Monday, May 04, 2009

Sea Rescue FL/Lt. Cenek Chalupka-RAF

This is the true story of a Czechoslovakian officer in the Royal Air Force in 1941.

Four hurricanes flying low on the water, skimmed over the English Channel bound for Belgium. It was somewhere near twelve, midday, on the 29th August, 1941, a lovely war day with a soft haze cutting down on our visibility. We carried assorted armament between us. Two of the "Kites" with 12 machine guns each, one with four cannons and one, myself with two 150lbs bombs.

We crossed the coast with no opposition from hostile flak and wheeling left soon picked up a canal which we were to follow inland for some twenty miles before reaching our target, a concentration of German flak ships in some small harbour.

The unexpected always occurs, however! Some miles before reaching our objective we came over a single flak ship in the canal. Immediately the C.O's voice came over the radio: "Attack...Attack...Go..!

Down we went one after another, myself with the eggs last. I pressed the button and down went a bomb scoring a hit on the flak ship. Contrary to expectations however the bomb burst immediately instead of the usual seven second delay before detonation which enables the aircraft to reach a safe distance before the explosion. My aircraft rocked violently in the explosion and i caught the sound of the false note of the engine. I reported this to the C.O. and duly received instructions to join the formation and continue to the target.
Soon the harbour and six falk ships appeared and in we went once again to the attack. After a fast and furious engagement we pulled away and headed for the coast. Things were going from bad to worst, howeveer, with my engine and with my speed down to 140 m.p.h. It was decidedly unpleasant when a heavy barrage opened up at us as we crossed the coast. The old "Hurribus" staggered on until some thirty miles from the English coast the inevitable happened. Smoke and fire began to come uf from the cockpit floor.

I did not waste much time in pulling onto my back and dropping out of the aircraft. My parachute had hardly opened when i hit the water. Down and down i went swallowing most of the English channel before reaching the surface again. My C.O. was circling overhead and sending back my position by wireless as i got into the collasible dinghy. A little later two spitfires were overhead patrolling. Two and a half hour later, by means of a smoke flame dropped by the Spitfires, i was picked up by an R.A.F. sea rescue boat and taken to Ramsgate in nice time to a celebration party that night.

"Cheko" (A regular Czechoslovakian Airforce officer) joined the Polish Air Force after Munich, after the French and then the to RAF after France. In each case, he rose from the ranks to commissioned rank. He was decorated by most governments for his war efforts.

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