311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF
The long awaited English language history of 311 (Czechoslovak) Bomber Squadron by Pavel Vancata was published at the end of last year. The book is described as being the only source for comprehensive details of 311 Squadron in the English language, and as essential reading for all aviation enthusiasts, aviation historians and scale aero-modellers. Brought alive by the considerable number of beautifully reproduced black and white photographs of men and machines, as well as by colour illustrations of aircraft camouflage and markings, the book begins with the foundation of 311 (Czechoslovak) Bomber Squadron as the second Czechoslovak combat squadron within the Royal Air Force on 2nd August 1940 at Honington, with a squadron strength of 269 airmen.
After just one month’s training the order for the initial sortie came on 10th September 1940, and the first loss was suffered before the end of the month. The book continues to describe in detail the operational activity of the Squadron, and its losses, during 1940 and 1941 – the latter described as the Year of the Biggest Combat Effort and Losses – and the last months from January to April 1942. At this time the Squadron nearly ceased to exist as only four operational crews remained. On 18th April five new crews arrived to take part in “freshman” raids bombing Le Havre and Dunkirk, which were to be the final raids as part of Bomber Command. On 28th April the main part of 311 Squadron left for Aldegrove in Northern Ireland where they joined Coastal Command due to their unsustainable losses. Of 53 operational crews composed of 318 pilots and aircrew, 128 had been lost on operations (94 killed and 34 captured), making a loss rate of 40.25%.
The second part of the book illustrates the role of the Squadron in its anti-submarine patrol activity in the Bay of Biscay; from the first operational sortie on 22nd May 1942, through the change from Wellington to Liberator aircraft, until transfer on 25th June 1945 to Transport Command following the end of the war in Europe. A chapter of the book – “The Greatest Success” – covers the period from December 1943 until the end of 1944. This period began with the sinking of the German blockade runner, the Alsterufer on 28th December 1943. Liberator V BZ796/H attacked in the face of heavy flak; five RPs penetrated the hull above the waterline, and a 500lb bomb hit the vessel aft of the funnel. The Liberator – with the outer starboard engine losing power as a result of flak damage – left the burning vessel to its fate, which later sank. For this action P/O Dolezal and F/L Hanus were awarded the DFC, and the rest of the crew – Sgt. Prochazka, F/S Hahn, F/S Ludikar, F/S Schwarz, Sgt. Veitl, and W/O Kosek – the Czechoslovak Military Cross of 1939. After involvement in the support of the Normandy landings, the Squadron moved in August 1944 to Tain in Scotland and its new area of anti-submarine patrol in the North Sea.
The final section of the book deals with the peacetime service with Transport Command, and its role of transporting personnel and material back to Czechoslovakia. This commenced on 30th July 1945 from Manston in Kent with the transport of military personnel and material, followed by the repatriation of Czechoslovak civilians from airports closer to London. Even after the cessation of hostilities, the Squadron continued to suffer tragic losses including the crash on 5th October 1945 of Liberator V1 KG867/PP-N in which the five crew members and seventeen passengers, including five children and a stowaway – WAAF member LACW Edith Sedlakova, the wife of crew member F/S Sedlak – were all killed.
The book includes personal histories of 6 airmen – W/O Ladislav Kadlec, W/C Josef Ocelka, W/C Vladimir Nedved, F/O Jan Roman Irving, W/C Jan Kostohryz DSO, and F/L Bohumil Vaverka, and eleven appendices with facts and figures about the Squadron – including bases, sorties, operations and losses, aircraft and aircrews, and training. Appendix 10 – Faces of 311 Squadron – contains sixty eight portraits of 311(Czechoslovak) Bomber Squadron flying personnel members, representing the wide-scale group of men who flew with the unit, as well as illustrating the different kinds of uniforms, insignia and flying suits worn during the war.
Altogether a fascinating insight into the history of 311 (Czechoslovak) Bomber Squadron and its personnel. This work has to be a very welcome addition to the bookshelves for those researching, or interested in, 311 (Czechoslovak) Bomber Squadron where detailed information has previously been limited for those with little or no command of the Czech-Slovak languages.
|Publisher:||Mushroom Model Publications|
|Published:||re-scheduled to late 2013|
|Format:||Softback, 128p with illustrations, colour artwork plus B & W photos|