Command of the No. 313 Squadron was at the beginning given to S/Ldr Gordon L. Sinclair, DFC, who had

fought with Czech pilots during his previous assignment

as a flight leader of the No. 310 Czechoslovak Squadron

in the course of the Battle of Britain.

Before the sortie to escort a ship convoy. From the left

F/O Josef Richter (intelligence officer), Sgt Rudolf

Ptacek, F/O Frantisek Fajtl and F/Lt John Kilmartin,

DFC. Catterick, June 1941. (author’s collection)

The first Czechoslovak commander of the No. 313 Squadron

was S/Ldr Josef Jaske. In December 1941 he was succeeded

by S/Ldr Karel Mrazek.

intense combat during the Battle of Britain. By September, 1940, he had already accumulated seven kills. He arrived at No.313 Squadron as one of the

first to do so, and this was as early as May 12th, 1941. Thanks to his tendency

to follow regulations to the letter, and for his overall reticence, a quality quite

contrary to those of the Czech pilots, he acquired the nickname ‘White Devil’.

A Flight lead was given to F/Lt Karel Mrazek (who came from No.257

Squadron on May 17th) and to the Brit F/Lt John ‘Iggie’ Kilmartin, DFC (June

4th from No.602 Squadron). Both were experienced veterans of the Battles

of France and Britain. The generally well-liked Kilmartin was then one of the

RAF’s aces with thirteen kills to his credit. Mrazek, among the most capable

of professional Officers of the Czechoslovak Air Force, ultimately went far in

his career. He went on to lead not only the Flight, but took over the Squadron

command after six months, and after another half year, he took over the reigns of the Czechoslovak Air Wing. From the beginning, he named Fajtl as his

Deputy Commander.

The same sort of Czech and Brit co-leadership set up applied to B Flight.

These were F/Lt Jan Cermak (who came from No.312 Squadron on May 19th)

and F/Lt Thomas W. Gillen (June 4th from No.403 Squadron), both coming

with previous combat experience. Other major functions, such as those of Press and Technical Officers, were split equally at first. As it was with the other

three Czechoslovak fighter squadrons in the RAF, the British counterparts to

the Czechoslovak commanders were to withdraw as the command structures

normalized according to RAF requirements. 5

When it came to pilots, it should be said that, although the unit was newly

activated, they were no greenhorns. A large number of them came with Battle of Britain experience, and some even having seen combat in the doomed

Battle of France. It’s ‘rookie’ status only stemmed from its having been newly

activated. 6

On the day of Fajtl’s arrival at No. 313 Squadron it’s first member was killed - Sgt Josef

Gutvald (* December 21, 1911, Trest, + May 25, 1941, Uckerby at Sconton) who had

arrived several days earlier from No. 46 Squadron. He was performing a high altitude

training flight climbing to 7000 m and vectoring to the home base (homing practice).

At 17:30, after twentyfive minutes flight due to the unknown circumstances he crashed

into the ground and perished. Upon impact 1.5 km west of the Sconton railway station

(Yorkshire) his Spitfire Mk.Ia R7163 (RY-S) Bridgewater completely disintengrated into

pieces. Probable cause of a disaster could have been pilot’s loss of consciousess due to

malfunctioned oxygen mask or some other technical fault.

INFO Eduard - DECEMBER 2020

This, however, applied mainly to the pilots. The groundcrew, composed almost entirely of Brits, were fresh recruits. This presented a problem, because

many of the airframe and engine mechanics went through an accelerated and

abbreviated training program and had little to no real world experience.

With the lack of military experience and its associated behaviors and protocols, the Czechoslovak officers were very irritated. However, the situation

did gradually improve. Much of the credit for this goes to the experience

and personality of the chief mechanic, F/Sgt Rogers, who was able meet the

problems faced head on, but very calmly and practically. Within two years,

the situation completely turned around. The originally inexperienced personnel

would become the best team of groundcrew in Fighter Command by 1943!

The first of the Czechoslovak fighter squadrons in the RAF to be equipped

with the Spitfire 7 was No.313. Initial equipment consisted of older Spitfire

Mk.Is armed with eight Colt Browning 7.7mm machine guns and powered by