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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

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Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW II

Old 3rd Apr 2019, 20:25
  #12621 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Buckinghamshire
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I hope it’s OK joining in. I've just subscribed.

I came across this thread searching for any references to my dad. He was Jan Masat, the Czech pilot and later ATC, mentioned back in 12194, 12199, 12200 and 12205.

I saw the photograph of the last Czech RAF pilot still alive. Thought I’d let you know that in 2014 a statue was erected in Prague of a winged lion to commemorate the Czechs who served in the RAF in WW2. In 2017 the names of all the air crew who fought for their country in the RAF were added; my Dad’s name is on the statue.

If he was alive today he would have been 101. He died quite young, before the velvet revolution in 1989 and was never able to take us to visit the country. I think he would have been amazed, and I hope extremely proud, to have seen the statue.
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Old 3rd Apr 2019, 21:05
  #12622 (permalink)  
 
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Honza17

Welcome to the crewroom! Can you tell us more about your Dad's time in the RAF? Particularly for those of us who remember him from LATCC West Drayton.
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Old 3rd Apr 2019, 22:29
  #12623 (permalink)  
 
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Honza17, welcome indeed. I've just read the posts you mention and it seems quite a few here remember your Dad in ATC. What isn't clear though is his career as a pilot that preceded his time in ATC and that is hopefully where you come in!

If the stories of those who served as RAF aircrew in WWII (with or without the OP Pilot Brevet) are to be told from now on, then it has to be the next generation that tells them. Presumably he was a pilot already in Czechoslovakia when it was consumed into becoming a Reich Protectorate? So if you can start there and let us know all that you know about those desperate years, how he got to the UK, and what stations and units he served on, then others here can add the dots and crosses of his odyssey. Hopefully you have his log books and perhaps other paperwork, without which no military organisation can move an inch.


So over to you. You have resurrected this wonderful thread from the depths back to page one. Well done! Hopefully we can keep it bobbing about here, in its rightful place.


The Poles and Czechs were ever present in the RAF family of my day. We owe them much, and it is here that the younger generation can learn why they are remembered with such affection.


Again, welcome.


Chug
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Old 4th Apr 2019, 06:53
  #12624 (permalink)  
 
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Honza17, welcome to our crew room
I remember your Dad well when I was at RAF West Drayton, London Air Traffic Control Centre (Military)* in the early '70s. A great chap to share a night watch with as he had a fund of fascinating stories to keep us awake in the 'quiet' periods.

* Usually referred to as LATCC(Mil) pronounced latseemil
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Old 5th Apr 2019, 22:40
  #12625 (permalink)  
 
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Thanks for the welcomes.
Brian 48nav asked for some more details of my Dad's time in the RAF. He actually joined twice! This is a summary:

Trained with the Czech air force for about 2 years – I have his flying log book.

After the German invasion he knew he had to leave and managed to get to France where he flew with the French Air Force.

In late 1940 he left from the south of France by ship and reached England. He went through an assessment and training centre which was at RAF Cosford.

He joined 310 squadron (one of the RAF squadrons with Czech pilots), initially based at RAF Duxford, where they were flying Hurricanes. The squadron moved around, which included being based in Scotland. He was flying Spitfires as well as Hurricanes.

He then went to Saskatchewan in Canada where he learnt how to train pilots to fly on instruments using Link trainers. After this he returned to England and was training.

At the end of the war he went back to Czechoslovakia and was stationed in Prague. When the communists took control in 1948 many of the former RAF pilots were imprisoned. He managed to escape from prison and always said that ironically it was a German man that helped him.

He then walked at night to Germany where he was detained in a displaced persons camp. The British and the Americans interviewed him there. The British offered him the chance to return to England and re-join the RAF and he suspected that the Americans wanted him to go back to Czechoslovakia as a spy. He chose the RAF!

For the next period he was instructing not flying (I think at RAF Little Rissington) and in the late 1950s was posted to RAF Khormaksar in Aden. He married my Mum there; she was a nurse and had gone to Aden to work in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

From there he returned to RAF Uxbridge and then moved to RAF Binbrook in Lincolnshire where I think he started working on air traffic control. The next move was to RAF West Raynham in Norfolk in the mid 60’s. He then moved to RAF West Drayton (LATCC) in 1969, initially on the military side. He also had a couple of short postings to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire and RAF Ballykelly in Northern Ireland.

When he retired from the RAF in 1972 he moved to the civilian side (CAA) at LATCC and became an ATCA. He helped manage the documents and the air traffic control training courses that were run from Hurn, near Bournemouth. He did 10 years with the CAA and then retired.
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Old 6th Apr 2019, 16:49
  #12626 (permalink)  
 
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Honza17 --Many thanks for that outline of Jan's career, I'm sure that some members of the crew room will want more!
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Old 7th Apr 2019, 22:38
  #12627 (permalink)  
 
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Honza17, any idea how your Dad got to France? I know that many Poles fled south to Romania and then by ship to Gib and thence France, but that was just after the Czechs. Did they make the same journey? I can't imagine it was via Germany!


As Brian 48nav says, any fleshing out of the detail would be much appreciated. No doubt much can be gleaned from his Log Book (types flown in Czechoslovakia, etc) but any details that he shared with you would add much to his story.


We always celebrate the Poles, Czechs, etc in the RAF in WWII, but as you highlight many of them fought in France before then continuing the fight from the UK. So more detail about that period if you can, where he was, what he flew, and where in France he embarked for the UK. A Pole on my Squadron had to cross the Pyrenees, was imprisoned by the Spanish, escaped and made it to Gibraltar. These were desperate times and only moral courage of the highest order could enable those such as your Dad to eventually find safe haven and fight on to avenge their homeland.

That he had to flee from there again is a measure of the tragedy that befell the countries of Eastern Europe. Yet he clearly had a fulfilling and eventful life. You must be very proud of him, and so will all here I'm sure when we know all that you do.

His was a very special generation, brought together by a combined determination to sweep the poisonous plague that was Nazism from the World, and came from its four corners to the RAF to do so. This thread is in their honour, and your Dad's story rightly joins those of the illustrious others.
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Old 8th Apr 2019, 20:15
  #12628 (permalink)  
 
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I've been listening recently to a stunning story how general Heliodor Píka and his son escaped via Romania to France and then to England. Actually H. Píka was in charge of selling about 1/3 of Czechoslovak armament to Haganah in 1938 so Hitler wouldn't be able to use it in case of capitulation. Píka worked at Czechoslovak embassy as a military attaché in Bucharest and organised the escape route not just for Czechs but also for Poles. It was a remarkable story and also a very sad one as H. Píka was sentenced to death by communist regime in 1949 in a show trial.

Story was narrated by his son Milan Píka who was member of RAF (died very recently on 19th of March 2019) and I could hardly keep tears back when he talked about being with his father the night before execution.



Milan and Heliodor Píka after war
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Old 8th Apr 2019, 21:24
  #12629 (permalink)  
 
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Thank you Pali for that informative and very moving account of the Czech and Polish escape route to France via Romania, and of its architect, General Heliodor Pika. That he should outsmart one brutal regime only to be murdered by another yet again illustrates the terrible cost paid by those countries that had the misfortune to be between those two tyrannies.


I once heard of an East German Stasi General being interviewed by an Italian female journalist. " Herr General, how do you explain the fact that you were once a very senior officer in the Nazi Security apparatus, and now fulfil the same function for a Communist one?". "My Dear; left wing, right wing, they all need policemens!".


Do you know who provided the shipping from Constanta (?) to France? I guess that France would have been heavily involved in the arrangements, and was yet to be invaded herself. That would happen soon enough of course, meaning that Viktor (my Polish nav) was on the run as soon as they disembarked.


What a wonderful photo of father and son, both so very proud of each other. What a terrible memory though for the son to bear for the rest of his life, and how the same loss was shared by countless others. I am reading of the failure between the wars of the victorious Allies to stop the descent into abject impoverishment of their ex-foe. A more enlightened attitude would have greatly ameliorated that and hence the opportunity for Hitler to persuade the population to put their trust in him. They regretted it in time, but too late, far too late.
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Old 9th Apr 2019, 08:07
  #12630 (permalink)  
 
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As far I know they embarked ship Transylvania in Constanța and sailed to Alexandria in 1940. From there they traveled with the ship Compiegne to France. Many Czechs, Slovaks and Poles were on the run after Poland was defeated and some of them went to Russia and some to France. Heliodor Píka was instrumental in this endeavour.

Czechoslovak servicemen ended in Russian gulags with the charge of espionage as Stalin had Ribentropp-Molotow pact with Hitler. In France they fought against Wehrmacht but soon had to leave to England once France was defeated.

Even if my countrymen could have any reason to ignore France and UK war efforts due to Munich treason yet they still knew that Nazi Germany must be defeated and fought bravely for the just cause.

If interested, I could provide you with some details how Milan Píka described his story in an interview in 2018 shortly before he died few weeks ago.
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Old 9th Apr 2019, 20:06
  #12631 (permalink)  
 
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Pali, I can only speak for myself but I would certainly be very interested in getting a Czech perspective on the 1938 Munich agreement, or Mnichovská zrada (betrayal) as it is known. I presume that the treason you mention was by the Czechoslovak Government's acceptance of the agreement of Britain France and Germany (done without the Government or its guarantor (the Soviet Union) being present).


Here in the UK of course most rejoiced, in the naďve belief that Hitler's signature on Chamberlain's note did indeed promise peace in our time. I believe that Hitler himself felt cheated by the agreement of his war, having been handed the Sudetenland on a plate. He had a point. He may have felt ready for war but we certainly didn't. The time gained before we were finally at war the following year gave us just time to bring our most critical component, RAF Fighter Command, to full readiness. A year earlier and the BoB would almost certainly have been lost. We would have been forced to sue for peace and Hitler would have been free to turn his entire might on the Soviet Union with a single front war.

Munich was vital to us winning the war and defeating Nazism, just as destroying the French Fleet was. It was done at the cost of Czechoslovakia and then Poland. At least they are free now of those twin tyrannies. Without Munich there is every chance that the Third Reich would now extend from the Pacific West Coast to the Atlantic Eastern one. Who knows? the Channel is our salvation, but being between the Russian and German Empires is the curse of the states of Eastern Europe. No doubt that is the appeal of the EU and its proposed Army, but better perhaps to not pursue that right now....


So yes, more please Pali!
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Old 9th Apr 2019, 23:16
  #12632 (permalink)  
 
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Chugalug and Brian 48nav, My Dad always said that he went via Poland. I have a book called 'Czechs in the RAF' and it explains that the hundreds of air and ground crew crossed the border illegally into Poland. The Poles did not initially offer them opportunities to join them but the French offered to accept them in the Foreign Legion on the understanding that if war was declared they would be allowed to join the French Air Force. The book states that between May and August 1939 470 airmen reached France aboard six transport ships, they would have gone through the Baltic and into the North Sea. My Dad did end up in Algeria at Sidi-bel-Abbes in the Foreign Legion but only for a short time from what I understand. They then went to France when Britain and France declared war on Germany in September 1939.

I have just looked up the Czech flying school log book and the period was shorter than I thought. There are 414 entries, starting in June 1938 and the last one in March 1939.

Pali, There is a picture in my book of General Heliodor Pika at the ceremony/parade at Prague Ruzyne airport in August 1945 when 54 Spitfires of the Czechoslovak Fighter Group were welcomed back. It does say that he was executed by the communists in 1949. One of the other Generals in the picture Karel Janousek is reported to have spent 16 years in jail because of his involvement in the West. I have a picture of my father in the same uniform
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Old 10th Apr 2019, 07:38
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Honza17 thank you, your father must have taken advantage of a very short lived window of opportunity to make it to the West via the Black Sea! Perhaps it was just as well that the Poles didn't offer them the chance to join them or he would have been trapped in the chaos that was shortly to follow. Interesting too that the French offer was to join the Foreign Legion but having no air arm it would have involved many square pegs in round holes, I would have thought. I wonder what he did at Sidi-bel-Abbes during his short time in the Legion? I doubt it was to sit around much awaiting developments. That was hardly the way of the Legion.

Events though very soon allowed for joining the FAF direct. One wonders why the Brits seemed to have shown little or no interest at the time of this sudden availability of so much skilled and fully trained manpower. Everyone knew that there was a full blown war on its way but it was the French who saw that it would need everyone that they could lay their hands on. Of course it is easy to be wise after the event and it might be that the rationale was to see that the French were bolstered for it as much as possible beforehand as they would have to take the initial onslaught.


The cruel fate of those who returned to their homeland only to suffer and even die at the hands of the incumbent regime must have sent a strong message to those who were still in the West. It certainly accounts for the many who remained in the RAF and made it their home. They certainly brought it home to their juniors, such as I, of the cruelty of war and the reason we had to defend our freedoms by standing together under the NATO umbrella to confront the next tyranny that threatened us.
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Old 3rd May 2019, 11:17
  #12634 (permalink)  
 
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Continuing on the Czech pilot front, from a long-time lurker.

I was aware that my wife's great uncle - Tedda Peel (Anglicised spelling) was a Czech RAF pilot in WWII and that family history told the story of his English wife and baby daughter getting the last train out of Czecho before the Soviets moved in in 1948 (only to have the family silver stolen from a platform at Orpington).
They were in Aden in the 60s and then the Southampton area in the 70s, before his widow ("Aunty Val") moved to Sevenoaks in the 80s.
Anyway, I got most of these stories from my father-in-law, and he casually mentioned recently that Tedda had also made his way to North Africa and the French Foreign Legion after getting out of Czecho in WWII. After reading Honza's posts above about his father, this made me sit up and wonder if their paths had crossed.
Unfortunately Tedda died before my wife was born so I'm wondering if anyone here can fill in the large gaps.
Thanks, NRT
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Old 24th May 2019, 12:23
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I've increasingly been reading about pilot training (RAF) in WWII, but it seems that the authors don't really explore the part of the process where they learn to fly at night. Most just say 'It was dangerous and it killed people', but leave it at that.

Are there any surviving course notes, syllabus information or original training guides that cadet pilots would have used during the war to learn how to fly at night?
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Old 24th May 2019, 15:15
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EwanWhosearmy

David Beaty's novel, 'The wind off the sea', covered pilot training at South Cerney and then night conversion at Bibury in some detail. Beaty had been a wartime RAF pilot and then flew with BOAC before becoming an author.

As an aside, one of the ATCOs on my watch at LATCC in the 70s ( Norman Whitelock RIP ), had spent most of WW2 as a QFI at the above stations.
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Old 24th May 2019, 15:18
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You'll find all the answers in AP129, the RAF Flying Manual. Wartime version hard to find now, mine had useful info such as hand signals for pre-radio days but I gave it to my aviation society. Our revered posters on this wonderful thread, now alas all departed, have plenty to say if you look back to their heyday in 2008-2015 or so. BE WARNED: Once you start looking back your afternoon will disappear in a flash, as mine has just done! Take this example from Sqn Ldr Rupert Parkhouse, who trained on Avro Tutors and was shot down on his second sortie in the Fairey Battle:
At the beginning of December 1939 we started night flying with four paraffin glim lamps in line and two more across the end to form the Tee, with a Chance floodlight on the area where we were supposed to put the aircraft down. I found it very exciting flying in the dark without the standard panel of instruments and I went solo after about three hours' dual. I did three solo circuits and I remember feeling immensely relieved but quite proud afterwards.

I went back to the Mess and was getting into bed when I heard a tremendous thump and immediately thought that someone had gone in. It was Flight Cadet Warren Smith, with whom I had shared a room in my first term, and that was a bit of a shaker. Next day we went out to see the wreckage, rather ghoulishly, and I remember the terrible smell of burnt metal.

We got over it fairly quickly, there was no counselling and in fact this modern craze for counselling strikes me as an undermining of morale because when things like this happen you have to get over it yourself, you have to sort out your fears and just go on.
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Old 24th May 2019, 22:01
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Czech Pilots

Honza17, thank you for the information - I came across your story quite by chance. It reminded me of another brave Czech pilot, my daughter's great-uncle, Vaclav (Venda) Jicha. I don't have the whole story of his life but what I think I know is that he was also a trained and qualified pilot in the Czech air force in 1939. At some point he escaped from Czechoslovakia via Poland and arrived in France where he fought and destroyed three German aircraft. On the fall of France he escaped once more and joined the RAF. He flew Spitfires and I believe he took part in the Battle of Britain. He became a Spitfire test pilot at Castle Bromwich, deputy to Alex Henshaw whose book 'Sigh for a Merlin' speaks warmly of Venda. I think he remained in this job until 1945, when he died with three others in an Avro Anson, flying to Scotland for the wedding of a colleague. Long ago I took Venda's sister to his grave in Haddington, near Edinburgh. I've seen some of Venda's logbooks and his medals (three, IIRC, including DFC and bar): the citation for one of them mentions safely landing nine (!) Spitfires with dead engines. And I've talked to some of the people he knew in his time in the UK - he was apparently a charming, modest man and a very skilled flyer.
My involvement in all this was a long time ago - I may have got some of the facts wrong, but not by much. Stories such as these leave me amazed and full of respect for decent men who rose to the desperate challenges of the time, and excelled. Venda's death was tragic and ironic, but in some ways he was lucky. Working in Czechoslovakia in the 1970's I met two men who had flown Spitfires for the RAF: one was a janitor, the other a car-park attendant. Returning to their own country after the war they were treated not as heroes but as probable traitors. I was at the time young, arrogant and 'busy', so I paid little attention to them. My shame!
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Old 25th May 2019, 19:00
  #12639 (permalink)  
 
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I have coincidentally been reading The Drift to War by Richard Lamb which describes in detail the period from 1929 of "The series of errors in British policy that led to World War II". Admittedly we look back with the benefit of hindsight, but even so the entrenched views and missed opportunities are staggering.

The key to it all was Austria. The key to Austria was Mussolini. He was against the Anschluss as it would bring the Wehrmacht to the Italian frontier. However, his invasion of Ethiopia caused great anger in the UK, and the sending of Italian 'volunteers' to the Spanish Civil War to fight for Franco was opposed by Britain and France. These two issues obscured the big issue of stopping Hitler bringing the various German speaking populations surrounding her into the Third Reich by military intervention if needed.

Once he had Austria then Czechoslovakia could be invaded from the south, outflanking the formidable defences in the West. Nonetheless there was a mini entente to the east whereby Soviet troops and supplies could counter such an invasion, and some 40 Soviet bombers were flown to Prague by Czech pilots. Also, a possible French invasion of Germany in the West could overwhelm the very reduced German forces there. The German General Staff were so worried that they planned to arrest Hitler and declare martial law if he invaded Czechoslovakia.

As we know all too well, such an opportunity was lost thanks to Neville and his bit of paper. Interestingly he nursed a large chip about his now deceased elder brother Austen having had all the attention from his parents. Of such trivia are great events created...

The author claims that the year gained before WWII benefitted Germany more than it did its opponents (including the UK). One in four of the tanks alone in the French Blitz Krieg came from the Skoda works!

Amazon Amazon

Last edited by Chugalug2; 25th May 2019 at 19:11.
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Old 26th May 2019, 07:28
  #12640 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by Geriaviator View Post
You'll find all the answers in AP129, the RAF Flying Manual. Wartime version hard to find now, mine had useful info such as hand signals for pre-radio days but I gave it to my aviation society. Our revered posters on this wonderful thread, now alas all departed, have plenty to say if you look back to their heyday in 2008-2015 or so. BE WARNED: Once you start looking back your afternoon will disappear in a flash, as mine has just done! Take this example from Sqn Ldr Rupert Parkhouse, who trained on Avro Tutors and was shot down on his second sortie in the Fairey Battle:
Geri and Brian48nav

Thanks for the info. I've managed to get hold of a 1941 AP129 and am looking forward to reading it.

Your caution about getting pulled into the vortex of this thread is noted! Will set aside some time in anticipation of taking a look.
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