Eduard Prchal

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Eduard Maximilian Prchal (January 1, 1911, Dolní Břežany — December 4,[1] 1984, St. Helena, California) was a Czech pilot.

Biography[edit]

Eduard Prchal was born into a family of cabinet makers. After completing his secondary education he worked for a brief period as a car sales representative. In October 1930 he was required to do military service; with help of his uncle, a colonel, he successfully applied to the Czech Air Force. His basic flying training ended in October 1931 and he was posted to an observation squadron based at Hradec Králové. Prchal was soon recognised as being a skilled pilot. In 1932 he graduated from his flying training as an operational military pilot, and in 1934 completed night flying training. Prchal served in the army until May 1937. Then he joined the Baťa company, as a commercial pilot.

On June 22, 1939, soon after the German occupation of Czech lands, Prchal illegally crossed the border into Poland and a week later arrived in France. There he joined the French Foreign Legion (the alternative was deportation). When World War II started he joined the French Armee de l'Air and during the Battle of France achieved three ‘kills’. Two days after the capitulation of France he flew from Bordeaux to Bayonne and boarded a ship to England. There he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and was later posted to 310 Czechoslovak Squadron. He destroyed three enemy aircraft and shared in the destruction of three more.[2] On March 1941 Prchal was posted as an instructor to train fighter pilots. At this time Prchal volunteered for training to be a night fighter pilot. Eventually he was transferred to Transport Command and repeatedly flew to Gibraltar and Malta. His role was also to fly VIP passengers to the Middle and Far East.

Eduard Prchal is primarily known as the pilot during the June 1943 Gibraltar crash that resulted in the death of the commander-in-chief of the Polish Army Władysław Sikorski, among others (16 in all).[3] Prchal, heavily injured, was the only survivor. In September 1943 he resumed his role of flying VIPs and continued with long haul flights until the end of the war.

In September 1943 he married Dolores Prchal (Czech: Dolores Prchalová, née Dolores Šperková, 1915-1990) [2][4]

In August 1945 Prchal returned to Czechoslovakia and joined its Air Force, until demobilization in early 1946. Then he worked as the chief pilot for Czechoslovak National Airline (ČSA). After the Communist Party took the power in 1948 he felt distrust of the new regime and feared he will get arrested. On 30 September 1950 [5] Prchal, his wife, daughter and six others flew from Prague to RAF Manston in England in a stolen plane.[6]

Being unable to find job as a pilot Prchal and his wife moved in 1952 to the USA. Here too, as a foreigner, he failed to obtain work in the air force or in the aeronautical industry. Until retirement in 1978 he worked in the education sector in California.

Sikorski crash theories[edit]

In 1967, Rolf Hochhuth, a German playwright, included one theory of the 1943 crash in his play ‘Soldiers: An Obituary for Geneva’. Here it was an ‘accident’ initiated by Winston Churchill who had instructed the British Secret Service to make the necessary arrangements. Unaware that Prchal is still alive, the pilot was accused of participating in this plot. Libel case resulted and court in London found in favour of Prchal and awarded him substantial damages and costs (50 thousand British pounds). Hochhuth moved to Switzerland and avoided the payments. London theatre agreed to out of court compensation.

Prchal was later interviewed several times about the crash.

Literature[edit]

  • Miloslav Pajer: Křídla pro vítězství a poválečnou obnovu - Českoslovenští letci u dopravních jednotek RAF a ve vojenském poválečném dopravním letectvu ČSR (1940-1950) (Wings for victory and postwar reconstruction - Czechoslovak pilots in transport units of RAF and postwar Czechoslovakia), 2004, ISBN 978-80-86808-11-6.
  • Vojenské osobnosti československého odboje (Military figures of Czechoslovak resistance), 2005, Vojenský historický ústav Praha – Vojenský historický ústav Bratislava, ISBN 80-7278-233-9. Available online (pages 238 - 239).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Some sources claim date of death as December 12, 1984.
  2. ^ a b "The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. E M Prchal", at the "Battle of Britain London Monument" project
  3. ^ Tadeusz Kisielewski, Zamach. Tropem zabójców generała Sikorskiego. Poznań, Dom Wydawniczy Rebis, 2006. ISBN 83-7301-767-4.
  4. ^ Short biography of Dolores Šperková/Prchalová (in Czech)
  5. ^ Some sources claim Prchal fled on September 30, 1949. Other dates can be also found.
  6. ^ They Flew To Exile (both in Czech and English)

External links[edit]