Operation: Circus 157
Date: 05th May 1942 (Tuesday)
Unit: No. 122 Squadron (motto: Victuri volamus - 'We fly to conquer')
Type: Spitfire Vb
Base: RAF Hornchurch, Essex
Location: Hardifort, France
Pilot: Sq/Ldr. František Fajtl 82544 RAFVR Age 20. Evaded capture
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off around 14:30 hrs to escort 6 226 Squadron Boston Bombers from RAF Swanton Morley. 3 Spitfire squadrons take part in this operation to Lille 64,122 and 313 squadron. Two of the Bostons returned early due to mechanical problems and due to cloud cover the remainder could not complete the operation and returned to base.
The 12 squadron Spitfires from 64 squadron also returned safely.
122 and 313 squadron were attacked by 21 Fw.190's and a savage dog fight ensued with the loss of several allied aircraft. Many returned with damaged aircraft.
Sq/Ldr. František Fajtl is understood to shoot down 2 enemy aircraft but he was also hit. He manages to force land BM210 near Hardifort. Given civilian clothes by a French woman plucking grass nearby. He evades capture going over the Pyrenees. Eventually reaching England on the 20th August 1942 and rejoining his unit.
The lucky ones:
Sgt. Edward Smith Hall Aus/403013 RAAF flying unspecified Spitfire Vb suffered engine trouble but managed to bale out over Wilmington in Sussex. He flew with 129 squadron but listed as taking part on this operation. Later served with 452 squadron completing 34 operational sorties.
P/O. Jiri Kuceera flying Spitfire Vb BM209 with 313 squadron managed to return but crash landed at Bennington through low fuel. Survived the war and died on the 24th January 1980 in Czechoslovakia.
P/O. Vaclav Jicha flying Spitfire Vb BM306 with 313 squadron managed to return but crash landed through low fuel. He lost his life on the 01st February 1945 as a passenger on Anson NK945 which crashed in a snow storm. A holder of the DFC and AFC.
Fl/Lt. Baudouin de Hemptinne 82516 RAFVR flying Spitfire Vb BM321 MT-T with Blue section 122 squadron shot during combat but managed to crash land at Dranouter. Although he looked uninjured when found by locals he had died from his injuries.
Sgt. Rolland Albert Joffre Ribout R/82043 RCAF flying Spitfire Vb BM269 MT-N with Blue section 122 squadron was engaged by 2 Fw190's and seen to bale out. Sadly he was too low for the parachute to deploy and he lost his life.
Fl/Sgt. Stacey Douglas Jones 1163585 RAFVR flying Spitfire Vb BM404 MT-A with Yellow section122 squadron also attacked and nose dived into the ground at Provensteenweg near Poperinge. His shooting down was the first on this operation.
Sgt. Karel Pavlík 787431 RAFVR a Czech pilot flying Spitfire Vb BM261 RY-E with Blue section 313 squadron was seen to spiral down from a considerable height and buries itself into the ground. The military tried unsuccessfully to recover his body in 1944 after the area had been liberated. On the 20th August 1946 the body of the pilot was retrieved by the Missing Research and Enquiry Unit. He was found still in the cockpit almost preserved in the clay almost 30 ft underground. The wreckage of the Spitfire was recovered in 1997 by local archeologists.
František Fajtl ended the war and worked his way up to Lieutenant General. Born on the 20th August 1912. Imprisoned by the communists when he returned to Czechoslovakia. Served 17 months in a labour camp at Mirov. He died on the 04th September 2006 in Prague, survived by his wife Hana and two daughters. Further information here.
All except Fl/Sgt. Jones have memorials placed near their crash sites.
Fl/Lt. Baudouin de Hemptinne. Brussels Town Cemetery Belgian Airmen's Field Of Honour. No further details.
Sgt. Rolland Albert Joffre Ribout. Ypres Town Cemetery Extension. 4. A. 42. Son of F. A. and Dora Ribout, of Mattawa, Ontario, Canada
Fl/Sgt. Stacey Douglas Jones. Ypres Town Cemetery Extension. 4. A. 44. No further details
Sgt. Karel Pavlík. Ypres Town Cemetery Extension. 4. A. 41. No further details
Fl/Lt. Vaclav Jicha DFC. AFC. Haddington Roman Catholic Graveyard. Sec. M. Grave 17. No further details
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Valka of Czechoslovakia, other sources as quoted below:
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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