Colonel (ret.) Miloslav Kratochvíl - Bitton

* 1919  †︎ 2014

  • “I told the taxi driver a wrong house number, we arrived to the place and there was nothing, the building was torn down. So I told him: ´Never mind, just let us get off here, we will find it.´ We found him, he lived on the third floor. I rang the bell, Mrs. Schalk opened the door, I told her who I was and who had sent me. She told us: ´For God’s sake, get out of here as soon as possible, my husband was arrested yesterday by the secret police.´ So there was nothing for us to do than to go to Fér Utca to the French consulate. It was guarded by a local police, there was always a policeman striding up and down the street. We tried to calculate how many steps we had to make till he turns around and starts walking back. We waited for the most opportune moment, then crossed the street to the consulate building and reached for the door. But it would not open! What will to happen to us now? The policeman came to us and showed us how to open the door. There was a doorknob which you had to rotate, and we did not know this. A cop opened the door for us! The consulate officers already knew about me. ´Ančík will move on, we will take care of him, and you will stay here. ´ - ´I have no documents. ´ - ´That is not a problem, you speak Hungarian.´ - So I had to stay.”

  • “Three squadrons were already in the air, we were above the Channel and approaching the borders of Belgium. Then an order came that we did not need to fly on, that the Germans had surrendered. Come back! Then they said: ´This will be your very last operation flight, so find a place where you would like to fly your airplanes for the last time.´ Hlaďo said: ´We will fly to Exeter and from there to Manston.´ So we flew there and on the way back it was cloudy, the clouds were just touching the mountains, it was an absolutely nasty the weather. Which meant we were flying about 50 metres above the ground. On the return flight one of my engines suddenly stopped. We were flying on our reserve fuel, I did not know the condition of the extra fuel tank, whether there was not some dirt inside, so I switched to the main tank. I was only about fifteen metres above the ground, I needed to make that decision now. A little field, a farm, potato field, about hundred and fifty metres by hundred and fifty. A forest on one side, a row of poplar trees on the other. I flew in between two poplar trees, and one of my wings snapped off. The plane buried into the ground, bottom up. Praise God the ground there was not hard. I was head over heels, my left arm outside, the airplane pressed my head to the ground. As if I was supporting the plane with my neck; I could not even unbuckle my seatbelts. I was unconscious for less than a minute. In about three or four minutes the farm workers came running to me. They came with bare hands; they did not know what had happened. I screamed like an animal. I kept telling them that they needed to dig me out with their hands, that they should not pull at my arm. ´Don’t pull him, or you will tear his arm off.´ Eventually they dug deep enough with their hands that they could pull me out. Within ten minutes an ambulance came and brought me to a hospital in Uxbridge in London.”

  • “´When someone comes, you need to interrogate them, to find out what sort of people they are, whether they are not swindlers, or just people who only get over the border but do not want to take part in resistance fighting. You need to issue permits for them, there will be checkpoints when they ride on a train afterwards.´ So I went back to the border. Whenever there was somebody crossing the border in Nagykanizsu, the (Yugoslav) border patrol brought them to me. I filled in the permits for them and gave them money so that they could travel to Zagreb. Among them, there had been Klapálek, Střelka, and others, who were then my commanders in the Middle East. I was a rookie; I have never been in the army. I interrogated lieutenant colonel Klapálek. I asked him: ´What is your rank and where have you served?´ I was a greenhorn, I did not know anything. I also interrogated staff captain Zástěra. I was giving them money and documents so that they could continue further to Belgrade.”

  • “We could not be taken for a trustworthy element because we had married Englishwomen. That it was not possible for us to serve as officers in the army and have English wives at the same time. Our socialist state cannot stand something like that. One morning we came to the Kbely airport and they did not let us enter. This was already a sign that something needed to be done.”

  • “We guarded the harbour (Alexandria); at the same time the war was already raging in Libya. The Australians and the New Zealanders caught so many Italian captives that it was not even nice how easily they surrendered. Of course those Italians were then helping with construction work. For instance they would send me, one man with a firearm, to bring five hundred Italians to work on building a road. So I went with my rifle to the POW camp where the Italian captives were; there were thousands of them. I shouted: ´Per cinque.´ I ordered them into rows of five, counted the rows to know how many I had – about a hundred or hundred and fifty. And we marched to the place where we lived, because the Italians were good at building roads.”

  • “They told us they were sending us to Tobruk. We sailed on destroyers from Alexandria to Tobruk. We were on board the vessel, the sea was turbulent, and there as also a threat of a submarine attack. We all held onto the wires that were fastened around the ship, there was no other railing. Sometimes, when the sea was rough, they had to toss the boxes with ammunition to the sea. We had to hold firmly; everybody was sick. Even the sailors. We thought: ´They are used to it.´ But it’s not true, maybe only some of them, but the others also had to feed the fish just like us. We arrived to the besieged Tobruk around midnight, almost a day and a half after we departed Alexandria. There was a Polish unit, and we were replacing the Australians and the British. At midnight we disembarked, they placed a pontoon for us there, about half a metre wide, and with a rope on the right hand side. With our backpacks we climbed down to the firm land. Then they transported us to the interior. Just before there had been an air raid on Tobruk, so we immediately knew what happened. Now there was nothing more to bomb. Just the water.”

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    Praha, 08.06.2006

    duration: 02:18:31
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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One morning we came to the Kbely airport and they did not let us enter. This was already a sign that something needed to be done

Miloslav Kratochvíl - Bitton
Miloslav Kratochvíl - Bitton

Miloslav Kratochvíl was born in 1919 in Russia in the Czech community Alexandrovka; in 1926 his parents moved to Czechoslovakia to Žitný ostrov near Šamorín and Dunajská Streda. At the end of the 1930s he attended a trade school in Bratislava. At this time, a friend of his father’s asked Miloslav for help with helping refugees from Czechoslovakia get over the border to Hungary. Since he spoke Hungarian well, he helped organize the transfers not only at the Slovak-Hungarian border, but also in Hungary and at the Hungarian-Yugoslav border. Miloslav Kratochvíl took part in fighting in Syria and in Tobruk. In the Middle East he applied to the Air Force, and went through the training in Great Britain and Canada. At the end of the war he became a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force No. 310 fighter squadron. In Britain he married and he brought his wife to Czechoslovakia with him. After the February of 1948 he was dismissed from the army, he illegally crossed the border near Aš and settled permanently in Britain, where he became a restaurant owner and had a catering business. Today he lives near Manchester, and he travels to the Czech Republic only on occasional visits, especially the annual reunions of Czech RAF airmen. He died on 25th February 2014 in Knutsford, UK.