František Navrátil

* 1919  †︎ 2011

  • “I was assigned to the No 311 Bombing Squadron. In the beginning we were flying over the French coast and over France. Our task was bombing military targets, like ports. Targets which were in German hands. In the Bombing Squadron we had great losses, and thus after some time we became unable to perform all the tasks which were assigned to us. Therefore we were then transferred to coast air force. I was immensely lucky, because while flying, I have never been hit or shot down, so I was very lucky. One had to become tough to survive it. To say: ´Well, it could’ve been me.´ And that was it. In the war you could not think of it any further. My captain was Standa Huňáček, who had been an airline pilot before, so he was an excellent pilot. Once we were landing with damaged engines. We brushed a wing against a tree as we touched down when we were flying at a low speed, we turned around and nothing happened to us. The plane was repaired and after two days was flying again.”

  • “In the coast patrol we were not flying wellingtons, but American four-engine bombers, which were remodelled for radar, the principal device for locating submarines. Our task was to report their position, and the English would immediately send their navy there, which had powerful anti-submarine weapons. We were armed with depth charges. The bomb would explode in certain depth underwater, meaning it did not explode when it hit the sea bottom, but exploded in let’s say hundred meters below the surface. The pressure from the explosion damaged the submarine, and when it had to resurface the English would get it. This kind of duty was a lot more peaceful. The main risk for us were fighter planes from France. Our main operating zone was the Bay of Biscay, which was the entry point to the Atlantic. In this four-engine plane there were two pilots, a telegraph operator, a radio officer, gunners in the front, upper and rear turrets. The flights in the coast patrol were long flights. With these American four-engine planes they could take up to 14 hours.”

  • “After the higher elementary I went to work for the Baťa company. I was fifteen then. I attended Baťa’s school of work, then I transferred to a trade academy to study foreign trade. This was a Zlín branch of the Trade Academy in Uherské Hradiště. I was selected to live in Tomášov. This was a building for about 60 students. They were the top students. Baťa wanted to run it based on the model of Eton in England. We even wore top-hats. We were respected in the town. Girls were a taboo for us. There was no time for something like this. Once a year there was a ball, and we took dancing lessons, so that we would not fall behind in terms of social life.”

  • “After completing my mandatory flights I requested to be transferred to transport airplanes. I was transferred to the English Transport Squadron, it was still in the wartime. We were flying to India, I have been there twenty times. We were flying via Malta, Cairo, and the Middle East to Karachi and Calcutta. I liked the stays in Calcutta, because Baťa had his representation there, and there I found my old friends from Zlín and it was wonderful. The flight itself took two days on the way there and two days back. We would be carrying cargo or passengers to Karachi, and returning with stewardesses, officers or some cargo, for example.”

  • “We were purchasing matches and selling them to England. The entire export production from the Sušice factory was being sold through us. And it was a good business. We were producing matchboxes with labels of English companies. They were advertising this way, and we were making money. My internship came to last longer, because when the war broke out, I did not come back and I voluntarily joined the Czechoslovak army. I had been sent to England for two months and I did not want to return. My manager was a patriot, and he told me: ´František, you are not going anywhere, because there will be war. You won’t fight the Nazis anywhere else but here, because England will also go to the war.´ I came to the embassy for the draft. I was tall, I was nineteen then, thus I was eligible for the draft. I was admitted to the army and stayed there for about a year. At that time, an advertisement appeared in Daily Herald, which was an English Labour newspaper, that the air force had great losses and was now taking volunteers from the army.”

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    Praha, 30.10.2009

    duration: 50:44
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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There was the risk that they would locate us and shoot us down

František Navrátil
František Navrátil

František Navrátil, retired colonel, was born July 13, 1919 in Bouzov, near Litovel. After completing his elementary education, he left for Zlín, where he, at first, worked as a manual worker. He was later admitted to a trade academy and, upon graduation, began working in a clerical position with the Baťa company. In 1938, he was sent for a work-study internship to England, where he coordinated the export of matches from the Solo Sušice company. It was also in England where he joined the army. He began in Woolten Hall near Yorkshire, where he went through a basic infantry and weapons training. He then entered the air force and was trained in the Midlands as a flight telegraph operator and later went through training for airmen and gunners. Afterwards, he continued his training in the Czech air base and was later assigned, while holding a colonel’s rank, to the No. 311 Bombing Squadron and later for coast patrol flights in the Bay of Biscay, whose task entailed locating German submarines. After the completion of mandatory flight training, Mr. Navrátil transferred to transport airplanes, including the No. 246 Transport Squadron; he was flying to India and many other countries. After the end of the war, he returned home and worked in foreign trade until his retirement. During the time of the communist regime, he was a member of the Communist Party. He is the holder of four ‘War Crosses,’ the ‘For Valour Medal’ and the ‘For Merit medal.’ He died on February 19th, 2011.