Saturday, 25 November 2017

Honouring the Czech airmen

Three Wellington Mk ICs of No. 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF based at East Wretham, Norfolk, March 1941. CH2265
Wellingtons from the RAF 311 (Czechoslovak) squadron.

Having just passed through the security check for my flight from Prague, I sat down to wait the opening of the gate. As I often do I started talking to the lady on the seat next to me. 

"How long have you been here," I asked.
"Only two days," she replied.
"Not long enough," I said
"No, but I have been here many times. I just came to attend a ceremony for the families of Czech RAF airmen of the Second World War."

We talked and she showed me a picture of her father's name on the plaque just unveiled on the flying lion monument opposite Malastranska Metro station. I was honoured to sit next to the daughter of such a brave man and asked her about him. Here is his story:

He and his cousin left the country in order to fight the Nazis, first they went to Poland to fight, then to North Africa to join the Foreign Legion, before going to France and from there to England. During the war he piloted Lancasters and Wellingtons, until a serious accident put an end to his active service and he moved to training pilots instead. After the war the Czechoslovak squadrons were transfered to the reformed Czech airforce and he returned to his homeland. 

When the Communists came to power and started to purge the airforce, he flew a business man and the man's plane to freedom in the west and came back to Britain. His cousin stayed behind with his family and suffered under the Communists. After all that adventure her father's story should have ended happy ever in England, but it didn't. Still eager to continue flying, he went to Canada. There his luck ran out, his plane experienced mechanical failure and crashed in the vastness of the Canadian wilderness. 

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