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Yugoslavian pilots in front of Blenheim.

Photo: W. Bączkowski, K.Chołoniewski, "Samoloty nad Półwyspem Bałkańskim 1940-1941, WKiŁ 1991

Dogfights over Belgrade - The last free days.

Written by Saso Knez

A rare photo of Hurricane in Yugoslovian markings. This snap was made during last Hawker air tests in England, before delivery. 38 JKRV's Hurricanes were ready on line in 1941.


8. April (day 3)

The weather was very bad on this day. Clouds and light rain. The 2 surviving IK-3’s on Veliki Radinci are joined by the prototype of the IK-3 series II. This airplane had the oil coller reshaped and modified, so it was 25% smaller as the ones on the series I aircraft. The prototype also had the modified exhaust stubs with propulsion effect. This two changes helped to increase the airspeed to 582km/h.

The day also prevented the top Yugoslav bomber ace Karl Murko to get to Zadar. His CO ordered him to take the squadron’s liason bucker jungman and to reconitre if there are any Italian targets worth destroying. About halfway there he turned back due to bad weather.

An IK-2 from Bosanski Aleksandrovac chased what seem to be a reconnissance aircraft but to no avail. One IK-2 crash landed on the same day leaving only 7 IK-2 servicable.

A very sucesfull mission was flown by 66. and 67. skupina from Mostar flying the heavy S-79 bombers. They set off in formations of three planes. One three plane element was leading an S-79 flown by Viktor Kiauta, the gunner was Ivan Mazej and bombardier was Terček a native of Ljubljana.

Soon after the element overflew Uroševec, Mazej noticed 5 Me 109’s closing in on the rear quadrant. The element tightned the formation and this fire power preveneted the Emils to get any hits. After a few attacks, they returned to their previous direction.

The flew in the valley of Kačinska klisura, where a large amount of troops and vehicles were situated preventing the retreat of the Yugoslav forces into Crna Gora (Montenegro). Terček began releasing the bombs in steady intervales. And so did the other two aircraft in the element. Despite heavy AAA the combined effort of the three planes, resulted in a desctruction of 10km long column of vehicles and infrantry, two bridges and a section of a railway track. This action prevented the advance of the Germans into Kosovo polje. They had to took a more safer route over Kraljevo and Čačak.

This little known action is regarded as the most sucesfull mission flown by JKVR during the April war.


9.April (day 4)

The airfield that was ocupied by the Blenheims from 3. Bombarderskog puka suffered heavy strafing by Me 109’s even in the most disastruss weather. The secret of such a sucesfull navigational feat of German fighters was soon revealed since they found a radio-navigational device in a neighbouring monestary that was leading the German fighters.

At about 2 o’clock in the afternoon IK-2’s from Bosanski Aleksandrovac took off chasing a few observation machines. Later on 27 Luftwaffe Me 109 straffed the airfield. Eight Huricanes and five IK-2s took off to intercept the German raiders.

Poručnik Branko Jovanović was now confronted with nine Me 109’s around him. Skilfully using the extreme manouerabiltiy of IK-2 fighter managed to stay out of German gunsights. After the battle two German fighter were found burning on the ground along with two Hurricanes and one IK-2.

The bulk of the fighter force now stationed at Veliki Radinci was still grounded due to bad weather.

The weather prevented any further flying untill 11. April


11 April (day 6)

Milislav Semiz now flying the new and fast 2nd series IK-3 caught up and shot down a Me 110C-4b over Fruška Gora.

Aroud 2 o’clock in the afternoon 20 Me 110 strafed Veliki Radinci. Two IK-3 flown by Gogić and Vujičić with four or five Me 109’s took off and in the short fight shot down two German planes. The victors over the Me 110 seem to be the two IK-3 pilots.


12 April (day 7)

Before the war the main figter school was based in Mostar, and the planes were of mixed type.

After the first few days of the war only two were left, a Me 109 and a Hurricane.

A infrantry colonel asked if someone from fighter school could fly over to Imotski and find out if the Germans are already there. Two pilots Franjo Godec and Stipčič took off. Godec was flying the hurricane this time. Half way there Godec spoted three Me 110’s below heading towards Mostar. Fliping vre his wing hoping Stipčić would notce the Germans too, Godec attacked the Me 110 now flying in the Mostar valley. Even though his bursts met their target, the Me 110 just kept flying. In the heat of the battle Godec didn’t notice that the other Zerstorers were gaining on him. He wanted to fire another burst, but he ran out of ammo. Exactly in this moment he was hit by a ignition cannon shell. The cockpit was immediately filled with thick black smoke, preventing Godec to breath. But he was determined to get that Me 110. He tried to cut off the tail of the fighter with his airscrew, but luckily the Me 110 started spinig before Godec reached ramming ditance (this type of the attack was latter known as Taran). He slamed the Me 109 in half loop opening the cockpit at the same time. He bailed out, only to be slamed with his back to the tail surfaces of his fighter. After buncing off the aircraft he opened his parachute. The strong wind was now carring toward Mostar city. He touched down at Jasenica village, but was dragged for a long distance before being able to cut off his parachute. He had a broken leg and a spoiled flying day, but was othervise OK.

Yugoslavia was in it's Extremis. Like a mortally wounded quarry set upon by a pack of hunting dogs , she was now under attack from all sides. The weather deteriorated during these days there was almost constant rain snow and strong wind. There was a number of aircraft that tried to get airborne, and there was a large number of accidents too. The Germans that had little to stand in their way now, eased off the air-pressure on the Yugoslavian soil. The Stuka Jagd units wit fresh instructions from the C-in-C General Lorh diverted their attention to Greece.

Mile Curgus describes the last free days best: "That days the situation was unclear. We transferred to Radinci. Chaos in Mitrovica, rain, light snow, cars, wagons, trucks, horses, shouting screaming, real war situation! I arrive on the airport, then I find out that our borders were crossed. In the morning, it was maybe April 12, rain-we can't fly. There is nothing left to do for us, but to burn the planes. Djordje Keseljević shouts;Who's got a match? Nobody but me has it, but I cannot be the godfather of this fire. In the end I gave my match after all, which set our fighter, our pride, our possession afire. When we were watching them burning, we were relived of our flying duties. The retreat has begun, the Germans were advancing very fast, and we were on our own. Sooner or later we found ourselves on the German war transports going to prison camps."

But there was one more action for the airman to execute, before they fell into enemy hands. After the separate piece talks fell through, the King and his was in the danger of being captured. The only way out of the country was by air. Onlooking that goal the rest of bombers, transports and fighter were directed, to the Niksic region. On 14. April the evacuation begun. First a Savoia bomber took-off with the King Peter II, on the next day the government and some organizers of the uprising were transported to safety. The only fighter umbrella for this airlift was a sole Hurricane making a race-track pattern to cover take-offs, and 7 Hawker Furys on standby. After all the airlift was efficient enough to get the most important persons out of the country.

A line about the April war and the participating Yugoslav pilots goes:

On 27. April 1941 the fallen heroes shouted:

BETTER WAR THEN THE PACT.

Falling from the skies ten days latter they whispered with their last breath:

BETTER DO DIE THEN TO BE A SLAVE.

They did lose, but they fought for their country-and so did the Germans, and that makes them heroes, every one off them who dared to take-off on a bright April day...


The left profile and upper side view of Yugoslvian "Hurricane" Mk I, partially in RAF Dark Green/Dark Earth camuflage.

Yugoslavian Blenheim.

Source: W. Bączkowski, K.Chołoniewski, "Samoloty nad Półwyspem Bałkańskim 1940-1941, WKiŁ 1991

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2000.01.13, © WW II Ace Stories.