Czech pilot who fought for UK, France dies at 95

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Associated Press

Posted on February 20, 2014 at 2:03 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 20 at 2:07 PM

PRAGUE (AP) — Fighter pilot Miroslav Standera, who fled Czechoslovakia to fight for the British and French air forces in World War II, has died at age 95.

Council officials in his hometown, the southwest Czech city of Plzen, said he died Wednesday but provided no cause.

Born a month before the end of World War I, Standera graduated from an aviation school but fled in 1939 following the country's takeover by Nazi Germany.

He joined France's air force and fought the German invasion there in May 1940. He was seriously wounded during a dogfight a month later but safely crash-landed. The Czech Defense Ministry said Standera was the last surviving Czech pilot to have flown for France during the war.

After France's surrender, Standera became a founder member of the Royal Air Force's No. 312 Fighter Squadron composed of Czechoslovak pilots; he and 87 countrymen served as RAF pilots during the Battle of Britain that year.

Later in the war, he flew twin-engine fighter-bombers on night-time raids into France and Germany. He clocked a total of 1,320 hours of combat flying time.

After the 1948 Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, Standera fled again to Britain to escape persecution of those who had served in Western forces during the war. He rejoined the RAF and retired in 1955.

Following his military career, he worked as a silversmith in Britain, then in 1983 resettled in Bavaria in Germany. He returned to his homeland in 1994.

President Vaclav Havel granted Standera the honorary rank of brigadier general in the Czech military at a 2000 ceremony.

"Once you start flying, you won't stop until you die," Standera said in September when he was guest of honor at a celebration of his 95th birthday at an airport near Plzen.

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