Tucked away in the archives of the Museum for Transport and Technology in Berlin is an old photograph of a Hawker Hurricane on public display. The image must have been taken before the night of 23/24 November 1943, when the museum and the greater part of its collection – including the Hurricane – were destroyed in a RAF bombing raid.
The aircraft in the photograph bore a squadron commander’s pennant under the cockpit, had broken propellor blades and carried the squadron markings PA-A on its fuselage, as well as the serial number W9147. Intrigued by what he had seen, the picture launched the author on an investigation that uncovered an incredible story of wartime treachery and betrayal.
That tale concerns one man in particular – Augustin Přeučil. Also known to his family and friends as Gustav Přeučil, it was Augustin who had been the Hurricane’s last RAF pilot.
A 26-year-old aviator from Czechoslovakia, on first appearances Přeučil had fled his homeland after Nazi Germany took control and created the Reich Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia – part of Hitler’s Greater Germany. Having initially traveled to Poland, he then escaped to France and, from there, ultimately reached Britain, where he joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve.
Augustin Přeučil seemed to be just like many of the men who had arrived in the UK to continue the fight against Hitler. He appeared to be settled and even married an English girl in July 1941. But on 18 September of that year, he was posted missing, believed killed, while undertaking a training flight off the coast of Sunderland and Hartlepool. Přeučil’s body was never recovered and nothing more was heard of him. His young wife received a war widow’s pension; he was just another sad statistic of the war.
However, Augustin Přeučil was far from dead. Having landed the ‘stolen’ Hurricane near Bastogne in Belgium, he was treated by local people as a downed Allied pilot, sheltered and then passed into the care of the local Resistance group. Přeučil repaid their trust by handing himself into the Gestapo – and revealing all he knew. The Gestapo’s response was swift and brutal.
For Přeučil, this marked the start of a new career as an undercover agent for the Gestapo, principally in Czechoslovakia. As the author reveals, how he ended up serving Hitler’s Third Reich and betraying his homeland, his adopted country and a new wife, is a story that while strange is completely true. It is also one that ended with his death. Found guilty of High Treason, Přeučil was hanged by the Czech authorities in April 1947.
MICHAEL MORGAN is a retired former senior investigating officer in the police. He also worked for a number of years in the intelligence field. He now writes military history books, looking to unearth through use of his investigation skills, the truth about contentious and debatable military history. For more information, please see: www.msmorganbooks.co.uk
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