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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J Truhlar


Jan Truhlar was born on 11th December 1914 at Stadlec, west of Tabor in Czechoslovakia. He completed his military pilot training in 1936 and was posted to the 34th Fighter Squadron of the 1st Fighter Regiment at Hradec Kralove airbase. The unit was equipped with Avia B-534 fighter aircraft.

When the Germans took over Czechoslovakia, on 15th March 1939, the Czech Air Force was disbanded and he was demobilised on the 17th. On 1st June he escaped, with his brother, to Poland and reported to the Czechoslovak Consulate in Krakow.


Above image courtesy of www.fcafa.


He then travelled to Gydnia, Poland and boarded the Kastelholm which took him to Calais, France. On arrival in France, Czech airmen were required to join the French Foreign Legion for five years with an agreement that if war was declared they would be transferred to French military units. Truhlar was placed at the Legion barracks at Nanterre, near Paris, awaiting transfer to the training base at Sidi-bel-Abbes, Algeria, but war was declared before he could go and he was transferred to l’Armee de l’Air at a base near Paris.

On 11th September Truhlar was moved to CIC Chartres for retraining on French equipment which he completed on 2nd December. He was then transferred to GCII/4, which was based at Xaffevillers, near Nancy, and equipped with Curtiss H75c fighters.

On 7th June 1940 he shared in the destruction of a Do17 and on the 15th he destroyed a Hs126. As the German forces advanced rapidly through France GCII/4 retreated westward and arrived in Perpignan in south west France. When France capitulated Truhlar and other Czech airmen in the unit were released from French military service. Truhlar was evacuated from Port Vendres aboard the General Chanzy which took him to Oran, Algeria.

From there he went by train to Casablanca where, on 20th June, he boarded the Gib-el-Dersa bound for Gibraltar. At Gibraltar he transferred to the Cidonia which took him to Liverpool where he arrived on 16th July.

Truhlar was placed in the Czechoslovak transit camp at Cholmondeley in Cheshire and in July he transferred to the Czechoslovak Airmens Depot at Cosford. He was enlisted in the RAFVR also in July.

On 5th September he was posted to 312 Squadron. On 26th September 312 Squadron moved to Speke. The Squadron was declared operational on 2nd October and on 5th October Truhlar made his first operational patrol.

On 9th July 1941 Truhlar was flying Hurricane IIb Z3023, escorting Stirling bombers on a raid to Lens. The formation was attacked by Me109s over Bethune and Truhlar was shot down. With his engine on fire he baled out and landed safely, but was captured and taken to the Lufwaffe base at St. Omer. He was later taken to Dalag Luft at Oberursel, near Frankfurt-am-Main, for Luftwaffe interrogation.

On 19th July he was transported to Stalag IXc, at Bad Sulza. During the journey he made two escape attempts but was recaptured each time. During the last attempt he was injured and was therefore taken to Stalag XIIIb, an orthopeadic hospital for PoWs, at Obermassfeld.

On 28th April 1942 Truhlar was sent to Stalag Luft III at Sagan, Poland, and on 16th October he was transferred to Stalag Luft I at Barth.

Because Czechoslovakia had become a German Protectorate following the occupation on 15th March 1938, the Gestapo classed all Czechoslovak PoWs as being guilty of high treason. In the summer of 1944, twenty-four of them were taken from various PoW camps to the Pankrac prison, in Prague, for Gestapo interrogation. Truhlar was one of them. They were sentenced to death, but with the intervention of the Protecting Powers, it was agreed that the sentences would be carried out after the war.

The twenty-four were transported from Prague to either Stalag Luft I (Barth) or Oflag IVc (Colditz). Truhlar went to Colditz, on 22nd September, where he remained until liberated by the Americans on 16th April 1945.

He was repatriated to England and transferred to the Czechoslovak Airmens Depot at Cosford. On 29th June he was posted to 313 Squadron. He returned to Czechoslovakia in August where he remained in the Czechoslovak Air Force. Following the communist takeover, in February 1948, Czechoslovaks who fought for the Allies in Second World War were regarded as tainted.

On 2nd February 1949 Truhlar was placed on ‘waiting leave' from the Air Force and after a few months was dismissed. He was then only permitted to do menial work.

Truhlar died in Brno on 25th October 1973.


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