Today in the wonderful sunshine, we were joined by members of the Free Czechoslovak Air Force Association. The FCAFA hold a couple of ceremonies at the cemetery each year and we were honoured to have them join us. The Mayor of Woking, Cllr Graham Cundy and Cllr John Kingsbury in his last role representing Woking Borough Council also attended.
We remembered Jaroslav Štěrbáček, who was a member of the Czech Air Force in the 30s, prior to transferring to the RAF in 1940. He was posted to the newly formed 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron which flew Hurricane Mk 1s. Jaroslav flew his first operational patrol flight on 19 August and five more during August.
At 13:00, 31 August, twelve 12 Hurricanes from 310 Sqn took-off for an operational patrol. At 13:25, flying at an altitude of 12,000 feet over the Thames Estuary, they saw a Luftwaffe bomber formation along with numerous Me 109 for fighter support. 310 Sqn Hurricanes attacked and in the resultant dog-fight, Štěrbáček’s Hurricane was last seen attacking a Do 17 before being shot down by a Me 109 about 13:30. His Hurricane was seen to go into a steep dive with Jaroslav managing to bail-out. The Hurricane crashed near Romford, Essex, but Jaroslav landed into the Thames Estuary and is believed to have drowned, his body was never found.
P/O Jaroslav Štěrbáček is commemorated on panel 10 of the RAF’s Runnymede Memorial. He has the dubious distinction of being the 1st of 511 Czech airmen inc 1 WAAF to be killed in RAF service during WW2. He was 27 years old.
Our bugler was Mrs Ruth Moore, the BLP Standard was paraded by Tom Milne and the Union Flag by Mrs Sue Stallard. We had an additional seven Standards on parade and a number of air force cadets.
After the ceremony we had some refreshments at The Trench Experience.