Sunday, 9 January 2011

No. 312 Squadron RAF

No. 312 Squadron RAF was a Czechoslovakian-manned fighter squadron of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.

It was first formed at Duxford in July 1940, equipped with Hurricane I fighters and crewed mostly by escaped Czechslovakian pilots. Its first victory was a Junkers Ju 88 above Liverpool by Alois Vašátko, Denys Gillam and Josef Stehlík on 8 October 1940.

Alois Vašátko DSO DFC (25 August 1908, Čelákovice, Czechoslovakia – 23 June 1942) was a Czech fighter pilot.

After graduating from a teacher's institute, he became a teacher in Litoměřice. A couple of months later he was drafted into the army. He finished his military service in 1929 and started studies at several army institutes. During the years 1937–1938, he attended pilot training in Olomouc, and in March 1939 he became an active pilot.

Following the first dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the annexation of Bohemia and Moravia by Nazi Germany, he fled the country. He travelled to France via Poland and after re-training at a fighter school at Chartres he joined Groupe de Chasse I/5. Flying a Curtiss 75, he shot down fifteen airlplanes (shared kills included). He became the most successful Czechoslovak fighter pilot in the Battle of France.

After the retreat from France Vašátko took part in the Battle of Britain. He joined 312. (Czechoslovak) Squadron and together with Denys Gillam and Josef Stehlík scored its first victory, as they downed a Junkers Ju 88 above Liverpool on 8 October 1940.

On 5 June 1941 he was promoted to the position of Squadron Leader and on 30 May 1942 he became Wing Commander of the newly created Czechoslovak Fighter Wing. Together with Josef František and Karel Kuttelwascher Vašátko is one of the most successful Czech fighter pilots. He was killed in action in June 1942, when he crashed into the sea after a dogfight with Fw 190s, colliding with the aircraft of Unteroffizier Wilhelm Reuschling from 7 staffel, Jagdgeschwader 2.

Vašátko had been awarded many Czechoslovak and Allied orders and medals, including French Legion d’honneur – Chevalier, Croix de Guerre with seven palms, two golden stars and one silver star and the British Distinguished Flying Cross (D.F.C.), which he received on the day of his death.

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