Czechoslovak RAF veteran and one of the country’s last remaining war heroes, General Emil Boček, took to the skies in a Spitfire on Thursday more than seven decades after his last flight in the iconic plane. The 93-year-old veteran took off from the Biggin Hill airport in Kent, and spent twenty-five minutes up in the air, piloting the aircraft himself for a short while once it was airborne.
A round of applause greeted the twin-seater Supermarine Spitfire carrying General Emil Boček when it touched down at Biggin Hill airport in Kent. The 93-year old veteran RAF pilot, who voiced the wish to go up in a Spitfire again last year, gave the crowd a thumbs-up from the cockpit and shared his feelings.
“If I said I liked it, it wouldn’t be accurate. I simply loved it.”
General Boček, who was presented with a gold medal before disembarking, complained that he wasn’t as fast as he used to be and couldn’t hear as well. Nevertheless he didn’t hesitate for a second when encouraged to take control of the aircraft.
Mr Boček joined the RAF as a mechanic in September 1940, when he was still a teenager. Three years later, he was sent to Canada for training and from October 1944 he served as a pilot with RAF’s 310 Squadron. He carried out 26 operational flights before leaving the air force in 1946 and despite his advanced age, he continues to fly to this day.
Among the people present at Thursday’s event was the head of the Czech air force Libor Štefánik as well as children and grandchildren of Czechoslovak veterans, who remained in Britain after the war. One of them was Marek, the grandson of the 96-year old general Miroslav Liškutín, who lives in southern England.
“We need to maintain these historical aircrafts and keep them flying, so that when we are our grandfathers’ age, hopefully they will still be airborne. People like Jana and I wouldn’t be here without the resistance and the fact that we can do what we want to do and we can say what we want to say is all down to people like our grandfather, the general, and we are very fortunate that they are still with us. And equally we have to remember those who didn’t survive, who made the ultimate sacrifice, so people of our generation can still be here.”
Vee Darlington, the daughter of the famous night fighter with the RAF and the most successful Czech fighter pilot Karel Kuttelwascher has also echoed the need to keep the legacy of war heroes alive:
“A lot can be taught at schools for the youngsters to know what their great-grandfather did and that they fought for freedom which is sadly being eroded in many places. We have to keep the story alive for the youngsters so they know the sacrifices their forefathers made for them and for everybody else in Europe.”
A mass celebrated in remembrance of Czechoslovak RAF pilots took place at St George's RAF Chapel of Remembrance at Biggin Hill before the flight. It was celebrated by Cardinal Dominik Duka, whose father also served in the RAF.
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