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Col in mem Vaclav Jicha DFC AFC

He was born on Feb 10, 1914 at the village of Dnesice south of Pilsen and lived there till his six. His father had worked for a Regional Psychiatric Clinic at the village of Dobrany. Both Wenda´s parents were offered a job at the Psychiatric Clinic at Bohnice north of Prague in 1920 and bought a small house there.  Young Wenda launched his schooling at a Na Bendovce  Elementary School at Bohnice and afterwards attended a Junior High School at Kobylisy. In 1929 he furthered his studies at the Vocational Apprentice School of Electrotechnics in the Smichov District. His was specialized in branches of fine mechanics and electromechanics. He graduated on Apr 30, 1932. During his studies here Wenda started making model planes and flying them. But he intended to fly on his own. That reason for he started attending a College Sports Flying  Club at Letnany and working there as a Flight Mechanic. He paid himself for his powered aircraft flying course and in 1933 gained a Tourist Plane Pilot Diploma. Wenda even became a flying instructor for his doing so well. He instructed also the Germans - his to be adversaries in the Luftwaffe - at the Nordbohemian Flying Club at the border town of Liberec from Jun 11 to Aug 11,1933.  

Wenda´s path to his career of a military pilot was complicated. He started doing his military service at the garrison of Piestany in Slovakia on Oct 1, 1935. Following his infantery drill and swearing the oath he was sent to the town of Nitra for No 1 ancillary flight mechanic course. He was there from Dec 1, 1935 to Jan 31, 1936 assessed the ninth in sixty five. Returning to Piestany he acted there as an auxiliary flight mechanic only for two weeks posted to No 61 Flight of No 1 Thomas Garrigue Masaryk´s  Fighter Reg stationed at Kbely, Prague. He proceeded to do so there. On July 1, 1936 was Wenda´s doing his military service extraordinary postponed. He was sent to the Military Aviation School at Prostejov and even joined the second school year pilots. Wenda graduated from this school on Mar 31, 1937, placing the fifth in seventy three cadets. Following his two week holiday he went on as a pilot with No 43 Flight of No 1 Fighter Reg at Kbely, completing his military service on Sep 30, 1937. From Oct 1 Wenda served with No 34 Flight as a career NCO. This flight was commanded by  the ´Air King´ F/O Frantisek Novak. This unit moved to the Hradec Kralove air base, but its CO put a request to come back to Kbely due to his family. Having recognized Wenda´s piloting skills the ´Air King´ pulled the strings. Wenda was re-deployed to Kbely. Promoted to Sgt on May 1, 1938 Vaclav Jicha was incorporated by F/O Frantisek Novak into his Aerobatic Nine flown by F/Os Frantisek Novak and Peter Siroky, F/Sgts Jaroslav Snobl, Ferdinand Policar and Hofmann, Sgts Vaclav Jicha, Ferdinand Kralik and Vojtech Smolik and Cpl Frantisek Pokorny using Ba 122 biplanes. Because doing so well Wenda also joined  F/Os Novak and Siroky in the Novak´s Aerobatic Three. On Sep 1, 1938 Vaclav Jicha became a field pilot. He had amassed 538 flying hours by 2802 bumps till Mar 15, 1939, when the rests of Bohemia and Moravia were occupied by the Wehrmacht.

Wenda was interviewed by the staff of the Czechoslovak Republic´s Airmen Association at 37 Na Porici St and given information of his escape route to Poland. He left his Motherland via the Beskydy Mountains  on May 13 already together with Sgts Bohumil Votruba, Jiri Kucera and Josef Adam. The Cz Consul in Krakow Dr Znojemsky had refused to cede the Consulate to the Germans on Mar 15. In addition he negotiated with the French government about the Cz airmen´s joining the French Air Force. They were offered only the French Foreign Legion  but promissed to be sent to the French Air Force in case the war broke out. Either Wenda had no choice. Having boarded the Batory liner at Gdynia on May 22 he departed to France. He arrived at Cherbourg four days later. On June 14, 1939 Wenda got conscripted  in the French Foreign Legion ranked as a soldier ie Soldat. He left Marseille for North Africa not before Aug 9. Having disembarked in Oran Wenda went by train to the town of Sidi-bel-Abbes to join No 1 Inf Reg there.

On Sep 3 France declared war on Germany and kept its promise. The Cz airmen were released from the French Forein Legion and sent to the French Air Force´s air bases in North Africa. They underwent conversion onto French aircraft. Wenda piloted WWI biplanes on the first two bases only. At last at   La Senia a ´modern´ MS 406 fighter monoplane was piloted by him. Sadly this underpowered type was most commonly used in the French Air Force but compared with Bloch 152s, Dewoitine 520s and American Curtiss H-75s was the worst by far.

On Dec 13, 1939 was Caporal-Chef Vaclav Jicha (Vahtslav Yeekha) alotted to a newly formed unit No I/6 Groupe de Chasse. He left Oran for Marseille two days later. No GCI/6 saw action not before March 8, 1940 stationed at Chiessy located mere 25 km from the Swiss border. Its task was to intercept recce bombers of the Luftwaffe. MS 406s were not able to reach Dornier 17Ps´ height in time. Making photos of their targets Do 17Ps already headed home. MS 406s´ parametres out of class came to light  after May 10, when the Luftwaffe attacked Lower Countries as well as France. Only obeying Stan Fejfar´s  advice to keep flying en masse protected Cz pilots from heavier casuaties with this unit. And to put the cap on things the French HQ decided to send MS 406s with their 20 mm cannon to strafe the German tanks following their breach nr Ameins from Jun 4 twice a day.

 Also No I/6 GC had to retreat southwards driven by the the German advance. On June 19 this unit was disbanded at Bergerac and its Cz pilots were released.  Wenda amassed 70 flying hrs with No I/6 GC. On May 20 he scored a sure kill of a Messerschmit Me 109E a Henschel 123 on June 5 achieving two more shared ones meanwhile. The heaviest casualties of four among the Cz pilots were suffered by No GCI/6  – Bieberle, Popelka, Hranicka and Bendl, four others were wounded. Two days later Wenda arrived at Port Vendres nr the Spanish border.  On June 24 the pilots of Nos I/6, II/2, III/1 and III/7 GsC embarked the General Chanza on June 24 and the freighter laid its anchor in Oran on the following day at 1430 hrs. Wenda left this town on June 26 by the 22.15 Casablanca speed train arriving there on the following day at 1130 hrs. Having boarded the Gib-el-Dersa the Cz airmen  departed for Gibraltar on June 29 at 1515 hrs. They reached Gib on the following day at 1515 hrs and launched embarkíng the Oakrest collier. But they had to move to the Neuralia on July 1. The liner was convoyed and 26 vessels set out for UK on the following day. They arrived in Liverpool on July 12 at 1700 hrs.

Vaclav Jicha entered the RAFVR on Jul 26 as an AC2 alotted the Service number of 787567. He was promoted to Sgt on Aug 6 and flown with twenty three more Cz pilots to Duxford by five Anson transports. The Czechoslovak No 310 Fighter Sqn had been stationed there but neither planes nor time were available here for these Cz pilots´ training. That reason for were Wenda and twenty more Cz pilots sent to No 6 OTU at Sutton Bridge. From Aug 15 to Sep 7 he flew not only a Hurricane Mk I here. Three days later he reported for duty with the British No 1 Sqn at Wittering. Alotted to the A Flight he achieved  two share kills  - a Dornier 17Z bomber on Oct 29 and a Junkers 88A-1 one on the following day. Wenda was posted to the British No 17 Sqn on Nov 17. He was promoted to F/Sgt on Mar 1, 1941 and already on Apr 29 was commisioned  and alotted his new Service No of 66486. On May 27 was Wenda posted to the just formed Cz No 313 Fighter Sqn stationed at Catterick. It was the first Cz Sqn equipped with Spitfires. Conversion on Mk Is had in swing from May 20. Thanks to skill of the pilots No 313 Sqn was made operational on June 10, 1941. From Aug 16 to 25 No 313 converted onto Mk IIs and on the following day moved from Leconfield to Portreath nr Falmouth and was incorporated in No 10 Fighter Command. No 313 Sqn´s pilots usually escorted bombers over France. On Oct 23 No 313 Sqn lauched conversion onto Mk Vs. Even these ones were outclimbed and outdived by Fockewulf 190s. Despite the odds just Vaclav Jicha became the first Czechoslovak pilot who achieved a sure kill of this formidable adversary on March 28, 1942.

On Dec 11, 1941 No 313 Sqn moved to Hornchurch under No 10 Fighter Command´s Hornchurch Wing. There were more opportunities to fight Fw 190s there. Wenda often was on operations twice a day and looked forward to converting onto Mk IXs here – a match to Fw 190s at last. On June 7, 1942 No 313 Sqn moved from Fairlop  to Churchstanton under No 10 Fighter Command instead. Nos 310, 312 and 313 Sqns formed the Cz Fighter  Wing. Because Wenda´s Flying Book had to be sent to the RAF Depository we have no idea of the exact date of his accomplishing his tour of duty. Seven kills were on his score at that time four of them shared ones. No 313 Sqn´s Chronicle advises of Wenda´s sweep over  France on June 4, 1942. Late June he moved with No 313 Sqn to the Orkneys. He left this unit on Aug 17 and as an extraordinarily skilled pilot was posted to No 6 MU at Cosford. On Oct 23 Vaclav Jicha went to Churchstanton due to receiving his DFC together with Otmar Kucera and Josef Prihoda. He was promoted to the Cz rank of F/O on Oct 28.

At No 9 MU Cosford his job was to test the repaired aircraft. At near Castle Bromwich Spitfires and Lancasters were in production by the Vickers Armstrong Ltd. The test pilots of this plant flowing newly made Spits did mock fighting with the ones of No 9 MU. Once Wenda provoked an unknown pilot from the Vickers. This situation was described by this pilot – legendary Alex Henshaw in his book ´A Sigh for Merlin´  These pages mentioning Wenda were incorporated in the ´Nobody will be forgotten´ book. Several days later Wenda and Alex performed dog fighting again. Alex noticed skin droops in a fuselage near a tailplane of his adversary while Wenda was applying the elevator. Alex gesticulated at Wenda to be followed by him to Castle Bromwich. The fuselage was braced by them. While saying Good Bye Wenda uttered : ´If only I had a job as yours´. Alex replied that if Wenda´s  request was put in and submitted to him he would nod.

 From Jan 5, 1943 Wenda commenced flying with the Vickers Ltd. He tested completely 576 and partly 178 Spitfire Mk Vs and IX till Oct 31 amassing 482 hrs 54 mins. He flew also Lancs and Wimpies – 1.15 and 4.30 hrs respectively. Due to worries over industrial espionage all three pilots – foreigners – including Wenda had to leave Castle Bromwich in May 1944. He reported at the Cz RAF Depot Cosford on May 17 and five days later resumed flying with No 9 MU. This decision of the British HQ was contradicted by a Cz Air Force Inspectorate´s citation for excellent achievements of testing pilot dated June 10, 1944. Wenda was at hospital in the Aug 10 – 23 time frame and afterwards sent for his ten days off. He was posted to No 45 MU to Kinloss in Northern Scotland near Tain where Cz No 311 Bomber Sqn stationed was. Now and then Wenda performed his aerobatic skills on Spitfire over this air base.

On Feb 1, 1945 was Wenda flown in an Anson transport from Kinloss southwards. Due to snowstorm the pilot got lost and crashed in the Turf Law Hill between Berwick and Edinburgh. Wenda was only wounded on the impact but he froze to death before the rescue team came to the scene. The Anson  was found not before Feb 7, Wenda´s corpse outside a day later. Vaclav Jicha was laid to rest in the Roman Catholic Graveyard at Haddington on Feb 10, 1945. His gravestone has been seen on the webpage in the „Not Forgoteen – Scotland“ since Apr 5, 2013.

Wenda was posthumously awarded the Cz Merit Medal 1st Class on Mar 13, 1945 and the AFC by His Majesty on Nov 28. He was promoted to Staff Cpt in memoriam on Feb 1, 1947 coming in force from Feb 1, 1945. On June 1, 1991 was Vaclav Jicha (Vahslav Yeekha) promoted to Col  in mem  within the General Rehabilitation of the Czechoslovak  airmen .

Vaclav Jicha is seen on Nos  77, 377, 379, 402, 410, 430 and 481 pictures of the ´Wings of Victory´ Documentary on the website.

His name is mentioned on two Battle of Britain Memorials - as in London situated on the Northern bank of Thames opposite the London Eye  –, as at the Cape-la-Ferne in Suffolk -

In 1991 was the Street of Vares located in the Cerny most housing estate, Prague renamed Jicha´s. It is situated NW of a local basic school.

On May 25, 1995 members of No 26 Czech Airmen Association´ Branch  unveiled a plaque dedicated to Wenda on a building of a former Elementary School attended by him from 1920 to 1925. This No 26 Branch had been named of Vaclav Jicha.  

A black and white photo of four test pilots standing front of a Lanc and Spitfire Mk IXs at the Castle Bromwich airfield taken in summer 1943 was seen in a FLYPAST monthly several years ago. L to R : J. Rosset, Alex Henshaw Chief Pilot, Olaf Ulstad and Vaclav Jicha. This issue was dedicated to memory of late Alex Henshaw. This photo is also had by Wenda´s niece Mrs Vendula Johnson.

Wenda´s name is seen both on the World Wars Victims´ Memorial at his native village of Dnesice and on a plaque dedicated to him unveiled on his No 105 native house on Sep 30, 2007.

Awards :

Croix de Guerre – Aug  3,  1940

Cz Military Cross  1939 – Oct 28, 1940

Cz Military Cross  – June 3, 1941

 Cz Medal for Valour – Nov 1,  1941

Cz Military Cross 1939 – May 5, 1942

Cz Military Cross 1939 – Oct 8, 1942

 Cz Army Memory Medal with France and GB Clasps  - March 7, 1943

Cz Merit Medal 1st Class – March 13, 1945

1939 – 45 Star with BoB Clasps – after WWII

Air Crew Europe Star – following WWII

Defence Medal – after WWII

War Medal – following WWII


Biography :

Nobody will be forgotten  - Petr Satra, Karel Smola .

The Cz airmen in France 1939 – 1940 -  Col Ret. Josef Vana, Jan Rail The AVIS  Publ. 2005

The airmen in the names of the Cerny most Housing Estate´s streets – Jiri Rajlich and others  – in 2009 published by No 14 Prague District of Cerny most

Prague under German Occupation Guidebook by Jiri Padevet – The Academia Publ  2013