Leo Anderle broadcast

The translated script of a radio broadcast made on the BBC by Pilot Sergeant Leo Anderle to his homeland c. 1941:

Up to this present time I am already on operations eight times against the enemy, and now I am looking forward to many more missions.

I am altogether nine year a Pilot. When the Germans enter Czechoslovakia I escape to Poland. I am fifteen days in Poland and then I come to England and here I am told that I should proceed to France with a group of twenty five other Czech airmen. I am wanting there to join the French Air Force but there are difficulties, so instead I make application to join the Foreign Legion. All this group of twenty five join also, in accordance wit advice from the Czech authorities in Paris and we go to Africa. At first we are employed as workers building highways. This was very difficult in tis climate, which is quite unusual to us. Then, after some time , we start with normal French drill for infantry so that when these si months are over we can be regarded as French Legionairres. During this time, however, the Czech authorities in Paris have made the necessary steps for us to join the French Air Force and when at last they have succeeded in this, all those Czech airmen in the Foreign Legion are sent to different stations in Morocco.

I spent another two months as Pilot in the French Air Force in Africa; then I am sent to France and when France collapses I am coming to England. That is in August 1940.

When I am here it is not necessary for me to make personal application to join the RAF because everything has been arranged for us beforehand, and so, after a little time I join Czech Bomber Squadron. In these eight missions I have made with them, I am sent to eight different places: – BERLIN, BREMEN, HAMBURG, WILHELMSHAVEN, ESSEN, all in Germany and to these French Channel ports of DUNKIRK, CALAIS and LE HAVRE. Three times I go as second Pilot and then I am promoted Captain of Aircraft.

The raid at HAMBURG is my most successful I think. This raid was made on a full moon night. We succeeded in making an approach almost unobserved with complete silence on the part of the German guns on the ground, but so soon as we drop our flare, then immediately this anti-aircraft defence starts most violently and there are many searchlights also. I will never forget these thirty minutes which we spend over HAMBURG simply trying to find the prescribed target in the docks. All the time they are firing at us very much. Then mine Observer tells me “O. K.” “now I am Bombing”. He tells me it is very good, his bombing. I see a big fire start and then I hurry for England.

At my first bombing missions I have felt some excitement but now I am quite accustomed to it and I do not feel any excitement at all.

Upon one occasion when I am second Pilot we have to jump from our Aircraft by parachute. To start with it was a very good flight this. We got to BREMEN and we drop our bombs. Again these bombs are dropped at full moon and I am quite sure they are dropped on the docks. There is much anti-aircraft fire there is also, but again we are not hit. In all these eight missions my Aircraft is not hit.

This time w start to cross the Channel, we are proceeding in cloud towards England and ice is starting to form on our Aircraft. Because of these icing conditions, our wireless set simply ceases to work, so when we reach the shores of England we are without any guide at all. It is cloudy, windy weather aith complete darkness, and we are about half an hour after midnight. It is so bad that at first we cannot recognise whether we are above the sea or above land though we have come down to less than five hundred feet. In the end we see the waves and the white foam and this enables us to recognise the shores. We are hoping that the Wireless Operator will succeed in repairing the deficiency in his apparatus but it is not so. We remain in the air as long a fuel enables us to and then when we are still finding nowhere to land, the Captain is obliged to abandon Aircraft.

I am to go first. I shake hands with all of them and I go out through the front hatch. We are now at two thousand fee. I make two somersaults and then I pull the rip-cord. I am wondering vey much if this parachute is going to open. I have never jumped before. Then I have a feeling of the parachute coming out of its cover which is on my back, and next there is a jerk when she opens and I start to swing in the air like a pendulum.

It is raining very heavily and I am becoming soaked, As I descend I notice a road and I shout, but nobody is present. During this final period of descent I am prepared to land with my hands or my feet first but unfortunately I first hit the ground with my face. I receive such a shock that it compels me to lie for some minutes to recover. Then I find that I am in a meadow. I shout several times but with no result, so I fold my parachute over my arm and I walk until I reach a house. When I knock on the door and shout again, there is a lady whose head appears from a window and I ask for help. This lady immediately vanishes and at once a gentleman appears at the same window with a gun which he points at me. When I see this gun, I am so weak already through all these events that I faint, and next I find myself already in the house in an easy chair. When they have made sure of me they are very kind, and they give me hot tea with whiskey in it. The Police and a Doctor are sent for, and when the Doctor arrives with his car he takes me to his house. He offers me a bath and pyjamas and a bedroom, and something to eat and then I go to sleep. I am sleeping only for thirty minutes when the front gunner arrives also. He explains that he had to hang for one hour from a tree with his parachute before succeeding to release himself and dropping to the ground.

But soon after this incident we are back once more on Operations.

F/Lt Leo Anderle was killed on 10/12/42 when his Halifax aircraft, NF-Y W1002, of 138 Sqn disappeared on a flight between Cairo and Malta, no survivors from his Czechoslovak crew or the ten passengers onboard were found. They are commemorated on the el Alamein Memorial, Egypt.

Article curtesy of the Anderle family.

Posted in 311 Sqd, Autobiography | Leave a comment

Frantisek Binder – Memorial unveiling

You are cordially invitation to attend the unveiling of a memorial plaque for František Binder who served as an air-gunner with 311 Sqn.

The ceremony will be at Hojná Voda on Monday 27 October 2014 at 13:00.

After the ceremony there will be a presentation will be held in the hall of Hotel Hojná Voda about the Czechoslovaks who were in the RAF. The presentation will be followed with the showing of the film Nebeští jezdci.

Posted in 311 Sqd, Ceremony, Events, Forthcoming Events | 2 Comments

Ondrej Spacek – 100th anniversary

Ondřej Špaček survived two great ordeals: the catastrophe of World War II, and the onslaught of communism. The story of his life is a dramatic reflection of the forces that shaped twentieth century history.

Ondřej Špaček was born on 11th October 1914 in the village of Lažánky, 10 miles or so from the city of Brno. His father, Josef, was a labourer who worked both on the land and at the local quarry. Ondřej’s mother (Josef’s second wife), Bohumila, was from the Šebetovsky family, which probably originated in Poland. There were four other children: Ludvik (Luďa), ten years older than Ondřej, and Josef’s only child by his first marriage; Věra, five years older, who lived on until shortly before her 101st birthday in 2010; and two younger brothers, František (Franta) and Jan, who both lived all their lives in Lažánky. Ondřej Špaček was baptised and brought up in the Catholic Church; when young, he was an altar boy at mass, although in later life he was not a churchgoer.

Lažánky is situated high among wooded hills in Moravia, and when Ondřej was born it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. World War I had begun two months earlier, and his father was conscripted into the Czech Legion, spending much of the war far from home on the Russian front. Ondřej’s mother was left to bring up the family on her own in what were already difficult circumstances; village children spent much of the time barefoot and hungry. Though everyone kept a few chickens and geese, and sometimes a pig, food was scarce; sucking a potato dipped in sugar was a treat for them. Each house depended for heat and cooking on a tiled stove, which doubled as a sleeping platform on cold winter nights.

Luda Spacek’s general stores in Jundrov, Ondřej on right with small boy.

After attending his first school in Lažánky itself, Ondřej walked five kilometres every day to and from the primary school in Veverská Bityška, down a steep hill through the woods. For the next phase of his education, he was academically successful enough to go to high school in Brno, boarding with his older brother Luďa, who was now married and working as the manager of a general stores in Jundrov, on the western edge of the city. A photo survives of Ondřej aged 16 standing outside his brother’s shop. By 1932, when Ondřej was 18 years old, he was expecting to join his brother in the business, and began attending a commercial college in Brno.

However, by the time Hitler came to power in 1933 it was becoming clear that the future of Czechoslovakia might not be so secure after all. National defences had to be strengthened, and the development of an airforce was to be a key element in ensuring the survival of Czechoslovakia as an independent country.

Brno. 1936.

“Vzduch je naše moře” (“The air is our ocean”) became the motto of the Czech Air Force after World War I. It emphasised the fact that in the absence of a coastline, the skies around the Czechoslovak Republic would need strong defences in the event of war. The Czechoslovak aviation industry was innovative and advanced; T.G. Masaryk, the President, recognised the strategic importance of air power. The Masaryk Air League (MML), encouraged the formation of local flying clubs, publishing books and magazines aimed at drawing ambitious young men into a career in aviation.

For Ondřej, who already possessed technical and mechanical skills, the opportunities offered by a career which promised the romance and excitement of flying must have looked irresistible. We know that he joined the Czech Air Force before World War II; it is possible that he chose it as the branch of the military in which he would do his national service. However, it was at this time that the government was promoting the scheme “1,000 pilots” as a way of ensuring that, in the event of war, there would be sufficient numbers of trained personnel ready to fight; Ondřej became one of these thousand young men.

He would have flown biplanes during the 1930s. The Aero and Avia companies, both based in Prague, were producing machines which equalled those built anywhere else in Europe for power and speed. The Aero B-534 introduced in 1935, for instance, had a top speed of 240 mph and was still playing a vital role as late as the Slovak uprising of 1944. However, most of the aircraft Ondřej came to know well still resembled those that had taken part in World War I.

Czech airmen had an international reputation. František Novák, for instance, “The King of the Air”, along with his friend Petr Široky, appalled Marshal Goering at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by the clear superiority of his aerobatic skills to those of the German aces. Novák continued to win aerobatic competitions all over Europe until the 1939 German occupation. It was recognised by the German High Command that the Czech Air Force was the best-equipped in Europe, and had the most highly skilled pilots. They later admitted that German bomber crews had been frightened of the Czech fighter force.

Ondrej 1937.

By 1937, Ondřej had completed his training as a pilot in the flying school at Nitra in Slovakia and in September 1938, he took part in the general mobilisation of Czechoslovak forces, a week before the Munich Agreement which left Czechoslovakia open to a Nazi invasion. By March 1939, he was taking part in reconnaissance patrols on the Slovak/Hungarian border, probably flying an Avia S-328 biplane. His observer was Ondřej Sandor, one of the Czechoslovak airmen who in September 1939 were the first to be killed in WWII at the Deblin airbase in Poland. However, Ondřej’s flying career was brutally cut short after 16 March 1939 when Germany occupied Czechoslovakia. With the disbanding of the Czech Air Force, he had only two options: either to fly for the Luftwaffe (only three pilots agreed to do so), or to be discharged and escape to the West in order to fight the Germans on another front. Until the right opportunity for the latter presented itself, he moved back in with his brother Lud´a and his family behind the shop in Jundrov. At some point during the next six months, he attempted to escape via Poland, but was stopped at the border and sent back, presumably in order to avoid provoking a reaction from the Germans if other airmen continued to do the same. By the summer, however, the Poles realised that they would soon be invaded and decided, too late, that they should have welcomed Czech assistance.

By December 1939, German occupying forces had begun to crack down on potential Czech resistance. Student demonstrations in Prague were fired on and their leaders (Jan Opletal, for instance) were shot dead or sent to the Oranienburg concentration camp in Berlin; universities were closed; and SOKOL, the Czech youth organisation to which Luďa Špaček belonged, was about to be banned.

In January 1940, Ondřej decided to leave his home country.

Many Czech Air Force pilots had already escaped to Poland in 1939, but in order to get to the West from Brno now that this route was closed it was necessary to travel south. Ondřej probably took what was known as the ‘Balkan route’, through Slovakia, Hungary,Romania and Yugoslavia and from there by sea to Istanbul. From Istanbul, he travelled by sea via Beirut to Marseilles. A photograph survives of Ondřej on board ship, relaxing on deck with other Czech escapers.

Czechs arriving there before the fall of France in June 1940 were enlisted in the French Foreign Legion ( foreign military units were not permitted on French soil during peacetime), enduring a brutal regime imposed by German NCOs who behaved scarcely better than the Nazis the Czechs had left behind. Ondřej remembered being in Agde, where the Czech forces were assembling, and in Sète, a few miles east, where Czechoslovak escapees were transferred to French military units. It is possible that he was sent to Tours, where the Czechs (by now in the French Air Force) were trained to fly missions against the invading forces of the German occupation. However, he seems to have ended up in Bordeaux with the remnants of the French Air Force before escaping to England. It was here that the nucleus of 311 Squadron was assembled at the Mérignac airbase as the Bordeaux Bomber Group.

On 19th June 1940, he was evacuated by sea from France, with 92 other Czech airmen, aboard the ‘Ary Schaeffer’ and arrived in Falmouth on 23rd June. Czech Air Force airmen had been arriving in Britain since the middle of June 1940, landing initially at RAF Hendon. However, with 4,000 Czech soldiers and airmen coming to England over the course of the following few weeks often disembarking in Liverpool, the Czech government in exile chose Cholmondeley Park near Malpas in Cheshire as a base. From here, the airmen left for Cosford near Wolverhampton, via RAF Innsworth in Gloucestershire. Ondřej later met his wife Eileen at a dance at Wolverhampton Civic Hall, and spent the last 30 years of his life with her in Fallings Park, Wolverhampton.

From this point in his life, Ondřej’s two surviving RAF logbooks help us to piece his story together.

At first, like other Czech airmen, he was inducted into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR) as a Pilot Officer. By April 1941, Ondřej was at RAF Brize Norton at the No. 2 Service Flying Training School, flying the Airspeed Oxford, a twin-engined monoplane used to train Bomber Command aircrew. Brize Norton had already lost 46 Airspeed Oxfords in a Luftwaffe raid in August 1940, and Ondřej was there when they were attacked again on 10 April.

His first solo flight took place on 31 March 1941 and he went on to be trained in navigation, spot landings (including a forced landing at RAF Upwood in Cambridgeshire on 26 April), bombing runs and formation flying. By 2 July 1941, he had qualified for his flying badge, with his proficiency as a pilot being rated as “average”.

2 SFTS, Brize Norton, Summer 1941, Ondřej front row 2nd on right.

Later that month, he began to convert to the Vickers Wellington, the most important bomber in the Royal Air Force before the arrival of the Avro Lancaster. Designed by Barnes Wallis, who also invented the bouncing bomb famously used by the Dam Busters, it was a revolutionary aircraft built using a complex interlacing skeleton covered with a fabric skin. It was robust and could be repaired quickly if damaged.

Ondřej was next posted to 311 Squadron at RAF East Wretham, 6 miles east of Thetford in Norfolk. For the next four months, he flew training flights cross-country, learning how to fly blind, and practising bombing and night circuits, as preparation for nocturnal bombing raids.

311 Squadron was entirely composed of Czech airmen flying bombers. Formed at nearby RAF Honington in July 1940, its men flew more than 1,000 missions over Europe between September 1940 and April 1942. The fate of attrition, however, was high: 40% of its men did not return (273, more than half of the Czech airmen serving abroad, were killed and 34 were taken prisoner). This percentage was reflected in the fates of the men Ondřej flew with. Three members of his training crew (Karel Hurt, Bědrich Gissübel and Přibyslav Strachon) were later killed in action; eight other men he flew with also went on to be killed, including his commanding officer, Josef Ocelka.

One of his comrades frequently took his dog, Antis, with him on missions. Originally from France, the dog had actually helped saved lives and had been, as widely reported in the press at the time, awarded the Dickin Medal, the highest award for animals displaying courage during wartime.

A particularly tragic and mysterious accident occurred on a training flight in October 1942. Wellington T2624 disappeared over the Irish Sea; six men were lost, and only one body was ever recovered, that of František Dittrich. He had flown twice as navigator with Ondřej during the fortnight before his death, and like him had an English girlfriend. It was this young Englishwoman who took an urn containing his remains back to his hometown, Hradec Králové, in July 1946 for a funeral, after they had first been interred in the cemetery at Newquay, Cardiganshire. The body of Karel Hurt, Ondřej’s co-pilot since August 1941, was never found.

Offensive missions began for Ondřej in December 1941. His first three raids were on the channel ports of Le Havre, Dunkirk and Ostend; the last operation of the year was to Wilhelmshaven, one of 217 missions over the same area of North German targets on the night of 28/29 December.

In January 1942, 311 Squadron took part in a number of missions intended to destroy harbour and U-boat facilities in Brest, in Western France. Brest was also an anchorage for the German battleships Scharnhost and Gneisenau, and the battle cruiser Prinz Eugen. Ondřej flew seven missions to Brest, sometimes partnered by Sgt. Vladimir Para, who three months later was shot down and taken prisoner, and sometimes by Sgt. Bohuslav Hradil, who was killed two months later on the mission to bomb the Renault factories at Billancourt (which at that time were building 18,000 lorries a year for the German forces) near Paris in which Ondřej also took part.

With 311 Sqn, Ondřej, 2nd from right.

Over the next three months, Ondřej flew on missions to bomb Bremen, Muster, Essen, Kiel, Lübeck (where 200 bombers experimented with a new strategy of fire-raising which left the old city devastated), Cologne, Dortmund and Hamburg: 22 missions in all, curtailed on three occasions either by loss of instruments, electrical storms or engine trouble.

Ondřej emerged unscathed from them all.

By now, Bomber Command policy had begun to change. In February 1942, Air Marshal Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris took over as commander and began to plan 1,000-bomber raids which would target entire German cities, rather than the military and industrial targets which, reconnaissance photos showed, had often been only partly damaged as a result of shortcomings in targeting equipment and bombs which failed to explode.

In June 1942, Ondřej took part in the 1,000-bomber raid over Bremen. His Wellington was hit over the target; the port wing caught fire, and the hydraulics and air-conditioning were damaged. He was lucky to be able to return to England.

At the same time, the threat to North Atlantic convoys from German U-boats had increased significantly. In the first six months of 1942, 21 U-boats had sunk 500 ships. It was decided that 311 Squadron, with the Wellington bombers which had proved more vulnerable than expected to German fighter planes, would from now on join RAF Coastal Command. The aircraft were to fly at 500 feet above sea level, forcing U-boats to remain submerged in order to evade detection and therefore to travel at slower speeds. Occasionally, submarines were actually sunk: for example, on 10 August 1942 a type VIIc U-boat, U578, was recorded as having been destroyed over the Bay of Biscay.

From 30 April 1942, Ondřej was stationed at RAF Aldergrove in Northern Ireland, 18 miles northwest of Belfast. He remained there for two months, preparing for submarine attack missions. His logbooks record periscope bombing, firing and reconnaissance exercises, interrupted by the 1000-bomber raid on Bremen on 25 June mentioned above. The Wellington he flew to RAF Bircham Newton in Norfolk in preparation for the Bremen raid, Z1090Q, in fact crashed on Brancaster Beach on its return later that same evening, fortunately without loss of life, while being piloted by Sgt. Vratislav Zezulka, who had partnered Ondřej on eight missions over Germany earlier that year.

At the end of June 1942, Ondřej went with 311 Squadron to RAF Talbenny in Pembrokeshire. As is the case with many wartime airfields, little remains of this base,which reverted to agriculture after WWII. However, it was a crucial outpost for the anti-U-boat campaign, and for the rest of 1942 Ondřej flew a series of patrols searching for and attacking German submarines. Even more dangerous than the raids on Germany ( 156 losses for 311 Squadron, as opposed to 96 with Bomber Command), these patrols not only resulted in the loss of aircrew as a result of attacks by Luftwaffe fighter aircraft, but were subject to the inherent risks involved in flying out at sea in what were frequently hazardous conditions.

For example, on 16 July Ondřej recorded his search for a dinghy, almost certainly as a result of the shooting down of a 311 Squadron Wellington over the Bay of Biscay. The aircraft lost had been 21155F, which Ondřej had flown himself a few weeks before and of the six Czech airmen lost, Hugo Dostal had been Ondřej’s co-pilot on his final mission over Hamburg in April.

A few days later, 311 Squadron’s first C/O and Ondřej’s commanding officer, Josef Ocelka, was killed on take-off at RAF Brize Norton. These were particularly tragic times for the Czech RAF: on 18 October 1942, a 311 Squadron Wellington crashed just short of the runway at RAF Northolt, killing everyone on board. Among the 15 men who died was Bedřich Gissübel, who had been a member of Ondřej’s training crew at RAF East Wretham in 1941, and Antonin Bunzl, with whom he had flown at RAF Honington.

As well as some dilapidated buildings and remnants of runways, the site of RAF Talbenny in Pembrokeshire is near to a small church in which a memorial plaque commemorates the Czech airmen who lost their lives while stationed there.

Ondřej’s logbook records that on 30 November 1942, he took part in an attack on an Italian ship. The vessel was probably en route for North Africa, where the second battle of El Alamein had begun at the end of October. This was a 10-hour patrol, so it must have been at the limit of the Wellington’s range, but nothing more is recorded.

However, Ondřej’s final patrol a few days later on 4 December was another matter. On yet another antisubmarine sweep over the Bay of Biscay, his Wellington was attacked by three Junkers 88s for 40 minutes. One of them is recorded as ‘probably destroyed’. Ondřej’s logbook included the following message, dated 6 December 1942:

‘Please convey my congratulations to captain and aircrew of D/311 on their spirited action against three Ju88s on 4 December. Resulting in the probably [sic] destruction of one – 1845.’

It must have been for this action, on his final flight with 311 Squadron, that Ondřej was mentioned in dispatches for distinguished service. A framed certificate signed by Harold Macmillan (then Secretary of State for Air, later to be Prime Minister) on 14 June 1945 is still in the family.

With this mission, Ondřej’s service with 311 Squadron came to an end. He had completed 204.25 hours with them and spent the rest of the war as a flying instructor. The Czech Air Force was aware that its numbers had been seriously depleted, and with no new recruits arriving from Occupied Europe it would have been necessary to conserve surviving aircrew. As happened with other pilots, Ondřej may therefore have been offered the chance, once his tour with 311 was completed, of moving into flying instruction.

Such a move would also have made marriage a more secure prospect than if he had remained with 311 Squadron. Perhaps it was during the Christmas period in 1942 that Ondřej and Eileen were able to decide on a date for their wedding. In any case, he now had a much better chance of surviving the war and returning home.

By the end of January 1943, Ondřej was stationed at RAF Woodley, near Reading. Now a housing estate surrounding a small aviation museum, it had been an aerodrome since WWI and as well as being the site of the Miles Aircraft factory, it now housed the No.10 Flying Instructors’ School.

Ondřej found himself surrounded by English servicemen, as most of his Czech friends had been posted elsewhere. For the next two months, he flew the Miles Magister, a two-seat monoplane trainer designed to prepare pilots to fly Hurricanes and Spitfires, and the Tiger Moth, the legendary biplane which had been used both in training and on active service from 1932 onwards.

One particularly interesting colleague, who seems to have trained him as a flying instructor, was R.A. Carr-Lewty. As well as having flown Spitfires during the Battle of Britain, he was an ornithologist keenly interested in the similarities of design between the wing feathers of the common snipe and the wings of a Spitfire. After the war, he trained as a doctor and ended his career as a GP in Scarborough.

Karel Mazurek, a guest at Ondřej’s wedding in April 1943 who later worked in the aviation industry as Charlie Mazurek with Eileen’s cousin John Bellamy, trained alongside him.

However, when Ondřej was assessed at the end of this period, his skill as a flying instructor was rated as ‘below average’. Almost certainly, this reflected his lack of experience as a speaker of English. His marriage to Eileen Bellamy on 10 April 1943 would change that. As many other Czechs discovered, English girls were far and away the best possible language teachers.

Only three days after the wedding, Ondřej was flying again with No. 3 EFTS (Elementary Flying School) at RAF Shellingford, near Faringdon in Oxfordshire. For nearly six months, he flew nothing but Tiger Moths with some of his pupils being Czech. There were more than 30 of them, taught in small groups for a month at a time. All but one of them, Karel Macura (a Spitfire pilot who crashed near RAF Manston in 1945), went on to survive the war.

Shellingford. 1943.

At the beginning of October 1943, Ondřej and Eileen went to Scotland, where he continued to train as an instructor in the No. 2 FIS (Flying Instructor School) at RAF Montrose, staying there for two months. This time, the aircraft he used was the Miles Master II, an advanced two-seat trainer built at Woodley: fast, strong and acrobatic, it served as an excellent introduction for those pilots going on to fly Hurricanes and Spitfires. Once again, the Czechs had disappeared and been replaced by a series of English or Commonwealth airmen. Night flying, cine-filming and air firing were now among the more advanced skills he was expected to teach.

A week before Christmas 1943, Ondřej and Eileen moved south again, closer to Wolverhampton at RAF Ternhill near Market Drayton in Shropshire, where he would stay for most of the rest of the war, as an instructor at No. 5 Pilot Advanced Flying Unit (as FTSs had been renamed). Perhaps because of the closeness of the base to the Czechoslovak HQ at RAF Cosford, his pupils were once again mostly Czechs, some of them familiar faces from RAF Shellingford. As well as the Miles Master II, he was by now flying the Harvard IIb trainer, an American aircraft built in Canada which was used extensively by Allied Air Forces throughout the 1940s and 1950s. In all, the RAF ordered 900 of them.

After VE Day in May 1945, Ondřej recorded only two bases in his logbook: the Czech depot at RAF Cosford, where he was stationed from June to August 1945, and RAF Grantham,where for the first and only recorded time in his career, he flew a Spitfire, a Mark IIb.

Having survived WWII, Ondřej might have expected his life to enter a more peaceful phase. However, an equally dramatic and dangerous period was about to begin.

At first, it must have seemed that the Czechs had triumphed. Prague had been liberated by the Soviet Red Army after an armed uprising by its own people, though at a terrible cost; and on 18th August 1945 the Czechoslovak Air Force took part in a triumphal march through the capital. By now, Ondřej was back in his own country and took part in the celebrations. He was certainly the centre of attention back in Jundrov, which he had left five and a half years before. He was welcomed with a poem in his honour comparing him to Icarus, a compliment which would prove unintentionally ironic three years later. His family combined to write a welcoming letter to Eileen hailing their marriage as ‘a symbolical bond, uniting the souls of two nations that have been menaced alike by the same German aggression’ and ending ‘Long live your happy union, renowned England and liberated Czechoslovakia.’

Ondřej 1946

By now, Ondřej and Eileen were expecting the birth of a child, and Ondřej was settling into his new job as a flying instructor with the Czechoslovak Air Force. Based at Brno with the 3rd Division of the Air Force, he flew aircraft which were often Czech versions of German designs. The Avia company manufactured the C-4, a two-seater biplane which had been used by the Luftwaffe, and the C-2, a monoplane based on the German Arado Ar96, which had been the Luftwaffe’s standard advanced trainer during WWII. Soviet influence in Czechoslovakia (‘Trust Russia’ was a favourite slogan) made it impossible to import aircraft from the West, just as an offer of Marshall Aid (which helped to rebuild Germany after the war) was rejected by the Czechoslovak government, under Communist pressure.

Ondřej seems to have been given a few days’ leave when, on 18th April 1946, Eileen gave birth to their daughter, Sue.

When he returned to his duties, Ondřej had just a week or so at the Brno Military Flying School before transferring to another military flying academy, the VLA. At this point in May 1946, his flying logbook comes to an end. However, during these few days he does record a brief orientation flight with Josef Bryks, the celebrated RAF flyer and veteran of numerous escapes from POW camps. He was to see him again in court; they would be put on trial together two years later along with Air Marshal Karel Janoušek, supreme commander of the Czechoslovak RAF, and Jo Čapka, a 311 Squadron veteran who would later become a friend.

At the end of 1946, Ondřej moved with his new family to Hradec Králové in north-eastern Bohemia, where a new Military Academy of Aviation for the Air Force had been set up after the war ended. They had an apartment in the New Town at Klumparova 833 which is still there. During the next 18 months or so, Eileen was able to improve her Czech and get to know other young mothers and their children. Her friendship with Mrs. Jarmila Sidlova, a teacher of English, later led to daughter Sue becoming the penfriend of her daughter Blanche, and her older daughter (also Jarmila) becoming a friend of the family up to the present day.

Ondřej, Chouzavá and Sazavou, c. 1947.

In 1947, Eileen and daughter Sue left Czechoslovakia for a brief holiday in England. A postcard survives sent to the Bellamys in Wolverhampton from the military college at Chocedy nad Sazavou, 45 km. from Prague, along with a photo of Ondřej wearing a full-length leather coat and officer’s cap. By now, he had been promoted to Kapitan, or Flight Lieutenant.

Pressure was beginning to grow on ex-RAF airmen to conform to Soviet-inspired demands that they sever all links to the West and submit to the authority of the Communist Party. Airmen with English wives were particular targets for suspicion and surveillance. The Communist putsch of February 1948, which replaced a democratically elected government with one more obedient to its Soviet masters, made it increasingly difficult for Ondřej to continue in his Air Force career. It also made life increasingly dangerous for the whole family. It had become important for the new government to erase the history of the Czechoslovak RAF and its victory in the West; English wives were encouraged to return, leaving their husbands behind in the hope that a means of escape would be arranged for them. Serving personnel who had stayed in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi occupation kept their jobs, while Ondřej and men like him were being treated as criminals. While on enforced leave, they were investigated by the secret police before being dismissed from the service, stripped of their Czechoslovak medals and imprisoned – a process which continued into the 1950s.

This was why, on 17 April 1948, Eileen and daughter Sue were put on a flight out of Prague, expecting that Ondřej would shortly be following them.

Two weeks later, he was arrested.

As he later described, he had made an attempt to escape across the border with a group of others into the American Zone of Germany. After waiting several hours for a general who would be joining them, they were apprehended before he appeared, somewhere in the Šumava forest South-West of Plzeň. It is possible that Ondřej was a victim of a secret police agent, who may have been pretending to help him.

A report of his initial trial on 17 June 1948 shows that his fellow accused included Air Marshal Karel Janoušek, Josef Bryks and Jo Čapka. Janoušek had been led into a trap by the StB agent Jaroslav Doubravsky, while Bryks and Čapka had been arrested in Olomouc. Whatever the actual circumstances, Ondřej and those arrested with him on 30 April 1948 were taken to the OBZ 5th Department military prison near Prague Castle on Kapucinska to be interrogated and tortured.

Ondřej spent the next six weeks in the Little House, or Domeček, the StB interrogation centre in Prague, alongside other RAF fliers and ex-servicemen who had fought for the Allies, not to mention members of the Nazi SS, an irony not lost on those whose families had suffered at the hands of the Germans. Ondřej’s elderly parents, for example, had been sent to an internment camp while he was on active service in England. During this period, he was visited by Zdena Novákova and Milada Špačkova. Zdena was related to his sister-in-law Tonči in Jundrov by marriage and would go on to marry three times, becoming a good friend of the family and leaving her villa in Prague to Sue S after her death on Christmas Eve in 1994. Milada had married Ondřej’s brother Franta in Lažánky, and lived on until 2006. Ondřej was brought cigarettes and books, as well as messages from home.

For his trial on 17 June 1948, Ondřej was transferred with the other men accused to Pankrac prison in Prague, which also had a large courtroom which soon afterwards became the setting for the notorious show trials of Milada Horakova, Rudolf Slansky and many others.

Despite the lack of evidence against him relating to treason, espionage or desertion, he was rapidly found guilty and, like Bryks and Capka, sentenced to 10 years in prison. General Janoušek, having been in danger of being sentenced to death by hanging, received 18 years hard labour and was stripped of his rank, his medals and his doctorate.

Appeals were lodged and a second trial took place on 9 February 1949, but the sentences were confirmed or increased, and finalised on 26 May.

Ondřej began serving his sentence in Plzeň at Bory, where most of his first year was spent in solitary confinement. Jo Čapka in his book “ Red Sky At Night “describes how brutally they were treated: for one day every month they were given no food at all, for another day they were left in total darkness and for another their mattresses were taken away. In a letter to the producer of the BBC TV programme ‘This Is Your Life’ about Jo Čapka, Ondřej describes how they both tried to train houseflies to take crumbs from them. This had been Čapka’s idea and he had become quite successful: Ondřej’s flies were unfortunately less cooperative.

Bory prison.

This comic interlude, however, was entirely untypical of their experience in Bory. Prisoners were regularly beaten, deprived of sleep, denied food or forbidden to sit down; their families were threatened and their sanity undermined. Costa-Gavras’s 1970 film ‘L’Aveu’, based on Artur London’s autobiographical ‘On Trial’, vividly conveys the brutality and psychological pressure involved.

Ondřej would have been aware of what happened to General Heliodor Pika. Having served as a Czech government attaché in Moscow, the General had known too much about how the Soviet Union had been supplied with intelligence by Zdenek Fierlinger, a Soviet sympathiser in Beneš’s wartime government, as well as about Stalin’s plan to incorporate Slovakia into the Soviet Union. Pika was hanged in the prison yard in Bory in 1949.

Prison guards were usually sadists and often young, as more experienced officers were usually dismissed so that a harsher regime could be imposed. Ondřej spoke in later years about how he had dreamed of what he would do to these men if he ever met them again, but despite his experiences he resisted the temptation to feel bitter about his time in prison. For one thing, he was with friends; for another, after his first year in Bory he was moved to a much larger cell, which housed up to 30 prisoners. They included professors, clergymen and high-ranking officers whose conversation and companionship helped to restore some of the dignity and morale of those emerging from solitary confinement. Ondřej may have owed his life to one of them, a doctor before his imprisonment, who looked after him when he contracted pneumonia.

Several of Ondřej’s letters to Eileen survive from this period, often written on printed forms (some of them with German headings, left over from the occupation) and occasionally struck through with black lines by the censors.

The first surviving letter dates from ten days before his second trial. He describes his prison address in Prague 14, which was an annexe of Pankrac prison, as his ‘new quarters’ and sounds suitably anxious and angry about what is happening:

‘I think that it’s more than nine months that I haven’t seen you and during that time been pulled about like an animal without any rights, sometimes it’s like a bit too much for me to stand… I don’t know from home or other things.’

His second trial took place on 9 February 1949, and five days later he wrote to Eileen in Czech, in order to encourage her to write to him in his native language in future (her letters before this had been in English, and were confiscated):

‘On 9 February we had trial again and that time it turned worse. They were in bad mood and told me I would be arrested for 10 years. It is not ready yet, but it is not a problem. Probably it seems a lot to you, but it is not so bad here. You know that I am not a criminal and therefore I think I will not be so long here … Do not worry about me, I have all, I am not hungry and I am warm. The sun has been shining for several days but only outside. I am very sad when thinking about my lovely girls.’

By the beginning of March, he had been taken to Bory to serve his sentence. His first letters sound a little more optimistic, and he tries to reassure Eileen that he is all right:

‘I’ve read all your letters that were stopped during Nov. and Dec., also X-mas cards and Mother’s letters.’

And on 15 May he writes;

‘I am still alive, a bit thinner and in a good spirit.’

However, by June 1949 his anger has returned:

‘Me in prison my lord, where the hell is this blasted world getting to it must really be a XXXXX XX XXXXX [censored]. Everything’s messed up, families broken, and there’s so many of us, when will this end?’

When he could, Ondřej spent some of his time carving tiny scarab beetles from bone, or charms such as hearts or shoes from chewed and hardened bread.

At some point during 1951, Ondřej was moved from Bory to the notorious prison camp in Jachymov, where prisoners were forced to work in uranium mines.

The camp was modelled on the gulag system in the Soviet Union. Situated in the far north-west of Czechoslovakia, it helped to provide uranium for the Soviet nuclear programme, while housing prisoners in huts and subjecting them to brutal treatment. The slang term for the inmates was ‘mukl’, an acronym for ‘muž určeny k likvidaci’, the Czech equivalent of ‘dead man walking’. On the way from their huts to the mine entrance, up to 300 men were linked together by a steel cable in an arrangement known as a ‘Russian bus’. Uranium ore was handled without any protection, resulting in numerous cases of leukaemia and cancer. Life expectancy was about 42 years. There were also frequent accidents. Surrounded by two rows of barbed wire fencing 2.5 metres high and equipped with guard towers and searchlights, there were several different sections of the camp: Rovnost (Equality), Bratrstvi (Brotherhood) and Svornost (Concord). Nearby in Vykmanov was Section L, where prisoners were effectively marked for liquidation as it was where the uranium was broken up and packed for transport.

It was here that Ondřej met members of the legendary Czechoslovak national ice hockey team who, despite having won the world championship twice running in 1948 and 1949, had been arrested and charged with treason. Seven of them were to die from the effects of forced labour in Jachymov.

The town of Jachymov, in the valley below the site of the camp, expanded greatly in the early years of the twentieth century when it became a spa, specialising in radium treatment for patients with backache and joint pain. Its museum houses a section devoted to the prison camp, with a model of its layout and a variety of objects and documents that have survived. The camp itself is now virtually invisible under conifer plantations dating from the early 1950s, after it was closed. A waymarked path can be followed through the forest, allowing glimpses of concrete foundations and the remains of underground workings. The local name for the camp is ‘Jachymovske Peklo’, or Jachymov Hell.

No letters from Ondřej survive from this period.

By January 1952, he had been moved to Opava, from where he was able to communicate with Eileen via his sister-in-law Milada in Lažánky:

‘Here there is absolute lack of beauty and tenderness, without which life could not be complete and without them it becomes a waste land of hate. Sometimes I see all so grey … It is hope and faith in our love and our happiness gives strength to stand the misery of these damned days.’

By March 1952, he was desperate to hear from Eileen again after three months of silence (once again, her letters to him had been confiscated):

‘It seems that the whole world is in some strange agony of cowardly madness. It is a very long time since I saw you for the last time. I ask myself very often how long you are able to live such life and I am afraid a little.’

It is possible that he was transferred to another prison such as Leopoldov or Ruzynĕ before his release in the autumn of 1954. Any letters he was allowed to write were censored, and his loneliness and frustration are obvious in those that survive:

‘I wish there was some positive hope, but not even a danger of a possible amnesty.’ (March 1953)

‘I hope you know now I can write to you every 3 months.’ (November 1953)

He seems to have had an application for release heard in Prague on 26 November 1953, but he was not allowed to be present and by January 1954 was asking Eileen to contact the Czechoslovak Embassy in London to request his conditional discharge or a remission of his remaining sentence. He was aware that other prisoners had been released, and was beginning to imagine that the same might happen to him:

‘Sometimes I think we’ll have to live hundred years to talk over all the things we can’t write of.’

Later in 1954, probably at the end of October, he was suddenly released and made his way to Zdena Novákova’s father’s flat in Prague. Shortly afterwards, he was able to travel to Brno and was reunited with his family:

‘I went to Brno last weekend, it was a complete surprise, Tonči and Zdena almost fainted.’

At last, he was allowing himself to feel optimistic about the future:

‘At last I am free again and I sincerely believe that this is the beginning of our final reunion.’

However, returning to England was a distant prospect. Instead, he was sent out of Prague to work on a building site:

‘I had to start work on the 12th Nov. and fortunately I managed to get a job in building sector. It is 30 km. from Prague and I go there and back by bus. Getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning, coming back at 3 in the afternoon.’

His freedom forced him to reflect on his isolation from his loved ones:

‘The worst times we went through together seem heaven compared with this endless rush and uncertainty.’ (December 1954)

There is now another gap in the surviving letters of more than a year, during which time Ondřej lodged with Jaroslav Novák in his flat in Vinohrady, recuperating from the experience of his imprisonment but becoming increasingly prey to despair:

‘Like a clock with a broken spring, every part of my body seems to be sick and tired to go on. Of course we’ll get through it again, but how the Gods can be so cruel to us! … I was here alone on x-mas eve, refused to go with Onkle [ie. Jaroslav], Zdena and others, I didn’t want to see anybody.’ (January 1956)

It was particularly painful for him that he was unable to see his daughter Sue growing up:

‘So often when I see girls of her age my heart fills with pain and envy, bursting with unspent love and tenderness.’

Back in England, Eileen applied for a Czechoslovak visa so that she could see her husband again. The Embassy in London was uncooperative, until her local MP John Baird intervened. He wrote to her on 21st February 1956:

‘I cannot understand what the Czechs are playing at … I had a bit of a row with them and it may have got them moving.’

Ondrej and Eileen in Prague after reunion, April 1956

They were reunited in March 1956 in Prague, visiting the family in Lažánky as well as Zdena’s cousins, the Cais family, in Litomĕřice.

While in Prague, Eileen presented herself at the office of Zdenĕk Fierlinger, who was in close contact with the Soviet Union both during and immediately after the war and was now a prominent member of the Central Committee, having represented the ČSSR both in Washington and Moscow. It may have been this interview which proved decisive in making it possible for Ondřej to leave for England later that year.

On her return to England, she also wrote to the Czechoslovak Ambassador about her reunion with Ondřej, with a view to softening the attitude of the authorities towards him. Like Fierlinger, Jiři Hajek had been a social democrat before WWII and a communist afterwards, but unlike him he went on to align himself with the dissident movement of the 1970s and 1980s, signing Charta 77 along with Václav Havel.

Ondřej, meanwhile, was unaware of what was beginning to stir beneath the surface. He wrote to Eileen in May 1956:

‘I know you’ve been expecting letter from me, but I feel so blinking lost, expecting to see you round every corner coming from work, the trees are green now and I do miss you a hundred times a day. I saw you in the plane, thanks to the man with the bins he said he remembered your hat, then watched you until your shining kite turned to the right “on course”, with a tun of misery in my heart.’

Eileen’s MP John Baird seems to have played a vital role in supporting Ondřej’s request to leave for England. As a Labour MP with a reputation for being sympathetic to communism, he was a frequent visitor to the Soviet Union and China, so he almost certainly had comrades in Prague. With his additional support, Ondřej’s application began to go through the system:

‘I’ve sent both the applications, one to the castle and the other to the home ministry through Mr F., so I hope they’ll call me for a little chat.’ (May 1956)

‘My application is a masterpiece … pity I can’t send you a copy … I had an answer from Mr F. that the application has been forwarded and recommended.’ (June 1956)

Ondřej was beginning to imagine what it would be like to be reunited with Sue:

‘I’ll buy you a Leica, when you are so good at taking pictures.’

During the summer of 1956, permission must finally have come through. The timing was fortunate; there had been a brief period of thaw in the ČSSR’s relations with the West, shortlived but instrumental in securing Ondřej’s release. Inspired by Nikita Khrushchev’s ‘secret speech’ in February to the 20th Party Congress in Moscow, the repressions of the Stalinist era had been brought into question, though when the climate of reform this change inspired led to the Hungarian Uprising in November 1956, it was repressed mercilessly and a long period of freeze ensued.

On 12 September 1956, Ondřej was told that he would be given a passport:

‘I’ve been running about these last days, at last yesterday they told me I can expect the passport to be ready next week. Otherwise I’ve everything fixed and prepared.’

Eileen’s cousin John Bellamy, who lived in London, contacted Ondřej’s friend Karel Mazurek, who worked at Heathrow Airport, about the possibility of a job for him:

‘Charlie Mazerick was pleased to hear the news and he can fit him in if he needs it so it’s something to fall back on, the job is in the loading division and would pay approx. £10 or £11 per week.’

And then suddenly, in October, Eileen received a telegram from John Bellamy:

‘Phone after five important news of Andree , John.’

On 12th October 1956, one day after his 42nd birthday, Ondřej left Czechoslovakia and flew to England:

‘Arrive Sabena tonight = Ondra’

It was to be his final flight.

Once reunited with Eileen and Sue, he began to look for a job in aviation. However, technology had moved on so quickly in the post-war years that his expertise had become outdated. His heavily-accented English was no doubt a factor in his failing to find any employment that made appropriate use of his skills and talents. Instead, he went to work in the Goodyear tyre factory in Wolverhampton, until finally finding a post as a technical assistant in a secondary school in Wednesfield.

Ondřej 1986

Ondřej became a British citizen in 1962, and for the rest of his life was able to make annual visits to his family in Czechoslovakia. He kept in touch with RAF comrades in England, but avoided any activity which might have resulted in difficulties for his family, or a refusal of permission for him to return.

He retired in 1979 and died in 1987, less than three years before the Velvet Revolution which restored democracy to Czechoslovakia.

On 13 September 1991, the RAF Rehabilitation Ceremony was held in Prague to honour the Czechoslovak personnel who had served in the RAF during WW2. At this ceremony Ondřej was promoted, in memoriam, to the rank of plukovník (Group Captain) in the Czechoslovak Air Force.

Like his RAF and prison comrades, Ondřej Špaček will be remembered for his courage both during and after WWII. Like them, he played a unique and unforgettable role in the history of his country.

Medals Awarded:


Československý válečný kříž 1939 [Czechoslovak War Cross] + 3 bars

Za chrabrost před nepřítelem [Gallantry facing the enemy medal]

Za zásluhy I st. [Merits medal]

Pamětní medaile československé armadý v zahraničí F a VB [Memorial Medal of Czechoslovak Foreign Army with France and Great Britain bars]


Air Crew Europe Star

Defence Medal

© Sue Hines (nee Špaček)

Posted in 311 Sqd, Anniversary, Biography | 1 Comment

Keep the Winged Lion At Klarov!


Breaking News – 12:36, 23 December 2014:

Czech Ministry of Culture overrides Prague City Hall Heritage Department and the Winged Lion Memorial will remain at Klárov. The Ministry of Cultures decision cannot be appealed.


Breaking News – 15:25, 5 November 2014:

Prague district fined 150,000 Kcs over installation of monument to WW2 pilots

Praha 1 dostala pokutu za okřídleného lva 150.000 korun

Prague, Nov 5 (CTK) – The City Hall heritage section fined the Prague 1 district authority for having installed a monument to Czechoslovak WWII pilots in RAF sponsored by the British community in the Czech Republic in a park in the Prague centre, Prague 1 spokeswoman Veronika Blazkova told CTK today.

The City Hall breached the law as it did not have any permit from the heritage section for the installation of the monument, Blazkova and City Hall spokeswoman Petra Hruba said.

“I can confirm the fine. We disagree with it and we will appeal it. I will not elaborate,” Blazkova said. The Culture Ministry will have the final say as it is the appeals body in this case.

“We do not want to denigrate the memory of Czechoslovak pilots, but we are of the view that valid laws must be observed, not circumvented,” Hruba said.
“The mayor and some city councillors should set example when observing clear administrative procedures,” she added.

The two-metre bronze statue of a winged lion, made by British sculptor Colin Spofforth, stands on a concrete plinth covered by Czech granite. If seen from above, the circular plinth looks like the emblem of the Czech air force. The cladding and riveting on its side resemble an aircraft skin.

The monument is opposed by Prague heritage protectors who resent both its size and location. Some 2,500 Czechoslovak pilots served with RAF during World War Two. A total of 493 of them died in action.

Praha 1 dostala od magistrátních památkářů pokutu za umístění památníku letcům, takzvaného okřídleného lva na Klárově. Pokuta je 150.000 korun, rozhodnutí magistrátu je nepravomocné. ČTK to potvrdily mluvčí Prahy 1 Veronika Blažková a mluvčí magistrátu Petra Hrubá. Radnice prý porušila zákon tím, že neměla povolení památkářů pro umístění sochy.

“Pokutu mohu potvrdit. Nesouhlasíme s ní a odvoláme se. Více to nyní komentovat nebudu,” řekla ČTK Blažková. Definitivní slovo tak bude mít ministerstvo kultury, které je v tomto případě odvolacím orgánem.

“V žádném případě nechceme dehonestovat památku československých letců, nicméně jsme toho názoru, že je nezbytné dodržovat platné zákony, nikoliv je obcházet. Starosta a někteří radní by měli být příkladem pro dodržování jasných administrativních postupů,” řekla na dotaz ČTK Hrubá.

Socha v podobě dvoumetrového okřídleného lva je umístěna na betonovém podstavci pokrytém žulou. Na výrobu sochy podle návrhu britského sochaře Colina Spoffortha sehnali peníze Britové žijící v Česku, chtěli tak poděkovat za hrdinství československých letců sloužících v řadách britské RAF.

Umístění pomníku provázejí od počátku spory s pražskými památkáři. Těm vadí monumentálnost díla i to, že v parčíku již jedna socha je. Kritizují také postup Prahy 1 a britského velvyslanectví, o povolení prý požádaly pozdě a bez dostatečné diskuse. Nabízeli jiné lokality v centru Prahy.

Čeští a slovenští piloti se zapsali do paměti obyvatel Spojeného království zejména při slavné bitvě o Británii. Během ní nacisté utrpěli první významnou porážku ve druhé světové válce. Celkově v době druhé světové války působilo v britském vojenském letectvu (RAF) přibližně 2500 československých pilotů, přičemž 493 z nich v bojích zahynulo.


Free Czechoslovak Air Force Associates fights Prague Heritage Departments efforts to remove the Winged Lion

The controversy regarding the Winged Lion memorial location at Klarov, as detailed here and here, continues and is now again under threat because of Prague City Hall’s Heritage Department latest actions.

Spor ohledně umístění památníku Okřídleného lva na Klárově, popsaný zde a zde, pokračuje, a kvůli stanovisku odboru památkové péče Magistrátu hlavního města Prahy je opět v ohrožení.

“The MHMP-OPP’s (Prague City Hall’s Heritage Department) current stance on the Winged Lion Memorial is, we believe, bringing great dishonour to the valiant 2,500 Czechoslovak men and women who fought with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. In our eyes, their eagerness to belittle these airmen by attacking the Winged Lion memorial is baffling at best. Perhaps if Mr. Skalicky had had the opportunity to meet the nine veterans and the numerous relatives and descendants of the 2,500 veterans on 17th June 2014 and witnessed their modesty and humility in context of their courageous feats, fighting for freedom and democracy, he may have changed his stance. The MHMP-OPP’s inexplicable opposition to the memorial has, in our view, saddened the reputation of 2,500 remarkable, brave men and women for what purpose? Perhaps only Mr. Skalicky can explain why?”

„Současný postoj MHMP-OPP k památníku Okřídleného lva je podle nás zneuctěním dvou a půl tisíců československých mužů a žen, kteří během druhé světové války bojovali po boku britského Královského letectva (RAF). Jejich snaha znevážit tyto letce útokem na památník Okřídleného lva je v našich očích nanejvýš nepochopitelná. Možná by pan Skalický změnil svůj postoj, kdyby býval měl příležitost setkat se 17. června 2014 s devíti veterány a také s početnými příbuznými a potomky dalších dvou a půl tisíců veteránů, a kdyby býval byl svědkem jejich skromnosti a pokory v souvislosti s jejich odvážným bojem za svobodu a demokracii. Za jakým účelem pochroumala nepochopitelná opozice pražského odboru památkové péče vůči památníku pověst dvou a půl tisíců mimořádně statečných mužů a žen? To dokáže možná vysvětlit jen pan Skalický.

“We hope that the Winged Lion will remain at Klarov based on the support from the general public; the veteran’s descendants and relatives from across the world, many of whom many attended the unveiling ceremony, and associations, key ministerial support and unrelenting backing from key dignitaries and senior politicians across the globe.”

„Doufáme, že Okřídlený lev zůstane díky veřejné podpoře, podpoře potomků a příbuzných veteránů z celého světa, z nichž se mnozí slavnostního odhalení sami zúčastnili, a také díky neochabující podpoře ze strany sdružení, klíčových ministerstev, předních úředníků a vedoucích politiků po celém světě, na Klárově.“


PRAGUE, 9 October 2014 – Prague’s Heritage Department has decided that the Winged Lion Memorial must be moved from its current site at Klarov to a different, unspecified location somewhere in Prague.

PRAHA, 9. října 2014 – Pražský odbor památkové péče rozhodl o tom, že památník Okřídleného lva musí být přemístěn ze své současné lokace na Klárově na jiné, nespecifikované místo v Praze.

The Memorial was unveiled on the 17th June 2014 by Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames MP, Winston Churchill’s grandson, at a ceremony in the presence of several surviving Czechoslovak RAF veterans who fought in the Second World War. Sir Nicholas spoke of the bravery and self-sacrifice shown by the 2,500 heroes who escaped Nazi tyranny to join the RAF in the battle for Europe’s freedom.

Památník byl slavnostně odhalen 17. června 2014 Sirem Nicholasem Soamesem, vnukem Winstona Churchilla, za přítomnosti několika přeživších československých veteránů britského Královského letectva (RAF), kteří bojovali ve druhé světové válce. Sir Nicholas promluvil o statečnosti a obětavosti dvou a půl tisíců hrdinů, kteří uprchli před nacistickou tyranií, aby po boku RAF bojovali za svobodnou Evropu.

Euan Edworthy and Colonel Andrew Shepherd, who organised the memorial project and raised £100,000 in private donations from the British ex-pat community in Prague, said they were bitterly disappointed with the decision.

Euan Edworthy a plk. Andrew Shepherd, kteří celý projekt zorganizovali a od soukromých dárců z řad britské komunity žijící v Praze vybrali 100 000 liber, vyjádřili nad tímto rozhodnutím hořké zklamání.

‘We had every reason to believe that the Winged Lion enjoyed strong support from every part of the Prague community’ said Edworthy. ‘Indeed, we were overwhelmed by the help and kindness we received from official quarters on the long journey to making the monument a reality. At this late stage, now that the Winged Lion has been sculpted, constructed, installed and unveiled at a very moving public ceremony, we simply cannot understand why the city authorities have turned against it.’

„Máme všechny důvody věřit tomu, že Okřídlený lev má v rámci pražské komunity silnou podporu. Byli jsme přímo ohromeni pomocí a laskavostí, kterých se nám na dlouhé cestě za uskutečněním našeho projektu ze strany institucí dostalo. V této fázi, kdy byla socha Okřídleného lva navržena, vytvořena, instalována a odhalena při velmi dojemném veřejném ceremoniálu, jednoduše nedokážeme pochopit, proč k ní městské autority zaujaly negativní stanovisko,“ řekl Euan Edworthy.

A prominent figure in the Appeal Fund, Adrian Wheeler, expressed outrage at this implied insult to the aviators who risked their lives, and in many cases lost them, to free their country from Nazi rule: ‘These men were the bravest of the brave. They put their lives on the line to help the Allies restore freedom and sovereignty to a small nation that had been cynically eclipsed by Hitler’s hordes. The Winged Lion is a reminder to future generations that these 2,500 flyers could not be beaten. If they don’t deserve a prominent memorial, who does?’

Adrian Wheeler, jeden z předních zástupců fondu Okřídleného lva, vyjádřil své rozhořčení nad tímto zneuctěním letců, kteří riskovali své životy a v mnoha případech o ně také přišli, aby osvobodili svou zemi od nadvlády nacistů: „Tito muži byli nejstatečnější ze všech statečných. Nasadili své životy v boji se Spojenci o znovuzískání svobody a suverenity malého národa, který byl bezostyšně zastíněn Hitlerovými stoupenci. Okřídlený lev budoucím generacím připomíná, že těchto 2 500 letců nemohlo být poraženo. Pokud si nezaslouží významný památník oni, tak kdo jiný?“

The Winged Lion Appeal Fund will now establish a foundation to protect and preserve the memory of Czechoslovak airmen who joined the RAF in World War Two. Its first step will be to distribute a book and a film describing how the airmen escaped, how they were welcomed by the Royal Air Force, how they contributed to the Allied victory, and how – in many instances – they won international acclaim for their exceptional performance as air fighters.

Zástupci fondu Okřídleného lva nyní zřídí nadaci na ochranu a zachování památky československých letců, kteří se za druhé světové války připojili k RAF. Jejím prvním krokem bude distribuce knihy a filmu popisujících únik letců z jejich rodné země, vřelé přijetí ze strany RAF, jejich přínos k vítězství Spojenců a také to, jak v mnoha ohledech získali mezinárodní uznání pro své výjimečné nasazení v leteckém boji.


Mrs Vlasta Šišková, deputy chair, Czechoslovak ex-RAF Association 1939 – 1945 / místopředsedkyně Sdružení československých zahraničních letců 1939 – 1945:

The idea of creating the Winged Lion memorial in honour of the 2500 Czechoslovaks who served within the RAF and whose efforts contributed to the fight for freedom and democracy came as a big and pleasant surprise to all remaining members and their families. The Association wishes to thank all those who made this happen.

Nápad postavit památník Okřídlený Lev, který je vyjádřením poděkování a úcty 2500 československých příslušníků v rámci RAF, kteří svými činy přispěli k boji za svobodu a demokracii, byla velkým a milým překvapením pro všechny zbývající příslušníky as jejich rodiny. Sdružení děkuje všem, kteří se na realizaci tohoto nápadu podíleli.

The Association does not agree with the subsequent attempt to move this memorial to a different location. The Association is of the opinion that there was enough time to decide its final location before it was completed. Any attempt to have it moved is offensive to all those whom this memorial honours.

Sdružení nesouhlasí s následným pokusem o přemístění památníku z Klárova. Sdružení je toho názoru, že na rozhodnutí o trvalém umístění bylo dost času před jeho postavením. Pokus o přemístění je urážkou památky všech, kterým tento památník vzdává úctu.

Vlasta Šišková personally fully supports this view.

Vlasta Šišková osobně se s tímto názorem zcela ztotožnuje.


The Heritage Department of Prague City Hall claims that the placing of the statue in an architecturally and historically protected area is in violation of the law. The fact that the statue is a gift from the British people is not a mitigating circumstance. Allowing the statue to stay would create a precedent, according to statements made by the MHMP-OPP.


All readers of this article are invited to express their views on the matter by leaving a comment and also their vote in our opinion poll below:

Rádi bychom vyzvali čtenáře tohoto článku, aby svůj postoj k problematice vyjádřili komentářem, a také aby hlasovali v našem průzkumu veřejného mínění níže:

Also petitions here, here a here.

Petice zde, zde a zde.

Posted in 310 Sqd, 311 Sqd, 312 Sqd, 313 Sqd, 68 Sqd, Information, Memorial | 45 Comments

Josef Frantisek – 100th Anniversary ceremony

On Saturday 4 October a ceremony was held at Otaslavice to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the the birth of its most famous citizen – Josef František who was the most successful Allied pilot in the Battle of Britain before his untimely death in a flying accident on 8 October 1940.

Attending the ceremony was Brigadier General Libor Štefánik, Commanding Officer of the Air Force of the Czech Republic, Mayor of Prostějov, Mayor of Otaslavice, Col PhDr Oldřich Rampula; Chairman of Svaz letců (the Airmans Association of the Czech Republic), RAF veteran Gen. Emil Boček, widow of Josef Balejka, Karel Bryks, nephew of Josef Bryks, Defence Attache of the French Embassy, Prague, Filip Procházka, secretary of Československá obey legionářská, a representative of 601 special unit from Prostějov, a military band and was well attended by a large number of local inhabitants and well wishers.

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The days program commenced with invited guests gathering at the local school where there was a display of model aircraft and material about Josef František which had been produced by children from the village school named in his honour. At 09:00 there was a church service followed by a flypast of light aircraft from the Josef František Flying Club at nearby Prostějov. Two helicopters of the Czech Air Force then made a separate flypast. Vladimír Ambros and Roman Palát then gave a presentation on the life of Josef František. The mornings program concluded with a flypast by Grifin fighter aircraft of the Czech Air Force, unfortunately the low cloud, just 100m mtrs, meant that the flypast could only be heard but not seen.

After a refreshment break for invited guests, the entourage, led by standard bearers and the army band, marched through the village to the Josef František memorial located at his former home for speeches followed by a wreath-laying ceremony.

The Josef František museum at Otaslavice was then visited and the ceremonies program was concluded by 16:00.


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Svaz letcu Ceske republiky new President

Congratulations to general Ing. Jiři KUBALA the newly appointed President of Svaz letců České republiky [Airmen’s Association of the Czech Republic] and his new board.

Gratulujeme generálmajoru Ing. Jiří KUBALOVI. ke zvolení předsedou Svaz letců České republiky i nově zvolenému předsednictvu.

We wish them all success in their future for the excellent work of their Association and for their continuing support in the remembrance of all the Czechoslovak men and women who served in the RAF during WW2.

Přejeme Vám všem do budoucna mnoho úspěchů v úspěšné práci pro váš Svaz a úspěšné pokračování vaší podpory udržování památky na všechny československé ženy a muže, kteří sloužili v RAF během 2. světové války.

Generálmajor Ing. Jiří Kubala.
Major General Ing. Jiří Kubala

Narozen 16. listopadu 1955 ve Frýdku-Místku.
Born 16th November 1955 at Frýdek-Místek.

1979 absolvoval Vysokou Vojenskou leteckou školu v Košicích. 1979 -1981 pilot instruktor v Libii. Po návratu funkce – pilot, náčelník štábu letky a velitel roje u 6. sbolp v Přerově. Po ukončení studia na Vojenské akademii v Brně 1988 u 6. sbolp jako inspektor vzdušné střelby a inspektor bezpečnosti letu potom jako starší inspektor u 1.smls a inspektor-pilot u 3. stl v Hadci králové. V roce 1993 zakončil studium na Vysoké válečné škole letecké v Paříži.

In 1979 he completed his studies at the Air Force Military Academy at Košice. From 1979 to 1981 he was a pilot-instructor in Libya. After his return he served as a pilot, squadron-chief-of-staff and section-leader at the 6th stíhací bomardovací letecký pluk at Přerov. After graduating from his course at the Military Academy in Brno in 1988, he became Air-Gunnery and Air-Safety Inspector at the the6th stíhací bomardovací letecký pluk, Senior Inspector in the 1st smls and Pilot Inspector in the 3rd základna Taktického letectval at Hradec Králové. In 1993 he completed his studies at the Air Military College in Paris.

Od 1. března 1994 do 30. června 1997 byl velitelem 32. zTL v Náměšti nad Oslavou. Od července 1997 do prosince 2002 zástupce velitele Vzdušných sil AČR ve Staré Boleslavi. Do konce roku 2004 přidělenec obrany ČR při velvyslanectví ČR v Indii. 31.12.2004 ukončil aktivní vojenskou službu.

Between 1st of March 1994 to 30th of June 1997 he was Commander of the 32nd Základna Taktického Letectva at Náměšti nad Oslavou. From July 1997 to December 2002 he was Deputy Commander of the Czech Air Force in Stará Boleslav. Up to the end of 2004 Military Air Attaché the Czech Embassy in India. On 31st of December 2004 he retired from active military service.

Nalétal téměř 2000 hodin na letounech L-29, L-39, MiG-21 a Su-22. Má letové zkušenosti s letouny Mirage Fl, Jaguar, Tornado, T -38, F- 15, Su-25, Gripen a L-159.

Major-General Kubala achieved almost 2000 flying hours mostly in types L-29, MiG-21 and Su-22 but was also familiar with Mirage F1, Jaguar, Tornado, T-38, F-16, Su-25, JAS Gripen and L-159 aircraft.

Byl oceněn řadou medailí a vyznamenání. Získal Záslužný kříž MO ČR II. stupně za řízení Vzdušných sil AČR při povodních v roce 1997.

During his military service Maj. Gen. Kubala had been awarded with various medals and distinctions. He was awarded Cross of Merit – 2nd Class by the Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic, for his skilled management of air rescue operations during the disastrous floods in 1997.

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A short history of the Czechoslovak Air Force in WW2 and the Post-War Period

by Marcel Ludikar

In 1938 the Czechoslovak Army Air Force was one of the most modern Air Forces of Europe, determined to fight in the threatened conflict for the freedom and integrity of its country. However, the morale of its personnel sank from the highest peak to the deepest depression when, by the Munich agreement, the great powers, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy crippled Czechoslovakia and rendered it defenceless. Six months later, on l5tn March 1939, the remainder of the country was occupied by Hitler’s forces without a shot being fired.

On the last day of March the former Czechoslovak airmen left their stations and airfields for the last time to disperse to their homes. On one of the fighter stations, Major Alexander Hess bid his airmen farewell ending “… and I trust, as I know you and see you here in front of me, that we shall all meet again soon to fight our enemy as we have sworn on oath. I believe that we, airmen, have not yet lost our hope.” Many unit commanders spoke to their airmen in similar terms.

A few months later the first Czechoslovak airmen were crossing the borders into Poland, the next target for Hitler’s expansion. Soon there were a few hundred soldiers and airmen assembled in a camp for Czechoslovak refugees. They and many young men of military age, who came out of Czechoslovakia in order to fight the Germans, considered themselves from the beginning as military personnel and accepted the military organisation and command of senior Czechoslovak officers. Simply, they considered this a continuation of the Czechoslovak Army before its dissolution by the occupying German forces . As before the occupation, the Czechoslovak forces were apolitical but permeated with patriotism, sager to fight for the renewal of an independent Czechoslovakia. As before the occupation, the forces accspted the existing political leadership of the last president of free Czechoslovakia and other political leaders, and what was left of the Czechoslovak administration, i.e. the legations of the Republic (nowadays known as Embassies) which remained in France, Great Britain, Poland and the United States, who refused to recognise the German occupation of the country.

After Stalin and Hitler signed their non-agression pact, the Czechoslovak legation in Moscow was closed. The USSR recognised the so called Slovak Free State and the Czechoslovak ambassador had to hand over the Embassy and leave.

In the meantime the Czechoslovak Ambassador in France negotiated with the French government to transfer Czechoslovak soldiers from Poland to France and their service in the French Foreign Legion on condition that they would all be released from the Foreign Legion at the outbreak of war in order to form a Czechoslovak Army in exile. This had actually happened, the majority of Czechoslovak soldiers left Poland before the outbreak of the war and only those who arrived later remained in the camp under the command of Lt Col Svoboda, who later became General and finally President.

Except for a small number of airmen who were enrolled in the Polish Air Force, the rest of the military group withdrew before the advancing German armies eastward, split in two main sections. One managed to escape between the Russians and the Germans and reach Romania and eventually France. The other, under the command of Col Svoboda, fell into Russian captivity and its personnel remained POW’s until Hitler’s invasion of USSR in June 1941.

The Soviet government refused at first to allow them to leave the USSR but later permitted small parties, including airmen, to leave. Sir Stafford Crips, HM Ambassador in Moscow, reported to his government in this matter that there were financial difficulties as the Soviet government insisted on payment in US dollars only; (whether this was payment for their release or for their transport etc. is not disclosed in his message).

Meanwhile, in France after the outbreak of the war, the Czechoslovak ‘volunteers’ in the Foreign Legion were being formed. The airmen were however, sent to France squadrons and Air Force establishments pending the formation of Czechoslovak Air Force under an agreement between the French Government and the Czechoslovak National Committee dated 17th November 1939. Independent fighter, battle and bomber units were to be formed under the overall command of the French Air Force. Until the realisation of this agreement, Czechoslovak Air Force personnel were given at the disposal of the French Air Force authorities and the Czechs served in small groups in French squadrons. The establishment of Czechoslovak Air Force units was overtaken by events when the ‘real’ war started on 10th May 1939 and 110 Czechoslovak pilots in French units fought the Luftwaffe with outstanding success. They shot down 158 enemy aircraft, 19 were killed and 19 were injured . Six pilots serving with the French ‘battle’ formations took part in 70 operational sorties of a total 155 hours duration. Eight pilots serving with bomber units undertook 64 night operational flights of 255 hours duration. The remainder of the Czechoslovak Air Force personnel waited in the Czechoslovak Army depot at Agde, to be transferred to new Czech squadrons when Petain asked Hitler for an Armistice on 17th June 1940.

On the same day, 17th June 1940 at 11.50pm the following ‘Most Immediate’signal was sent by the Foreign Office to Sir R Campbell at Bordeaux: “Please pass the following message to General Ingr in command of the Czech Air Force (note: General Ingr was commanding the Czech Arrny in France) He is believed to be at Beziers. Message begins:

“Dr Beneš wishes you to instruct all Czech Air Force personnel to make for England as soon as possible. They should bring every single aeroplane possible. Pilots should fly to Andover where they are expected. They should avoid the defended areas of Southampton and Portsmouth. Those unable to come by aeroplane should proceed to port as advised by British Military Attache for evacuation ship. If possible, all stores that cannot be brought to England should be destroyed or rendered unserviceable. Ends.”

In view of the chaotic situation in France and the dispersal of Czech airmen not many, if any, received the above instructions, nevertheless it was clear to all that Britain was the natural sanctuary provided it was going to remain at war and willing to fight.

By the end of June the negotiations for the status of the Czechoslovak Forces in Britain were well advanced. President Beneš in his memoranda gave the strength of the Air Force in France as:

Czechoslovak Air Force Personnel:
Fighter pilots 208
Bomber pilots 90
Army co-op pilots 45
Observers 73
Gunners and Wireless Operators 27
Mechanics/inc fitters and
other ground personnel
Total 724
(of which 175 are officers)

The pressure of events of the summer of 1939 and the eagerness of both the Provisional Czechoslovak Government and the individual airmen to participate in the critical stages of the war disposed of a formal treaty between the British and Czech governments about the status and use of Czechoslovak Forces before their engagement in the war effort. All Czechoslovak airmen were enrolled in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, officers commissioned in the rank of Pilot Officer’and higher acting rank to fill established posts. The first Czechoslovak Fighter Squadron was formed at Duxford as early as 12 July 1940 and the second Fighter Squadron No 312 on 12 September 1940. No 311 Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron was formed at Honington on 29 July 1940. The third Fighter Squadron No 313 was formed on 27th July 1941 Pilots surplus to the establishment of the first three squadrons numbering about 100 were allocated to various RAF squadrons. A considerable number of volunteers from the Czechoslovak Army (ground forces) begun to be transferred to the Air Force, both as trainee aircrew and ground staff, as it was the Air Force that was to bear the brunt of fighting – and losses – in the foreseeable future.

AVM Karel Janoušek

The official Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Provisional Czechoslovak Government, signed on 25 October 1940, confirmed the employment of the Czechoslovak Air Force with Royal Air Force, the personnel being members of both the RAFVR and the Czechoslovak Forces, subject to the laws of both countries and disciplinary regulations of both forces. Any cost of maintaining the Czechoslovak Government came from credits granted by HM government. What mattered most to the Czechoslovak airmen was that the Czechoslovak flag was to fly, together with the RAF ensign, on all stations where a Czechoslovak Air Force in the RAF was established. The Czechoslovak Inspectorate was to be based in London, responsible to both the Air Ministry and the Czech Ministry of National Defence. General Air Commodore (late AVM and Air Marshal) Karel Janoušek was appointed Inspector. Operational control was vested in Royal Air Force operational Commands.

The three Czech Fighter Squadrons, 310, 312 and 313, first operating independently, then from lst May 1942 as a Wing, completed 28,335 operational flights of a total of 461,905 hours were credited with 68⅙ shot down enemy aircraft, 37 probable and 59.6 damaged and 4 V1’s destroyed. A Czechoslovak Flight of No 68 Squadron of Night Fighters flew 1,905 missions and was credited with 18½ enemy a/c destroyed, 5 probables, 7 damaged and 2 Vl’s shot down. Individual Czech pilots serving with other RAF squadrons were credited with 68 a/c destroyed, 14 probables and 45⅓ damaged. For operation “Overlord” the invasion of the continent of Europe starting with Normandy landing on 6th June 1944, the Czech Fighter Wing was allocated to the Tactical Air Force. The Wing maintained a maximum effort over enemy territory, flying 4 two hourly sorties on “D” day.The Wing moved to B-10 landing strip North of Caen three weeks after “D” day, to continue operations against the Germans.

Personnel for the Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron were at first assembled at RAF Cosford where they were sorted out according to their qualifications and their numbers were augmented by volunteers transferred from the Czech Army. They were then sent to RAF Honington for the formation of the Squadron, retraining and familiarisation with a new aircraft – the Wellington. The 311 Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron flew its first operation, a raid on the marshalling yards at Brussels, on 10th September 1940 from a satellite airfield of Honington, East Wretham where it remained until June 1942. During these two years in Bomber Command the Squadron flew 1,011 operational sorties over enemy territory of a total of 5,192 hours and dropped 1,218.375 kg of HE bombs and 52,925 kg of incendiary bombs*. Unfortunately the losses of life were considerable and, except for volunteers from the Czech Arrny and a few young men just finishing schooling in England, there were no areas from which to replace the losses. At the same time the situation especially that of Great Britain, became precarious by the mounting losses of shipping due to an increased activity of German U-boats. No 311 Squadron, together with othor British and allied squadrons, was transferred from Bomber to Coastal Command and allocated to No 19 group for anti-submarine and anti-shipping patrols in the Bay of Biscay.

After “D” Day and the clearing of French ports of the Germans, the Squadron was transferred to No 18 Group for the same task in the North Sea, patrolling the area from lceland to the Norwegian fiords and the Baltic Sea, where the Germans had their “U-Boat” training bases. During the Squadron’s allocation to Coastal Command it completed 2,102 operational flights of a total of 21,527 hours and was credited with 4 enemy a/c destroyed, 3 probables, attacked 35 U-Boats and 4 surface vessels.

Of the total of 511 Czechoslovak airmen who lost their lives in World War II in Poland, France and Great Britain, 273 were lost in 311 Czechoslovak Squadron. Of those 122 in Bomber Command, 126 in Coastal Command and 25 in operational training. Of 51 airmen taken POW, 34 were from 311 Squadron, amongst whom was F/Off A. Valenta, one of the 50 allied airmen shot on orders of Goering after the ‘Great Escape’.

Czechoslovak airmen also served and flew in other roles, mostly after completing or in between operations tours, e.g. in ‘Transport Command’and’Ferry Command’, Photo Reconnaissance, Air-Sea Rescue and last, but not least in No 138 ‘special Squadron’ dropping agents into enemy territory, including those into occupied Czechoslovakia.

Czechoslovak Airmen’s Memorial, Dejvice, Prague.

A group of 21 pilots released from the Royal Air Force left the UK on 2lst February 1944, under the command of Staff Captain S/Ldr F Fajtl, DFC to form the first Czechoslovak Air Force regiment in the USSR. This regiment fought in the Slovak uprising from primitive grass airfields and without the sophisticated aids to navigation and control they were used to in England. They fought bravely until the bitter end when the unit flew back behind Soviet lines with all serviceable machines. Those who could not be taken back joined the partisans in the mountains.

The end of the war found all the Czechoslovak Squadrons in readiness to move to their liberated country but a few days later Air Marshall Janoušek visited all Squadrons personally to explain that the move could not take place “for technical reasons”. Earlier in 1945 President Beneš and most members of the Czechoslovak Govemment in London left England for home via the USSR and a new government was formed in the Eastern part of Czechoslovakia liberated by the Soviet armies. This government included for the first time members of the Czechoslovak Communist Party.

Except for a quick visit to Prague by Air Marshal Janoušek, to discuss the return of the Czechoslovak Air Force, the first two aircraft allowed to return were two new Ansons required by the Czechoslovak Government for internal flights. The members of the two crews, all former members of 311 Squadron had strict orders to change their uniforms – the insignias, from the RAF to Czechoslovak – before embarking on the flight back to their home country on 10th June 1945, a whole month after the end of hostilities in Europe.

Crossing the Czech borders, both crews called Prague airfield on the known international frequency but no reply was received. Fortunately, the weather was clear and both landed safely to a traditional welcome of bread and salt after an absence of six years of war. The operator of the Prague MF/DF was in the welcoming crowd. He confirmed that the calls were heard clearly but stated that the Russians did not allow him to answer them. The crews brushed this incident aside as a minor one. They were happy to be home again but perhaps this was a foretaste of things to come.

Liberator aircraft of No 311 Squadron began ferrying personnel and stores of the Czechoslovak Government from London to Prague sometime in July, but Squadrons Nos 310, 311, 312 and 313 did not return home officially until August 1945.

311 Sqn return to Prague-Ruzýně on 18 August 1945.

Despite the fact that a triumphal march through Prague was arranged for the homecoming Air Force on a working Thursday afternoon, the inhabitants of Prague welcomed their airmen with real enthusiasm and love. It was clear however, that ‘Western’ Air Force was not a favourite of one part of the government of the new ‘People’s Democracy’. There was no animosity against the Russians amongst the airmen returning from England, on the contrary, the Russians were welcomed as liberators from the worst tyranny the Czechs and Slovaks had ever known. Many excesses of the Red Army were overlooked because of the feeling of gratitude and sympathy for their enormous losses during the war. For several months the CPCz [Czechoslovak Communist Party] benefited from the admiration of the people for the Russian war effort. However, it soon became apparent that the official Soviet and CPCz crude propaganda was not only denying the war effort of the other allies including that of the Czechoslovak Forces in the West but was gradually turning against them.

Nevertheless, for two and a half years following the war Czechoslovakia remained a multi-party limited democracy and the former RAF members and Army personnel from ‘the West’ were treated well. The war-time airmen were, after all, the only available specialists with up-to-date experience in flying and able to train new personnel. Those who were not demobilised and remained in the service were also eager to see their country and its forces back amongst the most modern and efficient in existence. It was, therefore fully accepted that they were dispersed and allocated to Military schools, Staff Colleges and units which could not function without their expertise. It was not in the regular airmen’s nature to question the absence of their war-time leaders in the posts of real power and command. Their war-time commander, Air Marshal, now again, General K Janoušek, KCB became the Inspector of the Air Force, a post not in the chain of command.

By a general agreement between the permitted political parties, the Ministry of National Defence was to be in the hands of an officer of no-party allegiance and that was officially General Sovoboda who returned to Czechoslovakia at the head of the Czechoslovak Forces from the USSR. However two very important new branches were created in the Czech forces and these were the ‘Enlightenment Branch’ and ‘Defensive Security Branch’ both almost entirely manned by known members of the CPCz. The ‘Enlightenment Branch’ was not an Education Branch as known to the former RAF members, but very thinly disguised Agitprop – or political commisars, as they were known in the Red Army. The other branch was much more sinister but, to their later regret, not taken very seriously by former members of the Air Force and Army who had not come across anything of that kind in their services either at home, or in the West during the war.

Those officers, NCO’s and airmen who did not spend the war abroad but had survived it under the Nazi occupation, some in concentration camps, were much more careful in expressing their views than their ex-RAF colleagues, However, nothing happened to anyone who argued with the ‘Enlightenment’ officer during a daily political education period. That is, not until February 1948, when General Svoboda joined the Communist party.

The Communist takeover of power in the coup of February 1948 was immediately followed by a direct assault on former members of the Czechoslovak wartime forces, first the ex-RAF, then the members of the Czechoslovak army in the West, as they were considered to have been influenced far too much by their surroundings and experiences during the war, and finally non-Communist members of the Czechoslovaks from the USSR who had seen too much during their service there. Within days of the coup, scores of officers and NCOs were dismissed as politically unreliable, either because of their known anti-communist views or because they were married to English girls.

Many of these started fleeing the country when they saw the writing on the wall. Some fled on foot across the borders to Germany, unfortunately were caught and jailed. Others left some with their families, in ‘borrowed’ aircraft and landed in Germany, Belgium, France and some made it directly to England. To the Czechs Great Britain was a natural refuge, not only because of the recent common fight against Germans but also primarily, because its ideals of democracy and humane approach to all problems were the same for which they themselves had fought and for which many had given their lives. Of those airmen who came to Britain, and there were several hundred, many were accepted back into the Royal Air Force. Others dispersed all over the world with the result that the ‘Free Czechoslovak Airforce Association Abroad’ had members not only in Europe but also in the USA, Australia, Brazil and South Africa.

Those who for various reasons did not or couldn’t go into exile for the second time paid dearly for their wartime past. They were considered unreliable, a threat to the revolution, many were arrested, sent to prison, to labour camps (mainly into mines) or so called rehabilitation centres. Even Colonel Fajtl, the Commander of the Czechoslovak fighter regiment in the USSR and other members of his unit were incarcerated in the ’50’s. In these years of terror and darkness, monster trials took place in which many officers were sentenced to death or life imprisonment. Among them General H Pika and Air Marshal Janoušek, the former was executed, the latter’s sentence was commuted to life of which he served 13 years.

Even though this bloody era eased off after a few years, no former member of the Czechoslovak Air Force was allowed to obtain employment in any other capacity than as a manual worker on the lowest pay. The authorities made their lives as difficult as they could. The veterans were not allowed to meet their wartime comrades. It happened, for instance, that the restaurant where they had arranged to meet closed at the last minute ‘due to an extra holiday for the staff’. And so they would meet at funerals or mainly on the occasions of the traditional commutation of the Battle of Britain at the British Embassy. Some of them would bring their old wartime uniforms in a suitcase, change on the premises and spend an hour or two in a surrounding where they were treated with respect and where their past was appreciated and not maligned.

Considering this iniquitous treatment of war heroes in their own country, it is quite unbelievable that Czechoslovakia was not ashamed to send her Ambassador annually with a wreath to the war memorial of Czechoslovak airmen in Brookwood in England, which they had the audacity to ‘adorn’with a red star and hammer and sickle.

Fortunately, these bad times are behind us. After the Velvet Revolution a reunion of Czechoslovak airmen was realised in England in 1990 and the following year airmen as well as soldiers from WW2 received ‘moral and political rehabilitation’ – a pity that many of them only in memoriam!

© Marcel Ludikar

Written in l988, updated in 2002

* Most statistics are taken from a Czech book “On the Western Front by Brod and Cejka who has access to documents of the Czechoslovak Air Force Inspectorate transferred from London to Prague in 1945. Messages, telegrams etc. were accessed from Public Records Office, Kew.

Posted in 310 Sqd, 311 Sqd, 312 Sqd, 313 Sqd, 68 Sqd, France, Information, Poland, Victim of Communism | 1 Comment

Josef Frantisek – 100th Anniversary

Obecní úřad Otaslavice připravil u příležitosti výročí narození plk. i.m. Josefa Františka vzpomínkové setkání, které se uskuteční v sobotu 4. října 2014.

The Municipal Authority of Otaslavice will commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Col.Joseph František on Saturday 4 October 2014.

8.30 – 09.00….Prezentace Hostů

Presentation of Guests

09:00 – 09:50….Bohoslužba v kostele, doprovodný program v mistě setkávání,

9:00 to 9:50 ….Church service and accompanying program,

10:00 – 11:00 ….Zahajovací program v místě setkávání průlet letounú,

10:00 to 11:00 ….Opening program including an aircraft flypast,

12:30 – 13:00 ….Pochod obcí k domu Josefa Františka,

12:30 to 13:00….Proceed to the the house of Josef František,

13:00……………Vzpomínka na Josefa Františka,

13:00……………Remembrance of Josef František,

14:00 …………..Prohlídka muzea Josefa Františka, doprovodný program – Sokolovna.

14:00 …………..Visit to the Museum of Josef František, continuing program at Sokol Hall.

Jménen všech organizátorů srdečně zve starosta obce Otaslavice

Ing. Rostislav Drnovský

On behalf of the organisers, Ing. Rostislav Drnobský, Mayor of Otaslavice, cordially invites you to attend.

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Tomas Vybiral medals finally presented

In November 2008 Generalmajor Tomáš Výbiral DSO, DFC, Croix de Guerre was awarded the Kříž obrany státu – Cross of National Defence by the Ministerstvo obrany České republiky [Ministry of Defence of the Czech republic] of the Czech Republic.

V listopadu 2008 Generálmajorovi Tomáši Vybíralovi DSO, DFC, Croix de Guerre, Ministerstvo obrany České republiky udělilo KŘÍŽ OBRANY STÁTU Ministerstva obrany České republiky.

On 2 July 2009 he was also awarded the Pamětní medaili k 90. výročí vzniku československé republiky – Medal to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Czechoslovak republic – again by the Ministerstvo obrany České republiky.

Dne 2. července 2009 Ministerstvo obrany České republiky, mu udělilo Pamětní medaili k 90. výročí vzniku Ćeskoslovenské republiky.

Sadly Tomáš Výbiral had passed away in 1981 and since that time his wife Gita Denise the opera-singer, and daughter Rosanna had also passed away in England. Thus there was no known family members of his for the medals to be presented to.

Bohužel, Tomáš Vybíral zemřel v roce 1981 a od té doby zemřelly, jeho manželka, operní zpěvačka i dcera v Anglii, Tak se nenašli žádní rodinní příslučníci, kteří by převzali udělená vyznamenání.

This was how the situation remained until January 2014 when finally after extensive searching his great-nephew, Gianfranco Barone, was found in Sicily.

Tato situace trvala až do ledna 2014, kdy byl po rozsáhlém a úsilovném pátrání nalezen na Sicilii jeho prasynovec, Giafranco Barone.

The logistics of presenting the medals to Gianfranco where coordinated between the Czech authorities in London and Prague and himself.

Logistika předání medailí Gianfrancovi , byla koordinovaná mezi příslušnými orgány České republiky v Londýně a v Praze, a jím samotným.

In June Gianfranco travelled to Prague for a family visit and also to received be presented with these medals on behalf of the Vybiral family. A warm welcome was received from Ing. Bacha and Colonel Stehlik at the Ministerstvo obrany České republiky, at Hradčany, Prague, where the medals, in an informal ceremony, were presented to him on behalf of the Tomáš Výbiral family.

V červnu Gianfranco přijel do Preahy na rodinnoui návštěvu a současně mu byla předána jako zástupci Vybíralovi rodiny, vyznamenání. Dostalo se mu vřelého přivítání od ing. Bacha a plukovníka Stehlíka na Ministerstvu národní obrany. České republiky. v Praze na Hradčanech, kde mu byly medaile v neformálním obřadu předány jako zástupci rodiny Tomáše Vybírala.

Gianfranco commenting, on behalf of the family:

Gianfranco jménem rodiny poděkoval:

“We would thank to all to made it possible, with a special mention to Lt/Col René Klapáč, at the Defence Office at the Embassy of the Czech Republic, London for his initiative to achieve this. We acknowledge it was not an easy task to find relatives to Gen. Výbiral, and very much appreciate the effort involved in this task, considering that it was something that could easily have been given up on. For the Výbiral family it is clearly evident that all the people involved where driven by passion and loyalty to an idea.”

“Chtěli bychom poděkovat všem, kteří pomáhali v hledání, zvláště Lt/Col René Klepáčovi na úřadu obrany velvyslenctví České republiky v Londýně. Jsme si vědomi toho, že to nebyl lehký úkolol, najít příbuzné generála Vybírala a velmi oceňujeme projevevenou snahu, když bylo tak lehké to vzdát. Pro Vybíralovu rodinu je jasné, že to byli lidé s vášní a věrností myšlence “.

Two days earlier he had attended the unveiling ceremony of the Winged Lion memorial in Prague and was thrilled to see the Spitfire flypast; an unknown sight in his native Sicily.

Před dvěma dny se zúčastnil slevnostního odhalení památníku Winged Lion v Praze a byl nadšený, když viděl průlet Spitfire, neznámý to pohled v jeho rodné Sicilii.

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Arnost Honzek

Sgt Arnošt HONZEK

* 14/11/20, Radvanice, Ostrava, Czechoslovakia.
† 15/05/14, England.


With sadness we must advise that


HONZEK Arnošt, 787968

WW2 312 Sqn Electrician I


15 May 2014, England.


15. května 2014 v Anglie


HONZEK Arnošt, 787968

2. světové války 312 perutě Elektrikář I


Rest in Peace

Čest jeho památce


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