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23rd November 1940


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Everone thinks of 1940 as German air raids against Britain, but Italian planes also bombed Britain, and paid a price

On this day 1940, Seven Italian Caproni BR20m bombers, flying from bases in Belgium, are shot down by Fighter Command during an air attack on the UK.


Edited by antarmike
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Italian dictator Benito Mussolini insisted on providing an element of the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) to assist his German ally during the Battle of Britain. On September 10, 1940, under the aegis of the "Milan Air Squadron" (1a Squadra Aerea di Milano), the CAI was formed. Air Marshal (Generale sa) Rino Corso-Fougier was the CAI's Air Officer Commanding.


On the night of 24 October 1940, the first raid conducted by the CAI took place when eighteen BR.20s took off to attack Harwich and Felixstowe. Not all aircraft found their targets and three were lost in accidents or after becoming lost.


The next major operation of the CAI was on 29 October. This date is regarded by some historians as the last day of the Battle of Britain. In response to a raid on several northerm Italian cities, fifteen BR.20s with a strong fighter escort bombed Ramsgate by day. The Italian bombers were sighted crossing the Kent at a relatively low level. The bombers flew in formation, wing tip to wing tip. The open-cockpit, fixed uncarriage fighter escorts accompanied them in a similar immaculate order. The Italian aircraft were painted pale green and bright blue. This was camouflage more suitable for a more exotic climate than that found in Britain in late October. Five Italian aircraft suffered damage due to flak. The next few days saw several small raids.


On 11 November 1940, the day before the battle fleet of the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina Italia) was attacked at Taranto, the CAI saw its first major combat against the RAF. Ten bombers were escorted by forty-two CR.42s, the G.50s, and some German Messerschmitt Bf 109s assigned to them. The mission was aborted due to bad weather. However, Hurricanes from 257, 46, and 17 Squadrons intercepted the aircraft from the aborted mission and destroyed three bombers and three fighters. In addition, four bombers eventually force landed, two fighters were destroyed on landing, and another eight fighters landed with damage. British losses were two fighters damaged. One of the Fiats was repaired by the British and subsequently evaluated. Of the Italian fighter aircraft, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill later wrote: "They might have found better employment defending the fleet at Taranto."


Fighter to fighter combat was no more successful for the CAI. On 23 November, the Italian biplanes were "bounced" by Spitfire Mk.IIs and two were lost with several damaged, in return for one Spitfire damaged.


Further bombing raids were carried out by the CAI, mainly on the Ipswich and Harwich areas.


One source states they made a total of 150 bombing raids.

Edited by antarmike
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