Either, sir, we get Spitfires here within days, not weeks, or we're done. That's it. - No. 249 Sqn CO Turner, Malta, to Air Vice-Marshal Sir Hugh Lloyd, Air Officer Commanding Malta, February 1942.
Spitfire V vs C.202
Folgore Malta 1942
by Donald Nijboer is the 60th title of Osprey Publishing's fascinating series DUEL. It explores the design and development, and subsequent war accounts of those two closely matched fighters above Malta.
Throughout the summer C.202s fought over Malta, escorting tiny formations of Cant Z.1007s, SM.79s and Ju 88s. The fighting subsided in August and September, but grew in strength with the arrival of more C.202s. In October the Regia Aeronautica could muster three Gruppi with a total of 74 C.202s. For ten days the Italians pressed a relentless attack before attrition brought the offensive to a halt. Throughout the bombing campaign the British were able to supply Malta with ever increasing numbers of Spitfires. - Osprey
Malta was the cancer of Axis efforts in the Mediterranean and North Africa. British ships and submarines and aircraft based there savaged Axis supply routes. A giant rock, it was very difficult for the Axis to neutralize. Indeed they tried, and several times they came close. When the Afrika Korps arrived in in North Afrika to save Italy from collapse in late 1941, Malta became critical to both sides. However, the Regia Aeronautica
(Italian Air Force) was not up to the job and for a time the weight of the RA was repulsed by a trio of Gloster Sea Gladiators!
So dangerous was Malta that Berlin and Rome planned a major airborne and amphibious assault to capture the island. So tenacious were the defenders and populous that the king of England awarded the island the George Cross on a collective basis on 15 April 1942. Fascist losses enroute to North Africa were considered decisive for the defeat of Rommel’s Afrika Korps.
Thus did the Italian and German air forces begin to bomb Malta into submission. Several times Malta was virtually subdued when Britain and America braved heavy losses to ram supply convoys through. Those convoys pitted Allied capital ships and aircraft carries against land based Axis airpower in fiery air-sea battles. Finally, following a plea for the type, in March 1942 Spitfires were flown off an aircraft carrier to reinforce the island. Malta now had the tropicalized Spitfire V. The Spitfire V was hobbled with the Vokes filter on the chin which sapped the fighter’s legendary performance. Yet their arrival heralded Malta’s reputation as “Fighter pilot’s heaven” and “No place for beginners”. German fighters eventually decimated the first few Spitfire forces but the star of the RAF and her pilots kept the enemy at bay.
Meanwhile Italy was finally fielding a fighter that was not obsolete. Using the German Daimler-Benz DB601 that powered the Messerschmitt Bf 109, Macchi created the thoroughbred C.202. On paper the faster, swifter climbing, faster diving, tight turning C.202 was superior to a Spitfire V without
the Vokes. Regia Aeronautica
pilots flew from fixed bases on home turf a couple of times a day. The RAF pilots were reduced to primitive siege conditions, flying several sorties per day.
So why did the Macchi, with and without Luftwaffe help, not triumph over the RAF and their Spitfire V?
This book is a concise history of the battle between the Spitfire and Folgore
with a great deal of background information. Two prominent pilots Malta campaign arte profiled: the great George Beurling, and Medaglia d’Oro
winner Furio Doglio Niclot. Spitfire V vs C.202
Folgore Malta 1942
is a paperback of 80 pages. Authored by Donald Nijboer and supported by illustrators Jim Laurier and Gareth Hector, it recounts the epic aerial battle over Malta, focusing on the Spitfire V and the Macchi C.202. The story unfolds through 11 chapters and sections:
* Design and Development
- Technical Specifications
* The Strategic Situation
- The Combatants
- Statistics and Analysis
Both the Spitfire and Folgore
pedigrees went back to the Schneider Trophy. Mr. Nijboer overviews their backgrounds and development through 21 pages.
Eleven pages explore the technical specifications of both fighters, including each version and variant. Spitfire V could mount three different wings: A-, B-, and C-types and those are covered, as are versions of the mighty Merlin powerplant, and the Seafire. Folgore
was a high-powered development of the C.200 Saetta
. It, too, developed through many Serie
, 13 of them. Serial numbers of each are included, as are the build dates.
The Strategic Situation
presents the war in 1942 in five pages. The Combatants
details the strengths, organizations, and compositions of both air forces. Pilot recruiting and training is presented in detail, plus aircraft recognition and gunnery training.
takes 18 pages to recount the fascinating duel between the RAF and Regia Aeronautica
, and the Luftwaffe
. Many excerpts and quotes from pilots enrich the text. The author does a good job of imparting the savage air war over the island, including a blunt message from Air Vice-Marshal Sir Hugh Lloyd to HQ Fighter Command, ‘Only fully experienced operational pilots must come here. It is no place for beginners.’ This chapter contains subsections discussing RAF tactics and Italian tactics. A five paragraph excerpt from Enemy Aircraft Report No. 48/1 gives a British pilot’s view of the Folgore
Finally, seven pages close the book in Statistics and Analysis
. The strengths and weaknesses of the RAF and RA pilots and aircraft in combat against the other are examined. The use of the fighters after the Italian surrender is chronicled. Both fought to VE day and both flew after the war.
Photographs, artwork, graphics
Many excellent black-and-white photographs enhance the text. A single color photo is a curious choice, Fairy Battle target tugs. Most of the photos are very clear and well illuminated. They include aircraft, crews, and aerial views of Malta. Many are treasure troves for modelers and artists. One photo clearly identifies the Regia Aeronautica’s
‘Stemma Sabaudo’ coat of arms of Italy emblem.
Many full-color illustrations and artwork include
1. Spitfire VC BR130/T-D flown by Sgt George Beurling, 14 July 1942, in planform, profile, and head-on.
2. Reproduction of a factory-produced side-view cutaway.
3. Line art of the Breda-SAFAT 12.7mm machine guns with linkage and wiring.
4. C.202 Folgore Serie VII MM9042 flown by Capt Furio Doglio Niclot, 151°Squadriglia, June 1942, in planform, profile, and head-on.
5. Spitfire VC Wing Guns shows the Hispano Mk II 20mm cannons and Browning 0.303-in. machine guns and ammunition magazines.
6. C.202 Folgore Cowling and Wing Guns showing the layout of the Breda-SAFAT 12.7mm and 7.7mm machine guns and ammunition magazines.
7. Spitfire VC Cockpit with 70 items keyed.
8. C.202 Folgore Cockpit with 52 items keyed.
9. RAF fighter formations.
10. Regia Aeronautica fighter formations.
11. Engaging the Enemy, a Spitfire pilot’s view from the cockpit of a fatal burst against a Folgore.
12. Map: C.202 and Spitfire V units on Sicily and Malta, March – October 1942.
Tables present the following information and data
a. Spitfire VC Trop and C.202 Comparison Specifications
b. Leading Spitfire V C.202 Killers Over Malta
c. Leading C.202 Spitfire V Killers Over Malta
Maltese skies witnessed intensive aerial combat between the Spitfire V and the best the fascist powers could pit against it. Macchi’s Folgore
met the Supermarine fighter head-to-head and showed that it was a match. Spitfire V vs C.202
Folgore Malta 1942
is a great insight to those aircraft and their battles. It is full of technical and analytical information. The personal accounts enrich this book beyond measure. I appreciate the “family heritage’ of the two fighters. Osprey books are known for their ample artwork and this book is no exception. Many excellent black-and-white photographs enhance the text.
With all of the color images of Spitfires and even some color shots of Macchis, I am perplexed that the single color photo is of Fairey Battles in Canada.
I knew Malta was a hard fought air campaign but I did not understand it as well as I do after reading this book. Mr. Nijboer penned a fascinating book. While some match-ups in the Duel series do not seem sensible, this book is completely appropriate! I completely enjoyed it and highly recommend it to modelers and historians of the Spitfire, the Folgore
, the Malta campaign, the MTO, and fighter combat.
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