601 (County of London) Squadron

Squadron Historical Database

Bernard, Frantisek

Frantisek Antonin Bernard was born on 23rd July 1914 in Stare Krecany in Czechoslovakia. After graduating from secondary school he trained as an aircraft mechanic. In 1936 he commenced pilot training with the Czech Air Force in Prostejov and on qualifying went on to a fighter school at Hradec Kralove. After the German takeover in March 1939 he escaped to Poland but the Czech units there were still disorganised when Poland was invaded so Bernard made his way to France by sea on the Kastelholm, arriving at Calais from Gydnia on 24th August 1939.

He enlisted in l’Armee de l’Air and was posted to GC II/2 on 13th May 1940. They operated the MS406 from Laon-Chambry. After the German assault the unit retreated from Lyon to Montpelier and then to Perpignan. He was able to board the General Chanzy at Port Vendres, which took him to Oran.

He went by train to Casablanca and was able to sail from there to England. On 12th July he arrived at the Czech depot at Castle Cholmondeley and on 26th July was processed into the RAF as a Sergeant. He was posted to 310 Squadron at Duxford on 6th August. After assessment he was posted to 6 OTU on the 17th to convert to Hurricanes. He was then sent to 601 Squadron at Debden on 11th September.

Bernard moved to 238 Squadron at Chilbolton on 8th October. He shared in the destruction of a Ju88 with F/Lt. EJ Morris on 23rd March 1941.

On 1st May 1941 he joined 32 Squadron at Pembrey and on 10th June shared a He111.

Bernard instructed at 56 OTU from 13th December 1941 till 6th August 1942 and was commissioned in April that year.

He then returned to operations with 313 (Czech) Squadron, serving until 22nd June 1943. His next posting was to the Inspectorate of the Czechoslovak Air Force (CIG) in London, he returned for another tour with 313 on 1st May 1944. This was interrupted on the 22nd May when he was made Flight Commander of ‘B’ Flight of 310 (Czech) Squadron.

He was still serving in this posting when the war ended. Bernard returned to Czechoslovakia but, like so many ex-RAF airmen, he was purged by the communist government in 1948.

He returned to England and rejoined the RAF. He received a Mention in Despatches (gazetted 6th March 1956) for distinguished service in Kenya and was awarded the AFC (gazetted 1st January 1957).

He retired on 23rd July 1964 as a Flight Lieutenant and emigrated to New Zealand, he died there on 17th June 1980.

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