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Final Thoughts on the Karel Mrazek Album

In May 1941 No. 46 Squadron made preparations to move overseas. They were to be redeployed in North Africa in defence of Malta, a posting that would prove the end of Mrazek’s journey with the Squadron.

Pilot Officer Karel Mrazek - Ready to take off!

As a Czech pilot Mrazek was not allowed to serve overseas and as a result when these orders were given, Mrazek was transferred to another unit. It is impossible to know how Mrazek felt about this, but I believe that the thoughts of Miroslav Liskutin might be applicable:

“Having settled so well in 145 Squadron, I found it difficult to imagine anything different. This happy state of affairs however, was destined to be short-lived. Around the first week in December 1941 the squadron was given warning to stand-by for a move overseas. This would have been no problem, until I learned that the Czechoslovak pilots cannot leave the British Isles and in any case, all three of us were needed as a replacement in a Czechoslovak squadron. For me this was as if the sky had collapsed. I could imagine nothing more upsetting at that moment!”
- M. A. Liskutin, Challenge in the Air.

Four Czech pilots of No. 46 Squadron

From No. 46 Squadron Mrazek was posted to 313 (Czech) Squadron as ‘A’ Flight commander and promoted to Flight Lieutenant, and in December 1941 Mrazek was made Squadron Leader. He received his Distinguished Flying Cross in June 1942 and was promoted to Wing Commander of the Czech Wing four days later. In December 1942 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.  

He was promoted to Station Commander at RAF Church Stanton in April 1943 and later became Liaison Officer at HQ Fighter Command. 

 

In May 1945 he left the RAF at the rank of Group Captain and returned to Czechoslovakia a war hero. He was readmitted into the Czech Air Force, promoted to Colonel, and appointed commander of the 3rd Air Division. 

The initial euphoria, however, did not last long. Like many ex-RAF Czech airmen he was purged by the communist authorities in 1948, labelled an enemy of the state, and dismissed from the Air Force. Mrazek was taken to a military prison for two months and interrogated using brutal methods. After his release, Mrazek moved to the Czech town of Jablonec Nad Nisou where he spent the rest of his life. 

Following the Velvet Revolution in 1989 the state once again recognised Mrazek’s contribution to the freedom of his country and he was promoted to Major General. He passed away on 5th December 1998, at the age of 88.

 

Flying Officer Karel Mrazek, April 1941

There is a growing interest in the diverse nature of the RAF during the Second World War and how much Britain owes foreign servicemen for their contribution to the Allied war effort. As far as the Royal Air Force is concerned, the addition of well-trained and experienced airmen was vital in ensuring that the Allies gained and maintained air superiority from the Battle of Britain until the end of the war.
  

As well as their material contribution, the success of these pilots was aided by the good relationships formed between British and foreign airmen. On the whole, foreign pilots were warmly welcomed by their British counterparts, and this album is evidence of the cooperation and strong bonds of friendship that were fostered throughout the RAF. 

It was before the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, when things must have looked most bleak for Mrazek, that this album was compiled. In 1980, on one of his trips back to England to meet his wartime friends, Mrazek formally presented this album to the Museum. 

These photographs were clearly important to Mrazek and together create a visual account of the experiences of an exiled pilot serving in the RAF. Mrazek served with the men of No. 46 Squadron day and night for nine months and this album is a personal tribute to his best friends, those brave and dauntless pilots who laid down their lives for victory and the future of those who survived.  

 

Pilots of No. 46 Squadron - Pilot Officer J. P. Lloyd, Sergeant J. Rezwicek, Flight Lt. P. W. Le Fevre, Sergeant P. Brazda, Sergeant L. Uher, Sergeant J. Gutvald

 
To view the Mrazek album in its entirety please visit the Royal Air Force Museum Flickr page.

All images © the Estate of Karel Mrazek.

David Wilson : Collections Assistant
About the Author

David Wilson : Collections Assistant

Working within the Department of Collections Management I am involved in all aspects of the care and development of the collection. I have always had a passion for military history and I feel privileged to be able to work with such a large and varied collection. I joined the Royal Air Force Museum in January 2015 having previously worked at Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford.

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