Otto Hanzlicek – † 10.10.40.


_______________________________________________________________

An biography for him here

Jeho českou a anglickou biografii najdete zde

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Posted in 310 Sqd, Anniversary, Battle of Britain, Not Forgotton | Leave a comment

Jaroslav Hlavac – † 10.10.40.


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An biography for him here

Jeho českou a anglickou biografii najdete zde

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Posted in 310 Sqd, Anniversary, Battle of Britain, Not Forgotton | Leave a comment

Josef Frantisek – † 08.10.40.


_______________________________________________________________

An biography for him here

Jeho českou a anglickou biografii najdete zde

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Posted in Ace, Anniversary, Battle of Britain, Biography, Not Forgotton, Other RAF Squadrons, Poland | Leave a comment

Ladislav Sitensky – 1.10.2022 do 2.11.2022.


Posted in 310 Sqd, 311 Sqd, 312 Sqd, 313 Sqd, 68 Sqd, Exhibitions | Leave a comment

Stanislav Plzak – One of the Few





Stanislav Plzák




One of the Few



…………….* 13.11.1914, Plzeň.

…………….† 07.08.1941, English Channel, off Calais.




The Early Years:

Stanislav Plzák was born on 13 November 1914 at Plzeň. He studied for five years at primary school followed by four years at secondary school. He was then accepted for an apprenticeship at the Škoda factory, in Plzeň. where he was trained to be a machine operator and attended Technical College for one year whilst undertaking that training.

During his apprenticeship at Škoda, he became interested in aviation and joined the Západočeský Aeroklub [West Bohemian Aeroclub] at Plzeň-Bory airfield; it had been formed in 1919 making it one of the oldest in the country. Through close collaboration with Škoda, the aeroclub had developed significantly and they trained pilots and aviation mechanics and also established their own workshops for engine and aircraft maintenance. Here Stanislav commenced his pilot training and achieved his sports pilots licence. Amongst his fellow Škoda workers at the aeroclub also undertaking their the basic pilot training were Jiří Fiona, Josef Fišera, Jan Irving, Miroslav Petr, Karel Posta, Vilém Soukup, Ladislav Světlík, Václav Šlouf and Alois Záleský who were later all to join the RAF in WW2.

Czechoslovak Air Force:

On reaching 18, he joined the Military Aviation Academy at Prostějov as a cadet on 1 October 1932 until 31 July 1934.

Prostějov Military Aviation Academy graduates 1934.

His military service commenced on 1 August 1934 and he was assigned to the Training Squadron of the 1st Air Regiment at Prague-Kbely airbase with the rank of svobodník (LAC). Shortly after he was posted to the Regiment’s 4th Observation Squadron at the airbase where he remained until 28 September 1937. During that period he completed his pilot and night-flying training and had reached the rank of četař (Sgt).

Stanislav was then selected for fighter pilot training and was assigned to the Military Aviation Academy at Hradec Králove. He passed his training on 15 February 1938 and was posted to the 4th Air Regiment. In May 1938 Czechoslovakia partially mobilised its military forces to counter the build-up of German forces along its border. On 30 June he was assigned to the Regiment’s 32nd Fighter Squadron who were equipped with B-534 biplane fighter aircraft.

However, the threatening overtures by neighbouring Nazi Germany regarding the Sudeten regions – the German speaking areas – of Czechoslovakia caused the Czechoslovak Government to declare a mobilisation on 23 September 1939, culminating in the Munich Agreement of 30 September 1939. During this mobilisation, Stanislav served in Moravia and then in Slovakia with the 32nd Fighter Squadron.

Despite assurances given by Hitler at the Munich Agreement, also known as the ‘Munich Dictat’ or ‘Munich Betrayal’ in Czechoslovakia, of 30 September 1938, that he had no further interest in territorial gains for Germany, just a few months later he extended his demands that the remaining regions of Czechoslovakia become part of Germany.

When the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, on 15 March 1939, it became a German Protectorate – the Reich Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia – and Slovakia became a German ‘puppet’ state. The Czechoslovak Air Force and Army was disbanded and all personnel demobilised. By this time Stanislav had achieved 850 flying hours.

German Occupation:

Czechoslovakia, Autumn 1938.

Upon German occupation, Germanisation of Bohemia and Moravia began immediately. But just four days later, on 19 March 1939, former Senior officers of the disbanded Czechoslovak military had started to form an underground army, known as Obrana Národa [Defense of the Nation]. Obrana Národa also worked in co-operation with Svaz Letců, the Airman Association of the Czechoslovak Republic. One of their objectives was to assist as many airmen and soldiers as possible to get to neighbouring Poland where they could be formed into military units to fight for the liberation of their homeland. These two organisations provided money, courier and other assistance to enable airmen to escape to Poland. Usually, this was by crossing over the border from the Ostrava region. Stanislav was one of the many Czechoslovak airmen and soldiers who saw it was their duty to go to Poland from where they could fight to achieve the liberation of Czechoslovakia.

Polish Disappointment:

On 8 June 1939, Stanislav covertly crossed the border, near Radvanice, into Poland and reported for duty to the Czechoslovak Consul in Krakow. However, at this time, the Polish Authorities, whilst recognising the new puppet State of Slovakia, showed little interest in the Czechoslovak military who were escaping across their border in groups and would not allow independent Czechoslovak units to be established on its territory as they were concerned about antagonising neighbouring Nazi Germany. Only after lengthy negotiations between Czechoslovak Diplomats in France and Great Britain, and the French Government, did the French agree to admit 4,000 Czechoslovaks into the French Foreign Legion – French law did not permit foreign military units to be on its territory in peacetime. Thus the Czechoslovak escapees would be required to join the French Foreign Legion for a five-year period with the agreement that, should war be declared, they would be released from their French Foreign Legion contract and transferred to French military units. The alternative was to be returned to occupied Czechoslovakia and face German retribution for escaping – usually imprisonment or execution with further retribution to their families.

In the interim, the Czechoslovak escapees were sent to Bronowice Małe, a then derelict former Polish Army barracks from the Austro-Hungarian era, on the outskirts of Krakow which was then being utilised as a temporary transit camp for the escaped Czechoslovak military and was already well inhabited with them.

Stanislav at Bronowice Małe, Summer 1939.

On 25 July 1939, Stanislav and 189 other Czechoslovak military escapees boarded the express train at Kraków railway station and travelled to the Polish Baltic port of Gydnia for their onward travel to France.

By now however, the Polish Authorities realised that conflict with Nazi Germany was now inevitable and it was just a question of when, and so were beginning to make preparations for the defence of Poland; this included trying to stem the large number of Czechoslovak airmen and soldiers who were being taken to France and instead have them join the Polish military.

This latest group of Czechoslovaks, was then the fourth which was departing to France. At Gdynia they airmen were approached by Polish Officers who asked that they stay, and join the Polish Air Force – but would only offer them non-commissioned military ranks which the Czechoslovak Officers refused to accept.

The following day the Czechoslovaks boarded the ‘SS Kastelholm’, a 921 tonnage Swedish coastal-cruising ship and they sailed to France. Part of the voyage down the Baltic Sea was very rough, even to airmen who were used to flying in turbulent conditions, and so the ship’s stop at the Danish port of Frederikshaven to re-supply was a welcome relief for the Czechoslovaks onboard. After a five-day voyage, they arrived in the early hours of 30 July 1939 at Calais, France.

France:

On arrival at Calais, Stanislav and his fellow escapees were taken to Place Ballard, Paris, the Foreign Legion’s recruitment centre and accepted into the French Foreign Legion, at the rank of Soldat, on 25 August 1939. But before he could be taken to the Legion’s training camp at Sidi-bel-Abbles, in Algeria, war was declared. Instead Stanislav was transferred to the l’Armée de l’Air and on 11 September posted to École de Pilotage (pilot’s school) at Avord airbase for re-training on French aircraft. On 16 January 1940, now at the rank of caporal-chef, he was assigned to Centre d’Instruction de Chasse at Chartres for training on French fighter aircraft.

Stanislav, with fellow Czechoslovak trainees at Avord, 28 October 1939.

The Germans commenced their Blitzkreig invasion on Western Europe on 10 May 1940, by invading Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg and then continuing Westwards into France. By this time Stanislav had completed 17 flying hours in training at Chartres, but with the now urgent need for operational fighter pilots to defend France, he and fellow Czechoslovaks, František Bernard, Stanislav Plzák, Karel Šeda and Josef Hýbler were posted to GC II /2 who were based at Plessis-Belleville airbase, about 40km North-East of Paris, and equipped with MS-406c fighter aircraft. The following day they were also joined by Bohumír Fürst.

The rapidity of the German Blitzkreig caused GC II/ 2 to frequently have to change their airfields as they retreated westward and by mid June they were now at Fréjorgues airbase near Montpellier- in Southern France.

During the Battle of France with GC II /2, Stanislav had flown 33 combat flights, totalling some 36 operational hours and had achieved combat success:

Date:

Time:

Type Flown:

Action:

01.06.40

15:35

MS406, 155

a He III shared victory near Pontarlier

05.06.40

20:00

MS406

2 Me 109e shared victories near Roye

When France capitulated, the Czechoslovak airmen were released from their l’Armée de l’Air service. The Commander of GC II /2 had the Czechoslovak airmen in his unit flown to Perpignan, in Southern France near the Mediterranean coast, in a Lockheed L-12 transport aircraft. From Perpignan they travelled to Port Vendrés, about 30km away on the coast from where, on 24 June, they boarded the ‘General Chanzy’ which sailed to Oran, Algeria. From Oran, the Czechoslovak airmen travelled for four days by train across the Sahara Desert to Casablanca from where they boarded the ‘Gib-el-Dersa’ which sailed at 15:12 on 29 June 1940, to Gibraltar, arriving at 11:00 on 30 June. Here they changed ships to the ’Neuralia’ and sailed on 2 July, in a convoy of about another 30 ships, for Liverpool, England, arriving on 12 July 1940. Along with most of the Czechoslovaks, Stanislav’s path first led to the Czechoslovak resettlement camp at Cholmondeley Park, near Chester.

RAF:

On 20 July, Stanislav was transferred to the Czechoslovak Airman’s Depot at Cosford, near Wolverhampton. There he was accepted into the RAF Volunteer Reserve on 25 July and on 6 August was posted, at the rank of Sgt, to the newly formed 310 (Czechoslovak) Sqn based at Duxford. They were equipped with Hurricane Mk I aircraft and commanded jointly by S/Ldr Alexander Hess, the first Czechoslovak to command an RAF squadron, and S/Ldr George D.M Blackwood.

After rapid re-training on Hurricanes and some basic English lessons for the Czechoslovak pilots, 310 Sqn was declared operational on 17 August and made its first operational patrol at 14:10 on 18 August.

Due to a surplus of pilots at 310 Sqn, on 27 August 1940, Stanislav, along with fellow Czechoslovak pilots P/O František Doležal, P/O František Hradil and Sgt František Marek, were sent on attachment to 19 Sqn at nearby Fowlmere where they retrained on Spitfires Mk IAs. They were noted as being very keen and eager to have a crack at the Luftwaffe.

Stanislav made his first operational patrol in the Battle of Britain on 2 September, flying Spitfire R6890, in the squadron’s ‘B’ Flight. It was a 65 minute uneventful patrol over Debden at 15,000 feet with no Luftwaffe aircraft sighted. That day he was to make a further three operational flights with a further 15 flights before that battle finished on 31 October.

Along with the Duxford based squadrons of 242 Sqn, and 310 (Czechoslovak) Sqn, 19 Sqn formed part of the Duxford Wing, No. 12 Group’s ‘Big Wing’ formation, which was commanded by 242 Sqn’s Douglas Bader. The Big Wing first flew operationally on 7 September 1940 and two days later 302 (Polish) Sqn and 611 Sqn were added to it.

With 19 Squadron Stanislav achieved combat success during the Battle of Britain:

Date:

Time:

Type Flown:

Action:

06.09.40

10:15

Spitfire K9851

Me 109e probable over Hornchurch

18.09.40

17:50

Spitfire N3039

Ju 88a victory, near Gillingham, Kent

27.09.40

12:15

Spitfire X4267

Me 109e victory, near Sandwich Kent

His first combat success in the Battle of Britain came on 6 September, his 4th flight of the Battle. The squadron was on patrol at 15,000 feet over Hornchurch, Essex, when they encountered a Luftwaffe formation of about 100 Me109 fighter and 40 bomber aircraft. That day Stanislav was flying Spitfire K9851 as Green 2 in ‘B’ Flight who were ordered to attack the bombers, while ‘A’ Flight dealt with the fighters.

The Me 109s dived straight onto ‘B’ Flight who had had insufficient height to attack the bombers and so ‘A’ Flight had to turn and climb into the sun in an endeavour to protect ‘B’ Flight. In the ensuing dog-fight one of the Spitfires was shot down and pilot S/Ldr Pinkham killed, with two others sustaining serious damage. In return, 19 Sqn shot down an Me 110, a probable Do 215 and Stanislav a Me109 certain. His report of this combat is:

E/A sighted at 10:10. I was flying in formation on the left in Green section. E formation at 17,000 ft flying Westwards + turned South into the sun on being attacked by another squadron E/A were dark green on top, light green below, cross in white frame. E/A did not try to attack. I singled out one which was trying to escape another attacker + I fired at him from the rear + above (1 second). E/A wobbled + continued to dive on its back at an angle of 60°. I followed + gave him another 2-3 sec burst + he fell into a right spin. Black smoke emerged but I was unable to follow as I was attacked by a 2nd Me109. E/A had not tried to return my fire.

I escaped the second Me109 by going into a dive on my back and making an Immelmann turn.

Stanislav, with fellow 19 Sqn pilots, Fowlmere, September 1940.

Stanislav’s next combat success came on 18 September, his 6th flight of the Battle. At 12:40 that day, the squadron was on patrol with the Big Wing at 25,000 feet over London, when they sighted a Luftwaffe formation of Me110s, Ju88s and HeIIIs East of London. At 17:50, 19 Sqn attacked the Ju88s and chased them in a South-East direction. Stanislav, flying Spifire N3039, picked out his target; Ju 88A-1 3Z+DT (W.Nr.5104) from 9/KG77 which took evasive action by diving down. From a distance of 50mtrs, Stanislav fired a burst from his machine guns, which knocked out the Ju88’s port engine. He then attacked once more, but by then two Unteroffiziers Karl Burkant and Hans Glaeseker of crew had bailed out and survived. Unteroffizier Alfons Kurz and Gefreiter Rudolf Kuhn of that crew were found dead in the wreckage of the aircraft which crashed near Cooling Court, Cooling, North Kent.

Stanislav was able to achieve further combat success with 19 Sqn:

Date:

Time:

Type Flown:

Action:

15.11.40

11:30

Spitfire P7560

Me 110 victory. over the Thames Estuary

27.06.41

21:50

Spitfire P7532

Me 109F damaged, near St Omer, France

By the end of 1940 and into 1941, Luftwaffe flying over the UK had significantly reduced and the RAF, from Spring 1941, began flying offensive operational flights over occupied Northern France and Belgium. During this period Stanislav was already mentally and physically exhausted having served almost continuously for many months under constant stress. Of the 14 Czechoslovak pilots who served with 19 Sqn, he had served the longest, flown the most operational hours and had achieved the greatest combat success.

On 7 August 1941 he received his commission – at the rank of P/O. Later that day he participated in Circus 66, to escort a formation of Blenheim bombers to attack a target at Lille. It was due to be his last sortie before he finished his operational tour after which he would commence a rest period from operational flying to recuperate.

At 10:15, 12 Spitfires from 19 Sqn took-off from Fowlmere to West Malling airfield, Kent, landing there at 10:40 for refuelling prior to making an a Wing sweep over Northern France. They departed from there at 17:20 with 257 and 401 Sqns. The Wing was led by W/Cmdr Robert Tuck DSO, DFC, with Stanislav flying Spitfire Mk IIa P7771.

The Wing crossing the English coast at 17:55 and crossed the French coast at Mardyck. The Wing’s role was to patrol the Mardyck to St Omer region in order to cover the withdrawal of Allied bombers returning from a raid on Lille. The Wing was flying in a stepped formation: 257 Sqn leading at 20,000 feet, followed by 401 Sqn at 22,000 feet, followed by 19 Sqn at 24,000 feet. On crossing the French coast many Luftwaffe Me109s were seen to the North at about 26,000 feet and while the Wing was proceeding to St Omer further small formations of Me109s were seen at the same height. The Me109s, in ones and twos, began diving down to attack the Wing and general individual dog-fights commenced resulting in 19 Sqn either trying to fend off the Me109s which were diving at them or trying to get into position from which to deliver their own attacks. On the homeward flight back to the French coast they were attacked by Me 109s from JG2 and JG26 near Calais and encountered flak, which was particularly heavy. It is believed that Stanislav was either hit by flak of fell victim to Luftwaffe fighters, with his Spitfire crashing, with him still onboard, into the English Channel North of Calais. His body was never recovered.

He was 26 years old and in the year he had been in the RAF he had flown 130 operational hours.

P/O Stanislav Plzák, is commemorated on panel 34 at the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.

Medals:

British :

1939 – 45 Star with Battle of Britain clasp

Air Crew Europe Star

Defence Medal

War Medal

Czechoslovakia :

Válečný kříž 1939 and 2 bars

Za chrabrost

Za zásluhy I.stupně

Pamětní medaile se štítky F–VB

France:

Croix de Guerre avec 2 palme and silver star

Remembered:

Czech Republic :

Plzeň :

He is named on the Memorial for the fallen airmen of Západočeský Aeroklub, at Náměstí Míru, Plzeň.

Also symbolically at the family grave at Plzeň’s ústřední hřbitov.

Prague – Dejvice:

He is named on the Memorial for the fallen Czechoslovak airmen of 1939-1945, at Dejvice, Prague 6.

Prague – Klárov:

In November 2017, his name, along with the names of 2507 other Czechoslovak men and women who had served in the RAF during WW2, was unveiled at the Winged Lion Monument at Klárov, Prague.

Great Britain :

He is commemorated, along with the other 2938 Battle of Britain aircrew, on the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall at the National Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne, Kent:


He is also commemorated on the London Battle of Britain Memorial:

Posted in 310 Sqd, Battle of Britain, Biography, Not Forgotton, Other RAF Squadrons | 1 Comment

Vladimir Horsky – † 26.09.40.


_______________________________________________________________

An biography for him here

Jeho českou a anglickou biografii najdete zde

_______________________________________________________________


Posted in Anniversary, Battle of Britain, Biography, Not Forgotton, Other RAF Squadrons | Leave a comment

Alois Vasatko – One of the Few





Alois Vašátko



One of the Few



…………….* 25.08.1908, Čelákovice.

…………….† 23.06.1942, English Channel, Devon.





The Early Years:

Alois Vašátko was born on 25 August 1908 in Čelákovice, a town 15 miles North East of Prague, Czechoslovakia. He was the second son of the five children of cabinet-maker, Alois Vašátko, and his wife Anna. Although he was the second-born son, he inherited his father’s Christian name. The family moved to Týniště nad Orlicí before 1914 and the First World War had a direct effect on their family life. Their father had to enlist in the Austro-Hungarian Army leaving Anna to take care of the family she struggled with this challenge. Help was offered by a childless uncle, a farmer in Litodrady in Rychnovsk, who took care of the three eldest children. Their father returned from the war, but as an invalid which unfortunately prevented him from resuming his pre-war occupation: instead he became a tenant of a newsagents shop in Týništ nad Orlicí.

During that war, young Alois had attended primary school in Solnica, and later, for his secondary education at the town school in Týništ nad Orlicí achieving excellent grades in all his studies. On graduation, he then enrolled for a one year teacher training course at the Teacher’s Institute in Hradec Králové, graduating, with honours, on 15 June 1927. It was there that he earned the nickname ‘Amos’ which remained with him for the rest of his life. During this period Alois maintained himself in excellent physical condition and was even a trainer of the local Sokol movement – an all-age gymnastics organisation in Czechoslovakia whose ethos was “a strong mind in a sound body”. For the academic year 1927/28 he taught at a small school in Litoměřice, where he was noted for demanding high standards from his pupils.


Military Service:

On 1 October 1928, Alois began his compulsory national service and was posted to the 3rd Company, of the 22nd “Argonne” Infantry Regiment stationed at Jičín where he underwent his basic training.

From there he was posted to the School for Reserve Artillery Officers from where he graduated, with excellent grades, on the 31 May 1929 and was posted to the 8th battery of 3rd Artillery Regiment in Litoměřice. After being stationed there for six months, he was posted to the 2nd Battery of the 52nd Artillery Regiment at Josefov. By the time he completed his national service, achieving the rank of podporučík [2nd Lieutenant], he was rated as being an exceptionally capable officer with a firm and uncompromising attitude to discipline but also the less flattering comments of: “indirectedly ambitious, dissatisfied and unhealthily critical. Needs a firm hand. Otherwise, energetic and driven, very tenacious, cautioned for inappropriate criticism during his time at the military academy, thus showing a lack of discipline”.

By now Alois had decided to pursue a career as a professional soldier. From 1929 to 1931 he attended the Military Academy in Hranice na Moravě from where he graduated and achieved the rank of nadporučík [1st Lieutenant]. He was then posted to the 5th Battery of 54th Artillery Regiment in Bratislava, afterwards to the Regiment’ 8th Battery and finally to their 2nd Battery. In 1932 he graduated from the Artillery School course in Olomouc and in 1934 was posted, as an artillery instructor, to his former unit in Bratislava. At the end of 1935 he commanded the 2nd Battery of the 7th Artillery Regiment in Olomouc.

During this time he volunteered for a training course as an aerial observer, which was undertaken at the 2nd “Dr. E. Benes” Aviation Regiment.


Czechoslovak Air Force:

He found that he liked the discipline of flying and on 31 December 1936 he transferred from the Army and joined the Air Force serving in the 2nd Air Regiment who were deployed at Olomouc. During 1937-38 he underwent pilot training and became the Commander of the Regiment’s 14th squadron equipped with Letov Š-328 biplane reconnaissance aircraft.

During the mobilisation in the Autumn of 1938, leading up to Munich Agreement, the 14th Squadron was stationed at airfields in northern Moravia. During that mobilisation, Alois “proved himself, despite his youth and lower rank, to be an excellent Commander of an observation squadron. He was a very strict soldier, both to his subordinates and to himself.”

Letov Š-328.


German Occupation:

Czechoslovakia, Autumn 1938.

Despite assurances given by Hitler at the Munich Agreement, also known as the ‘Munich Dictat’ or ‘Munich Betrayal’ in Czechoslovakia, of 30 September 1938, that he had no further interest in territorial gains for Germany, just a few months later he extended his demands to include the remaining regions of Czechoslovakia as part of Germany.

When the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, on 15 March 1939, it became a German Protectorate – the Reich Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia – and Slovakia became a German ‘puppet’ state. The Czechoslovak Air Force and Army was disbanded and all personnel demobilised. By this time Alois had achieved 587 flying hours.


To Poland:

After the German occupation, the Czechoslovak military was quickly disbanded by the Germans and all personnel dismissed. For the military personnel and many patriotic Czech citizens, this was a degrading period. Many wanted to redress this shame and humiliation and sought the liberation of their homeland. Germanisation of Bohemia and Moravia began immediately. But by 19 March 1939, former senior officers of the now-disbanded Czechoslovak military had started to form an underground army, known as Obrana Národa [Defence of the Nation]. One of their objectives was to assist as many airmen and soldiers as possible to get to neighbouring Poland where Ludvík Svoboda, a former distinguished Czechoslovak Legionnaire from WW1, was planning the formation of Czechoslovak military units to fight for the liberation of their homeland. Within Czechoslovakia, former military personnel and civilian patriots covertly started to arrange for former Air Force and Army personnel to be voluntarily smuggled over the border into Poland to join these newly-formed Czechoslovak units.

Like many of the Czechoslovak military, Alois resented having been denied the chance to resist the occupying Germans, and was one of the many Czechoslovak airmen and soldiers who saw it was their duty to go to Poland from where they could fight to achieve the liberation of Czechoslovakia. For some weeks he thought about what to do next. Alois then decided to leave and covertly cross the border to Poland. He travelled by train to northern Moravia, where he made contact with organisations who were helping people to illegally cross the border to Poland. On 9 July 1939, with the help of a people smuggler, Alois travelled to Velký Polom, a village about 45km South East of Ostrava. From there, after travelling some 8 km through the forests, Alois successfully covertly crossed over the Polish border. Now safely in Poland, he reported to the Police station at Jablunkov, Here a report was drawn up with him and after four days he was sent to the Police headquarters in Těšín.

There he met many former Czechoslovak military colleagues who had similarly escaped to Poland for the same reason as himself. He spent the next six days there before, on 19 July, he and his fellow Czechoslovak escapees were transported to Kraków where they reported for duty at the Czechoslovak Consulate.

However, the Polish Authorities, who recognised the new puppet State of Slovakia, showed little interest in the Czechoslovak military who were escaping across their border in groups and would not allow independent Czechoslovak units to be established on its territory as they were concerned about antagonising neighbouring Nazi Germany. Only after lengthy negotiations between Czechoslovak Diplomats in France and Great Britain, and the French Government, did the French agree to permit 4,000 Czechoslovaks into the French Foreign Legion – French law did not allow for foreign military units to be on its territory in peacetime, and the Czechoslovak escapers would be required to join the French Foreign Legion for a five-year period with the agreement that, should war be declared, they would be transferred to French military units. The alternative was to be returned to occupied Czechoslovakia and face German retribution for escaping – usually imprisonment or execution with further retribution to their families.

In the interim, the Czechoslovak escapees were initially billeted at Bronowice Małe, a former Polish army camp outside Krakow, now used as a transit camp for escaped Czechoslovak military personnel, whilst travel arrangements to France where made. Due to the poor conditions in the camp, morale was not high, but Alois spent his time studying French and keeping in shape by doing gymnastics.

Alois, with other Czechoslovak escapee’s, Bronowice Małe, July 1939.

With other escaped Czechoslovak military personnel, Alois left by train to Gydnia, on the Baltic coast of Poland, where on 29 July 1939 they boarded the MS Chroby, a Polish trans Atlantic passenger ship, sailing on her maiden voyage to South America and on the 1 August they arrived at Boulogne, France.

Alois, with other Czechoslovak escapee’s, en-route to France on the MS Chroby.


France:

At Boulogne, the Czechoslovak escapees disembarked onto French soil. However they were required to join the French Foreign Legion for a five- year period, as, under French law, foreign military units were not permitted on mainland France during peacetime. After some refreshments, they boarded a train for the thirteen-hour journey to Paris.

They arrived there at 17:30 and were taken by coaches to the French Foreign Legion’s recruitment barracks at Place Ballard, in the South West of Paris, to undergo medical checks, whilst the necessary documentation was prepared for their enlistment into the Legion. Pending their transfer to the Legion’s training base at Sidi bel Abbes, Algeria, during this time they attended French classes and any free time was usually spent in Paris exploring the sights and eager to practise their newly-learnt French with the girls they met.

Alois, l’Armée d’Air, Spring 1940.

War was declared before Alois was sent to Algeria and instead he was transferred to the l’Armée d’Air at their Paris airbase. On 11 September he was transferred to Centre d’Instruction de Chasse for re-training on French aircraft at Chartres airbase.

Having flown 101.35 hours at Chartres, Alois had completed his re-training, and on 11 May 1940 was posted to GC I/5, a fighter unit who were based at Suippes airbase, near Rheims and were equipped with Curtis H-75c fighter aircraft.

During the Battle of France he flew 52 operational hours in 31 sorties. He achieved the highest combat success amongst the Czechoslovak pilots serving in l’Armée de l’Air and was the 5th most successful of all the l’Armée de l’Air pilots:

Date:

Time:

Type Flown:

Action:

17.05.40

17:35

MS-406

shared Me 109, SW of Stonne

17.05.40.

17:40

MS-406

shared Me 109, east of Raucourt

18.05.40.

14:45

MS-406

shared He III shared, NW of Fismes

18.05.40.

14:45

MS-406

shared He III, at Laon-Soissons

18.05.40.

14:45

MS-406

shared He III, East of Soissons

25.05.40.

10:40

MS-406

Me 109 probable, North of Grandpré

26.05.40.

12:30

MS-406

He III damaged, Tannay, North of Sedan

03.06.40.

12:05

MS-406

shared Hs 126, North of Sommanthe

08.06.40.

16:40

MS-406

Ju 87, SW of Rouen-Boos airfield

10.06.40.

05:10

MS-406

shared Ju 88, at Châtillon sur Bar

10.06.40.

16:30 > 17:45

MS-406

He III, West of Buzancy

12.06.40.

11:15

MS-406

shared Hs 126, at Dommartin-od-Coq

15.06.40.

11:00 > 13:45

MS-406

shared Do 17, at St-Menehould, Bar-le-Duc

During his combat on 26 May, his Curtis H-75c came under attacked by a Luftwaffe aircraft. It’s gun-fire passing through the cockpit canopy causing his goggles to shatter, injuring his face. Despite this, he managed to fly safely back to base at St Dizier airfield.

When the German invaded France, the rapidity of their Blitzkreig caused GC I/5 to frequently have to change their airfields as they retreated westward. By 20 June they had moved three times and were now at La Salanque airbase near Perpignan in southern France. Later that day they evacuated from mainland France and flew their aircraft to Maison Blanche airbase in Algeria.

When France capitulated, the Czechoslovak airmen were released from their l’Armée de l’Air service. On his release on 4 July, Alois and the other Czechoslovak airmen at Maison Blanche travelled by train for four days to Casablanca, Morocco. From here, on 9 July, they boarded the ‘Royal Scotsman’ and were taken to Gibraltar from where, on 21 July 1940 they sailed on the ‘David Livingstone’ which arrived in Cardiff on 5 August 1940.

Alois Vašátko with Tomáš Vybíral and Josef Jaške aboard the Royal Scotsman, July 1940.


RAF:

Alois, Cholmondeley, July 1940.

On arrival to England he was initially billetted at the Czechoslovak transit camp at Cholmondeley, near Chester, before being transferred to the Czechoslovak Airmens Depot at RAF Cosford. On 16 August Alois was accepted into the RAF Volunteer Reserve at the rank of P/O. On 5 September he was posted to the newly formed 312 (Czechoslovak) Sqn who at that time were based at Duxford and equipped with Hurricane I’s.

Re-training for Hurricanes commenced immediately and on the following day Alois made his first flight in a Hurricane. On 26 September, 312 Sqn moved to Speke airfield, at Liverpool, where their role was the defence of Liverpool and its docks. The squadron was declared operational on 2 October.

Alois made his first operational flight in the Battle of Britain two days later, flying Hurricane H1926 when six Hurricanes were scrambled from Speke with the flight lasting 55 minutes. He was to make a further seven operational flights during that battle, the most notable being on 8 October when he achieved combat success.

Founding members of 312 Sqn.


The Fastest ‘Kill’:

Alois, 312 Sqn.

That day 312 Sqn achieved its first combat success in what is considered to be the quickest ‘kill’ of the Battle of Britain – 11 minutes!

On 8 October 1940, at 16:30, the squadrons Yellow Section were ordered to take-off for a routine defensive patrol over Hoylake, to the West of Liverpool. Alois, as Yellow 2, was flying Hurricane L1926, with Sgt Josef Stehlík (Yellow 3) and F/Lt Dennys Gillam (Yellow 1) were taking-off in their Hurricanes. Gillam and Alois were already airborne, but the Merlin engine of Stehlík’s Hurricane was reluctant to start causing a slight delay in his take-off.

During this time a lone Ju 88, M7+DK from 2/KGr806 based at Caen, in Northern France, was approaching Speke airfield, flying at 1,200 feet on course to attack the Rootes Factory by Speke airport, which was producing aircraft. The weather forecast given to its pilot, Oberleutnant Helmut Brückmann indicated that there would be cloud covering their route, ideal for avoiding contact with RAF fighter aircraft. This was his 36th operational missions and his fifth to the Lancashire area around Liverpool

Stehlík’s reluctant Hurricane engine finally started allowing him to make a belated take-off. Whilst still only at an altitude of 1,000 feet anti-aircaft fire, about 4km away at Birkenhead, caught the attention to the three Hurricane pilots. They immediately went to attack the enemy aircraft and Stehlík, with his Hurricane still retracting its undercarriage, got in the first burst from his guns.

Despite heavy and accurate machine gun gun-fire from the Ju 88 rear gunner, the three Hurricanes pressed on with their attack. Their accurate machine gun gun-fire resulted in both engines of the Ju 88 to catching fire causing it to make a forced-landing on the left bank of the River Mersey.

All three Hurricanes were slightly damaged with Alois’s engine exhaust manifolds shot up, Stehlík fuel tank pipe line damaged and F/Lt Gillam’s windscreen being smashed.

The Ju 88 pilot, Oberleutnant Helmut Brückmann, was uninjured. Wireless Operator, Unteroffizier Helmuth Weth, was slightlyinjured on landing. The Ju 88’s navigator, Leutnant Herbert Schlegel, was killed by a machine gun bullet in the head while still in the air. Sonderfuhrer Horst Lehmann, who was in the central underside gondola under the cockpit acting as rear-gunner, had detached the underside gondola from the aircraft at a height of about three feet just before the aircraft crash-landed.

After crashing both Brückmann and Weth left the aircraft to see if they could help the badly injured Lehmann – he had broken many bones in his body and legs in addition to major stomach injuries. All three Luftwaffe airmen were captured, without resistance to become PoW’s. Lehmann was taken to hospital for treatment and was unable to leave hospital for many months, the severity of his injuries causing him to be re-patriated later in the war back to Germany.

First WW2 success for 312 Sqn – the Ju 88

Alois’s Combat Report for this shared ‘kill’: I was Yellow 2 and started close behind Yellow leader, staying about 20 yds behind. On turning over the river Yellow leader started to climb sharply and looking round, I sighted the e/a. I gave full gas, turned to port and flew about 60 ft below the e/a from ¼ but could not fire on account of Yellow 3. I turned and climbed and attacked e/a from rear and above (about 2 seconds at 100 yards). Immediately afterwards I saw Yellow 1 attack aircraft from below. I broke away slightly to right and saw e/a smoking white from starboard engine and gliding downwards. I followed at 1200 – 1500 feet distance and approached, but could not fire at once as yellow 3 was attacking. I then fired a short burst and experienced return fire from the upper gunner. E/a then flew level at a height of 200 feet and I attacked from the stern and gave a third short burst and saw the e/a fall flat on the ground and slew around to port. It lies on a meadow at the edge of the waterborne Ballon Barrage.

Josef Stehlik (left) and Alois with a panel from the tail of the Ju88.

Alois, Josef Stehlik and Jan Truhlar, medal parade, Speke 14 December 1940.

Alois was appointed Flight Commander of 312 Sqn’s ‘B’ Flight on 17 November 1940 and promoted to the rank of Flight Lieutenant on 1 March 1941.

Subsequently, Alois was to achieve further combat success:

Date:

Aircraft:

Serial No:

Action:

09.07.41

Hurricane IIb

Z3660 ‘N’

Me 109F damaged NE France

09.07.41.

Hurricane IIb

Z3660 ‘N’

Me 109F probable north of Montreuil, France

03.06.42.

Spitfire Vb

AB382 ‘J’

Do 17 probable 10m NE of Cherbourg

23.06.42.

Spitfire Vb

BM592 ‘AV’

Fw 190 8m E Start Point

On 1 May 1942, he was promoted to the rank of Wing Commander and appointed Commanding Officer of the newly formed Czechoslovak Wing – 310 Sqn, 312 Sqn and 313 Sqn – stationed at Exeter, Devon. Their role was to provide fighter protection to Allied bombers on bombing raids, known as ‘Ramrod’s or offensive fighter sweeps, known as ‘Rodeo’s, over Northern France. Their first operation was ‘Rodeo’ 11 on 1st June when 11 of 310 Sqn Spitfires participated in a uneventful sweep over Northern France between Cap de la Hauge and Cherbourg.


Last Flight:

Alois was killed on the evening of 23 June 1942 whilst returing from Ramrod 23 – the escort of Boston bombers on a raid on Morlaix, France. The Allied formation was intercepted from behind at 19:35 near Île-de-Batz, France, by Luftwaffe Fw 190’s fighter aircraft from JG 26, based at from Morlaix airfield, France. In the resultant dog-fight, flying over the English Channel back to England, the escorts, commanded by Alois, successfully defended the Boston bombers and destroyed two Fw 190s, but seven Spitfires were also shot down. One of those was flown by Alois. His Spitfire MK Vb BM592 ‘AV’ was seen diving into the sea, about 8 miles southeast of Start Point, Devon, with guns firing as if the pilot was killed or injured.

Despite an extensive search by air-sea rescue vessels his body was never recovered. He was 33 years old.

W/Cmdr Alois Vašátko DFC, is commemorated on panel 64 at the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.


Medals:

British :

Distinguished Flying Cross

1939 – 45 Star with Battle of Britain clasp

Air Crew Europe Star

Defence Medal

War Medal

Czechoslovakia :

Válečný kříž 1939 and 2 bars

Za chrabrost and 2 bar

Za zásluhy I.stupně

Pamětní medaile se štítky F–VB

France:

Légion d‘Honneur au grade de Chevalier

Croix de Guerre avec 7 palme and 3 Stars; 1 gold and 3 silver

The esteem regard that the Czechoslovak Air Force had for Alois, can be ascertained, that on 11 November 1949, despite his homeland being under Communism, he was awarded the highest Czechoslovak decoration: the Military Order of the White Lion 1st class.

When democracy returned to Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution in November 1989, other honours followed. On 7 March 1992, he was promoted, on 7 March 1992, he was promoted, in memoriam, to the Czechoslovak Air Force Rank of Major General. On 9 May 1992, he was awarded, in memoriam, the Military Order of Milan Rastislav Stefanik Order 3rd class.


Remembered:

313 Sqn returned to Ruzyne, Prague in August 1945 and in September 1945, was redeployed to Planá airfield at Ceský Budejovice as part of the 2nd Air Division of the Czechoslovak Air Force. On 3 March 1948, whilst during the Communist era, its 4th Regiment was awarded the honorary title of ‘Letce Aloise Vašátka’ [Airmen of Alois Vašátko] and at that time was the only air unit named in remembrance of an airman who had served in the RAF during WW2.

In 1945 after Germany surrendered, two Czechoslovak postage stamps featuring his portrait were issued by Česká pošta, the Czechoslovak Post Office. The first has a face value of 50 hellers and the second has a face value of five Czechoslovak crowns.

Czech Republic :

Čelákovice:

A commemorative plaque is at his birthplace at No. 13a/284 Čelákovice.

The street where that house is now also named “Vašátkova”.

Prague – Černý Most:

In 1991, a street in the Černý Most suburb of Prague 9, which has streets named after numerous WW2 Czechoslovak airmen who served in the l’Armée d’Air or the RAF, a street was named “Vašátkova” in his honour.

Prague – Dejvice:

He is named on the Memorial for the fallen Czechoslovak airmen of 1939-1945, at Dejvice, Prague 6.

Prague – Klárov:

In November 2017, his name, along with the names of 2507 other Czechoslovak men and women who had served in the RAF during WW2, was unveiled at the Winged Lion Monument at Klárov, Prague.

Solnice:

Týniště nad Orlicí:

In Týniště nad Orlicí, where he grew up, He is named on a memorial plaque for the fallen Czechoslovak RAF airmen from that District.

In Týniště nad Orlicí[1] where he grew up, a street was named “Vašátkova” after him.

Great Britain :

He is commemorated, along with the other 2938 Battle of Britain aircrew, on the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall at the National Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne, Kent:


He is also commemorated on the London Battle of Britain Memorial:

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Otaslavice – 08.10.22.



Posted in Ace, Events, Forthcoming Events, Memorial, Not Forgotton | Leave a comment

Frantisek Marek – † 14.09.40.


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An biography for him here

Jeho českou a anglickou biografii najdete zde

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Posted in 310 Sqd, Anniversary, Battle of Britain, Not Forgotton | Leave a comment

The Czech Cloverleaf Memorial Plaque unveiled.

Odhalení pamětní desky “českému čtyřlístku”

Today at the Kent Battle of Britain Museum, Hawkinge, Kent, a memorial plaque was unveiled to commemorate the ‘Český čtyřlístek’ – the Czech four leaf clover.

Dnes byla v Kent Battle of Britain Museum v Hawkinge byla odhalena pamětní deska připomínající “Český čtyřllístek”.

Attending the event was H.E. Marie Chatardová, Czech Ambassador, Deputy Slovak Ambassador Marcel Babicz, Brig General Vratislav Beran, Defence Attache Czech Embassy, Marek Hýbl, Otaslavice Mayor, Vladimír Ambros, Deputy Mayor of Otaslavice and President of the Klub Vojenské Historie Otaslavice and also a delegation from that club.

Slavnosti se zúčastnila Marie Chatardova, česká ambasadorka ve Velké Británii, zástupce slovenského velvyslance Marcel Babicz, brigádní generál Vratislav Beran, přidělenec obrany, Marek Hýbl, starosta Otaslavic, Vladimír Ambros, zástupce starosty Otaslavice a prezident klubu vojenské historie Otaslavice spolus s delegací klubu.

David Brocklehurst MBE (2nd on left), Czech Ambassador H.E. Marie Chatardová, Deputy Slovak Ambassador Marcel Babicz. / David Brocklehurst MBE (druhý zleva), česka velvyslankyně, její výsost Marie Chatardova, zástupce slovenského velvyslance v Británii Marcel Babicz.

On behalf of The Kent Battle of Britain Museum, David Brocklehurst MBE,Chairman of the Museum, welcomed everyone to the event in English. Michal Žižlavský, PA to the Czech Ambassador, had kindly agreed to act as interpreter so that the Czech attendees could understand David’s welcome speech.

Za The Kent Battle of Britain Museum přivítal v angličtině všechny David Brocklehurst MBE, vedoucí muzea. Michal Žižlavský, asistent českého velvyslance se laskavě ujal role překladatele, takže také všichni návštěvníci z České republiky jeho přivítání porozumněli.

Short speeches, in their native languages were then made by H.E. Marie Chatardová, Czech Ambassador and Deputy Slovak Ambassador Marcel Babicz, which highlighted the achievements of Český čtyřlístek for their homeland in WW2.

Poté přednesli v jeijch rodném jazyce krátké projevy Marie Chatardová, česká velvyslankyně a zástupce slovenského velvyslance Marcel Babicz, kteří vyzdvihli význam českého čtyřlístku pro jejich zemi v historii druhé světové války.

Left to right: Igor Fryč and on right  Jiří Pavlovič. / Zleva do prava Igor Fryč a Jiří Pavlovič

Igor Fryč, relative of Josef Frantisek, and Jiří Pavlovič, relative of Matěj Pavlovič then unveiled the plaque. Miroslav Zvonek, sculptor of the memorial plaque, in accordance with Czech custom, then christened the plaque with Czech champagne.

Igor Fryč, příbuzný Josefa Františka a Jiří Pavlovič, příbuzný Matěje Pavloviče pak odhali pamětní desku. Miroslav Zvonek, její autor pak v souladu s českými zvyky pokřtil desku šampaňským.

In accordance with Czech tradition, Miroslav Zvonek, sculptor of the memorial plaque, about to christian it. / Miroslav Zvonek, autor desky se ji chystáv, v souladu s českou tradicí, pokřtít.

The Ambassador and Deputy Ambassador then laid wreaths on behalf of the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic. Wreaths were then on behalf of Otaslavice, Klub Vojenské Historie Otaslavice and FCAFA by their respective representatives. A FCAFA bouquet was placed by the sculpture of Josef Balejka on behalf his daughter, of Anna Balejka-Hutton, who was unable to attend the unveiling.

Česká Ambasadorka a zástupce slovenského ambasadoru poté položili za obě republiky věnce. Po nich zde byly položeny také věnce od klubu vojenské historie Otaslavice a FCAFA. Jménem dcery Josefa Balejky, Anny Balejka-Hutton, která se slavnosti nemohla osobně zúčastnit pak byla k desce umístěna kytička od FCAFA.

The event concluded with the Czechoslovak national anthem being sung by the delegation from Otaslavice.

Na závěr slavnosti zazpívala delegace z Otaslavic československou národní hymnu.

The Kent Battle of Britain Museum, Hawkinge, is honoured to have been chosen as the UK location for this memorial plaque.

Pro The Kent Battle of Britain Museum v Hawkinge je velkou ctí, že bylo vybráno k umístění této pamětní desky.

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During the short Polish campaign of 1939 four Czechoslovak pilots: Josef Balejka, Josef František , Vilém Košař’ and Matěj Pavlovič, fought with distinction in that campaign and had become known as ‘Český čtyřlístek’ – the Czech four leaf clover.

V roce 1939, v kráké bitvě o Polsko bojovala i čtveřice českých pilotů Josef Balejka, Josef František, Vilém Košař a Matěj Pavlovič, která se stala známou jako Český čtyřlístek.

After their evacuation from Poland, with Polish Forces, they were evacuated to France and later, when France capitulated to England where they remained with the Polish Air Force and where Josef František and Vilém Košař’ flew in the Battle of Britain with 303 Sqn. Balejka and Pavlovič, were unable to complete their conversion to Hurricanes before the Battle finished on 31 October 1940.

Po porážce Polska byli spolu s polskými ozbrojenými silami evakuováni do Francie a po jejím pádu do Británie. Také zde zůstali přislušníky přílušníky polského letectva. Josef František a Vilém Košař bojovali v bitvě o Británii jako příslušníci 303. perutě, Balejka a Pavlovič nedokázali dokončit přeškolení na stroje Hawker Hurricane před koncem bitvy, tedy 10. říjnem 1940.

Of these four, only Balejka was to survive the war:

Jako jediný válku přežil Josef Balejka.

Josef František, † 08/10/40, aged 26 / let

Vilém Košař, † 08/11/40, aged 32 / let

Matěj Pavlovič, † 20/04/41, aged 26 / let

A biography on Josef František here.

Biografie Josefa Františka zde.

A biography on Josef Balejka here.

Biografie Josefa Balejky zde.

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