The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. R Zima
Rudolf Zima was born at Jindrichuv Hradec, Czechoslovakia on 6th March 1904. In 1924 he commenced his military service and went on to qualify as a pilot. He stayed in the Air Force after his service period ended and in 1934 he was serving as a flying instructor at the flying school at Prostejov.
After the German takeover in March 1939, Zima escaped to Poland but did not stay, sailing from Gdynia on 17th August 1939 on the Kastelholm, arriving at Calais on the 21st.
As with all foreign volunteers he was drafted into the Foreign Legion and did not commence service with l'Armee de l'Air until 6th October. He was sent for training to the depot at Chartres. He was still there at the time of the German attack on 10th May and flew in a scratch defence force from the airfield.
Above image courtesy of the JE Hybler archive.
Taking off in a MB151 on 13th May 1940, he crashed and was admitted to hospital. A few days before the armistice he discharged himself from hospital and somehow made his way to a port and a ship for England. The exact circumstances are currently unknow though one account has him arriving in Belfast on 24th June.
He eventually arrived at the Czech depot at Cosford and after assessment was posted to 310 Squadron at Duxford on 6th August 1940. He served with the squadron until June 1941 when he was posted to instructing duties. In September 1942 he embarked on the Queen Mary and sailed to Canada, arriving on 24th October. He instructed in flying schools there until May 1945, when he was repatriated to England and on to Czechoslovakia, arriving there in August.
He was appointed as Commander of his old flying school at Prostejov. However in 1948, like many ex-RAF Czech airmen, he was purged by the communist authorities and relegated to a job as storeman in the local ironworks.
He was unable to continue in this position due to ill-health in 1955. In time he was rehabilitated and died in Prostejov on 11th June 1972.
Above: a memorial plaque in Prostejov