The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J Vopalecky
Josef Vopalecky was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia on 10th February 1911. He joined the Czech Air Force in 1931 and was serving as a Warrant Officer with a night-fighter squadron when the German occupation began in March 1939.
In June he made his way via Poland to France where he intended to enrol in the Czech forces forming there. The French at that time would only allow foreigners to enlist in the Foreign Legion and Vopalecky did so, he was posted to the Legion base at Sidi Bel Abbes in Algeria with several other Czechs.
After the German onslaught in May 1940 they were allowed to serve in the Armee de l'Air and Vopalecky was posted to GC I/55 at Chartres. On 3rd June 1940 he intercepted a Do17 but his Morane 406 was hit by return fire and he crash-landed near Etampes with burns to his hands and face.
He spent some time in hospital but once discharged and with the Germans approaching he made his way to Bordeaux, sailing from there on 19th June 1940, arriving in Falmouth two days later.
He was accepted into the RAF and posted to 310 Squadron, then forming at Duxford with a considerable number of Czech personnel.
He was commissioned in 1941 and later converted to twin-engined aircraft at Church Fenton.
On 8th January 1942 he was aloft in Blenheim R3752 on a solo night training exercise when the aircraft lost all power due to severe icing conditions. He crash-landed near Cawood, Selby, unhurt.
He was posted to 68 Squadron in early 1943. On 2nd February 1943 the undercarriage of his Beaufighter If X7575 collapsed when the aircraft returned from a patrol. Vopalecky and his crewman F/Sgt. R Husar were unhurt.
On the night of 11th/12th March 1943 he shot down a Ju88 east of Cromer. Still with Husar, he brought down a second Ju88 on the night of 28th/29th March near Southwold.
Vopalecky later retrained on Mosquito night-fighters and was still serving on them when the war ended, he was by then a Flight Lieutenant. He returned to Czechoslovakia and served in the Air Force there until 1950. Then the communist authorities purged all ex-RAF servicemen and he was exiled from the air force and Prague.
It is known that he worked as a driver for the next nineteen years. His subsequent movements until his death on 7th May 1995 are currently unknown.
Standing, left to right, P/O S Janouch, Sgt. J Vopalecky, Sgt. R Puda, Sgt. K Seda, Sgt. B Furst and Sgt. R Zima
Above: Sitting left to right, P/O V Goth, F/Lt. JM Maly, F/Lt. GL Sinclair, F/Lt. JE Boulton, F/Lt. J Jefferies, P/O S Zimprich, Sgt. J Kaucky, F/Lt. F Rypl, P/O E Fechtner and P/O V Bergman.