Prague pays tribute to Czechoslovak RAF airmen

Autor: Nuala Casey, Oldrich Holecek

The life-sized replica of the Mk. IX Spitfire is being displayed at Prague Castle Square to commemorate 70 years since the return of the Czechoslovak Royal Air Force airmen to their homeland.

On 14 August, seventy years had elapsed since Czechoslovak RAF airmen landed their Spitfire aircraft at Ruzyne airport, Prague. That momentous day happened three months after the end of WWII because the Soviet officials, having liberated Czechoslovakia, did not want them to return sooner.

“We wanted to fly back as early as May 1945 to participate in the Prague Uprising. Even the aircraft we planned to use were depicted with our national emblem. However, it was as late as August before we could fly home,” remembered airman Brigadier General Emil Bocek.

The ceremony to commemorate the return of the airmen, held in front of Prague Castle gate, was attended by General Rostislav Pilc, Chief of the Military Office of the Czech President, representatives from the General Staff, the Czech Air Force, Cardinal Dominik Duka, war veterans, the event promoter, sponsors, guests and various visitors who happened to be visiting the seat of the Czech President, Milos Zeman.

Attention was focused on the last living Czech airmen who served in the RAF during WWII – Colonel Pavel Vransky, Colonel Emil Sneberg, and General Emil Bocek. They were all pleased to share their memories from August 1945 with the attendees. Hana Fajtlova, the widow of the Czech RAF air legend, General Frantisek Fajtl, also attended the event.

Minister of Defence Martin Stropnicky, in his message, said “We can never show enough gratitude to those brave soldiers, and will never forget their shameful persecution after 1948. The debt we owe them can never be fully repaid“. The Minister’s message was read by the chief promoter of the remembrance ceremony, Jiri Stanislav, General Prior of the International Order Knights of the Cross with a Red Heart (Cyriacs).

Euan Edworthy, founder and chairman of the Prague PR agency, Best Communications, and the originator of the Winged Lion Memorial Appeal, and a general sponsor of this event, stated that Czechoslovak contribution to the allied victory in World War II has been overlooked. “We often forget that the Royal Air Force was a multi-national confederation and that the Czechoslovaks formed one of its largest national contingents. In 1940, the RAF was all that stood between European freedom and Nazi tyranny. Nearly 2,500 Czechoslovaks made their perilous way out of occupied Europe to help sweep the Luftwaffe from Britain’s skies. Their heroic deeds must not be forgotten.“

Similar remembrance ceremonies to mark the event were held at various other locations in and around Prague.

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August 17, 2015