Czech World War II pilot dies aged 88

16-10-2008

Early Thursday morning, Brigadier Stanislav Hlučka, a revered Czech pilot who served in the RAF during the Second World War, died aged 88 in a military hospital in Prague. We take brief a look at the life of this much-decorated anti-Nazi resistance fighter, who found himself imprisoned by the communists after the 1948 coup.

Stanislav Hlučka was born in 1919 near the city of Brno. After dropping out of secondary school to become a pilot, and faced with the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in the late 1930s, Hlučka decided to leave the country, illegally crossing across Slovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey and eventually ending up in France and joining the Czechoslovak forces in exile in that country. After France fell to Nazi Germany, Hlučka went to Britain and in 1943 ended up in the Churchstanton Airbase in southern England, where he joined the 313th Czechoslovak Fighter Squadron. During this time, the pilot was one of several Czechs who flew the legendary spitfire – although he missed the noted Czech participation in the Battle of Britain in 1940.

In February 1944, he joined the famous Czech pilot Lieutenant General František Fajtl in travelling to the Soviet Union to join the 1st Czechoslovak Fighter Squadron to beef up the weak Russian air force. For approximately six weeks in the autumn of 1944, Hlučka’s unit fought to surround and gain control of Slovakia, then in the midst of an anti-Nazi uprising. In a sadly all-too-common occurrence, the communist authorities arrested Hlučka in 1949 – the reasons were simple, he had fought in Britain, now part of the “imperialist” West, which was now viewed with a paranoid suspicion, as were most Czechs who had any connections on the other side of the Iron Curtain. After spending a year in the Bory prison in Plzeň, Hlučka was finally released, although he remained a persona non grata for the authorities. After that, he was consigned to working as an auto-mechanic. In the more liberal 1960s, the former pilot was rehabilitated and in 1969 he returned to the Czechoslovak military.

In 1989, following the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, Hlučka worked to rehabilitate pilots who had been unlawfully imprisoned or persecuted by the communist regime. In 1990, he joined the Czech Pilot’s Association and a year later he headed the Association of Foreign Pilots, a group which commemorated those Czechs that had fought for their country abroad. Stanislav Hlučka was also decorated with several of the country’s highest honours - in 1991, President Václav Havel awarded the pilot, the Order of M.R. Štefánik, and in 2005, he received the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, 1st Class. Stanislav Hlučka died four days short of his 89th birthday.

16-10-2008