NARA at College Park holds a good collection of Italian records, including daily records of the Italian air force. These are detailed accounts of strength, sorties, and results.
USAAF Identification Sheet for the Fiat BR.20 ‘Cicogna’ (Stork) fast light bomber, a very modern design from the mid-1930s. Source: Wikipedia
The daily record is called ‘Cronistoria’, which is shorthand for Cronica della Storia (historical chronicle), and it is a simple mission report compiled for Superaereo of the Regia Aeronautica (High Command of the Royal Air Force) in the A.S.I. (Africa Settentrionale Italiana – Italian North Africa) area of operations, on a daily basis. Below are two days.
15 November 1941
tel. 2485 to Superaereo
5 MC.200 carried out an escort of a S.75 reconnaissance plane. Formation was attacked by 4 Hurricans from above. Combat allowed the reconnaissance plane to escape. One MC dived in smoke and crashed on the ground. One Hurricane shot down in flames.
13 CR.42 carried out escort for a S.81.
5 G.50 carried out patrol over Benghazi, and one G.50 took off on alarm.
2 MC.200 took off from Barce on alarm.
tel. 2518 to Superaereo
One Ro.37 explored along the coastline from Ain Gazala Apollonia-Marsa Susa and five miles out from Apollonia-Marsa Susa Ai Gazala.
One Cant.Z.501 carried out a search for motor sailing vessels and mines (or mine hunters)
18 November 1941
tel. 2581 to Superaereo
5 G.50 prepared to take off for an alarm, two did not succeed, the other three followed, reached and attacked an enemy formation; one (enemy) plane shot down.
tel. 2633 to Superaereo
One G.50 took off on alarm.
6 CR.42 carried out an escort of Ju.87 planes.
10 G.50 took off on alarm from Martuba. One G.50 took off on alarm from Ain-Gazala and made contact together with German fighters with a formation of 9 Glen Martin (bombers). One shot down.
Interesting that they got this much airborne from soggy fields on 18 Nov. The intercept of the SAA light bombers is mentioned in Shores and Ring; 2 down, maybe the Italians got one and Germans one.
Yep. I am sure taking off under those conditions was outside the rules set by the Health & Safety Brigade ™. An important issue however was not just the condition of the landing grounds, but also the destruction of signals equipment, and the disorganisation of ground elements. My guess is that hindered an adequate reaction to the Commonwealth push more than anything else.
Also, not being able to fly heavier a/c off the fields (such as Me 110s or Ju 88s), and maybe not flying the Me 109s with a full fuel load to lighten them (that’s speculation on my part) eliminated the ability to fly recce missions from North Africa, while the comms problems may have contributed to an inability to call for recce from Crete (which would have been quite feasible, technically).
All in all for the first days the Axis was fighting with one arm tied behind its back, and another willfully held back by Rommel’s insistence that nothing serious was going on.
Excellent info on this page. I would like to ask you about the file tel. 2633 to Superaereo where is stated that one Martin bomber was down. Who have the claim, Fiat G.50 or German fighters mentioned in the same document?
I am afraid the text is not clear to me. In Italian it says ‘abbatendone uno’, but I think this refers to the whole group of fighters, i.e. the German Me 109 and the single G.50.
Sorry I can’t help you there.
All the best
No problem Andreas, your work is excellent and please keep on good work 😛
Many thanks for the kind words Screcko!
Hmmm. Interesting. I Like stuff like this.
From A History of the Mediterranean Air War: Volume One, Shores states that on 18 November, nine Martin Marylands from 12 Squadron SAAF ran into eight fighters over Gazala. Apparently JG 27 claimed two bombers shot down, and Shores states TWO Italian pilots from 155° Gruppo claimed in the destruction of one of those. But the above says only ONE G.50 scrambled from Gazala.
Shores also states that an hour or so after this raid, Blenheims hit Bir el Baheria airfield. One failed to return.
Perhaps Shores, got this wrong? I think only one G.50 from 155° did get airborne from Gazala as stated above. His second Italian claim would then go to 12° Gruppo in Castel Benito (and not far from el Baheria) which is probably tel. 2581 above and engaged the Blenheims, shooting one down.