Research Trip CZRAF 2006 - England
Battle of Britain London Monument - 4th August 2006
As I was travelling through London I used the waiting time for the next coach for a visit of the Battle of Britain Memorial which is placed on the bank of the river Thames close to the Houses of Parliament. The Battle of Britain London Monument was unveiled on 18th September 2005 by Prince Charles and there are commemorated names of 2936 aircrew members who took part in Battle of Britain including 88 Czechoslovak pilots.
The main bronze relief facing the Victoria Embankment road.
The rear bronze relief facing the riverside walk.
Part of memorial with 88 names of Czechoslovak airmen who took part in the BoB.
Not until I was leaving I found out that between the two reliefs there is an RAF roundel from different coloured granites in the paving pattern.
RAF Station Beaulieu - 7th August 2006
When staying in Hampshire I have decided to visit the former RAF Station Beaulieu in New Forrest.
At first I was traveling by bus through Southampton to Brockenhurst when I visited pub "Rose & Crown" which was very popular among Czechoslovak airmen of No. 311 Squadron while based in Beaulieu.
Then I enjoyed a beer at the bar where they were standing 63 years ago and enjoying themselves before another day with another long anti-submarine patrol..
Afterwards I was walking on the road towards Beaulieu, approximately half way I turn right into wood and was walking through the former RAF Station Beaulieu site along former perimeter, through part where now is a camp and also along huge flat area where were runways.
Former airfield building now "occupied" by horses...
One of the former Nissen Huts
It was quite hot so I was able just walk around the north part of former airfield and then I gave up as I was not able to reach the south end. So I do not know what is in the south part but in the north there were only few building remaining including water tower in camp.
Unfortunately later I realized that there is placed a memorial plaque, so maybe next time...
Trip around Norfolk and Suffolk - 12th August 2006
This was very busy Saturday as I and my friend Martin Sup (enthusiast for our airmen and interested in No. 311 Squadron while based in Honington and East Wretham) who is living in Norfolk visited sevewral places: Sutton Bridge Cemetery, Honington Cemetery, East Wretham Cemetery, RAF East Wretham and No. 311 Squadron plaque in Thetford.
Sutton Bridge Cemetery
At first we went to Sutton Bridge to visit local cemetery. There was based No. 6 OTU (since 1.11.1940 No. 56 OTU) and there were killed few Czechoslovak pilots while passing training on Hurricanes. Among graves of British, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders are also graves of 5 Czechoslovak, 2 Polish and 1 French airmen.
In the nice church can be found an altar remembering all nations of airmen buried there by badges of their air forces. Upper row L to R: The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). Lower row L to R: the Czechoslovak pilot badge and officer's cap badge of the Polish Air Force (PAF).
Next to the altar there is a nice wooden commemorative plaque with names of the British and allied airmen deceased while serving at RAF Station Sutton Bridge between 1939-1945 and are buried at the local cemetery.
Sgt Karel Stibor died on 3rd September 1940 when his Hurricane collided during training flight with another Hurricane of Sgt F. J. Howarth. Both planes crashed in Saddle Bow near King's Lynn and both pilots were killed.
Sgt Jan Kurka died on 30th September 1940 when the engine of his Hurricane caught fire. He bailed out but according one version his parachute failed, according another one he opened it too early and the ropes catch in the tail of his plane which crashed at Marholm.
P/O Tomáš Patlejch died on 1st November 1940 when his Hurricane dived into the ground during a high level training flight near Tydd St. Mary. The crash may be caused by the failure of an oxygen breathing apparatus.
Sgt Jiří Schwarz died on 22nd September 1941 when his Hurricane crashed into the river Ouse, 6 miles from King's Lynn. The wreckage was found on 28th September and recovered with the remains of the pilot´s body.
P/O Jan Žerovnický died on 7th January 1942 when his Hurricane crashed near Sellys Farm, Walpole St. Peter, after collision with another one piloted by Sgt F. Pokorny during dogfight practice. Sgt Pokorny managed to make a crash landing and was only slightly injured but on 10th April 1942 he died as a member of No. 313 Squadron being shot down near Gravelines by Fw 190 from II/JG 26.
Our next stop was in Honington where we visited the All Saints Churchyard where are buried 7 Czechoslovak airmen, members of No. 311 Squadron, in one row, side by side.
The first caualties buried there became P/O Miloslav Vejrazka who died in the mornign of 17th October 1940 while his Wellington run out of fuel and the crew baled out. The next two, Sgt Karel Lang and Sgt Oldrich Tosovsky died on the same day while on a training flight. They were flying too low, flew into HT cable and crashed in flames near Needham Market, Norfolk.
On 20th December 1940 there were buried 3 crewmemebrs of Wellington which crashed on 16th December on take off for Mannheim fully loaded by patrol and bombs... Only three airmen escaped from burning wreckage and Sgt Jan Krivda, P/O Jaromir Toul and Sgt Jiri Janousek found their final rest place in Honington.
The last one was AC2 Jindrich Liebold, member of Ground Staff who got killed on 5th January 1941 by splinter of enemy bomb while trying to reach the shelter...
East Wretham Cemetery
The second cemetery in East England with graves of No. 311 Squadron airmen is St. Ethelbert Churchyard in East Wretham where was the satelite base of Honington. There are buried at all 12 Czechoslovak airmen, sadly only one of them was operational loss.
First four were Sgt Frantisek Dusek, Sgt Milan Stocek, P/O Stanislav Zeinert and P/O Miloslav Svic. Their Wellington swung on take off for training flight, stalled, hit trees and overturned in Langham on 25th May 1941. First two died instantly, P/O Zeinert next day in hospital and P/O Svic on 4th June 1941.
On 4th March 1942 Wellington of Sgt Para was attacked by enemy night fighter (Bf 110)and rear gunner Sgt Frantisek Binder was badly wounded and died before landing.
It took only a month before the next casualty was buried there - LAC Jaroslav Bambusek from Ground Staff who died on motorcycle in Bury St. Edmunds, reportedly during German air raid.
Last 6 Czechoslovak airmen resting in St. Ethelbert Churchyard were not members of No. 311 Squadron but No. 1429 Czechoslovak Operation Training Unit. Their Wellington flew into dead-end valley in Wales during training flight in bad weather and crashed: Sgt Rudolf Grimm, Sgt Jindrich Horinek, Sgt Alois Keda, Sgt Jan Stanovsky, P/O Jan Stefek and Sgt Rudolf Vokurka.
Here is one of photos taken on 7th March 1942 on Sgt Binder's funeral with confrontation of present picture of graves plot.
RAF Station East Wretham
After short visit to former RAF Station Honington which is still used as an Army base we moved to RAF East Wretham. Equiped by copy of official map we were able to drive around the former airfield and thanks to the map we got a good image of the former airfield. There are still visible former perimeters etc. but there is not much left from the buildings. We found only one hangar and some old-shaped Nissen Huts.
No. 311 Squadron plaque in Thetford
During our hunting for places connected with No. 311 Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron while serving in East England we can not forget to pay a visit to Thetford. There is placed a memorial plaque dedicated to No. 311 Squadron and killed members of this unit. The plaques was placed on the building wall on the square in 1980 by members of Free Czechoslovak Air Force Association.
Trip to RAF Museum Hendon and to Northwood Cemetery - 13th August 2006
RAF Hendon Museum
Since 2003 I am doing research trips around UK came the right opportunity to visit the RAF Hendon Museum. With my friend Martin we spent there nearly the whole Sunday and I have taken more than 200 photos:-) So here are only very few examples...
Lovely "wooden wonder" - de Havilland Mosquito
Messerschmitt Me 262A-2a
Front turret of "Wimpy" - Wellington Mk. X - one of two last Wellingtons all around the world
Memorial plaque to 50 murdered allied officers who were shot dead by Gestapo after the famous "Great Escape" from Stalag Luft III in Sagan - including the Czech F/Lt Arnošt Valenta.
Airspeed Oxford Mk. I - this type of plane became fatal for 5 Czechoslovak airmen of No. 311 Squadron in Januaray 1945 - Oxford PH404
Hawker Typhoon with invasion stripes.
Westland Lysander - a British army co-operation and liaison aircraft
de Havilland Tiger Moth - British trainer used for elementary pilot training
After visit in RAF Hendon museum we finished our weekend trip in the Northwood Cemetery. This cemetery is known by a big number of Polish graves as a Polish wing operated from near-by station Northolt and 54 Polish airmen are also buried there.
There is buried the most famous Czechoslovak fighter during the Battle of Britain - Sgt Josef Frantisek, DFM & bar.
Near to him rests his fellow Sgt Wilhelm Kosarz. He was born in Czechoslovakia but in 20s moved to Poland and became member of Polish Air Force. With Josef Frantisek, Jaroslav Balejka and Matej Pavlovic they formed the "famous four" during air war in Poland.
Many thanks for driving & companion to Martin Sup.