The Airmen's Stories - S/Ldr. J Ambrus
Jan Ambrus, of a Czechoslovakian family, was born in Gorna Mitropolia, Bulgaria on 19th May 1899. After leaving school he studied at the Budapest Military Academy. Upon graduation he served in the artillery arm of the army before in 1925 being commissioned as an officer in the Czechoslovakian Air Force. Ambrus was a highly competent pilot and won awards at aerobatic competitions, including at Vincennes in 1934 and the 1936 Summer Olympics.
In 1938 he was CO of the Czechoslovak Air Force Test Group based at Prague. After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia he slipped away and made his way via Yugoslavia to France. By October 1939 he was based with the Czech detachment at Chartres in an administration role, but after the German attack he flew with the Czech unit formed to defend the airfield.
He escaped from France, possibly through St. Jean de Luz, at some time in June/July 1940 though it is known that he had arrived in the UK and been commissioned in the RAF by 12th July 1940.
Above: senior officers of 312 Squadron at Duxford in September 1940.
L to R: F/Lt. A Hlobil, Ambrus, S/Ldr. FH Tyson, F/Lt. DE Gillam, F/Lt. J Duda
He was at first posted to 310 Squadron but went from there to 6 OTU on 17th August 1940 to convert to Hurricanes. His next posting was a joint command of 312 Squadron at Duxford on 9th September 1940, shared with S/Ldr. FH Tyson.
On 13th October Blenheims K7135 and L6637 were aloft from Tern Hill when they were attacked in error by Ambrus, F/Lt. HAG Comerford and Sgt. J Stehlik over the Point of Ayr, SW of Liverpool.
Despite firing the colours of the day L6637 was shot down with the loss of Sgt. RE Stevens, Sgt. OK Sly and AC2 A Jackson.
K7135 with F/O JD Humphreys, Sgt. EH Bee and AC1 JF Fizell was able to break off and return to base.
On the 15th Ambrus crash-landed near Dalton-in-Fumess in Hurricane V6846. On a routine patrol, he had lost his bearings and was low on fuel.
Ambrus was posted to the Czech Ministry of Defence on 18th December 1940 and did no more operational flying. After a stint at the Air Force Inspectorate in London in June 1941 he was appointed to the Czechoslovak military mission in Montreal, Canada where he was involved in recruiting volunteers for the air force. He was promoted to Wing Commander and on 6th March 1943 headed the office of the air attache in Ottawa, while at the same time serving as liaison officer to Czech pilots training in Canada.
After the war ended he returned to Czechoslovakia as a senior officer in the air force and in May 1946 he became a deputy in the National Assembly. He lost both offices after the communist coup in February 1948 and on 21st March 1948 he left Czechoslovakia, travelling to the UK from where he emigrated to the United States. He settled in Chicago where he worked as an aerospace engineer.
After the communist collapse in 1989 he was reinstated in his air force rank but remained in the USA. He did not prosper and his final years were spent in a nursing home at public expense. Ambrus died in Chicago on 2nd January 1994.
His remains were repatriated for burial near Bratislava in Czechoslovakia.