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Free Czechoslovak Air Force - Remembering the Czechoslovaks who served in the RAF in World War II

F/Lt Jaroslav LIŠKA (82618)

F/Lt Jaroslav LIŠKA (82618) - obrázek

F/Lt Jaroslav LIŠKA (82618) - obrázek

No 311 squadron

Wireless Operator/Air Gunner

Nar.: * 6/1/1917 Roškopov

Zom.: + 15/09/2008 Chipperfield (UK)


Jaroslav Vaclav Liska was born in Roskopov, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on the sixth of January 1917. His father Josef was serving at the time as a conscript at Gorici in the Italian Alps but heard of his youngest son's birth by telegram on the morning of the tenth of January. Later that day Josef was killed in an avalanche, and Jaroslav's mother died only three years later in the Spanish flu epidemic which was sweeping across Europe. The young boy was then taken in by his Uncle and Aunt who lived a few miles away in the town of Lazne Belohrad, but he was not officially adopted, and when he was called by his real name on his first day at school he said 'I am not Liska, I am Portych !' He was a Liska however, the name means 'Fox' in Czech, and one of his older brothers, Bohumil, took a great deal of responsibility for his welfare and education. At secondary school, in the town of Hradec Kralove, he read classics including Greek and Latin and passed baccalaureate, equivalent to our A levels, with distinction. The intention was for him to enter the priesthood, but one day Bohumil, already a serving officer in the Czech air force, intervened by taking him up in a biplane and performing aerobatics on his first ever flight. He decided to change his career path, entered Military Academy and then joined the Air Force instead.

 

After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, and the failure of France and Britain to honour their undertaking to help to protect the young republic, President Benes ordered his forces not to resist the invasion. Many Czech soldiers and airmen were not happy with this situation however and Jaroslav was one of many who escaped to join up with the fighting forces of other countries. In his case, with no visa, and under threat of death should he be caught, he crossed the Polish border with three friends and they joined the Foreign legion, acquiring provisional passports and visas in Krakov. Subsequently they sailed to France and enlisted in the French air force in Tours, learning fluent French which would stand them in good stead should they have ever been captured by the Germans. If this had happened they would have been executed as 'traitors of the third reich', and were instructed to speak French and claim to be Canadian!

 

When France fell in 1940 they were moved to Bordeaux and sailed to Falmouth, eventually joining 311 squadron where Jaroslav served as a wireless operator with Bomber command, becoming the first officer to reach 200 operational hours, all of them in Wellington bombers on missions over Germany. Stationed at East Wretham in Norfolk he and his friends spent much of their leisure time in Norwich and it was here, at Christmas time, that he met his future wife Rosemary. After bomber command he joined Ferry command and along with his pilot, Captain Korda, became the first Czech to fly across the Atlantic. Their job was to fly new American bombers, Hudsons and Venturas, from Newfoundland to Prestwick in Scotland, to replace planes lost in active service. It was in Prestwick that his first child Anna was born, and shortly afterwards the young family then moved to the Welsh Coast near Haverford West where he switched to Coastal Command, based at Talbenny.

 

Yet again he was flying Wellingtons, on long missions over the Bay of Biscay, ten of these with his brother Bohumil as pilot, before moving again to another Coastal Command base at Beaulieu in the New Forest, where he flew in four- engine American Liberators. When asked once which was his favourite plane he replied 'Liberator', why?, 'because it had radar', very handy for warning of the presence of German night fighters…

 

Later on he spent two weeks as an observer with American bomber crews in Flying Fortresses, and on one mission, after taking reconnaissance photos, returned to his seat to find that the pilot had placed his cap on it. He picked it up and saw that a piece of shrapnel had passed right through it, and asked the pilot if he could keep it as a souvenir but was told 'not on your life!' or words to that effect…Towards the end of the war he very unwillingly 'flew a desk' at RAF Northolt for two weeks before joining Transport Command. One mission, which took a whole week to fly in stages, took him all the way to Ceylon.

After the war he was promoted from Flight Lieutenant to Captain and returned to live in Czechoslovakia but was unable to settle due to the political situation, all of those who had served in the west being persecuted by their own people. Many of them were sent to concentration camps and his own brother was sentenced to eighteen months in solitary confinement by the emerging communist regime.

 

Returning to England at the end of 1946 he established a successful business importing fruit from his homeland but it soon foundered when the new communist regime nationalised the trade links. He even shared an office with Robert Maxwell for a while. Eventually the family, now numbering four with the addition of son Richard, moved to Watford, where Jaroslav first worked for Temple Electrical before joining an import/export company called Techna who had offices in Whitehall, staying with them for many years. He travelled extensively in Europe making good use of the German language skills he learnt at night school, and eventually established his own company, Lexim, before gradually retiring to spend more time enjoying his adopted Chipperfield and it's surrounding countryside, usually on long walks with pet dogs, Pepsi, Niki, and until very recently with Lucy.

 

For many years he regularly watched Watford FC, as well as supporting the Arsenal, and spoke knowledgeably on many subjects, especially history, and took great pleasure in news of, and time spent with, his three grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He was a kind, generous person, a true gentleman, and will be greatly missed by Anna, Richard and youngest son Steven.

                                                   This story was kindly provided by Mr Steven Liska

08.12.2008 09:29:37
munro
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To Airmen biographies section was added story of Cpl Ján BARCAJ from 310 and 311 squadron. Thank you very much to Ing. Dušan Ruppeld for adaptation of this story.

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