František Hekl and Loch Doon
František Hekl was born on the 24th January 1915 in Nemojany, in the Moravian region of the former Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic). He graduated from the military academy and joined the Czechoslovak Air Force, becoming a fighter pilot on Avia B 534 biplanes.
When his homeland was occupied by Nazi troops on the 15th March 1939, he decided to cross the border to Poland – which he managed to do in July that year. He wasn’t alone. Hundreds of his brothers-in-arms did so as well, in order to fight against their countries’ enemies. František Hekl belonged to a group of Czech airmen who joined the Polish Air Force at Deblin in August 1939 and fought against a Luftwaffe air attack on the 2nd September. The airmen then retreated southeast in order to reach Romania but they were caught by the Russian Red Army advancing from the east, and they were sent to be interned in Russia. Thankfully, František managed to get onto a train which left Russia in July 1940. After a long and dangerous journey through Turkey, Egypt and India, he finally reached Britain.
He joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve on the 6th November 1940 and began his RAF training. On the 28th August 1941, he joined 312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron stationed at RAF Ayr as a Flying Officer, finally becoming an operational fighter pilot on the 9th September. The squadron was to convert to the Supermarine Spitfire MkV over Christmas 1941 and to assist in the transition, six war-weary Spitfire MkIIa aircraft were delivered on the 20th October including P7540, which was transferred from 266 Squadron.
František first flew a Spitfire on Friday 24th October, in Spitfire P8081. The following day, Saturday 25th October at 10.25am, he took off from Ayr in Spitfire P7540 for his second, and final, Spitfire sortie. Frantisek made his way south to Loch Doon and flew low and fast over the water. He made a banking turn to the right but his starboard wingtip struck the surface and the aircraft was lost to sight in an explosion of spray. Eyewitnesses reported that the only trace remaining when the waters had settled was a light oil slick. He was 26 years old.
Despite searches, his body was never recovered and he still lies in the quiet waters of Loch Doon. He is mentioned on panel No.36 of the RAF Memorial in Runnymede, and is commemorated by a memorial stone at the side of Loch Doon. He was posthumously decorated with the Czech War Cross (1939) and the Polish Virtuti Militari. In 1991, he was promoted to Colonel in memoriam.