Text: Michal Krechowski
Illustration: Antonis Karydis
On June 4, 1944, ground personnel from
all three Czechoslovak squadrons of
No. 134 (Czechoslovak) Wing applied white
and black invasion stripes to the wings and
fuselages of their Spitfires. With only two
days to go until one of the biggest events
of World War II, the Allied landing in
Normandy, the paint job was to ensure the
aircraft were quickly identified to avoid being shot by stressed Allied ground troops
or their own aircraft.
The flying commander of No. 134 (Czechoslovak) Wing during Operation Overlord
was Wing Commander Tomáš Vybíral while
the ground operations and administrative
commander of the unit was Wing Commander Jan Čermák. Although he had not
flown operationally regular missions for eighteen months and was not obliged by his
position to conduct operational flights, as
a former commander of No. 312 Squadron
he still occasionally led the unit into several
actions himself. One of these was the action
of June 8, 1944, portrayed by Antonis Karidis on a boxart of the kit of a Spitfire Mk.IXc.
On that day, No.134 (Czechoslovak) Wing
was patrolling over the eastern beach
at Caen as a part of operation Neptune.
No. 312 Squadron was on the east flank
of the patrol when it received a report of
enemy aircraft in the vicinity. At that moment, a routine Czechoslovak fighter mission over Sword Beach turned into a major
air battle. In the process, the pilots scattered a formation of a dozen Focke-Wulfs
Fw 190A tasked with bombing a beach
crowded with Allied troops and equipment.
The result was three destroyed and five
damaged German fighters with no Spitfire
lost. The personal report of W/Cdr Čermák recounts the course of the battle itself:
“I was flying BLUE 1 in 312 squadron on
patrol on the east flank of the beaches at
3000 ft. At 1330 we were turning 10 miles N.E. of Caen when I saw black smoke
from bomb bursts on the beach. About six
Fw 190 then flew south from this position at
2,000 feet climbing to cloud. I dived down
on one of them coming astern at 500 yards.
As I closed to 350 I gave a very short burst.
He at once climbed more steeply and at
3,000 bailed out near Mezidon. I now turned
on a second giving a short burst from 400
yards decreasing. Black smoke came under
the fuselage from the engine. The E/A then
disappeared into cloud. I claim one Fw 190
destroyed and 1 Fw 190 damaged.”
The scene on the boxart thus depicts the
Spitfire breaking away from the second
stricken Fw 190A, which, according to Čermák’s report, was on fire and found salvation in the clouds. In addition to the two
successes mentioned above, F/O Otto Smik
(No. 310 Sqn) and Sgt. Vítězslav Angetter
(No. 312 Sqn) each recorded one enemy
destroyed. Two damaged were attributed
to F/O Vladimír Kopeček, and one each
to W/O Antonín Škach and F/O František
Mlejnecký. The Spitfire MK244 with fuselage code DU-Z, which W/Cdr Čermák flew
during this action, was the personal aircraft of F/O Jaroslav Šodek, who was flying
it regularly from February to June 1944.
Jaroslav Šodek, a native of Silesian Ostrava, had already fought in France in CG III/9
and CG III/7, then with the Czechoslovak
GCI/6 group. He became a member of the
RAF on July 27, 1940, with the rank of Airman 2nd Class. He was than promoted to
the rank of Sergeant on September 1 and
started conversion on British aircraft. His
route to No. 312 Squadron was via Nos.
32 and 258 Squadron. He served with No.
312 Squadron until February 1945, when he
was reassigned to No. 410 OTU with the
rank of Flight Lieutenant. There he became Squadron Leader and then served as
a flight instructor at No. 57 and No. 58 OTU.
He achieved one kill during the war and after return home he served in the restored
Czechoslovak Air Force. Political developments forced him to emigrate to the UK
for a second time and he spent the rest of
his life there, passing away in 2002. After
1989 he was promoted to the rank of Major
His Spitfire MK244 was taken over by
No. 602 Squadron “City of Glasgow” on July
6, and on August 15, 1944, the MK244 was
hit by the ubiquitous flak near Bernay. Its
pilot, F/Lt A. R. Stewart, bailed out and
was rescued by parachute. However, some
sources state that he was accidentally shot
down by an Allied P-51 Mustang.