|Although the Fiat CR.32s in the Balearic Islands would see less action and claim fewer kills than their respective mainland counterparts, the FIAT CR 32s of the Balearic Islands are fascinating for the all-metal finishes and band camouflage. Until recently few details were known about the livery of these aircraft; only a few examples in aluminium were represented and no more than three were known to have been portrayed in the popular band camouflage finish. In particular black “4” is often pictured since the plane carried a colorful shield painted on the fuselage, however this famous profile lacked supporting images and proved later to be incorrect.|
|Camouflage and Insignia of FIAT CR 32s in the Balearic Islands, 1936 to 1939 - PART I
By Stefano Lazzaro
|Thankfully, in recent years, several photos of the Balearic Island CR.32s have surfaced, in particular an article by a Spanish Civil War correspondent that had been previously published in a newspaper in 1937 was re-printed in a 1999 issue of Aerofan. The author, Poncy Casalini described how he personally painted all four personal shields on the aircraft of the so-called Squadriglia Mussolini, based at Son San Juan. The Aerofan issue also provided detailed images of the shields and colour reproductions which had been drawn from the the author’s detailed description.
With this new material, it is now possible to provide a reasonably accurate description of the the insignias and liveries of CR 32s based in the Balearic Islands during the Spanish War.
|When the first three CR 32s of the Squadriglia Mussolini arrived in Majorca, in August 1936, the aircraft were in the standard (of the time) Regia Aeronautica fighter finish: natural metal with fabric areas painted in aluminium. The rear sides of the propeller blades were finished in an anti-glare matt black, while the wing and undercarriage struts were painted in a gloss dark colour, that in early photos seems to be black or very dark grey and in later photos, matt medium grey (possibly worn or repainted areas). The only insignia borne by FIATs were black-white-black 30 cm-wide bands on the fuselage and black/white bands on the lower wing under surfaces. Under wing black bands covered the metal wing root, and 2nd to 4th wing rib, 6th to 8th, 10th to 12th and 13th wing rib to tip.|
|Img 1 - An example of an excellent, but incorrect profile|
|THE SQUADRIGLIA MUSSOLINI (LATER 101ª SQUADRIGLIA)|
|Img 2 - The early under wing stripes pattern|
|These aircraft soon received individual black numbers, about 25 cm high (Cap. Giuseppe D'Agostinis commander of the unit, chose no. 4 probably because he came from the 4° Stormo), followed by the first unit insignia, a blue bat (the symbol of Majorca) on both sides of the fuselage.|
|Img 3 - No. 2 wearing black-white-black bands and the blue bat
on the fuselage
|Img 4 - Cap. D'Agostinis and details of the bat|
|Perhaps during this period, at least on the port side of the rudder of no. 4 there appeared a dark red caption "¡Creer, Obedecer, Combatir!” signed with the monogram of Mussolini, which was the Spanish translation of the famous fascist motto "Credere, Obbedire, Combattere!" (Trust, Obey, and Fight!).|
|Img 5 - The motto on D'Agostinis aircraft|
|Also, aircraft no. 1 had a small red chevron, which was later deleted, at least on the port side of the tail fin, likely to represent the pilot’s rank.|
|Img 6 - Serg. Guido Carestiato and his mount.
Note the small chevron on the fin
|In late December, a fourth CR 32 joined the existing Fiats, followed by two more in January 1937. Since the bat's blue distemper paint did not adhere well to the aluminium pigment (just like today in our hobby!), it was easily "washed out" by air streams during flight. So, in the early weeks of 1937, the pilots decided to erase the bats and paint their own personal shields. Each shield was decorated with a red/yellow-plumed knight helmet with the usual blue bat placed upon it and with a white cartouche containing a motto in Venetian dialect (the reason behind this is because most pilots came from the North-East of Italy).
At the beginning, three aircraft were decorated in this order: nos. 4, 1 and 6. The first one represented an armoured reddish cat brandishing a sword. This was due to the false name in Spain of Cap. D’Agostinis: “Gatti” (literally ‘cats’, but also a very common surname in Northern Italy), because of his reddish hair and for his pugnacious character. The motto read: WATCH OUT, IT SCRATCHES!”
|Img 7 & 7bis – “Black 4”. Note that the helmet, the armour and the sword maintained the aluminium of the background, opportunely heightened and shadowed. The yellow plumage appears dark, due to the use of orthochromatic film.|
|No. 1 was the personal aircraft of Serg. Guido Carestiato “Efisio Ciarotti”. This was the first aircraft reassembled – in just a single night - after it arrived in Son San Juan on 27 August 1936. The following morning, Carestiato strafed four Republican SIAI S. 62s and a few minutes later, D’Agostinis claimed a fifth. Hence, the picture of five chickens on a spit. The motto reads: “(COME ON,) WHO’S TURN IS IT”.|
|Img 8 & 8bis – “Black 1”. The background of the shield was aluminium again, not light blue as depicted|
|It seems that this aircraft was also baptized “CU FU?” (‘Who was it?’ or ‘What happens?’ in Sicilian dialect, often used as an interjection) in honour of the Sicilian mechanic of the Squadriglia, however no photographic evidence exists.
A still unknown pilot, who was considered rather dressed up by his comrades, had no. 6. Here the shield represents a daisy with a winged heart. The motto reads: “LOOK, WHAT A BRAGGART!” Photographic evidence shows that this shield had been deleted before the summer of 1937.
|Img 9 & 9bis – “Black 6”. A careful examination of the photo shows that the daisy’s stem makes a scroll to form a bow-tie; this particular has been missed by the colour reproduction|
|The origin of the fourth shield, painted on no. 3, is rather interesting. A pilot, perhaps S.Ten. Ippolito Lalatta “Valisneri” who was often pictured beside this aircraft and who had a love affair with a buxom Spanish beauty and was very jealous of her! So, one day he was ordered to test another aircraft and once he took off, his comrades hurriedly painted on his shield a parachuting girl … seen below! The motto is of course untranslatable and ambiguous, however the meaning is clear: “OH, MY! WHAT A ****! (the anatomical part)”.|
|Img 10 & 10bis – “Black 3”. Although the artist recalled that the shield was painted on both sides, photo evidence shows it only on the starboard fuselage|
|An anecdote: that same afternoon the Squadriglia Mussolini received a sudden visit from the Catholic Archbishop of Majorca! Luckily for them, the venerable prelate did not notice their latest artwork …|
|Img 11 - An embarrassed D'Agostinis watches the Archbishop coming|
|At a certain moment, a mysterious MM (Matricola Militare – Military Serial) was applied in stencil style under the tail of “black 4”, probably on both sides; it was strange in that “3272” is not included in the list of CR 32’s MMs. Soon after, a dark red "m" was painted on at least on the starboard rudder side of each aircraft. Indigenous people believed it was in honour to Majorca, but actually, as we’ve seen, it stood for Mussolini.|
|Img 12 - The Mussolini Monogram|
|The MM on “black 4” was short lived as was deleted after the aircraft received Mussolini’s monogram.|
|Img 13 - No. 4 with the "strange" Matricola Militare|
|Alessandro Santarelli (ed.), I caccia delle Baleari, in: Aerofan no. 70, Jul-Sep 1999, Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan
Andrea Degl’Innocenti & Umberto Postiglioni, Colori e Schemi Mimetici della Regia Aeronautica 1935-1943, 1st edition, CMPR, Ravenna, 1977
Andrea Degl’Innocenti & Umberto Postiglioni, Colori e Schemi Mimetici della Regia Aeronautica 1935-1943, 2nd edition, CMPR-GAVS-GMT, Trento, 1994
Ferdinando Pedriali, Guerra di Spagna e Aviazione Italiana, 2nd edition, USSMA, Rome, 1992
|Giorgio Apostolo, Ali d’Italia no. 4 - FIAT CR 32, La Bancarella Aeronautica, Turin, 1996: Img 1
CD-ROM FIAT CR.32 https://www.italianwings.it, also published by Ufficio Storico Stato Maggiore Aeronautica Militare: Img 2 to 5, 11, 12
Angelo Emiliani & Emilio Ghergo, Ali in Spagna (also published in English as: Wings over Spain), Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan, 1997: Img 6
Aerofan no. 70, Jul-Sep 1999, Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan: Img 7 to 10
Tuttomodellismo no. 50, Feb 1998, Hobby & Work Italiana Editrice, Bresso (Milan): Img 13
|Copyright: Stefano Lazzaro, 2005
STORMO! © 2005 8 (2005) 1-2
|Stefano was born in Padua in 1959. Stefano’s modeling passion grew after having seen the sixties' movie "The Battle of Britain" and "Squadron 633". He built an entire Squadron of Airfix 1/72 Spitfire IXs and Bf 109Gs too! Later, during the seventies, Stefano passed on to building models of the Vietnam Era. After having known some veterans of the Regia Aeronautica Stefano’s interest grew in Italian WWII aircraft. This began a journey to acquire all books, magazines and references which covered this subject and, finally, in the pc era, he began archiving all this information.
Stefano began his career as a Medical Doctor and Surgeon Lieutenant in the Padua Military Hospital. Today Stefano is a thoracic, laparoscopic and endoscopy surgeon in a hospital near Padua. Stefano lives in Padua with his wife and three sons. Stefano's modeling practice is an expression of his innate desire for precision, accuracy and most of all, patience.