Last veteran of the 311th (Czechoslovak) Bomber Squadron RAF passed away

Last veteran of the 311th (Czechoslovak) Bomber Squadron RAF passed away
Caption: Benjamin Bedřich Abeles (1925-2020)
17 / 12 / 2020, 10:00

Bedřich Abeles, the last World War II veteran living in Great Britain who had served with the 311th (Czechoslovak) Bomber Squadron RAF, died last Monday, December 14, 2020, at the age of 95.

Benjamin Bedřich Abeles, Ph.D., was born on June 23, 1925 in Vienna to a Czech-Austrian Jewish family. The Abeles family lived in the Polish city of Bielsko-Biała untill Bedřich was eight year old, and moved from there to Prague in 1933. Bedřich grew up in Poland, and when he came to Czechoslovakia, he had to learn the Czech language. In Prague he went to primary school and later to grammar school. During the "second republic" (1938-1939) he was however expelled from the school for his Jewish origin.

See also: Czech Air Force – Centenary of the founding (1918–2018)

The family was already aware of the danger of Nazism and in July 1939 they sent their son from Prague to England by the so-called Winton transport. Nicholas Winton organized transports that saved 669 Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. The rescue of others was prevented by World War II.

In England, Bedřich Abeles was received by a relative and then had to attend the Grammar School in Maidenhead. But he soon left the school and began working in London. He made a living as dishwasher, cook and waiter, rented a room and was completely independent at the age of fourteen. However, he began to realize the need for education and graduated later.

On May 11, 1943, he joined the Czechoslovak Army in England and later the 311th Bomber Squadron of the Royal Air Force, where he served as ground mechanic. 311st was RAF's only Czechoslovak-manned medium and heavy bomber squadron. It was formed on July 29, 1940 at the Honington base, and operated Vicker Wellington bombers within the Bomber Command service. Transferred to Coastal Command in April 1942, the Squadron was re-equipped with Consolidated Liberators shortly after Bedřich Ables joined in.

See also: Operation Anthropoid Commemorated

During the war, Bedřich Abeles' family was murdered in concentration camps. After liberation in 1945 he returned to Prague and studied physics at the Faculty of Science, Charles University.

In 1949 he emigrated to Israel, where he again made a living as waiter, and after successfully completing doctorate in physics he obtained the position of mathematics teacher at the Meteorological Institute, later moving to the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 1956 he left for the USA, where he worked for Radio Corporation of America and Exxon Mobil. He became famous as a physicist. In the 1960s, together with George D. Cody, he developed germanium–silicon alloys that were used in the development of the radioisotope thermoelectric generators used to power spacecraft and probes engaged in long voyages of space exploration. He also worked as a professor at the University of Texas.

A few years ago, Bedrich Abeles moved to England and lived with his wife in Leicester. He died on December 14, 2020.


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