The Airmen's Stories - P/O A Vrana
Adolf Vrana was born on 27th October 1907 in Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which became Czechoslovakia after the Great War. In 1927 Vrana was called up for his military service. He was selected for the Air Force and offered pilot training if he served for a minimum period of five years. He accepted, qualified as a fighter pilot and was serving as a test pilot and when the Germans took over in March 1939.
He later escaped to Poland, made his way to France and joined the
Foreign Legion, the only unit open to foreigners. At the outbreak of war Vrana was inducted into l'Armee de l'Air and after training at the flying school at Chartres he was posted to Groupe de Chasse 1/5.
They operated the Curtiss Hawk 75 from Suippes, SE of Rheims.
He shared in the destruction of a He111 on 26th May 1940 and shared in the probable destruction of a Hs126 and a He111 on 7th June.
After the French collapse, Vrana and other Czechs flew their Hawks from Clermont-Ferrand to Algiers on 17th June. They made their way to Oran, then to Casablanca, from where they went by boat to Gibraltar, where they joined a convoy bound for Britain.
Vrana was processed into the RAF and joined 312 Squadron at its formation at Duxford on 29th August 1940. It moved to Speke in September as part of Liverpool's defences. At the end of his operational tour in April 1941, Vrana was posted to 3 ADF at Hawarden.
In late July 1941 he rejoined 312 Squadron, then at Kenley. He was posted away in early 1943 and because he had qualified in electrical engineering he was sent to RAF Stanmore for training as a Radar Interception Controller.
In late 1943 Vrana went to the GCI Unit at RAF Sopley where he remained until VE Day. Having heard that his parents had survived imprisonment in a concentration camp, Vrana left the RAF and returned to Czechoslovakia.
He rejoined the Czech Air Force and became CO of the Research Institute and Testing Unit. When the communists took over in 1948, he escaped again to the UK and rejoined the RAF on a short service commission. This was later made a Permanent Commission.
Vrana retired from the RAF in May 1961 as a Flight Lieutenant and settled in the UK.
He died on 25th February 1997.