Return to a Liberated Country

Czechoslovak airmen in the RAF had already wanted to return home in the final days of the war, when people in Prague at that time had risen up against the Nazis, against the efforts of Nazi troops to destroy Prague. The call for help was heard even by our airmen, but they were forced him just listen passively, due to the fact that the Western Allies were observing the Yalta agreement, and therefore also the demarcation line and the USSR disagreed with an exception and the intervention of the Western armies (US forces were much closer to Prague than the Red Army). Our pilots were waiting at the Maston airport, but then the order to start the unit wasn´t issued.

The First RAF airmen that returned to Czechoslovakia were those that had voluntarily joined the Czechoslovak air units in the USSR in 1944.

The penultimate line in the log book of Tomáš LÖWENSTEIN, airmen with 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron, records his journey home. It took six year and 3 hours and fifty minutes. Archive of Tomáš Lom. (možno použít jen spodní cást log booku, která obsahuje danou informaci)	The penultimate line in the log book of Tomáš LÖWENSTEIN, airmen with 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron, records his journey home. It took six year and 3 hours and fifty minutes. Archive of Tomáš Lom. (možno použít jen spodní cást log booku, která obsahuje danou informaci)	The fallen were understandably also not forgotten. 1945. Invitation to the funeral mourning for the Czechoslovak pilots, organized by the Union of Pilots, which took place on 21st October 1945.
The penultimate line in the log book of Tomáš LÖWENSTEIN, airmen with 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron, records his journey home. It took six year and 3 hours and fifty minutes. Archive of Tomáš Lom. (možno použít jen spodní cást log booku, která obsahuje danou informaci) The fallen were understandably also not forgotten. 1945. Invitation to the funeral mourning for the Czechoslovak pilots, organized by the Union of Pilots, which took place on 21st October 1945.

ExRAF airmen returned to a liberated Czechoslovakia in August, 1945. They were welcomed at the Prague Ruzyne Airport by thousands of people – many of whom learned the fates of their sons, brothers and fathers for the first time there. The members of the RAF were in the same position. Some of them were Jews and their families perished in concentration camps, others were investigated and tortured by the Gestapo or imprisoned. Archive of Martin Vrána.

Letter of Otakar HRUBÝ, a former pilot of the 111 Squadron from the Forced Labor Camp at Mírov, where he was imprisoned by the communist regime. The displayed part of a postcard contains instructions about what his wife can send to him, 'a package weighing up to 10 kg once a month, fruit packs once a week ...' Archive of Ota Hrubý
Letter of Otakar HRUBÝ, a former pilot of the 111 Squadron from the Forced Labor Camp at Mírov, where he was imprisoned by the communist regime. The displayed part of a postcard contains instructions about what his wife can send to him, “a package weighing up to 10 kg once a month, fruit packs once a week …” Archive of Ota Hrubý
Satirical drawing depicting the postwar life of a soldier: Christmas of our soldiers abroad. In the snow-covered steppes of Russia. In the hot sands of the desert. At an English fireside. In the mud at Dunkerque. …and finally in the warmth of home. Document in hands of a soldier - twentieth request for assignment of an apartment.	In the following days and years, dozens of air shows, exhibitions were held, and memorials to the fallen were unveiled. There was tremendous interest in the experiences of the repatriated RAF airmen. Poster announcing a lecture by a member of the 138 Squadron, Karel KNAIFL. Archive of Jirina Knaiflová.
Satirical drawing depicting the postwar life of a soldier: Christmas of our soldiers abroad. In the snow-covered steppes of Russia. In the hot sands of the desert. At an English fireside. In the mud at Dunkerque. …and finally in the warmth of home. Document in hands of a soldier – twentieth request for assignment of an apartment. In the following days and years, dozens of air shows, exhibitions were held, and memorials to the fallen were unveiled. There was tremendous interest in the experiences of the repatriated RAF airmen. Poster announcing a lecture by a member of the 138 Squadron, Karel KNAIFL. Archive of Jirina Knaiflová.
In a document dated 3rd July 1945 the Ministry of National Defense informs the mother of Ota HRUBÝ that he is alive, and that he will soon return to their homeland and that he sends home a greeting saying that 'Lieutenant Otakar HRUBÝ from Nova Paka is healthy and cheerful.' In a document dated 3rd July 1945 the Ministry of National Defense informs the mother of Ota HRUBÝ that he is alive, and that he will soon return to their homeland and that he sends home a greeting saying that 'Lieutenant Otakar HRUBÝ from Nova Paka is healthy and cheerful.'
In a document dated 3rd July 1945 the Ministry of National Defense informs the mother of Ota HRUBÝ that he is alive, and that he will soon return to their homeland and that he sends home a greeting saying that “Lieutenant Otakar HRUBÝ from Nova Paka is healthy and cheerful.” In a letter dated 6th June 1945, Major General Karel JANOUŠEK, inspector of the Czechoslovak Air Force in Great Britain writes: “Dear Mr. JAMBOR, it is with great sorrow that I confirm the news that you have probably already received via telegraph. From the beginning of the war, Sergeant Oldrich JAMBOR … was an outstanding member of the Czechoslovak Air Force …. He was one of the first members of the Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron in England. He made a large number of sorties and his courage and conscientiousness contributed significantly to the reputation of the Czechoslovak Air Force. When he finished the operational activities of the Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron, was sent as an instructor to the training school, where he showed extraordinary skills, perseverance and patience .. On 30th May 1942, the RAF undertook the first raid by thousands of bombers on Cologne … he did not return from the operational flight … he died on the way back … He put his life down in the struggle against the enemy as a faithful son of his country and brave defender of our common ideals and freedom. He was awarded the Czechoslovak medals for valor and the Czechoslovak War Cross … I feel for you, Sir, your pain, and I thank you on behalf of myself and on behalf of the entire Czechoslovak Air Force for the shared sacrifice and victory, in which the sergeant Jambor played a role. Honor to his name, work and memory!” Archive of Tomáš Jambor.

The worst, however, began after the so-called “Victorious February”. This is what the Czechoslovak communists nicknamed their coup, during which in 1948 they overthrew the government. And the Czechoslovak pilots of the RAF, previously presented as the core of the future Czechoslovak army, were labelled enemies of the state. Immediately, the public declaration made by General Ludvík SVOBODA, who himself signed many verdicts against former members of the RAF, ceased to apply.

First directive against exRAF members was issued day after communist coup. On the basis of this directives, some of the former members were persecuted in various ways. After the third wave of purges, which took place in the spring of 1950 (after the taking off of three Dakotas of the Czechoslovak Airlines with several former members of the RAF on board), only a few former RAF airmen remained with the air force.

Czech sources (website of the Army of the Czech Republic, respectively, the Association of Airmen) list almost one-hundred and fifty former members of the RAF who were persecuted. They were degraded, their medals were taken away, and they were moved out of the homes. In contrast to political dissidents of the regime, none of the former RAF members were sentenced to death. Many of them, however, died, or, respectively, were murdered (Josef Bryks, Silvestr Múller, Miroslav Planava, Vladislav Roubal, Cyril Sklenár, Lubomir Svátek, Eduard Šimon, Stanislav Velich, Viktor Waidlich), František Bekr and his family are missing from the time of their attempt to cross the border. Others were imprisoned, often together with those against which they had recently fought. They were also sent to forced labor camps where, among other things, the worked mining or processing uranium ore, often without basic safety equipment. It is possible to see what the Mírov Forced Labor Camp looked like in the film Tmavomodrý svet (Dark Blue World). Another method of persecution of our airmen is depicted in the film “Cemetery for Foreigners” (Hrbitov pro cizince). It is interesting that even those that fought alongside the Red Army also did not avoid persecution.

Police photograph of Jan Roman IRVING, former pilot of the 311th (Czechoslovak) Squadron from detention. Archive of Iveta Irvingová.

Police photograph of Jan Roman IRVING, former pilot of the 311th (Czechoslovak) Squadron from detention. Archive of Iveta Irvingová.

In light of the oppression, it is not surprising that many members of the former Czechoslovak RAF attempted to illegally cross the border after the Communist coup in 1948. To do so, they used various means. From tricking offices to a direct crossing of the border to flights, or plane hijacking. Probably the first of these was Marcel Ludikar (wireless operator with 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron, one of those that sank the blockade runner Alsterufer). The most famous escape occurred 24th March 1950, when three Dakotas belonging to Czechoslovak Airlines were hijacked, piloted by former members of the RAF. In Germany, where they landed, out of all of the passengers and crew members, a total of twenty-seven people applied for political asylum. The rest, fifty-eight people, returned. The organizers of the hijacking were sentenced in absentia to the punishment of death, and the others to twenty-five years in prison. Archive of Tom Doležal.

The communists did not punish only the war veterans themselves, but also their loved ones. The most glaring example is the fate of the son of Gustav Kopal, a member of the 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron. Vitek Formánek in his book “Three of the many” writes: “… when the younger boy got a fever one evening, Mr. Kopal called an ambulance. The doctor on duty told him that society has no interest in the children of people, such as he, and did not arrive. When he finally managed to transport the sick child to the hospital, it was too late and the boy died….”

In Czechoslovakia, the 1970s were called the Normalization, from the word normal. Nevertheless, the opposite was true. After the free 1960s, which ended the occupation by the Warsaw Pact countries on 21st August 1968, the communist regime tried to return to earlier years, when its power was virtually unlimited. One of the manifestations of this was the renewed banning of organizations renewed in the 1960s. This is an invitation to the final meeting of basic organisation of Ceskoslovenský svaz protifašistických bojovníku. Archive of Tomáš Jambor.

In Czechoslovakia, the 1970s were called the Normalization, from the word normal. Nevertheless, the opposite was true. After the free 1960s, which ended the occupation by the Warsaw Pact countries on 21st August 1968, the communist regime tried to return to earlier years, when its power was virtually unlimited. One of the manifestations of this was the renewed banning of organizations renewed in the 1960s. This is an invitation to the final meeting of basic organisation of Ceskoslovenský svaz protifašistických bojovníku. Archive of Tomáš Jambor.

Many of the exiles chose Great Britain as their destination country. Their wives hailed from there, and they hoped they’d find work again with the RAF. This came true for one-hundred and eighty of them.

Of the eighty-nine, who fought in the Battle of Britain, twenty-six emigrated, eighteen of them were persecuted and one, František Rypl, went into the reserves in the rank of Major General in 1954

Curated by Filip Procházka living history group 276th Sqdn. (reenacted) RAF