1st Tenente Dalmazio Corradini - 89 Gruppo 228 Squadron Aerosilurante SM-79 Sparrow Hawk 1940-43
1st Lt. Dal Corradini, his four crew members and the squadrons of the Aerosilurante (Torpedo Bomber Arm) flew some of the most successful and dangerous missions of the war. They and their allies attacks virtually strangled the British island base of Malta, and very nearly tipped the balance in the Africa land campaign. They caused more allied war and merchant ship losses in the Mediterranean than Italy's entire surface navy. By 1943, the SM-79 though still considered the superior torpedo aircraft of its type could not defend itself from the faster and heavily armed fighters of the Desert Air Force. Italian's like Dal and his crews willingness to face overwhelming odds, unescorted in daylight low level missions, ranks their bravery and skill the equal of their British Commonwealth and American counterparts. Dal's final mission on March 27th 1943 saw him sink his last ship off the coast of Algeria only to be shot down in flames and become a POW in the United states. Eight weeks later his unit's seven surviving aircraft withdrew from Sardinia to the Italian mainland where they were later disbanded.
Work In progress 1/25/03. (content of this page is the property of Dal Corradini and can not be used without his permission)
Dal Corradini was born in February of 1919 in Naples.
Dal: "I had one brother and three
sisters. Women did not go in the military service in Italy at that time and
my brother, Corrado, born in 1914, served in the Italian Navy in 1934 (his
regular service at age 20). He was an electrician on a submarine, the X 2.
When Italy entered W.W. II
in 1940, Corrado was married with children and therefore was not called back
into the service.
My parents were born in the Marche region (south
of Venice and east of Florence) on the Adriatic coast. My father went
to Naples in 1910, opened a restaurant and did well until he died in 1931 at
age 46. My mother started the business of making and selling egg noodles and
many restaurant owners who knew my father became her customers. I was 12 and
was put in a boarding school directed by the Franciscan Fathers for two
years. Later on I attended either public or private school as the family
economic conditions would allow.
Occasionally, since age 12 we would go to the Island of Capri: to go swimming , to
see the "Jump of Tiberius" as part of our Roman history lessons, to see the
Blue Grotto,etc. etc. Tiberius, as we learn from history, was crazy and one
of his crazy entertainments was to have slaves thrown off the cliff and to
listen to their screams as they were falling and hitting the stones of the
hillside. The terrace in front of his villa, on top of the cliff even today
is called "Salto di Tiberio".
Before joining the Air Force at age 19, I
studied and did some work as supervisor in a boarding school. What did I do
for fun? A little sport (track work - 100 meters) and swimming. Not much
dating for lack of time and money (even for a movie). No car; I started
driving in the U.S. after I came over in 1947."
There were heroes for Dal & just like young men everywhere, they were avaitors.
Dal: "There were heroes
like Italo Balbo who had a lot of admirers. I was one of them. Balbo
created a wave of enthusiasm for the Italian aviation when he took a formation
of 12 sea planes over the Atlantic a few years after Lindberg's crossing. I had
no previous experience in aviation; I just came to like it and decided to
join the Air Force." Italo Balbo.....Dal 1939.
Dal's co-pilot Sgt. Walter Bonacini's father Ceasare was a member of Balbos ground breaking flight. In WWII large fighter sweeps over the continent were referred to as Balbos.
"At age 19 I joined the Italian Air Force as a trainee for the officer's
school & I became a second lieutenant pilot in June 1940. I was not a career officer because I never
attended the Italian Air Force Academy. Italy always had compulsory military
service for all men on a temporary basis and career service for people who
wanted to stay in the military all their working life. For these people, even
today, there are Academies for officers and schools for all other ranks. I
joined the Italian Air Force as a "non career" officer because I had the
qualifying diploma of my studies and was called "ufficiale di complemento "
(non career officer). As such, I was supposed to serve 18 months and then
get an honorary discharge and go home to my civilian life. The war changed the
time of service and, after the usual 18 months, I was "retained in the service
for war reasons". So, from the beginning (Jan. 1939) to the end (Oct. 1945) I
spent about 7 years in the Air Force, including 2 and 1/2 years as a prisoner
of war without being a career man."
Above a recruiting poster featuring the SM-79. One of the fastest and most powerful long distance racing aircraft of its day in the mid to late 1930's it was used as a bomber in the Spanish Civil war and soldiered on through WWII. Roughly translated the poster says: Air Force Academy competition for the admission of 300 students to the first year of the regular course of the direction of the Air Force Academy. Expiration for the presentation of questions is 15 June 1938
Dal: "The planes I trained on were mono engine biplanes. The Breda 25, Fiat CR 20,
Breda 25 D and Fiat CR Caccia (fighter).
My training at Aviano was what
they called "passage from single to multi engine planes". Before that, at the
in Pescara, I had received my military pilot license on single engine planes.
The instructors in both schools were either "marescialli" (the highest rank
for non commissioned officers) or officers. They were all very good,
understanding, patient and supportive. We had no trouble or crashes and, as
we were flying around the field, we never got lost. We studied and practiced
navigation within the area of the Alps, Venice and the Adriatic Sea. In my
course, we all finished with high marks.
The multiengine planes I trained on
were : SM 81, SM 79, SM 84 and SM 79 II. I also flew the Caproni 100 (Ca
100) once or twice, solo, for training.
The Caproni 100 Float plane and the SM 81 bomber. Training was at Aviano air base. (now a base for US aircraft).At the end of our first course on single
engine planes, our instructors would rate us. The cadets who scored high on
"acrobatic" flights were assigned to the fighter plane groups. Those who,
like me, were classified as good navigators and steady flyers were assigned
to the bombardment units. At the end of the
course we would find our names listed on a poster outside our barracks with a
notation by the side indicating: "Yes, civilian pilot license" or "Yes,
military pilot license". And we would go out, buy the corresponding wing
and put it on by ourselves. If your name was not listed it meant you had to
train a little longer."
ever do any crazy things?" Yes; we did, like any other 20 to 25 year old man
who knows that he won't live long with this crazy war going on and he might
as well enjoy himself now, before it is too late. The Italian word for that
(an individual who uses his head only to scratch it once in a while). One of
the crazy things we used to do was the "puntata" or buzzing (to go up with
the plane. select a point on land and fly straight down against it; then,
when we were just abuit close enough to hit that point, we would swerve and
turn the plane to avoid the impact. Sometimes the point to buzz was the
bell tower of a church or a bus on the highway or a boat where people would
be so scared that they would jump in the water before, as they felt, the
plane would hit them.
On one occasion I went up with my co-pilot (before Walter) and the engineer.
The official reason for the flight was "Instrumental flight training" which
meant that one of the two pilots would fly "blind", behind a curtain and only
rely on the instruments while the other pilot would keep his eyes open to
avoid hitting a mountain or some other plane. That day our "instrumental
flight" was a series of buzzings against some boats by the beach scaring the
daylights out of the poor fishermen who, at the approach of the plane, would
either lay flat on the bottom of the boat or, on some occasions, would jump
out in the water. Everything was working out well for us that day, having a
lot of fun when, with the plane flying at about three or four feet from the
water level, a bunch of ducks flew out of some bushes on a small dune and
were hit by the plane. With several holes along the edges of the wings, we
turned around and went back to the airport. As we saw the squadron
commander, I explained that, while my co-pilot was behind the curtain, these
birds came at us and, before I could even see them, they were hit by the
plane. This is when I was given a week of house arrest because, as the
commander said." Ducks don't fly at 3000 meters " which was the regulation
altitude for instrumental flights and we must have been doing our crazy
buzzing around the beach to catch them.
Dal was later based in 1943 with the 89th Gruppo on the southwest coast of Sardinia at Milis. From here he flew 20 missions against the British fleet.
Dal: "I was with the 228 squadron; my plane was number 5. The 228' together
with the 229th formed Gruppo 89. The other group which with the 89th formed the
32nd "Stormo" was the 38th and had two squadrons , the 49th and the 50th. As
you may already know, the 32nd Stormo was organized in Sardinia at the Elmas
airport in Cagliari on December. 1st, 1936. My squadron didn't have any badge or emblem. We didn't have any official squadron emblem painted
on our planes. If any one crew had a special symbol, very seldom it would be
painted on the plane because our units were interchangeable, not assigned to
any given crew forever. For instance, my plane was No. 5 but if it was being
repaired, I would be flying someone else's plane, irrespective of number or
symbol painted on the fuselage.
At one time I saw the
drawing of a mosquito on a letter as an emblem of the 32nd Stormo but we
never had any designs on the planes. Our gruppo traded in the SM 84 for the SM 79 in December '42
because the old 79 was better than the new 84. I flew both and like many
other pilots I felt that the 79 was better for size, weight and, most of all,
My war missions were 5 as a bombardier and 15 as a torpedo pilot, all
against the British Fleet, with the SM 79 and the SM 84. My first mission
was on May 10, 1941 with the bombs and the last one on March 27, 1943 with
the torpedo. The "mad bombs" (bombe matte) were actually small torpedoes which, were parachute retarded, entered the water when released from the
parachute and, with the rear propeller going, they would go around in an
expanding spiral until they hit something or exploded by themselves at the
end of their run. I had some training with them but never had occasion to use
them in a war mission. My training as torpedo pilot started at the end of 1940 and my torpedo missions took place from Jan. '42 to March '43."
A SM-79 of 89 Gruppo armed for a mission
Dal: "Our training as torpedo pilots was started after
we had been bombardiers for a year or so. The torpedo school I attended was
at the Naples airport, near the sea. I would take off with a "disarmed"
torpedo (no explosive in the head, only sand to retain the normal weight),
My instructor, usually a captain, would tell me which way to go and it was
usually the same route: from airport to a certain area in the Gulf of
Naples, reserved for our exercises and away from normal commercial traffic.
A small ship, usually a mine sweeper, would be going up and down at different
speeds every time to give us a chance to work out our "triangle of
launching". This meant figuring out or actually guessing the speed of the
ship and setting our "aiming instrument" accordingly. The aiming instrument
was a primitive device shaped like a horseshoe with several nails sticking
out of it. As I saw the ship, I was to estimate its speed. The only clue I
had for this was the length of the wake; if it was equal to the length of the
ship, the speed was estimated at 20 nautical miles per hour. For a wake half
the length of the ship, the speed was estimated at 10 miles per hour; any
other length of the wake would give me a corresponding estimated speed of the
ship. Once the speed had been estimated, I would aim the corresponding nail
of the horse shoe at the ship and launch the torpedo in the direction of the
front nail of the device. This would create a triangle where the ship and the
plane were at the two lower points and the torpedo would hit the ship at the
third, higher point. Our training torpedoes would travel at a depth of 15 to
20 feet in order to cross under the ship without hitting it. By the side of
the target ship there was a fast motorboat which would chase the torpedo
and recover it with a special net."
Did we have any R&R facilities like the Germans? No; in fact our leaves
were usually justified by some special reason as we had no plans to get leaves
after so many missions. Examples of my leaves: going home to get the
uniform after being appointed second lieutenant; stop at home in transit if
traveling by train from one airport to the other; convalescence (in my case,
I contracted malaria in Sardinia and was sent home from the hospital for a
couple of weeks).
Dals Combat Mission log.
1941 - on the SM 79 - missions 5 - flying hours: 14.30
1942 - on the SM 84 - missions 12 - flying hours 41.30
1943 - on the SM 79 - missions 3 - flying hours 9.00
Totals 20 missions 65 combat hours.
Dal: "My mission log shows that I flew 20 war
missions: 6 with bombs, 5 with torpedo and 9 as armed escort or armed patrol.
Armed escort was usually with bombs which we would drop on any ship or
formation which was approaching or threatening the vessels we were escorting
- usually cargo ships. Armed patrol was with a torpedo, which we would launch
against any ship we would intercept before turning back and giving their
position, via radio, to the Air Command of Sardinia. On one occasion (March
1, 1943) I came back with the
torpedo because I couldn't get close to the British formation due to the
strong opposition of their fighter planes. Considering the escort and patrol
missions, I guess that of my 20 missions, 10 were with bombs and 10 with
[ Note: Bringing back a torpedo was not without risk. In J. Sadkovich's Italian Navy in WWII he mentions the actions the Sardinian Torpedo squadrons of the Airforce assisted in. Air launched torpedo shortages were constant. American aircraft were told to salvo bombs and torpedoes especially if the fields they had to return to were as rough as were the one at Milis. I asked Dal about shortages. ]
Dal at Milis Sardinia
Our group in Sardinia was isolated and took orders from
the Air Force general in charge of the island. If the order from
headquarters was to go out with the bombs because there were no torpedoes we
wouldn't have known. We received all armament from the main warehouse and we
followed orders without inquiring why this and not that.
Therefore, if there were shortages we were not told. We knew of spare parts
shortages because very often the answer to our requests was "Not in stock".
In such cases we had to find a way to fix the old or damaged ones . I
remember cases when, for lack of tires we would have our "specialists" make
do by using some wire or tape to keep them from jumping off the rims.
As for the mounting of torpedoes or bombs on the plane there was no problem
because the plane was the same old "bombardier" with the addition of some
outside hooks to carry the torpedo; no other conversion was necessary.
Photos Courtesy of Dal Corradini collection.
Dal & his crew hit other ships besides the one on March 27, 1943.
Dal: " With the exception of the one case when I returned with the
torpedo, I always found some ship to hit either with the bombs or with the
torpedo. Yes; we hit other ships,
the only problem is that we didn't know their names. At the end of every
meeting we would have a meeting with our commander and, if it was a
collective action, with the crews of the other planes. In those meetings we
would all agree on the results. Example - for a bombardment mission: "I saw
the battleship hit by four bombs; I saw the plane carrier hit by two bombs; I
saw one bomb on the cruiser which was on the right side of the battleship and
was shooting at us like crazy - Look at my photographs and see if you agree".
For a torpedo mission, "They tried to swerve once they saw the wake of the
torpedo but they didn't make it; they were hit in the rear, by the
propellers, as my photos show." In all cases, it was almost impossible for
us to say whether the ship was sinking or not. To see that we had to be
around and take pictures and very few pilots did that.
When I did it, I
certainly paid for it."
FINAL MISSION SCRAMBLE TO THE GULF OF PHILIPPEVILLE ALGERIA
Dal: "It all started on March 27th, 1943. At that time, I was a second lieutenant torpedo bomber pilot in the Italian Air Force (the Regia Aeronautica) with the 89th Gruppo (32nd Stormo) stationed at the war airport of Milis in Sardinia.
That morning, a motorcycle messenger came to my lodging ( a billeted room I shared with my friend Roberto Bocca) and told me that I was due on the flying line "right now" for an emergency war action. I shouted "goodbye" to Roberto and told him that we would have lunch together upon my return. Little did I know that I would see him again about twenty years later. There was no policy on R&R or leave based on number of missions. From our
base in Sardinia we would go back to the continent to change or fix our
airplanes, for training or for "regrouping" when we didn't have enough planes
or crews to operate."
228-8 of 89 Gruppo note the art work.
"In general, we would fly until we didn't come back from a mission (captured
or killed). I only flew over the Mediterranean,
South-west or West of Sardinia, against the British Fleet. We never thought about it; my crew or my
friend Roberto and I never thought about the end of the war. By now war was a
part of our life and we took it as it came. Were we superstitious?
Yes, like everybody else we didn't want to be photographed before a mission
because it was bad luck; like saying," This is the last time we saw them!".
Each one of us had his own silly ways to avoid the "evil eye" and create a
good luck situation for himself. This includes special lucky charms we
carried with us (usually something received from one of our girls) or some
special gesture from the sign of the cross to scratching some part of our
body for good luck.
Dal catching up on his reading with bomb as a back rest.
At the airport the engines of my plane had already been started and were going through the normal warm up period. The members of my crew were waiting for me as was out Captain who, in a few words, told me what the "action" was about. My plane, with possibly a second one to follow me in reserve, was to go to the Gulf of Philipeville on the Tunisian coast to torpedo a cargo boat coming in from Gibraltar and arriving there approximately 11 to 12 noon. We were to travel with other aircraft from the squadron including 105 gruppo, but our trusted number 5 suffered damage to the right landing strut during the taxi out to the strip. We had to transfer to another aircraft, number 1. The rest of the squadron formed up but could not wait. As we tried to catch up they went on without us. We came into the action late behind the main body and made our attack alone.
228-3 of 89-Gruppo
Our plane was a trimotor Savoia Marchetti 79 (SM 79) which, with a full load, would travel at about 150 miles an hour. Our slang expression was" "slow on the way out and fast on the way back' and it made a lot of sense considering on the way out we had a torpedo. a full load of gasoline, ammunition for four machine guns and a crew of five. The return was at over 180 miles an hour because we had no torpedo, half tanks of gasoline and, in many case, a small residue of ammunition." You are right, the fixed machine gun we had on the SM79 was controlled by
me, the commander of the plane, and I used it only on those rare occasions
when the plane was aiming at the ship just, as you said, to distract the
gunners and, as they say in Italian, "to make them suffer a little".
The cannon armed Desert Airforce Hurricane and the Spitfire Mark V. Twice the speed and devastating firepower in 20MM cannon and 30 caliber machine guns. Once one of these latched onto his tail, the small single Breda machine gun that a crewman might be able to bring to bear was little protection in a machine still consisting of wood and fabric in much of its construction.
Dal: "Did I ever have fighters on my tail
before my last mission? Yes. If the convoy we were going to attack had an
airplane carrier or if the action took place near the Tunisian or Algerian
coast there would be fighter planes either from the carrier or from land,
like the 43rd squadron involved in my last mission. If we were up high,
operating with bombs and if there were clouds around, they would become our
hiding place. In such cases, soon after dropping the bombs, we would break
formation and go separately into the clouds, spiraling there, hoping the
fighters would go away.
Sometimes it worked; on other occasions the Spitfires would be circling
around or under the clouds waiting for us to come out.
Defense: when we were in a formation, our gunners would try to create a
defensive area with their cross fire but we knew we were in losing game:
with the higher speed and the higher caliber arms of the fighters we were
like sitting ducks. The one lucky thing for us was the fact that our planes
were made of light wood and light pipes covered with cloth. This means that
many many bullets would go through the fuselage or wings without producing
much damage. At times, after landing, we would inspect the plane and find
many small holes on both sides of the unit where the bullets had come in and
gone out without hitting anything or anybody.
Note: One British pilot that was officially credited with 1/2 credit on a SM-79 that day was Robert "Paddy" Turkington of 43 squadron in a Spitfire Vc. The plane he shot down is listed in C. Shores Aces High, as belonging to 105 Gruppo, but this is probably mistaken. F/O Turkington also damaged a HE-111 that day. P/O Turkington was killed in a flying accident just after the war was ending.
Capt Urbano Mancini of the 105th Gruppo did not return on the 27th of March and was awarded the Mediglia d'Oro for his continuous leadership of the unit. a search by aircraft of 105 Gruppo SM-79's & Cants Z506 from the 613 Sqd never located the crew. After the attack from the Italian torpedo bombers, the convoy was also attacked by 8 He.111s of II./KG.26, led by two Ju.88 of II./KG.54, which scored no hits.
(according to a study of German actions in the Mediterranean written by two
very authoritative Italian writers, Santoni and Mattesini ). It was a very bad day for the Axis air forces. Losses were 5, S.79s, 1, He.111 and 1, Ju.88 shot down.
Dal: "We didn't have any interaction or
contacts with the Germans and never flew any missions with them. I never saw them
in Sardinia and I only remember seeing them in the Naples airport where I was
attending my course on torpedo launching. As far as I know, there was never
any expression of camaraderie with them maybe because of the language barrier
or because they felt and acted superior. We never went close to their
planes, never invited, either, and therefore never could compare our
Dal: "Our crew of five included the first and second pilot, radio man, engineer and machine gunner. As an officer, I was the first pilot and commander of the ship with my co-pilot, a sergeant, as second in command. The other three men were corporals, each one attending to his function and all assigned to man a machine gun when needed.
Walter Bonacini was my co-pilot since he came to my squadron in Sept/Oct. 1942. We
did not have fixed crews, permanently assigned to a commander. The one who
decided was the commander of the squadron or of the group who would rotate
people around to keep everybody busy. Example: "This sergeant has missed a
few missions so let's send him out with Corradini whose co-pilot is sick
today", he would say; or a radio man needed more experience or a new machine
gunner was to be trained. Taalking about radio men, it occurrs to me that we
used the radio very very seldom in action because we felt that the British
could spot us if we had the radio on. At that time we did not know that
there was a device called radar which could spot our planes. Since we were
being shot at in the dark, at night, by ship guns or night fighters, we felt
that the British had a special radio wave which could tell our position like
a goniometer detecting a radio; therefore, we only used the radio on the way
home to tell our anti-aircraft artillery not to shoot at us as they would
usually do out of ignorance.
Our take-off that morning was bumpy as usual since we had no runway: all our take-offs and landings took place on an irregular surface of grass covered farmland with occasional holes, grooves and mounds. In fact, a "war airport" in Italy was usually a piece of farm land leveled off by hand, the best way we could. The only advantage was the fact that it was difficult to identify it as an airstrip from above and in fact, our place was never hit by the British planes that would come from Tunisia or from some plane carrier." Our base in Sardinia was never "found" by the British planes and
therefore was never bombed during their raids. If it happened, it must have
been after I was shot down.
The HMS Illustrious, severely damaged by Stuka aircraft of the Luftwaffe only after the aircraft of the 32nd Stormo first drew her fighter aircover away. Hit 5 times she would be out of the war for 18 months.
Dal: "By 11:30 we were by the port: the ship was practically stationary and therefore it was easy for me to launch the torpedo directly on it, without considering any angulation for speed and direction. Our standard procedure to hit a ship in motion was to aim the torpedo at an imaginary point ahead of the ship at a distance from the prow based on the estimated speed of the ship. The torpedo was launched by the first pilot by pulling a lever at an estimated distance of about 2000 feet from the side of the ship. This distance was needed to overcome the "dolphin" trajectory of the torpedo at the first impact with the water until it would stabilize itself at about a 3 foot depth, preset before takeoff."
Unknown SM 79
The SM-79 was able to carry two torpedoes but the aerodynamics improved dramatically with the normal configuration of one. The aircraft also required little modification to be a torpedo bomber.
Dal "In this particular case, with the ship stationary, it was a bulls eye in a few seconds. The two corvettes escorting the ship had just heard our engines and started shooting at us when the torpedo hit and exploded. As torpedo pilots we were operating not in a formation but isolated, just to
minimize the effects of the barrage fire of the ships.
During our attacks, the large ships would shoot their high caliber guns
aiming in front of us; at the impact with the water, the shell would raise a
huge column of water, sometimes up to 20 meters high and if the plane ran
into it, it would disintegrate, like hitting a solid barrier.
The ship split in two sections forming a "V" with front and rear in the air and the middle section slowly sinking.
It was a spectacular sight and I asked the engineer who "doubled" as photographer, to take all 35 exposures of the sinking vessel. It was the wrong thing to do. As I was gyrating around the ship, stealing precious minutes from my limited get away time, not only the two corvettes had us in their firing range but also this gave two English fighter planes, the famous Spitfires, to reach us a few miles from the coast, on the open sea while we were trying, unfortunately too late, to go back home, flying low at about 10 feet from the water surface.
Dal's SM-79 damaged on an earlier mission but a good example of what British 20MM cannon and Bofors antiaircraft guns were capable of.
Dal: photos 1 and 2 abover are where my plane has a hole on each wing; the cannon balls went
in and out and the only damage was to the ailron and flap of the left side.
I don't remember if Bonacini was with me or if this happened before he came
to our squadron. I only remember hearing my co-pilot saying, "Mister
Lieutenant, I have a hole in my wing!" and I answered, "I won't tell you
about my wing otherwise you faint !". But we made it home, as the song said,
"on a wing and a prayer". And we did pray on such occasions. The protectress
of Italian aviators is the Virgin Mary of Loreto because, as the legend goes,
the oil painting of her image actually flew from the Dalmatian coast over the
Adriatic Sea and landed in the town of Loreto in Italy where it is now kept
in a sanctuary built expressly for it.
As my action against the ship was fast and easy so was the attack of the Spitfires against us. The first round of bullets shot ahead of our plane, a "sign language" meaning: I am giving you a chance to bail out before I shoot you down. We were flying too low for any parachute jump and I kept on going. But it was a very short run: before my three men could get behind their machine guns, my left engine, hit by a cannon ball started smoking and the wing gasoline tank behind the engine started burning."
Excerpt from P.271/272 of 'Fighters Over Tunisia' by Christopher Shores, Hans Ring & William Hess
During the day Hurricanes of 87 squadron and Spitfires of 43 squadron flew many patrols over a convoy code-named 'Untrue', meeting Axis bombers on repeated occasions throughout the day. FO Thompson and FO Johnson of 87 squadron on one patrol at 0900 met two He-111s of II/KG26 about ten minutes apart. Both bombers were flying at sea level, and the Hurricane pilots shot down one each in the Cap Takouch area, one being seen by pilots of 242 squadron to crash into the sea on fire; the crew of one bomber was later taken prisoner.
Photo from "43 Squadron": FO's Torrance, Turkington, Snell and Sgt Hermiston/smiles of victory Jemmapes March`1943, (courtesy Lorraine Luke)
Two Spitfires of 43 squadron scrambled at 0945 as the convoy reported that more than six He-111s were attacking. One of these was intercepted and attacked by F/O Jack Torrance without result. He and F/O Robert Turkington then attacked another, again without result, and Torrance attacked a third, seeing hits on the fuselage. Turkington then came out of some clouds to see three more bombers, and attacked until his ammunition ran out, inflicting damage on one. At 1005 another section took off and after 45 minutes over the convoy spotted three SM.79's approaching; Sgt Hermiston attacked the second of these, hitting the starboard wing and engine, and it caught fire, crashing into the sea burning fiercely. F/O Snell fire five short bursts of cannon at the third and the port engine and fuselage burst into flames, this too crashing into the sea. He then attacked the leading torpedo-bomber with only his machine guns, as his cannons had jammed, and fired three bursts; the port engine and wing began to burn, and the aircraft slowed down. Hermiston then fired, and the aircraft crashed into the sea with two engines and the fuselage blazing. As it had clearly been about to crash, he did not claim a share in the destruction of this third aircraft, two being credited to Snell.
Flt Lt. Robert Turkington at the center (with suspenders) with some of his ground crew in Italy 1944 with 241 squadron. (photo Air War Italy pg 73)
43 Squadron The Fighting Cocks (named for the Glouster Game Cock that they were flying at the time) and also know and the China-British squadron in WWII they flew from the Battle of France, Battle of Britian, Dieppe, North Africa through the Italian Campaign. They had only just converted to the Spitfire Vc before the action. The Spitfire VC differed from the earlier Spitfire VB in that it carried the ''Universal'' wing which had an armament of two or four 20 mm cannons and four machine guns. SPECIFICATION
Engine : 1x RR Merlin 45 Max. power : 1185 hp.
Wing span : 36 ft. 10 inch Lenght : 29 ft. 11 inch Height : 9 ft. 11 inch
Max. speed : 374 mph. Range : 470 mls.
Armament : 2 x 20 mm. cannon, 4 x MG
Their Squadron letters were FT-Z with the Spitfire Vc. During WWII, the RAF used three-letter aircraft codes. Two letters, painted before the roundel, indicated the unit; the third, painted aft of the roundel, the individual aircraft. During the period of Dals action in March 1943 the squadrons call sign was Ratter.
Based on the information found to date it appears that Torrance and Turkington were the pilots who brought Down Dal's aircraft.
The Tropicalized Spitfire with the protruding "chin" to filter the dust from the desert airstrips courtesy, Malcolm Barrass
Continued from Fighters over Tunisia:
Another pair of Spitfires, again flown by F/O Torrance and F/O Turkington, took off at 1125 and after 10 minutes these also saw an SM.79 at sea level. This was attacked by Torrance, who scored many hits; Turkington then attacked, and it crashed into the sea, burning fiercely, floating on the water for a few minutes, during which time three survivors were seen to get out.
[Note: This aircraft, caught alone by F/O Jack Torrance and F/O Robert Turkington is believed to be Dal's aircraft. The attack is exactly as he and his only recently located co-pilot Sgt. Walter Bonacini remembered. In a recent phone discussion after being separated for 60 years they discussed the mission start and the shootdown.
Dal at the controls of his bomber.
Dal and Walter remember that some of F/O Torrance's fire missed with the cannon splashes appearing in front of the fleeing SM-79. Dal's interpritation was that it was a signal to ditch or turn about to surrender, Walter feels that F/O Torrance just missed the target, both feel that it was the second plane flown by F/O Turkington that delivered the knock-out strikes to the left engine and started the fire. ]
The 323 Wing Leader, W/C Pedley, also caught an SM.79 and claimed to have damaged it.
A total of 12 SM.79 torpedo-bombers had been dispatched from Sardinia, nine making contact with the convoy. During the first attack on the ships one SM.79 was seen by following aircraft to turn over in flames near a burning merchant vessel; following this two more of the bombers were lost, and these three were obviously those shot down by Hermiston and Snell. A total of five bombers failed to return from this raid, and it is assumed that either that damaged by W/C Pedley subsequently crashed, or that the fifth bomber was shot down by the convoy's AA defences. (courtesy B.G the RAF Forum)
A further reference to the action that Day can be found in J- Norby Kings Green Kiwi vs German Eagle page 121. It says B flight had a successful day with the 4 pilots mentioned above sharing 4 confirmed and 2 damaged. A celebration was held at Cafe Terminus in Jammapes that served as the officers mess. Mr. King and Mr. Torrance remained friends after the war and are living in New Zealand at the time of this writing.
Jack Torrance (with permission of Norby King)
Mr. King provides this bit of information on the fates of the men who were in action that day and a response to the questions of height for a fighter pilot.
Mr. King: "I trained with Jack in Canada on Harvards and on Hurricanes in England. See link including a link to
Jack Torrance one of the pilots who shot down Dal's bomber.
Then in the same squadron (43) in Sussex and North Africa, Malta and Sicily.
In northern Sicily we parted...me to hospital in Tunis.
Jack to Italy then training Yugoslavs in North Africa for service from east Italy
to attack Germans and shipping on the Yugoslav coast. Quite a few of us fighter pilots were short...tight cockpits in Spitfires!
Leggy students got pointed towards bombers. Snell must have had an oxygen failure as he dived from a great height into the sea. I never saw Paddy in suspenders (braces).
A lot of air/sea rescue was done in the Med. by Walrus flying boats...more than navy ships." Speaking very briefly with Jack Torrance in New Zealand he will try to remember the action and talked briefly about traning the Yugoslav pilots.
Desert Air Force Order of Battle October 1942
The ORB is the Operational Record Book made up of two forms RAF Form 540 and
Form 541. This is the daily and monthly war diary for the squadron. It is
held at the Public Record Office, Kew, London and is open to personal
inspection in the microfilm reading room. AIR27/444 (courtesy Ross McNeil & Lorraine Luke)
No.43, Squadron North African / Algerian bases included Maison Blanche and later based at Jemmapes (just 15 miles south of Phillipeville).
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