Emil Boček, the last WWII Czech RAF pilot, dies at 100
The early years of WWII were a dark time for Britain. Left alone to stand against Nazi Germany in Europe after the fall of France, the RAF desperately needed pilots to hold off the Luftwaffe's attacks across the English Channel. Keen to fight back against the Nazis, Czech pilots played a key role in the RAF during the Battle of Britain and the duration of the war. The last surviving Czech RAF pilot of the war, Gen. Emil Boček, died on March 25, 2023 at the age of 100.
Boček was born in Czechoslovakia on February 25, 1923. Following the country's occupation by Germany, he fled in 1939 at the age of 16. Boček made his way to Beirut and then France where, during the summer of 1940, he fought against the German invasion before crossing the channel to England. In September 1940, he began his RAF career in No. 312 Squadron where he served as a plane mechanic.
In October 1942, Boček was selected for pilot training. The next year, he underwent his training in Alberta, Canada before returning to Europe to fly Spitfires. In October 1944, Boček began flying combat missions with No. 310 Squadron. He flew a total of 26 missions and was one of the youngest Czechoslovak pilots to fly operationally during WWII.
On one mission Boček was forced to land in Brussels, Belgium. A flat tire forced him to remain there for three days. He had no way of contacting his squadron back in England. "When I came back, everyone wondered what I was doing there," Boček recounted to his biographer. "They already declared me dead because I didn't report."
For his service during WWII, Boček was awarded the Order of the White Lion. The award was presented to him by Czech President Václav Klaus in 2010. Boček lived the majority of his life in the Czech city of Brno which awarded him an honorary citizenship in 2018. For his 100th birthday, Boček received a congratulatory greeting from Britain's King Charles III.
On March 25, 2023, a war veteran community center in Brno reported Boček's passing. This was later confirmed by the Czech Ministry of Defence. "General Boček was fighting for our country to be democratic, free and independent," said Czech President Petr Fiala.