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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. K M Kuttelwascher

 

Karel Miroslav Kuttelwascher was born in Svaty Kriz, on the northern border of Czechoslovakia, on 23rd September 1916. He left secondary school, did three years at a commercial school and at seventeen went to work as a clerk at a flour-milling company near Prague.

He joined the Czech Air Force on 1st October 1934 and after finishing his training in March 1937 he was posted to No. 1 Aviation Regiment. After the German occupation in March 1939 Kuttelwascher decided to escape from Czechoslovakia and on the night of 13th/14th June 1939 he crossed the border to Poland. He took a train from Cracow to Gdynia on 25th July and boarded a Swedish ship for France, arriving at Calais on 1st August.

The only unit open to foreigners at that time was the Foreign Legion and Kuttelwascher sailed from Marseilles to Oran and went by train to Sidi-bel-Abbes, the Legion HQ. With the declaration of war by France and England he was released in October 1939 and inducted into l'Armee de l'Air.

After training at the Fighter Training School at Chartres he joined Groupe de Chasse III/3 at Beauvais/Tille on 18th May 1940. Flying the MS406 he was soon in action. He trained on the D520 at Toulouse just before the French collapse. Kuttelwascher claimed to have destroyed six German aircraft during the May/June fighting.

He flew to Algiers then with nine other Czechs took a train to Casablanca on 5th July 1940. They went to Gibraltar in a British cruiser and sailed from there to Cardiff, arriving on 5th August. He was processed into the RAF as a Sergeant-Pilot on 14th September and was posted to 5 OTU Aston Down to convert to Hurricanes.

 

 

On 3rd October Kuttelwascher joined No. 1 Squadron at Wittering. He claimed a Me109 probably destroyed on 2nd February 1941 and destroyed three more on 8th April, 21st May and 27th June. He was commissioned in October, promoted to Acting Flight Lieutenant and appointed 'A' Flight Commander on 14th February 1942.

No. 1 Squadron began night intruder operations on 1st April and on that night Kuttelwascher destroyed a Ju88 as it took off from Melun and damaged another.

He claimed Do217's on 16th/17th and 26th/27th April, another Do217 and a He111 on the 30th/31st, three He111's on 4th/5th May, a Do217 on 2nd/3rd June, a He111 and a Do217 on the 3rd/4th, a Ju88 and another damaged on the 21st/22nd, a Do217 on the 28th/29th and two Do217's and another damaged on 1st/2nd July.

Kuttelwascher was awarded the DFC (gazetted 20th May 1942) and Bar (gazetted 1st July 1942).


On 9th July he was posted to 23 Squadron at Ford. He began flying Mosquitos on night intruder operations but without success. He was awarded the Czech Military Cross (gazetted 11th August 1942).

 

His portrait was made by Eric Kennington (above).

 

Kuttelwascher went to 42 Group, Maintenance Command on 1st October 1942 to act as liaison with the Czech Inspectorate General. He was posted to special duties with the Inspectorate on 10th June 1943 and was sent to the USA to recruit Czechs for the RAF, to lecture and to liaise with the USAAF.


Kuttelwascher returned to the UK on 12th December and was posted to 32 MU St. Athan as a member of the Test Flight on 24th January 1944. He flew back to Czechoslovakia on 18th August 1945 and was given the rank of Staff Captain, being based in the military section of Prague airport.

On 21st May 1946 Kuttelwascher resigned from the Czech Air Force and five days later flew back to the UK in an RAF Dakota. He qualified for a commercial licence and joined BEA in November 1946. He flew as First Officer on Vickers Vikings and in 1951 was promoted to Captain.


Kuttelwascher was taken ill on 13th August 1959 whilst on holiday in Cornwall and died of a heart attack just before midnight on the 17th.

He is buried in Uxbridge Cemetery.


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