Czech the Polish connection

A little know fact is that some Czechoslovak pilots flew with the Polish Air Force in Britain in WW2. One of these was Josef František who was the highest-scoring RAF pilot of the Battle of Britain with 17 Luftwaffe aircraft shot down in a 28 day period.

Some had emigrated to Poland before WW2 or, following the formation of Czechoslovakia, on 28 October 1919, from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, found that their region was now part of Poland. Others had escaped from Czechoslovakia to Poland following the German occupation of their homeland in March 1939, and whilst most, disappointed with the negative response they had received from the Polish authorities, chose to go to France instead, 97 had chosen to remain in Poland and fly with the Polish Air Force.

When Poland was overrun, many escaped with Polish forces and made their way to France via the Balkans. In France, they remained with the Poles, and when France capitulated, they escaped with Polish forces to England. Here, instead of joining newly formed Czechoslovak squadrons in the RAF, they remained in Polish Air Force squadrons in the RAF.

Those Czechoslovak airmen, who died whilst serving in Polish squadrons in the RAF, are not commemorated on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission records or at Runnymede, but instead at the Polish Air Force Memorial, Northwood, England, along with the 2,161 Polish airmen who died during WW2. Czechoslovak pilots Josef FRANTIŠEK, Matěj PAVLOVIČ, Wilhelm KOSARZ [[Vilém Košař] and Wladyslaw UHER [Vladislav Uher], who has no known grave, are commemorated on this Memorial.

František, Pavlovič and Kosarz flew with 303 Polish Fighter Squadron “Kościuszko” which was the highest scoring RAF Sqn in the Battle of Britain. This squadron became the most famous of the 16 Polish Squadrons in the RAF in WW2.

Josef František, Matěj Pavlovič and Wilhelm Kosarz were three of the infamous ‘Český čtyřlístek’ – the Czech cloverleaf – from the short Polish campaign of September 1939. Of this quartet, only Josef Balejka was to survive the war. All four had been awarded the Krzyż Walecznych – the Polish Cross of valour, Poland’s highest military decoration, during this campaign.

Pavlovič was awarded his Polish War Cross on 19 September 1939 and is believed to be the first medal awarded to a Czechoslovak airmen in WW2. For his remarkable achievements in the Battle of Britain, František was awarded three more Krzyż Walecznych.

‘Český čtyřlístek’
The Czech cloverleaf

Top left – Pavlovič, top right – Košař, bottom left – Balejka and bottom right – František.


FRANTIŠEK Josef, 27, Sgt, 303 Sqn., Pilot

* 07/10/13, Otaslavice, Prostějov

† 08/10/40, Ewell, Surrey

Killed in crash when returning from combat patrol.

Grave ref: section H, grave no. 246, Northwood Cemetery. Ruislip, UK

A symbolic urn, No 63, is also interred at the Airman’s Memorial, Prostějov, Czech Republic


KOSARZ [Košař] Vilém, 32, Sgt, 302 Sqn., Pilot

* 20/06/08, Karviná

† 08/11/40, Mayfield

Shot down in aerial combat

Grave ref: section H, grave no. 274, Northwood Cemetery. Ruislip, UK


PAVLOVIČ Matěj, 26, F/Lt, 303 Sqn., Pilot

* 07/03/15, Vlkovice, Horažďovice

† 20/04/41, English Channel

Shot down at 27,000 ft. near Le Tourquet, France in Spitfire IIA RF-V, P7859.

Grave ref: 26 Plot XIII Row A Grave 19, Bologne Eastern cemetery, France

A symbolic urn, No 15, is also interred at the Airman’s Memorial, Prostějov, Czech Republic


UHER Vladislav, 26, Sgt, 257 Sqn., Pilot

* 03/08/14, Mlékojedy, Mělník

† 30/06/41, North Sea

Missing from an operation over Europe in Hurricane 11B Z5163. Believed to have gone down in the North Sea off Hippisburgh. Norfolk.

Grave ref: No known grave, commemorated on the Polish Airmen’s Memorial, Northwood, UK.

A symbolic urn, No 14, is also interred at the Airman’s Memorial, Prostějov, Czech Republic


The Polish Airmens Memorial is located adjacent to the A40/A4180 roundabout junction, near RAF Northolt, in South Ruislip, Middlesex.

GPS Location:- N 51° 32′ 55.77″, W 0° 24′ 1.09″

View Map Location


The assistance of Clive Lewis and Ministerstvo obrany České republiky [Ministry of Defence, Czech Republic] with this article is very much appreciated.

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