František Peřina

František Peřina

Infobox Military Person
name=František Peřina
lived=April 8 1911 - May 6 2006
placeofbirth=Morkůvky u Břeclavi, Czechoslovakia
placeofdeath=Prague, Czech Republic

nickname=François Renopé
allegiance=flagicon|Czech Republic Czechoslovakia
flagicon|France France
flagicon|United Kingdom Great Britain
flagicon|Czech Republic Czech Republic
branch=Czech Air Force
Armee de l'Air
Royal Air Force
Czech Army
serviceyears=1929 - 1953
Wing Commander
battles=Battle of Britain
awards=Croix de Guerre
Chévalier de la Légion d'Honneur
laterwork=Weber Aircraft, Burbank, California

Wing Commander General František Peřina (April 8 1911, Morkůvky u Břeclavi; [ World War II: Interview with Czech Ace Frantisek Perina] HistoryNet Page1] died May 6 2006 in Prague) was a Czech fighter pilot, an ace during World War Two with the French Armee de l'Air, who also served twice with Britain's Royal Air Force.


Born into a farming family in South Moravian Region, Peřina didn't visit the city of Brno until he was 14. He undertook a full elementary school education, followed by three in grammar school, and then transferred to a vocational school, serving an apprenticeship and training as a machinist. After qualifying, he spent six months in the job before seeing an airshow, and applying to train for the Czechoslovak Air Force.

Czechoslovak Air Force

Reporting to Prostějov airfield on October 1, 1929, after undertaking army officer training, he trained to fly on the Letov Š-10 Sardinka (sardine), the Letov Š-14 and the Avia S.18 Komár (mosquito). Graduating in 1931, he then spent two years as a first class airman, before promotion to sergeant. In 1932 he attended fighter school in Cheb, training for four months in air-to-air and air-to-ground gunnery, as well as aerobatics on various biplane and single wing fighters. He returned to his unit, and then was attached to the 34th fighter squadron at Olomouc on Letov Š-20 Šmolík biplanes. [ World War II: Interview with Czech Ace Frantisek Perina] HistoryNet Page2]

In 1937 Peřina represented the Czechoslovak air force at the International Air Show in Zürich, Switzerland in an Avia B-534. There he met the German contingent, headed by World War One ace Ernst Udet in his capacity as chief of the Luftwaffe's office of supply and procurement, and Erhard Milch, second-in-command of the Luftwaffe - the team were equipped with Heinkel He-51's and the new Messerschmitt Bf-109. Peřina later commented that the Germans he met were mostly gentlemen, not Nazis. Peřina took third place in both aerobatics and in the climb-and-dive competition, and fourth in the cross-country flight: always behind German pilots in superior equipment. [ World War II: Interview with Czech Ace Frantisek Perina] HistoryNet Page3]

After the 34th fighter squadron was requested to transfer, as the station commander at Olomouc wanted Peřina to stay, he was transferred to the 36th Fighter Squadron when it was rotated to the airfield with reconnaissance pilot Josef Frantisek, [ World War II: Interview with Czech Ace Frantisek Perina] HistoryNet Page7] staying with them through the 1938 Sudeten Crisis. He was then posted to military school to serve as Rotmistr (warrant officer), but in the aftermath of the Sudeten Crisis the Czechoslovak air force began to form new squadrons, and he joined the 52nd Fighter Squadron as its chief pilot.

After a border war with Hungary, aged 28 (the age at which officers could marry, as it was presumed they had an income to support a family), he married Anna Klimešová on June 24, 1939, and left for Poland without his wife on June 26 (she was delayed through paperwork), with the intention of joining the French Foreign Legion in North Africa.

Armee de l'Air

Following the first dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the annexation of Bohemia and Moravia by Nazi Germany, and after the Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939; France declared war on Germany and the Czechs obtained a contract from the French Air Ministry to transfer from the Foreign Legion to the Armée de l'Air.

Initiated at Châtres, Seine-et-Marne, Peřina flew the Curtiss H-75A. [ Frantisek Perina - Czechoslovakia's ace pilot who made his name in the Battle of France] - 5 August, 2006] On December 1, 1939, Peřina was assigned to the 1ère Escadrille of Groupe de Chasse I, Escadre de Chasse 5 based at Suippes, near Reims. Amusingly, the squadron was made up of the French pilots who had attended the Zürich air festival, and commanded by Capitaine Jean Accart. His friends decided to rename him François Renopé, in case he was taken prisoner - the Germans would treat a French prisoner much better than they would an exiled Czech. [ World War II: Interview with Czech Ace Frantisek Perina] HistoryNet Page4]

Following the end of the Phoney War, Peřina made his name in the very first days of Germany's western offensive. On May 10, 1940 after Nazi Germany began executing its Manstein battle plan against France, the Netherlands, and Belgium, Peřina shot down four planes in two sorties - he was promoted to sergent-chef. The next day he shot down his fifth, resulting in Peřina became the first Czech ace in the Second World War - a day after that he shot down two additional planes. Promoted to adjutant (officer), he became well-known throughout France thanks to media coverage of his exploits.

After the Germans occupied Sedan, Peřina's squadron moved to St. Dizier on the Marne River on May 14. In June 1940 as the Luftwaffe focused on Paris, Peřina and colleagues tried to turn back a bombing formation. While his colleagues focused on the bombers, Peřina focused on a fighter escort of 60 Messerschmitt Bf 109's, shooting down one plane but badly shot himself. In interview on his 95th birthday, he recalled:

I had to gain them some time, and I could think of nothing other than to attack. I had to stop them somehow. I distracted them, and I even managed to shoot one down, but then I myself was hit. My plane took 15 cannon hits, 80 by machine gun. My leg and my arm were injured, although I didn't feel a thing. I knew I probably wasn't going to make it back.

After being hospitalised in Coulomiers east of Paris, he left the hospital and escaped to Paris as the Germans advanced, and then to Chartres. He then joined GC I/5 at Carcasonne, retrieving a Curtiss with a flat tailwheel tire from another airfield and flying in two hours to the Free French Forces in St. Denis Siq airfield, located in Oran near Algiers, Algeria. Having been awarded but never received the customary Croix de Guerre for his first air-to-air victory, the Free French decorated Peřina as a Chévalier de la Légion d'Honneur, and was also awarded the Croix de Guerre with six palms. Having left his uniform in France, he ordered a new one in Oman and travelled by train to Casablanca, where he boarded a ship to England. [ [ World War II: Interview with Czech Ace Frantisek Perina] HistoryNet Page6]

Royal Air Force

After a 29-day boat trip, Peřina was allocated to the No. 312 Squadron RAF (Czechoslovak) Squadron, flying Hawker Hurricanes. He saw little action before suffering from acute appendicitis, treated at hospital in Ely, Cambridgeshire. He returned to the 312nd after recovery, and moved with the squadron to Ayr, Scotland in 1941 to convert to Supermarine Spitfire MkV's.

Having not yet scored a kill in his service in the RAF, on June 3, 1942 while escorting bombers he shot down two Focke-Wulf Fw 190's from a formation of four, for which one was confirmed and a second probable. Peřina was than assigned to serve as sector gunnery officer for one year, and then for the rest of the war to Fighter Command as part of the Czechoslovak liaison establishment, until May 8, 1945.

Returned to Czechoslovakia

Peřina returned to the Czechoslovakia, where his wife Anna had been imprisoned from 1942 to 1945. He became the Commanding Officer of a gunnery school, and became an aerobatic pilot with his own Bücker Bü 133 Jungmeister aerobatic biplane provided by the air ministry. However, as the communists took power and the cold war developed, there was questioning of the possible westernised loyalty of those pilots who had served with the Allies. In December 1949 after an argument with Bedřich Reicin, Peřina was expelled from the army and forced to flee again. In April 1949, Peřina, his wife Anna and a friend of them flew to West Germany, belly landing at Passau, just eight miles from the Russian zone.

Return to the RAF

After his wife recovered from injuries received during the crash in hospital in Wiesbaden, he rejoined the RAF for five years, but being over 36 was not allowed to fly again. He joined the RAF rifle shooting team, but even after Air Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder tried to persuade him to stay, Peřina who had applied to for a United States visa in London in 1949 emigrated to Canada. [ World War II: Interview with Czech Ace Frantisek Perina] HistoryNet Page8]

North America

While in Canada, he gained a job building fibreglass fishing boats from 1953, but also trained as a commercial pilot - but being over the age of 42, could not find work. At Christmas 1959 the couple's US visa's were granted, and he joined the new plastics division of ejection seat specialist the Weber Aircraft in Burbank, California (later a subsidiary of French based Zodiac Group). Supervising 347 people, his division made lavatories and kitchens for Douglas, Lockheed and Boeing including the Boeing 747; and seats for the Project Gemini space capsules. Following his retirement on March 15, 1979; Peřina and his wife retired to Arizona, but finding it too hot quickly moved to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Return to Czech Republic

In 1993 Peřina and his wife returned to Czech Republic, following the removal of the Communist regime. Many citizens, not least those in the newly-emerging military, greeted him with a 'hero's welcome'. Peřina commented that he simply wants to die on home soil, that it was the country that he fought for and stressed repeatedly that he loves the Czech countryside. Having been awarded many Czech and Allied orders and medals, he was made a General of the Czech Army.

Peřina died on Saturday, May 6, 2006 aged 95, in Prague’s military hospital of an unspecified chronic disease and exhaustion. His wife Anna Peřinová (née Klimešová) had died several days before his admission to hospital on April 21, Radio Prague reported. One school in Prague has been given his name. [ [ ZS Perina School] ]

Combat Record


External links

* [šek_Peřina František_Peřina] at [í_strana Wikipedia Czech]
* [ Obituary from "The Times" of London]
* [ ZS Perina School]

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