The men of Wellington T2990

Wellington KX-T, T2990.

KX-T Operation too far

Vickers Wellington bomber KX-T 2990 from 311 (Czechoslovak) Bomber Squadron took off for her last operation at 2316hrs on 22 June 1941. The target was the German port of Bremen with the following crew: Captain/1st pilot F/Sgt Vilém Bufka, 2nd pilot F/Sgt Alois Rozum, Navigator P/O Vilém Konštatcký, Wireless Operator P/O Leonhard Smrček, Front gunner F/Sgt Jan Hejna and Rear gunner F/Sgt Karel Valach. After reaching the target and dropping their bombs, they turned back for England. As it was customary, the 2nd pilot took the controls as they cleared Amsterdam. Just west of it they came under attack by the enemy night fighter Me 110 of Oberleutenant Prince Egmont zur Lippe-Weisenfeld from the II/NJG 1 at Bergen. The Wellington was badly damaged and caught fire. This is how Vilem Bufka, the only survivor, described the situation (abbreviated from his interview given in London on 22 April 1945):

“The attacker fired several long rounds. The aircraft was hit and caught fire. From the struggle of the 2nd pilot it was obvious to me, that he could no longer control the plane which started descending fast. I gave the order to abandon the stricken aircraft via the Intercom but received no acknowledgement. I decided to check on the W/O and the navigator but could not reach them for the raging flames and heat. I returned to the cockpit where the 2nd pilot was struggling to get out of the plane which was falling in a spiral. I also noticed the open hatch into the front turret but could not see Hejna anywhere. I realised that I had to get out fast. The 2nd pilot was half-way out of the plane at that time. I put on a parachute but could not exit the aircraft because of the draught. I opened the chute inside and threw it out of the hole. The last thing I remember was a knock on my head. I woke up in hospital two days later. I had a broken leg and several cuts on my head and torso.”

The aircraft came down at 0213hrs at Nieuwe Niedorp village north east of Alkmaar. Vilem Bufka was taken prisoner of war. The bodies of the five airmen were not found.

_______________________________________________________________

Vilem BUFKA

Pilot/Captain

Flight Sergeant, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

RAF Service no: 787572

Vilem Bufka was born on 11 August 1915 in the town of Nymburk in the central Bohemian region.

He was a qualified car mechanic. He did his national service between 1935 – 37 with the Air Force, during which he gained his basic pilot qualification. He continued to serve and during 1938– 39 and gained full qualification including night flying and instrument rating. After the occupation he left the Air Force on 1 June 1939.

He escaped from the Protectorate on 1 July 1939 via Poland where he signed for 5 years with the French Foreign Legion. He left for France aboard the ship Chrobry and he presented for active service at the Czechoslovak Consulate in Paris on 2 October 1940. He was one of the few bomber pilots who fought in France after his retraining. He served with Bombardement GB I/23 on MB-210. After the fall of France he fled to England via Africa flying a small tranport aircraft Caudron C635 Simoun. He landed with an almost empty fuel tank on a beach near Maison Blanche (currently Dal El Beida) in Algeria. He joined the RAF on 26 July 1940 and was assigned to 311 Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron. He flew his first operation on 16 December 1940 as second pilot. He became first pilot/captain on his fifth operation on 2 January 1941.

Vilem Bufka managed to jump from the burning plane at the last moment. He suffered a broken leg and numerous lacerations, was taken prisoner of war by the Germans and eventuelly imprisoned in Colditz.

He returned to England after liberation and finally to his homeland on 16 August 1945. He was reactivated and continued to serve in the Czechoslovak Air Force until his dismissal on 1 November 1949. He reached the rank of Captain. Sadly he suffered from ill health and died on 20 November 1967. He wrote a book about his war exploits titled Bombarder T2990 se odmlcel (Bomber T2990 gone silent).

He was promoted to the rank of Colonel in memoriam during the rehabiliation of all Czechoslovak RAFs in 1989.

Decorations:

Czechoslovak:

Válečný kříž 1939 [War Cross 1939] x2

Za chrabrost před nepřítelem
 [For gallantry against the enemy] x2

Za zásluhy [Medal of Merit] Grade I

Military Commemorative Medal with F (France) and VB (Great Britain) clasps

British:

1939 – 1945 Star

Air Crew Europe Star

Defence Medal

War Medal

France:

Croix de Guerre 1939-1945

_______________________________________________________________

Alois ROZUM

2nd Pilot

Flight Sergeant, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

RAF Service no: 787169

Was born on 6 July 1912 in the town of Plzen, western Bohemia. He did his initial national service between 1931 -1933, after which he stayed in the Air Force and became a fully qualified pilot, including night vision and various instrument ratings. He flew over 1000 hours on several different types of aircraft and served until the spring 1939. He escaped from the Protectorate in June 1939 via Poland and by ship to France. He presented for duty at the Czechoslovak consulate in Paris and joined the Foreign Legion on 28 August 1939. He trained in Pau, Chateauroux and Tarbes airbases, again on several different types of aircraft. After the fall of France he left for England and docked in Liverpool on 7 July 1940.

Flight Sergeant Alois Rozum was killed on the 23 June 1941 when his plane crashed in Nieuwe Niedorp, The Netherlands. He is commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial: Panel 37.

He was promoted to the rank of Colonel in memoriam during the rehabiliation of all Czechoslovak RAFs in 1989.

Decorations:

Czechoslovak:

Válečný kříž 1939 [War Cross 1939]

Za chrabrost před nepřítelem
 [For gallantry against the enemy]

Pamětní medaile československé armády v zahraničí [Memorial Medal of Czechoslovak Foreign Army abroad], with F (France) and VB (Great Britain) clasps

_______________________________________________________________

Vilém KONŠTATCKÝ

Navigator

Pilot Officer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

RAF Service no: 82608

Was born on 17 November 1914 in Čelechovice, in the Moravian region of Prostějov. He trained to become a bank clerk. He did his national service between 1935-37, during which he attended the infantry officer course with very good results. During his national service he also completed an observer course at the Air Force training school. He continued to serve and became a qualified air force observer (navigator) on 1 December 1938. Deactivated on 1 February 1939.

Escaped from the Protectorate on 22 January 1940 via Hungary & former Yugoslavia, where he presented for duty at the Czechoslovak legation in Belgrade on 13 April 1940. He reached France on 11 May and joined active service on 13 May 1940 at Agde. He finally arrived in Liverpool on 7 July 1940. He completed a night navigator’s course with excellent results. He flew 31 operations.

Pilot Officer Vilém Konštatský was killed on the 23 June 1941 when his plane crashed in Nieuwe Niedorp, The Netherlands. He is commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial: Panel 33.

He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in memoriam during the rehabiliation of all Czechoslovak RAFs in 1989.

Decorations:

Czechoslovak:

Válečný kříž 1939 [War Cross 1939]

Za chrabrost před nepřítelem
 [For gallantry against the enemy]

Pamětní medaile československé armády v zahraničí [ Memorial Medal of Czechoslovak Foreign Army abroad], with F (France) and VB (Great Britain) clasps

_______________________________________________________________

Leonhard SMRČEK

Wireless operator

Pilot Officer, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

RAF Service no: 82639

Was born on 29 December 1915 in Bezdišov near Třebíč in southern Bohemia. He did his national service between 1936 – 37, during which he attended officer training, followed by furthe training at the Military Academy at Hranice between 1937-38. He qualified as an observer (navigator). He escaped from the Protectorate on 9 December 1939 via Hungary and former Yugoslavia, and finally presented for duty at the Czechoslovak consulate in Marseille on 9 February 1940. After the fall of France he continued on to England where he arrived by ship at Liverpool on 7 July 1940. He attended the wireless operator course during which he showed a particular aptitude.

Pilot Officer Leonhard Smrček was killed on the 23 June 1941 when his plane crashed in Nieuwe Niedorp, The Netherlands. He is commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial: Panel 34.

He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in memoriam during the rehabiliation of all Czechoslovak RAFs in 1989.

Decorations:

Czechoslovak:

Válečný kříž 1939 [War Cross 1939]

Za chrabrost před nepřítelem
 [For gallantry against the enemy]

Pamětní medaile československé armády v zahraničí / Memorial Medal of Czechoslovak Foreign Army abroad, with F (France) and VB (Great Britain) clasps.

_______________________________________________________________

Jan HEJNA

Front Gunner

Flight Sergeant, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

RAF Service no: 787204

Was born on 7 February 1915 in the town of Jaroměř in the region of Hradec Králové. He became a policeman. He did his national service between 1933 – 1935, after which he qualified as a policeman. He also gained his private pilot licence.

He escaped from the Protectorate on 1 November 1939 via Hungary and former Yugoslavia, eventually reaching France where he presented for duty at the Czechoslovak consulate in Marseille on 25 April 1940, but he did not see any active service before the Fall of France. He continued on to England and arrived in Liverpool on 7 July 1940. He worked as an administrative clerk at the centre in Cosford at first. Though he wished above all to complete his pilot training, he willingly accepted the position of gunner. He excelled at the Gunnery School in Dumfries, coming second overall.

Flight Sergeant Jan Hejna was killed on the 23 June 1941 when his plane crashed in Nieuwe Niedorp, The Netherlands. He is commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial: Panel 36.

He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in memoriam during the rehabiliation of all Czechoslovak RAFs in 1989.

Decorations:

Czechoslovak:

Válečný kříž 1939 [War Cross 1939]

_______________________________________________________________

Karel VALACH

Rear Gunner

Flight Sergeant, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

RAF Service no: 787551

Was born in the Moravian town of Kroměříž on 28 January 1918. After his initial national service between 1936 -38 he stayed on in the Air Force. He served at Pieštany airbase in Slovakia at the time of the breakup of Czechoslovakia and the formation of the Free (Fascist) Slovak State. Together with another seven airmen, he decided to escape to Poland by plane. They successfully landed in Deblin on 7 June 1939 and joined the Polish Air Force. He saw active service in Poland before continuing to England via France. He arrived in England by ship at Liverpool on 12 July 1940.

Whilst serving with 311 squadron he met an English girl Doreen Francis Todd and they were married on 10 December 1940. Their son was born in 1941.

Flight Sergeant Karel Valach was killed on the 23 June 1941 when his plane crashed in Nieuwe Niedorp, The Netherlands. He is commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial: Panel 37.

He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in memoriam during the rehabiliation of all Czechoslovak RAFs in 1989.

Decorations:

Czechoslovak:

Válečný kříž 1939 [War Cross 1939]

Za chrabrost před nepřítelem
 [For gallantry against the enemy]

Pamětní medaile československé armády v zahraničí [Memorial Medal of Czechoslovak Foreign Army abroad], with F (France) and VB (Great Britain) clasps.

Poland:

War Cross

© Dagmar Johnson Šišková


This entry was posted in 311 Sqd, Biography, Not Forgotton. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The men of Wellington T2990

  1. Paul Allonby says:

    Excellently researched and written feature which keeps alive the heroism of these brave men. Thank-you.

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