Fighters from Central Europe

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Czech squadrons with the RAF in World War II

by J.D.R. Rawlings

Czech fitters servicing a Spitfire IX of No. 312 Squadron under battlefield conditions, probably at Appeldram, shortly before D-Day.

When, on 15 March 1939, German troops entered and dissolved the Republic of Czechoslovakia, the Czech Armed Forces offered no resistance. The Czech Air Force had no fewer than 560 front-line aircraft, out of a total of around 1,400, mostly obsolete biplanes; but instead of fighting, as the Poles did later that year, the Czechs concentrated on escaping to other free countries. While this may have seemed the wrong action at the time, the services of skilled Czech airmen were to be of great value to the Allies in the years ahead. Czechoslovakia, it should be remembered, was in a very isolated position and had already been let down by potential allies such as Britain, France and Russia.

Most of the Czech airmen who escaped joined either the Polish or French Air Forces many of them fighting alongside the Poles when the Germany invaded Poland and precipitated World War II. Czechs later flew with French fighter squadrons and played a notable part in the battles of May 1940, but after France was defeated the Czech survivors were forced to flee again. Some went to the USSR but the majority came to Britain.

In the summer of 1940 the R.A.F.’s most urgent need was for fighter pilots and so those Czech fighter pilots who escaped from France to England were quickly formed into their own squadron within Fighter Command at Duxford on 10th July l940. It was given the number 310, in accordance with the R.A.F. practice that squadrons of Allied personnel who had escaped from Europe should carry nunbers in the 300 range. No. 31O Squadron was operational within six weeks and fought, with its Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain.

Three weeks after No. 310 had formed, a second Czech squadron, No. 311, was formed, at Honnington within Bomber Command; equipped with Wellingtons, it also went into action quickly, beginning with raids in September 1940. By that time more Czechs had arrived and a second fighter squadron, No. 312, also with Hurricanes, was formed at Duxford, on 29th August 1940. The fourth and last Czech squadron flying within the R.A.F. was another fighter squadron, No. 313, which was formed at Catterick on 10th May 1941. The three Czech fighter squadrons were eventually assembled into a Czech Wing and from February 1944 operated together until the end of the war.

Where possible the Czechs were posted to their own squadrons, but there were others who served in the R.A.F. and Allied units. Among these two names stand out in the fighter field.

Josef Frantisek was servinq in a fighter squadron in Czechoslovakia in March 1939 when the order came not to fight the Germans. He decided otherwise, and in his Avia B-534 machined-gunned the advancing troops before escaping to Poland, where he fought until that campaign ended. He then escaped to France via Rumania and Syria and fought with the French Air Force.

When Frantisek arrived in England in the summer of 194O he had a Croix de Guerre and was credited with a score of 11 enemy aircraft destroyed. Strangely, once in the R.A.F., he was posted to a Polish squadron, No. 303, presumably because the first Czech fighter squadron was not yet operational – and he was. Flying with No. 303 from Notholt, Frantisek was very active during September 1940 and in that one hectic month claimed 17 victories, many of them while playing a a lone game for, apparently, he was not a man who fought well in a team. Tragically he was killed landing at Northolt on 8th October 1940.

His compatriot was another “loner” and also a Hurricane expert. This was Karel Kuttelwascher who came to England in June 1940 via the French Air Force. The following month saw him with No. 1 Squadron, R.A.F., with whom he fought during the Battle of Britain although it was not until April 1941 that he scored his first victory. However, it was when No. 1 had gone over to night fighting that Kuttelwascher came to the fore, partirularly the following year when they began “Intruder” operations. On these he would “sit” over Luftwaffe airfields in France and pick off Germans as they took off or landed. His first victory in this way was on 1st April 1942, a Junkers Ju 88. Between then and 2nd July he destroyed fifteen aircraft in this way, which gave him a grand total of eighteen. He then moved to No. 23 Squadron for a tour on Havocs and Mosquitoes but scored no further victories.

Other Czech airmen played a substantial part in the night-fighting battle. At the time Kuttelwascher was building up his score, No. 68 Squadron at Coltishall was flying Beaufighters on night-fighter duties with a steadily building scoreboard and more and more it was filling up with Czech personnel. From then until the war ended No. 68 had a high proportion of Czechs; in fact, they claimed the squadron as “theirs” To prove it the squadron has a Czech motto, “Vzdy Pripraven” (“Alway Ready”). No. 68 remained at Cotishall for two year, flying daylight coastal patrols as well as night defence scrambles. In 1943 it began ‘Night Rangers”, offensive attacks by night against German shipping of the Dutch coast and in the North Sea. Early 1944 saw the squadron converting to Mosquito night-fighters which it first used in June 1944 against the V1’s, picking them up easily at night by dint of their jet exhaust. No. 68 then transferred to the North Sea to catch the Heinkel He lll’s which were carrying the air-launched V1’s. But by the end of 1944 enemy air activity over Britain had diminished and in April 19945 No. 68 Squadron was disbanded.

Reverting to the original Czech squadrons, we shall now follow their individual fortunes more closely.

No. 310 Squadron

Motto: We Fight to rebuild.

On lOth July 1940 an English Squadron Leader, S/Ldr. G. D. M. Blackwood, found himself commanding officer of the first Czech squadron in the R.A.F., No. 310, formed at Duxford with Hurricane 1’s. The Battle of Britain had already began so he quickly worked on these seasoned fighter pilots, converting them to the Hurricane and acclimatising then to the English language and to R.A.F. operational procedures. After six weeks No. 310 was declared operational, flying its first patrol, over the Thames Estuary, on l7th August. From then on it was patrols daily, mainly covering the North Weald Sector until on 26th August the Czechs met a formation of Dornier Do l7’s, and waded in. They claimed two destroyed but were jumped by Messerschmitts Bf 110’s and lost three aircraft (the pilots escaping) for the destruction of one of the Messerschmitts. Five days later No. 310 improved on this with a score of six destroyed and one probable for the loss of one pilot and two aircraft. This was a prelude to the heavy fighting of September and a good start for a “new” squadron.

Czech pilots pose in front of Hurricane I P3143 “NN:D” at Duxford during No. 310 Squadron’s most hectic month in the Battle of Britain, September 1940.

At Duxford No. 310 inevitably became part of the experiments that were being carried out by the C.O. of the sister Hurricane squadron there, S/Ldr. Douglas Bader, and often his squadron, No. 242, the Czechs and the resident Spitfire squadron, No. 19, flew as a wing into action over Essex and the Thames Estuary. The Czechs were in the brunt of the heavy September fighting and acquitted themselves well, ending the month with a claims board on which were written 37½ confirmed, l0 probables, 5 damaged.

By now No. 310 had become, through its hectic baptism of fire, an integral part of No. 12 Group Fighter Command. October brought plenty of patrols but little action and between then and the end of the year only one action was fought, with Bf 109’s in November. The year ended with the Czech President, Dr. Benes, presenting the C.O. and the two British flight commanders with the Czechoslovak War Cross in recognition of their work for No. 310.

In February 1941 the squadron, still with Duxford Wing, went over to the offensive with fighter sweeps over the Channel and the French coast. By now Blackwood had left and one of the flight commanders, F/Lt. J. Jeffries, had taken command. In March No. 310 was transferred to patrolling over the North Sea fishing fleet (known as “Kipper patrols”) and on 27th March caught and destroyed a Junkers Ju 88. That same month Hurricane IIA’s began to replace the Hurricane I’s. In June No. 310 left Duxford for Martlesham Heath, but less than a month later was “banished” to Dyce in Scotland with a detachment at Montrose.

Before going the squadron had experimented with some night patrols, during which the C.O. scored a Ju 88 probable over Coventry. Scotland provided little excitment. The squadron was now commanded by a Czech, S/Ldr. F. Weber, and it was he who was in command when No. 310 converted to Spitfires (Mk. IIAs) in October 1941. Almost immediately the IIAs gave way to VBs and on Christmas Eve the squadron made the long flight south to Perranporth in north Cornwall.

The next year, 1942, brought convoy patrols and monotony again, the most exciting occupation being landing and taking off from Perranporth, an unpleasant airfield perched on the cliffs beside the sea. On 4th February No. 310 found and damaged a Ju 88 over the sea and later that month was involved in escorting unarmed PR Spitfires to and from Brest. This developed into the occasional fighter sweep over the French coast, until a move to Exeter in May 1942 brought prospect of more action. S/Ldr. F. Dolezal, D.F.C., was now in command and No. 310 remained at Exeter for a year, with detachments at the satellite, Bolt Head.

The squadron now indulged in regular “Ramrods”, fighter-escorted bombing raids into, in this case, Northern France. It also flew defensive patrols and scrambles. On 23rd June the squadron first encountered the Focke-Wulf Fw 190; it lost a Spitfire in the action but claimed three Germans. On the second anniversary of its formation No. 310 put a Ju 88 into the sea to celebrate. By now the squadron was often flying up to Redhill in the morning, operating on a “Ramrod”, and then flying back home in the evening. From Redhill it flew its share of cover patrols during the Dieppe operations, mainly in support of anti-E-Boat “Hurribombers”.

It was during this period that No. 310 began “Rhubarbs” (operations where one or two aircraft roamed low over enemy territory, seeking targets of opportunity) but for the rest of its stay was more concerned with anti-“Rhubarbs”, as German Messerschimtt Bf 109 fighter-bombers and Fw 190s attacked the south-west coastal towns. The pace gradually built up again in 1943 as the better weather came and by June No. 310 was busy over France. But a blow came in that month with a posting to Castletown in the very north of Scotland. There the squadron converted to Mk. VI Spitfires with pressure cabins and extended wings for high-altitude patrols over military and naval installations to combat the German Junkers Ju 86P connaissance aircraft.

After three months of this No. 310 was happy to move south again for actin It set up base at Ibsley on 20th September 1943 and swung immediately into “Ramrods” and shipping recces. for the rest the year. By then S/Ldr. E. Foit had been in command for a year and the squadron got a shot in the arm in January when they received Spitfire LF.IX’s.

In February 1944 No. 310 left Fighter Command and met up with its two sister Czech fighter squadrons at Mendlesham where together they formed No. 132 Wing of the 2nd Tactical Air Force. The task was now to prepare for the invasion Europe and, after a period of bad weather the squadrons became heavily involved in “Ramrods” and armed recces., carrying bombs on these latter. Several moves took place and S/Ldr. H. Hrbacek took over as C.O., only to be lost in May and be succeeded by V. Rabas.

For D-Day No. 310 was flying from Appledram but its association with 2nd T.A.F. came to an end in July 1944 when it was transferred to Lympne to deal with a new threat – the V1 flying bombs. Initially the squadron reverted to the Spitfire VB, which was useless, but regained Mk. IXs in August. In that month it settled in at North Weald and for the rest of the year flew “Ramrods” and occasional armed recce.

By now the Czech Wing as a whole was suffering from a lack of “trade”, the war having moved too far east. S/Ldr. Hartman had become C.O. of No. 310 September 1944 and he had to supervise a period of few operations and a general running-down. The squadron’s last operation was on 12th May 1945 from Manston whence it had moved in February. The affair was called “Operation Nest-Egg’ and involved flying cover for the reoccupation of the Channel Islands. The squadron remained at Manston until 31st Aug when it flew back to Czechoslovakia last, with its Spitfires. It was officially removed from R.A.F. records on 15th February 1946.

Aircrew of No. 310 Squadron on parade at Prague-Ruzyne on their return home after the war.Their Spitfire LF. IX’s bear Czech national markings.

Representative aircraft: Hurricane I R4087 “NN:X”; Hurricane IIA Z2693; Hurricane IIB Z3325; Spitfire IIA P8472, Spitfire VB BL495 “NN:U”; Spitfire VC EE661 “NN:V”; Spitfire VI BS472, Spitfire LF.IX BS249 “NN:P”.

No. 311 Squadron

Motto: Na množství nehleďte – Never regard their numbers.

On 25th June 1940 two hundred members of the Czech Air Force assembled at Port Vendres, France, and embarked the M.V. Apapa, arriving eventually at Liverpool on 9th July. It was from this band that the first and only Czech bomber squadron in the R.A.F. was formed. Formation took place at Honington on 29th July 1940 and the squadron, No. 311, was given the best of the R.A.F’s twin-engined bombers, the Vickers Wellington I. Declared operational on 2 August, No. 311 set out on its first raid on the evening of 10th September; almost all its bombing missions were night raids over the Occupied Countries and Germany. The squadron’s first C.O. was W/Cdr. K. F. J. Toman, and he remained in command until succeeded by W/Cdr. J. Schrjbal in May 1941. By then No. 311 was fully engaged in Bomber Command’s night offensive.

Wellington ICs of No. 311 Squadron take time off from the night offensive to doe little formation flying over Norfolk in March 1941. Aircraft are R1410 “KX:M”, R1378 “KX:K” and T2561 “KX:A”. Fuselage roundels are yellow (outer), blue and red-a temporary phase.

From December 1940 much of the squadron’s time had been spent in raids which were basically in support of the Navy, attacking the U-Boat bases on the Atlantic coast of France and making many raids on the battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Brest harbour. In those early years of the war navigational aids were primitive and casualties were high but No. 311 soldiered on, flying either from Honington or from East Wretham, a satellite base. In July 1941 W/Cdr. J. Ocelka took over as C.O. and commanded the squadron for the remainder of its Bomber Command days.

After another dour winter of raids (1941-42), still flying Wellington ICs, it was decided that No. 311 might be better off in Coastal Command. This may have been because the losses in Bomber Command were high and the fate of Czech prisoners might not be as healthy as those of other nationalities. In any event, in April 1942, the squadron flew over to Limavady in Northern Ireland to train for the anti-submarine and general reconnaissance role. By the time No. 311 had finished its seventeen months in Bomber Command, it had dropped over 1,300 tons of bombs and gone as far afield as Kiel and Turin. Soon after transferring to Coastal Command it was recalled briefly to take part in the third Thousand-Bomber Raid, but after that it was left to tackle its new maritime task.

W/Cdr. J. Snajdr, D.F.C., took over command in this new role, the squadron moving to Aldergrove in May and Talbenny in June 1942, and from there it became operational again in July. No. 311 now flew the Mk. VIII version of the Wellington, a Mk. IC with “stickleback” ASV aerials on the fuselage and under the wingtips and nose, slowing its speed down and reducing its payload or range. The squadron’s main work was flying anti-U-Boat patrols out over the Atlantic or down to the Bay of Biscay to catch the submarines routeing in and out of the French bases. Occasionally the squadron attacked the bases themselves as a diversion for the many hours of patrolling without sight of the enemy.

W/Cdr. J. Breitcetl was appointed C.O. at the beginning of 1943 and six months later No. 311 moved again. This time it was to Beaulieu in Hampshire and here it relinquished its elderly Wellingtons and re-equipped with four-engined Consolidated Liberators, Mk. IIIAs and Vs at first. After work-up No. 311 again became operational and now spent its time on anti-shipping sorties along the French and Dutch coasts. Most of its targets were surface vessels and the squadron had two notable successes-within a week. On 23rd December an enemy convoy was found proceeding up-Channel. No. 311 shadowed and called up a Royal Navy force with such success that every ship was destroyed or damaged. Then, on 27th December, Liberator “H” of No. 311 Squadron found the German blockaderunner Alsterufer making for France; it had already been bombed by Sunderlands which had missed. The “Lib” went in at 600 ft. – ignoring the heavy anti-aircraft fire, which included small mines thrown into the air – fired its forward-facing rockets and dropped one 250-lb. and one 500-lb. bomb. These set the ship on fire, she was abandoned by her crew and subsequently sunk by other aircraft’s bombs. This took place under W/Cdr. V. Nedved who commanded No. 311 from August 1943 to February 1944, when W./Cdr. J. Sejbl, D.F.C., took over at the same time as No. 311 moved to Predannack. His “reign” included the D-Day period, during which the squadron was concerned with bottling up the Channel to any German vessels; many patrols were flown on this task.

In August 1944 No. 311 moved north to Tain in Scotland. By now it was equipped mainly with the Mk. VI versionof the Liberator, and with these it flew anti-shipping and anti-U-Boat patrols over the North Sea, harassing the German supply routes up and down the Norwegian coast so that the German ships had no free access to the open seas. In 1945 the aircraft were fitted with Leigh Lights, powerful searchlights which enabled them to step up their operations by night as well as day. The long range of the Liberator enabled the squadron to patrol as far as the Baltic in order to catch the Germans napping. The final C.O. was W/Cdr. J. Kostohryz who took over when the move up to Tain was accomplished.

As the end came in 1945 No. 311, which had destroyed two U-Boats and helped to sink three more, was transferred to Transport Command, together with several other Liberator squadrons, to assist with the many transport jobs that immediately cropped up, such as repatriating prisoners of war. For this it was based at Milltown and here it remained until disbanded on 15th February 1946, having had the joy of flying some of the first U.K.-Czechoslovakia routes after the cessation of hostilities.

From mid-1943 on No. 311 Squadron flew Liberators on anti-shipping sorties and immediately after the war used them as transports on U.K. – Czechoslovakia service, by then bearing Czech national markings, as shown on this Mk. VI, EV943 “PP:F”.

Representative aircraft: Wellington IC T2561 “KX:A”; Liberator IIIA LV342 “12”; Liberator V BX789 “PP:B”; Liberator VI EV943 “PP:F”.

No. 312 Squadron

Motto: Non Multi Sed Multa – Not many but much.

Like No. 310, No. 312 Squadron was formed from fighter pilots who had already been blooded in the battle for France; it formed alongside No. 310 at Duxford on 29th August 1940 under S/Ldr. F. H. Tyson (later Saunders-Roe’s chief testpilot). It moved across to Speke on 26th September, the work-up having been slowed down as the squadron’s first Hurricanes were old and decrepit. No. 312 became operational on 2nd October, making its first scramble two days later, but with no success.

Tasked to defend Liverpool and the Mersey, it did just that on 8th October by shooting down a Ju 88 on the banks of the river, a victory shared between F/Lt. Gillam, one of the British flight commanders, and P/O. Vasatko. Unfortunately that winter the squadron accidentally destroyed an R.A.F. Blenheim. Much of the time was spent in practising night-flying so that No. 312 could provide some form of night defence and one flight was detached to Squires Gate for this purpose.

In March 1941 the squadron moved to Valley (then known as Rhosneigr) and was involved on shipping patrols. In March another Ju 88 was shot down while on this task and the month after No. 312 moved to Jurby on the Isle of Man to extend this task northwards.

Three of No. 312 Squadron’s Hurricane Is fly low over a fourth, V6885 “DU:W” plugged In and ready to go. The airfield Is probably Speke.

This uninspiring activity ended in May 1941 when No. 312 moved south to No. 11 Group and Kenley where it took over the Hurricane IIBs left behind by No. 302 (Polish) Squadron. The offensive came at last. On 14th June No. 312 flew its first “Circus”, escorting bombers out over enemy territory. It was now part of the Kenley Wing, flying whenever required on sweeps and escorts. But all this was shortlived; in July the squadron moved to Martlesham Heath for more convoy patrols. While at Kenley, in the short time there, it had destroyed four Bf 109s. This was under the command of its first Czech C.O., S/Ldr. E. Cizak; his place was now taken by S/Ldr. A. Vasatko, D.F.C., No. 312’s first scorer. After a month at Martlesham No. 312 moved up to Ayr in August 1941 and became non-operational.

However, this was a prelude to reequipment and in September the Hurricanes gave way to Spitfire IIAs and then IIBs at Fairwood Common in December. The squadron was again operational, once more flying convoy patrols over the Irish Sea and Bristol Channel. Four months were spent in 1942 at Angle on this task and eventually in May No. 312 moved south to Harrowbeer, outside Plymouth. It had added two Ju 88s to its score while in Wales and was now to go on the offensive again, under S/Ldr. J. Cermak. Already it had flown on “Circus” operations in support of “Hurribombers”, – being detached to Redhill for that purpose. Now, with Spitfire VBs and VCs it took part in “Sweeps” and “Ramrods” and, in June, had several combats, destroying one Fw 190 and probably two more. “Rhubarbs” were also undertaken with somewhat mixed feelings by the pilots.

Dieppe saw No. 312 operating from Redhill, attacking E-Boats and flying beachhead patrols on which two Dormer Do 217s were destroyed plus two Fw 190s probables. Activities then began to tail off, although further “Ramrods” were flown. Base was moved to Church Stanton in October 1942. From there “anti-Rhubarbs” were flown against marauding German fighter-bombers at low level.

In January 1943 S/Ldr. T. Vybiral took over and as the longer days opened up so more “Ramrods” and sweeps were flown and the spring saw No. 312 happily active once more, although adding nothing to its score of enemy aircraft. In June it was whisked north for a stint in defence of the naval installations at Scapa Flow. Base was Skeabrae with a detachment farther south at Peterhead. It was back to patrols over the sea once more, but while there one Ju 88 was destroyed on 27th August. The following month No. 312 flew south to Ibsley where it re-equipped with Spitfire IXs and resumed the offensive with “Ramrods” and still more “Ramrods”. S/Ldr. F. Varicl, D.F.C., took over in November and in February 1944 he flew the squadron to Mendlesham to join Nos. 310 and 313 Squadrons to form the Czech Wing in 2nd T.A.F.

The bleakness of Skeabrae is evident in this shot of Spitfire VB EP660 “DU:O” of No. 312 Squadron. Note miniature Czech roundel below cockpit.

No. 312 was now involved in softening up the Germans for the invasion with “Ramrods” and “Noballs”, attacks agai the V 1 sites in northern France. S/L J. Heads, D.F.C., took over in May and led the squadron on fighter patrols over the invasion fleet and the bridgeheads on D-Day, but the following month the Czech Wing transferred to Lympne for anti V1 duties. From then on it was largely bomber-escort duties for No. 312.

S/Ldr. V. Slouf took over in November 1944, by which time the Wing was Bradwell Bay- for escort duties over Holland. In February 1945 it moved to the south-easternmost tip of England, Manston, to stretch its range for what few operations remained. No. 312’s last operation was on 19th April, a “Ramrod” to Heligoland. By now S/Ldr. H. Hrbacek D.F.C., had taken over and it was under his command that the squadron flew back to Prague on 8th September 1945. On 15th February 1946 the squadron was officially declared disbanded.

Representative aircraft: Hurricane I V6930 “DU:F”; Hurricane IIB Z3501; Spitfire IIA/IIB P7444/P8347; Spitfire AA911 “DU:D”; Spitfire VC EE715 Spitfire IX MK221 “DU:J”.

No. 313 Squadron

Motto: Jeden Jestřáb Mnoho Vran Rozhání – One hawk chases away many crows.

By 1941 sufficient Czech personnel had amassed in Britain to make possible the formation of a third Czech fighter squadron. This was No. 313 and it formed Catterick on 10th May 1941, equipped from the start with Spitfires. S/Ldr G. L. Sinclair, D.F.C., was its first (British) C.O. and he took it to its war station, Leconfield, on 1st July. The squadron had already sighted a Ju while flying on 10th June but had had inconclusive encounter. On 11th July No 313 was declared operational but no action was seen while at Leconfield.

In August the squadron moved south to Portreath where it received Mk. II Spitfires and the squadron began sweeps on the 31st of the month, flying a withdrawal cover for force of Blenheim bombers. S/Ldr. Jaske took over in September and on the 28th the squadron had its first fight during an escort to Whirlwinds; it damaged a Bf 109 and went on to strafe Morlaix airfield. October was mainly concern with Blenheim escort duties and it was not until December, when No. 313 moved to Hornchurch, that much more happened. There S/Ldr. K. Mrazek, D.F.C., took, over command and in the spring of 1942, the squadron began sweeps, “Ramrod and “Rhubarbs”.

With the war nearly over in 1945 No. 313 Squadron crews wait for action in front of thair Spitfire Us (ML187 foreground), probably at Manston.

The pace hotted up and on some these operations dogfights ensued; on 5th May on a “Rodeo” one Fw 190 was shot down and two probables scored for the loss of one Czech pilot. Generally the Fw 190 was more than a match for the Spitfire VB which No. 313 was now flying and had a number of losses. In June No. 313 moved west to Church Stanton where it stayed for a year and there S/Ldr. J. Himr took over command. The pace of operations now slowed from the Hornchurch days, although a “Ramrod” with Bostons to Morlaix on 23rd June brought more Fw 190 successes. More and more the convoy and shipping patrol became No. 313’s task during the second half of 1942, but surprisingly in October and November operations picked up again.

The New Year saw operations continue despite the short daylight hours and on 6th March 1943 another brisk encounter with Fw 190s took place during a “Ramrod”. In June No. 313 was taken north for a rest to Peterhead, in Scotland, with a detachment at Sumburgh in the Shetlands. There the squadron flew Mk. VI Spitfires for a month on high-altitude patrols before reverting to scrambles and convoy patrols with Mk. VBs.

The stay there was short-lived for in August No. 313 returned to an intensive offensive from Hawkinge and then Ibsley. It was from the latter, during an escort to Mitchell bombers, that No. 313 had a fierce fight with Messerschmitt Bf 110s and the C.O. was one. of two pilots lost; S/Ldr. F. Fatjl, D.F.C., took over. The “Ramrods” continued until the year’s end, when No. 313 went north again, to Ayr. It was back at Ibsley three weeks later but now, with Mk. IXs, it soon moved into 2nd T.A.F. as part of the all-Czech Fighter Wing at Mendlesham. Along with Nos. 310 and 312 Squadrons it busied itself with softening-up operations against France prior to the invasion and this included dive-bombing attacks on V1 sites. All this activity intensified up to D-Day when No. 313 was patrolling the beachheads. However, it did not go to France with the rest of 2nd T.A.F., remaining on defence duties in Britain, and in July returned to Skeabrae and Sumburgh to patrol Scapa Flow. Three months later it moved down to North Weald. There it was under the command of S/Ldr. K. Kasal, Fatjl having been relieved by V. Bergman, D.F.C., in February 1944, and he in turn by A. Hochmal in May.

From then on the story was much the same as for Nos. 310 and 312, with “Ramrods” and shipping sweeps up to the end of the war in Europe. No. 313’s last operation was covering the landings in Jersey on 10th May 1945. The squadron was now based at Manston and from there it flew to Ruzyne airfield, Prague, on 24th August 1945 to form part of the post-war Czech Air Force. No. 313 Squadron was officially disbanded from the R.A.F. on 15th February 1946.

Representative aircraft: Spitfire I X4835 “RY:T”; Spitfire IIA P8193; Spitfire VB AD353; Spitfire VC AB212; Spitfire VI BS146; Spitfire VII MD122; Spitfire IX MK131 “RY:P”.

On their return home in 1945 the Czech squadrons took with them 76 Spitfire LF.IXEs, also 26 Mosquito FB.VI’s.

Article reproduced from the April 1975 edition of Air Pictorial (now called Aviation News) with kind permission from the publishers, Key Publishing Ltd. www.aviation-news.co.uk

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This entry was posted in 310 Sqd, 311 Sqd, 312 Sqd, 313 Sqd. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Fighters from Central Europe

  1. Dr George Abbott White says:

    Very glad to have this. Have just now returned from a month in UK and CZ, visited Biggin Hill and bases around Norwich; RAF chapel in Westminister and photographed it and Bankside memorial to RAF. Sorry to have missed the memorial gathering for stone unveiling in Prostejov, will hope to see and photograph it this spring. All good wishes, Dr White (Charles University, 1992)

    Dr George Abbott White
    Boston, Massachusetts
    USA

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