The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. M J Mansfeld
Miroslav Jan Mansfeld was born on 14th December 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 1st October 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 S16s. 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 2nd June 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 21st June 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 3rd September 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 18th May Mansfeld ferried an aircraft to Bastia and flew on to Oran. After Italy declared war on 10th June, he went to Casablanca, took a ship to Gibraltar, from where he sailed in a convoy to Liverpool, arriving there on 12th July.
After RAF induction and kitting out at Cholmondley Park and Cosford, Mansfeld went to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 29th September 1940 and, after converting to Hurricanes, he joined 111 Squadron at Dyce on 6th October. Mansfeld shared in the destruction of a He111 on 13th November and damaged another on 27th January 1941. He was posted to 54 OTU Church Fenton on 24th April on Blenheims and Oxfords, to train for night-fighting duties.
Commissioned in June 1941, Mansfeld joined 68 Squadron at High Ercall on 17th July. He destroyed two He111s and probably a third on 12/13th October, destroyed two He111s and shared a Do217 on 30th April 1942.
He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 10th July 1942). Mansfeld destroyed a Do217 on 10/11th December, probably sank a flak-equipped E-boat on 18th February 1943 and destroyed a Ju88 on 15/16th March.
With his tour finished Mansfeld was posted to 51 OTU Twinwood Farm on 16th May as an instructor. He returned to operations on 10th October 1943, when he rejoined 68 Squadron, then at Coltishall, as a Flight Commander and with his original navigator.
On 14/15th May 1944 Mansfeld destroyed two Do217s and on 27th July and 24th October he shot down V1s at night. He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 21st May 1945).
Mansfeld returned to Czechoslovakia on 16th August 1945 and rejoined the Czech Air Force. After pressure from the Communists after 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 30th September 1958 as a Squadron Leader.
He died in October 1991.
Mansfeld is buried alongside many of his Czech comrades at Brookwood.