General (ret.) František Peřina

* 1911  †︎ 2006

  • “You would have to live in that time. Back then, if a young guy was not a soldier, he was not considered a true man, but a cripple. But everybody respected a soldier, and he had his self-respect as well. Both boys and girls thought like that. Drafts were joyful occasions, especially in the countryside, when boys from the village were riding on a hay-waggon to the conscription office. It was a celebration, not like today. Back then, the attitude towards our country was completely different, especially for us who had been born in the time of Austria-Hungary. Most of us volunteered to go to the army. Perhaps we also hoped it would make us popular with the girls, and so on. I’m old today, but if I were younger, I would go to the army again.”

  • “I would be very happy if our people learnt not to be envious. When I returned in 1993, I learnt that not only people who didn’t know me, but my friends as well, were terribly envious. And even if I had just a single Czech crown more than them, they would be jealous. I hope this will be eliminated in the coming generations, so that people would really love each other and try to achieve something, and to attain it through honest work, not through some cheating. It is deep-rooted here, and it will take several generations to vanish. I believe it will get better and the Czechs will eventually be such people as I would like them to be. The situation is improving very slowly, but it is improving.”

  • “When the Germans came, my wife and I were just preparing to get married. As an air force warrant officer I was not allowed to marry before I turned twenty-eight. There was simply a rule like that. And when the Germans came, I was just twenty-eight. My fiancée told me then: ´I know that you want to go abroad, that you cannot stay here among the Germans, but I want my surname to be Peřinová.´ Thus we quickly began with preparations for the wedding. An army chaplain told me that I would need to publish the banns three weeks in advance and I would have to attend catechism classes, and so on. So I went to the town hall, where a friend of mine worked, and he told me: ´Normally you need to announce the wedding three weeks in advance as well, but I will put an earlier date there for you. Come here on Saturday.´ Saturday was in five days. So I married that Saturday at eleven and on Monday at two o’clock I was leaving.”

  • “We were accompanying the bombers, and on our way back we were attacked by some twenty-seven planes. Four of them stayed behind me. I don’t even know how they got there. Whatever I did, I could always see the lights of the shells. There were awfully many of these lights and they were everywhere. I didn’t know what else I was to do. I made a rapid and a very dangerous manoeuvre, but I eventually managed. I nearly flipped the plane over. It almost pushed me out of the cockpit. This manoeuvre is very uncomfortable for your body as well. You cannot breathe and you feel sick. They didn’t expect it, and thus I was lucky. I flew straight towards the water surface. At this speed, the plane was virtually uncontrollable. I even lost consciousness for a while. I still believe I must have survived it only by some miracle. This was also my last real fight.”

  • “It was on April 11, 1949. A friend of mine from Valašské Meziříčí arrived. He was a sports pilot, and he had one Sokol available, it was a small sports plane. Officially, this plane had been sent to Egypt together with eleven others, but they hit a storm over Yugoslavia and all of them crashed. My friend managed to turn the plane back before they flew into that storm and he flew back to Valašské Meziříčí. And just on April 11 he received a telegram to fly this plane over to Choceň. He asked me directly: ´Franta, I got a fully fuelled plane here. Don’t you want to fly over the border?´ I exclaimed: ´Christ Jesus, where is that plane?´ We agreed that the following day he would take off from Valašské Meziříčí at four in the morning and land on his field in Kelč. I knew precisely where the place was, because an air show had been held there one day. He said that if I and my wife were there, we would be able to fly. He himself didn’t dare to fly over the border, and he asked me to pilot it. So I flew the plane and we managed it. The weather was very bad, it was raining, but this was lucky for us, because they were not able to chase us. We landed in Germany, very close to the Russian sector.”

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    Praha?, 28.04.2003

    duration: 01:33:30
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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Once you get in touch with aviation, it will somehow stick to you and you cannot get rid of it anymore

František Peřina
František Peřina
photo: Archiv pamětníka

  General František Peřina, a true fighter pilot ace among WWII pilots, was born April 8, 1911 in Morkůvky near Břeclav. Thanks to his talent and diligence, he soon became one of the best fighter pilots of the then Czechoslovakia. He became a legendary WWII pilot nicknamed General of the Skies. Peřina started his flying career in Prostějov, where he began attending a pilot school in 1929 and later studied a two-year school for air force cadets in the air force training centre. František Peřina not only excellently represented his country in the pre-war international Olympic air show in Zurich in Switzerland in 1937, but he also won a number of other competitions in acrobatic flying or shooting. The army soon became interested in him, and Peřina joined. His dream career of a top-notch pilot began to come true. Similarly to many other Czechoslovak airmen, after the occupation of Bohemia and Moravia he left for France via Poland. Right before his escape he managed to marry. Through Poland he arrived to France. In the French air force he received his alias, Rinope, for safety reasons should he be taken prisoner. Right from the beginning of the fighting with Luftwaffe, where Peřina was most successful, tens of articles were published about him in the French press, celebrating the hero named Rinope. He became immensely popular. While in France, František Peřina took part in many air fights, and altogether he caused the loss of nineteen aircraft of the German air force. The unit was then transferred via Algeria to England, where the No 312 Czechoslovak Fighter Squadron was formed of the French pilots who got there via Algiers, and František Peřina became its member. The airmen served in Liverpool, accompanying ship convoys and then bomber planes over the French and German territory. At the time of the invasion in Normandy, František Peřina worked as a liaison officer at the Fighter Command, from which the combat operations were controlled. He returned to Czechoslovakia, but already in April 1949 emigrated to Germany and from there to England, where he returned to serve in the RAF. In the 1950s he moved to Canada and the USA. In 1990 he was rehabilitated in England, a year later the rehabilitation proceeded in Czechoslovakia as well. He returned to the Czech Republic in 1993. Only then he finally received recognition in his homeland - President Václav Havel decorated him with the state decoration Order of the White Lion for excellent performance in combat, and President Václav Klaus awarded him with a plaque of honour in April 2006 at the occasion of Peřina’s 95th birthday. Apart from that, he received a number of other decorations at home and abroad as well, for example the highest French decoration the Order of the Legion of Honour. On April 21, 2006 he was hospitalized in the Central Military Hospital in Prague, where he died on May 6, 2006. His wife Anna Peřinová-Klimešová, imprisoned by the Nazis during the war, had died just a few weeks earlier.