16 October 1940

16 October 1940

Northern Front

Due to the British presence in Gedaref, the Italians decide to launch an attack on the airfield. For this purpose, General Pietro Piacentini (responsible for the North Sector) joins the Barentu airfield to coordinate the bombing. He took off at 05h25 aboard a Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 followed by eight Fiat CR.42 from 412a Squadriglia CT (Antonio Raffi, Tenente Carlo Canella, Di Pauli and Mario Visintini, Sottotenente Giovanni Levi and Fiorindo Rosmino, Sergeant Maggiore Luigi Baron, Sergeant Pietro Morlotti).

The bombing began at 06h55 when the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 dropped their first bombs. If the result of the latter seems insignificant, the Italian fighters unleash the hell on the ground between 07h00 and 07h20. The eight Vickers Wellesley of No.47 (RAF) Squadron (K7742, K7762, K7779, K7781, L2650, L2675 , L2677 and L2688) are completely destroyed on the ground. The two Vickers Vincent (K4657 and K4731) of the No.430 (RAF) Flight, then in preparation for a mission, try to take off to escape but they are immediately shot down by the Capitano Antonio Raffi. In addition to the ten destroyed planes, Italians leave the supply of ammunition on fire, while various vehicles are damaged to varying degrees. Miraculously, no human loss is to be deplored.

The Italian operation appears to have been particularly well prepared as the telephone line to the Azzoza airfield is reported to have been cut off, preventing contact with No.1 (SAAF) Squadron. As a result of this particularly successful attack, Capitano Antonio Raffi receives the Medaglia d’Argento, while the other pilots are decorated with the Medaglia di Bronzo. For its part, the No.47 (RAF) Squadron detachment was ordered to evacuate Gedaref at noon. With these heavy losses, the availability of Vickers Wellesley, already reduced, collapses. No.14 (RAF) Squadron is ordered to send his last seven Vickers Wellesley and finish his transformation on Bristol Blenheim. [1]

From Aden, the French (Flight Lieutenant Jacques Dodelier, Warrant Officer Yves Trecan, Flight Sergeant Ronan Michel and Joseph Portalis) attached to No.8 (RAF) Squadron continue their patrols on the Glenn-Martin 167F No. 102 with a photographic mission above the sector Say Dawa – Shinile – Urso between 09h20 and 14h40. [2]

[1] « 16 october 1940 », No.47 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27 / 493 ; CANWELL, Diane ; SUTHERLAND, Jon. Air War East Africa (1940 – 1941). The RAF versus the Italian Air Force. Barnsley : Pen and Sword Aviation, 2009. p.69 ; 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). pp.67 – 68 ; GUSTAVSSON, Håkan. Capitano Antonio Raffi. Biplane Fighter Aces from the Second World War : http://surfcity.kund.dalnet.se/italy_raffi.htm

[2] « 16 october 1940 », No.8 (RAF) Squadron : Operations Record Book (Form 540 and Form 541). Kiew : TNA, AIR 27 / 114 ; MORIEULT Yves. Les French Flights, des escadrilles françaises au sein de la RAF. Aéro Journal, 2003, octobre – novembre, n°33, p. 14.

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