Josef Frantisek – Remembered Today

The 7 October 2018 is the 105th anniversary of the birth of Josef František in Dolní Otaslavice, Czechoslovakia. He was the most successful Allied fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain with 17 Luftwaffe aircraft shot down in 28 days whilst flying with 303 Polish Squadron before he was killed in a flying accident.

Na 7. října připadá 105. výročí narození Josefa Františka z Dolních Otaslavic v Československu. Se sedmnácti sestřely ve 28 dnech se stal František, člen 303. polské perutě, nejúspěšnějším spojeneckým pilotem bitvy o Británii. V jejím průběhu však tragicky zahynul při letecké nehodě.

RAF Northolt.

Polish Air Force Memorial, South Ruislip.

London Battle of Britain Memorial.

Czech Club, London.

Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-le-Ferne. Kent.

CWGC, Northwood.

Tragically, the 8 October 2018 is the 78th anniversary of his untimely death at Ewell, Surrey, UK.

Shodou smutných okolností na 8. října připadá 78. výročí jeho předčasného úmrtí v Ewell, hrabství Surrey ve Velké Británii.

A biography of Josef František here

Biografii Josefa Františka naleznete zde:

Many thanks to our team of volunteers, who visited today all the locations where he is remembered in the UK.

Velké díky našemu týmu dobrovolníků, kteří dnes navštívili všechna místa ve Velké Británii, kde je připomínán.

Posted in Ace, Battle of Britain, Not Forgotton | Leave a comment

Josef Frantisek – Top-scoring Battle of Britain Pilot

Peter Sharpe and Chris John examine the brief but fiery career of the top-scoring Battle of Britain pilot.

AMONG HIS CZECH countrymen, known for their sober and mannerly temperament, Josef František was the exception who proved the rule. He should perhaps have been a Hussar in Napoleonic times, or a swordsman duellist a century earlier, or even a Knight at the time of the Crusades. Josef František was a massively courageous man, a man with the will to fight and fight no matter what the odds stacked against him.

Born at Otaslavice in Czechoslovakia on October 7, 1913, to a close and respectable family, young Josef wanted to fly from as soon as he could read. Tales of the air aces of the Great War captivated his young mind – soaring over the mud and death of trench warfare. He joined the Czechoslovak Air Force on October 1, 1933, and was posted to 2 Squadron as a Private (pilot under training). Recognised as a gifted flyer, he qualified two years later as a fighter pilot, achieving his boyhood ambition.

Flying ancient-looking bi-plane fighters reminiscent of those flown by the air aces he had idolised as a young man, he was soon to be promoted to the rank of Corporal Pilot in 1937. Promoted to Sergeant Pilot in the following year, he joined 1 Squadron at Prague before Hitler made his September 12, 1938, speech to the Sudeten Germans which was to cause massive civil unrest. Czech forces mobilised on September 23, 1938; a week before the Munich Agreement. The Germans made their move in the following month and annexed the part of Czechoslovakia, known as the Sudetenland – the remainder was split into three republics called Bohemia-Moravia, Ruthenia and Slovakia – while Poland was able to snatch and briefly hold the long-disputed Teschen area. In November 1938 Hungary took over Ruthenia, and in March 1939 Germany swallowed up all of what remained.

As the German Wehrmacht moved into Czechoslovakia, František was one of many Czech servicemen unwilling to accept the fate of their own country. He disregarded his orders and flew off towards Poland, flat out at tree-top level, and machine gunning columns of German troops marching towards Prague as he went. Not unexpectedly, the Polish Air Force was delighted to accept Polish-speaking František as a Sergeant First Class with over 340 flying hours in his logbook.

Again a fighter pilot, Josef František was soon to master the Polish PZL fighter, and on September 1, 1939, when the Germans invaded he was soon into action. The odds were massive, immense fleets of technically superior aircraft filled the skies. The tiny Polish Air Force did its country justice and more, fighting with tremendous courage – one of its fighter pilots accounting for four of the faster and more heavily armed Messerschmitt Bf 109s; that man was, of course, František.

After the retreat to Zaleszczyki, Josef František and his fellow airmen began to plan for their continued fight, and flew across the Romanian border on September 22, 1939. They flew from Krenimonce to Jassy and on to Bucharest where their aircraft were confiscated and they were interned by the pro-German regime.

It is not known how František managed to obtain a new Czech passport, nor how he managed to escape from internment, suffice it to say that he did, and determined to fight he boarded the SS Gdansk on October 2, 1939, bound for France via the Balkans and Syria. The young Czech pilot disembarked at Marseilles in France on October 21, 1939, and immediately travelled by train to Paris where he enlisted alongside the Poles as aircrew in the French Armee de l’Air four days later. He was soon familiar with French fighters and was ready when the inevitable Blitzkrieg began again.

On May 10, 1940, the Germans invaded France and the Low Countries in devastating fashion, and as massive Panzer columns thrust forwards, the skies grew dark with Goering’s fleets of bombers. Within a short time, Josef František was again in action. Day after day he flew beside the Poles and French fighter pilots combating the hordes of Ju 87 Stukas and heavy bombers with their escorts of Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Bf 110 fighters. A Polish account of his activities during this frantic time credits the “superb pilot and magnificent destroyer of Germans” with ten or 11 aerial victories during the three weeks he was flying. (It is now believed that these victories should, in fact, be credited to František Perina, a Czech pilot who flew with GCI/5, claiming a number of German aircraft whilst flying a Curtiss H75A.)

With the Battle for France over, and the Battle of Britain about to begin Josef František and the Polish fighter pilots journeyed the hazardous route to Bordeaux and gained passage on a freighter bound for Britain, from where they would continue to fight the Germans. In June 1940 he volunteered for the Royal Air Force, which having suffered the loss of a great many pilots, was finding it impossible to make up the numbers by training from scratch. The RAF recruiters were pleased to accept any pilots, and especially experienced fighter pilots – and so young František became 793451 Sergeant Pilot Josef František, RAFVR. The number of Polish volunteers keen to get back into the fight enabled the RAF to form 303 Squadron on August 2, 1940, at RAF Northolt, it was here that Josef František rejoined them after a familiarisation period with the Hurricane fighter.

The Polish Squadron was non-operational at the time, the RAF would not accept their Allies as operational until they could speak enough English and fly in formation to RAF standards. Frustration was massive, fighter pilots were needed badly and yet they couldn’t take part in the fighting. After a chance encounter with the Luftwaffe whilst on a training mission, the Operational Classification was at last granted. Josef František and the Poles declared ‘Open Season’ on the Luftwaffe and began their very personal war from another land against those who had stolen their own.

František flew in his squadron’s first combat at full strength on Monday September 2, 1940. At 1750 hours at 19,000ft (5,790m) over Dover, he shot a Bf 109 off the tail of Flying Officer Henneberg, firing repeatedly into it until it crashed. On the second patrol the next day he broke formation and just below the clouds found a solitary Bf 109 which he raked with devastating bursts of .303 machine gun fire, causing it to dive into the sea. On Thursday, flying as Blue 2, Josef František shot down a ‘109 that he believed was about to machine gun an RAF pilot in his parachute, and then claimed a Ju 88 bomber before his Hurricane was riddled by machine gun fire.

The very next morning, again airborne from Northolt, he was in combat with the biggest formation encountered to date and claimed another ‘109 before being shot up by the German’s wingman – he returned to base, his aircraft full of bullet holes. On his safe landing the squadron commander made a recommendation that he be awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal, the wing commander noting his “great gallantry in attacking vastly superior numbers of enemy aircraft’.

Most of his victories were achieved in Hurricanes P3975/U and R1475/R. The eight machine guns were used to deadly effect as František went in close to ensure his victim’s demise.

On Monday, September 9, information as Green 2 František was again in battle with a massive Luftwaffe formation near Beachy Head. During a dogfight, he fired a long burst into the cockpit of a 109 killing the pilot. Immediately in front of him he saw Flight Sergeant Wunsche DFM bale out of his shot up Hurricane, and leaving his Polish friend protected by a Spitfire, František caught a Heinkel He 111 bomber which he raked with his eight.303s. The bomber crashed in flames. Directly afterwards, he was ‘jumped’ from above by a Staffel of ‘109s and four big holes were punched in his Hurricane by cannon shells – stopped only by his armoured seat. Spitfires saved him and the Czech made a crash landing in a field of cabbages at Falmer near Brighton. He walked to the station and caught the express to London carrying his parachute.

Josef František’s most successful day in combat was September 11, 1940, in the Horsham area when he shot down a He 111 bomber and two ‘109s. Scrambled at 1530 hours, the squadron was attacked by German fighters before they could reach the bombers. František, flying as Blue 2, turned sharply on the tail of a ‘109 and opened fire – it burst into flames. Diving out of the clouds, he then found a straggling He 111 bomber which he shot down. Turning for home, dangerously low on fuel and almost out of ammunition, František met another ‘109 which he riddled with gunfire and was forced to leave smoking as he reckoned that he must have been flying ‘on fumes’. He was sure the German was bound to crash at sea.

Reprimands for his ‘flying fury’ left the Czech unmoved – he could not be persuaded to hold formation, one sight of the enemy and he would break and engage. He often sustained combat damage dogfighting as he had in France and would only turn for base when his ammunition was exhausted, normally with a ‘kill’ under his belt. František flew with passion and a real determination to destroy as many Germans as he was able.

On Sunday, September 15, 1940, 303 Squadron tangled with a formation of about 80 German aircraft over. South London. Josef František came screaming in to attack two twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 11 Os and shot chunks off one aircraft, leaving it to go down in flames. Three days later, flying near West Mailing at 17,000ft (5,180m) František saw a single ‘109 heading for the South Coast as his fellow pilots attacked a Dornier 215 on a photo-recce sortie. He closed in on the battle-damaged fighter and slammed two vicious bursts into the cockpit. The fighter turned over and plunged into the sea.

The Polish leader, General Sikorski, visited 303 Squadron on September 20,1940, awarding several Polish gallantry medals – Sgt František received the highly-prized Virtuti Militari. His Majesty King George VI inspected the Polish fighter squadron on September 26, 1940, and presented the awards made by the RAF to their Polish airmen, on this occasion Josef František received a well-earned DFM for his bravery.

The order to scramble interrupted the King’s visit at 1630 hours and the Squadron was airborne from Northolt in minutes. A running battle ensued at 16,000ft (4,880m) over Portsmouth, across the Channel and continued over French soil. František claimed two He 111 bombers. Early next morning he downed another ‘One-Eleven’ and a Bf 110. After his first burst of fire the bomber’s starboard engine caught fire, another burst set the port engine ablaze. Heading for home, the Czech Sergeant found a formation of Bf 110’s and he closed to 100 yards (90m) before opening fire, damaging a ‘110 which made as if to surrender. At tree-top height, the German pilot appeared to change his mind and opened his throttles wide in a bid to escape. František hacked the aircraft from the sky with a savage burst – the ‘110 hit the ground and exploded in a sheet of flames.

Back at Northolt the CO, Sqn Ldr Kellett recommended František for a further award, a Bar to his DFM stating “he is the outstanding pilot of the squadron and appears fearless in his task -the destruction of the enemy”. The Air Officer Commanding noted, “even in this squadron of fearless fighters, this sergeant pilot has been outstanding, his quiet cool personality hides a born and ruthless fighter”. Again Air Chief Marshal Dowding gave his strong support, and the award was confirmed.

Several routine sorties followed, and on return from an early morning patrol on October 8, 1940, a 303 Squadron Hurricane, serial number R4175, crashed suddenly and unexplainedly beside a golf course at Cuddington Way, Ewell, Surrey. Sergeant Josef František was killed instantly in the burning wreck.

The award of a Bar to the DFM had been confirmed on the previous day. František had received the DFM and Bar from the British, the Croix de Guerre from the French, a Virtuti Militari from the Polish, who also posthumously awarded him the Krzyż Walecznych (KW) and three Bars (on February 1, 1941) and the Válečný kříž 1939 by his own country, posthumously on July 15, 1941. Josef František was buried with full military honours in the Polish Air Force cemetery at Northwood in Middlesex.

The crash, still unexplained to this day, had succeeded where the might of the Luftwaffe had failed. Bearing in mind that he was attributed with four ‘kills’ during the few days he fought in Poland and 17 ‘kills’ in one month of the Battle of Britain, one can only speculate at how many more he would have claimed had he survived until the end of the war. Seventeen kills made him the unchallenged top-scoring fighter pilot of The Few and his total of 17 aerial victories make František one of the top-scoring aces of the Allied forces during World War Two.

The claims listed below are only for the period of service with the Royal Air Force, all were achieved whilst flying Hurricanes with 303 Squadron.

Date Time Hurricane Action
02/09/40 17:50 RF-U, P3975 1 Bf 109E, 5km East from Dover
03/09/40 15:40 RF-U, P3975 1 Bf 109E, mid Channel off Dover, mistakenly reported as a HE113
05/09/40 15:05 RF-R, R4175 1 Ju 88
05/09/40 15:10 RF-R, R4175 1 Bf 109E
06/09/40 09:00 RF-R, R4175 1 Bf 109E, nr Sevenoaks 1 Bf 109E (WNr 1138), pilot Oblt Albert Waller of 3./JG52, became POW. Heavy damage to Frantisek’s Hurricane causing him to crash land on a field nr Falmer.
09/09/40 18:00 RF-U, P3975 1 Bf 109E, nr Horsham
09/09/40 18:05 RF-U, P3975 1 He 111H-2, Beachy Head. WNr 5548 A1+DS of III/KG53, crashed on French coast
11/09/40 16:00 RF-S, V7289 2 Bf 109E, Horsham
11/09/40 16:05 RF-S, V7289 1 He 111, Horsham
15/09/40 12:00 RF-P, P3089 1 Bf 109, Hastings
18/09/40 13:15 RF-V, V7465 1 He 111, West Malling
26/09/40 16:30 RF-R, V4175 1 He 111, Portsmouth
26/09/40 16:35 RF-R, V4175 1 He 111, S/E Portsmouth
27/09/40 09:20 RF-R, V4175 1 He 111, Horsham
27/09/40 09:20 RF-O, L2099 1 Bf 110D, Gatwick, pilot Oblt Ulrich Freiherr von Grafenreuth WNr 3147 L1+BL of 15./LG1
30/09/40 16:50 RF-R, V4175 1 Bf 109E, Brooklands, pilot Lt Herbert Schmid WNr 3895 of 6./JG27, became POW
30/09/40 16:55 RF-R, V4175 1 Bf 109E, Brooklands, probable

In the short space of 30 days, Josef František had claimed 17 enemy aircraft destroyed and one probable. It is interesting. to note that NO damage claims were made.

Of the Hurricanes he flew whilst achieving this Battle of Britain record…


Moved to Admiralty control March 1941.


listed as 601 Squadron and crashed in forced landing at Middle Wallop, June 1, 1940. Repaired and returned to service?


Hit by a bomb at Northolt October 6 1940.


Shot down by Bf 109 over Surrey September 27 1940.


Went on to serve with 229 Sqn, 56 OTU and 55 OTU until struck-off charge May 27 1944.

© Flypast March 1995

Posted in Ace, Battle of Britain, Biography, France, Poland | 1 Comment

Pokoritel Alsterufera / The humiliator of the Alsterufer

Pokoritel Alsterufera
The humiliator of the Alsterufer


Pavol Vitko

This book is published by the Military Support Foundation, a Slovak military charity organisation. The publication is compiled and written by military journalist Pavol Vitko, and also contains a specialist supplement on the history of the RAF Czechoslovak fighter and bomber squadrons, in the UK, by military historian Peter Šumichrast.

Major General (Rtd) Ivan Otto Schwarz was born in Bratislava and grew up in Bytča. Shortly before the outbreak of WW2, his father sent him to the UK in anticipation of the Holocaust. However, once there, he left the safety of Wales and donned military uniform. As a 16-year-old boy he enlisted into the British Army. At his own request and with his interest in military aviation, he was transferred in the rank of Private to the Czechoslovak Defence Force with effect from 20 January 1941. On 27 December 1943, as an air gunner he participated in the greatest triumph of 311 Squadron – the sinking of the armed German blockade runner Alsterufer along with her strategic cargo, thanks to which the crew of P/O Oldřich Doležal received high British and Czechoslovak military decorations.

Following a short stay in post-war Czechoslovakia, he returned to the UK due to rising political pressure against the members of the Western Resistance [i.e. the Czechoslovak airmen and soldiers who had fought alongside the Allies on the battlefields of Western Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East in WW2]. In the UK he set up and ran his own business. In the years 2006-2009, he was the Chairman of the Free Czechoslovak Air Force Association in the UK. Based on the Order of the President of the Slovak Republic, he was promoted to Major General with effect from 1 May 1995. In 2005, the President of the Slovak Republic awarded him with the Order of the White Double Cross, 3rd Class. Major General (Rtd) Ivan Otto Schwarz kept returning to Slovakia and visited the SVK MOD and General Staff on several occasions.

100% of the proceeds from the book go to the Military Support Foundation charity

Vojenská podporná nadácia
Military Support Foundation
ISBN: 978-80-972190-2-4
Počet stran
Hardback, 522 pages, 400 photos
Viazaná, 522 strán, 400 fotografií
€ 45

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Rudolf Holecek – 29.9.2018. – Cerekvice

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Adolf Vrana – One of the Few

Adolf ‘Ada’ Vrána

jeden z “mála

…………………….* 27. 10. 1908.

…………………….† 25. 02. 1997.

Před druhou světovou válkou:

Adolf ‘Ada’ Vrána was born at Nové Pace on 27 October 1908, the second-born son of Josef Vrána, a police officer, and his wife Františka. After completing his elementary schooling, he briefly found employment as a trainee blacksmith before changing jobs to work as a trainee mechanic at a local power station. On reaching the age of 18, he was required to undertake his compulsory military service which commenced on 1 October 1928. He was selected to join the Czechoslovak Air Force and was assigned to the 1st T.G. Masaryk’ Air Regiment at Prague-Kbely airbase for his basic military training and training as an aircraft mechanic. On 28 February 1929, having completed this training, he was posted to the 4th Air Regiment at Hradec Králove airbase where he was an aircraft mechanic.

Adolf “Ada” Vrána se narodil v Nové Pace 27. října 1908 jako druhý syn četníka Josefa Vrány a jeho ženy Františky. Po ukončení měšťanské školy se nakrátko stal kovářským učněm, ale brzy přešel do učení na technika v místní elektrárně. Když dosáhl osmnácti let, byl od 1. října 1928 povolán na prezenční vojenskou službu. Základní vojenskou službu a výcvik leteckého mechanika si odbyl jako člen Československého letectva u leteckého pluku 1 T. G. Masaryka na letišti v Praze – Kbelích. Po ukončení výcviku, 28. února 1929, byl odeslán jako letecký mechanik k leteckému pluku 4 v Hradci Králové.

However Adolf’s aspiration was to fly and, having volunteered, he was selected for pilot training in August 1929. He was posted to the Military Aviation Academy at Prostějov where he successfully graduated on 1 December 1930, receiving promotion to the rank of četař (Sergeant) on 16 December. Between 16 March and 16 May 1931, he was stationed at the Military Aviation Academy at Chleb for fighter pilot training. Successfully completing this course, he returned to the 4th Air Regiment at Hradec Králove and was assigned to the 41st Fighter Squadron as a fighter pilot.

Jeho přáním však bylo létat. Přihlásil se proto jako dobrovolník k leteckému výcviku. V srpnu 1929 byl vybrán a odeslán na Vojenskou leteckou akademii v Prostějově, kde úspěšně absolvoval 1. prosince 1930, a 16. prosince 1930 byl povýšen do hodnosti četaře. Od 16. března do 16. května 1931 procházel výcvikem stíhacího pilota na Vojenské letecké akademii v Chebu. Po jeho úspěšném ukončení se vrátil k leteckému pluku 4 v Hradci Králové a byl přidělen ke 41. stíhací letce jako polní pilot letec.

In the years that followed, he attended further training courses including night-flying, aerial-observation and, in Boce Kotorské, Yugoslavia, seaplane training. However, Adolf realised that further development of his military career would be restricted because he had left school early without taking school-leaving examinations. To overcome this obstacle, he began a correspondence course to study for his school-leaving certificate whilst simultaneously exercising his military duties. This he achieved, enabling him to enrol at the Military Academy at Hranice in 1934. That August, whilst waiting to be interviewed by the Station Commander-in-Chief at the Academy, he met another cadet airman, Tomáš Vybíral, who was to become a lifelong friend. They were billeted together with both graduating in July 1936.

V následujících letech navštěvoval další letecké kurzy včetně nočního létání, leteckého pozorování a v Boce Kotorské v Jugoslávii také výcvik na plovákových letounech. Adolf si uvědomil, že další pokrok v jeho vojenské kariéře bude omezen skutečností, že odešel ze školy v příliš mladém věku a nesložil maturitu. Rozhodl se proto zapsat se do korespondenčního kurzu a doplnit si vzdělání při současném plnění svých služebních povinností. Po jeho absolvování mohl v roce 1934 nastoupit na Vojenskou akademii v Hranicích. V srpnu toho roku, když čekal na pohovor u velitele akademie, se setkal s leteckým kadetem Tomášem Vybíralem a stali se z nich nejlepší přátelé. Po dobu studia spolu bydleli a oba absolvovali v červenci 1936.

On 1 August 1936, at the rank of poručík (P/O) he was posted to the 91st Squadron of the 6th Air Regiment which was then the only night-fighter squadron in the Czechoslovak Air Force. That October he returned to the Military Academy at Prostějov for an instructor’s course, graduating on 30 January 1937. On 9 February 1937, he returned to the Military Aviation Academy at Chleb and then to Prostějov as a flying instructor. His next posting was to the Leteckém ústavě, the Aviation Research Institute, at Prague-Letňany airbase where he was a test pilot. By 15 March 1939, when the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia, he had achieved 2,088 flying hours.

1. srpna 1936 byl v hodnosti poručíka odeslán k 91. letce leteckého pluku 6, která byla v té době jedinou letkou nočních stíhačů v československém letectvu. V tomtéž roce se v říjnu vrátil na Leteckou akademii do Prostějova k vykonání instruktorských zkoušek, které složil 30. ledna 1937. 9. února 1937 se vrátil na Vojenskou leteckou akademii v Chebu, a později do Prostějova jako letecký instruktor. Jeho následujícím umístěním byl Vojenský technický a letecký ústav v Praze – Letňanech, kde působil jako zkušební pilot. Do německé okupace Československa, 15. března 1939, nalétal 2.088 hodin.

On his way to Poland.
Na ceste do Polska.

Immediately after the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, the Czechoslovak Air Force was disbanded by the Germans and all personnel dismissed. On 1 July 1939 Adolf escaped to Poland and reported for duty at the Czechoslovak Consulate in Krakow. The Czechoslovak escapees were billeted at Maly Bronowice, a former Polish army camp outside Krakow, and it was here that Adolf was to meet with Tomáš again, Tomáš being heavily involved in organising escapers for their onward journey to France. After a short time there, along with other escapee Czechoslovak airmen, Adolf travelled by train to Gydnia, Poland where they boarded the ‘Kastelholm’, a Swedish coastal-cruising ship, and sailed for Calais, France.

Bezprostředně po německé okupaci Československa bylo československé letectvo rozpuštěno a jeho příslušníci propuštěni ze služby. Adolf uprchl 1. července 1939 do Polska a přihlásil se do služby na konzulátu ČSR v Krakově. Českoslovenští uprchlíci byli ubytování v bývalých kasárnách Polské armády v obci Male Bronownice nedaleko Krakova. Zde se opět setkal s Tomášem Vybíralem, který se aktivně podílel na organizování dalšího pokračování cesty uprchlíků z Polska do Francie. Po krátkém pobytu v táboře se Adolf vydal vlakem do Gdyně, kde se nalodil na švédskou vyhlídkovou loď “Kastelholm” a odplul do Calais ve Francii.

To France aboard the Kastelholm.
Cestou do Francie na palubě Kastelholmu.


On arrival in France, Czechoslovak escapees were required to join the French Foreign Legion for a five year period with the agreement that, should war be declared, they would be transferred to French military units. Adolf, with the rank of Sergeant, was at the Legion’s barracks at Nanterre, near Paris, awaiting medical examination and documentation to be completed prior to transfer to the Legion’s training base at Sidi-bel-Abbès, Algeria. Fortunately for him, war was declared before he was sent to Algeria. Instead, on 9 October he was released from the Legion’s service and transferred to l’Armée d’Air at their Paris recruitment centre and then on to Centre d’Instruction de Chasse for re-training on French equipment and to learn rudimentary French at Chartres airbase where again he was to meet with Tomáš.

Po příjezdu do Francie byli českoslovenští uprchlíci vyzváni ke vstupu do cizinecké legie s úvazkem na pět let s dohodou, že pokud vypukne válka, budou převedeni k francouzským vojenským jednotkám. Adolf, v hodnosti četaře, byl umístěn do kasáren cizinecké legie v Nanterre, nedaleko Paříže, a čekal zde na zdravotní prohlídku a vyřízení dokumentace před přesunutím do výcvikového tábora cizinecké legie v alžírském Sidi-bel-Abbès. Naštěstí pro něj došlo k vyhlášení války dříve, než byl do Alžíru přesunut. Místo toho byl 9. října z cizinecké legie propuštěn a převeden k l’Armée d’Air do náborového centra v Paříži a potom do Centre d’Instruction de Chasse k přeškolení na francouzskou techniku a studiu základů francouzštiny na letišti v Chartres, kde se opět setkal s Tomášem.

Adolf completed his re-training, achieving a further 38 flying hours to add to his record, and on 1 May 1940 was promoted back to the rank of Sergeant within l’Armée d’Air. Ten days later, Tomáš and he were posted to GC I/5, a fighter squadron based at Suippes airbase near Rheims and equipped with Curtis H-75c aircraft. Adolf was assigned to number I escadrille and Tomáš to number II escadrille of that unit. Amongst other Czechoslovak pilots already with GC I/5 were Alois Vašátko and František Peřina, both of whom were to achieve considerable success in combat during the forthcoming Battle of France.

Adolf ukončil přeškolení a nalétal při tom dalších 38 hodin. 1. května získal u l’Armée d’Air zpět hodnost poručíka a o deset dnů později byl spolu s Tomášem převelen ke GC I/5, stíhací peruti umístěné na letišti v Suippes nedaleko Rheims, vybavené stroji Curtiss H-75c. Adolf byl přiřazen k 1. letce, Tomáš pak 2. letce této jednotky. Mezi československými letci, kteří už u GC I/5 působili, byli i Alois Vašátko a František Peřina, kteří v nadcházející bitvě o Francii dosáhli významných úspěchů.

The Germans invaded France on 10 May 1940. During the ensuing Battle of France, Adolf flew 30 operational hours, often being scrambled three times a day and achieving combat success during heavy fighting with the Luftwaffe:

Německo Francii napadlo 10. května 1940. Během bitvy o Francii Adolf nalétal 30 operačních hodin, často startoval i třikrát denně a v těžkých střetnutích s Luftwaffe dosáhl těchto bojových úspěchů:

25/05/40 10:30 Curtis 75a a Hs 126 shared victory near Boult-aux-Bois.
Sdílený sestřel Hs 126 u Boult-aux-Bois.
26/05/40 12:10 Curtis 75a a He 111 shared victory near Tannay, South of Sedan.
Sdílený sestřel 111 poblíž Tannay, jižně od Sedanu.
07/06/40 10:15 Curtis 7ac a Hs 126 shared probable, North East of Soissons.
Sdílený pravděpodobný sestřel Hs 126 severovýchodně od Soissons.

On 13 May, he was shot down during combat with a Luftwaffe Me 109. Although slightly wounded, he managed to bail-out of his Curtis 75a and parachuted to safety.

13. května byl sestřelen v souboji s německým Me 109, lehce zraněn vyskočil ze svého Curtissu 75a na padáku a bezpečně přistál.

The rapidity of the Blitzkrieg instigated frequent changes of GC I/5 fighter squadron’s airfields as they retreated westward. By 20 June they had already moved three times and were now at La Salanque airbase near Perpignan in Southern France. Later that day, the unit was ordered to evacuate from mainland France and fly to Maison Blanche airbase in Algeria. Forty-five aircraft prepared to depart. Adolf had already started the engine of his Curtis when he noticed that Tomáš’s aircraft would not start and that he would have been left behind. Without a second thought, Adolf left his cockpit, went over to Tomáš’s Curtis’ aircraft with a starting handle, mounted it to the engine and started to rotate the handle until the engine burst into life. They then both took-off for the flight to Maison Blanche.

Rychlost Blitzkriegu způsobovala u perutí GC I/5 při postupném ústupu na západ časté změny letišť a postupný ústup na západ. Do 20. června se přesunuly již třikrát, a nyní působily na letišti v La Salanque nedaleko Perpignanu v jižní Francii. Ten den dostala jednotka rozkaz opustit Francii a evakuovat se na letiště v Maison Blanche v Alžíru. Čtyřicet pět strojů se připravilo k odletu. Adolf už nastartoval motor svého Curtisse, když si všiml, že Tomášův stroj nestartuje a on tedy neodletí. Bez přemýšlení vystoupil z kokpitu, přišel se startovací klikou v ruce k Tomášovu letounu, připojil ji a roztáčel jeho motor tak dlouho, dokud nenaskočil. Potom oba společně odletěli do Maison Blanche.

Shortly after their arrival in Algeria, the unit was redeployed from Maison Blanche to Oran and it was there that they learned that France had capitulated. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, appealed to all the evacuated Czechoslovak airmen to come to Britain and continue the fight from there. The l’Armée de l’Air released the Czechoslovak airmen from their service so that they could make their journey to Britain.

Krátce po příletu do Alžíru byla jednotka přesunuta z Maison Blanche do Oranu a tam se dozvěděli o francouzské kapitulaci. Britský ministerský předseda Winston Churchill vyzval všechny československé letce k přesunu do Británie a pokračování v boji. l’Armée de l’Air propustila Čechoslováky ze svých služeb, takže se mohli vydat na cestu do Británie.

On 24 June 1940, at a farewell ceremony for the squadron in Oran, four Czechoslovak airmen, Alois Vašátko, František Peřina, Tomáš Vybíral and Adolf Vrána, were awarded the Knights of the Order of Honour of Legion, along with the Croix de Guerre with Palm for their bravery during the Battle of France.

Při ceremoniálu na rozloučení s perutí 24. června 1940 v Oranu byli čtyři českoslovenští letci, Alois Vašátko, František Peřina, Tomáš Vybíral a Adolf Vrána, oceněni za statečnost v bitvě o Francii řády Chévalier de la Légion d‘Honneur a Válečným křížem s palmovými ratolestmi.

The Czechoslovak airmen then traveled four days by train, from Oran to Casablanca, Morocco, where they then boarded HMS Royal Scotsman which sailed to Gibraltar on 9 July and from where they embarked on to the MV David Livingstone. On 21 July 1940, now aboard a ship which was in a convoy of sixty-nine vessels, they sailed for the UK, arriving in Cardiff on 5 August 1940.

Českoslovenští letci pak cestovali vlakem čtyři dny z Oranu do Casablanky v Maroku, kde se nalodili na HMS Royal Scotsman, který je přivezl 9. července do Gibraltaru. Zde se nalodili 21. července 1940 na MV David Livingstone, loď, která plula jako součást konvoje šedesáti devíti plavidel. Do Cardifu v Británii dorazili 5. srpna 1940.


On arrival in the UK, they were taken to the Czechoslovak transit camp at Cholmondeley, near Chester, before being transferred to the Czechoslovak Airmen’s Depot at Cosford, Wolverhampton. Adolf was accepted into the RAF Volunteer Reserve on 6 August 1940 and granted the rank of P/O ten days later. On 5 September he was posted to the newly formed 312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron based at Duxford and equipped with Hurricane I’s, thus becoming one of the squadron’s founding members.

Po příjezdu do Británie byli umístěni do Československého tranzitního tábora v Cholmondeley, nedaleko Chesteru, a následně přesunuti k náhradnímu praporu československých letců do Cosfordu ve Wolverhamptonu. Adolf byl 6. srpna 1940 přijat k RAF Volunteer Reserve a o deset dnů později mu byla přiznána hodnost poručíka. 5. září byl poslán k nově se formující 312. (československé) peruti v Duxfordu, vybavené Hurricany Mk I. Stal se tak jedním z jejich zakládajících členů.

Adolf Vrána with 312 Sqn at Duxford Summer 1940.
Alolf Vrána u 312, perutě v Duxfordu, léto 1940

The Battle of Britain was now reaching a critical phase with the RAF having a desperate need for more pilots. Thus, for the Czechoslovak pilots arriving at Duxford, the priority was a case of undertaking a crash course in rudimentary English, learning RAF radio codes in the Officers’ Mess and immediate, hasty re-training on Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft. Adolf made his maiden Hurricane flight the day after his arrival. On 26 September, 312 Squadron was deployed to Speke airfield where its role was the defense of Liverpool and its docks. The squadron was declared operational on 2 October and on 21 October Adolf made his first operational sortie flying a Hurricane MkI P3810 in the Battle of Britain. He was to make a further three sorties during that battle but without any contact with the Luftwaffe.

Bitva o Británii právě vstupovala do rozhodující fáze a RAF nutně potřebovala další piloty. Českoslovenští letvi přicházející do Duxfordu měli za úkol především zvládnout v improvizované učebně v důstojnické jídelně základy angličtiny a radiové kódy RAF, a pak bleskové přeškolení na stíhačku Hawker Hurricane. Adolf zasedl poprvé do kokpitu Hurricanu den po svém příjezdu. 26. července 1940 byla 312. peruť přesunuta do Speke a jejím úkolem se stala obrana Liverpoolu a tamních doků. Peruť byla prohlášena za bojeschopnou 2. října 1940 a Adolf ten den uskutečnil na Hurricanu Mk I P3810 svůj první bojový let v bitvě o Británii. V průběhu bitvy uskutečnil ještě další tři bojové lety, ale bez kontaktu s letadly Luftwaffe.

On completion of his Operational Tour in January 1941, now at the rank of F/O, Adolf was initially posted for three months to No.3 Delivery Flight, based at Hawarden, Wales, delivering replacement aircraft. He was next posted, on 12 July 1941, to 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron based at Martlesham Heath and equipped with Hurricane Mk IIbs. Here he was promoted to the rank of F/Lt and, having a ground-based role serving in the Operations Room as a Flight Control Officer, he remained there until 21 June 1942 when he returned to 312 Squadron, now deployed at Harroebeer. Despite now being 33 years old, he was able to return to operational flying. He was appointed Flight Commander of ‘B’ Flight from 25 August 1942 until 29 September, and again on 1 January 1943, when his old friend Tomáš became Commanding Officer of the squadron.

Po ukončení svého operačního turnusu v lednu 1941, nyní v hodnosti nadporučíka, byl Adolf nejdříve poslán na tři měsíce ke 3. Delivery Flight umístěné ve waleském Harwardenu, která doručovala náhradní letadla. Následně byl 12. července 1941 poslán k 310. (československé) peruti umístěné v Martlesham Heath, vybavené Hurricany Mk IIb. Zde byl povýšen do hodnosti kapitána a převzal pozici v operační místnosti jako důstojník letové kontroly. Zůstal do 21. června 1942, kdy se vrátil ke 312. peruti, nyní umístěné v Harroebeer. Ačkoliv mu již bylo 33 let, dokázal se vrátit k aktivnímu létání. Od 25. srpna do 29. září 1942 působil jako velitel letky “B” a později se jím stal ještě jednou, 1. ledna 1943, když se jeho starý přítel Tomáš Vybíral stal velitelem perutě.

Adolf Vrána, in RAF uniform.
Adolf Vrána v uniformě RAF.

Adolf’s second Operational Tour was completed on 1 June 1943, his next posting being to the Czechoslovak Inspectorate General (CIG), in London. Two weeks later he was posted to 312 Squadron’s Operations Room, now deployed at Skara Brae in the Orkney Islands. On 10 September 1943, he attended a three-week flight-controllers course at RAF Fighter Command Headquarters at Stanmore, London. His next posting on 1 October 1943 was as Head of Radar Control at RAF Sopley, in Hampshire, a Ground Controlled Interception station. His last posting was on 31 January 1944 when he was appointed the Czechoslovak Liasion Officer at RAF Fighter Command Headquarters, undertaking various roles in the Operations Room until the end of the war.

Adolfův druhý operační turnus skončil 1. června 1943, a po něm byl umístěn na československý inspektorát (CIG) v Londýně. O dva týdny později odešel do operační místnosti 312. perutě, nyní umístěné ve Skara Brae na Orknejích. 10. září 1943 prošel třítýdenním výcvikem letového kontrolora na velitelství Fighter Command ve Stanmore v Londýně. Jeho dalším umístěním bylo od 1. října 1943 Head of Radar Control na základně RAF v Sopley, v hrabství Hampshire, stanici Ground Controlled Interception. Poslední službou u RAF pro něj bylo od 31. ledna 1944 místo Czechoslovak Liasion Officer v RAF Fighter Command Headquarters, kde plnil do konce nejrůznější úkoly v operační místnosti.

Adolf Vrana, Major Czechoslovak Air Force.
Major Adolf Vrána v uniformě čs. letectva

Post WW2
Po druhé světové válce

Adolf returned to Czechoslovakia on 18 August 1945 and remained in the Czechoslovak Air Force. His first posting was to the Ministerstvu obrany (Ministry of Defence) in Prague and, as a Staff Officer, he was instrumental in the rebuilding of the Czechoslovak Air Force. In September 1946, in recognition of his wartime service, he was simultaneously awarded his second, third and fourth Válečný kříž 1939 (War Cross). On 2 March 1948, he was promoted to the rank of podplukovník (Lieutenant Colonel) and appointed Commander at Prague-Kbely airbase.

Adolf Vrána se vrátil do Československa 18. srpna 1945 a zůstal v československém letectvu. Jeho prvním místem bylo Ministerstvo národní obrany v Praze, kde se podílel na poválečné obnově vojenského letectva. V září 1946 byl vyznamenán svým druhým, třetím a čtvrtým Válečným křížem 1939. 2. března 1948 byl povýšen do hodnosti podplukovníka a převelen jako velitel na letiště v Praze – Kbelích.

Following the Communist take-over in February 1948, the Czechoslovaks who fought for the Allies in WW2 were regarded as being tainted by capitalism and thus ‘undesirable’ in the new Czechoslovak regime. Many were dismissed from the military, demoted, stripped of their Czechoslovak decorations, arrested, imprisoned and subjected to other persecution and degradation. Some, however, managed to escape back to the West, one of whom was Adolf. In his case, he was placed on ‘waiting leave’ and aware of the most likely outcome of that action – arrest by the StB – Státní bezpečnost, the state secret police – and imprisonment. He requested to leave the Czechoslovak Air Force, this being granted to leave on 1 March 1949. Anticipating that he would be arrested like many of his former RAF colleagues, he began to prepare to go into exile again. This was achieved on 15 November 1949 when, with his British wife Kathleen, they escaped over the border into the American Zone of Germany.

Po komunistickém převratu v únoru 1948 byli Čechoslováci bojující na straně západních spojenců označeni jako lidé nakažení kapitalismem, a jako takoví byli pro nový režim “nežádoucí”. Mnozí z nich byli uvolněni ze služby v armádě, zbaveni hodností a československých vyznamenání, uvězněni a podrobeni pronásledování a ponižování. Někteří z nich dokázali uniknout na západ. Jedním z nich byl i Adolf Vrána. V jeho případě došlo k umístění na čekací listinu a byl upozorněn na to, co bude nejspíš následovat zatčení StB a uvěznění. Požádal si o uvolnění ze služeb československého letectva, což mu bylo umožněno 1. března 1949. Jelikož předpokládal, že by mohl být, podobně jako mnoho jeho bývalých spolubojovníků z RAF, uvězněn, začal se připravovat na další odchod do exilu. K tomu došlo 15. listopadu 1949, když se svou britskou manželkou Kathleen překročili hranici americké zóny v Německu.

After security vetting in Germany, he was able to return to England where in 1950 he rejoined the RAF on a Short Service Commission, but now at the lower rank of F/O, compared to his previous RAF rank of F/Lt. Later this was changed to a permanent commission. He served as a Flight Controller at RAF airbases in North Africa and Cyprus, retiring from the RAF at the age of 53 and with the rank of F/Lt in 1961. He subsequently became a civilian instructor at the RAF Technical School.

Když prošli v Německu všemi kontrolami, bylo jim umožněno vrátit se do Anglie, kde se v roce 1950 stal opět členem RAF s dočasným služebním zařazením, které se později změnilo na trvalé umístění, nyní však v nižší hodnosti nadporučíka odpovídající jeho předcházející hodnosti v RAF. Sloužil jako letový kontrolor na základnách RAF v severní Africe a na Kypru. Z RAF odešel v 53 letech v roce 1961 v hodnosti kapitána a stal se civilním instruktorem na RAF technical school.

In May 1990 he was made an honorary citizen of his native Nové Pace. In September the following year, at the RAF Rehabilitation Ceremony, in Prague, he was promoted to the rank of Plukovnik (Colonel) in the Czechoslovak Air Force. Sadly, by now his health had deteriorated with Alzheimers making it impossible to return to his homeland to attend these events. Since his wife had pre-deceased him in 1987, he was now resident in a nursing home at Sutton Veny, near Warminster in Wiltshire.

V květnu 1990 se stal čestným občanem rodné Nové Paky. V září příštího roku jako součást morální a politické rehabilitace československých letců RAF přijal povýšení do hodnosti plukovníka v.v. československého letectva. Jeho zdraví mu v té době již bohužel neumožňovalo cestovat a zúčastnit se slavnostního ceremoniálu osobně. Jelikož ho jeho žena předešla a zemřela v roce 1987, žil již plukovník Vrána v té době v domově pro seniory v Sutton Veny, poblíž Warminsteru v hrabství Wiltshire.

He died on 25 February 1997, aged 88 at Sutton Veny.

Zde také 25. února 1997 ve věku 88 let zemřel.

For his bravery he had ben awarded the following medals:

Za svoji odvahu a statečnost získal následující medaile:


1939 – 45 Star with Battle of Britain clasp
Air Crew Europe Star
Defence Medal
War Medal

Post WW2

General Service Medal with Cyprus clasp


Válečný kříž 1939 and 3 bars
Za chrabrost
Za zásluhy I.stupně
Pamětní medaile se štítky F-VB


Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur
Croix de Guerre avec palme

Vzpomínková místa:

Adolf Vrána is commemorated, along with the other 2937 Battle of Britain pilots, on the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall at the National Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne, Kent:

Adolf Vrána je uveden spolu s dalšími 2.937 piloty, Bitvy o Británii na Foxley Christopher Norris na Národního památníku bitvy o Britanii v Capel-le-Ferme, Kent:

He is also commemorated on the London Battle of Britain Memorial.

On je také připomínán na památníku Bitvy o Británii v Londýně.

In November 2017, his name, along with the names of 2507 other Czechoslovak men and women who had served in the RAF during WW2, was unveiled at the Winged Lion monument at Klárov, Prague.

V listopadu 2017 bylo jeho jméno připomenuto mezi dalšími 2507 československými muži a ženami, kteží sloužili v průběhu druhé světové války v RAF, na pomníku okřídleného lva na pražském Klárově.

Posted in 312 Sqd, Battle of Britain, Biography, Not Forgotton | 2 Comments

Ivan Schwarz – Memorial Plaque unveiled

On 30 August 2018, a memorial plaque, for Ivan Schwarz, was unveiled at the Heydukova Street Synagogue, Bratislava, Slovak Republic.

Posted in 311 Sqd, Ceremony, Not Forgotton | 1 Comment

Miroslav Standera – 2.10.2018.

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Information please

Informace prosím

We would like to contact relatives of:

Rádi bychom kontaktovali příbuzné:

F/Sgt ROZUM Alois
P/O SMRČEK Leonard (Leonhard)
F/Sgt VALACH Karel

If anyone has any current contact information for one of his relatives
could they please contact us.

Pokud má někdo nějaké aktuální kontaktní informace na někoho z jednoho příbuzných,
kontaktujte nás.

Posted in 311 Sqd, Information please, No longer with us | Leave a comment

Jaroslav Sterbacek – the first Czechoslovak RAF loss

The 31 August 2018 is the 78th anniversary of the loss of P/O Jaroslav Štěbáček, pilot with 310 (Czechoslovak) Sqn. during the Battle of Britain.

Na datum 31.srpna 2018 připadá 78. výročí úmrtí P/O Jaroslava Štěrbáčka, pilota 310. (československé) perutě během bitvy o Británii.

He was the first of the 512 Czechoslovaks who lost their lives whilst serving in the RAF during WW2.

Stal se prvním z 512 Čechoslováků, kteří ztratili své životy ve službách RAF v průběhu druhé světové války.

An English/Czech biography for him is here.

Jeho českou a anglickou biografii najdete zde.

Posted in 310 Sqd, Battle of Britain, Biography, Not Forgotton | 1 Comment

Borotin remembers Jaroslav Sika

Borotín si připomíná Jaroslava Šiku

Borotín, a small village about 65 kms South of Prague commemorates the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia with a humble photographic exhibition illustrating Borotin during that period.

Borotín, malá vesnička přibližně 65 km jižně od Prahy, si skromnou výstavou ilustrující tamní život v posledním století, připomíná 100. výročí vzniku Československa.

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Included in the exhibition were photographs of F/O Jaroslav Šika a native of the village, who served as a pilot with 310 fighter Sqn during WW2 and flew in the Battle of Britain.

Součástí výstavy jsou i fotografie místního rodáka, nadporučíka Jaroslava Šiky, který sloužil za druhé světové války jako pilot 310. perutě RAF a byl účastníkem bitvy o Británii.

A memorial plaque for him was unveiled in 2013 at the school he attended in Borotín.

Jeho vzpomínková deska na budově školy, kterou navštěvoval, byla v Borotíně odhalena v roce 2013.

Many thanks to 11 years old Kryštof Kulhavý for this information.

Za poskytnutí informací pro tento příspěvek patří naše velké díky jedenáctiletému Kryštofu Kulhavému.

Posted in 310 Sqd, Not Forgotton | 6 Comments