The Photos of Karel Stryk

Jaroslav Popelka & Václav Kolesa
Zlinek, ©2001
ISSN 1210-7433
96 Pages

Reviewed by Chris Banyai-Riepl

As the Germans advanced across Europe during the Second World War many of the invaded countries' fighting forces escaped to England. Squadrons were formed with Czech and Polish fighter pilots and these squadrons quickly proved themselves very capable. This book takes a close, personal look at some of the Czech fighter squadrons.

Karel Stryk was an individual who did not want to stand still for the German occupation of Czechoslovakia so he walked out of the country and after taking a tour of just about every Balkan country he managed to catch a ship to France, where he joined the Foreign Legion. After France fell to the Germans, Karel Stryk moved on, this time to England to continue his fight.

Once in England he made the decision to change from army to air force but because of the large number of pilots already in the RAF, he started out as an engine mechanic assigned to 312 Squadron. First with Hurricanes, then later with Spitfires, Karel Stryk worked hard keeping the engines of these fighters in top running form. In his free time, he made ample use of his camera, taking pictures of friends, places and aircraft.

The next big change for Karel Stryk came in May 1941 when No. 313 Squadron was formed. This third Czech fighter squadron was in need of pilots so he signed up. In 1943 he found himself in Canada (still in possession of that camera) to undertake flight training. Again in his off time he took pictures of everything he saw, from Harvards and Cornells to mountains and Miles trainers.

Finishing his flight training, Karel Stryk was finally assigned to combat status in 313 Squadron in autumn of 1944. With this squadron he finished out the Second World War, again taking plenty of pictures in between missions. After the war he returned home to a warm welcome and ended up in the fledgling Czech Air Force, still flying Spitfires and still taking photos.

This book is a very nice collection of those photos and none have been published before. They offer a glimpse into the life of one man during this tumultous period of history from his arrival in England to his final flying days in Czechoslovakia. This book is very reminiscent of flipping through a personal photo album and it is a very interesting title. Definitely seek this book out if you're interested in foreign pilots in the RAF.

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