One of the main goals of our hobby, I believe, is to build a model as close as possible to the actual subject, in particular I find it interesting to reproduce an aircraft that either belonged to a known pilot or one that was involved in a notable action.

The idea for the present study came to me from an inqury through STORMO!’s forum, a request for additional information on the legendary pilot Capitano Carlo Emanuele Buscaglia’s S.79 at Rhodes, whose plane was coded 281-5, MM (
Matricola Militare – military serial number) 23838.  I researched the pilot and provided some help, but I soon realized, primairly through model contests, that the interest in this aircraft and its pilot was wider than I first believed, and also, that many models constructed did not match the actual aircraft as we know it through existing photos. In this short study I analyze the actions and the liveries of this aircraft in the period December 1940 - December 1941. For the sake of brevity I mainly consider only the missions in which this aircraft saw active combat.
A Famous Torpedo-Bomber S.79
Carlo Emanuele Buscaglia's “281-5” - Part I
By Stefano Lazzaro
MM 23838 was the first aircraft of XV Serie, which was built by SIAI in the period between July 1940 and November 1941. It was assigned to 34° Gruppo Bombardamento Terrestre, based at Gadurra (Rhodes) in November 1940, as part of four trial aircraft, modified for dual role (both bombing and torpedo-bombing). MM 23838, later coded 68-3, and MM 23840 went to 68ª Squadriglia, MM 23843 (67-12) and another aircraft (probably MM 23842) to 67ª Squadriglia.

MM 23838 saw first action as a torpedo-bomber on 16 December 1940, when a patrol of 68ª Squadriglia, composed of Cap. Giorgio Grossi and Ten. Umberto Barbani claimed a cruiser hit that probably sunk at 05.35pm off Ras Azzaz.  The plane could also have been used in the action of 22 March 1941, SW of I. of Kupho when an aircraft of 34° Gruppo claimed a ship sunk, and on 2 April, when Ten. Barbani claimed another ship damaged on the route Alexandria-Piraeus.

The aircraft's activity with 281ª Squadriglia Autonoma Aerosiluranti, which was based (also) in Gadurra, began on 18 April, when CO Cap. Carlo Emanuele Buscaglia borrowed it from 34° Gruppo for a patrol mission, after he had troubles with the landing gear of his MM 23877.

Two days later, as 67ª and 68ª Squadriglie were officially disband, MMs 23838 and 23840 passed to 281ª Squadriglia, and the first plane received the new code 281-5 (as a side note, MM 23842 went to 278ª Squadriglia Autonoma, while MM 23843 was already on duty with 278ª from 13 December 1940, and would later be detached to 279ª Squadriglia). That same 20 April with Buscaglia at the controls, 281-5 narrowly missed a cargo vessel at 04.30pm some 25 nm S of Gaudo; in the same action, Ten. Giuseppe Greco (MM 23869) claimed a hit on an unidentified ship, probably a tanker.

The most famous pictures of this aircraft were taken during this time, Fig.2-3.
Fig. 1 - Cap. Carlo Emanuele Buscaglia
Fig. 2 - Buscaglia (first from left) and his crew beside 281-5 …
Fig. 3 - … and soon after starting for a new mission in late May 1941
A careful examination of these photos reveals that:
      - The front surface colour, probably a grey, is matt and worn, and a darker shade than the other aircraft next to it. This suggests that this kind of application began in 34° Gruppo, and then was copied by the Squadriglie which inherited its aircraft (281ª, 278ª and 279ª)
      - The spinners seem to be lighter than the front colour, apparently identical to propeller blades front surface.  About the colour of the latter, it is commonly believed that the front facing blade was aluminium, however many sources and testimonies state that the front blades were actually a light blue close to RLM 65. I can confirm this, because some years ago I checked this first hand – with FSC chips in my hand - against a wooden factory model painted with the original colours: the blades were FS 35226!
      - The conical ring behind the centre engine remained in original camo, as was the 24-volts generator on starboard side
      - The fascio insignia on center engine cowling is lacking, probably overpainted
      - The fuselage side windows were closed on the ground, however action images show the 7.7mm SAFAT machine guns out during flight. Instead, the gondola’s rear firing machine gun is lacking. It probably had been removed to save weight, in that it was of little use on aircraft usually flying at low height. Also, the fixed front firing gun is lacking.
      - A detail often ignored is the arrowhead-shaped device used to protect the fin from the hunchback's 12.7mm SAFAT fire. This device was probably folded downward or removed when the hunchback doors were closed, and has not been observed on other unit’s aircraft.
Fig. 4 – The arrowhead protection device in 281-4
Fig. 5 – Here we can clearly see the protected tail section.  In the background, a KEITH-type destroyer hit by Buscaglia on 21 August 1941, while flying MM 23877
- The engine exhausts are still of the old type
- The undersides were painted aluminium, not Grigio Mimetico as is commonly believed
- The Squadriglia digits were black and the individual number red; the hyphen had rhomboid shape and was diagonally-divided black(under)/red(upper). The previous unit number had been roughly over painted by a brush with a dark colour, probably a green darker than camo green. The former individual number, instead, seems to have been deleted, or never applied at all on the fuselage…
- …but it appears on starboard leading edge. It seems it was not present on the port side.
Fig. 7
- The grey on leading edge contoured the wingtip, as did the original upperside camo.
Fig. 11
About the uppersurface colour, my personal opinion is that the rather low contrast between them suggests the use of Verde Mimetico 53192 and Marrone Mimetico 53193 - rather than Verde Mimetico 1 and Marrone Mimetico 2 as suggested by many - over Giallo Mimetico 3.  In fact, the MM2, due to its strong red component, appears rather dark in contemporary b/w photos, and VM1 is otherwise a light green. This is confirmed by various mottle-camouflaged original factory models.
Fig. 12
Copyright: Stefano Lazzaro, 2007
STORMO! © 2007 1 (2007) 1-2
Stefano is a resident of Padua and is a modeling and history enthusiast.  He is a regular contributor to Stormo and is highly regarded for his thorough research and choice of interesting topics.

Stefano began his career as a Medical Doctor and a Surgeon Lieutenant in the Padua Military Hospital. Today Stefano is a practicing surgeon in Padua.
Fig. 6
Fig. 8
The following picture shows the pattern of the grey area under the belly. The paint seems to have been applied by a brush. Note also that the tubing of the starboard torpedo rack were set to clear the bomb bay door opening, in order to satisfy its dual role as mentioned above. This particular detail is captured by Angelo Brioschi on his excellent S.79 drawings in Ali d’Italia no. 11 (Fig. 10).
Fig. 9 – Note that the torpedo is a Silurificio Italiano-built
Fig. 10
Another feature of these aircraft, often ignored by modellers, is the target-ship aiming device. Several types were studied, but that in Fig. 11 comes from the official Buscaglia unit activity report, from June to September.
The wing insignia seem to be the following type, with white background.
On 8 May Buscaglia (MM 23838), Greco (MM 23877), and Ten. Carlo Faggioni (MM 23876) released their torpedoes at a convoy (four cargo ships, two cruisers, four destroyers and a gunship) at 06.35pm in the Channel of Caso and damaged the cargo ship RAWNSLEY (4998 tons, confirmed by Royal Admiralty).  The Italians claimed two more cargo ships hit in this action.

On 20 May, 281-5, this time flown by Magg. Vittorio Cannaviello, together with MM 23869 led by Cap. Guglielmo Di Luise, released two torpedoes against a cruiser, around 07.30pm in the Channel of Caso. The crewmen confirmed visually that the torpedo of Di Luise hit the target and probably the one of Cannaviello too. The torpedoes were the new SI 450/170/5.25 (diameter in mm/explosive charge in kg/length in meters), built by Silurificio Italiano at Baia (Naples). An article on the differences between the classic Whitehead and the SI torpedoes will follow.