08.10.1940 No. 303 Squadron Hurricane I R4175 RF-R Sgt. František DFM bar, VM. CMC
Date: 8th October 1940 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 303 Squadron (Polish)
Type: Hurricane I
Base: RAF Northolt
Location: Ewell, Surrey, England
Pilot: Sgt. Josef František DFM bar. VM. CMC. 793451 PAF Age 27. Killed
July 2017: Various parties are trying to arrange to place a memorial at the crash site of this pilot. We are trying to establish exactly where this is - if you have further information on this - please contact us and it will be passed to the people concerned.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off on a Patrol with 11 other aircraft at 09:00 hrs from RAF Northolt.
11 aircraft return to Northolt but without Josef, he crashed at 09.40 hrs at Cuddington Way in Ewell, Surrey. No accurate information has been established as to the cause of the crash.
Josef had a reputation for being somewhat ill-disciplined in terms of adhering to orders to stay with the squadron, preferring to go off on lone sorties after the initial opening phase of an attack on German formations.
Left: Sgt. Josef František DFM bar, VM. CMC (archives)
But there is no escaping the fact that this Czech pilot, attached to a Polish squadron, was the highest scoring ace (total - 17) of the Battle of Britain.
Monday 2nd September 1940 1 x Bf109E - Near Dover
Tuesday 3rd September 1940 1 x He113 - mid-English Channel
Thursday 5th September 1940 1 x Bf109E - Thameshaven
Thursday 5th September 1940 1 x Ju88 - Thameshaven
Friday 6th September 1940 1 x Bf109E - Sevenoaks
Monday 9th September 1940 1 x Bf109E - Near Beachy Head
Monday 9th September 1940 1 x He111 - Near Beachy Head
Wednesday 11th September 1940 1 x He111 - Horsham area
Wednesday 11th September 1940 2 x Bf109E - Horsham area
Sunday 15th September 1940 1 x Bf110 - South London - Hastings
Wednesday 18th September 1940 1 x Bf109E - West Malling
Thursday 26th September 1940 2 x He111 - Portsmouth
Friday 27th September 1940 1 x Bf110 - Gatwick
Friday 27th September 1940 1 x He111 - Horsham
Monday 30th September 1940 1 x Bf109E - Brooklands
Monday 30th September 1940 1 x Bf109E - Brooklands (probable)
The record František assembled in such a short time could be added to because anecdotally he is said to have 11 more kills during the Battle of France, which would make for a truly amazing achievement. There is some dispute regarding his record in France and we are conducting what research we can to see if we can shed further light.
Above: Hurricane R4175 (courtesy Peter Sikora - July 2017)
Notes: He had escaped with no injuries from two earlier encounters:
1: September 6th 1940 Following combat with Bf 109s over west Kent returned to RAF Northolt damaged. Managed to land Hurricane I R4175, which was later repaired.
2: On the 9th September 1940 during action with Bf109s over Beachy Head crash landed in a cabbage field at Cambridgeshire Farm (Now on the estate of Bevendean Farm) near Falmer at 18.00 hrs. Aircraft, Hurricane I P3975 RF-U, damaged but later repaired. During this day he was credited with 1 x Bf109 and a He111.
Published here for the first time
In December 2014 Mr Stuart Wren, whose father was serving with the Brighton Police force at the time sent us this remarkable and previously untold story:
Stuarts father shown left in the Royal Navy 1945.
'On the previous evening the police station had a report of a serious disturbance in a local pub. My father , a young copper at the time, called to investigate and found all the locals up one end of the bar and a very drunk and threatening man in RAF uniform at the other. When ‘asked to come quietly’ it became apparent that the serviceman did not speak English and furthermore he was not going to do anything quietly. My dad then arrested him for being drunk and disorderly and attempted to get him down to the station. A running fight ensued and at one point my dad remembers rolling in the street with him and beating his head on a kerb stone which eventually subdued him somewhat. He got him eventually to the top of the steps which lead down into the station desk and the serviceman, who was reluctant to go any further, was sent tumbling down the steps, through the swing doors and landed up prostrate in front of the duty sergeant.
Sgt. Frantisek 'The morning after'. Please contact us if you wish to reproduce this photograph. (courtesy Stuart Wren)
He spent the night in a cell and the following day (when the picture was taken) when members of his squadron were able to translate and identify him, he was released. All was forgiven when his record was realised and my dad shook hands and parted on the best of terms. The above photo was taken the ‘morning after’.
Left: original grave marker (courtesy Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow), Right: Grave at Northwood (Any relative who would like a higher resolution photograph of the grave, taken by Aircrew Remembered in 2012, please contact us)
Sqd. Ldr. Kellett, Commanding Officer 303 Squadron during the Battle of Britain said this of his comrades in his Chronicle, kindly provided to us by his daughter Louise Pemberton:
“We fought together through the great offensive of 1940 and I then knew that the pilots of No. 303 Squadron were not only the best but would also see me through any troubles. In the month of September, 303 Squadron was on top – no squadron from the Empire could equal the courage and skill of our pilots, no bombing could daunt our airmen.” S/Ldr Ronald Kellett 303 Squadron Chronicles
Right: A painting commissioned by David Andrews and painted by the Czech artist Vladimir Urbanek who went on to produce some 600 limited edition prints of this.
Sgt. Josef František DFM bar, VM. CMC. Northwood Cemetery - Middlesex, United Kingdom. Service Section H. Grave 246. Born in Otaslavice, Czechoslovakia on the 7th October 1913. An experienced pilot having flown in the Czechoslovak Air Force as a fighter pilot from 1938. After the fall of his country escaped to Poland and then subsequently England via Romania and France. Posthumously promoted to 1st Lt in 1945.
Acknowledgments, Stuart Wren, Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses' Vol's 1. Christopher Shores and Clive Williams ‘Aces High’. Aircrew Remembered archives. Winston G. Ramsey - ‘Battle of Britain, Then and Now’. Also to Peter Sikora for his assistance into this loss and photograph. Louise Pemberton for further details.