Following the attack on May 20, 1941 there are no records for this aircraft, which on 1 June is known to have been be under repair at the Caproni Predappio factory.  It was back with its unit on 28 June.  There were some exterior changes after this overhauling, as we can see from the following images:
- The engine exhausts were replaced with the type more commonly used by torpedo bombers
- The front surfaces, including the spinners, were repainted in a matt colour, now lighter than the other aircraft, possibly the “new” Grigio Azzurro Chiaro 1
A Famous Torpedo-Bomber S.79
Carlo Emanuele Buscaglia's “281-5” - Part II
By Stefano Lazzaro
- The undersurfaces were no longer aluminium, but a colour which could be Grigio Mimetico (used by Caproni) or perhaps a blue Methuen 22C-D3 - lighter than FS 35189 and darker than FS 35526, used from 1938 until 1941 as suggested by some sources.  Alternatively, the undersurfaces could be also be Grigio Azzurro Chiaro 1, and the darker appearance was due to a gloss finish.  It is possible, although no evidence exists, that the upper surface camo had been repainted. In this case, we must consider that Caproni used, in this period, the following colors:
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Fig. 13 - MM 23838 is second from right
Fig. 14 - Ten. Carlo Faggioni (white overalls) and his crew on 3 July 1941
Fig. 15 - From left: CMPR’s Grigio Mimetico and Grigio Azzurro Chiaro 1 and the  Vitochart Azzurro Subalare.  Which colour for the undersides?
The wing insignia has now a transparent background and was of the following type:
Fig. 17 -  Wing Insignia
MM 23838 was back in action on 4 July, when Buscaglia (flying it), Ten. Carlo Faggioni (MM 23876), Ten. Giuseppe Cimicchi (MM 23960) and S.Ten. Carmine Mazzilli (MM 23959) released their torpedoes at 03.10pm at a cruiser ridden at anchor 4 km SE of Famagosta Bay (Cyprus), which suffered two hits.

Buscaglia claimed another cargo ship probably hit at 12.35pm on 7 July, again in Famagosta Bay, but his aircraft was damaged at the starboard engine.  Although it is not known which aircraft he was actually flying, it is probable it was still MM 23838, since it is not recorded in any other action at least until October.

During this period it is almost sure that MM 23838 underwent a second overhaul and received, as other aircraft, a new livery. Indeed, the pilots found that the old colours were not suitable for the new scenario. Ten. Cimicchi, in fact, recalled in his autobiography:

“After the fall of Greece and Crete our operational range widened to the South. The British ships had no more need to sail near Rhodes.  To find them, we had to fly towards Alexandria and along the African coasts.   […] Enemy fighters were always on the look-out, but most times we could avoid them.  We had camouflaged our aircraft according to the environment: the new colours matched the environment well [sea colours].” Fig. 18 is an example of the new pattern.
Colours of this scheme have still not been identified. The same Cimicchi recalled that:

“The camo colours were matched with light azure blue, white and grey that, suitably distributed and arranged on uppersurfaces, could confuse the enemy aircraft –when seen from above - with the sea waves, which were very light near the coasts of Egypt and Cyrenaica.”

It is hard to identify exactly the colour matches by this description, and it is not clear if they were a mix of the old camo or, more likely, the aircraft had been completely repainted. Judging from the photo contrast, we can see that at least three color tones appear, and we can just guess that the “white” recalled by Cimicchi was probably a light grey; by consequence, the “grey” should have been dark.  Also, the date of its application is uncertain: Crete fell in May, however photo evidence shows that on 21 August the aircraft were still wearing the old camo.

Another feature of this period was the addition to most aircraft  -if not all- of an additional 300-litre fuel tank in the fuselage, placed in the bomb bay after removing the bomb releasing device. The tanks were self-sealing taken from CANT Z.1007 wings.
Fig. 19 - 300L Self Sealing Tanks
Unless individual aircraft numbers were exchanged during repainting, this was the new aspect of 281-5.
Fig. 21 - A Dramatic Photo of the HMS Barham under attack
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. 18 - A New Camo Scheme
Fig. 20 - A New Look for the Sparviero
We can note that:
- Despite official orders of the period, the white fuselage band had been deleted. Clearly, Buscaglia considered the camo needs more important than identification needs
- The individual number on the nose was also deleted
- A front-firing fixed 12.7mm SAFAT had been added
- The upper camo passed the leading edge and reached under the wing past the main spar, undercarriage gondola and front half of wheel doors, but contoured the fasci insignia
- The spinners and the underside colour seems unchanged
- It is probable that, as seen at least on 281-7 and MM 23961, the upper wing fasci were lacking

After a period of inactivity for the unit, MM 23838 was back in action on 13 October, for perhaps its most spectacular action.  At 01.30pm, Ten. Giulio Cesare Graziani (flying it), Ten. Giuseppe Cimicchi (MM 23960) and Ten. Carlo Faggioni (MM 23876) surprised and attacked, off Aboukir bay, respectively the battleship HMS BARHAM, a Leaders(?)-type (‘Leander’ according to RA documents) cruiser and the battleship HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH.  The Italians claimed two hits on the battleships, but Graziani, while evading, almost grazed HMS BARHAM. His photographer, Av. Tommaso Di Paolo, was cool enough to take one of the most dramatic snap shots of the whole war.
The aircraft was badly damage on its starboard wing and landing gear, which lowered during the return flight, but the S.79 had a sturdy frame and Graziani was able to perform an emergency landing. MM 23838 was once again under repair.

In December, Buscaglia was ordered to lead a Squadriglia detachment to North Africa. On 17 December, Buscaglia (MM 23838), Faggioni (MM 23876) and S. Ten. Raoul Forzinetti (MM 23960) flew to Benghazi K.2 airfield. That same day, at 01.00pm, N of Benghazi, they attacked a convoy.  As Buscaglia was trying to find a good attack route, Forzinetti’s aircraft was hit by AA fire and fell into the sea. At 02.30pm, Buscaglia and Faggioni both released at a cruiser (either HMS NAIAD or HMS EURYALUS), which was believed to have been hit by at least one torpedo.  Two days later, Buscaglia and Faggioni returned to Gadurra.

On 28 December, at 02.55pm, Buscaglia (MM 23838), Cimicchi (MM 23859), Ten. Luigi Rovelli (MM 24089) and Ten. Giuseppe Cipelletti (MM 23959) attacked the British convoy “ME 8”, which was sailing between Crete and the Cyrenaica. Rovelli was shot down either by AA fire or by the Grumman Martlet of PO Griffin (805 Sqn). Buscaglia probably hit a merchant ship, while Cimicchi and Cipelletti claimed respectively another merchant ship and a cruiser hit.  Buscaglia’s aircraft was damaged one more time. This was the last action of MM 23838 with 281ª Squadriglia.

On 15 January 1942, the 281ª Squadriglia Autonoma was officially disband, its serviceable aircraft (MMs 23838, 23859, 23876, 23959 and 23961) and part of the personnel passing to 41° Gruppo (204ª and 205ª Squadriglia).

It is not known (and it is out of interest of this article) the remainder of the career of MM 23838, but we know that on 14 June 1943 it was -have you guessed it?- under repair at SRAM (Servizio Riparazioni Aeromobili e Motori – Aircraft and Engine Repair Service) of Pisa, Italy.


Though in official documents MMs are rarely coupled with individual numbers, by cross checking data and images we can now get a good approximation of the individual MM number of each aircraft of 281ª Squadriglia (ordered according to their service entry).

MM 23869: 281-4 (probable) Arrived on 7 March; destroyed by British bombers on 9 June
MM 23875: 281-3 (probable) Arrived on 7 March; destroyed by British bombers on 11 April
MM 23876: 281-2 (official) Arrived on 7 March
MM 23877: 281-1 (highly probable) Arrived on 7 March; ditched on 10 November
MM 23838: 281-5 (almost sure) Transferred by 68ª Squadriglia on 20 April
MM 23840: 281-3 (probable, it replaced MM 23875) Transferred by 68ª Squadriglia on 20 April; destroyed by British bombers on 9 June
MM 23859: 281-6 (hypothetical) Transferred by 279ª Squadriglia on 8 May
MM 23960: 281-3 (official, it replaced MM 23840) Arrived on 28 June; shot down on 17 December
MM 23959: 281-4 (possible, it replaced MM 23869) Arrived on 28 June
MM 23961: 281-7 (possible, alternative to MM 23959) Arrived on 28 June
MM 23882: 281-8 (hypothetical, not confirmed by photos) Damaged by Faggioni at his arrival on 5 April 1941 and long time under repair
MM 23885: 281-9 (hypothetical, not confirmed by photos, alternative to MM 23882)
MM 24089: 281-1 (possibly it replaced MM 23877) Arrived on 19 November; shot down on 28 December

NOTE: There is a photo of a “sea waves” camouflaged S.79, coded 281-1, with the old type exhaust. Since at that time 23838 had them replaced, 23840 and 23869 had been destroyed and 23875 on had the new exhaust by factory, that aircraft should have been MM 23859. This suggests that an individual number exchange could have happen at some point.


Giuseppe Santoro, L’Aeronautica Italiana nella 2ª Guerra Mondiale, Danesi, Rome, 1950

Giuseppe Cimicchi, I siluri vengono dal cielo, Longanesi, Milan, 1964

Carlo Unia, Storia degli aerosiluranti italiani, Bizzarri, Rome, 1974

Virginio Tosco, Colori ufficialmente impiegati dall’Aviazione italiana 1916-1943, Vitocharts, Rome (?), 1977

Umberto Postiglioni & Andrea Degl’Innocenti, Colori e Schemi Mimetici della Regia Aeronautica 1935-1943, 1st edition with original paint chips, CMPR, Ravenna, 1977

Orazio Giuffrida, Buscaglia e gli aerosiluranti, Ufficio Storico Stato Maggiore Aeronautica, Rome, 1994

Umberto Postiglioni & Andrea Degl’Innocenti, Colori e Schemi Mimetici della Regia Aeronautica 1935-1943, 2nd and revised edition, CMPR-GAVS-GMT, Trento, 1994

Fabio Bianchi, Regia Aeronautica: schemi mimetici e false polemiche, in: Notiziario CMPR no. 2/1998

Antonio Maraziti, Aerosiluranti in Egeo, in: Storia Militare no. 107(X), August 2002, Albertelli Edizioni Speciali, Parma


Orazio Giuffrida, Buscaglia e gli aerosiluranti, Ufficio Storico Stato Maggiore Aeronautica, Rome, 1994: nos. 1, 5, 11, 14, 18, 19, 21

Ottone Sponza, Nato per volare, Giorgio Apostolo Editore, Milan, 1998, ISBN 88-87261-02-4: nos. 2, 3, 4 (detail), 6 (detail), 7 (detail), 8 (detail), 9, 13

Cesare Gori, Ali d’Italia no. 11 – SIAI S.79 part 2, La Bancarella Aeronautica, Turin, 1999: nos. 10 (detail), 20

Angelo Emiliani, Giuseppe F. Gergo & Achille Vigna, Regia Aeronautica: Colori e Insegne 1935-1943, Intergest, Milan, 1974: nos. 12, 17

Pierre Hervieux, Le operazioni degli aerosiluranti italiani e tedeschi in Mediterraneo, in: Storia Militare no. 42(V), March 1997, Albertelli Edizioni Speciali, Parma: no. 16
- The propellers were replaced too, now black with yellow tips, and white stripes on the rear face
Fig. 16 - The small round factory badge on all propeller blades is the well-known Alfa Romeo logo (the same for Fig. 9). The oval shape (on only one blade per prop) wore the propeller serial no. and data.  Note also the white stripes, which were used for stroboscopic adjustment of the engine’s rpm.