Kuttelwascher, "Kut" (23 September 1916 -
17 August 1959) was a Czech fighter pilot, a flying ace of the UK's Royal Air Force in World War II.
He was the most successful
RAF pilot of Czech nationality.
Karel Kuttelwascher was born in a village Svatý Kříž
. He joined the Czechoslovak airforce in 1934, became a fighter pilot and served
in the 32nd squadron in Hradec Králové. After Czechoslovakia fell under German occupation
(15 March 1939), he managed to escape to Poland - like many
other Czech airmen.
Then, he departed for France in July,
with a majority of Czech airmen.
In France, the Czech airmen, including Kuttelwascher, were
initially enlisted in the Foreign
. After World War II broke out and France declared war on
Germany on 3 September 1939, the French started to use Czech pilots
properly. On 17 May 1940, Kuttelwascher was assigned to the French
GC III/3 fighter squadron, flying a MS.406
, then a D.520
fighter. It is unclear whether he
achieved any victories in France or how many. Incomplete French
documents do not confirm any victories, but Kuttelwascher claimed
he destroyed or damaged several enemy aircraft. His most likely
score is two team victories and one probable individual victory.
France fell, GC III/6 squadron was withdrawn to Algiers.
Kuttelwascher left the French service there
on 1 July and got to Britain by
In Britain, Kuttelwascher was assigned to No. 1
on 3 October 1940 with a rank of Sergeant. At the
time, the squadron was moved from southern England, so
Kuttelwascher did not participate in the Battle of Britain
. In December the
squadron was moved to RAF Northolt and flew combat missions over northern
On 8 April 1941, Kut made his first confirmed kill -
a Messerschmitt Bf 109
In next two months he added two more. In 1942 he got married in
England and was promoted to Flight
February 1942, No.1 Squadron took part in a bold attack on German
destroyers in the English Channel (the Channel
Then the squadron was assigned to a new type of
operation - 'night intruder' missions over France. These were night
missions by single aircraft with the intent of shooting down German
over their own airfields. Due to lack
in the aircraft, these missions were
undertaken only during a full moon; they were dangerous, demanding
both navigation skill and excellent vision. Kuttelwascher flew a
Mk IIc with
markings JX-E, equipped with additional fuel tanks, which allowed
for 3.5 hours of flying-time. He quickly distinguished himself as
the best night intruder. He shot down his first aircraft on 1 April
1942, a (Ju 88
). On the night of 4 May/5, he
shot down three Heinkel He 111
bombers in one flight. In three months of No 1 Sqn's night intruder
actions, Kuttelwascher shot down 15 aircraft and damaged five, from
a squadron total of 21 claimed shot down.
On 8 July 1942, Kuttelwascher was assigned to No. 23
flying a de
for night intruder missions, but did not
meet any more enemy. In October 1942 he was withdrawn from combat
flying and assigned to staff work in the Czechoslovak Air
Inspectorate in London. In June 1943 he was sent on a six-month
mission to the United
States When he came back he was assigned to No.
Maintenance Unit, where he served until the end of the war.
Karel Kuttelwascher claimed 18 confirmed air victories during the
war, which was the highest tally of any Czech pilot (followed by
Sgt. Josef František
his kill count may have been higher - a number of 20 is often
quoted (with two aircraft shot down in 1940). Karel Kuttelwascher
was also the RAF's best night intruder and 6th best night fighter
(it must be noted that others flew mostly radar-equipped aircraft).
He was awarded the Czechoslovak War Cross 1939
five times, as well as the Distinguished Flying
with Bar, and the Croix de
After the war
After the war, Kuttelwascher returned to Czechoslovakia in August
1945, but quickly emigrated again when the communists came to
. He settled in Britain and became an airline pilot for
British European Airways
Kuttelwascher became a naturalised British citizen in January 1956
when he was described as a salesman. He died on 17 August
1959, while on holiday in Cornwall, of a heart attack.
- Brown, Alan. Airmen In Exile, The Allied Air Forces in
WWII. Stroud, UK: Sutton Publishing, 2000. ISBN
- Darlington, Roger. Night Hawk: the Biography of Flight
Lieutenant Karel Kuttelwascher, DFC and Bar, the RAF's Greatest
Night Intruder Ace. London: William Kimber, 1985. ISBN
- Liskutin, M.A. Challenge In The Air: A Spitfire Pilot
Remembers. London: William Kimber, 1988. ISBN
- Mason, Francis K. The Hawker Hurricane IIC.
Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1965.