There’s a great deal of similarity in the stories.
The remarkable story of a Czech pilot who fought for Britain in between fleeing fascism and then communism in his homeland has emerged after 70 years.
Jiri Hartman became a Spitfire hero after he sought sanctuary in England following the Nazi invasion of his homeland in 1938.
The immigrant airman defended London by engaging in dog-fights over the English Channel and provided air cover for the disastrous Dieppe raid, the D-Day landings and the Battle of Arnhem.
He also protected bombers during raids on German airfields, ports and trains.
In all he flew on 168 sorties and shot down or damaged numerous enemy aircraft, which won him the prestigious Distinguished Flying Cross.
After the war he was given the honour of leading 54 Spitfires of the Czech Air Force back home to Prague.
He married an Englishwoman who he took to Czechoslovakia but following the Soviet-backed communist putsch of his country in 1948 he had to flee a second time.
Czech airmen who served with the Western Allies in the Second World War were arrested and subjected to ‘political torture’.
He managed to stage a dramatic escape across the mountains to Germany while being pursued by border guards.
The only real difference in the story is that Mr. Desmond didn’t flee over the border, he and some mates stole a Czech plane and flew it over. And he settled in Bath, not Portsmouth. Ecstatically happy with the rest of life as a newsagent. What with having escaped from the Lubyanka and walked home to Moravia before the war as well he’d had quite enough excitement for one pass through this world. Serving up The Times and 20 Bensons was a very pleasant way to spend life after that.
I’ve always sorta wondered whether the tale grew in the telling to be honest, but that others did much the same makes me think perhaps not.