Czechoslovak RAF pilots commemorated at Winged Lion memorial event in Prague

The British community expressed its gratitude for the courage of airmen who fought for the freedom of their homeland from abroad.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 16.08.2021 13:28 (updated on 16.08.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

The 76th anniversary of the homecoming of Czechoslovak pilots who fought with Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War has been commemorated at Prague’s Winged Lion Memorial. The ceremony celebrated the courage of the 2,513 airmen who fought for their homeland from overseas, and who are now the subject of a major documentary film to be released in 2022.

“The Czechoslovak pilots who fought with the RAF in the Battle of Britain and throughout the rest of the Second World War were renowned for their bravery and skill,” says Colonel David Catmur, British Defence Attaché to the Czech Republic. “Admired by their British counterparts and feared by the Nazi forces who occupied their homeland, they deserve our continued gratitude.”

A new documentary feature film, “The Winged Lions”, will tell the story of the Czechoslovak airmen through purely archive footage including previously unseen material. The film, produced by NOW Productions, is supported by the Czech Film Fund and will have a cinema release in summer 2022, followed by broadcast on Česká televize and Slovenská televize in early 2023.

The RAF and Czech flags flown together at the Winged Lion / photo via Best Communications
The RAF and Czech flags flown together at the Winged Lion / photo via Best Communications

Financing for the film is also being supported by the Winged Lion Memorial Appeal Fund, which raised money for the installation of the two-metre-high bronze statue in Prague’s Klarov area in 2014.

“The Winged Lion Memorial is a fitting tribute to the memory of these true heroes,” says Gordon Lovitt, Managing Director of NOW Productions. “Our film will bring the airmen’s tales vividly to life for a new generation by following their actions both in the skies and on the ground in Great Britain and across Europe. The story of the Czechoslovak airmen takes us on an Odyssean journey to both the Western and Eastern fronts of the war, while putting the humanity of these young men front and center.”

The Winged Lion was financed by donations from British expat communities in the Czech and Slovak Republics who wished to express their gratitude for the pilots’ RAF service. It was unveiled in 2014 by Sir Nicholas Soames, a former British Member of Parliament and the grandson of Britain’s wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill.

Sir Nicholas Soames and WWII veterans at the unveiling of the Winged Lion in 2014 / photo via Best Communications
Sir Nicholas Soames and WWII veterans at the unveiling of the Winged Lion in 2014 / photo via Best Communications

The documentary film currently under production is the latest in a number of initiatives launched following the unveiling of the Winged Lion in 2014. An illustrated book was created telling the pilots' stories, while a major exhibition about the pilots entitled “Knights of Heaven” opened in Prague’s National Museum in June 2019. In November 2017, a plinth was unveiled below the Memorial bearing the names of all 2,513 airmen who fought with the RAF.

“The Winged Lion Memorial and annual ceremony is an excellent way to demonstrate our country’s appreciation of the bravery of the Czech and Slovak airmen in WWII and to underline the strong kindred spirit which has united the Czech and Slovak Republics with Great Britain since 1989,” said Euan Edworthy MBE, initiator of the Winged Lion memorial.

Publish your story to Expats.cz Find out more