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Spitfire Groundcrew

by stoke_on_trentlibs

Contributed by 
stoke_on_trentlibs
People in story: 
Mr Henry Schermer
Location of story: 
Countrywide
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A2815625
Contributed on: 
07 July 2004

During the second world war I was a member of Fighter Squadron 310 of the Czech Wing of the Royal Air Force. Previous to this I was part of a Czech army unit.
I was part of the ground personel crew who worked on the maintenance of the Spitfires.
My squadron was moved around the country, we were first stationed at St Aston Glamorgan near to Cardiff.
I remember when we were stationed near to Chicester our uniforms were sent to the village laundry - and this laundry was hit by a German doodlebug.
In preparation for D-Daythe Spitfires were fitted with one bomb (it was fitted in the fusalage instead of fuel)
Squadrons were then sent out on target practice.Units including 310,312,313 and French Norwegian units were returning to base when they were wrongly identified as enemy planes and were shot at by our ground crew. We lost three or four pilots, all of whom had a lot of flying experience having flown at least three tours of duty. Two Spitfires collided in mid-air.
As a unit we never really recovered from this. We were assigned older Spitfires and our orders were to chase and shoot down doodlebugs which were trying to cross the channel.
In preparation for D-Day we spent 6 months in the South of England under canvas cover.
Hygiene was poor and many soilders suffered skin disorders. As D-Day approached sorties increased to 3 a day for most pilots. The Guns had to be stripped down, cleaned and exchanged. This was highly specialist work as the guns had to be realigned preciseley for exact target firing. Many guns needed maintenance three times a day to prevent rust.
Mechanics and pilots were elite and had come from Norway, Czechoslovacia and Poland.
The Czech airforce had been smuggled into Poland and hidden form the German Troops.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - St Athan

Posted on: 08 July 2004 by mehefin

Hi
read your story with interest. Can you tell me when you were stationed at StAthan. My Dad helped to build the station in the late 1930's , and my wife works there now as part of the MOD staff.
Regards

Derek

 

Message 2 - St Athan

Posted on: 04 August 2004 by jaspiongitburna

Stationed in St Athan from end of June 1943 to December 1943.The Czechoslovak unit was fairly independent but had only its own officers mess-other ranks used the sation's facilities.

Medical provision partly Czech ( GP and Dental some of the time - a mobile unit moved between the RAF stations which at any time housed a Czech unit - this was donated by Czechs living in Canada) but we also used the station's hospital.

While I was in St Athan, a competitive sports day took place - the Czechs being hugely successful.It was not exactly a replica of the Olympic Games, for instance one discipline was a cycle race. At this point I must give you some background info:

There was a German minority in pre-war Czechoslovakia, mostly for Hitler. But a minority among them wre against him and the activists among them had to flee the country with their families. It was from among these families that two boys volunteered to serve in the Czech forces. There as no obligation, Czech nationals of whatever ethnicity were not called up for military service in Britain (those living in France however were called up before the fall of France).

Even though volunteers, these two would never have had the chance to be trained as air crews - it would have been too great an honour. But they acheived first and second places in a number of disciplines and the Wing Commander in charge of the Czech Unit relented. I never found out whether they survived the patrol duties over the Bay of Biscay in search for U-Boats, which was what the Czech 311 squadron did as part of Coastal Command.

Mr Henry Schermer

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