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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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122
05th May 1942 122 Squadron Spitfire Vb BM210 Sq/Ldr. Fajtl

Operation: Circus 157

Date: 05th May 1942 (Tuesday)

Unit: No. 122 Squadron (motto: Victuri volamus - 'We fly to conquer')

Type: Spitfire Vb

Serial: BM210

Code: MT-F

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.

Casualties:

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.

Burial details:

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

Later:

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:

KTY 16-05-2021

Acknowledgements: 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', 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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