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Thread: Foreign nationals serving in the RAF

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    Default Foreign nationals serving in the RAF

    During the war many men from occupied european countries served in the RAF, but did this require the consent of the head of that country's government in exile? What I am thinking of is a civilian individual with no known military affiliation (in this case a Czech national), arriving in the UK, undergoing a period of quarantine, then volunteering for military service.

    I've a feeling there may not be a simple answer, but I'm hoping there was some protocol.

    Brian

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    Brian
    I can only give you an answer from a Danish perspective. Denmark did not have a government in exile. Until 29 August 1943 the Danish government cooperated with the occupying German forces in the country.

    But on the initiative of the Danish Council in London (Danes in exile) and British authorities a Recruiting Office, Danish nationals was established in the fall of 1941. Until then Danish nationals volunteered on individual initiative and in some cases, according to them, they were turned downed as Danish.

    Following the establishment of the Recruiting Office, which was formally under British authority, I have a number of letters in which the Recruiting officer, Captain Iversen, testifies that "we, as Danish Council, have no claim on the military service of..." In addition they are often asked about different kinds of background information.

    Hope this helps, even if I think this matter was rather country specific.

    Mikkel
    Britain's Victory, Denmark's Freedom. Danish Volunteers in Allied Air Forces During the Second World War
    fb.me/britainsvictorydenmarksfreedom
    danishww2pilots.dk - a resource on Danish aircrew during the Second World War

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    Brian

    there was a protocol in Czechoslovak cases, Czechoslovak volunteer needed permission of president Dr. E. Benes (head of Czechoslovak government in exike) to join RAF.
    In some cases Czechoslovak volunteers received this permission additionally after some period of service.
    I know one case, when RAF asked Czechoslovak volunteer for this permission in Combined Recruit Centre. He was civilian individual with no known military affiliation as in your matter.
    However, there are cases when Czechoslovak nationals served without this permission till the end of the ww2.

    it is a bit complicated answer, but if you provide me with the name of this Czech individual, I can help you more.

    hope this helps

    Milan
    Last edited by munro; 29th December 2012 at 13:13.

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    Many thanks Milan, I will email you.

    Brian

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    Hi Brian,
    Just a point to bear in mind: be very careful with the dates. I believe the man you are looking at came over from France in 1940, On the 21st July 1940, the Provisional Czechoslovak Government was recognised by the British Government but there was a de facto administration before that (based in Putney, London SW15) that had been 'acknowledged' in 1939 by both Britain and France. The status of the UK based government in exile evolved and grew stronger as more countries recognised it's authority, but 1940-41 was a time when rules were still being made.

    My impression (not that I can prove it), is that if a Czech wanted to get into one or other of the UK's armed services in 1940, he could provided he brought some skills with him. Why a Czech would prefer to join the RAF instead of throwing in his lot with his own services is another question.

    Bruce
    http://www.filephotoservice.co.uk/
    RESEARCH AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES & OTHER UK INSTITUTIONS

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    Hi chaps,

    well as Bruce mentioned " Why a Czech would prefer to join the RAF instead of throwing in his lot with his own services is another question." - it is very good question, the answer is also quite clear but a little bit disappointing.

    The main problem was that our airmen were members of RAF VR and the Czechoslovak Army at once. So there were still used Czechoslovak pre-war army rules etc. and they had also two ranks - Czechoslovak and RAF which were not corresponding in the most cases.

    There is a nice example of Slovak Fighter Pilot Otto Smik who thanks to his skills finished pilot training as P/O but in the Czechoslovak rank was still NCO (I think something around Cpl only) and officers of 312 Sq refused to accommodate him in the Officers Quarters as he was not officers in their eyes...
    So he had a short talk with the Station CO and the next day started his Ace service with the 122 Sq...

    Other example is from 311 Sq when the airmen were complain on the time they spend on one operational tour - in some cases it was more than year but the time in the equivalent British squadrons was shorter... The reason was that the Czechoslovak Inspectorate General was short of experienced airmen and was scheduling the available sources to keep the squadron still going...

    So there were many such a small disillusions which leads Czechoslovak airmen to effort to serve with other then Czechoslovak squadrons - and if lucky to serve with other they were trying to stay there as long as possible. (It must be said that Czechoslovak pilots serving with British fighter units like 1, 111, 601 Sq, etc. were always rated by British COs in superlatives and they wanted to keep them in their units.

    So those are only few bits and pieces to explain the situation which were different form the Polish independent air force. In fact the situation of Czechoslovak airmen were much complicated than one can expect...

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Hello Pavel,
    Thanks, I knew I could count on you to complete the story!
    Yes, nothing was straightforward for those who ended up in the UK, but I suppose the biggest hurdle to overcome was the vetting: if a displaced foreigner passed the scrutiny of the infamous British Secret Services then at least they were able to look for employment, whether in aid of the armed forces, intelligence or production.

    Regards,
    Bruce
    http://www.filephotoservice.co.uk/
    RESEARCH AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES & OTHER UK INSTITUTIONS

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    Yes the British Secret Service was the first in sequence! But in most cases they have no remarks to Czechoslovak soldiers/remarks, more problems had politics who were in opposition of exile government:)

    Quite funny was also story of Czechoslovak officer serving with Free Frenches - several Czechoslovak officers left to de Gaulle - with permission from president Benes - as there was so many officers in 1940 and lack of men that some platoons were formed from officers serving without their original Czechoslovak ranks...
    He was returning to UK and when the Frenches were asked if there is such an officer serving in their army British Secret Service got negative answer! Fortunately this error was explained quickly - he present himself as Captain as he was not informed that he was already promoted to the Major during his journey so he was not found among Captains:)

    Well there were also some rebels - mostly NCOs- of communist thinking or others - who was placed to the working camps when they refused to serve in Summer 1940 after the tragic events in France when they claimed they lost their confidence in Czechoslovak officers.

    Afterwards it was nearly impossible to get back to flying. The Selection Board was always mixture of Czechoslovak and British/RAF officers and the first ones always remove the "destructive elements" properly. Recently I have read a book of one pilot with communist pilot who standing in front of such a Selection Board got to the RAF only thanks to the RAF officer who was not able to understand why his Czechoslovak colleague does not want to accept such a experienced pilot! So finally in Dec 1942 he got to a Czechoslovak Fighter Squadron just till the Jan 1944 when he left with the group of 21 Czechoslovak airmen for USSR to create a Czechoslovak fighter unit there...

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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    Thank you all for your fascinating responses, both on and off board. Your advice has certainly opened my eyes, and my man, Kraus (whom some have guessed), definitely falls into the category described by Milan and Pavel.

    He had been working as a civilian research meteorologist in Norway, but left for France shortly before Norway was invaded by German forces. It's not clear what he intended to do, but it was either to join the French meteorological service or become a pilot with the French Air Force (he held a private pilot's licence). It didn't really matter as most of his time in France was spent in retreat. He managed to reach Gibraltar, where he took passage on a collier bound for the UK.

    So far so good, but also on the ship was a senior Czech officer and the two didn't get on, an experience that made him wary of Czech officers. Once in the UK he was held in Pentonville prison for a coupe of weeks, then asked to become a private in the Czech army in Britain. However, because he had meteorological experience he was also offered a commission as P/O in the RAFVR (Met Branch).

    "Like other armies-in-exile the Czechs were desperately short of enlisted men (officers are much more mobile in defeat). Pilot Officer sounded grander than Private 2nd Class; it also seemed to offer the chance of flying again. The decision to join the RAF was clinched after a talk with Col. Kalla who was the military attache at the Czech embassy. He told me not to be a fool and to use my opportunity. (Kalla was executed in Prague after the communist take-over.)"

    (Source is an article in the Meteorological Magazine, written by Kraus in 1985).

    Brian

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    Hi Brian,

    well in case of Kraus there is one more reason - he was of Jewish origin if I am right - and unfortunately there were also recorded acts of anti-semitism in Czechoslovak squadrons and army. Mostly NCOs were often complaining that the Jewish officers are "schlockmeisters" and doing anything only for their profit... So this was another very hot problem.

    As for Col. Kalla I need to make a small correction - he was fired out from army by communist regime on 1.6.1948 but died suddenly on 24.11.1948 in Prague.

    But back to Kraus - in his case I think that the best explanation of his decision was as Col. Kalla said: "He told me not to be a fool and to use my opportunity."

    Also do not forget that the Czech army in UK saw no action till 1944 at Dunkirk. Before there was only training and patrolling on English coast....


    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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