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Západ slunce nad AN2

Tales of men and machine

Rajmund Půda

Půda Rajmund - Jaroslav Popelka & Čeští RAFáci 450x600.jpg

Rajmund Půda (Jaroslav Popelka & Čeští RAFáci)

*  18.8.1912 Brnik (Oleška) by Říčany  (Czech Republic / Czechoslovakia)

† 17. 3.2002  Henly-on-Thames  (UK)

First Republic fighter, acrobat and transport pilot, participant in air battles in France, member of the British RAF, pilot 310. čs. fighter squadron, participant in the Battle of Britain, a total of five confirmed kills, fighter ace, instructor, transport pilot, refugee from the communists, again a member of the RAF. 

He graduated from a two-year industrial school in Prague and then developed his practical knowledge at the Letov aircraft factory in Letňany. In 1930, he enrolled at the two-year School for Aviation Vocational Youth, which was part of the Prostějov Military Aviation School. Subsequently, he served as a pilot of the 3rd Observation Squadron of Aviation Regiment 1 stationed in Kbely. After a year he was sent to a fighter course in Prostějov. From 1937 he was a flight pilot at the Military Technical and Aviation Institute (VTLU) in Letňany. Thanks to his excellent skills he was selected to the Czechoslovak representative team for the IV International Air Meet in Zurich, Switzerland. He belonged to a seven-member aerobatic group led by npor. František Novák, which won the first place on Avia Ba-122 machines. Soon he also participated in the II National Aerobatics Competition and achieved second place. The winner was his later RAF comrade-in-arms Josef Hubáček. After his retirement to civilian life, he obtained a job as a transport pilot with the CSA from 25 September 1938.

15 March 1939 was a turning point in the fate of the homeland. On 18 June, he left the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia under the rule of Nazi Germany, joined the Czechoslovak exiles in Poland and continued from the port of Gdynia to France by one of the ship transports. From September he was at the Chartres training centre near Paris, familiarising himself with the techniques used in the Armée de l'air, and as early as 2 December he was sent to the front with the GC II/4 fighter unit. The armament consisted of American Curtiss Hawk H-75s. During the fighting in May and June 1940 he achieved one certain kill alone with two others in cooperation. He left the collapsing French with his machine across the Mediterranean to North Africa. He joined a group of our airmen in Casablanca and on 28 June they sailed via Gibraltar to Great Britain.

On 5.8.1940 he was accepted into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (RAF VR), receiving the rank of Sergeant (Sgt, Sergeant). Ten days later he reinforced the B Squadron of the 310th Czechoslovak Fighter Squadron. Their base was Duxford near Cambridge and they were armed with Hawker Hurricane Mk. I with NN codes on the fuselages. After retraining and training flights, he first joined the action on 26 August. On 15 September, the memorable Battle of London took place when the entire Duxford Wing, 242nd, 310th and 19th Squadrons, launched against the first wave of bombers. In a fierce encounter, Sgt R. Soil, flying Hurricane P6619 (NN-V), was instrumental in shooting down a twin-engined Dornier Do 17. Three days later, together with Sgt M. Jiroudek, they sent down an opponent of the same type. Between 18 and 28 October, he and Sgt B. Fürst were loaned to the 605th Fighter Squadron, based at Croydon on the southern outskirts of London and flying Hurricanes with UP codes. The next critical action of the Thirty-third came on 5 November. During a high altitude patrol over Dover, a large group of Messerschmitt Bf 109E fighters attacked the Wing formation. Apparently as a result of an oxygen problem, R. Soil suffered a brief unconsciousness. However, in the meantime his machine took hits and went down. With the loss of altitude and the thicker air, he came to, spotted the flames, promptly parachuted out and happily landed unharmed. He continued in operational activity until 19 January 1941. It was then that he began his journey as a flying instructor with an instructor course at the Central Flying School in Upavon. 

From the end of March he served with the 9th SFTS (Service Flying Training School) and in January 1942 he transferred to the 1st SS (Signals School) to fly with the new radiotelegraphers. On 8 Aug 1942 he joined the 3rd EFTS conducting initial training and proficiency testing of pilot cadets on Tiger Moth biplanes. Successful graduates of this initial Grading Course then went on to join RAF training units in Canada. During this period he attained officer status. In early October 1943 he headed for Hendon Base with 24 Transport Squadron and from August 1944 until the end of the war he performed similar duties with the Metropolitan Communications Squadron.

He returned to the liberated Czechoslovakia on 18.7.1945 and further served in the Air Transport Group in Kbely. In February 1946 he went into civilian life and resumed his pre-war employment with the CSA. Shortly after the communist coup, on 5 April 1948, he was sent to the 1st World Conference of Transport Pilots in London. Anticipating the onset of persecution and the subversion of his homeland, he remained in the UK. In October 1948, he was re-admitted to the RAF, with his last wartime rank of Flight Lieutenant (F/Lt, Captain). He flew many types of mainly jet aircraft until 1954, including long fighter sorties from Canada to Scotland and delivering new aircraft to troops in the Far East. He later went into private business and retired in 1973.

In 1991 he was rehabilitated and promoted to the rank of colonel of the air force, then in 2000 to major general.


Decorations for war service

Croix de Guerre (French War Cross) with three palms and two silver star, 3x Czechoslovak War Cross 1939, 2x Czechoslovak Medal for valour before the enemy,...


  • - Commemorative plaque on house No. 19 in Brnik

  • - In Prague 14, the street "Půdova" was named

Literature ​​

Joe, Čeští RAFáci, 2024

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