15 October 1940

15 October 1940

Northern Front

The days of 15 and 16 October are marked by the events related to the deployment on Gedaref.

On 12 October 12, eight Vickers Wellesley, No.47 (RAF) Squadron, under the command of Squadron Leader James E. Pelly-Fry, took off at 09h20 to reach the forward aerodrome of Gedaref. They were joined on the spot by at least two Vickers Vincent of No.430 (RAF) Flight. The aircraft were to support operations conducted by the Ethiopian “Patriots” in the Lake Tana region.

The details of these missions are not known. The Italians seem to know their presence andseveral Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and Caproni Ca.133 are reported over the airfield on 14 and 15 October. These were mainly reconnaissance flights but a few bombs were dropped, although without consequence for the British. [1]


In the afternoon, three Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 of 6a Squadriglia BT (44bis Gruppo BT) took off from Dire Dawa to attack sea convoy BS 61/4 at about 13h00.

The British intervene with the Brisol Blenheim Mk IVF L9173 (Pilot Officer Heslop M.F. Barnitt) of No.203 (RAF) Squadron. A confrontation broke out during which one of the Italian bombers was seriously hit. Losing the use of two of the three engines, the Sottotenente Italo Gherardini tried to take the direction of Djibouti, but eventually lost control of the aircraft and crashed into the sea, killing all the crew (Sergente Maggiore Romolo Petrucci; Primo Aviere Ennio Grandi and Gastone Ceciliot ; Aviere Ottavio Coronati). The crew of HMAS Parramatta is able to confirm the tragic fate of the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79. [2] The Medaglia d’oro al Valor Miliare will be awarded posthumously to Italo Gherardini. [3]


[1] « 15 october 1940 », No.47 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27 / 493.

[2] « 15 october 1940 », No.203 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27 / 1198 ; SHORES, Christopher ; RICCI, Corrado. Dust Clouds in the Middle East – The Air War for East Africa, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Madagascar, 1940 – 1942. London : Grub Street, 2010 (Reprinted). p.67.

[3] Wikipedia, l’encyclopédie libre. Italo Gherardini : https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italo_Gherardini

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