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Západ slunce nad AN2

Tales of men and machine

Eduard Prchal

Prchal Eduard - Čeští RAFáci 450x600.jpg

Eduard Prchal (Čeští RAFáci)

*  1.1.1911 Dolní Břežany - Prague(Czech Republic / Czechoslovakia)

† 4. 12.1984  St. Helena  (USA)

First Republic fighter and commercial pilot, participant in air battles in France, member of the British RAF, pilot 310. čs. fighter squadron, participant in the Battle of Britain, pilot 68. night fighter squadron, a total of six confirmed kills, fighter ace, transport pilot, organizer of the escape from the communists.

He studied at a real grammar school, but left after the 6th year and worked as a sales representative. In October 1930 he was conscripted into the military service, managed to get into the air force and was assigned to the Air Regiment 4 in Kbel, Prague. Soon he joined the non-commissioned officer and pilot school at VLU in Prostějov. He then served with the 14th Observation Squadron in Hradec Králové, as a fighter with LP2 in Olomouc and from spring 1935 with the heavy bomber squadron LP 5. On 28 May 1937 he left for the reserve and a few days later he got a job as a transport pilot with the Bata company in Zlín.

He left his homeland occupied by Nazi Germany on 26 June 1939 by crossing the Polish border. Together with a group of other Czechoslovak exiles, he continued from Gdynia on the ship Kastelholm to France. From the port of Calais, he headed for the reception centre of the Foreign Legion in Paris, but he was never sent to North Africa. On 1 September war broke out and on the 10th he was sent to the Air Training Centre in Chartres for retraining on French equipment. He was among the first to be sent to a fighter unit, and on 28 December he reinforced GC I/8 armed with Bloch MB.152s. During fierce fighting in June 1940 he scored two certain kills in cooperation and one solo. Just before the defences collapsed he reached Bayonne on the Bay of Biscay coast and joined the evacuation group of Lt. Holecek. On 21 June their ship Königin Emma sailed, the next day France capitulated and two days later they landed in Plymouth, England.

The ranks of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR) expanded 12.7.1940 and was sent to the base Duxford near Cambridge to the just established 310. čs. fighter squadron. On 17 August the unit was declared combat capable and the very next day he flew his first patrol. It also intervened in the first major engagement with the enemy, which occurred on the afternoon of 26 August over the Thames Estuary. As part of the red section he piloted a Hawker Hurricane Mk. I with NN codes on the fuselage and serial number P3157. He first attacked a Dornier Do 17 twin-engine bomber and sent it burning down with four attacks. He continued with more runs on the rest of the formation, but when he had to turn for home with empty magazines, he was surprised by a salvo from an escorting Messerschmitt fighter. 

The engine cooling system, wing, rudders, shrapnel got stuck in his back, left arm and scratched his neck. Fortunately, he was able to react, swerve sharply and escape. Then, with the cockpit full of smoke, he sat the machine on its belly near Upminster. After a fortnight in hospital, he was back amongst his own, soon to go into another battle. 15 September was one of the critical days of the Battle of Britain and the Thirty-Three was called into action twice. In the afternoon they took off at 14:15 to meet the bomber bundles, attacked them and in the process were instrumental, along with Sgt J. Rechka, in the destruction of a Heinkel He 111. Three days later he again aimed his eight wing guns accurately and scored a two-engined Junkers Ju 88. From 6. 3. 1941 he served as a teacher in 55. OTU. In an effort to return to more active combat, he began night fighter training in June with radar operator Sgt Rudolf Husar. On 12 August they joined 255 Squadron, then on 15 September they reinforced the ranks of the Czechoslovaks with the British 68th Night Fighter Squadron. From the High Ercall base southeast of Liverpool they patrolled in Bristol Beaufighter Mk. IF with fuselage codes WM. On 25 April 1942, they headed to the less-exposed 116 Squadron for a respite to work with the Army. By 3 June he was back on operational duty, but now as a transport pilot. He began with 24 Signal Squadron, based at Hendon, from where, until 22 December, he operated twin-engined Hudson machines to supply the sorely tested island of Malta. 

This was followed by 511 Squadron with Liberator machines and long-range missions, especially with VIPs. On one flight from Cairo he carried representatives of the Polish government in exile led by Gen. W. Sikorsky. The stopover was at Gibraltar and on 4 July 1943 it was to continue to the UK. At 23:05, the Liberator Mk. II No. 523 did not want to climb, it was just inexorably approaching the surface of the Mediterranean. Of the 17 people on board, only F/Lt E. Prchal survived the violent impact and the destruction of the wreckage. Later investigation pointed to a mysterious blockage of the elevator and proved the captain's innocence. The treatment lasted two months. On 3 Sep he married a Czechoslovak WAAF (Women's Auxiliary Air Force) member, Dolores Šperková, and then resumed service from 14 Sep. Between February and May 1944 he made four flights of new four-engine Liberators from the USA to England with the Atlantic Transport Group. On 18 May he transferred to the 24th Transport Squadron and made further long-haul flights with VIPs to Italy, India, and Burma. With the end of the war, the liberated Czechoslovakia also became a target for the Dakotas.

On 17.8.1945 he stayed in his homeland and continued to serve in the Air Group in Prague. In January 1946 he demobilized, joined the CSA and held the position of chief pilot and instructor. After February 1948, the communist threat grew mercilessly and with it the threat of persecution. Together with his colleagues Jan Kaucký and Josef Řechka, they prepared a plan of escape to freedom. On September 30, 1950, Kaucky managed to plan a solo test flight on a Douglas DC3 Dakota (OK-WAA). He flew from Ruzyně to the agreed location near Neratovice, friends and families quickly boarded, Eduard Prchal took over the controls, crossed the border in a ground flight, and happily made it to Manston, England, through the American occupation zone of Germany. In 1952, the Prchals moved to the U.S., whereupon Eduard taught at a language school and then worked at the San José State University library until 1978.

In 1991 he was rehabilitated and promoted to the rank of colonel of the Air Force in memoriam.

Eduard Prchal's daughter, the Honorable Mrs. Edda Kejka Collins, visited the Czech Republic several times and was also a guest at Točna Airport.


Decorations for war service

Croix de Guerre (French War Cross) with two palms and one gold star, 3x Czechoslovak War Cross 1939, Czechoslovak Medal for valour before the enemy,...


  • Memorial plaque at the entrance gate of house No. 93 on U Zámku Street in Dolní Břežany

Literature ​​

Joe, Čeští RAFáci, 2024

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