The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J Stefan
Jan Stefan was born at Zaluzi, Czechoslovakia on 21st April 1914.
He served as a fighter pilot in the Czechoslovak Air Force. When the Germans took over his country in March 1939 he was demobilised on the 17th.
He escaped to Poland and reported to the Czechoslovak Consulate at Krakow. He went with other Czech airmen to Gydnia and boarded a ship which took him to France.
Sgt. A Zavoral, P/O C A C Chetham, P/O A V Clowes, F/Lt. M H Brown, P/O N P W Hancock, P/O J F D Elkington, 2/Lt. J-F Demozay, Sgt. J Stefan
Stefan was required to join the French Foreign Legion and was posted to the Legion base at Fort Saint Jean, Marseilles.
On 12th July he went by ship to Oran, Algeria and on to the Legion training camp at Sidi-bel-Abbes. Before he commenced his service war was declared and he was transferred to l'Armee de l'Air and assigned to 572 Squadron, a regional defence formation, at Blida airfield for retraining on French equipment.
Once qualified he was posted to GC I/10, operating the MS406 at Oran to counter the perceived threat of attack from the Italian Air Force. At the time of the French collapse Stefan was serving at Djedeida airfield, Tunis. He and the other Czech airmen were released from French service and travelled to Casablanca where they boarded the Gibel Dersa bound for Gibraltar. He transferred to the Cydonia which took him to Liverpool where he arrived on 16th July 1940.
Stefan went first to the Czech transit camp at Cholmondeley and then to the Czech Depot at Cosford.
He was accepted into the RAFVR and posted to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 21st September to convert to Hurricanes after which he joined No. 1 Squadron at Wittering on 14th October.
On 20th November, shortly after taking off from Wittering, the engine of his Hurricane V7099, started to smoke. He made a forced landing near the airfield. Stefan was uninjured but there was damage to the aircraft.
On 10th December 1940 his Hurricane got stuck in soft ground after landing at Luton causing minor damage.
Stefan was shot down on 19th March 1941 over Dungeness. With two other 1 Squadron Hurricanes he was attacked by two Me109's. His Hurricane, Z2810, was damaged and he made a forced landing near Udimore, Sussex. He was uninjured.
Stefan left 1 Squadron on 29th July and joined 65 Squadron on 13th March 1942. He then went to 313 Squadron. He returned to 1 Squadron on 22nd April. Stefan completed his tour on 21st July when he left the Squadron for a rest period.
He was posted to 312 Squadron on 27th November 1942. Stefan had health problems and on 10th March 1943 he was sent on sick leave.
On 24th March he returned to operational flying duties but two days later was transferred to 57 OTU Eshott as a flying instructor. He also had to attend an RAF Medical Board regarding his health.
After 26th March Stefan did no more operational flying. He carried out duties as a flying instructor and then became a controller at various locations.
He was released from the RAF after the war and returned to Czechoslovakia.
Following the communist takeover in February 1948 Stefan expected arrest and managed to escape to the American Zone in Germany. He later emigrated to Canada.