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Czechoslovak pilots in the RAF
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The Munich Agreement on September 30th 1938 - between Britain, France, Germany and Italy - and its aftermath resulted in several things: a false temporary peace(The phoney war) and Czechoslovakia losing a quarter of its entire territory along with a third of the population. It also meant losing strategically important fortifications in the mountains which resulted in Czechoslovakia not being able to defend itself from Germany.

Six months later, German troops marched into Czechoslovakia while Czechoslovak soldiers were ordered not to offer any resistance as without the mountain defenses, this would be futile.

Instead, thousands of Czechoslovak soldiers left the country, most of them through neighboring Poland into France, where they were assigned to the Foreign Legion in North Africa and after the commencement of hostilities drafted into Armée de l’Air (French Air Force).

In May 1940 they took part in the short-lived Battle of France but after the rapid fall of France 4000 Czechoslovaks left for Britain – the last line of defense.

First 30 Czech pilots landed in Britain on June 17th 1940 and through efforts of the exiled Czech President Eduard Beneš, the first Czech fighter squadron - the 310 sqn - was established at Duxford on July 2nd 1940.

The squadron became operational on 17th August and its Hawker Hurricanes would take part in the Battle of Britain. Their motto: ‘We fight to rebuild’. Less than three weeks after, a second squadron – 311 sqn - was formed at Honington equipped with Wellingtons (Liberators since mid-1943). Their motto was a hussite slogan: ‘Ignore their numbers’. Two more fighter squadrons would eventually be established: No. 312 flying Hurricanes at Duxford became operational on 2nd October (‘Non multi sed multa’ means ‘Not many but much’) and the fighter squadron 313 sqn was established a year later at Catterick flying Spitfires (‘One hawk chases away many crows’)

The three fighter squadrons would later be assembled into a Czechoslovak wing, No. 134. Wing of the Second Tactical Air Force (2nd TAF) in 12.5.1944 and would operate together until the end of the war.

In April 1942 the 311 bomber squadron was tasked with anti-submarine patrol over the Bay of Biscay in Wellington.Mk.Ic. The crews carried out 19 attacks between July 1942 and april 1943. 

                                     

While most Czechoslovaks went into these special squadrons, about 100 others served in RAF and other Allied units. Most notably the No. 68 which used Blenheims and later Beaufighters and Mosquitos for its night time operations had a portion of Czech pilots so high, they had a Czech flight and a Czech motto: ‘Always ready’.
Czechoslovak pilots were desperate to get into the fight, they brought invaluable flying experience and held a deep seething hatred for the enemy occupying their homeland and the Royal Air Force needed all the help they could muster for the Battle of Britain that was about to commence.

The relationship between the British and Czech pilots was tenuous at first however as the Munich aftermath was still fresh in mind and some believed the British to have failed to stand at Czechoslovakia’s side. Czech pilots also developed a little superior and cynical ‘Know it all attitude’ but after the Battle has begun, this feeling as well as any doubts about British’s commitment to battle quickly vanished.

The first encounter of 310th came on 26th August when they shot down two Do.217s and a Bf.110. Two hurricanes were lost however and another two damaged. Unit’s commander and Squadron Leader George Blackwood wrote: "Then I saw how Czechoslovakian airmen can fight. There was no need of commands by radio; they dashed at Germans without abashment. Excepting the fact that I have been shot down in this fight, I was absolutely content with the result of the first encounter."

By the end of the Battle of Britain, pilots of 310 Squadron had claimed 39 German aircraft shot down. Of the top ten scoring RAF pilots of the Battle (14 or more victories) one was Czech, one was Polish, an Australian and two New Zealanders.

 

Josef František

From many distinguished Czech pilots, of particular interest is Sergeant Joseph František who at the time of Battle of Britain already had combat experience from Poland where he fought Luftwaffe for two weeks. During the Battle he flew with the Polish Air Force. He had a temper and would often be involved in disciplinary proceedings. He lacked discipline and often rushed recklessly towards the enemy endangering his squad mates. In order to put his exceptional flying and shooting skills to use, he was allowed to fight his own war as a Lone Wolf with great success. Over the course of September, he shot down 17 planes in 10 days. Unfortunately he died under strange circumstances after he crashed near Ewell, Surrey on the 8th October and his neck broke at the impact. His fellow pilot described this death as “the direct result of battle fatigue and sheer physical exhaustion”.

 

Karel “Kut” Kuttelwascher

Another distinguished Czech, Flight Lieutenant Karel Kuttelwascher (“Kut” to his squad mates) was assigned to the oldest RAF unit, the legendary No. 1 and spent two years flying at their side. He shot down three Bf 109s in April, May and June 1941 but it wasn’t until a year later that he became a scourge for Luftwaffe bombers operating from France and Low Countries. He would fly a long range Hurricane (named ‘Night Reaper’) over enemy bases around the time of the full moon and attack them as they landing or taking off. In three months, he destroyed 15 bombers; at one occasion destroying three Heinkel bombers in four minutes. With his total score of 18, he was the top-scoring Czech pilot of the Second World War as well as RAF’s greatest night intruder ace. The media gave him the name ‘Czech night hawk’.

The men who fought for their homeland were supposed to be heroes, however the political situation at home considered anyone fighting alongside the western allies a suspect or a traitor and many of the pilots were victimized upon their return to the homeland. It wasn’t until the Velvet Revolution in 1989 that their actions were officially recognized. The total number of Czechoslovak airmen serving in the RAF was around 2000. A total 480 men lost their lives in service of the RAF by the end of the war. In Britain their death is commemorated on the Sunday nearest 28th October at the Czech Cemetery in the village of Brokwood, Surrey.

War Thunder team

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