Pilot Officer (Pilot) Vilém Göth
Vilém was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in April 1915. At school he was an accomplished pianist and athlete. Upon graduating in June 1934, he volunteered for military service, and commenced his basic training with 2 Air Regiment, Olomouc.
In 1935 he entered the Military Aviation Academy, Prostejov, to train as an Air Observer, but his career was almost cut short when he was hospitalised for eight weeks following a flying accident at Medlánky.
Despite this setback, Göth successfully requested a transfer for pilot training, which commenced in November 1935 at Hranice. Upon graduation, two years later, vilem was posted to Piešťany, Slovakia as an operational fighter pilot with the rank of poručík (2nd Lieutenant).
In March 1939, when Germany occupied Czechoslovakia, the Air Force was disbanded, but with the assistance of ‘Obrana Národa’ and ‘Sokol’ – two underground patriotic organisations – Göth decided to attempt the perilous journey to Poland, following rumours that Czechoslovak military units were being formed there. His first attempt was planned for May, but had to be aborted because the escape route had been betrayed to the Gestapo. On the night of 12th/13th June, Göth travelled across the border to Szumbark, Poland, hidden in a freight train. Random inspections by the Germans failed to find anything suspicious – all in all 25 escapees had been successfully hidden aboard the coal train that night!
However, the rumours of Czechoslovak units forming in Poland turned out to be unfounded – instead they would have to travel on to France and join the French Foreign Legion, on the understanding that they would be transferred to French military units if war was declared. On the 26th July, Göth boarded the steamship ‘Kastelholm’ bound for Calais.
The Czechoslovak escapees were still waiting to begin their training for the French Foreign Legion, on 3rd September 1939, when war was declared. Göth was duly transferred to l’Armee d’Air and sent to Châtres to retrain on the French MS 230 fighter aircraft. The rapid advance of German forces into France during May 1940, forced l’Armee d’Air to redeploy many units further west. Vilém, hastily trained and now a Sergeant, was sent to a non-operational unit at Cazaux. When France capitulated, the Czechoslovak airmen were released from l’Armee d’Air. On 19th June, Göth left Bordeaux aboard the ship ‘Karanan’, bound for Falmouth. On arrival, the Czechoslovaks were transferred to Cholmondeley, the Czechoslovak military transit camp, where Goth was accepted into the RAFVR with the rank of Pilot Officer.
On 12th July, Vilém became one of the founding members of 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron at Duxford. The pilots underwent hasty training on the Hawker Hurricane and basic English lessons before the squadron was declared operational on 17th August. Göth flew 24 operational patrols during his two months with 310 Squadron. He shot down two Me110’s over the Thames estuary on 7th September, but his Hurricane Mk.I (V6643), was damaged and he was lucky to escape uninjured after making a belly landing at Whitman’s Farm, Purleigh, Essex.
On 18th October, Vilém was posted to 501 Squadron at Kenley and lost his life only a week later during an operational patrol in the Tenterden area, at 15.25pm.
Goth was flying Hurricane P3903, as ‘number two’ to Pilot Officer Ken MacKenzie. As the section manoeuvred to a attack a formation of Me109’s, MacKenzie and Göth collided. MacKenzie baled out successfully but Göth was unable to escape and lost his life when his Hurricane crashed at Bridgehurst Wood, near Marden, Kent.
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Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.