F/O Fajt with his wingman Sgt. Bonisch having returned from a sortie. For some time Frantisek Bonisch flew as an wingman

to Fajtl. Both almost lost lives during the very dangerous mid-air collision which took place on September 18, 1941 over

Portreath airport. Making turn to final approach to the airport (from where the unit was to perform a sweep over France

which was ultimately cancelled) the propeller of Sgt. Bonisch’s Spitfire Mk.IIA P8274 hit the tailplane of the aircraft P7834

(RY-F) Mid Ulster piloted by F/O Fajtl whose vision was blocked by a wing. „Upon landing at the home base I barely escaped

death“ wrote Frantisek Fajtl. Bonisch took a short cut in the traffic pattern and by a single turn got right behind me and his

propeller cut the tail control surfaces of my Spitfire. I felt a sudden shock on my control stick which started to move around

the cockpit like crazy. I tried to take control of it any way I could. I did not know what was happening. I suspected the control

failure and calmed down only when I felt underneath the drag of both main wheels and tail wheel on the solid ground. Luckily

Bonisch turned right and I turned left and the bigger luck was that we collided right above the ground. „Baggers“, was the

only Sinclair’s comment (British commander of 313 Squadron, S/Ldr Gordon L. Sinclair) upon arriving in his car at two

silent aircraft waiting to be towed away. He failed to offer us a ride in his empty four seat hilman so we walked all the way

to dispersal. Bonisch received a strickt reprimand for an unauthorized cutting short of the traffice pattern by single turn and

warning of the future breach of the flight discipline. The accident was qualified as a light damage of two airplanes however

our unit’s reputation sufferend in the eyes of the whole group. (author’s collection).

Sgt. Frantisek Bonisch (* April 4, 1913, Prchalov, + February 23, 1942, Thames delta at Shoeburyness).

He was killed during the convoy patrol sortie while flying low over water he hit the surface. His Spitfire

Mk.VB AD391 (RY-H) bounced the water twice and then disintegrated on one of the sea shallows barely

1500 meters from the shore. „...at 10:25 operations room (F/Lt Burger) is inquiring if Butcher aircraft

are OK“, we can read about the event in the squadron diary. We are not receiving from yellow 2 (W/O

Bonisch). Yellow 1 (F/Lt Hajek) keeps calling yellow 2 with no results. F/Lt Burger is reporting that he received the report that one airplane crashed into the sea a stated its position. After about 10 minutes search

red 1 (F/Lt Fajtl) found the crashed Spitfire on one of the sea shallows approximately 6 miles south east

from Southend. The aircraft was broken into several pieces and pilot’s motionless body hanging over the

Spitfire fuselage. The operations room took the accurate position by pip-squeak and reported that rescue

boat will reach the location shortly.“

The search and rescue started immediately and several boats set sail towards the the place of the accident.

The sailors on the boat that reached the destination first observed that pilot’s motionless body with a

fractured skull is hanging out of the cockpit but their vessel got stuck on the shallow. Her commander,

Captain E.C.Cordeaux, OBE, DSO, at that time already 56 years old veteran of Jutland, Gallipoli, Norway and Dunkerque acted exeptionally bravely. He knew that every minute counts between life and death.

He jumped into the ice cold water. Half swimming, half wading he rushed to give Czech pilot a first aid.

The struggle with Thames‘ February waters took twenty minutes until he could reach the wreck. It was too

late. The medical report states that W/O Bonisch suffered the skull fracture and was already deceased.

Gallant Cordeaux himself had to be brought to a hospital since it was almost a miracle he survived forty

minutes in the ice cold water. W/O Bonisch was burried in Hornchurch cemetery on February 28, 1942.

22 eduard

INFO Eduard - January 2021