Italian fighters, such as the Fiat G.50 and Macchi C.200, had always struggled with their straight-line speed and restricted armament when engaging their Allied counterparts. To solve these problems, Macchi designed the C.202 Folgore using German engines, which contributed to create a faster aircraft, with a superior rate of climb and reachable altitude.
As told by Marco Mattioli in his book Macchi C.202/C.205V Units in Combat, on Jul. 6, 1942, C.202s from 20° Gruppo sortied from Sicily to provide indirect escort for three CANT Z.1007bis of 9° Stormo (which had 14 Re.2001s from 2° Gruppo as close escort) heading for Luqa/Mqabba airfield on Malta.
Amongst the fighters involved were eight 151a Squadriglia C.202s led by Capitano Furio Niclot Doglio with Maresciallo Ennio Tarantola, being one of his wingmen.
When 11 Spitfire VCs from No 249 Sqn – led by Flt Lt Norman Lee – scrambled to intercept the approaching formation, Niclot Doglio’s Macchis immediately engaged them.
Future ranking Malta Spitfire ace Sgt George Beurling quickly claimed a ‘Macchi’ shot down. His victim was actually a Re.2001, whose pilot bailed out. Beurling then chased after the C.202 flown by five-victory ace Sergente Maggiore Francesco Pecchiari of 352a Squadriglia, pursuing him from 20,000 ft down to 5000 ft, where the Folgore ‘blew up’ and the pilot was killed.
The remaining C.202 pilots then counterattacked, with Niclot Doglio claiming a Spitfire shot down. Its demise was witnessed by Tarantola, who saw the ‘British’ fighter crash north of Valetta. He had actually seen the demise of the Re.2001 claimed by Beurling.
Another Spitfire was claimed by Tenente Michele Gallo near St Paul’s Bay.
In reality, no Spitfires had been lost, although Plt Off A S Yates’ fighter had been so badly damaged he was forced to crash-land and Sgt Beurling’s fighter was found to be severely holed upon his return to base.
Macchi C.202/C.205V Units in Combat is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.
Artwork by Gareth Hector via Osprey Publishing
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