Spitfire LF Mk.Vb BL767 “RY-D” flown by P/O
Josef Pipa during the operation Starkey
place. 11th Group was enforced by the squadrons
from 10th, 12th, and 13th Groups as well as TAF
(Tactical Air Force). Also, three Coastal Command Beaufighter squadrons were transferred
to the south. To support the operation the Bomber Commander assigned some Stirling and Wellington squadrons, both combat as well as OUT
ones for night bombing raids and USAAF contributed its fair share in the form of B-17, B-24 and
B-26 for daytime bombing. The weather caused
one day delay. On September 9, 1943, some 355
empty vessels grouped in Dungeness area and
set sail for Boulogne. Close to the coast however
they made the pre-planned turn by hundred and
eighty degrees and under the smoke screen
started their return.
And the enemy? Germans basically laughed at
the whole effort. Not a single gun fired at the
ships, not a single aircraft took off. Luftwaffe did
not take the bait, not even during the preparation
stage perhaps the only exception being engagement of the American 8th Army heavy bombers.
There was a loss of life of the French civilian
population however, around fine hundred people
perished during the bombing raids. The Allies
however learned quite many important facts and
applied the knowledge during the real invasion
nine months later.
A little bit different stripes
During the operation Starkey the friend-foe,
black and white recognition stripes were used
for the first time. They were applied to the aircraft that on September 9 were scheduled to
perform the low-level combat missions. They looked differently that those well-known from the
later invasion in Normandy.
Up until now no book or other publication dedicated to the Czechoslovak pilots’ in Britain mentioned their participation in this mock operation.
Truth is, that in the middle of August No. 313
Squadron, after its recuperation and flying patrols in the north above Orkneys, was transferred
to Hawkinge airport which was under 11th Group
of the Fighter Command jurisdiction. Therefore,
as a part of the Hawkinge Wing, the squadron
participated in the combat missions during the
operation Starkey. During this combat sorties,
thanks to its commander S/Ldr Jaroslav Himr,
“three-hundredth-thirteen” was credited with
one aerial kill.
Thanks to the photographs from the archive of
the No. 313 Squadron technical officer, Karel Beinhauer, five rather poor-quality photographs
survived, and we have a unique opportunity to
see the Czechoslovak Spitfires with “a bit different stripes” thanks to them. They are dated September 9, 1943, with one exception were never
published before and capture No. 313 Squadron
Spitfires at Hawkinge airport carrying the “invasion stripes” on their wings.
Credits: Frantisek Kubicek – side profiles, DK
EDOWEEN 2021 28.10. - 2.11. 2021
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