Historian: The respect and admiration of the British for Czechoslovak RAF pilots continues to this day

Historian: The respect and admiration of the British for Czechoslovak RAF pilots continues to this day

Historic: Ú respect and admiration of the British for Czechoslovakian RAF pilots continues to this day

Illustrative photo – On October 16, 2021, invited guests remembered the Czechoslovak war squadron at the opening of the exhibition entitled Knights of the Sky – 310th Czechoslovak Squadron RAF at the Brno Museum of Czech and Slovak Exile of the 20th Century. The last of its pilots, 98-year-old General Emil Boček, is still alive today. Dozens of family members of heroes who fought for free Czechoslovakia in World War II arrived in Brno. However, people in Brno will not be able to see the exhibition, they have to come and see it at the Police Museum of the Czech Republic in Prague, where it will be until May of next year.

Brno – According to Jan Břečka, the historian of the Moravian Regional Museum, the respect and admiration of the British for Czechoslovak RAF pilots continues to this day. And for the representatives of the Czechoslovak exile at the time, the provisional government headed by President Edvard Beneš, the immediate involvement of Czechoslovak airmen in fighting alongside the British was of great importance. Břečka stated this in an interview with ČTK. On Saturday, February 25, General Emil Boček, the last living Czech pilot who sat in the cockpit of a fighter plane in the British RAF, will celebrate his 100th birthday.

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According to the historian, the representation of Czechoslovak airmen in the Battle of Britain during 1940 was significant, which is evidenced by the fact that they were the fourth largest non-British national group to intervene in the battle with 88 men. After the Poles, New Zealanders and Canadians. “Members of the Czechoslovak 310th and 312th fighter squadrons, and another 32 pilots fighting in British or Polish squadrons, then from July 10 to October 31, 1940, helped save Great Britain and contributed to the first major defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II, ” stated Břečka.

According to statistics, they shot down 56 enemy aircraft, with another 20 likely, at the cost of seven pilots. Břečka reminded that Josef František, a native of Otaslavice near Prostějov, who flew with the Polish 303rd fighter squadron, is the best non-British RAF pilot of the entire Battle of Britain with 17 certain kills. “We cannot forget our 311th Bombardment Squadron, which indirectly joined the battle from the beginning of September 1940 through night attacks on enemy territory,” the historian said.

He pointed out that after the defeat of France in the summer of 1940, Great Britain remained the only country still fighting and resisting Adolf Hitler. “For the representatives of the Czechoslovak exile – the provisional government headed by President Edvard Beneš – the immediate involvement of our airmen in fighting alongside the British was of great importance,” said Břečka. He said that the participation of Czechoslovak airmen in the fight against Nazism is one of the most famous chapters of foreign resistance in the years of World War II. “Their departure abroad began right from the beginning of the German occupation, first to Poland. After its defeat, the refugees from the protectorate had to use the southern, so-called Balkan route, through Slovakia and Hungary to Yugoslavia, from there through Greece and Turkey to Beirut and then by boat transports to France,” the historian described.

One of them was the last surviving Czech RAF fighter pilot, army general Emil Boček. “At the age of less than 17, he left his home in his native Tuřany to join the Czechoslovak military units across the border in the fight against the German occupiers. As a private in an infantry regiment, he experienced retreating battles in France in the summer of 1940,” said the historian. After the evacuation to the British Isles, Boček signed up for the Royal Air Force and first served as an aircraft mechanic at the 312th Czechoslovak Fighter Squadron. “But that wasn't enough for him, he wanted to fight. In October 1942, based on his request, he was accepted into pilot training and after two years and 420 flight hours in October 1944, he was assigned to the 310th Czechoslovak fighter squadron as one of the youngest Czechoslovak fighter pilots. By the end of the war, he completed 26 operational flights,” the historian described.

According to the historian, after the end of the war, Czechoslovak members of the RAF helped build and restore not only the military, but also the civilian air force. “However, after February 1948, when the communists came to power, they became the target of persecution by the new regime, with dismissal from the army and loss of rank or decoration being among the minor punishments,” said Břečka. Many former airmen were sentenced to prison together with other participants in the foreign Western resistance. “But General Boček was lucky, he avoided persecution. He was demobilized in March 1946 and left for civilian employment,” Břečka pointed out. He stated that Boček first worked as a car mechanic, from the end of the 1950s until 1983 as a lathe operator at the Research Institute of the Czech Republic. Academy of Sciences in Brno, then in the same profession at the company Drukov. He retired in 1988. During the rehabilitation after November 1989, he was promoted to the rank of captain in April 1990, now he has the highest possible rank, i.e. army general.

During the Second World War, 2,500 Czechoslovaks joined the ranks of the RAF, whether they were in the air or on the ground personnel. “Our airmen made over 40,000 sorties, neutralized approximately 365 German aircraft and six V1 missiles, sank several ships and submarines, and dropped over a million kilograms of bombs on important enemy targets in Nazi Germany or occupied territories,” summarized Břečka. 529 Czechoslovak airmen, dead or missing, 250 of them were wounded and 52 captured, paid with their lives for the six-year participation in the battle from start to finish. “The respect and admiration of the British for Czechoslovak RAF airmen is traditionally high. It was like that during the war and it continues to this day,” Břečka concluded.