A Fighter Pilot’s Call to Arms – review

A review of a Fighter Pilot’s Call to Arms
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A Fighter Pilot’s Call to Arms

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Defending Britain and France
Against the Luftwaffe 1940-42

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Stanislav Fejfar.,

Edited by
Norman Franks
with
Simon Muggleton

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A Fighter Pilot’s Call to Arms” describes the short but eventful life of Czechoslovak fighter pilot Stanislav Fejfar. What sets this book apart from those written by, or about, his contemporaries is that Stanislav kept a diary of his travels, adventures and his time as a fighter pilot with the French Armee de l’Air and the British Royal Air Force.

In 1994 a fellow medal collector and good friend of Simon Muggleton had been in the Czech Republic searching for medals and militaria and had located a copy of the personal diary of Flight Lieutenant Stanislav Fejfar along with his medals, photograph album, some official papers, and his pre-war leather flying coat, gloves and helmet.  It was later established that after Stanislav’s death in 1942, the hand-written copy of the diary had been given to an English girlfriend called Yvonne who he had met whilst recuperating in hospital in Torquay. Yvonne had kept the diary for many years after the war but eventually decided that it should be returned to Stanislav’s native land. The diary had been published in 1970 but the whereabouts of the original document remains unknown.

Simon was already interested in the part played by the Czechs and Poles in the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, and when he saw the documents knew that somehow he had to get these published in English and to tell the story of this heroic pilot. So began the long quest which led to co-authorship with Norman Franks (a world-renowned historian with over a hundred books to his name) and publication of the book in 2010, the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Simon was put in touch with Henry Prokop, a retired Czechoslovakian Squadron Leader who had served as a flight engineer with 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron. Henry had escaped from Czechoslovakia at the same time as Stanislav, meeting him for the first time in Poland in June 1939, then following the same route via the French Foreign Legion to the French Armee de l’Air and eventually to the Royal Air Force in Britain. Henry agreed enthusiastically to translate the documents, and his efforts are commended in the foreword by Wing Commander G L Sinclair OBE DFC (the senior flight commander in 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron during the Battle of Britain) and by the authors who acknowledge that the book would not have been written without the late Henry Prokop.

The authors decided that, to bring the story alive, Henry’s translation should be annotated with information about Stanislav’s early life and the operations in which he was involved, as well as presenting background to the war and battles in which he and his Czechoslovak comrades were involved. The book begins, therefore, with a description of Stanislav’s early life at Stikov in the region of Hradec Kralove following his birth on 25th November 1912, his call-up to national service in 1932 and subsequent enrolment into the Czech Air Force, and his escape when the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia on 15th March 1939.

The diary starts on 1st June 1939  when Stanislav left Czechoslovakia for exile and records virtually on a daily basis his flight to Poland, the sea passage to France, the subsequent journey to join the French Foreign Legion in North Africa, his deliverance to the French Armee de l’Air, and his escape to Britain where he arrived on 16th July 1940.

From August 1940 to 21st July 1941 the diary records Stanislav’s time as a fighter pilot with 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron of the Royal Air Force during and after the Battle of Britain, including the 1st German plane he shot down on 9th September 1940 and the time spent in hospital and recuperating following an operation for an undisclosed reason.  The diary recommences on 1st August 1941 with Stanislav posted to 313 (Czechoslovak) Squadron and promoted to flight commander. It describes the Squadron’s patrol and escort operations (which Stanislav calls “excursions”), a further spell of ground duty due to his previous medical problem, and his return to flying duties. The last entry in the diary is 10th May 1942 when Stanislav writes about the forthcoming “excursion” to France which he calculates will be his 40th.  Stanislav was shot down on 17th May 1942 whilst escorting 12 bombers on a task to destroy the harbour of Boulogne and is buried in Calais.

The diary records the personal reflections and the recording of events as they involved Stanislav and his comrades. What makes this book exceptional is that the content has not mellowed with the passing of time and provides an insight into the lives of the Czechoslovaks who fled their homeland rarely available (in English) to today’s readers. It is a compelling read which will enhance knowledge and understanding of the experiences of the Czechoslovak forces who fought in the west, before and during the early war years.

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Publisher: Grub Street Publications
ISBN: 9781906502768
Published: June 2010
Format: Hardback
Language: English
Price: £20.00
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This entry was posted in 310 Sqd, Battle of Britain, Biography, Books. Bookmark the permalink.

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