No. 312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF

No. 312 Squadron RAF was a Czechoslovak-manned fighter squadron of the Royal Air Force in the Second World War.

No. 312 Squadron RAF
RAF312Sq
Badge of № 312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF
Active29 August 1940 – 15 February 1946
CountryUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
AllegianceCzech Republic Czechoslovakia
BranchAir Force Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg RAF Fighter Command
RoleFighter Squadron
Motto(s)Latin: Non Multi Sed Multa
("Not many, but much")
EngagementsDieppe Raid
Normandy landings
Insignia
Squadron BadgeA stork volant
Squadron CodesDU (August 1940 – February 1946)
Air Ministry Second World War Official Collection CH1434
Armourers preparing belts of .303-inch ammunition for Hawker Hurricane Mk I DU-J

History

The squadron was formed at Duxford on 29 August 1940.[1] It was crewed mostly by escaped Czechoslovak pilots, but its first commander was the British Squadron Leader Frank Tyson.[2] On 12 September a Slovak fighter pilot, Ján Ambruš, was appointed as joint commander of the squadron.[3] The plan was for responsibility to be transferred gradually from Tyson to Ambruš.

Initially the squadron was equipped with Hawker Hurricane Mk I fighters. On 26 September the squadron moved to RAF Speke[4] to join the air defence of Merseyside. Its first victory was on 8 October 1940, when its Yellow Flight (Denys Gillam, Alois Vašátko and Josef Stehlík) shot down a Junkers Ju 88 medium bomber over Liverpool.[5]

On 13 October Ambruš led a flight of three Hurricane Mk I fighters on patrol. Over the Irish Sea Ambruš mistakenly led the flight to attack two Bristol Blenheim Mk IF light bombers of No. 29 Squadron RAF. One Blenheim, L6637, code letters RO-S, crashed into the sea off Point of Ayre on the Isle of Man and not far from the Morecambe Bay light ship. All three of its crew were killed. The other Blenheim, L7135, code letters RO-S, survived with minor damage and returned safely to RAF Ternhill in Shropshire with its crew unharmed.[6] Ambruš was relieved of his command, and on 12 December Sqn Ldr Evžen Čižek was appointed to succeed him.[3] On 17 December Ambruš was transferred to the Inspectorate-General of the Czechoslovak Air Force in London.

On 3 March 1941 the squadron moved to RAF Valley[7] on Anglesey and began flying convoy patrols over the Irish Sea.[8] On 24 April the squadron moved to RAF Jurby, Isle of Man. In May 1941 the squadron was re-equipped with the Hurricane Mk II. On 27 May Sqn Ldr Jan Klán succeeded Čižek as commanding officer,[3] and two days later the squadron moved to RAF Kenley[7] in Surrey. Klán's tenure was brief, as he was replaced on 5 June with Sqn Ldr Alois Vašátko.[3] On 20 July the squadron moved to RAF Martlesham Heath[7] in Suffolk. On 19 August it moved again to RAF Heathfield[7] in Ayrshire, Scotland.

The squadron was re-equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire Mk IIA in October 1941 and again with the Spitfire Mk VB/C in December.[9] The squadron spent the first part of 1942 in Wales. It moved to RAF Fairwood Common in Glamorgan on 1 January, then to RAF Angle in Pembrokeshire on 20 February,[7] and then returned to Fairwood Common on 10 April.[10] The squadron's duties included coastal patrols and shipping reconnaissance flights.

Royal Air Force Fighter Command, 1939-1945. D10206
312 Squadron pilots at RAF Harrowbeer in Devon in 1942 just after being decorated by Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš

On 23 June 1942 Sqn Ldr Vašátko was killed in action and Sqn Ldr Jan Čermák was appointed to succeed him.[3] On 3 July 1942 the squadron moved to RAF Harrowbeer in Devon.[10] On 19 August the squadron provided air cover for the Operation Jubilee raid on Dieppe. During the raid Miroslav Liškutín shot down a Dornier Do 217 bomber[11] and 312 Squadron lost one of its own aircraft.

On 10 October 1942 the squadron moved to RAF Church Stanton[10] in Somerset. On 1 January 1943 Sqn Ldr Tomáš Vybíral succeeded Čermák as squadron commander.[3] On 24 June the squadron moved to RAF Skaebrae on Orkney. On 7 September the squadron moved to RAF Ibsley[10] in Hampshire and joined the 2nd Tactical Air Force as a fighter-bomber unit. The squadron operated over France softening up targets in preparation for the invasion and then supporting the landings.[12] On 1 November Sqn Ldr František Vancl succeeded Vybíral as squadron commander.[4]

In January 1944 the squadron was re-equipped with the Spitfire Mk IX.[9] From 20 February it spent a few days at RAF Mendlesham in Suffolk, before moving on 23 February to RAF Rochford in Essex.[10]

Royal Air Force- 2nd Tactical Air Force, 1943-1945. CH18720
Mk IXB Spitfires of 312 Squadron at RAF Appledram being repaired outside a camouflaged Butler combat hangar

On 3 April 1944 the squadron moved to RAF Appledram in West Sussex.[13] From here its operations included intercepting V-1 flying bombs, escorting bombers and attacking rail and road targets in German-occupied Europe.[11] On 15 May Sqn Ldr Jaroslav Hlad'o succeeded Vancl as squadron commander.[4] On 22 June the squadron moved to nearby RAF Tangmere,[13] also in West Sussex.

From 4 July 1944 the squadron spent a week at RAF Lympne in Kent.[13] On 11 July it moved again to RAF Coltishall[13] in Norfolk and operated daytime bomber escort flights over continental Europe.[12] However, on 27 August its duties were switched to the Air Defence of Great Britain (ADGB), for which it was moved on RAF North Weald in Essex.[13] On 3 October it moved again to RAF Bradwell Bay, also in Essex.[13]

On 15 November 1944 Sqn Ldr Václav Šlouf succeeded Hlad'o as squadron commander.[4] From 27 February to 8 June 1945 the squadron was based at RAF Manston[13] in Kent.

Slessor inspects Czecho-Slovak personnel
Farewell parade of Czechoslovak squadrons at RAF Manston, Kent, on 3 August 1945. Air Marshal John Slessor, with walking stick, inspects some of the men. Air Marshal Karel Janoušek can be seen behind him.

On 3 August members of all of the RAF's Czechoslovak squadrons held a farewell parade at RAF Manston. Air Marshal John Slessor inspected the parade, accompanied by A/M Karel Janoušek. On 24 August 312 squadron moved to Ruzyně Airport in Prague.[13] It became a squadron of the new Czechoslovak Air Force, and on 15 February 1946 was officially disbanded as an RAF squadron.[1][9]

Seven Spitfire F Mk IXs survive today that flew with the squadron in 1944–45. This is by far the largest number of surviving aircraft associated with a single squadron.

Notable members

Aircraft operated

[19][20][21]

Supermarine 361 Spitfire LF9E AN2179550
A Spitfire Mk IX that served with 312 Squadron
From To Aircraft Variant Notes
August 1940
May 1941
May 1941
December 1941
Hawker Hurricane I
IIb
single-engined monoplane piston-engined fighter
October 1941
November 1941
December 1941
August 1942
September 1943
January 1944
June 1944
December 1941
January 1942
February 1944
June 1943
February 1944
June 1944
February 1946
Supermarine Spitfire IIa
IIb
Vb
Vc
Vc
LF.IXb
HF.IX
single-engine monoplane piston-engined fighter

Aircraft of this squadron used a unit code letters DU.

Loch Doon Spitfire

On 25 October 1941, when 312 Squadron was based at RAF Heathfield, F/O František Hekl crashed a Spitfire Mk IIA into a reservoir in Ayrshire on a solo training flight. The Spitfire was serial number P7540, carrying the marking DU-W.[22]

An eyewitness the Spitfire flying low over the surface of Loch Doon when Hekl banked the aircraft to starboard and its starboard wingtip caught the water surface. Hekl lost control and the aircraft broke up and sank, leaving only a patch of oil on the water. An RAF salvage crew brought a boat and spent several days trawling parts of the bed of the loch, but failed to find either the aircraft or Hekl's body.[23]

In 1977 the Dumfries branch of the Scottish Sub Aqua Club began a systematic search of the bed of the loch in the area where an eyewitness thought the aircraft had crashed. In 1979 several clubs from the Northern Federation of British Sub-Aqua Clubs joined the search, and Blackpool Sub-Aqua Club took over organisation of the project.[23]

The search was unsuccessful so in 1982 it was moved to a different area of the loch, where divers quickly found the Spitfire's tail and rear part of the fuselage. In subsequent dives other parts of the aircraft were found, scattered over a distance of 200 metres. Both wings were badly damaged, magnesium parts such as the undercarriage wheels had corroded away, but the Merlin Mk XII engine was recovered in good condition. Hekl's body was not found.[23]

The wreckage was moved to Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum, where the aircraft was slowly restored and a pair of replica wings fitted.[23] Restoration to non-flying condition was completed in 2017.

References

Notes

  1. ^ a b Lewis 1968, p. 96.
  2. ^ "Squadron Commanding Officers, Nos 300 - 361 Squadrons". Air of Authority – A History of RAF Organisation.
  3. ^ a b c d e f van Eyck 1993, p. 16.
  4. ^ a b c d van Eyck 1993, p. 17.
  5. ^ "08/10/1940 - Junkers Ju88 Wk No 4068". Speke. South Lancs Aviation.
  6. ^ Šafařík, Jan Josef (7 April 2010). "Ján K. Ambruš". Air Aces (in Czech). Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d e van Eyck 1993, p. 18.
  8. ^ "Station History". RAF Valley. Ministry of Defence.
  9. ^ a b c Jackson 2003, p. 89.
  10. ^ a b c d e van Eyck 1993, p. 19.
  11. ^ a b c "Miroslav Liskutin – RAF's Czech fighter pilot". Chichester Observer. Johnston Press. 7 July 2017. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  12. ^ a b Orbis 1985, page 4092
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h van Eyck 1993, p. 20.
  14. ^ "Žijí už jen dva. Letec RAF Liškutín oslavil 97. narozeniny". iDNES (in Czech). 28 August 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Otto Smik". Free Czechoslovak Air Force. 19 August 2010. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  16. ^ "Czech wartime RAF fighter pilot Standera dies aged 95". Czech News Agency. 20 February 2014. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  17. ^ "Czech pilot who fought for UK, France dies at 95". Associated Press. 2 February 2014. Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  18. ^ "Stehlík, Josef" (in Czech). Valka. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
  19. ^ Rawlings 1978, p. 398
  20. ^ Halley 1988, p. 363
  21. ^ Jefford 2001, p. 87
  22. ^ "Spitfire P7540 (Loch Doon)". Dumfries and Galloway Aviation Museum. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  23. ^ a b c d Moran, Peter (15 March 2013). "Loch Doon Spitfire P7540". Free Czechoslovak Air Force. Retrieved 6 January 2019.

Bibliography

  • Halley, James J (1988). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918–1988. Tonbridge: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Hurt, Zdeněk (2004). In Focus: Czechs in the RAF. Walton-on-Thames: Red Kite. ISBN 0-9538061-9-7.
  • Jackson, Robert (2003). Spitfire The History of Britain's Most Famous World War II Fighter. Bath: Parragon. p. 89. ISBN 0-75258-770-6.
  • Jefford, Wg Cdr CG (2001) [1998]. RAF Squadrons, A Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912 (second ed.). Shrewsbury: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84037-141-3.
  • Lewis, Peter (1968) [1959]. Squadron Histories, RFC, RNAS and RAF, Since 1912. London: Putnam. p. 96. SBN 370-00022-6.
  • Liškutín, Miroslav A (1988). Challenge in the Air: a Spitfire pilot remembers. London: William Kimber. ISBN 0718306910.
  • Polak, Tomas; Rajlich, Jiří; Vancata, Pavel (2008). No. 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron, 1940–45: Hurricane, Spitfire. France: www.RAF-in-Combat.com. ISBN 2-9526381-1-X.
  • Rawlings, John DR (1976) [1969]. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft (new ed.). London: Macdonald and Jane's (Publishers) Ltd. ISBN 0-354-01028-X.
  • Sitenský, Ladislav (2017). Peruť 312 (in Czech). Translated by Martín Helebrant. Introduction by Jiří Rajlich. Prague: Mladá fronta. ISBN 978-80-204-4627-5.
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982–1985). Orbis Publishing. 1985.
  • van Eyck, Manuel F (1993). Zemřeli jsme pro Anglii (in Czech). Translated by František Fajtl. prologue by František Fajtl. Prague: Naše vojsko. ISBN 80-206-0321-2.

External links

Alois Vašátko

Alois Vašátko DFC (25 August 1908 – 23 June 1942) was a Czechoslovak artillery officer who became an air force pilot. In the Second World War he was a fighter ace, first in the French Air Force in the Battle of France and then in the Royal Air Force.

In the French Air Force Vašátko shot down at least 12 enemy aircraft in May and June 1940. In the RAF he shot down another 14 enemy aircraft between October 1940 and his death in June 1942. He commanded No. 312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF from June 1941 and RAF Fighter Command's Czechoslovak fighter wing from May 1942.

France awarded Vašátko the Croix de guerre 1939–1945 with seven palms, two gold stars and one silver star, and made him a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. The United Kingdom awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Vašátko was killed in action in June 1942 by a mid-air collision over the English Channel between his Supermarine Spitfire and an enemy Focke-Wulf Fw 190.

František Peřina

Wing Commander General František Peřina (8 April 1911, Morkůvky u Břeclavi; died 6 May 2006 in Prague) was a Czech fighter pilot, an ace during World War II with the French Armée de l'Air, who also served twice with Britain's Royal Air Force.

Jan Ambrus

Ján Ambruš, OBE (1899–1994) was a Slovak aerobatics and fighter pilot. He flew with the French Air Force in the Battle of France and the Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain. After the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia he escaped and settled in the USA, where he worked as a design engineer.

Josef Stehlík

Josef Stehlík (1915–91) was a Czechoslovak fighter ace. In the Second World War he served in the French Air Force and then the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. In 1944 he transferred to the Eastern Front, where he commanded the 1st Czechoslovak Independent Fighter Air Regiment.

Stehlík was a Czechoslovak Air Force pilot in the 1930s, latterly as a flying instructor. When Germany occupied and partitioned Czechoslovakia in 1939 he escaped via Poland to France. When France capitulated in 1940 Stehlík was evacuated to Britain, where he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Stehlík returned to Czechoslovakia in 1945 and resumed his Czechoslovak Air Force career until 1948, when the new Communist government politically purged armed forces personnel who had served in Western armed forces. Stehlík was remanded in prison for a year, demoted but then released without charge.

Stehlík was restricted to lowly civilian jobs until 1964, when the Communist government politically rehabilitated him and granted him a retired military rank. He died in post-Communist Czechoslovakia in 1991.

Loch Doon

Loch Doon (Scottish Gaelic: Loch Dùin, pronounced [l̪ˠɔxˈt̪uːɲ]) is a freshwater loch in Carrick, Scotland. The River Doon issues from its northern end, while the loch itself receives waters from Loch Enoch (in the Galloway Hills) via Eglin Lane.

Miroslav Štandera

Miroslav Štandera (October 5, 1918 – February 19, 2014) was a Czech fighter pilot who flew combat missions for the French Air Force and the Royal Air Force during World War II. Štandera was one of the final two surviving Czech combat pilots who flew for the Allies throughout the entire period of World War II. He was also the last surviving Czech pilot who had flown for France during the war.

Nebeští jezdci

Nebeští jezdci is a Czechoslovak movie directed by Jindřich Polák in 1968 about Czechoslovak pilots in RAF service during the Battle of Britain, and the ongoing aerial battle in northern Europe.

Non-British personnel in the RAF during the Battle of Britain

The Royal Air Force (RAF) and Fleet Air Arm (FAA) had included personnel from outside the United Kingdom from before the beginning of the Second World War and many served in the Battle of Britain in 1940. Many were volunteers from the British Empire, refugees and exiles from German-occupied Europe, and American emigrants.

The RAF Roll of Honour recognises 574 pilots, from countries other than the United Kingdom, as flying at least one authorized, operational sortie with an eligible unit during the period between 10 July to 31 October 1940, alongside 2,353 British pilots. The numbers differ slightly from the participants whose names are engraved on the Battle of Britain Monument in London, unveiled on 18 September 2005.

All pilots, regardless of nationality, who flew with British units during the Battle are known collectively, after a phrase coined by Winston Churchill, as "The Few".

Otto Smik

Otto Smik DFC (20 January 1922 – 28 November 1944) was a Czechoslovak pilot who became a fighter ace in the Royal Air Force. He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in July 1940 and was in training until the end of 1942. Between March 1943 and June 1944 he shot down 13 Luftwaffe fighter aircraft probably shot down one more and shared in the shooting down of two others. In July 1944 he shot down three V-1 flying bombs.

Smik was born in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic to a Slovak father and a Russian Jewish mother. When he was 12 the Smik family moved to Slovakia. He was the highest-scoring Slovak fighter ace in the RAF.

In October 1944 Smik survived being shot down behind enemy lines in the Netherlands, successfully evaded capture and returned to Allied-held territory. In November 1944 the RAF promoted him to Squadron Leader and put him in command of No. 312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF. On 28 November he was shot down again over the German-held territory in the Netherlands and was killed.

RAF Coltishall

Royal Air Force Coltishall, more commonly known as RAF Coltishall (IATA: CLF, ICAO: EGYC), is a former Royal Air Force station located 10 miles (16 km) North-North-East of Norwich, in the English county of Norfolk, East Anglia, which operated from 1938 to 2006.It was a fighter airfield in the Second World War and afterwards a station for night fighters then ground attack aircraft until closure.

After longstanding speculation, the future of the station was sealed once the Ministry of Defence announced that the Eurofighter Typhoon, a rolling replacement aircraft, displacing the ageing SEPECAT Jaguar, would not be posted there. The last of the Jaguar squadrons left on 1 April 2006 and the station finally closed, one month early and £10 million under budget, on 30 November 2006.

The station motto was Aggressive in Defence. The station badge was a stone tower surmounted by a mailed fist grasping three bird-bolts (blunt arrows), which symbolised a position of strength in defence of the homeland, indicative of the aggressive spirit which Coltishall fighter aircraft were prepared to shoot down the enemy.

RAF Heathfield

RAF Heathfield, sometimes known as RAF Ayr/Heathfield due to its proximity to Glasgow Prestwick Airport, which was also used by military flights, is a former Royal Air Force station.

Like many other wartime airfields, its runways were of the triangular layout.

RAF Penrhos

RAF Penrhos is a former Royal Air Force airfield located near Penrhos, Gwynedd and 14.7 miles (23.7 km) west of Porthmadog, Gwynedd, Wales.

It was operational from 1 February 1937 to 21 October 1946 for armarment training, air observer, bombing and gunnery schools.

RAF Peterhead

Royal Air Force Station Peterhead or more simply RAF Peterhead is a former Royal Air Force station located 2.4 miles (3.9 km) east of Longside, Aberdeenshire and 3.4 miles (5.5 km) west of Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

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