The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. O Hanzlicek
Otto Hanzlicek was born on 18th June 1911 at Usti nad Labem on the northern Czech border. He joined the Military Aviation Academy at Prostejov in 1930 where he trained as a pilot. He graduated on 1st October 1932 and was posted for further training to 4 Observation Squadron of 4 Air Regiment at Hradec Kralove.
He completed his training in 1934 and was posted to 3 Air Regiment at Vajnory for fighter pilot training. He completed this in August 1935 and returned to 4 Air Regiment, on the strength of 37 Fighter Squadron.
When the Germans took over the country in March 1939 Hanzlicek was demobilised. On 8th June 1939, with two colleagues, he escaped into Poland from near Ostrava. They reported to the Czech Consulate in Krakow and then on 25th July sailed from Gdynia on the Kastelholm, arriving in Calais on 31st July.
Hanzlicek was required to join the French Foreign Legion but war was declared just as he due to be posted to the Legion base in Algeria. He was posted to l'Armee de l'Air instead and was assigned to CIC Chartres for retraining on French equipment.
He completed this training on 2nd December 1939 and was posted to GC II/5 at Croix-de-Metz airfield outside Toul, operating the Curtiss Hawk 75.
On 23rd April 1940 Hanzlicek probably destroyed a Do17, on 11th May he destroyed a He111 and on the 18th he probably destroyed a Do17 and shared a Me109 but was himself shot down, baling out safely.
He was awarded the C de G (Fr) and the Czech Military Cross.
With the French capitulation imminent, GC II/5 left France on 20th June 1940 and flew to Maison Blanche in Algeria.
When the capitulation took place the Czech airmen were released from service. Hanzlicek, with other Czech airmen, travelled by train to Casablanca and boarded the Royal Scotsman bound for Gibraltar. On 9th July he sailed on the David Livingstone which arrived in Cardiff on 5th August.
Hanzlicek went to the RAF Czechoslovak Depot at Cosford where he enlisted in the RAFVR. He joined 312 Squadron at Duxford on 19th September and was trained on the squadron to fly Hurricanes. The squadron moved to Speke on 26th September, tasked with protecting the docks at Liverpool.
During a routine patrol on 10th October Hanzlicek's Hurricane L1547 caught fire over Ellesmere Port and he baled out at low level. The wind blew him over the River Mersey and he fell into the river some way out from the north shore near Oglet.
Hanzlicek was seen struggling with his parachute in the water but by the time helpers reached him ten minutes later he was no longer visible. The Hurricane crashed into the mud of the River Mersey. Hanzlicek's body was recovered from the river about five miles east of Speke on 1st November.
Hanzlicek was buried on 5th November 1940 in West Derby Cemetery, Liverpool.
It is a communal grave and also holds P/O J Bartos, another Czech interred there in February 1941.