note : Military ranks and other proper nouns have been retained in
It is only recently he has received the
honours and recognition due to him at an official ceremony on the 20th
October 2007 at Heuilley-le-Grand in the presence of civil and military
The fact that this ceremony took place at all is due entirely to the good offices, determination and personal commitment of Mr Serge
Forgeot, Mayor of the Commune who, through his perseverance overcame all obstacles and lethargy in order to inscribe in memory and stone the sacrifice of this young Tchèque pilot.
Mister Serge Forgeot contacted me in November and it was his sincere and moving account of
events, his capacity to pass from words to action in order to evoke the duty of remembrance that brought about the creation of this special page on Histavia21.
This page dedicated to Emil Moravek is for all the Tchèque pilots in the Air Force who came to fight under our French flag for honour and
We wish to honour them all.
Moravek found death and honour at the age of 26.
It is recorded in the official report that « on the fifteenth June one thousand nine hundred and forty at seventeen hundred
hours, a male person whose identity could not be established, died at a local spot known as
Rouillot, his body severely burnt following the crash of his Curtiss aircraft with the tail number 11 and piloted by this
He was seen some hours before the accident and is described as being 19 to 20 years
old, of average height, short brown hair, wearing the uniform of a pilot and having declared himself to be of Tchécoslovaque origine.
He was born on the 8th June 1914 in the small village of Slépotice in Tchécoslovaquie, a province of Pardubice, near Prague.
He entered the military school at Prostejov in 1933. He was later attached to the Fighter Squadron No. 1 TG Mazaryk at Prague and in early 1938 was based at Hradec Kralové
Like his compatriots he would fall victim to political events that would forever stigmatize his country.
The summer of 1938 saw the Nazis make their false claims on the territory of the Sudètes.
Russia and Tchécoslovaquie were excluded from the Munich conference on 29th September thus handing to Hitler on a plate the territories claimed by
Whilst in Paris, Daladier received a hero’s welcome as the Prince of
Peace, there was nothing but dispair in Tchécoslovaquie.
On the 15th March 1939 German troops invaded Tchécoslovaquie. Bohême and Moravie became Protectorates of the Reich while Slovaquie was made an independant State, allied to
Tchécoslovaquie, once an example of modern democracy in Central Europe, no longer existed and was erased from the
The German occupation put an immediate end to Emil’s military
career. He was stripped of all rank and thrown out of service.
It is not difficult to imagine his bitterness but that led only to increase his determination to do something about his lot.
Refusing to give in, he decided to fight on to the end
and, with the help of the Tchèque Aviators’ Union which had contact with France via
Poland, Slovaquie and Yougoslavie, he left his country in 1939 with other pilots to continue the struggle. The escape route was via Cracovie in Poland in order to get to the port of Gdynia on the Baltic coast from where boats sailed for France. On the 27th July 1939, 200 Tchèque airmen embarked on the Swedish ship
« Castelholm » bound for Calais.
It is very probable that Emil Moravek was part of this group or of another following the same route.
Upon arrival in France the pilots had no other choice for military service than to join the Foreign Legion in which they had to sign on for a period of five years as an ordinary
soldier, thus losing the hard-earned rank in the Tchèqie Forces.
The majority were officers or N.C.O.s but now received disappointing pay of 5 cents, hardly the pay of an
However, they were promoted to Corporal on 1st December 1939 with the corresponding pay of 1.75 Francs.
In La Targette Cemetery in the Pas de Calais can be seen a number of Tchèque crosses marked :
It was a sad arrival in France for the airmen and an extremely sad time for the country. France had not, or perhaps more
accurately, could not openly welcome these pilots who had answered the call to
Fortunately for them, the respect and friendship shown by French pilots was always warm and
The political situation was ever changing but the promise made to the Tchèque « légionnaire » pilots to incorporate them into the French Air Force was honoured as soon as war was
This decision was received with immense joy. All they wanted was to go into combat as soon as possible and at any cost.
Emil Moravek was transferred to the C.I.C, Centre d’Instruction de Chasse N°. 6 at Chartres on 10th October 1939.
He joined the GC 1/8 Fighter Group on 19th May 1940 and on 3rd June he was one of the last three Tchèque pilots sent to reinforce GC 1/5 which had arrived in the afternoon from Saint
The Sergents-Chef Emil Moravek and Jiri Reznicek went to 1 Squadron ; the Corporal-chef Zdenek Kothera to 2 Squadron.
Emil Moravek was to fly in the Curtiss H-75, his aircraft was H-75A1 N°.57, coded 11 in 1 Squadron.
Under the orders of Commander Murtin, he flew combat missions with some of the great air aces
Captain Alois Vasatko who died a hero’s death in England on 23rd June 1942 at the head of his Tchèque squadron (12
victories), Lieutenant Marin la Meslée (16 confirmed victories during 1939 and 1940), Lieutenant Adolf Vrana (2
victories), Sous-Lieutenant Marcel Rouquette (8 victories),Sous Lieutenant Georges Brian who arrived on 10th June (1
victory), Sous Lieutenant Yves le Calvez (3 victories), Sergent-Chef Dominique Penzini (9
victories), Sergent-Chef Léon Vuillemain (9 victories), Sergent Gérard Muselli (6
On the 11th June, GC 1/5 based at Saint Dizier did their best to hold on to the front line but had to fall back to
Saint-Parres-les-Vaudes, they stayed one day and then set off for Avallon in the Yonne on Thursday the 13th
June. Saint-Dizier was occupied from the 14th June.
Saturday the 15th June was one of the blackest days in our
region, towards 06h30 the enemy entered Langres. The troops fell back in disorder in the midst of a mass of civilians fleeing before the advancing German
There was constant fear of a German air attack against both the military and
civilians ; worried glances to the sky brought anxiety and fear. The German Air Force appeared to be master of the skies and we wonder
« where are our planes ? »
Today we know that the French Air Force was very active at that time and suffered heavy
At Hûme the D.520 of Cdt. Pépin of GC II/7 was shot down by three German fighter planes, the pilot died
The pilots of GC 1/5 undertook continuous sorties to protect the retreat of ground
From 11h30 to 12h30 two patrols of two fighters charged with the protection of a recognition mission on the Bar-le-Duc sector / Sainte Mènehould attacked three Dornier 17 entering our
Led by Lt. Marin la Meslèe the dog fight lasted twenty minutes, the three Dornier eventually disappeared in the
Abandoning the chase the patrol leader, Lt. Marin-la-Meslèe decided to head south to Til-Chatel in the Côte d’Or in the hope of being able to refuel before the ground fuel tanks were
destroyed. Not all planes succeeded, the fight had been long and hard and German machine guns had damaged some
Now short of oil, Captain Vasatko landed at Avallon while
Reznicek, with little fuel left, landed at Neufchâteau and rejoined the group
Only Emil Moravek’s Curtiss N° 11 was reported
On the 17th June, like the log in GC 1/5 records, his fellow pilots had no idea where he was or what had happened to him ..
fate had Befell Emil Moravek
What fate had befell Emil Moravek ? Had his plane been hit by enemy
The last moments of Emil Moravek have been established thanks to witnesses from the village of Heuilley-le-Grand :
Jean Thirion had made an entry in his diary, Henri Poinsot, son of Germain Poinsot saw the drama as it happened and there were other
witnesses, people from Corlée who had taken refuge at Heuilley-le-Grand on that
The pilot of the Curtiss, flying south, was about to meet his destiny while those below were to witness his
On the morning of 15th June 1940, Germain Poinsot, farmer at
Heuilley-le-Grand, charged with surveillance of the railway and viaduct situated at the Farm de la
Chamue, near the villages of Bize and Rougeux, received the order to fall back in the direction of Longeau in order to rejoin his unit..
Head of a group, he set off by bicycle accompanied by other soldiers and on his arrival at Le
Pailly, decided to make a quick stop at Heuilley-le-Grand passing through Palaiseul in order to have news of his family and see what was happening in the village.
Some thirty people from Corlée had left early in the morning towards Heuilley-le-Grand and were seen from the first houses in the village.
Madame Clément and Monsieur Maurice Théveny can no longer recall the events in detail but Geneviève Clément remembered Emil Moravek admitting just before he took off after refuelling that he had gone too far out of his
Was there an aerial combat over Heuilley-Cotton and was Moravek part of
it ? There are no means of confirming this.
Short of fuel, Moravek managed to land his H-75 in a meadow by the edge of a
wood, towards Rouillot’s farm in the commune of Chassigny. In spite of Germans being in the area Moravek accomplished his landing undetected by the
He left his partially hidden Curtiss and walked hastily the 2.5 km to Heuilley-le-Grand only to find it
deserted. Some inhabitants had fled three or four days earlier whilst a few did not leave until dawn on the 15th June making their way towards the Côte d’Or. Only a few elderly villagers and those with no intent of leaving their houses were
Amongst them was the Abbé Pierre
Moissonnier, aged 71 and vicar of the parish, who had decided to share their fate.
As Emil Moravek arrived at the street " de Bain", he met refugees fleeing from the neighbouring village of
He tried to explain the best he could in a mixture of his native language and a little French and making gesticulations what had happened to him and that he was looking for carburant.
Quickly realising these people could not help him he traversed the village and went towards Palaiseul in his pursuit of essential fuel.
Fortunately or unfortunately for him, the habitants of Corlée met the Abbé Moissonnier who knew where to find some precious fuel. Several children on bicycles followed the pilot.
Amongst them was Roger Genevois, who caught up with the pilot at a place known as « En
Emil is taken to the village where the cheese-maker has a supply of petrol that he uses to collect milk from neighbouring villages.
In great haste, two forty-litre barrels of petrol were filled using a pump from a cart drawn by Jean Genevois’ horse. The whole « team » returned to the
Curtiss, followed by the children, delighted with the events. Emil was quite concerned at the large crowd which could well attract the attention of the enemy and he feared for the safety of the
At last the plane was refuelled, Emil smiled at the
children, climbed into the cockpit whilst the men turned the
The engine started in spite of some spluttering and misfiring. Roger Genevois recalls having seen a flame coming from the
Emil Moravek makes a perfect take-off and the plane started to gain height towards the village.
After only two to three hundred
meters, the engine started to misfire repeatedly.
Suddenly the engine cut out and the plane fell « like a dead
leaf » as Roger Genevois described it.
The Curtiss crashed at the place known as
« Rouillot » and immediately caught fire.
The engine cowling was to be found intact a long way from the crash site. Two other witness were questioned and confirmed the
facts. The pilot either could not or did not have time to eject from the plane.
Ammunitions were exploding in the burning
Young Roger Genevois was much affected by the awful scene and spent the night huddled against his father without
Restful sleep did not return to the youngster for several
With great emotion and on the verge of tears he gave us these
Even after so long and still
today, he cannot forget….
The crowd and children were quickly evacuated in the farm cart because of the continued explosions and also to prevent further trauma, especially of the
Germain set off on his bike in the direction of
He did not get very far. ..
The Germans arrested him on the bridge at the entry of Heuilley-Cotton where rifles of prisoners were being broken up. He was to spend five long years in captivity in
Germany, far from his loved ones.
How did Emil Moravek die ? During the fall of the plane ? After the crash ? On the
ground ? From the blazing fire ?
Access to the wrecked plane was impossible. The Germans had quickly prepared a landing strip not far from the Rouillot
farm. Sentries fired upon any person trying to approach the Curtiss
wreck. Strangely, the newly-prepared landing strip was to be abandoned a few days
The Langres Kommandantur withheld autorisation to remove the body of the pilot.
The mid-summer heat made any approach to the site a very unpleasant experience .
Jean Thirion recalls not being able to plough a field near the plane
wreckage, his horse simply refused to move forward. Jean remains profoundly moved by the sight of the remains of the partially burnt body. He still remembers the its position in the cockpit, still with the safety harness
attached, the stomach open, arms up and towards the rear, tongue between the teeth with the expression of a man still
suffering, a shrivelled black face like the rest of his body, his hands and feet reduced to such a degree they gave the impression of being cut off.
Twelve days were to pass before autorisation was given to remove the remains of the pilot’s body.
Using a sheet, Octave
Miot, Vicent Aubertot and Jules Desvoyes took upon themselves the task of removing the remains of the
disfigured, burnt and partilally decomposed body which fell apart when
touched. Eventually the remains were put in a small coffin and taken to the church.
The burial took place on Sunday 29th June in the afternoon under supervision of German
troops. Abbé Moissonnier conducted the service of the young fighter pilot, still not yet officially
identified. The service was attended by many parishioners.
Forgeot And Emil MORAVEK
" As a child, I dreamt of being a pilot."
In times long passed, on Sundays after Mass, we would go and pay our respects at the graves of our parents, Emil was laid quite near to our family graves.
My father had told me his story. I had noticed few people from the village took any notice of Emil’s grave. I found that quite
disturbing. I felt he was abandoned and alone and I took the habit of spending a few moments of quiet reflexion at his
tomb, as we were taught when young. In fact I had sort of adopted him as a member of our family until his remains were removed in December 1963.
My studies at Langres prevented me from attending his removal at
The villagers of Heuilley-le-Grand had no intention of forgetting Emil
Moravek. On the 24th April 1948 a special fund of 2300 francs was voted and adopted by the council for the construction and placing of a memorial to the Tchéque pilot.
Many villagers requested a Mass to remember and honour Emil
His grave was cared for and flowers placed there regularly by Madame
Martinak, a French lady of Tchèque origin who affectionally treated the memory of Emil as her own son.
Following my election as Mayor I spoke at the Armistice ceremony of Emil
Moravek, his deeds and his memory. It seemed right and correct this should be done while honouring our own dead of two world
The first time I did this I was surprised at the curiosity of the younger people including
children. Most of them knew nothing about the pilot, not even his
His exhumation and departure to the Tchèqie Military Cemetery at La Targette, near Lens appeared to me like a second death for
Emil. Even worse and more terrible was that of not remembering.
His grave carried the number 167, an insult to
history, the epitaph attached to his cross contained many errors.
He was named as Vladimir instead of Emil, the date of death is shown as 17th June instead of the 15th.
Even his rank was incorrect, it should have been Sergent Chef and not Adjudant.
No more ties with the village, no more identity or history with this distant Tchèque
With a completely false epitaph, the rupture was final.
Absence brought a fading of the memory. It was necessary to to do something quickly to put that right.
I undertook a long series of historical research in order to find out more about
him, i received much help and response to my inquries and that encouraged me to continue.
If the remains of Sergent Chef Emil Moravek have left our commune, the memory of his sacrifice is forever engraved in the mind of our
The plaque, fixed at the War Memorial, in his honour, unceasingly reminds us of
He well deserves the gratitude of France and he is honoured in his own country. Thank you
YEARS ! All those years before finally honouring the memory of Emil
|Why did we wait so long ?.
Unfortunately Emil Moravek is not alone in being unable to obtain any
recognition, man does not like defeat and memory tends to become selective with a strong tendance to remember pleasant
History rather skips over the Campagne of France and little is said of the heroism of those who took part.
Whilst the French government of that time abandoned its country to the Nazis, the likes of Emil Moravek never hestitated a moment in leaving their
family, their torn and stricken country in order to join us in France to continue the struggle
and, in the case of Emil Moravek, paid the ultimate price ..
Frantisek Chabera, former Tchèque pilot has drawn up some
Of the 123 Tchèque fight pilots in French
squadrons, 19 died and 8 disappeared on active service.
They fought on French soil and Tchèque pilots attacked 158 enemy aircraft and dropped 8 500 kg of
They were awarded from the Battle of France : 7 ribbons of the "Légion d’Honneur", 5 "médailles militaires", 81 "Croix de Guerre…." A resumé – 1 pilot in 8 was Tchèque...
During the Second World
War, 560 Tchèque pilots were killed on active service in different theatres of
In choosing to leave Tchécoslovaquie for France, they exactly what would happen to them if they were
Having become officially subject of a German Protectorate, they would be immediately passed into the hands of the Gestapo and then appear before a tribunal in which the sentence would be death or
Their families were deported from a camp in Moravie. The wife of
Lt. Perina, would spend the whole duration of the war in Nazi prisons.
In spite of that, they came and joined in the fight for
The suffering of the Tchèque pilots did not end with the Allied
victory, but continued after the war. Many of them were reproached by Communists in 1948 for fighting in the West at the side of people who were enemies of the Communist
This was the case of Frantisek Chabera who, having fought in the Royal Air Force, then with U.R.S.S. was asked to leave the French Air Force for having served in the Royal Air Force.
The Périna family emigrated to the United States of America to get away from this communist repression and did not return home until 1991, two years after the fall of the totalitarian
And yet, this same pilot Périna had 14 confirmed victories to his name and was considered a hero of the second World War in his country and in Europe.
Emil Moravek never saw or felt the relief of final
victory, struck down in the fullness of youth. At least he was spared the humiliation suffered by surviving Tchèque pilots. But
worse, after his death, he was rejected by his country that he loved so much and which he wished to
He has, fortunately, entered our history, especially the history of Heuilley-le-Grand and forever in our
"At the going down of the sun and in the
We will remember them"
from Histavia21 to
Mr Serge Forgeot, Maire de Heuilley-le-Grand. It is to
the latter that this account is dedicated.
with Mr Forgeot to Mr Jean-Marie Chirol (+), Mr Lionel
Persyn, Mr Jean-Vincent Jourd’heuil, Mr Jacques Bralé,
Colonel Dutailly, Mr Barry Cuttell, Mr Jiri Rajlich, to
the History Museum Ustav at Prague and the staff of the
French Air Force without whose help these pages would
not have been possible ...