Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Czech Six

Looking for an article this week I started looking at something completely different, however, on one document I found the hint of a brilliant story. I was originally trying to find details of a wellington that suffered a mishap on a bombing mission, when google lead me to this document, which is worth a read of itself.

 In it there is a brief account of a fighter sweep over Belgium, which reads:

'One Hurricane was intercepted near Hazebruck by four Me. 109's, one of which was destroyed, but the combat was carried out at such a low level that the tail of the Hurricane hit the ground and the aircraft crashed through a high-tension cable.'

Which all sounds very exciting, so I switched to that. However, after a few hours work I had only the barest pieces of information. The Hurricane belonged to 601 Squadron, and was flown by Flight Sergeant Frantisek Mares, who was born in LibÄ›tice, in Czechoslovakia in  July 1919. How he got to the UK I have not been able to find out, indeed the above incident is the first concrete mention of him I can find. As part of 601 sqdrn he would have taken off from RAF Northolt on the 12th of April 1941. There were a large number of squadrons involved in this fighter sweep, as there are records indicating quite a lot of planes got shot down in that area, and F/s Mares found himself alone, and then set upon by the BF109's.

Hurricane at low level, although it is in Burma

What is interesting is there appears to be no record of how he got back to the UK. At first I thought it might be through escape lines such as the Comet Line. However, they do not appear to have been operating at this time. I did find one source that suggested his plane crashed in the channel, and if so he may have been picked up by the RAF Search and Rescue operation, if so he was one of the lucky ones. It maybe this exploit was how he won his Distinguished Flying Medal. F/s Mares is also reported as being injured on this mission.

On the 10th of August 1941 601 Sqdrn was converted to P-39 Airacobra's, the only such RAF squadron in the UK to do so, and F/s Mares was one of the first to fly the plane. They used it operationally for a few missions before it was pulled from service a month or two later, and the squadron was back to Hurricanes.

A 312 sqdrn Spitfire all marked up ready for D-day

In March the Squadron converted to Spitfires, a month later they were sent to north Africa. However, F/s Mares did not go with them, he transferred to No 312 Squadron, which were still on Spitfires. At 1908 on the 23rd of June, 1942, No 312 sqdrn was scrambled to intercept a German raid, however, while taxiing  F/s Mares' plane rammed that of Pilot Officer Staihavka, writing both planes off, although neither pilot was harmed. Later in 1942 he took part in the Dieppe raid, providing air cover for the operation.

A Spitfire ready for the Dieppe raid, with the first rendition of invasion stripes.

After that we have no further information on his war career. There are snippets that suggest his war ended in 1942, or that eventually he'd end up with 610 Squadron. One source suggests that he was credited with one kill, and four assists. After the war he appears to have remained in the UK joining the RAF volunteer reserve in May 1946. He is recorded as dying in 2008 in Yelverton in the UK.

I have been told he has a memoir called Mission Accomplished about his war time experiences, however, I've not got a copy of that. 

So for our benefit, does anyone have a copy? Or can anyone fill in the blanks for us? This is really just idle curiosity, as it seems like a hell of a story, especially the 4vs1 low level dogfight over Belgium.



It's been pointed out to me in the comments by some kind sole who is unknown, that F/s Mares was interviewed by the IWM. His recordings can be found here:


The 4v1 dogfight starts at 27mins 30 seconds of Reel three, and continues on Reel 4.


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Image Credits:

www.asisbiz.com, www.wingsinexile.co.uk and www.flying-tigers.co.uk