Czech Fighter Pilots in the RAF

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by silence, Aug 15, 2013.

  1. silence

    silence Active Member

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    I have little knowledge on them other than what little bit Wiki posts.

    Wasn't there initially some reluctance to use them (and other foreign nationals) because of fear that language would cause severe problems in the air?

    Was it the desperate need of Fighter Command for pilots that broke this barrier?

    I'm just curious as to how they were regarded by the RAF. I seem to remember (I don't always trust my memory - too many wild nights in college) that the Free Poles were quite well regarded, if somewhat over-aggressive and risk-taking.

    I also find it interesting that the Poles, Czechs, and Americans all started out as Hurricane squadrons.

    Just basically a heritage (for me) question.
     
  2. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    Wasn't English already the aviation "language" back them?
     
  3. swampyankee

    swampyankee Active Member

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    Well, considering Fighter Command put a double amputee, Douglas Bader, on flight duty, I'd say they were slightly desperate.
     
  4. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    Indeed, swampyankee. Putting in the balance guys who know how to fly, and who know how to talk your language, the former was way better. lol
     
  5. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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  6. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Reservations, yes. On July 14th 1940 a meeting was held to discuss the integration of "foreign" pilots into Fighter Command. Dowding expressed strong reservations about "the infiltration of foreign pilots into British squadrons." He was concerned about morale and was not convinced that these pilots would have the "proper fighting spirit." Foreign in this context means Czechs and Poles as he had no problem with French, Belgian, Dutch, American or Norwegian pilots.
    Whatever Dowding's reasons for this opinion it is only fair to say that he renounced it later. By August he was telling Churchill that the Czechs and Poles were "magnificent fighters."

    Fighter Command was in desperate need of qualified combat pilots by September 1940. In the second week of September Fighter Command squadrons averaged only 10 operational pilots out of an establishment of 26. the crucial 11 Group was above average with 19. This dire shortage led to Dowding introducing the much disliked "stabilisation system", feeding squadrons at the sharp end with individual pilots as opposed to rotating squadrons in an out of 10, 11 and 12 Groups. He also established the "C" squadrons which were almost non-operational units. In October 1940 there were 440 non operational pilots at such squadrons, nearly 1/3 of total pilot strength. This dire shortage of trained combat pilots is often overlooked, even in official histories.

    The "Battle of Britain" pamphlet, published during the war by HMSO stated that "the fighter squadrons of the Royal Air Force were indeed stronger at the end of the battle than at the beginning."

    Dowding replied that "whatever the paper return showed, the situation towards the end was extremely critical and most squadrons were fit only for operations against unescorted bombers."

    It is a sad fact that under trained pilots thrown into the fray die. Peter Brothers makes the telling observation that "of the 20 pilots in the pre-war 32 squadron, not one was killed." Training and experience kept them alive. That is precisely what the Czechs and Poles had and Fighter Command needed them.

    If they all started off on Hurricane squadrons it is probably simply because the majority of Fighter Command squadrons were equipped with the type.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  7. pattle

    pattle Member

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    The RAF didn't trust the Czechs and Poles at first partly out practicality and partly out of prejudice. The practically side of it was overcome by the Poles and Czechs learning enough English to communicate with their controllers and other RAF comrades, the prejudice was sorted out when it was realised that the Polish had a better idea of how to shoot down Germans. There was more than one double amputee that fought in the Battle of Britain the other being a Fleet Air Arm Pilot.
     
  8. silence

    silence Active Member

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    Great info guys! Thanks!

    I kinda got a kneejerk reaction that the Poles and Czechs started in Hercs because of prejudice, so they got the workhorse as opposed to the thoroughbred.
     
  9. pattle

    pattle Member

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    They were the new boys, plus there were a lot more Hurricanes available. The Hurricane despite what some people on here say about it being obsolete in the Battle of Britain still shot down a lot of 109's.
     
  10. silence

    silence Active Member

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    I kinda look at them as the more important than Spits in the BoB, if less glamorous.
     
  11. swampyankee

    swampyankee Active Member

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    When I worked at Lycoming, back in the late 1970's, there was a story about one of the managers, who flew for the RAF. He left Austria after Anschluss, and faced some prejudice in the UK, and would certainly have been killed had he been captured, as he was an Austrian Jew.
     
  12. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #12 stona, Aug 16, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2013
    P.B. "Laddie" Lucas wrote "Subject to height (which was critical) there was not a lot to choose between the Spitfire I, Hurricane I, and the Bf 109 E in actual combat." My italics.

    This is reinforced by Douglas Bader who wrote "pilot quality counted for much - much more than most would credit."

    It was Bader's view that lay at the heart of Fighter Command's problems by early September 1940. Of the 231 pilots killed or seriously wounded between 24th August and 7th September about 50 were the more experienced men from 11 Group. These men were less likely to become casualties, but were not of course invulnerable. They were irreplaceable.

    One advantage the Hurricane had over the Spitfire, particularly at the early stages of the battle, was that it was combat ready. At least six Spitfire squadrons still had aircraft with combat altitude restrictions due to gun icing and canopy misting problems.
    The Spitfire also required special maintenance facilities and personnel. These were only initially available at special Spitfire bases, Hornchurch, Duxford, Biggin Hill and Middle Wallop were the first and in that order. A damaged Spitfire which landed at another airfield might need to be dismantled and trained back to its Sector airfield whereas a Hurricane was more likely to be patched up and flown home into action again.
    This situation improved steadily throughout the summer of 1940 but Hurricane serviceability rates remained slightly above those of the Spitfire. Both were good.

    Cheers

    Steve
     
  13. swampyankee

    swampyankee Active Member

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    I remember reading that the Hurricanes, despite (more likely because of) their "primitive" construction technique, had roughly twice the availability (as a fraction of type in inventory) as did the Spitfires during the Battle of Britain.
     
  14. silence

    silence Active Member

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    It looks like the the Herc entered service about a year before the Spit. As well, it only required 2/3 the man-hours of the Spit to build.
     
  15. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    I don't think serviceability rates were as different as that. I don't have the figures to hand but I'll try to dig them out :)
    Cheers
    Steve
     
  16. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    #16 vinnye, Aug 17, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2013
    The RAF adopted a squadron numbering system to cope with the rapid expansion required to accommodate the addition of pilots from other countries.
    They started with 300 and went upwards from there.So,
    Czech squadrons were 310, 311, 312 and 313 (311 was a bomber squadron flying Wellingtons originally).
    Polish squadrons were 300 to 309 and 315 to 318 (303 and 306 were Fighters)
    Dutch were 320 to 322
    Norwegian were 330 to 333
    Greek were 334,335 and 336
    French were 326 to 329 and then 340 to 347
    Belgian were 349 and 350
    Yugoslav 351 and 352.
     
  17. Jenisch

    Jenisch Active Member

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    That's the price you have to pay (the LW had to!) for invade so much countries. lol
     
  18. silence

    silence Active Member

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    The part that confuses me is that the squadron number gives no clue about the type of plane they fly i.e. 310 fly fighters while 311 fly bombers.

    I like the German way: JGxx for fighters, KGxx for bombers, etc. Gives me a clue and God knows I don't have one!
     
  19. vinnye

    vinnye Member

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    #19 vinnye, Aug 17, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2013
    I don't think that the RAF gave too much consideration to the naming of squadrons to reflect their roles?

    Squadrons above 354 - I think were in the Far East / India?
     
  20. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    #20 stona, Aug 17, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2013
    1-199 Regular RAF squadrons, many originally RFC units before April 1918
    200-299 Regular RAF squadrons, many former RNAS squadrons before April1918
    300-309, 315-318 Polish squadrons based in the UK
    310-313 RAF squadrons formed of Czechoslovak personnel
    320-322 RAF squadrons formed of Dutch personnel
    326-329, 340-347 RAF squadrons formed of Free French personnel
    330-334 RAF squadrons formed of Norwegian personnel
    335-336 RAF squadrons formed of Greek personnel
    349-350 RAF squadrons formed of Belgian personnel
    351-352 RAF squadrons formed of Yugoslav personnel
    400-443 RCAF squadrons
    450-467 RAAF squadrons
    485-490 RNZAF squadrons
    500-504 Special Reserve RAF squadrons formed in mid to late 1920s
    510-599 Regular RAF squadrons often performing "second line" tasks
    600-616 Auxiliary Air Force squadrons formed between 1925 and 1938 on a territorial basis
    617-650 Regular RAF squadrons often performing "second line" tasks
    651-666 Regular RAF air observation post squadrons formed of Royal Artillery air crew
    667-695, 1435 Regular RAF squadrons. 1435 originally Malta based flight which retained number when expanded to squadron size
    700-799 FAA second line squadrons
    800-899 FAA front line squadrons. 860 formed of Dutch naval personnel.

    Mostly from "Combat Codes" by Vic Flintham and Andrew Thomas.

    Hope that helps!

    Cheers

    Steve
     
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