UA-29106117-1

Second World War Battle of Britain Czech fighter pilot's quadruple Czech War Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Medaille Militaire group awarded to Flight Lieutenant J. Keprt, D.F.C

The outstanding Second World War Battle of Britain Czech fighter pilots quadruple Czech War Cross, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Medaille Militaire group awarded to Flight Lieutenant J. Keprt, D.F.C., Royal Air Force, late Czechoslovakian and French Air Force, credited with 1 kill, 2 shared, 1 probable, and 1 damaged, spanning the fall of France, the Battle of Britain, the Dieppe raid, the Normandy landings and the Arnhem / Nijmegen jumps.        

 

Group of 13: Czechoslovakia: War Cross 1939, with three additional award Linden leaf emblems on ribbon; Czechoslovakia: Bravery Medal, with one additional award Linden leaf emblem on ribbon; Czechoslovakia: Medal of Merit 1st Class, silvered metal type, with Silver Star emblem on ribbon; Czechoslovakia: War Commemorative Medal, with bar: Velka Britanie; Czechoslovakia: Czech Medal 1965, bronze issue; Great Britain: Distinguished Flying Cross, GRI cypher, reverse dated 1945; 1939-1945 Star with Battle of Britain clasp; Air Crew Europe Star with France and Germany clasp; War Medal; France: Medaille Militaire 1870, Third Republic; France: Croix de Guerre avec Palme, reverse dated 1939; France: Croix du Combattant; France: War Commemorative Medal 1939-1945. Mounted court style as worn.

 

Condition: Good Very Fine. 

 

Together with the following quantity of original items and ephemera: Czech Pilot Badge, a wartime one in silver and made by Spink & Son; French Air Force Pilot's Flying Log Book, as issued to Sergent Keprt and covering the period October 1939 to June 1940; Royal Air Force Pilot's Flying Log Book, as issued to Keprt, and covering the period September 1940 to March 1946; an original czech language report for 2nd August 1941 and regarding his crash landing; an original photograph of Keprt, taken as a Pilot Officer with 312 Squadron around the time of the Battle of Britain, wearing Mae West; an original photograph of a crashed German JU-88, taken near Liverpool on 3rd October 1940; an original British Press Photo showing pilots from the 'new Czechoslovak fighter squadron, led by British officers' - this photograph showing the British Commanding Officer together with the flight commanders from the new squadron - Keprt being one of them; an original group photograph taken at 20th Central Gunnery School at Sutton Bridge in July 1943; the original funeral card for Keprt, this dated 1976, and has a printed image of Keprt wearing his medal ribbon bar, taken around the time of the end of the war.

 

Josep Keprt was born in Bruno, Czechoslovakia on 28th June 1910, and was serving with the Czechoslovakian Air Force from 1934 when he completed Fighter Pilot training, joining the 36th Fighter Flight of Air Regiment 2. When the German's annexed the Sudetenland in 1938, he made his escape to France via Poland, where with the outbreak of the Second World War, in September 1939 he joined the French Air Force as a Sergeant Pilot and qualified to fly at the Centre d'Instruction de Chasse No.6 at Chartres airfield from 1st October 1939, becoming operational from 1st December 1939, he was posted to 3 Squadron in the 3rd Group, flying in Morane-Saulnier MS.406 fighter aircraft armed with one 20 mm cannon, these were amongst the most modern fighter's within the Armee de l'Air at the start of the Second World War. 

 

Keprt went on to fly four operational sorties during December 1939, two being photo reconnaissance aircraft protection, one sector patrol between Nancy and Ochey, and an army co-operation flight, with the sortie on the 21st December being the first combat patrol by Czech Pilots flying with the Armee de l'Air. January 1940 saw eight operational sorties, predominantly photo reconnaissance protection in the area of the German border, and February 1940 saw a free chase, zone protection, sector patrols, coverage of artillery units, etc - ten flights in all. During March 1940 Keprt flew 15 operational sorties, including sector patrols, and photo missions.

 

April 1940 saw no operational sorties for Keprt, but soon things would change with the advent of May 1940 and the German advance, the Phoney War had finally ended by mid war through the month. 13th May saw him engage his first enemy aircraft with any visible results, and he claimed a 'shared probable' Heinkel 126 over Monzon, and the next day, the 14th May, he shared in the destruction of a Dornier 17 near Namur. In all Keprt would fly twelve operational sorties during the month of May, ending the month with a tally of one enemy aircraft 'shared probable' and one 'shared destroyed'.

 

June 1940 saw Keprt and the 3rd Squadron, 3rd Group change aircraft type, being equipped with the Dewoitine D.520, a new aircraft which had entered service earlier that year, and was a close match to the latest German aircraft unlike the previous Moraine-Saulnier which had lagged behind. Due to the fluid battle front and the rapid German advance which would culminate in the British Evacuation of Dunkirk later in the month, Keprt and his colleagues were predominately involved in flying their aircraft to new airfields, however he did manage to fly four operational sorties between 3rd and 5th June, and one more on the 15th June (listed as 16th June in 'Those Other Aces', in which he shared in the destruction of a Heinkel 126 over the airfield near Auxerre. This being his final combat sortie with the French Air Force, and following the fall of France, he escaped to the United Kingdom. For his services with the French Air Force, in which period he completed 55 operational sorties in all, and was credited with one enemy aircraft 'shared probable' and two 'shared destroyed' - he was awarded the French Medaille Militaire, and the Croix de Guerre 1939 avec Palme, with the awards of the Croix du Combattant and the War Commemorative Medal 1939-1945 being later awarded after the war. 

 

Keprt joined the Royal Air Force, and after training in British Pilot Proceedures, joined 312 (Czech) Squadron on 5th September 1940 as a Sergeant Pilot (No.787695) flying in Hurricanes. Keprt flew his first scramble on 29th September 1940 around the height of the Battle of Britain, and then on the 11th October flew two further scrambles, followed by another on the 12th October. On the 20th, 21st, 24th, 27th he flew further scrambles, on the 30th October he flew a formation flight, and on the 31st another scramble, this day being the official end of the Battle of Britain. The 1st November saw two further scrambles, followed by a local patrol on the 2nd November, becoming involved in dog fighting at 10,000 feet on 24th November, and then during a standing patrol on the 29th November he damaged a Dornier 17 aircraft at 15.20 in the afternoon south southwest of Liverpool. During this period his squadron was operating from R.A.F. Speke, what is now the John Lennon Airport at Liverpool, with detachments at R.A.F. Penrhos near Pwllheli, Gwynedd, Wales. 

 

December 1940 saw a further three operational sorties, a scramble on the 1st, a night flying patrol on the 12th, and patrol on the 22nd December. January 1941 saw a night flying patrol on the 4th, a sector recce on the 8th, followed by a night flying patrol that evening, this being followed by another sector recce on the 9th. February 1941 resulted in a convoy patrol on the 7th but nothing more. March 1941 saw a reconnaissance patrol on the 11th March, an air to sea rescue search on the 14th, and two convoy patrols on the 15th and 19th. During March, Keprt was then transferred to 96 Squadron, operating out of Cranage and equipped with Defiants, it being on night fighter duties, and the remainder of March saw two further operational sorties with this squadron for Keprt, flying in Defiants, both area patrols.   

 

April 1941, saw a patrol on the 6th, another area patrol at 20,000 feet on the 8th, and an interception patrol on the 30th, with this pattern of night patrols continuing through May. June 1941 saw him commissioned and promoted to Pilot Officer (No.68138) and flying in both Defiant's and Hurricane's, the squadron being soon due to convert to Hurricane's, and this month saw the usual routine patrols at various altitudes. July 1941 saw more of the same, once again in Defiant's, and in August he only flew once flight, as on returning to base in a Defiant, the engine failed and he crash landed at Granage airfield, being injured in the crash. Keprt was taken off flying on 2nd August 1941.

 

Keprt was deemed fit for flying again, and was posted back to 312 Czech Squadron from May 1942 as a Flying Officer, which was then operating out of Harrowbear, Warmwell, and Redhill, and flying in Spitfires, Keprt flying in this aircraft for the first time on 26th May, he then flew his first operational flight, a convoy patrol on 6th June, followed by another the same day, and one more on the 7th June. Three more convoy patrols were flown on the 8th June, followed by a scramble on the 11th, another scramble on the 22nd, and a convoy patrol later the same day. He performed another patrol on the 23rd, a scramble to 10,000 feet later the same day, and another patrol on the 24th. July saw a convoy patrol on the 9th, two more on the 10th and 11th, a scramble on the 22nd, two more scrambles on the 23rd, another on the 24th and three more on the 26th, followed by acting as escort to a Hurricane bomber attack on a ship on the 30th, and a convoy patrol later the same day. He was involved in two air sea rescue flights on the 31st.      

 

In August 1942, the squadron converted to Spitfire Vc aircraft, the 3rd seeing a convoy patrol twice, he then flew as rear support to a strike on Guernsey on the 5th, followed by a provocation patrol off the french coast on 6th, a convoy patrol later the same day, and also a Hurry-bomber escort flight. On the 8th August he was involved in a convoy patrol, on the 9th a standing patrol, and on the 11th he acted as rear support, and also performed two convoy patrols. On the 14th he performed two patrols, and on the 19th he was involved flying in support of the Canadian troops during the Dieppe Raid as part of Operation Jubilee, flying two patrols over Dieppe that day, the first one resulted in him firing on a Fokker Wolf 190, and in the second he is confirmed as having shot down a Dornier 217 in a head on attack near Dieppe. On the 23rd he flew two further convoy patrols, followed by another on the 24th, another on the 26th which resulted in him be vectored off for an interception, and one more convoy patrol on the 27th. 

 

September 1942 a convoy patrol on the 13th, another on the 15th resulted in the sighting of a bandit, and later the same day he flew as rear support in a sweep over Cherbourg. On the 16th he flew an air sea rescue flight, and then on the 18th as escort to a Walrus, followed by a standing patrol on the 19th, and a scramble over the base on the 30th. In October 1942 he flew as escort to four Whirlwinds on the 1st, followed by a convoy patrol on the 11th, another on the 16th, and during a protection patrol on the 19th he was involved in an engagement with an HE-111, and ME-110, and a JU-88. On the 21st he flew as rear support over the Channel for a raid on Lorient, and on the 26th was involved in a sweep over Alderney, followed by an escort to 8 Hurry-Bombers on a raid over french territory on the 28th. 

 

November 1942 saw a fighter sweep over Cherbourg on the 11th, followed by two over Lanion on the same day, the 14th, and then acted as bomber support over Brest on the 18th. December 1942 saw only one operational sortie, when acting as bomber escort for a raid on Saint Malo on the 23rd. January 1943 saw him flying a rodeo forward sweep on the 2nd, followed by him acting as forward support during a raid on Plauret on the 3rd, flying in an anti rhubarb patrol on the 10th, a scramble on the 13th and on the 26th, and acting as bomber escort on 26th. February 1943 saw him on the 7th fly as escort to a Liberator - this additionally mentions Churchill, possibly Winston Churchill was a passenger. He flew in a convoy patrol on the 11th, and as bomber escort to Saint Malo and Guincamp on the 13th and 16th respectively. He was involved in an anti rhubarb patrol on the 18th, and a convoy patrol on 19th, and on the 28th flew twice the same day as escort to Whirlwinds in raids on Cherbourg. 

 

March 1943 saw him flying a convoy patrol on the 9th and 10th, and anti rhubarb patrol on the 10th, two further convoy patrols on the 13th, and as top cover to six Whirlwinds in a raid on Cherbourg on the 14th. He flew in an anti-rhubarb patrol on the 19th, and as bomber support over Fecann on the 28th, followed by a convoy patrol on the 28th, and an anti rhubarb patrol on the 29th. He was at this time serving with 'B' Flight. 

 

April 1943 saw a shipping reconnaissance flight on the 1st followed by an anti rhubarb patrol later the same day, a scramble on the 2nd, flying as escort to gun boats on the 3rd, and again on the 4th, an anti rhubarb patrol on the 12th, a convoy patrol on the 13th, a shipping reconnaissance on the 14th, as rear support to for Whirlwinds in a raid later that same day, and on an anti rhubarb patrol on the 26th, and as bomber escort on the 27th. In May 1943 he flew an air sea rescue on the 1st, a convoy patrol on the 2nd, a shipping reconnaissance on the 3rd, and as top cover for bombers on a raid to Abbeville on the 4th. He then flew in a convoy patrol on the 7th, and in support of an engagement between M.T. Boats and German E-Boats on the 14th. Keprt flew in two standing patrols on the 17th and 18th respectively. On the 29th flew as escort to Whirlwinds, and the next day as bomber cover, being then involved in an air sea rescue search on the 30th, followed by another - a search for a downed mosquito later the same day. June 1943 saw him acting as escort to a flying boat on 6th, and after a weather test on the 11th, Keprt was taken off flying having completed his second operational tour. 

 

Keprt was posted to No.28 Pilot Gunnery Instructors Course at Sutton Bridge from mid June 1943, flying in Masters and Spitfires, and was then posted to No.1 Air Delivery Flight at Croydon from August 1943, flying various aircraft including Spitfires and Mustangs, and was then posted to No.17 Aircraft Performance Command at Soutend from January 1944, before being posted operational again to 312 Czech Squadron from March 1944, and operating in Spitfire's that month, flew a bomber cover to a target in Holland on 26th March, followed by a Ramrod 696  over Aire on the 27th, and a Ramrod 698 over the Pas-de-Calais on the 28th. 

 

In April 1944 he flew as fighter cover for the navy and army on the 12th, followed by a bomber escort on the 19th, and in two Ramrod sorties - '756' and '761 over France on the 20th, and then flew twice in an army co-operation strafing flight on the 30th. Flying in a Spitfire IX, he dive bombed a bridge on the 2nd May, and through May 1944 flew five convoy patrols on the 3rd and 4th, followed by a bomber escort on the 9th, being then involved in four dive bombing sorties between the 10th and the 12th as well as a bomber escort, being then involved in five further dive bombing sorties between the 13th and 20th with two more on the 24th and 25th, as well as ground strafing on the 21st. 

 

June 1944 heralded the Normandy landings, and having been promoted to Flight Lieutenant, on the 5th June he flew a convoy patrol, followed the next day by D-Day the invasion of Europe, flaking three patrols that day as protection to the invasion fleet and landings, flying over Le Havre and Cherbourg, with another on the 8th. On the 11th he flew a patrol over Normandy, and four more between the 13th and 15th, followed by four more between the 20th and 23rd, and as bomber escort and target cover over Villers Bocage on the 30th. 

 

July 1944 saw him flying as bomber cover on the 1st, and as bomber escort on the 4th, followed by a fighter sweep over Beauvais later the same day He flew in a convoy patrol on the 5th, as bomber escort to Saint Pol on the 6th, again as escort over the Pas de Calais on the 9th, becoming involved in a fighter sweep over Compiegne on the 10th, and in a Ranger patrol over Vesthof-Hilversuin on the 16th. In August 1944 he flew as a bomber escort to Gilza Rijen on the 15th, and was involved in ground strafing in the Lille to Ghent area on he 30th.          

 

September 1944 saw Keprt operating from North Weald, involved in a bomber escort on the 3rd, on an armed reconnaissance in the Rotterdam area on the 9th, as bomber escort to Castrod Rauxel on the 11th, as bomber escort to Munster on the 12th, strafing a target on the 13th, and as escort for 'Parachute troops' during the Arnhem landings on the 17th, and then acted as cover to Dakotas over Nijmegen on the 26th, followed by a bomber escort to Bottron on the 30th where he strafed V2 Rocket sites. Keprt was once again taken off operations, having completed his third operational tour. 

 

Keprt was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 14th February 1945, having been decorated by Czechoslovakia with the War Cross 1939 four times, the Bravery Medal twice, and the Medal of Merit 1st Class, with Silver Star emblem. Keprt returned to Czechoslovakia after the war, where he flew briefly before retiring. He died on 29th July 1976. 

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