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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J Stehlik

 

Josef Stehlik was born in Pikarec, north of Brno, Czechoslovakia on 26th March 1916. He enlisted in the Czech Air Force in 1935 and after being awarded his wings in 1937 he was posted to the 39th Squadron of the 3rd Aviation Regiment.

He was serving as an instructor when the Germans took over the country in March 1939. He later escaped to France.

Destined at first, like all non-French volunteers, for the Foreign Legion he instead went straight to the flying training school at Chartres after the German invasion of Poland. Posted to GCIII/3, operating the D520, Stehlik was in action on the first day of the German onslaught on France. On the 12th May 1940 he shared a probable Me110 and two He111's, on the 19th he destroyed a Do17 and shared a Hs126, on 5th June he shared a Do17 and on the 6th destroyed a Me110.

 

 

His unit retreated south, ending up at Perpignan, from where they flew to Algeria. Stehlik opted to make his way to England and did so, possibly via Casablanca and Gibraltar. After being processed through the Czech depot at Cosford he was posted to the newly-formed 312 Squadron at Duxford on 5th September 1940.

On 8th October he shared in the destruction of a Ju88.

On 13th October Blenheims K7135 and L6637 were aloft from Tern Hill when they were attacked in error by S/Ldr. J Ambrus, F/Lt. HAG Comerford and 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.

Stehlik shared a Ju88 on 14th March 1941, damaged a Me109 on 8th July and got a probable Me109 on the 10th. He was commissioned in August 1941 and qualified as an instructor.

He instructed in Canada until April 1943.

In early 1944 a Czech unit was formed to support Czech formations fighting alongside Russian forces. Stehlik was one of the airmen who volunteered and he went on to serve with the 1st Czech Air Regiment. On 19th September he destroyed a Ju88 and on 7th October shared a Ju87.

Postwar he returned to Czechoslovakia, rejoining the new Air Force and training new pilots on the Me109G. However like many airmen who served with the RAF he was purged by the Communist authorities in 1948 and after a period of imprisonment was restricted to menial jobs.

Readmitted to the Air Force in 1964, he served until retirement.

He died on 30th May 1991.

 


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