Czech WWII pilots in Britain and their persecution during the Communism
A Reich Protectorate
Hitler completed his takeover of Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939 and declared it to be a Reich Protectorate. The majority of Czech pilots refused to take part of the Luftwafe or Lufthansa and went abroad in order to fight for the liberation of their homeland.
The Czech RAF units
The first Czechoslovak RAF squadron was formed on 12th July 1940 and saw the Battle of Britain. The others emerged.
In addition to these RAF units, the Czechoslovak Infantry Regiment, under the command of Lt.-Col. Karel Klapálek helped to defend Tobruk. There was also the action of the parachutists who were dropped into the Bohemian Protectorate and assassinated Heydrich (wiping out of Lidice and Ležáky).
The British Government, as well as the French Government now in exile in London, retracted to the 1938 Munich Treaty. This action resulted in the original Czechoslovak frontiers now being recognised. During WWII a total of 546 Czechoslovak airmen lost their lives.
Instead of respect for these returning airmen who had contributed towards the liberation and reconstruction of the Czechoslovak Republic, they found that they became subject to contempt and hatred as Communist ideology was imposed onto the population.
Many of them were arrested and imprisoned. Those who had volunteered to go to Russia and fight with alongside the Soviet Air Force did not escape this treatment. Two of the RAF men were shot dead while being arrested – Viktor Waidlich on 25 May 1949 and Eduard Šimon on 15 December 1949.
The Velvet Revolution
The Czechoslovak RAF airmen had to wait till after the ‘Velvet Revolution’ – the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989 – before their WWII endeavours were finally recognised. They were rehabilitated and promoted to higher ranks in the Czechoslovak Air Force.