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The Airmen's Stories - P/O J Duda

 

Josef Duda was born on 19th August 1905 in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He entered the Military Academy at Hranice in 1923, graduated in 1925 as an artillery officer and then joined 111 Artillery Regiment at Kosice.

During 1929/30 he trained as an aerial observer at the Military Academies at Olomouc and Prostejov and was then assigned to 7 Observation Squadron of 3 Air Regiment at Kosice and later at Olomouc.

On 1st March 1933 he was sent for pilot training to Prostejov, followed by fighter pilot training at Cheb. On 31st November 1933 he returned to Olomouc and was assigned to 35 Fighter Squadron. For the next five years he had postings at Piestany, Kosice, Olomouc, Prostejov and Vajnory.

 

 

Above: senior officers of 312 Squadron at Duxford in September 1940.

L to R: F/Lt. A Hlobil, S/Ldr. J Ambrus, S/Ldr. FH Tyson, F/Lt. DE Gillam, F/Lt. J Duda

 

On 11th November 1938 Duda was appointed CO of 45 Fighter Squadron at Spisska Nova Ves. After the German takeover in March 1939 he was demobilised. On 8th June 1939 he escaped to Poland and reported to the Czech Consulate at Krakow and on the 17th, with 138 other escaped Czech airmen, he sailed from Gdynia on the Sobieski to France.


After a short time in Paris, Duda was posted to l'Armee de l'Air training airbase at Chartres for re-training to French equipment. He was commissioned in l'Armee de l'Air in late 1939 and on 15th May 1940 was posted to GC II/5, operating the Curtiss Hawk 75.

On the 7th June he shared in the probable destruction of a Do17 and on the 14th he destroyed a He111.


With the French collapse imminent, GC II/5 left Perpignan and flew to Oran in Algeria. Duda and the other Czech airmen were released from service. He left Casablanca on 8th July in the Royal Scotsman and landed at Gibraltar where he transferred to the David Livingstone, landing at Cardiff on 20th August.

He was commissioned into the RAFVR in August 1940 at the RAF Czech Depot at Cosford, from where he joined 312 Squadron at Duxford on 5th September. He was appointed commander of 'B' Flight. He was posted away to 4 Ferry Pilot Pool at Kemble on 17th November 1940.

On 2nd February 1941 he was posted to the Maintenance Unit at Little Rissington as a staff pilot. On 8th February 1941 he was posted as an instructor to 55 OTU but only stayed until 14th February when he was assigned to the Bristol Flying School for Instructors (BFSI) at Yatesbury. He remained there until December 1941.

On 15th December 1941 Duda was posted to the Czechoslovak Inspectorate General in London as training officer. He remained in this post until 22nd June 1943 although he did carry out a few test flights for 32 MU at the end of 1942 and in the spring of 1943.


On 22nd June 1943 Duda was appointed Group Captain and designated as Czechoslovak Liaison Officer between CIG and ADGB-HQFC at Bentley Priory. From 9th March to 9th May 1945 Duda was CO of the Czechoslovak Fighter Wing based at Manston.


Duda was made CBE on 15th January 1947 and held the Czech Military Cross.

After the end of the war he returned to Czechoslovakia, remained in the Czech Air Force and was appointed as CO of the Military Aviation School at Prostejov. On 1st September 1948, following the communist takeover, Duda was demoted to Private and dismissed from the Air Force.

Duda was restricted to manual labour and was employed as such at the Hanacke ironworks in Prostejov, he was a delivery driver at the time of his retirement in 1965.

Duda died on 7th December 1977 at Prostejov.


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