Brown, Alan Clifford
The Czechoslovak Air Force in Britain, 1940-1945.
University of Southampton, Faculty of Arts, School of Humanities,
After the defeat of France in 1940, the surviving service personnel of several occupied
European nations were evacuated to Britain where they reconstituted air and army units
under the military control of the Allied High Command. Politically, however, they were
the responsibility of their own national governments which were also exiled as Germany
consolidated its gains in Europe, and this diversity of interests often produced sharp
conflict. This study examines the political, military and social experiences of one such
The central thesis is that the Czechoslovak Air Force in Britain was first and last a
political tool to be used by the governments of both nations; first by the British as a means
of international propaganda; then by the Czechoslovaks as a means of gaining prestige and
influence while in exile; and last by the British again as a foil to the Soviets. To test the
thesis, the study is divided into three parts, each of which is sub-divided into a series of
themes through which the emigre experience can be explored.
Part One examines the escape of the air personnel from France; the serious effect their
arrival had upon the political relationship between the British Government and the
Czechoslovak National Committee headed by Edvard Benes; the complex development of
a military agreement between the two parties; the formation of the first two fighter
squadrons; and the internal dissent and rebellion within the air contingent itself.
Part Two examines the social and practical aspects of emigre life, concentrating on the
provisions made by the Air Ministry and the British Council for the training and welfare of
the men. Also examined are the two primary problems which faced the Czechoslovak Air
Force throughout the war: the lack of recruitment and the quest for fully independent
Part Three is concerned with the Czechoslovaks' attempts to break free from British
control and return to their homeland; first as combatants in the Slovak Uprising of 1944,
and second as heroes returning to liberated Czechoslovakia in 1945. On both occasions,
the British raised obstacles, and the section concludes with an examination of the British
efforts to use the air contingent to gain a political foothold in the post-war Soviet sphere
Overall, the study demonstrates that the British political and military establishments
maintained an attitude of distrust and sometimes contempt for the Czechoslovaks.
Political friction often affected the military context, and examples of hypocrisy and blatant
deceit illustrate that the public and private views of this small Allied force were sharply at
variance. The study also demonstrates that the existing interpretations of the recognition
of the Provisional Czechoslovak Government in 1940 are flawed in that they do not
sufficiently take into account the military pressures of the time.
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