Jaroslav Hofrichter

* 1920  †︎ 2016

  • The Briefcase “After February 1948 we were allowed to have only sixty litres of petrol in an airplane. Bernát, Hrbáček and the others then filled the Dakota’s tank up and flew off to England, along with Bureš and Stříbrzský. Initially they were about to leave on Wednesday. They cleverly asked the commander who was about to serve at the airport and he told them that Vopálenský. They knew that they could not do it to him because he was a ‘Westerner’ and this would end up with a death penalty for him because it would be assumed he knew about it. They flew to England the next day. Four weeks later the English returned the airplane to us and we flew to get it. I was supposed to hand in a briefcase in Croydon but I don’t know what was inside.”

  • “We were in the transport battalion – me, Peroutka, Bíba and another guy. Only on the second day had over thirty percent of the people given up. For instance Bernát, Radina... But they needed us because we knew English. Since we used to fly abroad, after the landing we would communicate with the control tower in the landing language. Usually, this would be English, only the French did not like to speak it. Šafránek knew French so well that the French thought we had a Frenchman on board. He had studied for two years at the Sorbonne. His father was a consul in Paris. When France fell to the Germans, he was transferred to America. Šafránek later finished his studies at Harvard and since 1943 served in our squadron. Half of the people from the transport battalion were discharged.”

  • “Whenever I needed to mend my socks, I did it this way: when I went to London with my friend, I chose a compartment where there were some English women sitting, I took out the needle and the torn sock, and I pretended I was trying to get the thread through the needle. Every time, before we arrived to London, I had my socks mended. They always took it from my hands.”

  • “I have to say I was lucky. In the war, you need to have some luck at least. (…) A friend of mine, Venca Blahna, did not have to fly on that day, but he changed his shift and during take off they brushed a tree slightly and all nine of them burnt to death. For each of us our fate has something in store, and you cannot avoid it, no matter what you do. Some people have survived the unsurvivable, others have not survived their first flight. As my Mom used to say, each of us has his fate written somewhere, each person’s candle is burning. And sometimes it is snuffed out early, sometimes the flame flickers and keeps on burning. (...) One cannot avoid it, that’s what I learnt during the war.”

  • “They were waiting for me at the airport in Ruzyně, I had to deplane, they did not even let me fly the plane over to the Kbely airport. They took me right to the 5th department, interrogations were held there. Reicin´s people were interrogating me for several days, but they couldn’t prove anything to me. (…) After February 1948 we were still flying to England, and my fellow pilots were fleeing the country this way, without any preparation. They were not able to take any other things with them, and I was then bringing the stuff to them. We had a secret agreement with the boys when we were landing in Croydon. I had a small suitcase, and in the Dakota airplanes, between the pilots´ seats there is a square-shaped place covered with a carpet, and if you screwed the plate off, a small suitcase could fit in. I was bringing things for the guys this way, things they had left here or whatever things they needed. After February we had guards with us, two colonels from the OBZ (military intelligence – transl.´s note) were flying with us. (...) However, one time we landed in Manston instead of Croydon. What to do now? I thought I would take the risk I went to a railway station, in order to travel to London by train. I returned to my room only in the morning. The two colonels then asked me where I had been. I told them that I met a friend, a girl I had been dating during the war. (…) They did not believe me much.”

  • “Blahna was at his wedding, he was flying as a gunman, and he had said he would be back till his day of flying duty. But he didn’t come back by morning, and the commander already scheduled another gunman to the crew, because he thought Blahna would not make it back from the wedding. But he did return half an hour later. I was in the operation station-room, he arrived and asked me: ´Where is the crew?´- ´They’ve already left.´- ´Lend me your bike, I will catch up with them.´ If there was not another aircraft landing, the crew would have already got a green signal for take off, but they were on hold on the red light, and Blahna thus managed to replace the other gunman. The aircraft was waiting on the red signal, and the two changed places, the commander approved it. Karel Nahodil left all the gear for him there, the jacket, etc. (...) But on take off the airplane brushed a tree and it fell down. They were not dead instantly. But the plane was full of fuel, they did not get anyone out of there alive. Karel Nahodil was saved and Venca Blahna went to his death, one day after his wedding. Had he been two minutes late, had there not been the other plane landing, all would have been different. In war there are moments like this, when it’s a matter of minutes between life and death. For fighter pilots, it was measured in seconds. The fate is unpredictable, it was playing games with people.”

  • “In the First Republic era, the school was educating us in the patriotic spirit. Not just school, but also Sokol and the scouting movement. The teachers taught us to love our country. One doesn’t see that today. As boys, we were avid readers of legionnaire books. But to be honest, we did not like the Sudeten Germans. Pilsen was very close to the Sudetenland. As boys we were also fighting with them. They were living in the Prague (Reich) suburb.”

  • Celé nahrávky
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    Praha 4 Nusle, 29.06.2003

    délka: 01:01:53
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of 20th Century
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    Praha 4 Nusle, 16.10.2009

    délka: 01:20:39
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of 20th Century
  • 3

    Ústřední vojenská nemocnice, 24.09.2013

    délka: 01:37:07
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of the 20th Century TV
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„Each of us has his fate, for each of us a candle is burning.“

Jaroslav Hofrichter in 1944
Jaroslav Hofrichter in 1944
zdroj: archiv pamětníka

Retired Colonel Jaroslav Hofrichter was born 1920 in Pilsen. Since he was fifteen, he was a member of the Pilsen flying club, and as an eighteen-year-old, he responded to the call „1000 Pilots for the Republic.“ In 1940, he travelled via Hungary and Yugoslavia to Lebanon. After the fall of France, he crossed over to the British Palestine and via Cape Town to get to Britain. His parents were imprisoned in Mírov and the Svatobořice camp during the war. In Britain, he was assigned to the No. 311 Squadron, where he served as a gunman and flight engineer. After the war he began working in civil aviation; in March 1949 he was arrested and investigated. The charges against him were dropped, but he was dismissed from the Army. Subsequently he found employment as a technician at Tesla Prague, where he remained until his retirement. At present, he lives with his wife in Prague 4 - Nusle. He has been awarded three war crosses, the For Valour medal and other decorations. He passed away on May, 9th, 2016.