Commemoration In Prague Remembers Heroism of Czechoslovak RAF Pilots
The participation of Czechoslovak pilots in the fight against Nazism was one of the most famous chapters of the foreign resistance during World War II. Credit: Ministerstvo obrany České republiky, via Facebook.
Prague, Sept 14 (CTK) – The stories of the Czechoslovak pilots of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) show that even in a small country there are people who can make an indelible mark on world history, said Petr Cepelka, commander of the Czech Army Air Forces, at yesterday’s commemorative service in Prague.
He also said that today’s army pilots were building on the legacy of their predecessors, trying to develop it and pass it onto the next generation.
The commemoration, which took place as part of the celebrations of the Army Air Force Day, was opened by a flypast of two Gripens. The pilots were commemorated by a minute’s silence. The national anthems of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Great Britain were also played.
Cepelka said that RAF pilots remained a model of heroism and determination, and an inspiration not only for soldiers.
British ambassador Matt Field also praised their bravery. Speaking to descendants of Czechoslovak pilots and members of the British community in Prague, he praised the ties between Czechs and the British as having remained strong.
Deputy Defence Minister Frantisek Sulc noted that the RAF was made up not only of fighter and bomber pilots, but also of other people without whom the aircraft would not have made it into the air. He mentioned that investments in aviation contributed to the high level of Czechoslovak aviation. He said that such investments are also essential now, even more so at a time when Europe is at war, because the air force is important for the defence of the country.
The Czech Republic is currently negotiating with the USA to buy 24 F-35 aeroplanes, with a maximum of $5.62 billion for a 10-year contract.
The participation of Czechoslovak pilots in the fight against Nazism was one of the most famous chapters of the foreign resistance during World War II. Some 2,500 Czechoslovaks joined the RAF, with ground personnel serving alongside the pilots. According to historians, the Czechoslovak pilots disabled around 365 German aircraft and six V-1 rockets, sank several ships and submarines, and dropped over one million kilograms of bombs on important enemy targets in Nazi Germany and occupied territories. 529 of them died, 250 were wounded and 52 captured.
Czechoslovak pilots joined the RAF in the Battle of Britain in 1940. Numbering 88 men, they were the fourth largest non-British national group to intervene in the battle, after Poles, New Zealanders and Canadians. Members of the Czechoslovak 310th and 312th Fighter Squadrons and other pilots fighting in British and Polish squadrons contributed to the first major defeat of Nazi Germany. According to statistics, they shot down 56 enemy aircraft, and probably 20 more, with seven pilots dying.
After the end of the war, Czechoslovak members of the RAF helped build and rebuild not only the military but also the civil air force. After February 1948, when the Communist party came to power in Czechoslovakia, however, they became the target of persecution by the communist regime. Many former pilots ended up in prison along with other participants in the foreign Western resistance. Many others had to emigrate.