The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. R Puda
Raimund Puda was born on 18th August 1912 at Brnik, Czechoslovakia and joined the Czech Air Force on 1st October 1930 and began his flying training. He completed his advanced training on 20tyhh August 1931 and joined a squadron.
He was solo aerobatic champion at Zurich in 1937. On 25th September 1938 Puda transferred to Czech Air Lines. The Germans took over Czechoslovakia on 15th March 1939 and Puda left on 15th July 1939 and made his way to France.
He joined the l'Armee de l'Air on 11th September 1939 and after a course on French aircraft, he was posted to a Curtiss Hawk squadron, Groupe de Chasse II/4 based thirty miles from Strasbourg. His rank was Corporal-Pilot.
Puda destroyed a Do17 on 16th May 1940, shared in the destruction of another on the 28th and had a share in destroying a Hs126 on 11th June. As the Germans advanced, the squadron retreated, eventually arriving at Perpignan. They flew to North Africa and reached Meknes in Morocco. Soon afterwards the CO told Puda that France had capitulated and that he was discharged.
He made his way to Casablanca, where he met up with other Czechs. A senior officer arranged for some 200 men to go by fishing vessel to Gibraltar. On arrival they were not allowed ashore but were ferried to a coal carrier, which then joined a convoy bound for Liverpool.
Enlisting in the RAF, Puda joined 310 Squadron at Duxford on 16th August 1940. He shared in the destruction of a Do17 on 15th September and a Ju88 on the 18th. Puda was posted to 605 Squadron at Croydon on the 18th but rejoined 310 ten days later. On 5th November Puda baled out of Hurricane V6619 after being attacked by Me109s over the Thames Estuary and having his oxygen system damaged.
Puda was posted to CFS Upavon on 21st January 1941 for an instructors course and on 21st March he went on to the instructing staff at 9 FTS Hullavington. Commissioned in June 1941, he became a staff pilot at No. 1 Signals School, Cranwell on 27th January 1942 but returned to instructing on 8th August 1942 at 3 FTS Shillingford.
On 11th October 1943 Puda joined 24 Squadron at Hendon, later moving to the Communications Flight there. Before he left in July 1945, he had flown many VIPs.
Puda rejoined the Czech Air Force on 18th July 1945 and on 1st February 1946 he went back to Czech Air Lines. Like many returned Czechs, he left his country again in April 1948 because of Communist pressure. On 10th October 1948 Puda rejoined the RAF and went on a course at 241 OCU Dishforth for conversion to Yorks.
He continued to fly multi-engined aircraft till retiring from the RAF on 1st October 1954 as a Flight Lieutenant and on 1st January 1953 he was awarded the Queens Commendation for Service in the Air.
He died on 17th March 2002 and is buried alongside many of his Czech comrades at Brookwood.