Master Sergeant (ret.) Ota Nový

* 1921  †︎ 2008

  • “It’s hard to say what was my strongest impression of all this. I was just a soldier. In Africa there was a terrible lack of water. We got half a liter of water per soldier per day and some tea in the morning. In France it got a lot better. There was at least enough water. I wasn’t wounded. First I served in Africa in an infantry battalion. In England I then joined the Czechoslovak brigade which was later turned into an armored brigade. I was just a simple rank and file soldier. I made it to a sergeant. About two years ago I was promoted to technical sergeant. In the anti-aircraft unit, I was a radio operator and a machine-gun operator. It was related.”

  • “We wanted to help them but they wouldn’t let us. The English chief of staff didn’t allow us to help. Our mission was to hold Dunkirk. We had our combat assignments and we had to accomplish them. We got home on March 11. We were garrisoned at the western frontier nearby Klatovy. Then we were gradually demobilized and released into civilian life. We participated in the parades in Prague.”

  • “They didn’t arrest me, I was lucky. I studied a grammar school before the war but I didn’t make it to the school leaving exam. So I finished my studies after the war and went on to study chemistry at university. I went to Mníšek as a mine worker.”

  • “The food supply was miserable but we helped ourselves out by stealing some food. There was a ship which was bombed by the Germans but made it to the shipyard and sank there. The Czechoslovak unit was generally considered to be a good unit. Of the 12 thousand men defending Tobruk there were about 800 Czechoslovaks. Everybody was on his place and did what he was ordered to do. We simply knew what we were fighting for. All of us joined the army voluntarily.”

  • “The first time they took us to surrounded Tobruk was on a destroyer ship. We stayed there till its liberation when our unit mounted a counterattack and the British attacked from the other side. That’s how Tobruk was liberated. I was there as an infantry soldier. The reunion with the British was a celebration. But I have to say we didn’t get any alcohol. When we got back from Tobruk they reformed our unit to an anti-aircraft regiment. In the meantime there was a huge recruitment campaign in Egypt and Palestine – about that time we were already 2000 men strong. We did some more training and then returned to Tobruk again. This time we went to the anti-aircraft unit with the cannons. As far as I remember we only shot down one plane. From Tobruk we then continued to Britain.”

  • “I was born in Prague where I also went to school. I’m a Jew so we had to flee from the country. We were fleeing through Slovakia and then down the Danube to the Black sea. There an English ship captured us. The English interned us. The very day I was released from internment I joined the army. In fact I participated in the whole North-African campaign of the Czechoslovak army. It was in 1940.”

  • “The Germans were very active, they defended themselves very vigorously. It was a very tough combat that was going on there. They had enormous supplies and they were supplied by occasional sea shipments. They held out there till the very end of the war. They were very tenacious, indeed. They escaped captivity. There were a lot of captives but we did this normally in combat.”

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    ČR, 10.06.2003

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We received half a liter of water per day in Tobruk

novy_ota1.jpg (historic)
Master Sergeant (ret.) Ota Nový

Ota Nový was born on April 21, 1921, in Prague. In Prague he also went to school. As his family was Jewish, they were forced to emigrate as a result of the political conditions. They left Czechoslovakia via Slovakia in the direction of the Black Sea. On their way they were interned by the British. After the internment Mr. Nový joined the army in 1940. He served with the Czechoslovak unit in northern Africa. He participated in the battles of Tobruk and Dunkirk. At the end of the war, he held the rank of a sergeant.