311 Sqn Air-Crew Training – Bomber Command

The Training of Czechoslovak Operational aircrew for 311 Squadron, whilst part of RAF Bomber Command 1940-42, flying mainly Wellington aircraft (and later as part of Coastal Command from mid 1942 until August 1943).

Flt/Lt ‘Percy’ Pickard DFC

With the arrival of growing numbers of Czechoslovak airmen in Great Britain following the fall of France in the summer of 1940, much thought was given to the formation of Czechoslovak units either as part of the RAF or as a separate grouping. The Czech’ government in exile, given a real choice would have liked to have had a separate Czechoslovak Air Force. However, after much political wrangling it was decided that the Czechoslovak units would be formed as part of the RAF Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR). Provision of suitable numbers of ground personnel was always going to present a problem as was the necessary training to ensure that the units established were able to operate in an integrated manner using RAF aircraft, support equipment, systems, procedures, standards and language. Initially it was considered that there was a pool of ready experience amongst the first aircrew allocated to form the embryo 311 (Czechoslovak) Bomber Squadron and that their training would not need to be extensive. It was thought that they would only need to undertake some brief retraining to familiarise them with RAF equipment and procedures. Serving RAF personnel were drafted in to provide a training cadre and numbers of RAF ground staff were also posted to the new unit to provide technical and administrative support. The British personnel included the following; Wg/Cdr J F Griffiths DFC (Officer Commanding), Flt/Lt M J Earl (Adjutant), Sqn/Ldr L Samuels (‘B’ Flight CO and Flying Instructor), Sqn/Ldr G N Amison (‘B’ Flight Navigation Instructor), Flt/Lt P C Pickard DFC (‘A’ Flight CO and Flying Instructor), Flt/Lt R D B McFadden DFC (‘B’ Flight Flying Instructor), F/O W M Williams DFC (‘A’ Flight Flying Instructor), Flt/Lt A H Browne (Gunnery Instructor/Leader), P/O A Roman (Bombing Instructor), P/O Rogers and P/O W Morrison (both Gunnery Instructors), plus a group of NCO’s under F/Sgt Patrick Hennigan DFM to provide instruction in telegraphy and wireless operation. Later in the year Flt/Lt T G Kirby-Green also arrived to undertake the duties of Flying Instructor as did Flt/Lt T J Baber (RNZAF) to undertake the duties of Gunnery Instructor. Training was initially undertaken at Honington using nearby East Wretham as a satellite airfield.

Pickard (extreme right) & Kirby Green 5th from left

In addition, two initial groups of Czech air-crew were put through a short training and familiarisation course at 11 Operational Training Unit (OTU) at Bassingbourn, in Cambridgeshire. The first group consisting of 40 airmen undertook the course during August and September 1940.

This group consisted of (Pilots); Sgt ČAPKA Josef, Sgt DOSTÁL Hugo, Sgt FENCL František, Sgt HÁJEK Jaroslav, Sgt MUSÁLEK Adolf, Sgt MŽOUREK Alois, Sgt NÝČ Jaroslav, Sgt RADINA František, Sgt RYBA Václav, Sgt ŠŤASTNÝ Karel, Sgt SOUKUP Vilém and Sgt VALOŠEK Oskar, (Navigators); P/O BEČVÁŘ Karel, P/O ČERMÁK Josef, P/O ENGEL Jiří, P/O KULA Jaroslav, P/O MOHR Josef and P/O SEDLÁČEK Mojmír, (Wireless Operator Air-Gunners); P/O ČERNÝ Otakar, P/O DOUBEK Josef, P/O HANČIL Karel, P/O KACÍŘ Ondřej, P/O KOVÁŘ Karel, P/O MATUŠKA Zdeněk, P/O PAROLEK Jan, P/O SIMET Josef, P/O SKUTIL Jaroslav, P/O RYCHNOVSKÝ Karel and P/O VILD Miroslav with (Air-Gunners); P/O HRUŠKA Antonín, P/O FORETNÍK Jaromír, P/O FORMÁNEK Vojtěch, P/O GABRIEL Alois, P/O NĚMEC Herbert, P/O PODSTRÁNECKÝ Josef, P/O ŘÍHA Ladislav, P/O SKOŘEPA Zdeněk, P/O VESELÝ Erazim and P/O ZAPLETAL Milan.

A second group of 21 airmen completed the course in September and October. This group consisted of (Pilots); Sgt DOKTOR Jaroslav, Sgt HELMA Oldřich, Sgt JEDOUNEK Arnošt, P/O HAPALA Richard, Sgt KALENSKÝ Josef, P/O KVAPIL Karel, P/O REJTHAR Stanislav, F/Sgt SCHOŘ Karel, P/O SIXTA František, Sgt STYBLÍK Miroslav and P/O VILDOMEC Karel, (Wireless Operator Air-Gunners); P/O BUŠINA Emil, P/O DIVIŠ Miroslav, P/O KOŠEK Ludvík, P/O KOZÁK Pavel, P/O KOŠULIČ Václav, P/O ROUŠAR Zbyněk, P/O SVÁTEK Lubomír, P/O RŮŽIČKA František, P/O VANĚČEK Václav and P/O ZIMMER Antonín.

Twenty of the second group of Czechoslovak trainees at 11 OTU in September 1940. From left to right; back row P/O Zbyněk ROUŠAR, P/O Emil BUŠINA, P/O Lubomír SVÁTEK, P/O Václav VANĚČEK; middle row P/O Pavel KOZÁK, P/O Richard HAPALA, P/O Václav KOŠULIČ, P/O Miroslav DIVIŠ, P/O Karel KVAPIL, P/O František RŮŽIČKA, P/O Antonín ZIMMER, P/O Ludvík KOŠEK; front row F/Sgt Karel SCHOŘ, Sgt Jaroslav DOKTOR, P/O Frantisek SIXTA, P/O Karel VILDOMEC, P/O Stanislav REJTHAR, Sgt Josef KALENSKÝ, Sgt Oldřich HELMA and Sgt Miroslav STYBLÍK.

The first and only Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron, No. 311 Squadron, was formed at Honington with two Flights at the end of July 1940; ‘A’ Flight was to be the Operational Flight and ‘B’ Flight was to be the Operational Training Flight. By the beginning of September three crews were deemed to be ready to carry out Operations. They made their first foray on behalf of Bomber Command on the night of the 10th of September against the marshalling yards at Brussels. Later in September the Operational element of the squadron (‘A’ Flight) moved to nearby East Wretham, whilst the Operational Training Flight (‘B’ Flight) remained at Honington. At this stage training was undertaken using a mixture of twin-engined Anson trainers (eg K6296, R9600, R9648 and R9649) and early mark Wellington aircraft (eg L4332 KX-T and later K (a dual control aircraft), P9226 KX-Z and P9230 KX-B later X). The first six crews to be trained to the required standard were;

Crew: Personnel:

Sqn/Ldr SCHEJBAL Josef, Sgt HANUŠ Čestmir, P/O FIKRLE Jasmín, Sgt MAREŠ Jiří, P/O ŠIMON Eduard and Sgt KOVAŘÍK Bohuslav.

Flt/Lt OCELKA Josef, Sgt TAIBER František, P/O HNÁTEK Josef, Sgt KOROTVIČKA Augustin, P/O ÚLEHLA Lubomír and Sgt JANŠTA Karel.

P/O LANDA Bohumil, Sgt HRNČÍŘ Jan, P/O JAROŠEK Hubert, Sgt KLIMT Karel, Sgt ŠESTÁK Ladislav and Sgt JIRSÁK Otto;

P/O TROJÁČEK Karel, Sgt ZÁBRŠ Arnošt, P/O PROCHÁZKA Zdeněk, Sgt KUŇKA Karel, P/O KILIÁN Václav and Sgt KNOTEK František;

P/O JANOUŠEK František, Sgt NOVOTNÝ Karel, P/O KONŠTACKÝ Vilém, Sgt PLZÁK Jan, Sgt ZAVADIL Václav and Sgt VALACH Karel.

Sgt KORDA Václav, Sgt BALA Jaroslav, P/O CÍGLER Miroslav, Sgt SLÁNSKÝ Vladimír, Sgt JAKŠ Vilém and Sgt ČTVRTLÍK Miroslav.

By mid September they were joined by a further three crews;

Crew: Personnel:

Sqn/Ldr VESELÝ Jan, Sgt BUFKA Vilém, P/O SLABÝ Jaroslav, P/O MATOUŠEK Jaroslav, P/O TRUHLÁŘ František and Sgt ALBRECHT Josef.

P/O BREITCETL Jindřich, Sgt ZAPLETAL František, P/O KIRCHSTEIN Alois, P/O KOSTOHRYZ Jan, P/O HORÁK Josef and Sgt KOSEK Josef.

Flt /Lt ŠNAJDR Josef, Sgt ANDERLE Leo, P/O RICHTER Josef, P/O VEJRAŽKA Miloslav, P/O FÜRBACH Jan and Sgt LANGER Oldřich.

Unfortunately within a few weeks, three crews had been lost and only six full crews were available for operations and the pressure to maintain the operational momentum was deemed to be too great for such a small number of airmen. As a result the squadron was withdrawn from operations for a period of some weeks to give it the opportunity to consolidate and train additional crews.

New crews trained were;

Crew: Personnel:

Sgt KŘIVDA Jan, Sgt PAVELKA Josef, P/O NEDVĚD Vladimír, P/O DOUBRAVA Josef, Sgt JANOUŠEK Jiří and P/O TOUL Jaromír.

P/O CIGOŠ František, Sgt URUBA Petr, P/O PARTYK Jaroslav, P/O VALENTA Arnošt, Sgt KOPAL Gustav and P/O KŘÍŽEK Karel;

P/O KUBIZŇÁK Antonín, Sgt BAUMRUK Bohuslav, P/O HUDEC Josef, P/O LESKAUER Josef, Sgt BOLFÍK Rudolf and P/O KRÁL Jaromír.

Sgt BERNÁT Josef, Sgt ROZUM Alois, P/O VNOUČEK Jindřich, Sgt HAERING Rudolf, Sgt KOVÁČ Ervín and Sgt BENEŠ Jindřich.

Sgt BLATNÝ Benedikt, Sgt JEDOUNEK Arnošt, P/O BEČVÁŘ Karel, P/O SMRČEK Leonard, Sgt MIKULÍK Miloslav and Sgt CHMURA František.

Sgt ŠEDIVÝ Alois, Sgt ČAPKA Josef, P/O SVÁTEK Lubomír, P/O LIŠKA Jaroslav, Sgt BABÁČEK Pavel and Sgt CUPÁK Vladimír.

The training element was split into two separate sections; an Initial Training Flight and an Advanced Training Flight. To begin with Czechoslovak airmen attended a number of RAF Training Units in order to initially qualify in the various air-crew ‘trades’. The units involved in Great Britain were as follows; (Pilots) No.3 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) – Watchfield/Shellingford, No.28 EFTS Wolverhampton, No.9 Service Flying Training School (SFTS) (Later redesignated No. 9 (Pilot) Advanced Flying Unit) – Hullavington, No.2 SFTS – Brize Norton, (Navigators) No.1 Elementary Air Observer’s School Eastbourne (later known as No.1 Elementary Air Navigation School – Bridgenorth), No.4 AONS – Ansty, No.5 Air Observer’s School (AOS) – Jurby, No.10 AOS Dumfries (later became No.10 Bombing & Gunnery School (BGS), (Wireless Operators) No.1 Signals School (Later No.1 Radio School) – Cranwell-North. No.2 Radio School – Yatesbury, (Air-Gunners) No.3 Air Gunner’s School (AGS) – Mona, No.7. AGS – Stormy Down, No.8 AGS Evanton, No.4 BGS (Later No.4 Observer’s Advance Flying Unit) – West Freugh, No.10 Bombing and Gunnery School – Dumfries. Others (from January 1942) underwent training in Canada at units such as 31 EFTS – De Winton, Alberta, 32 SFTS – Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and 34 SFTS – Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Once ‘qualified,’ aircrew were posted to the first of the squadron’s two training elements. The embryo crews would be involved in building their expertise through navigational and cross country flights, blind flying, bombing and air gunnery practice. They used Wellington aircraft such as L7841, L7847, N2981, N2775, R1269, R3206 and R3237. In September the operational training element shifted to East Wretham to be collocated with 311 Squadron. Training in these flights was destined to end in December 1941, when a separate unit, No.1429 Czech Operational Training Flight (COTF) was formed on the 16th of the month under the command of Sqn/Ldr Josef ŠEJBL. It was still to be based at East Wretham and was to remain there until well into 1942.The unit continued to be split into two elements, the Initial Training Flight under the command of Flt/Lt Jindřich BREITCETL DFC and the Advanced Training Flight under the command of Flt/Lt Karel VILDOMEC. The first course to be fully completed under the auspice of 1429 Flt was Course Number 6. The ongoing Course Number 5 was already well underway when 1429 Flight was formed and finished on the 2nd of February 1942 it comprised of five crews which were deemed to be of operational standard although there was a shortage of navigators. Those that qualified were; (Pilots) Flt/Lt Josef ŠTRÉGL, Sgt Jan HADRÁVEK, Sgt Oldřich HAVLÍK, Sgt Vladimír HANZL, Sgt Karel KODEŠ, Sgt Jan KOTRCH, Sgt Josef BLÁHA, Sgt Oldřich SOUKUP, Sgt Jan ŠTARK and Sgt Viktor VÝCHA, (Navigator) Sgt František HAVRÁNEK, (Wireless Operators Air-Gunners) P/O Rudolf MATĚJÍČEK, Sgt František JANČA, Sgt Ludvík KRÁL, Sgt Josef TALÁB and Sgt Pavel TOFEL, (Air-Gunners) Sgt Jan ŘEHOŘ, Sgt Václav SPITZ, Sgt Imrich KORMANOVIČ, Sgt Adolf PODIVÍNSKÝ, Sgt Josef ŠTERN, Sgt Jozef HALADA, Sgt Oto JEBÁČEK, Sgt Dobromil ŠPINKA, Sgt Jan ŠIMKO and Sgt Karel MAREČEK.

Succeeding courses were as follows;

Course No.6:
Dates: Crew No: Personnel Comments

1 Flt/Lt EICHLER Bohuslav
Sgt ŘÍHA Jan
Sgt DOMINIK Vladimír
Sgt PIZUR Michal
Sgt SAMEL Pavel

2 Sgt KEPKA Ferdinand
Sgt LAŠTOVKA Miroslav
Sgt GEDOŠ Karel
Sgt BŘEČKA Vladislav
Up to 24.2.42. the rear gunner was Sgt MICHALEC Gustav, but he was injured in an incident involving Wellington (KX-S) L7841 (the aircraft made a belly landing and MICHALEC was thrown from his turret and injured his back) as a result he was back coursed and became part of crew 15 on Course No.9.

3 Sgt ŠOTOLA Josef
Sgt SAPÁK Jakub
Sgt MOCEK Jaromír
Sgt TRNKA Václav
Sgt KUBÍN Valentýn
Sgt KOKEŠ Zdeněk
Course No.7:


4 Sgt ČERVINKA Miroslav
Sgt PANCÍŘ Rudolf
Sgt JELÍNEK Jaroslav
Sgt HOLNA Alois
Sgt JANDA Zdeněk
Sgt KŘÍŽ Ladislav

5 F/O NÝVLT Josef
Sgt HLAVÁČ Vlastimil
F/O VILD Miroslav
Course No.8:


6 F/O NEDVĚD Vladimír
Sgt ŠVEC Josef
Sgt FRANĚK Alois
Sgt URBAN Emerich


7 F/O ŠTUDENT Václav
Sgt MARTIŠ Anton
Sgt KARAS Zoltán
Sgt RÁJECKI Vladimír
Up to 15.4.42. Sgt Josef KOPECKÝ (787675) filled the role of second pilot. On the 20.5.42. he was transferred to the Czech AF Depot and on 30.5.42. He was released from the Air Force on medical grounds and transferred to the Czech Army.


8 Sgt IRVING Jan
Sgt ŠVEJDAR František
Sgt NOVÁK Alois
Sgt BÖHM Josef


Sgt DRMELKA Jaromír
P/O ŠTĚPÁN Ladislav
Sgt KAUDERS Valter
Sgt SCHÄFFER Ladislav


10 Sgt KEDA Alois
Sgt VOKURKA Rudolf
Sgt GRIMM Rudolf
Sgt HOŘÍNEK Jindřich
All the crew perished when, whilst on a navigation exercise, their Wellington P9299 (KX-A) flew into high ground in bad weather near Llanymawddy north of the River Dovey in Wales on 6.4.42..
Course No.9:


11 Sgt SOUKUP Vilém
Sgt DOLEŽAL Oldřich
P/O PENK Viktor
Sgt PATZELT Marián
Sgt PUMPR Karel
Sgt KOSEK Josef


12 Sgt NEDOMA Rudolf
Sgt MOUDRÝ Luděk
F/O ONDRŮJ Vlastimil
Sgt MRÁZEK Emilián
Sgt CHYTRÝ Josef
Sgt HRABAL Bohumil


13 Flt/Lt LIŠKA Bohumil
Sgt HAVLÍK Jaroslav
Sgt VEVERKA František


14 Sgt JÍLEK Václav
Sgt KUHN Josef
Sgt BROCHARD Dalibor
Sgt TVRDÝ Bohumil


15 P/O KOZELKA Zdeněk
Sgt HÉŽA Bohuslav
P/O KNAPP Zdeněk
Sgt DANĚK František

Crew 4 on Course 7 at East Wretham early in 1942 pose in front of Wellington X9608
From left to right; Sgt PANCÍŘ Rudolf, Sgt JANDA Zdeněk, F/Sgt ČERVINKA Miroslav, Sgt HOLNA Alois, Sgt JELÍNEK Jaroslav and Sgt Kříž Ladislav.

On the 24th of February Wellington L7841 with crew 2 on board, was on a training flight, with P/O Joe Capka as instructor to the trainee pilot, Sgt Ferdinand Kepka, when it suffered engine problems whilst overshooting at East Wretham and the starboard wing caught the ground on the airfield boundary. The Wellington made an enforced belly landing on the grass. Whilst most of the crew were able to get clear the rear gunner, Sgt MICHALEC Gustav, was thrown out of his turret and injured his back (See above).

Tragedy was again to strike the unit on the 6th of April 1942 when, whilst on a cross-country-flight, Wellington P9299 flew into high ground in poor visibility, to the north west of Llanymawddy, Merioneth at 1312 hours. The aircraft had earlier experienced radio problems. It crashed at the head of a short dead end valley, close to the River Dovey, killing all the members of crew no.10 (See abovel).

Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris

In early January 1942 Air Marshal Sir Richard Pierse was removed from his post as Commander in Chief of Bomber Command. He was replaced towards the end of February by the redoubtable Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, who would remain at the helm of Bomber Command throughout the war. He was directed during 1942 to commence a policy of area bombing and he fostered the idea of sending out a thousand bombers in a massive raid on a major German city. Both Churchill and Sir Charles Portal, the Chief of the Air Staff supported the idea. Although he struggled to make up the magical figure of 1,000 aircraft, Harris managed to put 1,047 aircraft in the air for the first of the 1,000 raids (Operation Millenium) against Cologne (although something less than 900 aircraft actually bombed the target). Some 602 Wellingtons took part many of them from training units.

On the night of of the first 1,000 raid (30th/31st May 1942) six aircraft of the Czech Squadron’s Operational Flight took off from East Wretham before midnight heading for Cologne (R1240 KX-F (P/O FENCL František, F/O NEDVĚD Vladimír, P/O ZELENÝ Adolf, Sgt STEJSKAL Jan, Sgt FRANĚK Alois and Sgt URBAN Emmrich), R1269 KX-G (P/O ČAPKA Josef DFM, Sgt IRVING Jan, P/O NĚMEČEK Josef, Sgt ŠVEJDAR František, Sgt NOVÁK Alois and Sgt BÖHM Josef), R1771 KX-Y (Sqn/Ldr PROCTOR, F/Sgt HÁJEK Jaroslav, F/O KODÝTEK Stanislav, F/Sgt PROCHÁZKA Zdeněk, Sgt HRABAL Bohumil and F/Sgt KOCMAN Vincenc), R3237 KX-C (Sqn/Ldr BREITCETL Jindřich DFC, P/O BERNÁT Josef DFM, F/O KVAPIL Karel, P/O SLÁNSKÝ Vladimír, Sgt CHYTRÝ Josef and F/Sgt ČTVRTLÍK Miroslav), Z1068 KX-T( P/O ŠEDIVÝ Alois, F/O DOUBRAVA Josef, P/O ŠTĚPÁN Karel, Sgt KAUDERS Valter, Sgt SCHIESLER Josef and Sgt SCHÄFFER Ladislav), Z8854 KX-V (Flt/Lt VILDOMEC Karel, F/O ŠTUDENT Václav, P/O KADANĚ Václav, Sgt MARTIŠ Anton, Sgt KARAS Zoltán and Sgt RÁJECKI Vladimír). All the remaining aircraft bombed the target and returned to base safely.

One of the RAF aircraft that failed to return from ‘Operation Millenium’ was Wellington N2894 of Central Gunnery School (also listed as being on the strength of 56 OTU) with W/O JAMBOR Oldřich as second pilot. It is believed to have been shot down by Oblt Emil Woltersdorf of 111/NJG1 at 0225 hours over Klarenbeek in the Netherlands. In addition to JAMBOR the ‘scratch’ crew consisted of P/O D Johnson, Flt/Lt H Batten, F/Sgt J Connor and F/Sgt J Mclean, who were all killed, plus F/Sgt G Waddington-Allwright who became a prisoner of war. JAMBOR had undergone training as a Sergeant pilot with the OTF of 311 Squadron in May and June of 1941. He is buried at Apeldoorn, Gelderland in the Netherlands.

Following this, on the night of the 1st/2nd June 1942 the unit again provided six aircraft out of a total of 545 Wellingtons – a total of 956 aircraft were despatched for a second I,000 raid on Essen; R1240 KX-F (P/O FENCL František, Sgt Svec, P/O ZELENÝ Adolf, Sgt STEJSKAL Jan, Sgt FRANĚK Alois and Sgt URBAN Emmrich), R1269 KX-G (P/O ČAPKA Josef DFM, Sgt STACH Jan, P/O NĚMEČEK Josef, Sgt ŠVEJDAR František, Sgt NOVÁK Alois and Sgt BÖHM Josef), R1771 KX-Y (F/Sgt HÁJEK Jaroslav, F/O NEDVĚD Vladimír, Flt/Lt NĚMEC Herbert, F/Sgt PROCHÁZKA Zdeněk, Sgt JEDLIČKA Josef and Sgt HRABAL Bohumil), R3237 KX-C (P/O SCHOŘ Karel, F/O ŠTUDENT Václav, F/O KVAPIL Karel, P/O SLÁNSKÝ Vladimír, Sgt PUMPR Karel and Sgt ČTVRTLÍK Miroslav ), Z1068 KX-T (P/O ŠEDIVÝ Alois, Sgt DRMELKA Jaromír, P/O ŠTĚPÁN Karel, Sgt KAUDERS Valter, Sgt SCHIESLER Josef and Sgt SCHÄFFER Ladislav) and Z8854 KX-V (P/O BERNÁT Josef DFM, F/O Horak, P/O KADANĚ Václav, Sgt MARTIŠ Anton, Sgt KARAS Zoltán and Sgt RÁJECKI Vladimír).This latter aircraft was forced to return to base, having experienced engine trouble. The bomb load was jettisoned over the North Sea. The other aircraft reached the target and returned safely

On the morning of June the 12th five aircraft from 1429 Flight assisted aircraft from Honington in the search for a downed bomber crew’s dinghy in the North Sea. Air Vice Marshal Karel JANOUŠEK (The Czech Inspector General) visited the unit on June the 17th.

During 1942 training continued apace and included a range of cross country flights by day and night, bombing practice at the ranges at Berner’s Heath and Lakenheath, air to sea and air to air Gunnery (at Holkam Bay). There was also a lighter side to life with concerts being given by the RAF Regiment, ENSA (‘All for Fun’ and ‘Allied Pot Pourri’) and the Station Dance Band. Films shows such as ‘Moon over Burma’, also took place in the NAAFI.

Wellington R3237 of 1429 Flight

On June the 17th Air Vice Marshal Karel Janousek visited the station, accompanied by other senior officers.

Between the 26th and the 29th of June, 1429 Flight moved its aircraft from East Wretham to Woolfox Lodge in the small county of Rutland. There was a brief intermediate stay at North Luffenham for two days, before taking up residence at the new base. On the 29th a transport convoy under the command of F/O PODSTRÁNECKÝ Josef, also made the journey to Woolfox, where the unit came under the control of 25 OTU. A group of eight others made the journey independently by private car. The first few days on the new station were taken up with the cleaning of offices and living quarters. On the 1st of July the Flight was visited by Wg/Cdr Wyatt and Wg/Cdr Holubil from the Air Ministry to discuss training issues. This was followed by a visit on the 6th of July by Gp/Cpt KUBITA Alois, the Czech Liaison Officer with HQ Bomber Command.


On the 25th of July a party of four officers and four NCO’s attended the funeral of Wg/Cdr OCELKA Josef in London. OCELKA was a popular individual and a former commanding Officer of 311 Squadron. His courage and fortitude was legendary and he was known and respected by the Czech airmen in Bomber Command. He had taken command of 311 Squadron in June 1940 and completed a total of 45 sorties with the unit (more than any other Czech pilot). He left in April 1942 to take up a staff post. After many attempts he managed to organise a posting back to flying duties with No.6 MU at Brize Norton. Unfortunately he was killed on the 21st of July 1942, when taking off from Brize Norton whilst flying a Bristol Beaufort (DD938). The aircraft appeared to turn to port and struck a hangar killing him instantly.

During August the unit received the news that it was to move yet again to Church Broughton, Derbyshire, where it would become part of 93 Group. On the 21st the Commanding Officer, Sqn/Ldr Breitcetl and Sqn/Ldr Proctor flew to the new airfield to look it over and make arrangements for the move. On the 26th an advance party of led by F/O Jaroslav with three SNCO’s and 10 airmen left Stamford station bound for Tutbury a large village in Staffordshire close to the new airfield. The following day the CO and Sqn/Ldr Proctor flew to the new station for a conference with the Station Commander. The main rail party (two officers, 17 SNCO’s and 126 airmen) left Stamford on the morning of the 29th and arrived at Tutbury at 1215 hours. The air party left on the 30th with all the aircraft arriving safely. A road party’ left on the 31st, with only a small rear party remaining at Woolfox Lodge. After several days of ‘settling in’ at the new base, normal flying training was resumed on the 3rd of September. The unit was visited the following day by Air Vice Marshal Karel Janousek, Air Commodore Beaumont (OC 93 Group) Gp/Capt Kubita and Wg/Cdr Wyatt (OC RAF Litchfield) for discussions regarding future training etc. The unit was to be designated No.5 Czech Training Flight of 27 OTU.

On the 9th of September, F/O František Fencl was despatched to RAF Duxford for a two day course on Bomber Tactics and on the same day the CO, Sqn/Ldr Jindrich Breitcetl, left for London to attend a monthly conference with the Czech Inspectorate General.

In addition to the operations listed above, the unit also despatched a single aircraft on the 10th of September (DV883 KV-E) with a crew of Sgt Nedoma, Sgt Moudry, F/O Ondruj, Sgt Mrazek, Sgt Kosek and Sgt Chytry, from its new base to carry out an operation to Dusseldorf. A second single aircraft (HF853 KV-A) with a crew of P/O Fencl (Instructor), Sgt Soukup, P/O Penk, Sgt Patzelt, Sgt Pumpr and Sgt Hrabal, was also despatched on the 13th of September for an operation to Bremen. On the 16th the Czech crews under training were examined by Gp/Capt Kubita and Wg/Cdr Naprstek. Four crews were deemed to have completed their training on the 19th and were sent on 10 days leave before joining the squadron. They returned to base by the 1st of October and all were posted to 311 Squadron with the exception of P/O Knapp who was in hospital. The next day the cadets in the Initial Training element of the unit were transferred to RAF Litchfield for ground training.

Flying training continued apace and Course number 10, which was to run from 1.8.42. to 21.11.42. consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

Flt/Lt FANTA František, Sgt HRALA Jozef, P/O MUCHA Miroslav, P/O OBŠIL Václav, Sgt TÜRKL Emil and Sgt JELÍNEK Rudolf.

Sgt ŽANTA Otto, Sgt FRIEDL Jaroslav, P/O HANUŠ Zdeněk, Sgt LUDIKAR Marcel, Sgt SCHWARZ Teodor and Sgt FONTA Štefan.

Sgt KOPAL Karel, Sgt STIESS Jan, P/O SIGMUND Bohumil, Sgt JAKUBEC Milan, Sgt KALINA Pavel and Sgt NAHODIL Karel.

Sgt LAZAR Jan, Sgt HALA Jaroslav, P/O DUŠEK Petr, Sgt STROUHAL Alois, Sgt ČERNOHORSKÝ Ladislav and Sgt ŠTÍPA Miroslav.

Sgt STYBLÍK Miroslav, P/O DOLEŽAL Jiří, Sgt REICH Erich, Sgt SCHWARZ Ivan and Sgt TARANA Ladislav. (this crew was to complete their training without a second pilot).

Unfortunately disaster was to strike crew 16, when during a night cross-country sortie on the 13th of October, the weather deteriorated (due to ground mist). The aircraft flying were recalled to base. The aircraft of Crew 16 (Wellington Z8854), did not apparently receive the message and it arrived back at base late and attempted to land. The aircraft was seen to circle the airfield with its navigation lights on. It then flew along the flare path and began to turn slowly to port. It failed to come out of the turn and lost height, crashing to the ground and bursting into flames in Watery Lane, Scropton to the north of Litchfield. The crew all perished in the crash. Their funeral was held at Scropton Parish Church on the afternoon of the 16th. Present were representatives of RAF Litchfield and RAF Church Broughton, Czech officers, Wg/Cdr Frantisek Kordula, Sqn/Ldr Lubomir Svatek, Flt/Lt Alois Hochmal and Station Officer Dolores Sperkova, with five officers and five NCOs from 311 Squadron ( together with friends, relatives and local people.

The following day Sqn/Ldr Breitcetl and Flt/Lt Sedivy flew to the base of 311 squadron to be presented with the DFC and DFM respectively.

Course No. 11 which began on 15.9.42. and ran through to 21.12.42. consisted of ;

Crew: Personnel:

Sgt HANUŠ Čestmir, Sgt NOVÁK Jaroslav, Sgt ŘEZÁČ Zdeněk, Sgt KŘÍŽ Antonín and Sgt GLIER Zdeněk.

Sgt HUŇÁČEK Stanislav, P/O HOLUBÁŘ Vilém, Sgt NAVRÁTIL František, Sgt HNILICA František and Sgt BOGDAN Josef.

(Both these crew were to pass out without a second pilot).

The crew of Sgt HUŇÁČEK on Course 11 pose for the camera.
From left to right; Sgt HNILICA František, Sgt NAVRÁTIL František, Sgt HUŇÁČEK Stanislav, P/O HOLUBÁŘ Vilém and
Sgt BOGDAN Josef.

On the 24th of October a party of six officers and six NCO’s from the unit travelled to Wolverhampton to attend the funeral of Flt/Lt HAŇKA Václav who had died on the 18th of the month in the crash of the 311 Squadron’s Wellington T2564 at Northolt. Despite the tragedies of the month, Czech Independence Day was celebrated on the 28th. A parade was held during the morning, speeches were made and personnel were given the day off.

On the 21st of the month news had been received of yet another move, this time to RAF Thornaby-on-Tees, where the unit would become the Czech Flight of No.6(C) OTU. The unit was to follow its parent squadron and become part of Coastal Command. The advance party, under F/O Jaroslav Mares, left for Thornaby on the 6th of November, arriving in the late afternoon. The main rail party, under the command of Flt/Lt Alois Kirchstein, left by special train on the morning of the 8th of November. This was also on this date that 1429 Flight was officially transferred to Coastal Command. The aircraft moved on the 10th of the month (10 Wellingtons (including DV865, DV883, DV884 and HF853,) and 3 Oxford trainers (DF232, DF237 and DF238) and all had landed safely by 1430 hours, despite poor weather conditions.

Oxford twin-engined trainer

On the 18th of November two aircraft set of on cross-country flights. The weather deteriorated rapidly and the aircraft were recalled. Unfortunately Wellington DV884 ‘X’ with Sgt Hanus at the controls, was unable to return and had to make a forced landing causing slight damage, at Middleton St George.

Just before the end of the year on the 3rd of December Flt/Lt Rusnak a Dental Officer was detached to the unit together with LAC Dostal, bringing with them a mobile dental unit to carry out dental checks on Flight personnel.

Course No. 12 began on 8.12.42. and was due to finish on the 20.2.43. It consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

Flt/Lt PALICHLEB Emil, Sgt SHAW Geoffrey, Sgt POLÁK Arnošt, Sgt FELKL Josef and Sgt PAŘEZ Josef. (Shaw was a member of the RAFVR, who had studied at the university in Prague, he had previously been undergoing training at 19 OTU at RAF Kinloss).

F/Sgt HAERING Rudolf DFM, Sgt SKÁKAL Vlastimil, Sgt KAŠPAR Václav, Sgt JAROŠ Štěpán and Sgt FRANKO Josef.

F/Sgt KOŠEK Ludvík, F/O BABŠ Bruno, Sgt RUBÍN Jiří, Sgt HAHN Jindřich and Sgt ŠÍPEK Adam.

(Although Sgt KRÁL František was utilised at times as a second pilot all three crews passed out without a second pilot).

On the 20th of December a group of former Czech Army officers were posted to the unit for navigation ‘B’ training. They included P/O’s František Bouda, Jaromir Francu, Jaromir Grygar, František Koranda, Jindrich Krepel, Jaroslav Motl, Eduard Pavelka, František Politzer, Rudolf Reimann, Josef Simandl, Alois Vavra, Karel Vokoun, Alois Volek, Eduard Zbroj, Vaclav Zdimal and Sgt Hanus Korda. Before the end of 1943 two of the trainees were to die in air crashes; Krepel in the Britain in the crash of Wellington HE496 in April 1943 (see below) and Simandl whilst flying with 111 OTU, Oakes Field Nassau) in the crash of B.25 Mitchell FV952 (the aircraft went into the sea off Bimini).

On the 5th of January 1943 a further group of trainees arrived on the unit; for training as Wireless Operator/Air Gunners were Sgt’s Eduard Blahacek, Karel Posva, Zdenek Fluss, Karel Meisl, Antonin Pecen, Aladair Pokorny, Jan Novosad, Michal Kubina, Josef Novak and for pupil pilot training were F/O KOSTOHRYZ Jan and Sgt’s Stanislav Jelinek, Josef Fisera and Jan Matejka. (Posva was to be killed in the crash of Wellington HE496 in April 1943 – see below).

Course No.13 (Course No.18 for No.6(C) OTU) began on 19.1.43. and was to finish on 5.4.43. It consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

F/Sgt VELLA Jan, Sgt FIŠERA Josef, P/O REIMANN Rudolf, Sgt FLUSS Zdeněk, Sgt NOVOSAD Jan and Sgt VALNÍČEK Ladislav.

No. 27
Flt/Lt TOBYŠKA Bohuslav, Sgt JELÍNEK Stanislav, P/O VOLEK Alois, Sgt POKORNÝ Aladár, Sgt MEISL Karel and Sgt SKÁCELÍK František. (Initially P/O PAVELKA Eduard flew with this crew as their navigator, but he later became part of crew 30).

Flt/Lt KOSTOHRYZ Jan, Sgt MATĚJKA Jan, P/O VÁVRA Alois, Sgt NOVÁK Josef, Sgt PECEN Antonín and Sgt FUKSA Albert.

Course No.14 (Course No.19 for No.6(C) OTU) began on 23.2.43. and was to finish on 31.4.43. It consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

F/Sgt JELEN Rudolf, Sgt TICHÝ Josef, F/O FILIP Oldřich, Sgt S Sacha, Sgt ŠIMEK Andrej and Sgt AUER Hanuš.

Sgt BUREŠ Oldřich, Sgt KUDLÁČEK Jaroslav, P/O PAVELKA Eduard, Sgt KUBINA Michal and Sgt HOFRICHTER Jaroslav.

Sgt MARTINOVIČ Leopold, Sgt ŠIMON Karel, P/O KŘEPEL Jindřich, Sgt POŠVA Karel, Sgt DOMANSKÝ Jan and Sgt SCHEJBAL František.

Wellington LP264 of No 6 (C) OTU.

On the 26th of January 1943 Sqn/Ldr STRÁNSKÝ Josef DFC assumed the powers of Commanding Officer from Sqn/Ldr BREITCETL Jindřich DFC, who went on detachment to 311 Squadron prior to posting. STRÁNSKÝ Josef had received his DFC the previous August and unfortunately was destined to be killed in action in June 1944. An attempt during January to pool the training aircraft for training and servicing only survived until almost the end of the month, when it was abandoned. As a result, on the 30th the Czech Flight was allocated three Mk.VIII Wellingtons (LA980, LB149 and HX740) and two Mk.Ic Wellingtons (HX742 and Z1107).

On the 1st of February Sqn/Ldr BREITCETL Jindřich was posted out to 311 Squadron and Sqn/Ldr STRÁNSKÝ Josef formally assumed the duties of Commanding Officer. An unfortunate incident occurred on the 15th of February when a British member of the unit’s personnel was found to have been by shot with a rifle. 1442978 LAC Cresswell, an armourer was found badly injured in the armoury and he later died in hospital. The verdict of the inquest held at Stockton, County Durham on the 19th of the month, was that he had committed suicide.

Late in February came news of a further move, this time to RAF Silloth in Cumbria, where the unit would come under the control of 17 (Training) Group, Coastal Command, although it would still be the Czech Flight of No.6(C) OTU. By the 11th of March the transfer had been completed and training operations continued. In addition to its Wellington training aircraft the unit also operated Lysanders TT’s (eg R9058 & T1470) for towing target drogues during gunnery practice over the range off the coast at Silloth.

Unfortunately crew 31, together with their instructor, F/O DOSTÁL František, were to perish when Wellington HE496 ‘33’ caught fire after an unexplained explosion and spun into the sea in the Solway Firth off Silloth, on the 24th of April 1943. The aircraft had taken off at 1610 hours for a practice bombing sortie over the range some 8 miles from the base. At 1630 hours it plunged into the sea remaining afloat for only a few minutes. (DOSTÁL’s body was washed up near the RAF range at West Preston on the 21st of June).

Course No.15 (Course No.20 for No.6 (C) OTU began on 30.3.43. and was to finish on 24.5.43. It consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

Sgt ŠIGUT Miroslav, Sgt SZELIGA Emil, P/O JURMAN Adolf, Sgt HORSCHITZ Hanuš, Sgt POLLÁK Felix and Sgt BÍLEK Josef.

Sgt PROCHÁZKA Miroslav, Sgt KLESNIL Josef, Sgt FAMFULE František, Sgt DUBA Stanislav, Sgt BENEDIKT František and Sgt ONDRÁČEK Václav.

Sgt PODBORSKÝ Miroslav, Sgt RAŠKA František, P/O BOUDA František, Sgt KMEC Ján, Sgt HÁJEK Jaroslav and Sgt BLAHNA Václav.

This latter crew suffered tragedy on the 21st of May 1943 when their Wellington X HE546 ‘29’ flew into the sea whilst on a training flight, three miles east of Ross Island, Cumberland.The aircraft had taken off at 1205 hours with a skeleton crew, Sgt Hajek and Sgt Blahna the gunners were not thought necessary. An initial ‘bombing’ attack was carried out on the moving target vessel from a height of 15 metres. At approximately 1310 hours the aircraft cashed into the sea. Sgt Podborsky and Sgt Kmec were apparently killed on impact. Sgt Raska and P/O Bouda were seriously injured, but were rescued by a tugboat and taken to hospital in Kircudbright. The two missing airmen are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.

A group photo of the trainees on course 15 at No.6 (C) OTU

The airmen are named on the photograph, but they are from left to right; back row Sgt ŠIGUT Miroslav, Sgt BENEDIKT František, Sgt DUBA Stanislav, Sgt PROCHÁZKA Miroslav; middle row Sgt KMEC Ján, Sgt RAŠKA František, Sgt BLAHNA Václav, Sgt KLESNIL Josef, Sgt HORSCHITZ Hanuš, Sgt BÍLEK Josef, Sgt PODBORSKÝ Miroslav; front row Sgt HÁJEK Jaroslav, P/O JURMAN Adolf, P/O BOUDA František, Sgt ONDRÁČEK Václav and Sgt SZELIGA Emil.

Course No.16 (Course No.24 for No.6 (C) OTU began on 9.6.43. and was to finish on 18.7.43. It consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

F/O PROTIVA Rudolf, Sgt BITTNER Josef, F/O VOKOUN Karel, Sgt LAUNER Zdeněk, Sgt BECK Herbert and Sgt REMENÁR Jozef.

F/Sgt KUBALÍK Vojtěch, Sgt PROCHÁZKA Robert, F/O ZBROJ Eduard, Sgt ŠTĚPÁNEK Miloslav, Sgt KATZ Karel and Sgt DOUBEK Václav .

From the 26th of May until the 8th of June no training was undertaken by Czech crews at Silloth.

Course No.17 (Course No.26 for No.6 (C) OTU was scheduled to begin on 6.7.43. and to came to an end on 3.8.43. It consisted of;

Crew: Personnel:

F/O KORYTANSKÝ Charles, Sgt LINHART Leo, F/O GRYGAR Jaromír, Sgt HAVRÁNEK František, Sgt HELLER Felix and Sgt NEBESÁČEK Alois. (KORYTANSKÝ later transferred to the USAAF).

This was destined to be the last Czech crew to train on the Wellington. 311 Squadron had begun to re-equip with the B.24 Liberator during May and a decision had been taken to transfer future training to 111 OTU in the Bahamas and trainee crews had begun to arrive there during June 1943.They were to undertake their initial training on B.25 Mitchell aircraft, moving on to the Liberator for the advanced stages. Training of existing squadron personnel on the new aircraft was initially undertaken at Beaulieu in Hampshire, by the RAF personnel of No.1 (C) OTU. The Czech Operational Training Flight in its various forms had done its job well between 1940 and 1942; 22 crews had been trained by 1429 Flight during 1942 and a further 15 crews were trained by the unit (under various labels – Czech Flight No.6 (C) OTU and No.5 Czech Flight No. 27 OTU) up to August 1943. Unfortunately some 21 airmen had been lost due to accidents whilst in training.

John Rennison

June 2016

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4 Responses to 311 Sqn Air-Crew Training – Bomber Command

  1. david M Smith says:

    Excellent article, the Czechs and Polish flyers were so brave and fierce. I knew about the fighter squadrons but bombers force too.

  2. David Smith says:

    Does anybody have information about Flt Lt Geoffrey Noben Amson of 311 Squadron later a Group Captain please? David M Smith Staff Manager Tangmere Military aviation Museum

  3. Stephen Spencer says:

    Seeking information about Flight Engineer F/O Stanislav Slezacek on behalf of his son and grandson.

  4. Mrs Jane Hardy says:

    My father, Flight Lieutenant Alois Volek flew with RAF born 11 May 1916 Vienna and died on 12 March 1945 on the Island of Terceira, The Azores, He was buried at the Commonwealth Cemetery at Lajes with all other passengers and crew on that plane

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