In last week’s From the Archives we heard about radio’s central role in the Prague Uprising against the German occupation at the end of World War II. Not only did the signal for the uprising to begin come over the air, but the radio also helped to co-ordinate the fighting. It also played a third role. At the time the Red Army was already approaching Prague from the east, and General Patton’s Third Army was in Plzeň just a few dozen kilometres to the west. Many of those fighting in the streets of Prague were untrained and had few weapons, and the scale of the German resistance, especially the SS units, took many by surprise. The radio appealed to the Americans, British and Russians for help.
“This is Prague! Americans and English, help us” We need guns. There are too many Germans. Send us aeroplanes and tanks. Americans before Plzeň. Send us aeroplanes too! The Germans are coming from south, north, west and east. Help us! Help us!”
“Prague calls the Red Army! We need your help!”
Last week we briefly heard the voice of the escaped Scottish prisoner of war, William Greig, who was helping to defend the radio. Here he is again, with more than a hint of frustration in his voice, appealing to the Allies for help.
“Hello, hello, hello! This is Prague calling London. Once again we repeat what I have already said three or four times. The Germans did not keep their promise. Prague is in great danger. The Germans are attacking with tanks and planes. We’re calling urgently our allies to help. Send immediately tanks and aircraft. Help us defend Prague. Do not let Prague be destroyed. We don’t know how long we can hold out. We are hoping for the best – that English, American or Russian troops will reach us in the next few hours. It has to be very quick and very soon. Good night!”
“Please stop this unnecessary resistance immediately, and give yourselves up to the Czech armed forces”
In the end, by the time the Red Army rolled into Prague on the morning of May 9, the city had as good as liberated itself, and around three thousand lives on both sides had been lost in the process. As the tanks came down the hill towards the city centre, they were joined by a jubilant radio reporter.
“We are coming down the winding hill from the Castle. On the left is Klárov, on the right Hradčany, and before us a city is spreading out whose joy reaches the stars. At this moment the Red Army has liberated Prague.”