Jan Svoboda

* 1918

  • “I had a friend who studied at university. And there were also Bulgarian students. I bought a passport from one of them and I altered the photograph. I came to Brno main station and bought my ticket to Sofia. I got off in Belgrade, it was as simple as that. I got off in Belgrade and headed off to the English embassy. They sent me away. The reason was that my only way to speak to them was German. So I was sent away and I thought: 'What do I do?' So I went back again. And they sent me away again. But the receptionist was a Yugoslav and he said to me: 'Hey, look, I know you are Czechoslovak. Go opposite, there is a British legation. Ask for a woman... , she is there. (I've forgotten her name already.) And she will arrange it all.' So I went there and I met her. They questioned me in the reception. I showed the passport and they verified it. I was sent to a group that have already been waiting there. I went with them through Hungary, not Hungary, through Yugoslavia down to Greece. When I arrived, this is interesting, when I arrived to Yugoslavia, the Germans just occupied Hungary and I had just passed through the country. When I was leaving Yugoslavia for Greece, the Germans invaded Yugoslavia. I left Greece and the Germans occupied it. So they were closing the gates behind me.”

  • “When the Germans were retreating we did an air raid over the Netherlands. We were bombarding all that moved. We were a squadron there, that is four aircraft. The first one was the commander, it was Vindyš, the second one was a beginner, it was his first raid. We told him: 'When we come down, don't follow him down, follow him sideways.' The third one was a seasoned pilot and I was number four. We were flying and I spotted a boat full of Germans on the Channel. So I reported them and then they told us: 'Get rid of spare tanks.' It was a ninety-gallon tank, it was under him. We got rid of them then, we switched to the main tank and they went down. And they did exactly what I had told them not to do. And the third seasoned pilot closely followed the second one. They say: 'They aim at the first one and shoot the second one down.' I said to myself it was no place for me. So I flew around. The flack was awful, the sky was completely dark. We didn't know, there was a hidden German airport, those were particularly protected. So I went aside then. In order to shoot as much as possible I turned out the gas. All those spring guns, cannons, machine guns... the recoil was so strong that I twitched the plane. I flew only 90 mph. I said to myself: 'You fool, what are you doing?' So I opened it and they were shooting in front of me then. I crossed the rudders and the plane directed somewhere else. It was rising up aside and I got out of it this way. Both the second and the third aircraft were shot down because they made a mistake. But they didn't get killed, they returned after the war. It was one of my experiences.”

  • How did you feel during those dangerous flights, was there any time to be frightened?) “No, it's impossible. You must not think about it because if you would, you would go mad.”

  • “My name is Jan Svoboda. I was born on March 19, 1918. (And where did you work during WWII?) I was in 310 Squadron in England. I did operation flights, I took part in 120 air raids and a number of operation hours – about 150. I haven't got my notebook on me therefore I can't verify that. It is just an estimate.”

  • (What did you think of the happenings in Czechoslovakia after 1948 and how about the fact that many of your co-belligerents were imprisoned without a reason?) “It was a shame. I was terribly sorry that my own nation could do something like that. And in the end it all... all is better that ends well. And this ended well.”

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    Česká republika, 04.06.2003

    délka: 26:16
    nahrávka pořízena v rámci projektu Stories of 20th Century
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“There was no time to be frightened. You must not think about it because if you would, you would go mad.”

Jan Svoboda
Jan Svoboda
zdroj: Archiv - Pamět národa

Jan Svoboda was born in Brno on March 19, 1918. He did not agree with the occupation of Czechoslovakia during the war and that was why he tried to flee abroad. His first try failed. Eventually he fled on a bought Bulgarian passport from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia through Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey. He joined the Czechoslovak army in Palestinian Haifa and on his own request was assigned to the RAF. He went through a language, military and an air training in Great Britain and Canada. He was a pilot of 310 Squadron RAF. He did 120 air attacks and took part in about 150 operating hours. As a fighter pilot he took part in combat operations in 1944 and 1945. In England he married a driver from 310 Squadron. He returned to Czechoslovakia after the war but due to his woman‘s health problems they soon returned to Great Britain. He opened a garage there, he made and also raced in Formula 2. He even won the World Championships for Czechoslovakia. Due to his British citizenship he was allowed to visit Czechoslovakia since 1960.