RAF Recognises Distinctive Slovakian War Effort
Added: (Wed Dec 06 2000)
Pressbox (Press Release) -
NEWS FROM THE ROYAL AIR FORCE
343/00 December 6, 2000
RAF RECOGNISES DISTINCTIVE SLOVAK WAR EFFORT IN WORLD WAR 2
Slovakian involvement in the Royal Air Force effort against Hitler was formally recognised for the first time today with the presentation of a Battle of Britain diptych or painting showing wartime aircraft and volunteers. Presented at the Slovak Embassy in London,the ceremony followed a special thanksgiving service at St Clement Dane’s Church to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Czechoslovak voluntary forces arriving in Britain.
Presenting the diptych to Slovakian Ambassador Frantisek Dlhopolcek, former Air Chief Marshal Sir David Cousins, controller of the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: “We will never forget the brave actions of our Slovak and Czech friends alike in the battle against the common enemy in World War 2. I am delighted to recognise their outstanding contribution with the presentation of this diptych.”
Until now the Slovak contribution to Britain’s war effort has not been distinguished from that of the far more numerous Czechs with whom they shared a common homeland. Czechoslovakia was dismembered by the Nazis but reunited from 1945 until 1993 when Slovakia and the Czech Republic went their separate ways following the end of the Cold War. Today, although Slovakia is outside the Western alliance while the Czech Republic has joined NATO, 15 veterans or widows still receive support from the RAF Benevolent Fund in Slovakia compared with 238 in the Czech Republic.
NOTES TO EDITORS
1.Caption: Slovakian Ambassador Frantisek Dlhopolcek with the Battle of Britain diptych. (Photo available from the RAF at 020 7218 2480)
2.Around 3500 Slovak and Czech military personnel escaped to Britain with the fall of France in June 1940. A formal agreement was signed in 25 October 1940 under which Czechoslovak airmen were enlisted or commissioned into the RAF Voluntary Reserve for the duration of the war while officially remaining members of a Czechoslovak airforce. Many returned, together with RAF aircraft and ground equipment, to re-establish their own airforce in 1945.
3.Slovak Spitfire pilots who took part in the Battle of Britain included Jan Ambrus, commander of 312 Squadron, Otto Smik DFC, and Anton Prvonic and Anton Vanko, both killed in action. Rudolf Husar was among the first RAF bomber pilots to attack Berlin, later flying a Mosquito in night reconnaissance and interception. Navigators and telegraphers included Ivan Schwarz and Aladar Berry-Pkory of 311 Squadron; technicians included the radar expert Nikulas Grofcik and the pilot/ technician Ludovit Ivanic. Some Slovaks served on mainstream British squadrons, among them Ervin Kovac, a pilot with an operational training unit.
4.Czechoslovaks formed the 310 and 312 fighter squadrons at RAF Duxford in 1940, flying Hurricanes and Spitfires. 311 Squadron was formed under Bomber Command, flying over 1000 Wellington sorties against targets in occupied Europe before switching against enemy shipping. 313 Squadron contributed to air defence, convoy patrols, fighter sweeps, bomber escort, armed reconnaissance, ground attack, and patrols against doodle-bugs (V1).
5.A total of 84 awards were given to Czechoslovaks, including 52 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 5 Distinguished Service Orders.
6.For further information please contact Sqn Ldr Elaine Macleod, MOD Press Office on 020 7218 3254 or Lynne Ploutarchou, RAF Benevolent Fund on 01285 713300 ex 3361. The RAF web site can be found at http://www.raf.mod.uk