King Charles congratulates Czech pilot on turning 100

Emil Boček is the last surviving Czech pilot who fought for the British Royal Air Force during World War II.

Thomas Smith ČTK

Written by Thomas SmithČTK Published on 16.03.2023 11:54:00 (updated on 16.03.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The UK’s King Charles III on Thursday congratulated a former Czech pilot who served for the British Royal Air Force (RAF) on turning 100 years old.

The king wrote a letter thanking Emil Boček for his service to the UK, and his display of “indomitable bravery, determination, and devotion.” Boček’s birthday was on Feb. 25.

Boček is the last surviving Czech pilot who fought for the RAF during World War II.

The British ambassador to the Czech Republic, Matt Field, visited Boček in Brno Wednesday to personally present the letter.

Boček left Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia to fight at the age of 16, and shortly afterward he joined the RAF to work as a mechanic. From 1944 he participated in aerial combat in the Czechoslovak 310th Fighter Squadron, the longest-serving unit that fought for the RAF.

Boček piloted 26 operational flights, flying for a total of 73 hours and 50 minutes. 

After the war, Boček worked as a turner at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences until his retirement in 1988. He met with British Queen Elizabeth II for an interview in March 1996.

A decorated veteran, still remembered

In April 1990 he was promoted to the rank of army captain, and in October of the same year became a major. Almost exactly 20 years ago, he was promoted to the rank of retired colonel. Former President Miloš Zeman then made him a retired army general in 2019.

In 2010, then-President Václav Klaus awarded him the highest state award, the Order of the White Lion. Zeman similarly in 2021 awarded Boček with bronze, silver, and gold memorial medals for the pilot’s contributions during World War II.

In 2012, filmmakers made a documentary titled “Unbreakable,” which depicted his life in the RAF and the years preceding it. He also has a tram in Brno named after him. He campaigned for placing a statue of former President Edvard Beneš in the city.

An RAF monument in Malá Strana (Photo: Raymond Johnston)
A monument in Malá Strana for Czechs and Slovaks who served in the RAF. Photo: Raymond Johnston

Chief of Staff Karel Řehka said that about 120 Czech World War II veterans are still alive today. 

The commemoration of Boček’s birthday is a reminder of the sacrifices that Czechs made for the UK, and – with 2,500 Czechs having served for the RAF in the war – the close cooperation between both countries.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more