Members of the Czech Air Force, the British Royal Air Force, Second World War veterans, church and cultural dignitaries attended celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Czechoslovak Airforce at the Winged Lion Memorial in Prague’s Klarov park on Tuesday. The fact that both the Czechoslovak Airforce and the RAF are celebrating their centenary this year was an occasion to highlight the close ties between Czech and British airmen.
RAF officer Ivo Tonder played an important part in what became known as the Great Escape, a mass breakout by Allied airmen from a German prisoner of war camp in March 1944. But this was only one of many escapes by the Czech pilot, who evidently had nerves of steel – and a lot of luck. I recently spoke with his daughter, Petra Tonder, who came to our studios with a copy of In the Heavens and in Hell, a book by Tonder and the famous photographer Ladislav Sitenský. In the first half of a two-part interview, Petra Tonder describes her father’s remarkable
Political leaders, war veterans and members of the public gathered outside
Czech Radio’s Prague headquarter on Saturday to mark the 73rd anniversary
of the Prague Uprising against Nazi rule at the end of WWII.
The radio station was the focal point of the uprising and the site of one of the biggest clashes with Nazi forces as citizens came to defend the building against German attempts to retake it. Over 100 people died defending the radio building and hundreds of others fell at the barricades that went up around Prague. Altogether, an estimated 12,000 people were killed around the country.
The commemorative ceremony outside Czech Radio was attended by the Speaker of the Senate Milan Stech, Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová, members of the Union of Freedom Fighters and others. Mr. Stech said that although the uprising had come in the last days of the war it had prevented the Nazis from destroying the historic core of the Czech capital.
At the beginning of May 1945 fighting was still going on in Prague. The Czech lands were one of the last places in Europe where people were dying even after the official end of hostilities between the German Army and the Allies on May 8. There was a last-minute uprising in the Czech capital and the US 3rd Army was only some 80 kilometers (or about 50 miles) away, near the western city of Plzeň.
Tomáš Lom is one of the very few surviving Czechoslovaks who served in Britain’s RAF during World War II. Born Tomáš Löwenstein into a Jewish family in Prague, he signed up in London the moment he turned 18 and ended up serving as a wireless operator in the Bahamas in the latter period of the conflict.
The oldest living female Czechoslovak World War II veteran, Anděla Haida,
has died in the United Kingdom at the age of 104, the Czech Embassy in
London has announced.
During the war Mrs. Haida served as a driver with the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force after signing up as a volunteer in 1942.
In 2017 the North London resident received a medal for heroism from the Czech president, Miloš Zeman. She was born Anděla Beníčková in Uherský Brod in October 1913.
War veteran Colonel Josef Holy has died at the age of 99. Holy fought in
the Eastern front in WWII and was later taken into German captivity.
After being released he joined a resistance group composed of Volhynian Czechs and volunteered for the newly formed 1st Czechoslovak army corps. He fought in the battle for the Dukla pass, where he was hit in the head by a shrapnel.
After the war he was a member of the anti-communist resistance for which he was sentenced to 18 months in jail and later only allowed to do menial labour. Holy was rehabilitated after 1989 and received the Memory of the Nation Award.
Scores of Czechoslovak pilots took part in the Battle of Britain, the famous July to October 1940 military campaign in which the RAF fought off massive German air raids and changed the course of World War II. Those Czechoslovak heroes are among those commemorated at the fascinating Battle of Britain Museum at a former key air base at Hawkinge near Folkstone in Kent, just kilometres from the English Channel.
Miroslav Liškutín, one of the last Czechoslovak fighter pilots who served with the British RAF during WWII, died in Great Britain on Monday at the age of 98. Last year, the veteran pilot was promoted to the rank of brigadier general by the Czech head of state. The head of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, General Jiří Bečvář, had praise for the hero and his contribution during the war.