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

Decals (www.dkdecals.cz)





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