Spitfires over Europe
No.313 (Czechoslovak) Squadron, RAF
Part Two: The Spitfire Mk.IIa
P/O Vaclav Jicha in front of his Spitfire Mk.IIa P8367
(RY-E) at Portreath airbase. (author’s collection via V. Kruta)
The air base at Portreath, to where No.313 Squadron relocated from Leconfield on August 26th, 1941, was located on the coast of the southern English
County of Cornwall, about 20km northwest of the port of Falmouth. It was
situated on a coastal cliff three hundred feet above the ocean and had four
asphalt runways. ‘Particular attention needed to be paid to Runways Number 3
and 4, which ended abruptly at the cliff overhanging the ocean.,’ recalled Frantisek Fajtl. ‘Crashing into the rocks or the rough waters down below would not end
particularly well for neither pilot nor airplane.’ 1
No.313 Squadron, newly based and converted onto the Spitfire Mk.IIa,
were integrated into the higher level Portreath Wing. During the timeframe
spanning from August to October, 1941, it was composed of the following:
No.66 Squadron at Perranporth (commanded by S/Ldr Athol S. Forbes, DFC),
No.130 Squadron at Portreath (S/Ldr C. J. Donovan) and No.313 Squadron,
also at Portreath (S/Ldr Gordon L. Sinclair, DFC and S/Ldr Josef Jaske). Each
of these three squadrons that made up the Wing were equipped with the
Spitfire Mk.IIa. They also worked quite often together with No. 263 Squadron,
at the time flying out of Charmy Down with the twin-engined Whirlwind Mk.I.
The national flag was flown at the bases from which
the Czechoslovak squadrons operated.
AUTHOR: JIŘÍ RAJLICH
The Portreath Wing was commanded by the experienced fighter pilot and ace
from New Zealand, W/Cdr Minden V. Blake, DFC.
Portreath conducted offensive operations against targets in Brittany and
Normandy in occupied France. No. 10 Fighter Group, which was a component
unit, had a total of four Wings: Portreath, Exeter, Ibsley and Middle Wallop,
which supported one another during similar operations, and No.313 Squadron
would soon take part. It conducted its first fighter sweep over enemy territory
on August 31st, 1941. Eleven Spifire Mk.IIa fighters took off from Portreath at
0930h, led by S/Ldr Gordon L. Sinclair, DFC. Soon after, the pilots set down
at Predannack, which was the starting off point for the entire action known as
Gudgeon 4. Take off for France occurred at 1415h. The task of the squadron
was to fly rear cover for six Blenheim Mk.IV bombers that were to attack an
airfield at Lannion. This responsibility of the Wing also involved the participation of No.130 and No.263 Squadrons.
No.313 Squadron Spitfires circled at an altitude of 4,500m and at a distance of 30km off the French coast. They then safely escorted their charges
home. Landing occurred at 1545h. No enemy aircraft were encountered, and
so No.313 Squadron conducted their first sweep without having fired off a
single shot. 2
A sweep that was conducted on September 28th, 1941, was a substantially
more dramatic affair. On this occasion, the unit was escorting a quartet of
No.263 Squadron Whirlwind Mk.Is on an offensive mission dubbed Mandolin.
This time, the target was an airfield at Morlaix, about 52km northeast of Brest.
This mission also required the escorting Spitfires to take part in the actual
attack on the target.
The Whirlwinds left the ground at 1415h from Portreath, followed five minutes later by the Spitfires.
A heading of 154o put them in line with Morlaix, just past the horizon. The
purpose of the mission was to take out reconnaissance Ju 88s based there.
These enemy assets were making life difficult for the British Royal Navy, flying
reconnaissance missions over the Bay of Biscay and relaying positional information to German submarines.
INFO Eduard - January 2021