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Thread: 55 OTU Hurricane pilot reported to be a traitor (18 Sep 1941)

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    Default 55 OTU Hurricane pilot reported to be a traitor (18 Sep 1941)

    I found this on the forum after reading the news article
    (AIR81/9163) Sergeant A Preucil (Czech): missing believed killed; aircraft failed to return from operational flight, Hurricane W9147, 55 Operational Training Unit, 18 September 1941.


    Published by the Guardian Published on Sun 15 Jun 2003 Journalist - Paul Harris
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/...is.theobserver


    Hero pilot unmasked as Hitler's spy in the RAF

    He died in an accident over the North Sea on 18 September, 1941, as he practised dog-fighting with a trainee Polish flier. His Hurricane fighter was seen spiralling towards the water, smoke trailing behind it. That is where Preucil's story should have ended: another brave young man lost during the war. But a chance discovery has unearthed a surprise twist: Preucil did not die that day, nor was he a hero.

    He has been unmasked as a spy who betrayed the Allies for money as an agent of the Gestapo. He was the only known German agent successfully to infiltrate the RAF during the Battle of Britain.

    The first clue to Preucil's double identity was uncovered by an amateur aviation historian, Richard Chapman, who, while sifting through old photographs from the German National Aviation Museum, noticed a 1941 picture of a Hurricane on display among German aircraft. The serial number was clearly visible. Chapman traced the serial number and was astonished to find the plane was Preucil's: the same one listed as having crashed into the sea, killing the pilot.

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    That was the trigger for Chapman and another aviation historian, Roy Nesbit, to try to solve the mystery of what really happened to Preucil. After reading documents from Britain, France, Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic, the truth emerged: a tale of wartime espionage and betrayal.

    Preucil was born in Trebsin, near the German border in what was then Czechoslovakia. He joined the Czech Air Force as a pilot and, when his country slid under Nazi control in 1938, records show that Preucil applied to join the Luftwaffe. He was rejected on racial grounds. In the summer of 1939, Preucil tried to leave for South America, but was arrested at the border by the Gestapo. That is when Preucil decided - or was forced - to become a spy.

    His mission was to infiltrate an underground network of East European pilots fleeing to France and Britain. His 'escape' into Poland was staged. At the border post of Frystat a mock gunfight was laid on by German troops. Through the gunfire Preucil stumbled into Polish territory and reached Krakow. His path then followed other pilots and resistance figures from Poland to France and Britain as German armies marched across Europe.

    In England he joined the RAF as a pilot but contrived to stay in rear squadrons. Chapman and Nesbit believe he deliberately flew poorly so as not to be chosen for combat. That meant he was able to collect intelligence on RAF organisation and personnel.

    For more than a year Preucil was a pilot during the air battle against Hitler. But in September 1941 he decided to escape. 'We don't know why he chose then. Perhaps he was afraid of being caught or perhaps he had completed his mission,' Chapman said.

    It is believed Preucil faked his death. While training with a novice pilot, he went into a dive. The trainee assumed he had crashed. In fact, Preucil pulled out of the dive just above the waves and headed for Europe. A German anti-aircraft report on the same day describes a British fighter crossing the Belgian coast at Flushing at the right time.

    Preucil landed at Ortho in Belgium. He was sheltered by a farmer and members of the Belgian resistance who took him to be a crashed RAF flier. Next day Preucil walked up to some German soldiers and chatted to them. The farmer, Léon Charlier, and a resistance fighter, Armand Durand, were seized by the Gestapo and were later shot.

    In Prague, Preucil collected 10,000 reichsmarks, a huge sum. He joined the Gestapo and interrogated captured Czech pilots. He knew many of them, having served with them in the RAF.

    Preucil's talent for treachery found its final use in the concentration camp of Theresienstadt. Posing as a captured Czech pilot, he was used as a stool pigeon among Czech political prisoners. Again his spying is believed to have cost many of them their lives. He was captured in Prague at the war's end. In 1947, after a trial in which his betrayals were revealed, he was hanged.

    Yet one secret remains. Chapman and Nesbit believe Preucil had a German handler who also joined the RAF, a Gestapo agent more senior to him. 'At the moment, I don't think we have the whole story,' Nesbit said.

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    Default Re: 55 OTU Hurricane pilot reported to be a traitor (18 Sep 1941)

    Yes Pete he was the "black sheep" of the Czechoslovak air force in the RAF.

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

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    Default Re: 55 OTU Hurricane pilot reported to be a traitor (18 Sep 1941)

    It was reported in the local press after the war when he was on trial.

    He had married a local girl and they lived at Hill View Gardens, Tunstall, Sunderland. He disappeared 3 months after their wedding and was posted missing, and indeed his photo was printed in the 'Roll of Honour' in the Sunderland Echo on October 4th 1941. His wife was told he had been killed on a training flight. It was claimed at the trial in 1947 that Preucil had shot down and killed a Polish pupil pilot during the escape.

    She had no idea of his treachery until it came to light in 1946, and she had tried in vain to clear his name. She received a notification of his death (for the second time) on 28th April 1947.

    Regards

    Simon

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    Default Re: 55 OTU Hurricane pilot reported to be a traitor (18 Sep 1941)

    Apparently a roll of executions in his homeland show

    14 April 1947 hanged Přeučil Augustin ( born 28 Aug 1915)

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