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George the Stuka pilot.

Old 21st Nov 2021, 10:27
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George the Stuka pilot.




Over the two tours of duty covering a total of five years with No 10 Squadron I flew 3000 hours on Lincolns. The Darwin SAR detachments which were normally a fortnight at a time meant that around one year of my time was spent in Darwin. I first arrived there in early 1953 when the results of the Japanese bombing were still to be seen. Wrecked ships, blasted buildings, bullet and shrapnel holes were everyday sights. Our accommodation quarters were primitive by modern standards with twenty iron framed beds in one hut and no privacy. We slept on straw filled palliases on rusty wire bed frames with mosquito nets that were no protection from biting tiny sandflies. The incessant heat and the continuous noise of civil and military aircraft staging through Darwin airport made it difficult to get adequate sleep. Darwin was an aeroplane spotter’s paradise. When not on duty I would stroll to the tarmac to watch the Super Constellations of Qantas, BOAC and RAF Britannias, RAF and RNZAF Hastings, Avro Tudors and Hermes of various British charter companies on their way to Woomera, and the occasional B17 Flying Fortress of the USAF. Globemasters of MATS –Military Air Transport Service – would arrive with groaning brakes and park next to our Lincoln A grinning baseball capped negro airman standing in an open observation hatch on top of the huge fuselage, would return our waves. With the arrival of the Globemaster came a formation of F84 Thunderjets on a mobility exercise.

There were two spectacular accidents. My own, which was a modest affair in a Wirraway, and that of a RAF Hastings that lost all four engines shortly after take-off, belly landing with no casualties. On one occasion my crew were woken at 0200 by the Orderly Sergeant to standby for escorting a BOAC Britannia that had lost two engines due to icing en-route Singapore to Darwin. Heaven knows how we were expected to find the Britannia in the dark and even if we did, his cruising speed with two engines feathered was 30 knots faster than a Lincoln.

Two Wirraways and a Dakota were based in Darwin. A few weeks before my first arrival there, one of our Lincoln captains –Warrant Officer Jack Turnbull, who had flown Spitfires, wrote off one of the Wirraways in a crosswind landing. The Wirraway was a nasty thing in crosswinds and Jack had ground-looped seconds after touch down. He exited stage left quickly as it caught on fire. The CO of the base, Wing Commander “Bull” McMahon, a well known wartime Catalina pilot, was not too happy because the crash effectively reduced Darwin’s airborne defence capability by half. The Dakota didn’t count!

Having recently flown Mustangs, I prevailed upon the Wing Commander to let me fly his remaining Wirraway, on what we termed continuation training. In reality that meant buzzing herds of buffaloes in the plains to the east of Darwin and scarping at 50 feet above dozing crocodiles in Arnhem Land. To make the trip strictly legal we would carry out a VHF DF (Direction Finding) instrument approach on returning to Darwin an hour later. That gave the RAAF air traffic controller practice at bringing aircraft in to land in bad weather. I would often take members of our Lincoln crew for a ride in the Wirraway and teach them aerobatics. Naturally we would finish the sortie beating up more buffalo and it was on one of these beat-ups I saw the leader of the herd turn and face us head on. While the rest of the buffs thundered away tails high when they saw the Wirraway coming at them low and fast, this big hairy bull buffalo just propped, head lowered and pawed the ground. He was a brave bastard and I was glad that our engine didn’t pick that moment to stop because that bull buffalo would not have taken prisoners.

I became friends with a Sergeant reservist pilot called George Petru. After the war, George had escaped the communists who had taken over his native Czechoslovakia and had eventually found his way to Australia. In Darwin he was employed as a surveyor with the Department of Works. He had flown Junkers 87 (Stuka) dive bombers, with the Czech Air Force. Faced with marauding Russian troops, he stole a Messerschmitt ME109 fighter and fled his homeland chased by Russian fighters. The ME109 was a fast German designed single seater, which enabled him to out-run his pursuers. The RAAF accepted him as a reservist and he wore RAAF pilot wings despite never having been flight tested to service standards. He loved Australia and having read of the exploits of the RAAF fighter ace Bluey Truscott, was so impressed that he changed his name by deed poll from Petru to Truscott.

George came along on many Lincoln sorties but he was not allowed to land or take off. He had never flown a heavy bomber and understandably was pretty ropey on instrument flying. For that reason we would only let him at the controls when the sun was shining. For all that, George was one of the most enthusiastic pilots I have ever flown with and he would willingly come along as a crew member on some of our long ten hour SAR searches. While the captain was having a break snoozing down the back on the hard metal floor of the Lincoln, I would slip George into the co-pilot’s seat and let him fly while I kept my eyes open for the missing light aeroplane or yacht or whatever we were looking for. I was never game to leave the cockpit to stretch my legs while George was flying because I knew that if we had a sudden engine failure (common on Lincolns in the tropics), George would be unable to handle the situation.

One day I rang George at work and asked him would he like to come with me in the Wirraway for low flying practice, meaning chasing hapless buffaloes. I saw my mate the big bull buffalo as a hairy cloven footed version of Jaws, in need of a bit of stirring up. From a safe height, of course. George was delighted to get into a single engine aircraft again – his last one being the Messerschmitt that he had hijacked from the Czech Air Force. After the fun with the old man bull and low flying along deserted beaches to the east of Darwin, I climbed to height for some aerobatics.

After completing a few loops and inadvertently spinning off a roll off the top, I handed over to George in the back seat, inviting him to try a loop. Now George had never flown a Wirraway before and understandably had no idea what a vicious beast it could be if roughly handled. I talked him into the initial dive at 160 knots then told him to pull up and over into the loop. Now it should be remembered that George was an experienced Stuka pilot and that aircraft was specifically designed as a dive bomber. The typical dive angle of a Stuka was sixty degrees and the drag from its huge wing dive brakes kept the speed back to eighty knots. The stick force needed to pull out of the dive was not much at all and a harsh pull back on the stick at the bottom of the dive would easily convert the dive into a rocketing climb. Well, the Wirraway is not a Stuka and it quickly showed George who was boss.

George reefed about 4G at the bottom of the dive, causing the Wirraway to flick violently into a series of high speed rolls and bouncing George’s head against the side window panels. I attempted to take control from the front seat to counteract the inevitable incipient spin. George had not understood my commend for him to let go of the controls and kept hauling back stick. And so the Wirraway stuck it right up him and kept on flick rolling. Eventually he let go of the stick and after recovering from the last known inverted position, I abandoned the sortie and then flew sedately back to base. Safely on the ground, George muttered ruefully that flying Stuka dive-bombers was a damn sight safer than aerobatics in a Wirraway and in future he would rather give Wirraways a miss, and stick to flying Lincolns in sunny weather.

Some Lincoln crews were irritated by his fractured English, and fanatical keeness to fly. As a result, he was often knocked back after turning up at the airport. When that happened he would walk away sadly, knowing he was not wanted. Few knew that he was a brave man that had seen bloodshed and murder in his home country. It took guts to steal a Messerschmitt and risk being shot down in a hail of cannon fire, and I felt small in stature against this man. For my part, I could rarely find it in my heart to knock him back when he turned up in his flying suit, cloth helmet, and a big smile. As I saw it, he was in the RAAF reserve and trying hard to do his bit for his new country. When the last of the Lincolns went to the wreckers in 1960, George had logged over 200 hours in the right hand seat. From Darwin he moved with his family to Canberra where he obtained a private pilot’s licence. He made media headlines after getting lost in a Cessna 172 near Oodnadatta and forced landed on a clay pan. He was on his last legs when he was located, badly sun burnt, after surviving for one week by chewing his leather belt and shoe laces and eating toothpaste. Not long after, his luck ran out when he died in a glider accident near Canberra.
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Old 21st Nov 2021, 10:34
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Brilliantly written as always Centaurus. And you have brought back to life the memory of a brave man who stared into the barbaric face of history and ultimately met a tragic end whose story would otherwise be lost to the mists of time. Well done, and it does make one think how many others who have similar stories of bravery and tragedy are now sadly anonymous in death, forgotten..
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Old 21st Nov 2021, 10:54
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Great to read these stories. Always look forward to post from Centaurus.
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Old 21st Nov 2021, 12:21
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Originally Posted by compressor stall View Post
Brilliantly written as always Centaurus. And you have brought back to life the memory of a brave man who stared into the barbaric face of history and ultimately met a tragic end whose story would otherwise be lost to the mists of time. Well done, and it does make one think how many others who have similar stories of bravery and tragedy are now sadly anonymous in death, forgotten..
Yea! One wonders why we don't hear more about the exploits of the brave airmen of Czech Air Force in WW2. Is it merely because there was no such a thing as CzAF before 1993.?

Oh, by the way, choosing George Petru as a name for Czech guy reminds me of one famous character who chose Ford Prefect as hıs human alias. It's not even Slovak name; it is quıte usual amongst Romanians. Sixty degrees wasn't typical Ju-87 dive angle; it was minimal, with preferable being vertical. Despite its huge wing, fixed undercarriage, dive brakes and flaps, its dive speed was in 300kt range, not eighty. The stick force needed to pull it out of the dive was not merely low, it was zero as StuKa had dive pullout autopilot. It was brave and somewhat cognitively impaired pilot who would disconnect the system and fly pullouts manually. Those pesky Russians who were chasing our poor hero had some scores from 1941. to settle. If StuKa isn't giveaway enough for you: our brave man George, flying either for Luftwaffe or Aeronautica Regala Romana, was staring into WW2 history from its far uglier face.

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Old 22nd Nov 2021, 02:10
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George's fatal accident report.

https://www.atsb.gov.au/media/24688/197501405.pdf
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Old 22nd Nov 2021, 06:57
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It is a very odd set of circumstances, Centaurus. Didn’t the ‘bad guys’ fly the Stuka in WWII? That would account for ‘George’ being chased by the Soviets who were at that time among the ‘good guys’. But then how does he end up in the RAAF Reserve? Something does not add up.

I note, apropos nothing in particular, that ASIO was originally set up in response to the UK and USA suspending intelligence sharing with Australia, after they found out there was a Soviet spy ring operating in Australia, of which ring Australia was not aware. Aircraft transitting Darwin bound for Woomera and beyond? Seems the kind of information that might have been of some passing interest not only to plane-spotters but to the Soviets in the 50s and beyond.

Be fascinating to find out how ‘George’ got into the Reserve if he was, in fact, a Stuka pilot.
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Old 22nd Nov 2021, 10:43
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Great story on George. Many young men flew on different sides from the same country. As for the RAAF Reserve a friend of mine's father flew for the Luftwaffe and after the war emigrated to South Australia where he grew grapes and joined the Citizens Air Force unit at Mallala. Another colleague's father was a Luftwaffe bomber navigator [shot down in Italy] and he too came to Australia via Canada after the war, got citizenship and served time in the CMF in Adelaide and then Sydney.
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Old 22nd Nov 2021, 11:07
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Thanks for the accident report Megan. I was unaware of the details before you wrote your post. Poor old George.
Re his RAAF Reservist status in Darwin in early 1953. All I recall was the RAAF accepted his flying qualifications. He turned up at Darwin wearing a current RAAF issue flying suit. We were informed he had the approval to fly with us as an observer and thats what we did. Because he was so very keen and was so proud of his status as a Reservist, gave him some flying in the Lincoln, albet keeping an eye on him as rumour had it he was very rough on the controls when given straight and level supervision.

Over the months I spent at Darwin on SAR duties, I got to know George well and had coffee with he and his wife on numerous occasions. I forget the name of his wife but she made beautiful black coffee.
George was a Public Works surveyor I think - which probably why the RAAF accepted him as a Reservist.
However I saw in the accident report his surname was shown as Petru. We knew him as George Truscott because we heard he had changed his name in honour of the ace "Bluey Truscott"
Seems we must have made a mistake as Petru stayed his correct surname.
We kept in touch after he left Darwin and went south. .
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Old 23rd Nov 2021, 08:35
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agree, something wrong with that story - the Czechs did fly Me-109's postwar (because they had been building them for the Luftwaffe) but not stukas.
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Old 23rd Nov 2021, 08:55
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Stukas were used earlier on in the war with limited success but big fanfare. Their pilots were fully flavored Luftwaffe selected and educated pilots not just cannon fodder aircrew like in the final war period. So he should have known to straighten up and fly right if the Stuka part is true.
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Old 24th Nov 2021, 03:02
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The Romanians flew 109's after the war also, a bloke who defected in one went on to fly AG in Australia. Colin Boresh, he released a book last year about his early days.
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Old 24th Nov 2021, 06:47
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Stukas were produced in Slovakia for the Luftwaffe and at wars end Slovak aircraft were integrated into the Czech Air Force. Czechoslovakian Air Force operated captured Stuka aircraft postwar it is claimed, five Ju 87 D-5s, registrations OK-XAA – OK-XAE.



Last edited by megan; 24th Nov 2021 at 13:12. Reason: Slovakia not Slovenia
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Old 24th Nov 2021, 07:54
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While the name looks Romanian on the first viewing, more common form would be Petrescu. On the other hand, with correct accents and translation 'Jiří Petrů' returns lot of hits (contemporary)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czechoslovak_Air_Force. The CSAf definitely did have up to 500 S-199 and also about 40 of the leftover about Bf-109 after the war.

For a Czechoslovak citizen to have flown the Stuka and be capable of defecting with a S-199/Bf-109, chased by Russian fighters - that would pre-date the V-E day. An educative and thrilling account of what that plane was like: https://www.airspacemag.com/airspace...ife-180972958/ (final paragraph: 'treacherous attributes')

During the war times however, the CSAf was decommissioned. As much as 1500 of their airmen escaped the country via underground links.

After the Communist take-over of 1948 most of the wartime heroes were heavily persecuted, similar to other countries. Probably except Poland where they got killed the first time Soviets arrived. Escape attempts were common, the succesful airborne ones not really that many but still spectacular.

https://fcafa.com/2012/04/21/escape-from-prague/
https://fcafa.com/2011/03/12/they-flew-to-exile-1950/

Those who made it are considered heroes by today's Czech iconography and there is no public trace of a successful run onboard S-199 / Bf-109. / C-10. Unless he served with Luftwaffe, neither the proxy Slovak Air Weapons (SVZ) seem to have operated Stukas despite the localized production. Relevant contacts: VHU PRAHA

The origin of his story is probably either lost or even somewhat built deep down the memory lane.

megan Slovenia / Slovakia. Prijazna hvala!

EDIT: Found this online, Google translate hits the important points: ttps://www.idnes.cz/technet/vojenstvi/ceskoslovenske-letectvo-stihaci-letadlo-avia-s-199.A200116_174150_vojenstvi_erp
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S-199_Google_technet.EN.pdf (209.9 KB, 3 views)

Last edited by FlightDetent; 24th Nov 2021 at 21:55.
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Old 24th Nov 2021, 08:23
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Originally Posted by megan View Post
Stukas were produced in Slovenia for the Luftwaffe and at wars end Slovak aircraft were integrated into the Czech Air Force. Czechoslovakian Air Force operated captured Stuka aircraft postwar it is claimed, five Ju 87 D-5s, registrations OK-XAA – OK-XAE.


Well there you go - still has the Slovakian markings on the tail!
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Old 24th Nov 2021, 13:10
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FD, I got my Slovs mixed.
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Old 24th Nov 2021, 15:20
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Probably the auto-correct. Until you call the capital Pozony it does not matter much.

Well, or paint the wrong crest on the tail? http://www.slovakairlines.sk/wp-cont...n-airlines.jpg
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Old 24th Nov 2021, 21:18
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Centaurus ' posts always paint an interesting story, and this one is no exception. That, and the subsequent discussion, has somehow brought George a personality that we might not otherwise have had.

It seemed somehow sad to me that Centaurus had lost touch with him and Mrs George of the coffee... so a little research later it does seem his last name was indeed Petrů, and that he was probably Czech.

Unfortunately while I can't find a lot about George's later life it seems likely his father, Mecislav, was an architect who was born at Königinhof, Bohemia, on the banks of the river Elbe in 1881. He is recorded as living in the Melk district, Lower Austria in 1916, then he died at Prague, Czech Republic, in 1941.

At some stage Mecislav married Milan, and George would have been born some time in 1921 or 1922. George would have been around 16 when Austria was annexed by Germany, 17 when WWII started, 19 when his father died, then 23 when the war finished and the Red Army entered his home.

One could surmise that, initially, he grew up in a quiet but busy environment as a member of a middle-class family who appreciated the arts and engineering, and might have expected to attend University, perhaps in Vienna, but for the brutal intercession of the war. It's complete speculation at this point but if he was living in Austria in the 1930's, and given many Austrian's supported Hitler, it's entirely possible he did fly Stukas - for the Nazi's - or he may have been part of a resistance movement and somehow flew them there. This information (from WW2db) on Czech citizens during WWII is telling:

During the war, thousands of ethnic Czechs and Slovakians fought for the Western Allies. Early in the war, a Czechoslovakian branch was formed under the French Army, with its 1st Infantry Division seeing action in the German invasion of France. Later in the war, as many made their way to the United Kingdom, many Czechoslovakians joined the British military and fought in North Africa, Middle East, and Europe; the No. 310 Squadron of the British Royal Air Force, active participants of the Battle of Britain, was famously all-Czech.

Given the disjointed times I guess we may never know the full story about George's life during WWII but either way Australia in the later 1940's & 1950's would have seemed like heaven in comparison to the tumultuous years of his late teens and early 20's. No wonder he had a big smile and was enthusiastic about life...
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Old 24th Nov 2021, 22:34
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I am afraid at the time of War there was a rather distinct ethnical divide.

For a pure-bred Czech as evidenced by the 100% Slavonic 'Mecislav' and 'Milan' (the latter being a man's name, no matter) and the historical surname ending with a vowel as well (essentially O'Peter), the chances of him flying for Luftwaffe are practically sub zero. As much as running from a firing squad, offender of high treason, would be a strong motivation to get away from the winning parties as far as geographically possible. The escape point then could be anywhere within the Nazi held territory, thus perhaps unknown to his national historians. Good reason for a full 360 smile!. But the predicament makes absolutely no sense, no way at all.

The largest piece of kit the resistance on the Czech side had was quite likely a radio. Most of the activities involved staying in touch and protecting each other, apart from intelligence gathering and informing the exile government in the UK. Training and flying on a Stuka stolen from the Luftwaffe - in Czech lands - is very alternative history. Reality had both Lidice and Lezaky villages wiped out by SS death squad for hiding a radio station used for Silver A para team of the SOE's Operation Anthropoid (1942).

The Slovak National Uprising had Insurgent Air Force (1944), later supported by returning Czechoslovak RAF Airmen on secondment to the Red Army who flew their Lavochkins across the frontline to inside Slovak territory from the east. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slovak...gent_Air_Force. No Stukas there, either. And definitely not running away from the Red Army but rather depending on their ammo supplies to survive.

Last edited by FlightDetent; 24th Nov 2021 at 22:50.
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Old 24th Nov 2021, 23:37
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FlightDetent Thanks for the insight

FWIW 'Milan' is George's mother's given name in the records. There could be a transcription error I suppose, or perhaps there was no paperwork for George after the war and anything recorded was from an imperfect verbal delivery...
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Old 25th Nov 2021, 00:18
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Centaurus In case you don't get notified; I've sent you a PM with some detail on George's family.
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