Staff Sergeant Josef Carboch

* 1924  †︎ 2012

  • "Like I said. When you had those thirty, forty thousand guns blasting away from both sides, the ground trembled. You couldn't see anything, just exploding mounds of dirt, flashes, and that was it. That was all you could see. And you drove where you were told to. Because the commander at the look-out could see if you had completed your task or not. The task had to be completed regardless of circumstances. That's law for the soldier." (Was the training hard?) "You survive, survive, don't survive. Well, like I said, my brother lost a leg. He lost a leg and I got through as you can see, even though each time I got something or other, like I said, nine shards in my back, shards in my head. But I survived. That's a huge fluke. My dad told us afterwards, when we got together again, he said: 'Boys, thank your mother. She prayed you through.'"

  • "Our father, like I said, was a former legionary. So we had a love of our country. You know, nowadays, patriotism is kind of weak, but there when you met a Czech, then you just started talking to him straight away andyou were glad that you were with someone who was close to you, someone related. So both me and my brother joined the tank brigade. Later on he joined me at Kiverce, so we were in Kiverce, doing training - the finishing polish and at the same time defence. Well and he came to me there, so we said goodbye to each other. I said to him: 'Go home.' Because I was twenty at the time, he was sixteen. I said: 'Our parents are alone, you can help them and such.' The Germans bombed us during the night. There was a forest nearby, so we hid there in these tents. It was getting towards sunrise, I looked out and there was this little soldier standing under a tree, frozen. Well as you know, one goes to the other, I came to him and gosh, it was my brother! So I wanted to give him one, like a brother, for disobeying me. But he said: 'You're a soldier, I'm a soldier.' Well so that's how it was, we were both soldiers."

  • (Where you in Czechoslovakia in the pre-war times?) "No, I wasn't. I never even saw my homeland, only..." (So the first time was after 1945?) "That's right. I must say that people really welcomed us. Those people shared their last slice of bread with us, because they didn't have much themselves, but they shared. I remember when we arrived at Velká Polom, we took a detour to Opava, that's this big chasm, with bridges there, and then a forest. So I drove up to this house and I said: 'Shoot in that direction boys, I'm going to get some food.' Look for food, because you didn't get rations there. Sometimes when you went back to the rear of the army, you would get some rations, but not at the front. So I tried to open the door, but it was locked. The windows were broken in, so I jumped inside. I was searching about, and I said to myself: according to experience, everyone hides everything in the cellar. So I went down to the cellar. I went slowly. I heard voices, so I took out my pistol, because sometimes you had soldiers hiding away aswell, in the cellars. Slowly I opened the door. There were some fifteen people there and two small children, crying. I opened the door and everyone went silent. I had black patched up SS trousers and a patched up Czechoslovak coat. You can imagine, the main thing was to keep warm. And there was this older person there, he was probably in the legions, and he knew word or two of Russian. He saw I wasn't a German, he saw that straight away." (Where those Czechs?) "Yeah, Czechs. And when they started speaking to me, then I said in Czech: 'Please, do you have some food?' And they all burst into tears, started to hug me. And they shared even that little what they had left. So I took a piece, and I said: 'I have my boys upstairs.' As in my friends. So they gave me some more, put a lump of bread into each of my hands, just what they had. And they were sharing the last of what they had. They didn't have it easy, those people. Well, war isn't good."

  • "My first tank burnt down at Velká Polom, that's in Silesia, between Ostrava and Opava. But that was my second tank. My second tank burnt down there at Velká Polom. Past it, because we were attacking Dolní Lhota. And there was this pond there, and the Germans rigged it up with explosives and blew it up. So they flooded the road and we couldn't drive through, so we had to wait. And they got ready for us, they had enough time to prepare, didn't they. Because every second counts in situations like that. You had to be on time. Well and then, like in the whole of my life, I had a bit of luck, like it had to be. I was sitting in the tank with some chap named Lizálek. He was the company leader, an engineer from Prague or somewhere. And he always told me, when we were in the tank together: 'When we get to Prague, we'll stop by my mum's for a coffee.' But Lizálek didn't live to see that happen. We had already crossed our borders, and Lizálek died there. So there you go, now it's somewhere near Dolní Benešov, between Opava and Ostrava. So he got so close, he died on his home ground. He had found himself a girl, a nurse she was. And she was pregnant and this kind of centre was in Slovakia, in Poprad, there... Because that was our support base. That's where they took all the wounded, and everyone who survived. So if he had lived through another two hours, he would have gotten leave and he could have gone to his wife. Like this... he didn't even see her, because, like I say, those two hours before we were supposed to leave, Lizálek died."

  • (And you were wounded?) "I always got some wound, because if the shot penetrates the tank, then you get shards everywhere... Nine shards went into my back, I had shards in my head, right. So I got something each time. But I survived. Some of my freinds fared much worse, like I told you, especially in the first tank. In the other tanks I didn't even know the crews properly, because the Russians occupied Transcarpathian Ukraine. But Transcarpathian Ukraine belonged to us in the First Republic. So our people started the first mobilisation there, but the Russians called for a referendum there. And obviously, because they were Ukrainians, they joined Ukraine, as in Russia. So we didn't get any more Ukrainians in the army. But the first wave came. So the boys were there, to fill the empty places in the tank brigade. It was very bad, because we didn't have support. The correct situation is when one group is fighting up front, and the other group is in the rear, training and training, so you can always take that person from the rear and put him in the tank. But we didn't have that because there weren't many of us."

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Nine shards went into my back, I had shards in my head, right. But I survived

carboch_josef1.jpg (historic)
Staff Sergeant Josef Carboch

Josef Carboch was born in 1924 in the village of Šepetovka in Ukraine, into the family of a railwayman and legionary who fought at Zborov. Thus Carboch was brought up to patriotism, he studied at the Czech matricular school in Volyn. He had a youbger brother, with whom he joined the tank brigade of the Czechoslovak Foreign Army. He took part in the liberation of Czechoslovakia, he fought at Dukla and in the Ostrava Tank Battle. After the war he was an army instructor for a short while, he was demobilised in 1946. He stayed in Czechoslovakia and completed studies of mechanical and constructional engineering at a technical school. He worked in both these fields in North Bohemia. He passed away on October, 24th, 2012.