighters had been in combat with USAAF B-17s from 99th Bomber Group, which were out to attack Gerbini. They were intercepted near Ragusa at 23,000 feet but the escorting Spitfires from 72 and 243 Squadrons intervened. The Spitfires claimed one and one damaged Bf109 while the bombers gunner claimed 45 enemy fighters shot down! According to American records, three B-17s from the 99th BG (42-29486 and 42-29483 of the 348th BS and 42-29492) were lost during the day.
After this combat, an American pilot of a shot down bomber was brought to San Salvatore airfield.
At 11:55, four aircraft from the 91a Squadriglia scrambled. Tenente Vittorino Daffara damaged two four-engined bombers, claimed a P-38 shot down and hits on two Spitfires. Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli damaged two four-engined bombers while Tenente Giuseppe Ferazzani damaged a P-38.
At 13:00, Tenente Renato Baroni of the 90a Squadriglia scrambled from San Salvatore and had an in-conclusive contact with enemy fighters, returning to land at 15:00.
At 13:25 there was a new alarm and three MC.202s and two MC.205s of the 84a Squadriglia took off flown by Capitano Luigi Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Corrado Patrizi, Segente Maggiore Mario Veronesi, Tenente Alessandro Mettimano and Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi. At least three additional Macchis flown by Sottotenente Sforza Libera (90 a Squadriglia), Tenente Vittorio Squarcia (73a Squadriglia) and Maresciallo Lamberto Martelli (91a Squadriglia) also scrambles.
During the alarm an enemy formation released bombs on San Salvatore airfield; luckily, only a few bombs hit the strip but many others exploded around it and the tent of the 90a Squadriglia became surrounded by large craters. The American pilot quivered during the bombing and showed a little fear; to excuse himself, he stated that he was unaccustomed to be at the receiving end of bombers. More huge formations passed over the heads and bombed the other airfields.
The eight Macchis intercepted a reported 70 four-engined bombers escorted by 30 P-38s in the area between Gela, Enna and Caltagirone. The Allied aircraft were returning from a bombing mission over Catania.
Sottotenente Giannella, Sergente Maggiore Veronesi, Sottotenente Libera and Tenente Mettimano each claimed a P-38 in this in combat. Two probables were claimed by Mettimano and Sergente Patrizi. Mettimano, Patrizi, Squarcia and Martelli damaged several bombers. Libera was subsequently shot down and killed in this combat while Veronesi, after receiving hits in the engine and in the water cooler, made a gear-up emergency landing near Comiso.
The Italian fighters landed back at 13:55.
It is possible that they had been involved in combat with P-38Gs from 96th and 97th Fighter Squadrons, which returned claiming five enemy fighters at 13:30. First Lieutenant Gerald Lynn Rounds and Second Lieutenant Russell C. Williams from 97th FS claimed one Bf109 each. First Lieutenant William Judson Sloan of 96th FS claimed one Bf109 and one Re.2001 while Second Lieutenant James V. O'Brien from the same unit claimed a second Re.2001.
While the aircraft were refurbished with fuel and ammunition, a MC.202 flown by Sergente Maggiore Patrizi, scrambled. He took off at 14:15 and didn't return.
At 14:20, three MC.202s from 91a Squadriglia flown by Tenente Bertolaso, Sottotenente Leonardo Ferrulli and Sergente Giulio Fornalé took off for another scramble. It seems that they became involved in combat with B-17s, which were out to bomb Gebrini in the afternoon with a close escort of P-38s while 20 Spitfires from 126 and 1435 Squadrons provided top cover. Bf109s and Macchis tried to intercept over Gerbini. A Bf109 was claimed damaged by Flight Sergeant F. K. Halcombe (JK368/V-J) of 1435 Squadron, Pilot Officer Chandler (JK139/V-X) similarly claimed a Macchi damaged, while Flying Officer Geoff White (JK611/MK-M) of 126 Squadron shot down a Macchi. His victim was possibly Sergente Patrizi of the 84a Squadriglia who baled out of his disabled MC.205V near Gibrini. In the combat Leonardo Ferrulli was seen to shoot one of the bombers down, from which three men baled out, along with an escorting P-38 before he was in turn jumped by a flight of Spitfires that had been patrolling over the B-17s. Ferrulli baled out of his damaged MC.202 but was to low, his parachute failing to deploy before he hit the ground near Scordia, killing him. Tenente Bertolaso returned claiming damage to four four-engined bombers while Sergente Fornalé claimed hit on a bomber.
At 15:35 there was a new scramble with Capitano Giannella in a MC.202 and Sergente Maggiore Buttazzi in a MC.205. They returned after 30 minutes with no news.
At 17:35, there was again a new scramble by a MC.202 (pilot unknown) and Sottotenente Ugo Picchiottini in a MC.205. These two fighters returned at 18:00.
In the late afternoon, a German car arrived at San Salvatore airfield, and Sergente Maggiore Patrizi got out of it, aching all over and with scratches on many parts of his body; the pilot was welcomed with happiness by the personnel that crowded round him to listen to his adventure. He told that he chased a formation of Spitfires; while he was shooting at one of them, another one attacked him at six-o'-clock, and did not let him go, forcing him to jump from his burning aircraft and parachute. He touched down near Gerbini and was picked up by the Germans.
Towards the evening an aircraft from Comiso landed, carrying Sergente Maggiore Veronesi.
From 17:30 to 17:55, Tenente Fabio Clauser of the 90a Squadriglia flew a sortie together with Marescialo Salvatore but they didn't encounter any enemy aircraft.
Tenente Clauser flew another sortie from 20:00 to 20:15 over San Salvatore.
After Lucchini's death, command of the 10° Gruppo was given to Capitano Ranieri Piccolomini, who retained command until the Armistice on 8 September 1943.
Lucchini was posthumously awarded with the Medaglia d'Oro al Valor Militare. He had also been awarded with five Medaglie d'argento al valore militare, one Medaglia di bronzo al valore militare, four Croce di guerra al valor militare and a German 2nd class Iron Cross during the war.
He was mentioned in the Bollettino di Guerre (despatches) on 5 September 1942 and 6 July 1943.
At the time of his death Lucchini was credited with 4 biplane victories (1 of them in the Spanish Civil War) and a total of 22 making him one of the highest-ranking Italian ace. These claims were claimed in 294 missions (alternatively 262 missions) and 70 aerial combats. He was also credited with 52 shared claims.
Please note that Lucchini wasn't positively and officially awarded of any individual claim until May 1942 (exception the Spanish Civil War) since Regia Aeronautica weren't very willing to award individual claims from 1940 well into 1942, favouring 'collective' victories. All at once, this policy changed and from 1943 there were also money prizes for the individual pilot claims. All this makes it very difficult to state his final number of claims.
He was called 'Baracca della seconda guerra mondiale'.
Date Type Result Plane type Locality Unit 1937 12/10/1937 I-15 Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32 Villafranca-Fuentes del Ebro 19a Squadriglia 1938 7/1/1938 R-Z Shared destroyed Fiat CR.32 19a Squadriglia 21/02/38 I-15 Destroyed Fiat CR.32 Teruel front 19a Squadriglia 1940 14/06/40 Gladiator (a) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42 Buq Buq 90a Squadriglia 21/06/40 Sunderland (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42 Bardia area 90a Squadriglia 24/07/40 Blenheim Damaged Fiat CR.42 Bardia area 90a Squadriglia 24/07/40 Blenheim Damaged Fiat CR.42 Bardia area 90a Squadriglia 24/07/40 Blenheim Damaged Fiat CR.42 Bardia area 90a Squadriglia 24/07/40 Gladiator (c) Destroyed Fiat CR.42 Bardia area 90a Squadriglia 28/07/40 Blenheim (d) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42 El Adem 90a Squadriglia 28/07/40 Blenheim (d) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42 El Adem 90a Squadriglia 4/8/1940 Gladiator (e) Destroyed Fiat CR.42 30 km SW Sollum 90a Squadriglia 4/8/1940 Blenheim (e) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42 Ridotta Capuzzo area 90a Squadriglia 4/8/1940 Blenheim (e) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42 Ridotta Capuzzo area 90a Squadriglia 4/8/1940 Blenheim (e) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42 Ridotta Capuzzo area 90a Squadriglia 11/9/1940 Blenheim (f) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42 Sidi Omar - Bardia area 90o Squadriglia 14/09/40 Blenheim (g) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42 Sollum area 90a Squadriglia 26/12/40 Gladiator (h) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42 Sollum area 90a Squadriglia 26/12/40 Gladiator (h) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42 Sollum area 90a Squadriglia 26/12/40 Gladiator (h) Shared probable Fiat CR.42 Sollum area 90a Squadriglia 26/12/40 Gladiator (h) Shared probable Fiat CR.42 Sollum area 90a Squadriglia 27/12/40 Hurricane (i) Shared destroyed Fiat CR.42 Sollum area 90a Squadriglia 1941 25/06/41 Hurricane (j) Shared destroyed MC.200 Malta 90a Squadriglia 27/06/41 Hurricane (k) Destroyed MC.200 90-2 Malta 90a Squadriglia 11/7/1941 Hurricane (l) Destroyed MC.200 Hal Far 90a Squadriglia 11/7/1941 Hurricane (l) Shared destroyed MC.200 Hal Far 90a Squadriglia 11/7/1941 Wellington Shared destroyed on the ground MC.200 Hal Far 90a Squadriglia 11/7/1941 Wellington Shared destroyed on the ground MC.200 Hal Far 90a Squadriglia 11/7/1941 Wellington Shared destroyed on the ground MC.200 Hal Far 90a Squadriglia 11/7/1941 Wellington Shared destroyed on the ground MC.200 Hal Far 90a Squadriglia 11/7/1941 Wellington Shared destroyed on the ground MC.200 Hal Far 90a Squadriglia 11/7/1941 Blenheim Shared damaged on the ground MC.200 Hal Far 90a Squadriglia 11/7/1941 Blenheim Shared damaged on the ground MC.200 Hal Far 90a Squadriglia 11/7/1941 Blenheim Shared damaged on the ground MC.200 Hal Far 90a Squadriglia 17/07/41 Hurricane (m) Destroyed MC.200 Capo Passero 90a Squadriglia 19/08/41 Hurricane (n) Shared destroyed MC.200 Sicily 90a Squadriglia 4/9/1941 Hurricane Destroyed MC.200 Valletta 90a Squadriglia 4/9/1941 Hurricane Destroyed MC.200 Capo Passero 90a Squadriglia 1942 9/5/1942 Spitfire (o) Destroyed MC.202 Hal Far 84a Squadriglia 15/05/42 Spitfire (p) Destroyed MC.202 St. Paul's Bay 84a Squadriglia 15/05/42 Spitfire (p) Damaged MC.202 Malta 84a Squadriglia 4/6/1942 P-40 Destroyed MC.202 Bir Hacheim 84a Squadriglia 12/6/1942 Spitfire Shared destroyed MC.202 NE El Adem 84a Squadriglia 17/06/42 P-40 Destroyed MC.202 Sidi Rezegh 84a Squadriglia 4/7/1942 P-40 Destroyed MC.202 El Alamein area 84a Squadriglia 4/7/1942 P-40 (q) Shared destroyed MC.202 El Alamein area 84a Squadriglia 4/7/1942 Enemy fighter (r) Damaged MC.202 El Alamein area 84a Squadriglia 10/7/1942 P-40 Destroyed MC.202 El Alamein area 84a Squadriglia 16/07/42 P-40 Shared destroyed MC.202 Deir el Qattara area 84a Squadriglia 18/07/42 P-40 Shared destroyed MC.202 Burg el Arab area 84a Squadriglia 24/07/42 P-40 Probable MC.202 North Africa 84a Squadriglia 5/8/1942 P-40 Destroyed MC.202 El Hammam - El Amirya 84a Squadriglia 5/8/1942 P-40 Shared destroyed MC.202 El Hammam - El Amirya area 84a Squadriglia 11/8/1942 P-40 Probable MC.202 El Hammam – Burg el Arab 84a Squadriglia 31/08/42 Spitfire Destroyed MC.202 Dein El Hima 84a Squadriglia 2/9/1942 Boston Destroyed MC.202 Bir Mseilikh 84a Squadriglia 2/9/1942 Spitfire Destroyed MC.202 Bir Mseilikh 84a Squadriglia 3/9/1942 Hurricane Destroyed MC.202 El Alamein 84a Squadriglia 20/10/42 Hudson Damaged MC.202 Fuka area 84a Squadriglia 20/10/42 P-40 Destroyed MC.202 Quteifiya 84a Squadriglia 23/10/42 P-40 Shared destroyed MC.202 Fuka area 84a Squadriglia 24/10/42 P-40 Shared destroyed MC.202 MM7919 '84-12' W El Alamein 84a Squadriglia 24/10/42 B-25 Shared destroyed MC.202 MM7919 '84-12' W El Alamein 84a Squadriglia 1943 5/7/1943 Spitfire (s) Destroyed MC.202 S. Salvatore 10° Gruppo 5/7/1943 Enemy bomber Shared damaged MC.202 Gerbini area 10° Gruppo 5/7/1943 Enemy bomber Shared damaged MC.202 Gerbini area 10° Gruppo 5/7/1943 Enemy bomber Shared damaged MC.202 Gerbini area 10° Gruppo
Biplane victories: 4 and 17 shared destroyed, 2 shared probably destroyed, 3 damaged.
TOTAL: 22 and 52 shared destroyed, 2 and 2 shared probably destroyed, at least 6 and 3 shared damaged, 5 shared destroyed and 3 shared damaged on the ground.
(a) Actually shot down by Tenente Giovanni Guiducci. This loss has not been possible to verify with RAF records.
(b) Sunderland L2160/X of 230 Squadron, which returned to base damaged.
(c) Not verified in the Squadriglia diary.
(d) Claimed in combat with two Blenheim Mk.IFs of 30 Squadron and a Blenheim MK.IV of 113 Squadron. One aircraft of 30 Squadron was lost with its crew while the aircraft from 113 Squadron was badly damaged.
(e) Claimed in combat with bombers probably from 55 and 211 and/or 113 Squadrons and probably Gladiators from 112 Squadron. None of these RAF units reported any losses or claims. The Italian fighters from the 9o and 10o Gruppi totally claimed 3 Blenheims and 2 and 2 probable Gladiators.
(f) This claim can't be verified with RAF sources.
(g) This claim can't be verified with RAF records.
(h) Claimed in combat with Gladiators from 3 RAAF Squadron, which claimed 2 and 3 probables without any losses, and possibly Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which claimed a damaged CR.42 during the day. The 23° Gruppo claimed 1 Hurricane and 1 Gladiator and the 10° Gruppo claimed 2 and 2 probable Gladiators while losing one CR.42 and getting five more damaged.
(i) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 33 Squadron, which didn't suffer any losses. 33 Squadron claimed two CR.42s and one probable but the 10° Gruppo didn't lose any aircraft.
(j) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 46 Squadron, which claimed three victories without suffering any losses. The Italian fighter claimed one and one probalbes while losing two MC.200s.
(k) 10° Gruppo totally claimed three Hurricanes and five probables over the island (all by 90a Squadriglia). In fact RAF lost none.
(l) 10° Gruppo totally claimed four Hurricanes. RAF lost none.
(m) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 249 and 185 Squadrons. 10° Gruppo totally claimed four Hurricanes and two probables for the loss of two MC.200s. 249 Squadron claimed two MC.200 destroyed and one damaged for the loss of one Hurricane from 249 Squadron; Sergeant Maurice Guest (Hurricane Z2818) being killed.
(n) Claimed together with Sergente Ceoletta in combat with 126 Squadron. 126 Squadron claimed 4 destroyed and 1 probable and 10° Gruppo claimed 2 destroyed and one probable. In fact neither side sustained any losses.
(o) Claimed in combat with Spitfires from 126 Squadron which claimed three Z.1007s, one and one damaged MC.202 without losses. The 4o Stormo claimed three Spitfires and one damaged while getting one MC.202 damaged. One Z.1007 from the 210a Squadriglia B.T. was also damaged.
(p) 4o Stormo claimed four Spitfires, 2 probables and 1 damaged. RAF didn't suffer any losses in this combat.
(q) Claimed as a shared by the whole 10° Gruppo.
(r) Several were claimed damaged.
(s) This claim can't be verified with RAF records.
MC-202 4S10G84SA 84-1 origianly flown by Piero Buttazzi and the later by Capt Franco Lucchini who had to have a wing replaced after a forced landing Catania 1943
AB Abraxa's http://www.150gct.it/ http://www.france-simulation.com/
Historical skin of Aermacchi C.202 Serie III MM7720 84º Squadriglia, 10º Gruppo, 4º Stormo, Fuka, September 1942 Capitano Franco Lucchini
_Harpia_Mafra55_ Entry date : 8th Jun 2007 email@example.com
1. Macchi C.202 Serie III flown by Capitano Carlo Maurizio Ruspoli di Poggio Suasa, C.O. 91° Squadriglia, 10° Gruppo, 4° Stormo, in September, 1942
2. Macchi C.202 Serie III flown by Sottotenenete Leonardo Ferrulli, 91° Squadriglia, 10° Gruppo, 4° Stormo, in October, 1942
Happy flights! See you...MS Mangas.
Skin by _1SMV_6Cilindri other skins you can find me at www.1smv.it or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Skin by _1SMV_6Cilindri
TA Tchaika http://www.simulation-france-magazine.com/
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Editor for Asisbiz: Matthew Laird Acred
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