From Saint-Brieuc, France to …Klarov, Prague

Paying tribute to Czechoslovak pilots
from Saint-Brieuc, France to …Klárov, Prague.

The ABSA 39-45 (Breton Association of the Aerial Remembrance 1939-45) is an Association located in Châteaubriant, western France. Our mission is to identify all the airmen, of all nationalities, who have fallen in western France during WWII, and to pay them homage by finding and telling their story.

We were contacted, in late April 2019, by the FCAFA about an initiative to pay tribute to the Czechoslovak pilots killed during the war outside the United Kingdom, particularly in France. Two of these pilots, Sergeant Jan JEŘÁBEK and Flight Lieutenant Benignus STEFAN, are buried in Saint-Brieuc, in the heart of Brittany, in the area of our association ABSA 39-45.

Of course, we immediately agreed to support this operation and were very honored that they had the good idea to contact us for these two airmen. Two of us, Jean-Michel Martin and myself, went to the St Brieuc Western Comunal Cemetery on 22 May to lay at the graves of Jan JEŘÁBEK and Benignus STEFAN with the bouquets sent to us by the FCAFA. It was a great moment of emotion that we lived, Jean-Michel and I, in the military square of the Cemetery under a beautiful Breton sun.

F/Lt Benignus ŠTEFAN, 313 Sqn pilot, 24, † 08.03.43.

Jean-Michel Martin at Benignus STEFAN’s grave

Sgt Jan JEŘÁBEK, 313 Sqn pilot, 22, † 15.07.42.

Benoît Paquet at Jan JEŘÁBEK’s grave

We informed the regional press and the newspaper Ouest-France decided to write an article about our emotional story (here below). The journalist was mostly interested about this story of fraternity between Czech and French people today to pay tribute to pilots killed in action during WWII.

By a coincidence of the calendar, I had planned for a long time to spend a few days of vacation in Prague the week following our visit to the cemetery of Saint-Brieuc. I mentioned this to FCAFA, who informed me about the existence of the Winged Lion Memorial. I obviously could not miss this monument and I visited it on 27 May.

My emotion was great when I discovered the names of Jan JEŘÁBEK and Benignus STEFAN among the 2,507 Airmen engaged in the RAF.

Benoit Paquet showing F/Lt Benignus STEFAN’s name.

Benoit Paquet showing Sgt Jan JERABEK’s name.

The ABSA 39-45 would like to thank the Free Czechoslovak Air Force Associates ltd for having given us the opportunity to live an important moment of emotion by paying tribute to F/Lt Benignus ŠTEFAN and Sgt Jan JEŘÁBEK, two free pilots who gave their lives, far from their homeland, to contribute to the liberation of Europe.

Benoit Paquet
President of ABSA 39-45.

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