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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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303 squadron crest
08.10.1940 No. 303 Squadron Hurricane I R4175 RF-R Sgt. František DFM bar, VM. CMC

Operation: Patrol

Date: 8th October 1940 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 303 Squadron (Polish) ('Rafałki', 'Kosciuszko Squadron')

Type: Hurricane I

Serial: R4175

Code: RF-R

Base: RAF Northolt

Location: Ewell, Surrey, England

Pilot: Sgt. Josef František DFM bar. VM, KW with 3 bars. 793451 PAF Age 26. Killed

In September 2022 The Polish Air Force Memorial Committee were involved in the new memorial being erected. With thanks to Rodney Byles for updating us.


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.

Above is a well-published photograph of Frantisek. However, it seems to be his head superimposed on the body of another pilot. He never wore the Polish shoulder flashes and he is shown wearing the RAF 1941 Patter Mae West, he would have been wearing the RAF 1932 Pattern. (see below)

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.

Right: Sgt. Josef František DFM bar. VM, KW with 3 bars (archives)

But there is no escaping the fact that this Czech pilot, attached to a Polish squadron, was one of the highest-scoring aces (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.

note: Jiri Rajlich in his book indicates there is no evidence of any victories in France, indeed there isn’t any evidence of combat at all, just some reconnaissance missions.

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 curbstone 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’.

Above: the wonderful new memorial - further details and video here.

Left: original grave marker (courtesy Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow), Right: Grave at Northwood (Any relative who would like a higher resolution photo of the grave, taken by Aircrew Remembered in 2012, please contact us)

Jozef Frentišek: Publisher: ‎ MMPBooks; Anniversary edition (June 29th, 2010)

Language: ‎ English Paperback ‏ : ‎ 120 pages

ISBN-10: ‎ 8389450712

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-8389450715

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.” Sq/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.

Burial Details:

Sgt. Josef František DFM bar. VM, KW with 3 bars. Northwood Cemetery - Middlesex, United Kingdom. Service Section H. Grave 246. Born in Otaslavice, Czechoslovakia on the 7th October 1914. 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.

Acknowledgements, Stuart Wren, Rodney Byles for corrections, 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. Polish Air Force Memorial Committee

KTY 22.09.205 Painting was sent in by David Andrews who commissioned it.

KTY 15.02.2022 - Further details and corrections sent in by Rodney Byles

Pages of Outstanding Interest
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CWGC: Your Relative's Grave Explained •  USA Flygirls •  Axis Awards Descriptions •  'Lack Of Moral Fibre'
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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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