The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. M J Mansfeld
Miroslav Jan Mansfeld was born on December 14th 1912, the son of a soldier who died of cholera fighting in Poland in 1914. He worked as an apprentice automobile engineer, finishing at the Skoda works in Prague. On October 1st 1930 Mansfeld joined the Czech Air Force as a cadet. After completing his flying training, he joined the 6th Air Regiment at Prague-Kbely, flying Letov S16’s. He later moved to the Aviation Research Institute on testing duties. In 1937 Mansfeld went to the Soviet Union to collect an ANT-40 (later the SB-2) bomber, a job he did six times in all. The aircraft later went into production in Czechoslovakia as the Avia B 71. Mansfeld continued test duties until early 1939, when he was assigned to the General Staff. After the German take-over in March he went back to testing. On June 2nd 1939 Mansfeld and five others went by train to Ostrava in civilian clothes, crossed the border into Poland and on the 13th formally signed on for the French Foreign Legion, the only unit open to foreigners. The group sailed from Poland to Dover, where they re-embarked for France.
On June 21st they were at Balard Barracks in Paris, subsequently moving to Marseille and then crossing to Oran. Mansfeld reached Sidi Bel Abbes and became Legionnaire 84471. One of the conditions of enlistment was that in the event of war the Czechs would be transferred to the Armee de l'Air. They left for Marseille on September 3rd 1939 and in late November Mansfeld was doing flying training at Chateauroux, as a Corporal-Chef. In February 1940 he went to a Bloch 210 bomber squadron. On May 18th Mansfeld ferried an aircraft to Bastia and flew on to Oran. After Italy declared war on June 10th, he went to Casablanca, took a ship to Gibraltar, from where he sailed in a convoy to Liverpool, arriving there on July 12th.
After RAF induction and kitting out at Cholmondley Park and Cosford, Mansfeld went to 6 OTU, Sutton Bridge on September 29th 1940 and, after converting to Hurricanes, he joined 111 Squadron at Dyce on October 6th. Mansfeld shared in the destruction of a He111 on November 13th and damaged another on January 27th 1941. He was posted to 54 OTU, Church Fenton on April 24th on Blenheims and Oxfords, to train for night-fighting duties. Commissioned in June 1941, Mansfeld joined 68 Squadron at High Ercall on July 17th. He destroyed two He111’s and probably a third on October 12/13th, destroyed two He111’s and shared a Do217 on April 30th 1942. He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 10th July 1942). Mansfeld destroyed a Do217 on December 10/11th, probably sank a flak-equipped E-boat on February 18th 1943 and destroyed a Ju88 on March 15/16th.
With his tour finished Mansfeld was posted to 51 OTU, Twinwood Farm on May 16th as an instructor. He returned to operations on October 10th 1943, when he rejoined 68 Squadron, then at Coltishall, as a Flight Commander and with his original navigator. On May 14/15th 1944 Mansfeld destroyed two Do217’s and on July 27th and October 24th he shot down V1’s at night. He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 21st May 1945).
Mansfeld returned to Czechoslovakia on August 16th 1945 and rejoined the Czech Air Force. After pressure from the Communistsafter the 1948 putsch, he again left his country, this time for Germany, where he lived in a camp before rejoining the RAF in Britain in early August 1948 as an AC2.
Recommissioned in October 1948 he was awarded the AFC (gazetted 1st January 1953) and retired on September 30th 1958 as a Squadron Leader. He died in October 1991.
He is buried alongside many of his Czech comrades at Brookwood.