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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More disrespect at the Winged Lion

Takže na pomníku Okřídleného lva už řádily skupiny opilých turistů, často jej využívají děti jako herní a lezecký prvek, a to české i ty zahraniční, samozřejmě v doprovodu dospělých. Ti by však měli vědět, jak se chovat u válečného monumentu, a děti poučit či napomenout.

Well there have been drunk tourist groups being disrespectful at the Winged Lion monument. There are also numerous examples of children – Czech and foreign – here as well accompanied by adults who should know better as to how to behave at a war monument.

Nyní však, zní to až neuvěřitelně, použil pomník český politik, který si z něj udělal pódium k propagaci svého volebního programu.

But disbelievably, now a Czech politician using the Winged Lion monument as a platform to further their political agenda.

Tak tohle je již vrchol dehonestujícího a zcela nepřijatelného chování. Jde opravdu o velmi smutný příklad toho, jak si někdo, u něhož by se dala očekávat znalost věci, neváží našich příslušníků a příslušnic RAF a jejich přínosu pro historii České republiky.

Totally unacceptable and disrespectful, behaviour. and a very poor example as to how the legacy of the CzRAF men and women and their contribution to Czech history is regarded by someone who should know better.

Posted in 310 Sqd, 311 Sqd, 312 Sqd, 313 Sqd, 68 Sqd, Not Forgotton | 4 Comments

Lutopecny flypast 30.05.2019.

Dne 30. května 2019 ve 13:15 hodin

At 13:15, 30 May 2019

k připomenutí 105. výročí narození generála Aloise Šišky

in commemoration of the 105th of the birth of General Alois Siska

se uskuteční průlet dvojice Gripenů nad jeho rodištěm.

there will be a flypast at his birth village of Lutopecny by two Gripens.

Po průletu proběhne krátký program za účasti příslušníků Šiškovy letky z čáslavské základny.

Then a short event will follow involving personnel of the Siska squadron from Caslav Air Base.

Všichni jsou zváni.

All are welcome.

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D-Day 75 – Battle of Britain Bunker, Uxbridge

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Battle of Britain Bunker, will be holding an D-Day event between 6th and 9th June, with the exhibition open until 31 December.

The exhibition will include a display about the role that 310, 312 and 313 Czechoslovak squadrons played on D-Day from their base at Apuldrum.

At 12:00, 8 June, Paul Kopeček, son of pilot F/O Vladimír Kopeček who flew with 312 Sqn that day, will give a presentation about the Czechoslovak fighter squadrons participation during that historic day.

Opening Hours:
10:00 to 16:30
Wren Ave, Uxbridge UB10 0BE
By Tube: Nearest station Uxbridge (Metropolitan and Piccadilly), then one mile walk through Dowding Park via the High Street and St Andrews Road, signposted by blue and brown tourist signs. There is a cab rank at Uxbridge.
By Bus:
To St. Andrew’s Church on the A10 or U3 from Heathrow or the 427, U1, U4 or U7 then walk through Dowding Park. Bus U2 stops at the junction of Hercies Road and Honey Hill. Check routes here.
By Car:
Use satnav postcode UB10 0BE (different from postal address) or search maps for Battle of Britain Bunker

More information about The Battle of Britain Bunker here.

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Police – 29.06.2019.

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Hencov airfield, Jihlava – 06.06.2019

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Jiri Mares Remembered

Many thanks to Jolanda Hoevenberg, who on 5 May, the anniversary of the liberation of Holland, visited Lemmer General Cemetery, Lemsterland, Holland and kindly placed chrysanthemums at the grave of Sgt Jiří Mareš.

Sgt Jiří Mareš

Sgt Jiří Mareš was a 25-year-old, 311 Sqn Air-Gunner, born 12/04/16 at Níkovice, Písek, Czechoslovakia.

On the night of 17 July 1941, eight 311 Sqn Wellingtons took-off for a bombing raid on Hamburg. One of the aircraft was Wellington KX-N, R1718, Captained by Sgt Jaroslav Nyč, At 23:07, on 17 July ’41, 311 Sqn Wellington KX-N, R1718, Captained by F/Sgt Jaroslav Nyc, and crewed by Sgt Karel Šťastný, co-pilot, P/O Jaroslav Zafouk, navigator, P/O Otakar Černý, wireless-operator, Sgt František Knap, front-gunner and Sgt Jiří Mareš, rear-gunner, took-off from East Wreatham for a bombing raid on Hamburg.

Nothing more was heard from this aircraft. At 00:50 it was attacked by a Luftwaffe Me 110 night fighter from 4/NJG1, being flown by Lt Rudolf Schoenert just west of Lemmer, Holland. The Wellington was shot down, crashing in the Zuiderzee on the island of Ijsselmeer 5km west of Lemmer. The crew managed to bail-out but Sgt Jiří Mareš, was drowned in the Zuider Zee after baling out of the stricken aircraft. The other five crew members were captured by the Germans and became Prisoners of War for the duration of the war.

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Chevington Cemetery Allied Airmen’s Remembrance

Commonwealth and Allied Airmen’s Remembrance Ceremony

On Sunday, 28th April the Newcastle & Gateshead Branch of the RAF Association held their annual ceremony at Chevington Cemetery to remember the airmen of the Commonwealth and Allied nations who died in the Second World War and who are buried there.

The Royal Air Force was represented by Group Captain Cowieson and there were also officers from the Royal Australian Air Force, the Canadian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force plus civilian representatives of Artur Bildziuk from the Polish Airmen’s Association and Col. Andrew Shepherd representing the Free Czechoslovak Air Force Associates.

RAF Boulmer provided an Honour Guard plus ten personnel to act as cross layers and further cross layers were provided by the Northumbrian Universities Air Squadron and by cadets of the Air Training Corps. Seventeen standards from the RAF Association and other ex-service organisations paraded and music was provided by the Backworth Colliery Band.

Approximately 200 people including many RAF veterans and local residents attended the ceremony, along with Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelvan MP and representatives of Northumberland County Council and East Chevington Parish Council.

The event began with the playing of the Australian, Canadian and New Zealand national anthems, following which nineteen wreaths were laid at the war memorial. The Roll of Honour was then called and, as each name was read out, a poppy cross was placed on that airman’s’ grave. A total of twenty-nine airmen from thirteen different countries were thus honoured.

Amongst those twenty-nine are two Czechoslovak airmen: Sgt Ladislav Kocourek, 25, and Sgt Václav Šindelář, 24, both of whom trainee pilots, killed in training flight accidents whilst with 57 OTU.

There then followed the Act of Remembrance which included Last Post and Reveille, after which a very moving tribute to the fallen was read by Flt Lt David Bain and the ceremony then closed with the playing of the UK national anthem.

A short parade involving RAF Boulmer personnel, veterans and cadets took place at which Group Captain Cowieson took the salute and everyone then transferred to the Hadston Community Centre for refreshments.

The assistance of Sydney Graham, Chairman, Newcastle/Gateshead Branch, The RAF Association with this article is very much appreciated.


KOCOUREK Ladislav, 25, Sgt, 57 OTU, Pilot.

* 01/03/18, Brno.

† 17/03/43, Brotherick Farm, Warkworth, Northumberland.

Killed in a flying accident, his Spitfire AR222 collided with Spitfire X4266 during practising crossover turns with Free French pilot P/O J. B. Nemoz.

Grave ref: Sec. H. Grave 194.

A symbolic urn no 2, was returned to Ostrava Hrabyně 1945.


ŠINDELÁŘ Václav, 24, Sgt, 57 OTU, Pilot.

* 21/09/18, Plzeň.

† 19/04/43, South Rock Hall, Burton.

Killed during training flight when his Spitfire P7352 crashed at South Rock Hall, Burton. Cause of crash is believed to be because of a oxygen system fault.

Grave ref: Sec. H. Grave 248..

A symbolic urn was returned to Plzeň 1945.


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Ivo Peter Tonder

F/Lt Ivo Peter Tonder

………..* 16.04.1913, Praha, Czechoslovakia.

……….† 04.05.1995, Henley-on-Thames, UK.

Příslušníkem 312. perutě od října 1940 do června 1942

Ivo Tonder před válkou sloužil u 1. pluku. Po okupaci Československa byl demobilizován a pracoval v továrně Aero jako konstruktér. Do exilu odešel 14. prosince 1939 přes Slovensko, Maďarsko Jugoslávii, Řecko, Turecko, Sýrii a Libanon. V březnu 1940 se dostal do československého depa ve francouzském Agde. Ve Francii prodělal operaci slepého střeva a přes lékařský zákaz se, po pádu Francie, vydal na cestu do Velké Británie. Zde vstoupil do RAF a postupně dosáhl hodnosti Flight Leutenanta.

3. června 1942 se nevrátil z operačního letu s krycím označením Circus 6, po sestřelu německým FW190 se zachránil na padáku, ale upadl do zajetí. Nejdříve byl poslán do tábora Dulag Luft v Oberursel, a po výsleších pak do tábora Stalag Luft III v polském Saganu. Zde se nejdříve zúčastnil dvou nezdařených pokusů o útěk a poté se aktivně zapojil do příprav Velkého útěku.

V noci z 24. na 25. března 1944 také spolu s dalšími prchnul. Nejdříve, ve snaze uniknou na lodi, zamířil na sever k Baltu, ale to se ukázalo jako nemožné. Vydal se proto zpět do Československa, kde byl 30. března zatčen Gestapem, strávil osm měsíců na samotce v Praze. 30. listopadu 1944 byl poslán do tábora Stalag Luft I v Barthu. O dva týdny později byl převezen do Lipska k soudnímu přelíčení, shledán vinným ze zrady říšského protektorátu, odsouzen k trestu smrti a odeslán do tábora Oflag IVc v Colditzu, kde měl čekat na vykonání rozsudku. Zde zůstal až do 16. dubna 1945, dočkal se také osvobození americkou armádou.

29. června byl odeslán k 313. peruti. V roce 1947 byl demobilizován a nedlouho potom se 31. května 1948 pokusil o další útěk, tentokrát z komunistického Československa.

Na hranicích byl znovu zatčen a odsouzen k osmi letům vězení. Odtud v roce 1949 úspěšně uprchl a za pomoci CIA se dostal do spojenci obsazené části Německa. Jeho ženě, Jiřině Tonderové, která za války také sloužila u RAF jako obsluha radaru, se útěk zdařil. O dva roky později se CIA podařilo do exilu propašovat i jejich dvě děti.

Zbytek života pak strávili ve Velké Británii.


A member of 312 Sqn from October 1940 till June 1942

Ivo Tonder was a pre-war Czechoslovak pilot who served with Air Regiment 1 within the Czechoslovak army. After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, he was demobilised and worked as a designer in the Aero Vodochody near Prague. In 1939, shortly after his demobilisation, he escaped to France via Slovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. In March 1940 he joined the Czechoslovak Depot in Adge. In France, he underwent appendix surgery and whilst still recovering escaped occupied France to Great Britain. He joined the RAF and after retraining to fly British aircraft he joined No.312 Czechoslovak Squadron reaching the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

On 3rd June 1942, Ivo Tonder did not return from an operation code-named Circus 6. His aircraft was shot down by a German Focke-Wulf FW 190 but he successfully bailed out and survived. However, after this accident, he was captured by the Germans and sent to Dulag Luft POW camp in Oberursel, Germany, for Gestapo interrogation. He was eventually transferred to the notorious Stalag Luft III in Sagan where he took part in two unsuccessful escapes and eventually succeeded in what is now referred to as The Great Escape. His role as a member of the escape group was as tailor and tunnel digger.

On the night of 24th March 1944 after his escape, he intended to head towards the north of Poland and catch a boat to freedom. This plan was later deemed impossible so instead, he headed towards Switzerland via Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately, he was recaptured by Gestapo and spend eight months in a solitary cell in Prague. On 30th November 1944, he was sent to a Leipzig court and sentenced to death for the treachery of the Bohmen und Mahren protectorate. Two weeks later he was sent to the Oflag IVc POW camp in Colditz awaiting his execution. He stayed in Colditz till its liberation by the US Army on 16th April 1945.

On 29th June 1945 he joined No. 313 RAF Squadron and having reunited with the Czechoslovakian army he was demobilized in 1947.

On 31st May 1948, he made an attempt to escape from communist Czechoslovakia into Germany. He was captured by border police and sentenced to eight years in jail. After a year in this jail, he escaped and with the support of the CIA he successfully crossed the border into the American Zone of Germany. Here he joined his wife Jiřina Tonderová who served in the RAF as a radio operator. She was brought out of Czechoslovakia separately in 1948. Two years later the CIA smuggled their two children out. They spent the rest of their lives in the United Kingdom.


© Josef Pikna

Posted in 312 Sqd, Biography, Not Forgotton | 2 Comments

Sitensky Exhibition – 08.05.19. – 23.06.19.


Výstava 100 fotografií ke 100. výročí narození fotografa Ladislava Sitenského

Ladislav Sitenský byl významný český fotograf, který se narodil 7. 8. 1919 na Královských Vinohradech a prožil zde téměř celý život.

Ačkoli je známý především svými válečnými snímky československých perutí RAF, byl jeho záběr mnohem širší. Jak sám říkával, fotografoval prakticky všechno, co mu přišlo do cesty a tím se stal trochu i dokumentaristou a kronikářem 20. století. Ovšem nečekejte žádný strohý dokument, jeho snímky se nikdy neobešly bez lyriky. Fotografování pro něho bylo způsobem, jak vyjádřit radost ze života, fotografie pak prostředkem, jak zachytit poezii okamžiku.

Městská část Praha 2 oslaví 100. jubileum svého slavného rodáka retrospektivní výstavou v galerii ve věži Novoměstské radnice, na které budou představena nejvýznamnější díla jeho tvorby.


The New Town Hall Tower Gallery commemorates Ladislav Sitenský’s 100th birthday with an exhibition of his 100 photographs.

Ladislav Sitenský, a remarkable Czech photographer, was born on August 7th, 1919, in Prague 2, district of Kralovské Vinohrady, where he spent most of his life.

Although he is most famous for his war photos of the Czechoslovak Squadrons in the RAF, his coverage was much wider. As he used to say himself, he would take photos of about everything he had seen, thus becoming a bit of a documentarist and chronicler of the 20th century. However, you should not expect any austere documents, as his photos are always poetic. Taking photos was a way of expressing his joy of life and his photos were the means of capturing the poetry of the moment.

The city district of Prague 2 celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of its famous native by holding a retrospective exhibition of his most important photographs.

Posted in 310 Sqd, 311 Sqd, 312 Sqd, 313 Sqd, 68 Sqd, Events, Exhibitions, Forthcoming Events | Leave a comment