The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. R Ptaceck
Rudolf Ptacek was born on 19th April 1918 in Kostelec nad Orlici, Czechoslovakia. His father owned a leather business but died while Ptacek was still in elementary school.
On 1st October 1936 he joined the Czech Air Force, qualifying as a pilot in May 1938. After the German occupation he made his way to Poland where other Czech airmen were assembling. He left Poland on 25th July by ship and arrived at Boulogne in France on 1st August 1939.
Ptacek was sent to the large training school at Chartres and at the time of the German attack on 10th May 1940 he was serving in the defence flight there, equipped with MS406 and Bloch 151 aircraft. He was one of three pilots who intercepted a raid by Do17's on 3rd June but all were badly hit by defensive fire, Ptacek losing a finger.
After the French collapse Ptacek made his way with other Czechs to St. Jean de Luz and escaped to England by sea, arriving in Plymouth on 26th June 1940. He was processed into the RAF at Cosford on 25th July and on 21st September was posted to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge to convert to Hurricanes. On 5th October 1940 Ptacek was posted to 43 Squadron at Usworth.
On 23rd November 1940 Ptacek was posted to 615 Squadron at Northolt, going on to 313 (Czech) Squadron at Catterick on 11th June 1941.
Now experienced on Spitfires, he went on 5th July 1941 to 222 Squadron at Manston. On 19th August 1941 222 escorted Blenheims on Circus 81 to Gosnay power station. Ptacek claimed a Me109 destroyed east of St Omer but was shortly after shot down himself in Spitfire IIB P8244.
He was able to avoid capture and contact the 'Pat O'Leary' escape organisation which returned him to the UK via Spain and Gibraltar, he landed in England on 5th January 1942. He immediately joined 602 Squadron at Kenley as a Warrant Officer. On 28th March 1942 Ptacek was flying Spitfire Vb BM148 on a Rodeo sortie when he was reported missing. It is thought that he was shot down by Fw190's over Le Havre.
Ptacek is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial, Panel 73.
Above image courtesy of Dean Sumner