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 Air Force at the Winged Lion Memorial in Prague’s Klárov park on Tuesday. The fact that both the Czechoslovak Air Force and the RAF are celebrating their centenary this year was an occasion to highlight the close ties between Czech and British airmen.
Gripens fighter jets flew overhead as the country’s military brass laid wreaths at the memorial of the Winged Lion in Klárov, honouring the 2,500 Czechoslovak men and women who served in the British Royal Air Force during WWII. General Petr Hromek is commander in chief of the Czech Air Force:
“This year we are celebrating not just the centenary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, but also 100 years since the founding of the Czechoslovak Air Force and the British Royal Airforce. It is an occasion to recall the brave men and women who served in the RAF in WWII and contributed to the victory over the Nazi regime.”
RAF Air Vice-Marshal David Cooper said the fact that British and Czechoslovak pilots had fought side-by-side in WWII had formed strong bonds between the two forces and the two nations.
“One of the reasons I am here today is to look at the work we have done with the Czechoslovak Armed Forces. We worked very, very closely in the past with them and I remember the 2,513 airmen that flew with the RAF during the Second World War. They flew our fighters, they flew our bombers and also contributed to those missions as well across all the ranks and many trades. And one of the reasons that we have such a strong bond with the Czech Republic today is because of our history, a good example of which is the Second World War.”
General Petr Hromek said there was a special relationship between the Czech and British air forces to this day.
“Cooperation with the British forces is above standard. We cooperate in many areas, not just in manning fighter jets and helicopters, training forward air-controllers and so on. We have joint exercises within Flying Rhino and now Ample Strike. The Brits helped us enormously, especially when we were training our men on military helicopters with night vision, it is thanks to them that we were able to make progress fast. So I would say we have a very close relationship, I would say above-standard.”
Czech Defence Minister Lubomír Metnar said contemporary Czech pilots were following on the wings of the country’s WWII veterans and his goal was to make sure that the Czech Air Force would continue their legacy with pride.
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