Research Trip CZRAF 2003 - England & Wales
Brookwood Cemetery & Runnymede Memorial - 12th July 2003
In the morning on 12th July I went from Portsmouth to Guildford where I met Carol Jowet who was so kind and took me to the Brookwood Military Cemetery by her car.
Equiped by digital camera I was able to take not just panorama view of Czechoslovak section but detailed photos of all 48 WWII gravestones of Czechoslovak airmen in both sections - Czech and British.
Then I moved to the front of gate into Military part of Brookwood Cemetery where is another plot with more Czechoslovak graves. There are buried ex-RAF and ex-Army members who after the end of WWII decided to stay in UK or emigrated again after 1948 to UK and other countries around the world. Their last wish was to be buried next to their war comrades.
More infromationa and some photos are available in section Brookwood Cemetery.
From the Brookwood Military Cemetery we moved to the north - in the direction of London - to Runnymede Memorial which lies not so far from the Windsor Castle.
There are commemorate all RAF airmen and airwomen who lost their lives during WWII and have unknown grave. Mostly they became missing during the operational flight over enemy teritory or over the sea.
More then 20 000 names of these brave airmen and airwomen are engraved into 360 stone panels of this memorial and 151 of these names belong to Czechoslovak airmen.
More infromationa and some photos are available in section Runnymede Memorial.
Many thanks for driving me to Brookwood and Runnymede to Carol Jowet
Portsmouth - 13th July 2003
There was an remembrance afternoon of two parachute regiments of "Red Devils" during my stay in Portsmouth. There was production of military bands, inspection of veterans and some competitions.
Some old cars and military vehicles were displayed just beside the main parade area.
The most interesting part of the show was a Flypast of Spitfire from Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.
Final event of the afternoon was display of present "Red Devils" display team.
RAF Station Talbenny - 19th July 2003
On 19th July I was driven by Rosemary and Jeremy Stevenson from central Wales south to visit the site of former RAF Station Talbenny. As I know from the airfield history (thanks to Guy Jefferson), the airfield was abandoned in December 1946 and the land was sold off to local farmers in 1950s. In 1980s there were some derelict buildings still standing. So I was hoping that there could be some of them after 23 years still or at least some remains of them.
Thanks to the history of airfield compiled by Guy Jefferson and enclosed drawing map was really easy to find the former site of the airfiled. It lies near the really small village Talbenny at the coast of north-west Wales.
When we were coming through we stopped on the road in the country. There were just fields all around. But on the place where we stopped there were gates into fields and the gateways was from concrete panels which looks really old. I believe that could be part of old perimeter.
After few hundreds of yards we spotted an old fashioned building on our right side. This building looked abandoned many years ago and as I found out later the design was similar to old RAF huts. I believe it was the former operational complex.
There is really nice and small church. Just en face of entrance there is placed handwritten memorial plaque on which are commemorate names of all airmen who were killed or missing while they operated from RAF Station Talbenny. As I have found out, the plague was placed into the church in 1996.
From part of churchyard behind the church there is a nice view to the seaside and down to the Broad Heaven. When returning back to our car, I have good oportunity to take another snapshot of old building mentioned in previous paragraph. Then we returned back to the crossing and continued straight ahead to other part of former airfield site. This part was where the runways originally were but now there were just fields all around. On next crossing we turned left and after next turning left we were again on the road which now goes through the centre of former airfield. During this pass I spotted some more old-fashioned buildings on our left. We stopped near the crossing and I went few tens of yards back. I had a good luck - the gate was opened. (At this place I want to remind that the area of airfield was sold to local farmers and all of found building are now on private land so I was not able to visit them due to there was nobody all around to get permission.) From the gate I was able to see two for me well-known buildings - RAF huts used on most of WWII airfields. These two huts are used by local farmer for some rubish or who knows what for(you can see some wrecks of cars and farm machines around) and they are in very bad condition (one is really near to come down). On the other hand is interesting that these buildings made from bricks are still standing after about 60 years (most of them without any maintainance)!
On our departure from Talbenny I have spotted another huts our our left nearly to the end of the former airfield site. The first one was maintained really well and now serves as a stock to another local farmer. The last one which I have seen on the left side when we joined the main road from Talbenny was hut painted light yellow and converted to a public toilets in the caravan park.
Many thanks for driving me to Talbenny to Rosemary and Jeremy Stevenson.
RAF Station Yatesbury, Yatesbury & Chippenham Cemetery - 30th July 2003
On 30th July I started early in the morning to Yatesbury via Trowbridge, Chippenham and Calne. From Calne I have taken microbus to Marlborough which stopped only in Cherhill, quite far from Yatesbury. I have had good luck because the driver was so kind stopped for me just at the junction to Yatesbury.
RAF Station Yatesbury
Little background of my interest in RAF Station Yatesbury: On 21st September 1940 group of 88 Czechoslovaks joined the RAF VR at the RAF Station Yatesbury and they opened Wireless Operators training at No. 2 Signal School. After finishing their training at No. 2 SS they moved to No. 1 SS to RAF Station Cranwell. When they passed Air Gunners course at No. 4 Bomb and Gunnery School at RAF Station West Freugh they were posted to No. 311 Czechoslovak Bomber Squadron. Till end of the war, 48 of them were killed...
When I get off minibus at the traffic sign Yatesbury there were only fields all around. But when I have used zoom of my camera I have seen some buildings on the left side of road to the village.
Building on the left far end was made from bricks and looks like administration building of station headquarters. (Later I have seen pre-wartime photo of this building in one book with this caption.)
The rest two buildings have dark green or black camouflage and from their size I recognized them as hangars.
On the crossing (airfield on the left, village on the right) was standing hangar or more accurately wreckage of hangar.
From the first view there was a clear that it is different type then the other two near administration building.
But I am not able to say if this one was older or newer.
It was really sad view but at the same time it was interesting to see inside construction including roof structure.
There is an asphalt tree-lined road to the airfield from the crossing with old concrete pavement on the right side.
There is a concrete building on the beginning of alley near column which I think represents old gate to the airfield. I think it was used for guard.
There is one more small concrete building looking like a bunker on the other end of alley (close to the airfield). Windows and doors of both concrete buildings were filled by concrete panels.
On the further end of alley on the right side was a house for some families and children were playing in the garden. At the house were two old huts transformed into garrages.
Behind garrages there was a wire hedge with a gate with chain and lock. I always respect privacy and orders "No entrance" but I thought that when I was going so long way the gate could not stop me!
I got through along gate and make some photos of miscellaneous buildings. I suppose they were used for different purposes in foul territory of station.
There was a nice view of front sides hangars and there were again massive chains and locks on gates of boths of them.
With a maximum zoom I have taken photo of hut standing in opposite left corner of field which I think was on the opposite side of airfield so the field was a place of airfield.
While I was returning to crossing, there was a panel junction to the right heading to the field. In front of wrecked hangar I have found rests of old perimeter and there I have taken photo of myself in front of this wrecked hangar - as a confirmation of my presence at RAF Station Yatesbury:-)
From the RAF Station Yatesbury I have moved to the village along good road but its name "The Avenue" make a smile on my face. After few minutes of walking I saw a church on my left hand. I passed small gate and went round the church to the right upper corner of the graveyard. I had an info that the grave of the only one Czech airman lies to the north-west from the church.
There were a group of standard CWGC graves in this area and among them one with the square shape - typical for graves of Czechoslovak airmen.
I found there following graves:
7 RAF airmen WWI
1 RAAF airman WWII
19 RAF airmen WWII
3 PAF airmen WWII (Polish)
1 CAF airman WWII (Czech)
5 RAF airmen 1950-63
1 ex-RAF airman 1982
The grave of the Czechoslovak airman, Sgt Vilem Michalek, who died on 24th April 1942 in the air accident, is the second one from the right in the second row.
Back to Calne I have travelled with the same bus which stopped in Yatesbury. During return to Chippenham I have seen on left side something like entrance to cemetery. But I was thinking that graves of Czech airmen are at the church in centre of Chippenham. When I get there I have found out that I was wrong! So I moved quickly back to main road to Calne and hurried back to the cemetery. There I have just few minutes to take photos of graves and rush back tu Bus Station to catch the last bus.
After 20 minutes of quick walking I was standing oposite the entrance to Chippenham Cemetery which I have seen first time from the Bus while returning from Calne to Chippenham.
Finding of WWII Section was very easy on this cemetery - you can see plot of typical white gravestones maintaned by Commonwealth War Graves Commision from long distance from the central part of cemetery.
There are 20 gravestones in the first row where are buried together British, Canadian, New Zealander and Czechoslovak airmen with other allied soldiers.
There are graves of four Czechoslovak airmen at all:
* 22. 2.1915
(the 2nd grave from the left)
(the 12th grave from the left)
(the 13th grave from the left)
(the 14th grave from the left)
Taunton Cemetery - 3rd August 2003
Sunday was not the right day for travelling but I have tried to get to Taunton and visit lonely grave of F/O Jaroslav Čermák.
I was going to Taunton via Wells where I need to wait one hour for bus to Taunton. So I have spent this time visiting beautiful Cathedral.
The way to Taunton was without problems but they have started in Tauton. I have a bad day so I was unable to find out the cemetery on map at BUS station. (I do not know why because it is there but I have not seen it.)
I tried to visit Information Centre but it was closed so I have made a walk around few churches when I have found a notice on the main road "TO CEMETERY FOLLOW TRAFFIC SIGNS FOR WELLINGTON".
So I have followed these signs and there was still no cemetery... I became a little bit nervous because I have just about 45 minutes to the departure of bus that I need catch otherwise I will spend night somewhere in Taunton or Wells...
Finally I have seen the entrance to the cemetery but it was situated on the both sides of road!
I do not know which side to choose so I choose the right side where were not so many graves. I have quickly slip through this part without any success. There were not any typical CWGC gravestone!
I have crossed the road and continued in searching in the other part. There were many graves, old and new together. Again without success! So I have searched again the right side of road and then again the left side.
Then, finally, I have stopped on one crossing of footpaths when I have seen on the end of cemetery something like CWGC graves. (See photo below).
When I came more closely I recognized that I was right - there were five CWGC graves. The three graves on the back have typical british shape (2 RAF aimen and 1 RAAF airman), the right grave in the front was sharp - typical for Polish graves and the last one - on the left in the front has the square shape - typical for graves of Czechoslovak airmen. I have reached the mission target!
Now I have just 30 minutes to left so I made quickly few photos F/O Cermak's grave and other CWGC graves and rushed back to the bus station.
In the end I was bale to catch all buses on my return so my visit of Tauton had a happy end.
I forsweared myself that I will never make a journey to any cemetery without proper preparation (as in other cases) and no more on Sunday!
Salisbury Cemetery - 4rd August 2003
On Monday I have visited Devizes Road Cemetery in Salisbury - my final trip during this year reaserch trip. There is buried crew of 311 Squadron Wellington which was shot down on 2nd July 1941 in error by British nightfighter on the return from air raid. Wellington's IFF device was out of order and the crew has no chance to demonstrate that they are not enemy bomber...
Trip to Salisbury was without any problems. I have taken local map on the bus station. I have found Devizes Road and set for the cemetery so there was no problem to find the cemetery after short walk from the centre of town.
There was a board with map of cemetery but I have found out that I lost my paper with numbers of graves. So I asked local man from house at the entrance to the cemetery for help. He told me that he can not help me because the register is on the second cemetery - on the opposite end of town!
He just gives me an advice that graves from 1941 could be in the left bottom part of cemetery. Today I have enough time so I became to search through the cemetery.
First of all I made quick walk around cemetery to the left bottom corner but without success. So I have returned back to the top and start new detailed search. At the end - at the bottom end of cemetery - I have seen five white gravestones with shape typical for graves of Czechoslovak airmen.
Wellington Mk.IC R1516 KX-U was returning from Cherbough with IFF probably out of order when at 01.46 was attacked near Shaftesbury by British nightfighter - Bristol Beaufighter Mk.IF T4638/NG-F . At about 02.00 Welligton crashed at Lower Park Farm, 2 miles from Mere, Wiltshire and burned out. Five crewmembers were buried in Salisbury on 7th July while the sixth was cremated. So at first I was little bit surprised to see only four graves but after short time I have recognised that Sgt Helma and Sgt Petrucha are buried together in the same grave.
The bad luck nightfighter was Squadron Commander of No. 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron, W/Cdr Charles H. Appleton, DSO, DFC.
The killed crew was:
|Service Number Rank Name||Trade|
|787 190 Sgt Oldřich Helma||Skipper|
|787 355 Sgt Antonín Plocek||2nd Pilot|
|82 601 P/O Richard Hapala||Navigator|
|787 820 Sgt Adolf Dolejš||Wireless Operator|
|787 873 Sgt Jaroslav Petrucha||Front Gunner|
|787 859 Sgt Jaroslav Lančík||Rear Gunner|