* 14.6.1919, Olešnička, Czechoslovakia
† 27.3.1975, Northampton, UK
Adolf Jurman was one of more than 2500 Czechoslovaks who escaped from their homeland, between 1939 and 1945, and joined the RAF on their arrival to the UK. His life reflected the turbulent years of the mid-twentieth century in Europe. Twice he had to go into exile from the country of his birth, 1939 and 1948, and once he had to leave in a hurry in 1968.
Adolf was born on the 14 June 1919 in the village of Olešnička, near Štěpánov nad Svratkou, about 50 kilometers northwest of Brno, to František and Josefa Jurman. Štěpánov is situated on the River Svratka in the picturesque rolling hills and woods of the Vysočina region. Adolf was born a citizen of the new country of Czechoslovakia, unlike his elder siblings who were originally citizens of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, this despite the fact that they were all born in the same house, Olešnička No. 12. He was the youngest of František’s and Josefa’s three surviving children, Adolf’s brother František was nine years older and his sister Irena was four years older. As an adult, he could remember when very young sharing a bed in the little house in Olešnička with his grandfather and an older brother. One morning he woke up to hear his grandfather saying that the brother had died in the bed during the night. He hardly ever spoke about his childhood but he did mention the two older brothers who had died while still children.
In 1925 his father, a farmer, sold their house to his younger brother Hynek and moved to Brno with his family where he and found work in a factory. there. This move to Brno was in order to give his children a chance to study at the larger schools there. The long summer holidays from school were spent in Olešnička with the Havelka’s at No 32, where Josefa (née Havelka) had lived before her marriage. Adolf attended the primary school in the Juliánov district of Brno for five years and then to the Gymnasium in central Brno for a further six years. His school reports must have pleased his parents, besides each subject was almost invariably written “velmi dobrý” (very good) with occasionally “dobrý”. As a young teenager, he would spend his summer holidays camping with his school friends and helping on the family farms in and around Štěpánov.
In 1936 he won a place to study for three years at the Lycée Carnot in Dijon in France. The granting of places every year to a few Czechoslovak high school students to pass the final three years of their school studies in France came about through the fact that Edvard Beneš, (Czechoslovak Foreign Minister, and then President from December 1935) was for a time a student at the Faculty of Law at Dijon.
That summer, Adolf went with some friends on a six-week boat trip down the River Danube as far as Yugoslavia, stopping at Bratislava and Komárno in Slovakia, Esztergom and Budapest in Hungary, Vukovar, and Belgrade and Vršac in Yugoslavia (in what is now Croatia and Serbia); from the photos which have survived, it seems he met many people and had a chance to start to learn other foreign languages besides French and German.
Studying in France
Adolf’s parents were prepared to sacrifice a great deal to give him an opportunity to study in France. The Lycée Carnot, like many French boarding schools in those days, expected military discipline and provided spartan comfort, and it acted as a type of residential ‘pension’ for pupils who did not return home for the Christmas and Easter holidays, the pupils would receive board and lodging during those holidays and would also participate in various excursions for which they had to pay. The list of items that pupils had to bring with them at the beginning of each school year was extensive, clothes and footwear, bed linen and towels, toiletries and books, documents and French permits, sturdy suitcases for the train journeys. The parents were expected to pay for board and lodging, laundry and weekly hot showers, barbers and such additional activities as music lessons and football away-games, and the pupils had to open a Post Office account to pay for emergencies and extra activities, as well as the excursions. The food was described as “plain” and any medical care in the infirmary incurred extra costs. A supervisor was appointed for each pupil, and the journey to and from Czechoslovakia at the beginning and end of each school year was supervised. The introductory month-long course at the very beginning of the pupil’s first entry into the Lycée also had to be paid for. But at least the train journeys from Brno to Dijon and back were subsidised by the Czechoslovak government. Parents had to apply for grants and Adolf’s parents did not receive all that they had asked for. By that time, both his brother and sister had married and left home. The timetable at the Lycée was quite concentrated, keeping the pupils occupied and busy for most of the time from 6am until 9pm, 7 days a week. The subjects studied at the Lycée were the usual high school ones, and Adolf continued his studies of German and began to study English. A letter he wrote to his Uncle Hynek during his first few weeks there describes his problems in adapting to speaking French all the time. He would return home to his family only for the summer holidays.
After the Anschluss of March 1938 when Austria was annexed into Germany, the Czechoslovak state came under increasing pressure from Germany. Already in May, before Adolf had returned home for his holidays, there had been a partial mobilisation of the Czechoslovak armed forces, but in September a decree of general mobilisation was issued to resist the annexation of the Sudetenland by Germany. When the Munich Agreement of 29 September was signed, the Czechoslovak government was forced to cede to Hitler’s demands and the mobilisation was canceled. Adolf, who had completed the first part of his Baccalaureat (Bachelors) degree in June, was at home during that time and immediately participated in the mobilisation. He was ordered to help guard the route from Brno north to Blansko and Česká Třebová.
After the Munich Agreement, he returned to France on the 14 November to attend Lycée Carnot for his final year. After the 15 March 1939, when Nazi Germany occupied what was left of Czechoslovakia, his father wrote to tell him not to return home. Adolf would not see his family again for over six years. He spent the Easter holidays that year at Quemigny-sur-Seine, 50 km north west of Dijon with the family of one of his friends and returned there during the summer of that year after he had finished his studies at the Lycée.
Adolf was awarded his Bachelor’s Degree in the summer of 1939. He had hoped to have a career in the diplomatic service and had made plans to study in Paris after leaving school. But in August he realised that the situation between Germany and the rest of Europe would soon deteriorate. The state of Czechoslovakia no longer existed and therefore had no Embassies abroad, but four countries, France, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the USA, retained a Czechoslovak diplomatic mission, and Czechoslovak companies which had world-wide outlets such as Baťa and Škoda sent money to the Czechoslovak Consulate in Paris for the initial support of Czechoslovak exiles in France. Štefan Osuský, the Czechoslovak Ambassador in France, had refused to close the Paris Embassy building after 15 March 1939 and declared himself the leader of Czechoslovak resistance in France. He signed an Agreement on the re-establishment of the Czechoslovak military in France with the French Prime Minister in October. Adolf applied to the Czechoslovak Consul in Paris at the end of August for help and was informed that recruitment into a Czechoslovak Army in Exile would begin at the end of September. After the invasion of Poland, on 1 September 1939, the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany two days later.
In September 1939, following war being declared, the French Government, which hitherto, under French law, had not permitted the establishment of foreign troops within its frontiers, allowed the Czechoslovak military forces to be reformed on French soil and a camp at Agde, near Montpellier, was made available. This camp, which had housed refugees from the Spanish Civil War, and was dilapidated and neglected, was cleaned and the wooden billets were renovated in time for the first administrative officers to move in on the 21 September. Well over 1000 Czechoslovak military personnel, who had been required to join the French Foreign Legion following their escape to Poland and then traveled to France the previous year and also other Czechoslovak residents or Frenchmen of Czechoslovak descent were accepted into the Czechoslovak Army in Exile. At Agde, the men were formed into the First Czechoslovak Infantry Division, in which the organisation, equipment, and armaments were French.
Adolf joined the infantry at the rank of soldat (Private) on 17 October 1939. He served in No. 7 and No. 2 Companies. Three days after promotion to Caporal (Lance Corporal) on 15 December, he was posted to the Ecole des Officiers d’Infanterie de Reserve at Auvours, about 12 kilometres east of Le Mans in northwest France. The camp d’Auvour was the Centre for the Instruction of Cadet Officers (CIAI: Centre d’Instruction d’Aspirants d’Infanterie) and Adolf’s title was Élève-officier de réserve. He was chosen to go there for the very good reason that he spoke fluent French. His course lasted from the 18 December until the end of April 1940, and at that time of year seemed to consist mainly of army manoeuvres in the ice and snow. The cadets’ spare time involved practicing the dismantling and reassembling of their guns and vainly trying to dry their combat clothes. They celebrated the New Year quietly in their barracks, those whose families were not too far away went home. The first months of 1940 were very cold, and the cadets suffered from bleeding hands where the skin from their fingers had stuck to the triggers on the guns, and from constantly wet feet as wood was too wet to burn in the stoves for them to dry their clothes. There were night manoeuvres in the snow and target practice in the fog. Later on, the snow turned to mud and the only way to clean their uniform was by using a stiff brush when it was dry. And throughout the course, there were many tests on topics such as the role of the officer in a campaign and the maintenance of his troops’ morale. The course ended successfully for Adolf in April, and he returned to Agde and resumed his rank of Caporal. On the 15 May, he was promoted to Sergent (Sergeant) and joined No. 1 Company.
Events in Europe were moving fast. Germany invaded Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium and France on the 10 May 1940.
On the 20 May Adolf was transferred to No. 10 Company, but he stayed there only for one week. On the 27 May, he joined the Airborne Group (letecká skupina) of the Czechoslovak military in Exile
During the Battle of France, 10 May-25 June 1940, the Czechoslovak units, now integrated in the French army were involved in fighting on the Grand Morin river and in rearguard action on the Seine and Loire rivers, and the next ten days were spent in re-positioning and retreats. By the time France had capitulated and the Armistice had been signed on the 22 June, more than half of the country had been occupied and the entire west coastline was under German control. The Czechoslovak army regrouped at Narbonne, then went on foot to Agde and Sète. The British Government was informed that Czechoslovak and Polish forces were near Marseille, and the British Admiralty ordered that as many as possible of those troops should be embarked on whatever shipping could be collected and then taken to Gibraltar, thence to the United Kingdom. Two destroyers of the British Mediterranean Fleet were sent to assist with this evacuation and it was finished by midnight on the 24 June. More than 10,000 troops were rescued mostly by small cargo ships and taken first to Gibraltar.
On the 24 June, Adolf embarked on the British cargo ship SS Apapa at Port-Vendres. The Apapa departed Port Vendres at 03.00 on the 26 June and sailed to Gibraltar, escorted by the destroyer Velox, and then on in convoy to England.
Adolf finally arrived at Liverpool on the 7 July 1940 and he was transferred to the Czechoslovak transit camp at Cholmondeley Park near Crewe, Cheshire. Here the men lived in tents and, according to a report by the British Council dated the end of July, conditions in the camp were “of poor quality”. The grounds of Cholmondeley Castle had been given over to the Provisional Czechoslovak Government from the 7 July until mid-October for the organisation of its fighting forces. Two days later, Adolf was transferred to RAF Innsworth, Gloucestershire, as a possible recruit into the RAF. After a brief three nights there, on the 12 July, he and most of the Czechoslovak airmen there were moved to the Czechoslovak RAF Depot at RAF Cosford, near Wolverhampton. At Cosford, the men were billeted in Fulton Block, at that time the largest barrack block in Europe. Here they were sworn in as members of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAFVR) and began their RAF training and attending English language classes. The new recruits’ timetable consisted of drill, medical inspections and preliminary courses of instruction, before being sent onto further courses at RAF training establishments.
The date of Adolf’s enlistment was the 24 July 1940 “for the duration of the present emergency” and he was given the rank of AC2 (Aircraftman 2nd Class). He acted as interpreter and liaison for new arrivals throughout his first few months, as most of the men initially spoke only Czech or Slovak. On the 19 December, he was transferred to the RAF Depot in Wilmslow. In February 1941 he was awarded a commission, at the rank of Pilot Officer.
In March 1941 Adolf was posted to 312 Fighter Squadron as Adjutant with Administrative Duties. The squadron was based from the 3 March at Valley, Anglesey in North Wales in RAF No 9 Group, charged with carrying out convoy patrols flying Hawker Hurricanes. On the 25 April, 312 sqn left for RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man to carry out more convoy patrols over the Irish Sea and also intensive low flying and firing practice over the small Ayres Islands just to the north of Man. Jurby was well placed to defend the industrialised regions of northwest England, and fighter squadrons were stationed there to protect these areas from the Luftwaffe’s strategic offensive against Britain’s industry in the north.
Arrangements had been made for exiled airmen to spend some of their leave with British families, and Adolf spent his leave at the beginning of May at the home of Maurice and Beatrice Cattermole in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton. He was to spend more time with the Cattermoles on future breaks and eventually maintain a lifelong friendship with them.
In July Adolf went to London to be assessed for his fitness for flying duties and he also took the opportunity to meet up with friends who were working in the offices of the Czechoslovak Government in Exile. He was categorised as fully fit and his name was put down for the aircrew Initial Training School courses. He returned to the Czech Depot to resume his administrative duties. But in September he was given the devastating news that an eye disability (a different vision in each eye) had led him to be classified as “unfit”. Throughout the rest of 1941, he was transferred to various RAF eye hospitals to undergo gruesome and painful procedures to ameliorate this condition. He was to suffer from extremely sensitive eyes for the rest of his life. His determination to be fit and able to serve and fulfill his duties made him prepared to suffer the operations without anesthetics if necessary. All his postings to the training courses had to be canceled. In between these treatments he would return to the Czech Depot to continue his assignments to Administrative and Special Duties.
By the middle of December 1941 he was back at the Czech Depot and the following month he was discharged from the RAF hospitals. At the end of January 1942 he was ready for active service again and was based at the Czech Depot assigned to Special Duties and Administration. In February he was promoted to the rank of Flying Officer and in March he was sent to the Air Crew Reception Centre to be assessed again, and he was posted to an Initial Training Wing course.
The Reception Centre sent him to the No. 13 ITW (Initial Training Wing) course in Torquay, Devon. This course provided training in the basic skills to become pilots, navigators, and bomb aimers.
Halfway through this course, on the 2 May, while he was on leave in Wolverhampton, Mr and Mrs Cattermole introduced him to Dorothy Jones who was a teacher. She was to become his wife in 1944. Adolf was known among his British friends as Zoran (the name of a friend he had made in Yugoslavia), because of the British association of the name “Adolf” with Hitler. Dorothy and the Cattermoles always called him Zoran.
In June 1942 Adolf attended the No. 1 Empire Air Navigation School (EANS) at Eastbourne for 6 weeks of ground-based instruction in subjects related to flying in general and navigation in particular. He learned about basic navigation theory, signals, meteorology, armament and aircraft recognition. By this time radio navigation systems were being developed and deployed, but the basic tools of maps, compasses and stopwatch were still used. Each new radar navigation aid using ground transmitters and eventually using an individual radar set, mounted under the fuselage of the aircraft, which was being continually improved as the aids were detected and jammed by the enemy. Targeting equipment was also becoming more efficient: by 1942 a gyro-stabilisation platform and mechanical computer updating the sights in real time greatly improved accuracy. As each improvement was introduced so the aircrew had to be trained to use it, the courses became more specialist, and refresher courses had to be set up.
In August 1942 Adolf was sent to RAF Jurby to attend the No. 5 Air Observer School (AOS) for more observer training. The EANS provided preparatory theoretical training for observers between the completion of their ITW course and reporting to an AOS, and here in Jurby, the course included bombing, gunnery, and navigation instruction, flying in Blenheims and Ansons over Northern Ireland, North West England, the Midlands, and North Wales.
In December he relinquished the rank of F/O at his own request to a P/O, and qualified as an Air Navigator from the No. 5 AOS Unit. In January 1943 he attended the No. 3 School of General Reconnaissance (GR) in Squire’s Gate, Blackpool, and successfully completed the Navigator’s Reconnaissance Course in February. This course involved maritime training flights in Ansons over the coast on both sides of the Irish Sea. After completing this course, Adolf returned to the Czech Depot and to Administrative Duties.
In March he was posted to 6 OTU (Operational Training Unit) to attend an 8-week conversion course in general reconnaissance. He was a member of crew 32, one of 3 crews of Course 15 (Course No. 20 for No 6(C) OTU Czech Flight) under the control of No. 17 (Training) Group, Coastal Command, and from that time he was flying with mainly a Czechoslovak crew. The course of day and night flying lasted from 30 March until 24 May 1943 and was based at RAF Silloth in North England. The training aircraft were Wellingtons and Lysanders, which towed target drogues during gunnery practice over the range off the coast along the Solway Firth and over Kirkcudbright. The course also included simulated drills, with electrics and pneumatics, handling malfunctions, instrument readings, sound and movement for “realistic training”, this was the predecessor of the modern flight simulator. Adolf successfully completed these tasks. He finished the course on 24 May and was posted to 311 Squadron in June 1943, and he regained the rank of Flying Officer on 12 June.
The whole training process for Adolf lasting for a year was typical for a navigator in the RAF. All navigators had to pass through the ITW, the EANS, the AOS, and the OTU Conversion Course, and in addition, Adolf attended the GR course. Throughout this time, courses had to be continually adapted to include ongoing improvements in navigation equipment and aircraft construction. Many men found the training flights, in similar aircraft flying for many hours, just as stressful as combat flights proved to be. Great responsibility was placed on the navigator; before the flight he had to work out details of the route and navigation, and during the flight he had to be constantly alert guiding the aircraft to the target and then the return flight back to base; if anything happened to damage the aircraft’s navigational aids, he had to guide the pilot using his Dead Reckoning calculator (a form of circular slide rule made out of aluminium and plastic to calculate fuel burn, speed, wind correction, time en route, weight of aircraft) and his logs, charts and maps, to work out where they were in the sky.
311 Squadron had been transferred from Bomber Command (BC) to Coastal Command (CC) in April 1942, because the loss rate of more than forty percent of its aircrew was unsustainable for the squadron to maintain. Seven squadrons were transferred from BC to CC in 1942 in order to combat U-boat and aerial attacks on Allied shipping, and help secure the supply of food and war materials to Britain from North America. The ships sailed in convoys and they were vulnerable to attack particularly in the mid-Atlantic which was beyond the range of most Allied aircraft. By 1942, the operations of Coastal Command were mainly offensive, to hunt down and destroy German submarines and shipping instead of generally escorting and defending the convoys. The crews patrolled great expanses of the vast grey water of the North Atlantic, nothing to look on but sea and sky, and the line between air and water would often be unclear. By 1942, improved radar meant that U-boats could be spotted through cloud cover before the submarines could see the aircraft. Up till then, U-boats could dive for cover within 30 seconds of visually sighting an aircraft, well before an aircrew could see the grey submarine in the grey water. The patrols could sometimes last up to some 14 hours, very often in miserable weather or in the dark, the crew muffled up in as many clothes as they could manage in the unheated aircraft, the engine rattling with noise, and the slightest inattention could result in disaster. The crew had to be vigilant the whole time in order not to be surprised by the enemy and also not to miss a tiny sign on the sea surface which could possibly indicate the presence of a U-boat. When action was needed it had to be swift and ruthless, lasting only a few minutes, preceded and followed by hours of unrelenting flying, or succeeded by desperate efforts to bring a damaged aircraft back to base. However advanced the aircraft and navigational aids, the very nature of long-range operations over huge areas of waters remained hazardous, relying on the crew’s individual effort and self-planning.
The squadron at that time was based at Beaulieu in Hampshire when Adolf joined and it was part of the No. 11 Group. From May 1943 the squadron was converting from the twin-engined Wellingtons to the 4-engined Liberators and most of the aircraft were equipped with ASV Mk III radar (Air-to-Surface Vessel – a microwave frequency radar transmitter with a high resolution beam mounted on the aircraft), which could guide them to within one mile of the surfaced submarine, and also the Leigh Light, which illuminated the target at night. Some of the Liberators had the more advanced parabolic rotating dish under the nose. The Liberators were more suited for the work of Coastal Command, because their extended flying range enabled longer patrols – often 10- 14 hours – enabling deeper patrols in the Bay of Biscay and Atlantic to be undertaken. A training unit was set up to convert the squadron onto the new aircraft (No 1 OTU), and Adolf completed this conversion course during June 1943 and also trained in the use of rocket projectiles and bombs. The squadron resumed operations in August and Adolf flew as navigator / bomb aimer, initially on training flights over the southern English coast, and then further as far as the Bay of Biscay, the coast of Spain and the approaches to the Irish Sea. Sometimes, during patrols, the crews would conduct fighter escort training flights along with fighter aircraft from 310 Czech Fighter Squadron, which was based at RAF Ibsley, near Beaulieu. From mid-July, he and F/Sgt Josef Kuhn flew on most of their operations together, Adolf as navigator and Josef as pilot, and they became good friends.
On 7 October he was the navigator on Liberator 779 ‘J’, piloted by F/Sgt Kuhn, flying over the western area of the Bay of Biscay about 400 kilometers west of Brest, France, when the aircraft was attacked by four Ju 88s. Kuhn continually corkscrewed to present as difficult a target as possible but the Liberator still sustained considerable damage, the radar was put out of action and the fuel tanks were holed, also several of the crew were wounded. But Kuhn managed to fly the aircraft back to an airfield at St Eval in Cornwall for a “no flaps” landing on the nose wheel and one main wheel. F/Sgt Kuhn and F/Sgt Veverka, one of the gunners, later received the DFM in recognition of their courage. For his actions in this flight, Adolf later received a citation in Czech and in English:
His log book records the incident as follows: at 13.02 the Liberator ‘J’ 779 took off piloted by F/Sgt Kuhn, Adolf’s duty was navigator, under Remarks he wrote “A/S sweep 4728N 1017W 4 Ju’s 88 – crash landed at St Eval”, the flying time was 6hrs 38mins.
The next day the crew were flown back to base as passengers in Liberator ‘B’ piloted by S/L Václav Korda. The Liberator ‘J’ was too damaged and was struck off charge at the end of October.
From the 24 October until the 6 November 1943 Adolf and Josef attended the 2-week No. 14 Joint Anti-Submarine Course at RAF Maydown in Northern Ireland. The course’s object was to ensure that all Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel actively employed in anti-submarine warfare should be given knowledge of each other’s methods and capabilities. In November they returned to the squadron.
On the 27 December, Adolf’s Liberator was one of the six aircraft ordered to search for the German blockade runner ‘Alsterufer‘, sighted earlier that morning by Sunderland flying boats from 201 Squadron. Because of bad weather four Liberators including his, piloted by F/Sgt Kuhn, were recalled, but the third aircraft to leave Beaulieu, piloted by P/O Oldřich Doležal, sighted the ‘Alsterufer’ over 1350 kilometers west off Cape Finisterre, Spain, attacked and completely disabled the ship, to the extent that the crew had to abandon ship. This success was a great-morale booster for the squadron. Adolf continued to carry out sweeps over convoy routes and U-boat transit routes, many of these operations were carried out at night and lasted up to 14 hours at a time.
In February 1944, 311 Squadron redeployed to Predannack, on the southwest tip of Cornwall. Adolf continued operational flying up to the end of July 1944, with anti-submarine sweeps over the western end of the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay. Before D-Day, Coastal Command patrolled the approaches to Normandy, protecting against enemy submarines and shipping, 311 Squadron covered the western approaches of the English Channel in support of the D-Day landings, contributing to the saturation air patrols which covered individual sectors of the sea, providing vital protection, and Adolf completed anti-submarine sweeps over the Channel, including night patrols, many of them lasting up to 9 hours.
On the 7 August the squadron was re-deployed to RAF Tain in north Scotland on the North Sea coast under the command of No 14 Group. The area of its operations changed to the North Sea, its patrolling area covered Iceland, the Norwegian coast and the Baltic. All German submarines were operating from the coast around Norway and the Baltic Sea since the Allies had captured the ports of north west France.
Before he moved with the squadron, Adolf married Dorothy Jones on the 8 August 1944 at St Mark’s Church in Wolverhampton and they spent their honeymoon at Bonar Bridge near Tain. They had been meeting at every opportunity when Adolf’s leave permitted, and the Education Act of 1944 meant that Dorothy would not have to give up her job when she married; previously in Britain, if a woman teacher married, she had to resign from her job.
Adolf’s first patrol from Tain was on the 18 August when his Liberator completed an anti-submarine sweep over the North Sea as far as the coast of Norway. This was his last flight with Josef Kuhn, On the 23 August Adolf was posted to RAF Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, to the General Reconnaissance Aircraft Preparation Pool, which supplied front line squadrons with more aircraft. He was there for one month, helping to deliver Liberators to RAF Coastal Command Stations Tain, Leuchars, and Milltown in Scotland, and St Eval in Cornwall, returning as a passenger in Wellingtons. He returned to Tain at the end of September and flew on anti-submarine sweeps during the next five weeks over the North Sea as far as the Faroe Islands and the coast of Norway.
In November 1944 Adolf was posted from 311 Squadron, to RAF Transport Command. He was one of an increasing number of Czechoslovak airmen, who having completed their operational tour were redeployed from operational duties to take up a transport role, and he attended the No 105 OTU (TC) which had been formed in April 1944 at RAF Bramcote in Warwickshire to train crews for transport squadrons. Course 22, from 7 November until 2 February 1945 was made up of F/Lt Ladislav Světlík (pilot), F/O Adolf Jurman (navigator) and W/O Václav Kašpar (wireless operator), and these three men were to remain constant crewmates until August 1945. They flew in Wellingtons during this conversion course and trained over areas ranging from North Wales to the west coast of Scotland. On 12 December Adolf was promoted to the rank of F/Lt. This crew was posted on the 16 February to the No 11 Ferry Unit based at RAF Talbenny. From there. they delivered Wellingtons to RAF Blida and RAF Maison Blanche in Algeria and RAF Rabat–Salé in Morocco, flying via Paris, Marseille, and Gibraltar. The crew would return as passengers in RAF Dc3 Dakotas.
In April 1945 the three crew members attended the No 108 OTU (TC) conversion course at RAF Wymeswold, northeast of Leicester, which had been formed to train transport crews on Douglas Dakota DC3’s. Adolf trained as a Dakota navigator. At the beginning of May, after they had completed the No 108 OTU course, they joined No 147 Squadron of Transport Command, based at Croydon, South London. This squadron had formed as a Transport Command Unit from September 1944 and was equipped with Dakota DC3’s, and it provided regular transport flights between the United Kingdom and the newly liberated cities of France and Belgium, then into Italy, Gibraltar, and Greece. As the Allies captured German cities, these too were added as destinations, and then airfields in Norway and Czechoslovakia. These flights supported supply missions to allied troops as they moved further east. Adolf himself flew to destinations in France and Belgium. On 1 June 1945 he was promoted to the Czechoslovak Air Force rank of nadporučík, equivalent to the RAF rank of F/O.
Return to Czechoslovakia
He set foot on Czechoslovak soil for the first time since 1938 when he flew to Prague Ruzyně airfield on 25 June 1945. Subsequently, he flew to airfields in Germany, Italy, Norway, and Denmark, as well as continuing to fly to bases in France and Belgium. He flew in his last flight for the RAF VR, piloted by Ladislav Světlík, on the 7 August 1945, when he was the navigator on a flight from Prague to Croydon. On 17 August, having relinquished his RAF commission, Adolf returned to Prague as a passenger in a Czechoslovak Air Force Dc3 Dakota. A few days later the returning Czechoslovak RAF airmen participated in the Victory parade, held in their honour, through Prague.
But already the political situation in Czechoslovakia was complicated. After the liberation of Prague 9 May 1945, Beneš returned to Prague, thinking that his country could gain genuine independence. But Prague was officially in the Soviet zone as had already been agreed at the Yalta Conference of February 1945. Therefore, although personnel and stores of the Czechoslovak Government had been ferried from London to Prague since July, the British Government had to wait until August for Russian approval for the return of Czechoslovak RAF airmen and WAAFs to their homeland. Czechoslovak personnel and equipment continued to be transported there until the end of the year.
Thus, it was only in August 1945 that the Czechoslovak squadrons were repatriated, by which time an anti-West power base was developing within the military. This reinforced the influence of the new Czechoslovak government’s Communist members. The liberation of the Czechoslovak lands from the brutal Nazi regime and the huge task of reconstructing and reuniting the nation, both taking place within the Soviet sphere of influence, meant that any plans or strategies for the future were dominated by Russian influence.
But in August the airmen, who had been exiled for six years or more, could enjoy the welcome they received from their country. Adolf’s military service lasted six years from the day he enlisted in the Czechoslovak Army in France at the camp in Agde until the 18 October 1945 when he was demobilised.
After his reunion with his family in Brno, his first priority was to find work and find somewhere to live. As an RAF repatriate he was allocated an apartment in Dejvice, Prague; Dorothy in later years spoke of their home in Dejvice, it had apparently been previously occupied by a German official and his family, and still retained its expensive carpets, furniture and porcelain china and a wonderful full-size grand piano (Dorothy was a very good pianist). But the transport of British wives to Prague was progressing very slowly. Adolf was still serving with the Czechoslovak Air Force when he flew back to London on the 9 October to see Dorothy in Croydon and to make enquiries, and stayed two nights. She had been working as a supply teacher on a daily basis as she did not know when she would be leaving Britain and could not commit to a school for a term, but she was receiving a monthly allowance from the Czechoslovak Military Mission in London and was attending meetings for all the wives at the Czechoslovak Embassy. Eventually, a Red Cross train was organised by the Czechoslovak Military Mission for all the wives and families who still remained in Britain, and on Monday 29 October the repatriation train left Victoria Station. They sailed overnight on a troop ship to Ostend and then traveled by train, all the German cities they passed through appeared to be “heaps of rubble”, as she remembered, and at each station, there were Germans begging for food. Dorothy already knew some of the British wives and met many more on the journey. On Thursday 1 November they arrived at Cheb and were greeted by crowds of people with red and white carnations. Apparently, Czech radio was providing a running commentary on the progress of this special train. From Cheb to Plzeň they traveled through the American Zone and then crossed the frontier, where they were not held up for too long, into the Soviet Zone. All the way to Prague they passed cheering crowds throwing flowers. As the train pulled into Wilson Station she could see Adolf running along the platform to meet her with red and white carnations in his hand. And so their life in Prague began.
No information has survived from his personal papers but family tradition says that Adolf initially became an agent for Avia Letňany in Prague; this company had been the biggest aircraft producer in Czechoslovakia before and during the Occupation, and after the war it diversified into truck production as well as continuing to make aircraft. He also made enquiries to start a course in law studies at the Law Faculty at the Charles University, Prague, and he spent the next two and a half years studying for his law degree as well as working full-time. There were many British wives in Prague and the British community there enjoyed a busy social life together.
Adolf and Dorothy’s twin daughters, Katharine and Michelle, were born on 10 December 1946. They had only learned that they were expecting twins a month beforehand.
During his first year in Prague, Adolf had made the acquaintance of Mr Guttman, a wealthy businessman who had lost most of his family during the war, and, through him, joined the Export Department of the Czechoslovak Coal Board. In 1947 he was appointed Assistant Export Director, managing the sale of coal and coke on the European market, including the usual cartel arrangements between different territories, involving finance, licensing and shipments. He had also joined the Czechoslovak Military Reserve in the Dejvice Branch, and he eventually reached the equivalent Czechoslovak Air Force officer rank to which he had achieved in the RAF, naming as referees Mr Guttman and former senior Czech RAF officers from 311 Squadron. In the summer of that year, Dorothy took the twins to South Wales to meet their grandparents and other relatives.
The next elections in Czechoslovakia were scheduled for May 1948, and action to gain a majority for the Communists was already being organised, involving propaganda and demonstrations. Adolf and many of his acquaintances could see the direction that politics was taking and they spoke at many meetings and assemblies to try and persuade their countrymen to choose the Western democratic path. By February 1948 the Communists realised that a victory in the May election was not certain, and so manipulated matters so that the non-Communist government ministers felt they had no alternative but to make a stand and resign. On the 25 February Beneš accepted their resignations and asked his Prime Minister, Klement Gottwald, to form a new government. This was a great coup for the Communists – a non-violent take-over of the Czechoslovak government, and they consolidated their rise to power by dismissing thousands of people from their jobs and arresting hundreds who seemed to pose a political threat. Adolf was one of those who lost their job.
Adolf graduated from Charles University with a Doctorate in Law on the 5 March 1948.
So within a week, Adolf had gained his Doctorate and simultaneously lost his job. He realised that the future for him in Czechoslovakia was very insecure, already there was an undercurrent of threats against men who had served in the RAF during the war. So he made preparations to leave his country. First, he made sure his family was safe by sending Dorothy and the girls to Britain. They managed to ship some of their belongings at the same time. Before Dorothy left, they arranged for a studio photo of the family to be taken and sent to all the family, Dorothy wrote on the back of one of the copies: “This was taken in May 1948 – souvenir to leave with the family – before we finally left”. Meanwhile, the May elections were won by the Communist Party and their supporters with over 89% of the vote. Once his family was safely back in Britain, Adolf set about trying to obtain legal permission to leave, in order to save his Czech family from punishment later. He finally obtained his passport with great difficulty and expense, involving many visits, petitions and secret payments to the authorities, and finally left in August. This was only just in time because already many ex-RAF servicemen were being arrested.
When Adolf finally arrived in Britain he joined Dorothy and the girls, who were living with Dorothy’s parents in Port Talbot. It was not possible for him to practice law in Britain because the judicial systems were not the same, he would have had to retrain and this would have been expensive – and of course, they could not afford it. He was reluctant to go back into the RAF, as he did not want to fight against his country and his family should there be a future war. Therefore they thought the solution would be to return to Wolverhampton, where they still had many contacts and where there would be an opportunity for Adolf to find work there. Wolverhampton was the second city in the West Midlands after Birmingham and at that time was well-known for the manufacture of aircraft and heavy armaments during the war and vehicles and engines since. It was a difficult time for Adolf, the Cold War had already started and relations between the West and the Soviet Eastern bloc were fraught. British people were still suspicious of foreigners and he could only find work as a traveling salesman, as his future employer put it, “he spent a year on the road as a sales-agent”. This, he confided many years later, was a low point for him. Dorothy had to go back to work as a teacher and the girls went to nursery every day, which was unusual in those days as most married women in Britain did not go to work. Adolf and his two daughters became British citizens in March 1950.
In July 1949 Adolf took up a position with The Turner Manufacturing Company in Wolverhampton as Assistant to the Export Director and took charge of the Europe and Near East Export Division. The company manufactured components for heavy road vehicles, also agricultural tractors and diesel engines for automotive and marine applications. During the war, the company had produced powered winches for the British Army and undercarriages for aircraft including Spitfires and Lancaster aircraft.
After three years at Turner’s, Adolf became the Export Manager at The Villiers Engineering Company Limited, located around the corner from Turner’s. Villiers produced two-stroke and four-stroke petrol engines and four-stroke diesel engines for motorcycles and scooters, and also carburetors and other machines.
During his years at Turner’s and Villiers, he traveled on many business trips around Europe, including Holland, Switzerland, Austria, West and East Germany, and Yugoslavia, and he made annual trips to the Leipzig Trade Fair, in East Germany. He made many friends and acquaintances on these trips and was highly respected, and he entertained many business colleagues on their visits to Wolverhampton. Unfortunately there is no record to show which business trips he made to North Africa and the Near East, but the respect and liking for him held by his Near East contacts was proved by the many boxes of fresh fruit and nuts given to him as personal presents; these were very thoughtful gifts in a time of continued food rations in Britain, and Adolf’s daughters remember well the generous boxes of these expensive and exotic foreign foods. Throughout this time, Adolf kept in touch with his Czechoslovak friends from the RAF who lived in the West Midlands, some had rejoined the RAF and others had gone into business there. There was no club for them, probably because there were not many of them and they did not all live in the same towns. Wolverhampton was the centre of a thriving manufacturing area, and Adolf and Dorothy had a wide circle of friends, all connected by their war years or their work, Adolf in business, Dorothy in education.
Adolf was really proud of his first car and his daughters remember him showing it to them when he brought it home for the first time. Not many people owned a car in the early 1950s. This car, a black Vauxhall, provided the transport for the holidays spent visiting the various places where Adolf was stationed during the war, in South England, Cornwall, Wales, and Scotland, where they stayed in Bonar Bridge to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. And on one memorable holiday in France, they visited Dijon and Adolf told his daughters about climbing over the Lycée Carnot wall with his friends, jumping on the old cart propped up against the wall, and playing truant. He was delighted to see the same old cart (or a replacement) still there nearly 20 years later.
Although Adolf had left Czechoslovakia legally with a passport, he was reluctant to visit his homeland. But by 1959 he judged it safe to return there with his family for a holiday, because the political environment had become slightly more liberalised, and repression and censorship were less strict. This was the first time he was together with his Czech family for 11 years. A sign of this political relaxation was that his nephews were allowed special leave from their national service in the army by their sympathetic officers. Adolf and his family made the journey to Czechoslovakia by car and he combined this holiday with various business meetings with colleagues while driving through Belgium and Germany. The family returned to Czechoslovakia the following year, this time the trip was combined with business meetings in Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
In 1961 Adolf took up a new post as Export Manager at Arthur Lyon and Co (Engineers) Ltd (later Newage Lyon Ltd in 1965) in Stamford in Lincolnshire, not far from Peterborough. The Company’s business consisted of the production of alternators, compressors, pumps and other electro-mechanical machines. He continued making regular business trips to Europe, West Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland, and frequently had business meetings in London, using the convenient regular train service to King’s Cross. His pioneering work in the export department led eventually to the company receiving the Queen’s Award for British Export Business in 1980. Adolf really loved his life in Stamford and made many good friends there. He loved talking to the young RAF men who were serving in the many RAF stations that still existed around the area of Stamford and into Lincolnshire. He and his family spent three more holidays with his family in Czechoslovakia and in December 1963, while he was on a business trip to Vienna, he was able to cross the border at short notice to attend his father’s funeral in Brno, which he learnt of from a telegram sent by Dorothy from Stamford.
The third of those holidays was in August 1968, in that time of great hope and expectation but it ended very suddenly. On the 20 August, Adolf and Dorothy had visited his family in Štěpánov, they had eaten and drunk well, and came back to his sister’s home in Brno. Early in the morning of the 21, Vladimír Schutz, the husband of one of Adolf’s nieces and an officer in the Czechoslovak Air Force, came to warn Adolf that Warsaw Pact troops were invading the country. Within an hour the car was loaded and Adolf and his family set off for the Austrian frontier. Day was breaking when they were waved through by all the border guards at the frontier. The invasion was a terrible blow for Adolf, it was the third time he had left his country, and his overwhelming feeling was deep sadness that his country was not allowed the freedom to follow its own mode of development.
Newage Lyon had been acquired by Charterhouse Bank in 1964, and in 1972 Adolf and Dorothy moved to Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, when Charterhouse restructured its business and established the British Labour Pump Company Ltd there. Adolf spent the last two and a half years of his life working as Export Manager at British Labour Pumps. Although he rarely spoke of his military service, he was continually reading literature about the RAF during the war, and making lists of his comrades, with the dates of those who did not survive. His daughters remember him describing the time when his aircraft was under attack, he heard the voice of his friend (who he realised later was actually dead) calling him and automatically turned his head just in time to avoid being killed by ammunition fired from the enemy aircraft which had penetrated his Liberator. He certainly never exaggerated his wartime experience, in fact rarely spoke of it, but this account was striking enough to remain in his daughters’ memory.
He managed a last holiday with Dorothy in his homeland in 1973, before he was diagnosed with cancer. His final months were spent in and out of hospital, before he passed away at Northampton Hospital on the 27 March 1975. That summer, Dorothy took his ashes to Brno where they were buried in the family grave in Brno-Židenice cemetery.
1991 Rehabilitation Ceremony
In September 1991, Dorothy attended the RAF Rehabilitation Ceremony held in Prague on 13 September, where she met President Havel and was presented with two certificates, one, with Adolf’s name, of “Honourable Mention” on the occasion of the moral and political rehabilitation of the Czechoslovak members of the RAF who had fought in WW2, and one announcing the promotion of Adolf to Podplukovnik (Wing Commander) on his military and moral rehabilitation. She was one of many widows there and she met many of Adolf’s comrades who were still alive and well enough to take part in this act of remembrance and restoration.
The names of over 2500 Czechoslovak men and women who had served in the RAF during WW2 were unveiled at the Winged Lion Monument at Klárov park, Prague on the 13 November 2017 and Adolf’s name is among them. He and all of them will be remembered for their courage and fortitude fighting totalitarianism during the tumultuous years of the mid-twentieth century.
Válečný kříž 1939 with clasp (Czechoslovak War Cross 1939 with bar)
Za chrabrost před nepřítelem with clasp (For Gallantry against the Enemy with bar)
Za zásluhy 1 Stupne (Medal of Merit Grade I)
Pamětní medaile československé armády v zahraničí with France and Great Britain clasp (Memorial Medal of the Czechoslovak Foreign Army Abroad)
France and Germany Star
1939-1945 War Medal
© Katharine Maher (née Jurman)