91 Squadriglia Degli Assignment

Capitano Franco Lucchini

24 December 1917 – 5 July 1943

Franco Lucchini was born in Rome on 24 December 1917. He entered into the Regia Aeronautica as a Reserve Officer in 1935 and obtained the military pilot licence at the Air School of Foggia in July 1936. He was assigned to the 91a Squadriglia of 4o Stormo Caccia C.T.

In July 1937 he volunteered for the Spanish Civil War, fighting for almost one year in the 19a Squadriglia of XXIIIo Gruppo "Asso di Bastoni", flying Fiat CR.32s. His nom de guerre in Spain was ”Lunigiano”.

During his tour 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”.

He claimed a shared I-15 on 12 October 1937 together with Tassinari and Mattei.

On 7 January 1938 he claimed a shared R-Z.

On 21 February 1938 he claimed an I-15 ‘Chato’ over the Teruel front.

When the civil war ended he came back to 10o 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 1940 a Shorts Sunderland from 230 Squadron 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 obliged 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”.

The loss of a Sunderland can’t be verified with RAF records and it was reported that a Sunderland from 230 Squadron was attacked at 05:40 near Tobruk and returned to base lightly damaged, claiming one of its attackers shot down. The first Sunderland loss in the Mediterranean wasn’t reported until 6 August 1940.

On 24 July a formation of eleven CR.42s from the 10o Gruppo, backed by six more from the 13 o Gruppo was up to patrol the Sidi Azeiz – Sollum – Bardia area. Leading the 10o Gruppo formation was Tenente Colonnello Carlo Romagnoli and with him were Tenente Lucchini and Tenente Giovanni Guiducci of the 90a Squadriglia, Capitano Luigi Monti, Capitano Aldo Lanfranco and Tenente Giuseppe Aurili of the 84a Squadriglia, Tenente Enzo Martissa and Sergente Luigi Ferrario of the 91a Squadriglia and three unknown pilots. Pilots from the 13o Gruppo included Tenente Giulio Torresi of the 77a Squadriglia and Sergente Maggiore Abbarchi of the 78a Squadriglia and four unknown pilots.

In the Sollum area they met a British formation estimated to nine Blenheims and fifteen Gladiators strong, flying towards Bardia. 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 while the others were dispersed; Tenente Guiducci claimed a Gloster while Tenente Giulio Torresi claimed another. Sergente Maggiore Abbarchi followed a Gladiator for 50 kilometres into enemy territory and finally claimed it shot down. Tenente Aurili damaged three Glosters while 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 Gloster to break away. It seems that the fifth Gladiator was claimed by Tenente Lucchini.

During the combat Capitano Lanfranco became isolated and, attacked by a reported three enemy fighters, was shot down and forced 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 dwon near Tobruk, telling that he was wounded in Alexandria hospital. Sergente Ferrario came back with a damaged plane. No losses were suffered by the 13o Gruppo formation.

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, Pilot Officer A. R. Costello, Pilot Officer Vernon Woodward (Gladiator N5768), Sergeant Slater and Sergeant Shaw, which 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. Three more CR.42s were claimed by the other pilots and since Dean doesn’t seems to have claimed anything during the day these were most probably claimed by Costello, Slater and Shaw but it haven’t been possible to verify which of the pilots who made the claims. During the return flight Shaw was forced to land east of Buq Buq 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.

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 two Blenheim Mk.IFs of 30 Squadron, which escorted a Blenheim MK.IV of 113 Squadron on a reconnaissance mission over El Adem. 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 surviving British crews reported that they were attacked by five Italian fighters.
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 (Gladiator Mk.I L8009), Pilot Officer Johnny Lancaster and Sergeant Kenneth George Russell Rew (RAF no. 526687). 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 Benghasi-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 10o 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 12o 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 (eleven from the 97a Squadriglia, eleven from the 96a Squadriglia and nine from the 10o Gruppo). At the head of the two formations were Maggiore Ernesto Botto and Tenente Colonnello Carlo Romagnoli. 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 six Blenheims heading to El Adem, escorted in by seven Glosters Gladiators. Aircraft of the 96a Squadriglia and the 10o Gruppo attacked the bombers and then chased the fighters. In the fierce combat Tenente Lucchini of the 90a Squadriglia claimed a Gladiator, while pilots of the two Gruppi jointly claimed three Blenheims and another Gloster as shares. Two more Glosters were claimed probably shot down jointly with the CR.32s of the 160a Squadriglia. The 97a Squadriglia, covering at a higher altitude, spotted three other Blenheims that were heading towards Egyptian territory and dived to pursue them. Capitano Antonio Larsimont (CO), Sergente Franco Sarasino and Maresciallo Vanni Zuliani all claimed hits on them. It seems that RAF records aren’t complete on this day since neither the Blenheim nor the Gladiator Squadrons involved in this combat has been possible to identify.

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. Meanwhile Pattle and Lancaster 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. The fitter whom came to examine the aircraft shortly afterwards pronounced it too damaged to repair in situ and ordered it to be burned forthwith!

After shooting down the Breda Wykeham-Barnes was attacked by the CR.32s. He shot down one of them before he was attacked by another which shot away his rudder and elevator controls and he was forced to bale out. 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 the section of Sottotenente Rossi which was waiting higher up for its turn to attack, 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 valore 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 CR.32 (initially 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 AugustTenente 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.

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. He claimed at least 3 victories (alternatively 4 probables, see below) and 15 shared victories. He was also awarded with one Medaglia d'argento al valore militare and two Medaglie di bronzo al valore militare.

In early 1941 the 10o Gruppo moved back to Italy to re-equip with Macchi MC.200s.

On 16 June 1941 10o Gruppo moved to Trapani, Sicily to take part in the attacks on Malta.

On 27 June 1941 he claimed one Hawker Hurricane over Malta when 10o 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 10o 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 forty-nine MC.200s from the 7o, 10o and 16o Gruppi set off mid morning to escort one reconnaissance Z.1007bis over Malta. En route the 16o 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 10o 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 10o 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 10o 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 10o 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 1 December he was promoted to commander of the 84a Squadriglia.

By the end of 1941 10o 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 9o Gruppo and 10o 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 (9o 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 4o 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. Two pilots from 249 Squadron 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 damaged. None of the Spitfires were however seriously hit. Flight Sergeant Verroll of 249 Squadron shot down one MC.202, killing the 91a Squadriglia commander Capitano Alberto Argento (MM7813).

On 19 May 10o 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 fourteen MC.202s from the 10o 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, 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.

He claimed a P-40 on 17 June over Sidi Rezegh.

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.

Another P-40 was claimed over El Alamein on 10 July.

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.

In the afternoon on 24 July eleven MC.202 of the 9o Gruppo (six from 96a Squadriglia and five from 97a Squadriglia) led by Maggiore Roberto Fassi and ten of the 10o 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 9o 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 10o 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.

On 31 August Capitano Lucchini claimed a Spitfire over Dein El Hima in the afternoon 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 10o 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.

He claimed a P-40 over Quteifiya on 20 October.

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 several months at hospital and rest he 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.
In June 1943 he took command of the 10o Gruppo.

The 5 July was to become a tough day for the Macchis of 9o and 10o Gruppi with heavy combat and serious losses. By this time Lucchini flown 7 more missions and taken part in one combat.

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 twenty-seven MC.202s and MC.205s of the 4o Stormo scrambled to intercept fifty-two bombers escorted by about twenty Spitfires, that were heading to bomb the airfields around Catania. The 9o Gruppo was led by Capitano Giulio Reiner, while Capitano Lucchini was leading the 10o Gruppo. The 10o 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 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 Piero 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 seventy four-engined bombers escorted by thirty 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 90 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 temporarily command of the 10o 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".


Kill no.DateNumberTypeResultPlane typeSerial no.LocalityUnit
 12/10/371/3I-15Shared destroyedFiat CR.32  19a Squadriglia
 07/01/381I-15Shared destroyedFiat CR.32  19a Squadriglia
121/02/381I-15DestroyedFiat CR.32 Teruel front19a Squadriglia
 14/03/381I-16Destroyed (a)Fiat CR.32 Alcañiz area19a Squadriglia
 14/03/381I-15Destroyed (a)Fiat CR.32 Spain19a Squadriglia
 18/07/381I-15Destroyed (a)Fiat CR.32 Segorbe area19a Squadriglia
 22/07/381SB-2 (b)Destroyed (a)Fiat CR.32 Spain19a Squadriglia
 14/06/401/4Gladiator (c)Shared destroyedFiat CR.42 Buq Buq90a Squadriglia
221/06/401Sunderland (d)DestroyedFiat CR.42 Bardia area90a Squadriglia
 24/07/401Blenheim (e)DamagedFiat CR.42 Sollum area90a Squadriglia
 24/07/401Blenheim (e)DamagedFiat CR.42 Sollum area90a Squadriglia
 24/07/401Blenheim (e)DamagedFiat CR.42 Sollum area90a Squadriglia
324/07/401Gladiator (e)DestroyedFiat CR.42 Sollum area90a Squadriglia
 </ FONT>28/07/401/3Blenheim (f)Shared destroyedFiat CR.42 El Adem90a Squadriglia
 </ FONT>28/07/401/3Blenheim (f)Shared destroyedFiat CR.42 El Adem90a Squadriglia
404/08/401GladiatorDestroyedFiat CR.42 30 km SW Sollum90a Squadriglia
 04/08/401GladiatorShared destroyedFiat CR.42 Ridotta Capuzzo area90a Squadriglia
 04/08/401BlenheimShared destroyedFiat CR.42 Ridotta Capuzzo area90a Squadriglia
 04/08/401BlenheimShared destroyedFiat CR.42 Ridotta Capuzzo area90a Squadriglia
 04/08/401BlenheimShared destroyedFiat CR.42 Ridotta Capuzzo area90a Squadriglia
527/06/411Hurricane (g)DestroyedMC.20090-2Malta90a Squadriglia
611/07/411Hurricane (h)DestroyedMC.200 Hal Far90a Squadriglia
 11/07/411Hurricane (h)Shared destroyedMC.200 Hal Far90a Squadriglia
 11/07/411WellingtonShared destroyed on the groundMC.200 Hal Far90a Squadriglia
 11/07/411WellingtonShared destroyed on the groundMC.200 Hal Far90a Squadriglia
 11/07/411WellingtonShared destroyed on the groundMC.200 Hal Far90a Squadriglia
 11/07/411WellingtonShared destroyed on the groundMC.200 Hal Far90a Squadriglia
 11/07/411WellingtonShared destroyed on the groundMC.200 Hal Far90a Squadriglia
 11/07/411BlenheimShared damaged on the groundMC.200 Hal Far90a Squadriglia
 11/07/411BlenheimShared damaged on the groundMC.200 Hal Far90a Squadriglia
 11/07/411BlenheimShared damaged on the groundMC.200 Hal Far90a Squadriglia
717/07/411Hurricane (i)DestroyedMC.200 Capo Passero90a Squadriglia
 19/08/41½Hurricane (j)Shared destroyedMC.200 Sicily90a Squadriglia
804/09/411HurricaneDestroyedMC.200 Valletta90a Squadriglia
904/09/411HurricaneDestroyedMC.200 Capo Passero90a Squadriglia
1009/05/421Spitfire (k)DestroyedMC.202 Hal Far84a Squadriglia
1115/05/421Spitfire (l)DestroyedMC.202 St. Paul’s Bay84a Squadriglia
 15/05/421Spitfire (l)DamagedMC.202 Malta84a Squadriglia
1204/06/421P-40DestroyedMC.202 Bir Hacheim84a Squadriglia
 12/06/421/3SpitfireShared destroyedMC.202 NE El Adem84a Squadriglia
1317/06/421P-40DestroyedMC.202 Sidi Rezegh84a Squadriglia
1404/07/421P-40DestroyedMC.202 El Alamein area84a Squadriglia
 04/07/421P-40 (m)

La Squadriglia degli Assi

La 91^ Squadriglia Caccia viene formata il 1 maggio 1917 sul campo di Santa Caterina di Udine con i migliori piloti della 70^ Squadriglia e inquadrata nel X Gruppo.

Agli ordini del capitano Guido Tacchini, sono il capitano Francesco Baracca, il tenente Fulco Ruffo di Calabria, il tenente Ferruccio Ranza, il sottotenente Luigi Olivari ed il sergente Goffredo Gorini.

Anche gli aerei sono tratti dalla 70^, e la squadriglia, articolata su due sezioni, dispone di quattro SPAD, e di tre Nieuport 17.



Il reparto sceglie come propria insegna un grifone, invece Baracca, in omaggio al reggimento da cui proviene, il Piemonte Reale Cavalleria, fa dipingere un cavallino nero sul suo aereo, probabilmente il Nieuport 2614.

La prima formazione al 1 aprile 1917


Comandante 10° Gruppo Squadriglie: Maggiore Pier Ruggero Piccio


Comandante 91^ Squadriglia: Capitano Guido Tacchini



Capitano Francesco Baracca




Tenente Fulco Ruffo di Calabria



Tenente Ferruccio Ranza



Sottotenente Luigi Olivari



Sergente Goffredo Gorini


I nuovi arrivi

11 maggio 1917 – Tenente Giovanni Sabelli


1 luglio 1917 – Tenente Franco Di Rudinì,

1 luglio 1917 – Tenente Giorgio Pessi (Giuliano Parvis)



1 luglio 1917 – Sottotenente Enrico Ferreri

18 luglio 1917 – Capitano Bortolo Costantini


12 ottobre 1917 – Aspirante Antonio Pagliari

26 ottobre 1917 – Sergente Fermo Macchi


Formazione al 10 novembre 1917

Comandante 10° Gruppo Squadriglie: Tenente Colonello Pier Ruggero Piccio

Comandante 91^ Squadriglia: Maggiore Francesco Baracca



Capitano Bortolo Costantini

Tenente Ferruccio Ranza


Tenente Giuliano Pessi

Tenente Fulco Ruffo di Calabria

Tenente Gastone Novelli


Tenente Guido Keller



Sottotenente Giovanni Bozzetto

Aspirante Antonio Pagliari

Aspirante Amleto Degli Esposti

Sergente Carlo Caselli

Sergente Cesare Magistrini

Sergente Montù

Sergente Edoardo Olivero


I nuovi arrivi

11 marzo 1918 – Sergente Mario D’Urso


Formazione al 12 marzo 1918


Comandante 10° Gruppo Squadriglie: Tenente Colonello Pier Ruggero Piccio

Comandante 91^ Squadriglia: Maggiore Francesco Baracca


Capitano Bortolo Costantini


Tenente Guido Keller

Tenente Gastone Novelli

Tenente Ferruccio Ranza

Tenente Fulco Ruffo di Calabria

Tenente Adriano Bacula

Tenente Mario De Bernardi

Sergente Mario D’Urso

Sergente Cesare Magistrini

Sergente Edoardo Olivero

Sergente Gaetano Aliperta

Sergente Guido Nardini


La scomparsa di Francesco Baracca

Il 19 giugno, dopo aver compiuto una missione, il trentenne Baracca rientrò al campo di Quinto di Treviso; lo SPAD S.XIII con cui aveva compiuto i primi voli della giornata aveva il rivestimento in tela delle ali e della fusoliera danneggiato, perciò egli decollò con il suo aereo di riserva, uno SPAD S.VII, per la quarta missione del giorno.

Altri due aerei della 91^ Squadriglia sarebbero decollati con lui, il giovane Osnago e il più esperto Costantini.

Al momento della partenza tuttavia si scoprirà che Costantini era già partito, lasciando a Baracca la sola scorta dell’inesperto Osnago.

Mentre i piloti erano impegnati in un’azione di mitragliamento a volo radente sopra Colle Val dell’Acqua, sul Montello, l’asso italiano venne abbattuto.

Baracca fu colpito da un biplano austro-ungarico non visto, o visto troppo tardi quando già l’asso era stato colpito dalla prima delle due raffiche sparate dall’osservatore.

Il pilota Max Kauer e l’osservatore Arnold Barwig hanno fornito una documentazione che sarebbe stata sufficiente a far accreditare loro la vittoria verso chiunque altro, ma continuamente rifiutata dalle autorità italiane per motivi propagandistici, in tempi in cui l’esito della guerra era ancora incerto.

Verrà ritrovato qualche giorno dopo, il 23 giugno dal capitano Osnago, compagno dell’ultimo volo, che su segnalazione dell’ufficiale Ambrogio Gobbi raggiunse le pendici del Montello (località “Busa delle Rane”) con il tenente Ranza ed il giornalista Garinei del Secolo di Milano.

Qui, accanto ai resti del velivolo, si trovava il corpo di Baracca: ustionato in più punti, presentava una ferita di pallottola sulla tempia destra.

Le ali e la carlinga dello SPAD S.VII erano carbonizzati, il motore e la mitragliatrice infissi nel suolo e il serbatoio forato da due pallottole.

Le esequie

Le esequie si svolsero il 26 giugno a Quinto di Treviso, alla presenza di autorità civili e militari, e l’elogio funebre venne pronunciato da Gabriele D’Annunzio, ammiratore del pilota di Lugo.


21 giugno 1918

Comandante 91^ Squadriglia: Capitano Fulco Ruffo di Calabria


12 luglio 1918

La 91^ Squadriglia assume la denominazione di Squadriglia Baracca


19 settembre 1918

Comandante 91^ Squadriglia: Capitano Ferruccio Ranza


Nuovi Arrivi

1 ottobre 1918 – Tenente Augusto Stobia

1 ottobre 1918 – Tenente Carlo Alberto Conelli De Prosperi

31 ottobre 1918 – Tenente Antonio Brambilla

31 ottobre 1918 – Tenente Fabio Fabi

31 ottobre 1918 – Sottotenente Attilio Moscatelli

31 ottobre 1918 – Caporale Umberto Capati

31 ottobre 1918 – Caporale Francesco Ciabati

31 ottobre 1918 – Caporale Raffaele Gargiulo


La 91^ Squadriglia al 1 novembre 1918

Comandante 91^ Squadriglia: Capitano Ferruccio Ranza


Tenente Adriano Bacula

Tenente Carlo Alberto Conelli De Prosperi

Tenente Mario De Bernardi

Tenente Gastone Novelli

Sergente Gaetano Aliperta

Sergente Mario D’Urso

Sergente Edoardo Olivero



La “Squadriglia degli assi”

Al 4 novembre 1918, data della fine del conflitto, la squadriglia aveva collezionato 117 abbattimenti accertati, divenendo celebre come la “Squadriglia degli assi”, pari a circa la metà degli aerei austriaci abbattuti sul fronte italiano.

Oltre a Baracca e Ruffo di Calabria, ebbe tra le sue file assi come Ranza, Piccio, Olivari, Novelli, Costantini, Magistrini, Nardini, Parvis e Sabelli oltre ad altri valorosi piloti come ad esempio Eduardo Olivero (3 medaglie d’argento al valor militare), Gaetano Aliperta (2 Medaglie d’argento al valor militare) e Gorini (2 medaglie di bronzo al valor militare).


Periodo interbellico

Il 7 maggio 1923 passò alle dipendenze del 1° Stormo caccia ed ebbe sede a Cinisello Balsamo (Milano) su aerei SPAD.

Il 25 dicembre 1925 fu trasferita al 2° Stormo. La squadriglia era in quel periodo dislocata a Ciampino; dopo aver fatto parte del 7° Gruppo autonomo caccia terrestre, in data 30 maggio 1931 concorreva a costituire il 4° Stormo caccia e fu dislocata ad Aviano.


Seconda guerra mondiale

Durante la guerra 1940-45 la 91^ Squadriglia del X Gruppo del 4° Stormo operò con gli aerei Fiat C.R.42, Macchi M.C.200, e poi con il Macchi M.C.202, senza soluzione di continuità, da Tobruk, a Pola e in Sicilia, all’aeroporto di Catania.


Il reparto fu insignito di una medaglia d’oro al V.M. Dopo l’8 settembre 1943, la 91^ partecipò anche alla guerra di liberazione nel ricostituito Regno del Sud con l’Aeronautica Cobelligerante Italiana, facendo parte del X Gruppo e poi del XII Gruppo, sempre del 4° Stormo.



La squadriglia rimase negli anni successivi con il medesimo stormo, prima a Capodichino e poi a Pratica di Mare, dal 1963 con i nuovi aerei Lockheed F-104 Starfighter,


e nel 1967, per la nuova dottrina di guerra aerea, che voleva i reparti di volo sparsi sul tutto il territorio nazionale, la 91^, con il 10^ Gruppo fu trasferita al 9° Stormo, sulla base aerea di Grazzanise, dove ha operato fino al 2004, terminando la vita operativa degli F 104S/ASAM.


Nel 2005 è stata rischierata con il 10° Gruppo Caccia al 37° Stormo, sulla base aerea di Trapani Birgi dove il gruppo è stato assorbito nel 2006. Su quella base ha operato con gli F-16.

Dal 2010 la 91^ squadriglia è, con il 10° gruppo, alle dipendenze del 36° Stormo, sulla base aerea di Gioia del Colle, ed opera con caccia Eurofighter Typhoon.


Nel 1971 uno dei quattro distintivi di squadriglia scelti per creare lo stemma dell’Aeronautica Militare fu quello della 91^, nel quadrante superiore destro compare quindi un grifo rampante rosso su sfondo argenteo.





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