top of page

Sgt Josef František Memorial Unveiling Ceremony

29 Sept 2022

Memorial to Sgt Josef František VM KW & 3 Bars ČVK DFM & Bar.

The Czechoslovak ace, Sergeant Josef František, who flew with 303 Polish Squadron during the Battle of Britain, has been honoured with a Memorial organised by the Polish Air Force Memorial Committee (PAFMC). It was unveiled on 4 September on the Priest Hill Nature Reserve, Epsom, Surrey, close to where he lost his life on the 8 October 1940.

Sgt František was one of the most successful allied pilots in the Battle of Britain credited with destroying 17 enemy aircraft and another probably destroyed. He was decorated with the Polish Virtuti Militari and Krzyż Walecznych (Cross of Valour) and three bars, posthumously the Československý válečný kříž 1939 (Czechoslovak War Cross 1939) and the British Distinguished Flying Medal and bar.

The ceremony opened with a trumpeter from the Central Band of the RAF sounding the assembly in front of representatives of the Polish, Czech and Slovak Embassies, Air Vice Marshal Richard Maddison (representing the Chief of the Air Staff), Rector Commandant of the Polish Air Force University, Dęblin Brigadier General Krzysztof Cur and other dignitaries and guests. The replica of the war-time Polish Air Force Standard and the Standard of the Czech Legionaries were escorted in by Major Grzegorz Buśko and Officer Cadets of the Polish Air Force University, Dęblin, popularly known as "The School of the Eaglets."

PAFMC Chairman Richard Kornicki CBE DL, welcomed dignitaries and guests and then invited aviation enthusiast and researcher Lewis Shelley to relay Sgt František’s story, which is available by clicking the link below. This was followed by the unveiling of the Memorial and the information panel by Sgt František’s great nephew Igor Fryč. Prayers and blessing of the Memorial and information panel then followed by Father Stephen O’Brien from St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Epsom.

Invited dignitaries, representing local government, Polish, Czech and Slovak Embassies and Polish and Royal Air Forces, the PAFMC and the daughter and son of 303 Squadron’s British commander Sqn/Ldr Ronald Kellett, who was leading the patrol the day Sgt František was killed, laid wreaths on the Memorial. This was followed by the Last Post and a minute’s silence ending with Reveille.​

Brigadier General Cur paid tribute to Sgt Josef František in a moving speech. He followed with a presentation to PAFMC Trustee Rodney Byles of a Commemorative Plaque of the Polish Air Force University for organising the Memorial and the unveiling ceremony. This followed with his presentation, on behalf of the PAFMC, of a Commendation to Leigh Thornton from the Surrey Wildlife Trust who, with no personal connections with Poland, played a crucial role in enabling the Memorial to be placed on the Priest Hill Nature Reserve.

The ceremony ended with the Polish Air Force March accompanied by the Officer Cadets of the Polish Air Force University. Invited guests then transferred to the nearby Cuddington Golf Club for a reception and afternoon tea.

The Memorial to Sgt Josef František has been made possible by the many years of extensive investigations and research by aviation enthusiast Lewis Shelley and latterly by Polish Air Force historian and author Peter Sikora. The cost of the Memorial has been met solely by PAFMC who, working closely with Lewis Shelley, initiated the project in consultation with the Polish, Czech and Slovak Embassies.

Chairman of the PAFMC Richard Kornicki commented: “It is a privilege for us to be able to create a lasting Memorial to Sgt František close to where he lost his life. As a Czechoslovak pilot, flying in a Polish Squadron, under a British commander he is a powerful reminder of the international make-up of The Few. We hope that for generations to come, those who walk past the Memorial will pause and remember those to whom they owe their freedom.”

Photos in the slide show are courtesy of Marek Borzęcki, Marek Iczkiewicz, Tony Burd and PAFMC.

An archival video of the Ceremony, by Marek Borzęcki can be viewed on YouTube at this link

A video and photos are also available on the ‘What’s On in Surrey’ website with a direct link to the video on YouTube at this link

The Memorial is located at Grid reference TQ229613 or What3Words scar.hurls.hurry. This is in a remote part of Priest Hill Nature Reserve with no direct vehicle access. There are no car parks in the area, but there are man made pathways around the reserve for easy access.

Lewis Shelley's speech
Download PDF • 45KB

Frantisek Programme
Download PDF • 288KB

bottom of page