No, this isn’t my godmother’s husband but….

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.

9 thoughts on “No, this isn’t my godmother’s husband but….”

  1. I’ll just leave this here. Ritchie has just announced that as of this week City are employing him 70% (3.5 days a week) with enough prospective EU funding to full time.

    *struggles to keep straight face*

  2. I have no doubt the tale was true. A good friend of mine’s father was Polish, he was taken aged 14 to Siberia by the Russians, when they invaded Poland from the east, where he had to work in a labour camp felling trees, when Hitler invaded Russia the Poles were allowed to go to Iran to form the Polish Free Corps, which he did. All the while he managed to keep his mother and 2 sisters alive, and all 4 of them made it to the UK, where he settled after the war, and married an Englishwoman. The turbulent times threw up myriad such stories, obviously most of them ended in tragedy.

  3. So Much For Subtlety

    Western liberals have had such sheltered lives, they just have no clue about what Communism actually meant in practice. None at all.

    It truly was an evil system. Worse than the Nazis.

  4. In the negotiations to end the Warsaw Uprising, General Tadeusz Komorowski insisted that his surviving fighters be considered POWs not rebel civilians (under the Geneva Conventions the Wehrmacht had a strong case that the AK was not entitled to POW status). In defiance of orders from Berlin, General Rohr agreed and the remains of the AK were allowed to march out of their redoubts to surrender in an orderly fashion. They were then transported to Allied POW camps from which they were liberated in 1945. The only ones to die succumbed to disease or previous injury.

    Meanwhile AK fighters who managed to escape the Wehrmacht by crossing the Vistula were arrested by the Red Army. All officers and leaders were tortured and shot and other ranks all transported to the GULAG from which very few every returned.

    The post-war Soviet puppet government in Warsaw continued to persecute former members of the AK until the 1960s.

  5. My grandfather had similar: Polish Air Force, escaped just ahead of German and Soviet forces (we heard, eventually, some of the tale of how his group made their way to the Albanian coast and stole a ship), then continued flying bombers for the RAF until he won a membership of the Guinea Pig Club.

    Naturalised, married a local girl, settled down, raised his family, and worked until the day he died: it was twenty years before he was able to even visit Poland again, though.

    However, when he died, he was buried on what had been the family lands; on the afternoon of 9 December 1990. Which was unexpectedly significant; Lech Walesa had just been sworn in as President, which meant my grandfather was laid to rest in a free Poland.

  6. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I had a Polish uncle. They settled in Kenya. When I were oop north, in Bradford, there was a large Polish-origin community. The Polish club up by the Uni served delicious Okocim and Żywiec, which was rocket fuel.

    As SMFS says, we should never forget how appallingly fucking evil the Soviets were. The Katyn massacre alone should have earned them a nuke. It’s also bollocks to say “they did all the work”. The loss rates during the Battle of Normandy were higher than on the Eastern Front.

  7. A good time for a Churchill quote:

    “I will not pretend that, if I had to choose between communism and nazism, I would choose communism.”

    Vile as I find National Socialism is, International Socialism has murdered more and sadly hasn’t burned itself out.

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