Major General (ret.) Ivan Otto Schwarz

* 1923  †︎ 2018

  • "My father sent me to school in Winchester, and when the occupation of Czechoslovakia came and he could send no more money, I couldn't continue my studies. Because in England, public schools are paid. Lord Newborough said: 'Look, I won't pay for your public school anymore. Come, you'll be helping out the gardener and cook. It's all free and you'll have a free car to school. In the morning, he'll take you to school and he'll bring you back in the evening'. 'Ok, fine'. Then, the war broke out."

  • "Wellington was produced as a passenger plane. It's called Warrick, they made a stretched-out version of it. It was a complete disaster. It wouldn't fly and there was lots of trouble with it all the time. So we had to fly to Athens but we only got to Italy, to Naples, and there, the machine already broke down. So a Dakota aircraft had to come and take them to Athens."

  • "I was the radio operator and gunner, we used to take turns. Well, it's impossible to sit uninterruptedly for eight or even twelve hours in one place. Those pilots needed to take a short walk, they couldn't sit there for all the time. We had an automatic pilot that we called 'George'. George could fly the aircraft, maintain automatically the height and direction, everything. After a while they would change the course, as we had to fly in a zig zag and look for those submarines."

  • "There I met one lieutenant who told me: 'listen to me, I need cigarettes from England'. I said: 'Well, that's fine and good, but how am I supposed to do it'? 'I don't want it for free. I'll give you the best French cognacs and wines that exist. I'm in charge of a former German storehouse in Bordeaux. I can guarantee you three tons of booze, if you get me the cigarettes. Because in France we smoke and we've run out of cigarettes'. 'Ok, I will try my best'."

  • "They were catapulted and then the parachutes would open. They basically sat on a parachute – the stool falls off and the parachute opens. And the same is true for the front. There were two parachutes. But the front had to hook it up. When I was in the tower or at the radio, I didn't have a parachute so I'd have to attach the parachute in case our plane had been hit and I'd have to jump from the plane. Fortunately, I've never been in that situation. We had three emergency landing, but nothing special, I didn't have to jump."

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    Londýn, 28.07.2012

    duration: 05:30:26
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I survived – it was good luck

Ivan Schwarz in the RAF
Ivan Schwarz in the RAF
photo: archiv Ivana Schwarze

Retired Major General Ivan Otto Schwarz was born on December 11, 1923, in Bratislava in Czechoslovakia. He spent his childhood in the family of a Jewish lawyer in the city of Bytča, where he devoted himself to swimming and water polo, and where he also attended primary school. Subsequently, he attended grammar school in Spišská Nová Ves and then transferred to another grammar school in Žilina. In February 1939 – thanks to contacts of his father to Lord Newborough – he was able to go to England, where he at first studied and later worked at a farm where he was supposed to gain knowledge about the production of goat cheese. The plan was that he would later on stand on his own feet, but his business plans were defeated by the war. In 1939, he joined the British Army and on July 13, 1940, he was transferred to the Czechoslovak military units. At the time of entering the English army, he didn’t reach the eligible age for military service, yet. However, this lie was only revealed by the time he had already transferred to the Czechoslovak units. As he had been already mobilized by then, he went through various military courses. Finally, in 1940 he joined the 311th Squadron, where he served as a radio operator and gunner. The most significant events Ivan Schwarz had witnessed are connected to the sinking of the German transport ship Alsterufer and to the participation in Operation Overlord. Later on, he also served with the 168th and the 147th Squadrons. It was in these formations where he escorted ships to the port of Murmansk. His parents spent the war at labor camps and then went into hiding in the Slovak mountains. After the war, Ivan Schwarz returned to Czechoslovakia, but because of his opposition to the form of the local political establishment there, he went back to England in 1946. In England, he married the following year and devoted himself to business in the field of railway transportation. His sister and mother later came to England as well and lived there with him. Ivan Otto Schwarz passed away on January, 2018