The RAF Czechoslovak Depot – Cosford
Entry to the Royal Air Force.
The thoughts and feelings of a young unknown Czechoslovak airman recruit about his first day experience at the Czechoslovak Depot, Cosford : –
Imagine yourself standing in front of an entrance to a Military Camp. At first sight it is an ordinary entrance, not at all different from hundreds of similar gates, but this is a gate of special significance to those who pass through it into a new different world. For the dozens of young men who entered here it is the threshold of a grand new experience – a fulfilment of their innermost dreams.
For this is the R.A.F. Czechoslovak Depot – entrance to the Czechoslovak Air Force.
As you enter you are greeted by the Czechoslovak flag flown from a mast in the middle of the Barrack Square, and by the sound of marching feet from the entrance. It is a new batch of volunteers who have come to strengthen the ranks of the C.A.F.
There is a strange atmosphere of novelty in everything that happens here. It is a new world, entirely different from anything that the majority of these keen young men have known so far.
The Commanding Officer arrives to greet this group of new arrivals, who only a few minutes ago became members of the Czechoslovak Air Force. There will be a lot for them to learn and a great deal to forget.
“I want you to carry out any duties which may be assigned to you conscientiously, to preserve discipline and soldierly behaviour. Above all I want a true spirit of comradeship to prevail among yourselves, and between you and the British personnel attached to our unit here.” The Commanding Officer’s firm voice resounds through the Barrack Square. Discipline and true spirit of comradeship. Anyone lacking in these two fundamental qualities can have no place among our Air Force family, for, coupled with personal courage, these two qualities go to the making of a complete airman and are the basis of his character. Here it can be said our airmen can be justly proud of the fact that the spirit of comradeship and unflinching loyalty to one another animates all our officers and airmen alike.
Now comes the final address. “Our Minister, Jan Masaryk, once said, “ he goes on, “that our airmen have become our best diplomats in the world.”
“I sincerely trust that you will do your utmost to become worthy of your great mission. Our people back home are looking up to us from the depth of their present misery and despair as the only visible expression of their otherwise passive resistance, and their only hope of salvation. Therefore, no exertion, and no sacrifice, can be too great for us, no task too difficult to accomplish. We must not fail their trust”
“We must not fail their trust.” The echo repeats his words…
The following day is the beginning of real military training designed to turn a raw recruit in to a fully-fledged airman; hard British drill followed by medical inspections and Boards. Then according to their medical category the new airmen are entered for training for aircrew or ground duties. These are preliminary courses of instruction on the depot which provide necessary basic knowledge for pupil pilots, observers, wireless operators, air gunners and flight mechanics. Aircrew personnel under training who pass out successfully, are then posted to British Schools and Training Establishments to receive training in their respective aircrew categories. This completed they go back to various squadrons to take the places of those who have completed their operational tour of duty and are being posted on a period of rest which they have more than deserved.
Every Czechoslovak abroad – whether he be a pilot, a mechanic, or a clerk, had to pass through this depot, and in fact some of them come back here as instructors to place their valuable experience, gained in the course of their operational duties, at the disposal of new candidates who have come forward, fully determined to follow in their footsteps.
The Czechoslovak Depot – the entry into the Czechoslovak Air Force, a gate which opens to admit you into the world of wings and blue skies, often packed with tense excitement, but also a world full of danger and fighting and calling for great personal sacrifices. A world, in fact where the glory and triumph over the enemy, which are usually rewarded by the Military Cross, invariably mingles with the white crosses in the military cemeteries, as well as with numbers of prison of war camps and brief casualty reports announcing that So-and-So has been reported missing.
The flag of the once free Homeland, flown from the mast in the middle of the camp, incites to further and further efforts and exertions in spite of any dangers, however great they may appear. It is a symbol of the higher ideals for which we are fighting, ideals free from personal considerations and all selfishness.
Not individuals, not even groups of people, but Home, is on the minds of Czechoslovak airmen when they go into battle.