Arnost Mrtvy – Spitfire MJ558 excavation

Arnošt Mrtvý was born 12 January 1916 at Hrdibořice, Prostějov, Czechoslovakia.

After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939, he decided to escape to Poland where he had heard that Czechoslovak military forces where being formed to fight for the liberation of their homeland. On 1 July, with three colleagues who had also served in the Czechoslovak Air Force, he escaped over the border to Poland. They then travelled to Krakow where they reported to the Czechoslovak Consulate.

Here they were to find out that the Polish authorities were not permitting Czechoslovak military units to be formed in their country.

Arnošt Mrtvý, France 1940.

Instead escaped Czechoslovak military personnel would have to travel to France. Mrtvý, with other Czechoslovak military personnel sailed from Gydnia to Calais where, after war was declared on 3 September 1939, accepted into Armée de l’Air. When France capitulated, Arnošt was successfully evacuated to England where he joined the RAF as a Volunteer Reserve. He was posted to 313 Sqn.

On 19 April 1944, the Czechoslovak Fighter Wing, comprising of the three Czechoslovak fighter squadrons, 310 Sqn, 312 Sqn and 313Sqn and lead by W/Cmdr Tomas Vybiral, were escorting a formation of 72 USAAF B-26 Marauder light bombers, on Ramrod 753; a raid to the railway station at Malines (Mechelen), north of Brussels. The Czechoslovak Wing took-off from Manston at 18:00. En-route to the target they were attacked by 20 Me 109’s but no losses or victories were achieved. Over the target the Czechoslovak Wing was attacked by Fw 190’s. Arnošt Mrtvý was flying Spitfire LF Mk IXc MJ558, RY-B and was attacked, at about 18:53 about 10 miles north of Brussels, by a Fw 190 flown by Oblt Wolfgang Neu. Mrtvý’s aircraft was hit and he bailed out. Whilst descending in his parachute, he was shot at by a German flak unit and killed. He was 28 years old.

Crash report W/O Arnošt Mrtvý, 313 (Czechoslovak) Squadron:

April 19th 1944, the “Transport Campaign” is well on its way. Railway yards in France and Belgium were one of the many targets to disrupt the transportation of German troops and material to the D-Day landing zone.

On the 19th of April the USAAF send a large formation of B-26 Marauders to the railway station of Mechelen in Belgium. The RAF would send 312 Sqn. and 313 Sqn. as their escort.

It was about 18:40 hrs that the first bombs were falling on Mechelen station. By this time the Focke-Wulfs from Jagdgeschwader 26 were patrolling the sky searching for the bomber formations. 312 Sqn lost the Spitfire of Fl/Lt Budil (Spit. MK248) above Mechelen. It was about 19.00 hrs that eyewitnesses saw a Spitfire being attacked by two German Fighters above Herentals. The Spitfire tried to get away, but it was to late. The eyewitnesses saw black smoke coming from the engine. At first the witnesses were looking at the “Dog fight”, now they had to run for their lives because the smoking Spitfire was coming straight to the potato field were they were working on. The father pulled his sons into a ditch behind a barn, he just saw the pilot jumping out. A few seconds later the Spitfire crashed in the field making a big crater, one of the wings broke of and slammed into the farmhouse. No civilians were injured.

At the same time some 400 metres away another eyewitness saw the parachute coming down. The German Flak (12 SS. Pz. Div. ‘Hitler Jugend’) unit that was stationed in Herentals shot down the parachute. The eyewitness told me he can still remember the sound of the silk flapping in the wind, the parachute was torn to shreds. The pilot had no chance and crashed in a field some 400 metres away from his plane.

The next day his English wife received a telegram from the Air Ministry to inform here that here husband was missing in action on the 19th of April.

Arnost Mrtvy was buried at Fort 3 Deurne and later reburied in grave IVa. C. 7 at the Schoonselhof Cemetery close to Antwerp were he still rests today.

Three days later Oblt Wolfgang Neu was himself killed in combat with American fighter aircraft over the ‘Eifel’ region of Germany. His Fw 190A crashed near Katenborn-Eifel.

On 19 April 2007, the Planehunters Recovery Team located the crashsite of Arnost Mrtvy’s Spitfire, 63 years after it had crashed.

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To date they have managed to recover two Browning machine-guns and numerous cockpit and engine parts. Some of these parts have been donated to Mrtvy’s home town of Hrdibořice, near Prostějov, Czech Republic.

The assistance of Benny Ceulaers, Chairman of the Planehunters Recovery Team with this article is much appreciated.

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3 Responses to Arnost Mrtvy – Spitfire MJ558 excavation

  1. Henrik Mjoman says:

    I just now viewed the above Tv program 16/03/2022, and it was every bit as good as it should be! Sad, to learn the HJ did not respect a pilot taking to the silk, but killed him in his descent. Awful! I very much like the series that brings history into our days living rooms and makes history come alive so we can appreciate those that fell for our freedom R.I.P. Arnost Mrtvy!

  2. Suzanne Fisk says:

    On 27th July 2020 I watched a Television programme called WW2 Treasure Hunters on Blaze TV in the UK. The programme focused on an excavation of the crash site of the Mk 9 Spitfire flown by Arnost Mrtvy of 313 Squadron. The excavation produced many items including a cannon gun, Plexi glass from the cockpit and a small hawk mascot which (they explained) could link to the squadron motto of One hawk chases away many crows. The presenter went into the background of the heroic Arnost and highlighted research as to how he was most likely killed by the enemy whilst parachuting to the ground after baling out before the plane crashed. The presenter paid tribute to the work of the Czech Fighter squadrons and also highlighted the treatment of the all the returning Airman to Czechoslovakia after the war and that they were treated as traitors by the communist regimen when they should have been treated as heroes. it was a very informative and moving programme and a fitting tribute which I thought your readers would be interested to hear about.

  3. Evan says:

    I am doing a school project and this really helped me in my studying thx

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