František Janeček, photo: archive of JAWA

In this edition: Ways to listen to Radio Prague, former Beethoven Strasse and Radetzky Strasse in Prague, answers to last month’s quiz question, new question for September. Listeners/readers quoted: Richard P Robinette, Hisanobu Ota, Jahangir Alam Manto, Hamad Kiani, Hans Verner Lollike, Radhakrishna Pillai, Jayanta Chakrabarty, Colin Law, Mary Lou Krenek.

Šumava – Lake Prášily,  photo: CzechTourism
Hello and welcome to Mailbox, Radio Prague’s listeners’ letters programme.

Thank you very much for your feedback, including reception reports. Just a reminder: our broadcasts are available on the internet where you can either listen to the whole half hour transmissions or you can choose individual programmes. You can also tune in to Radio Prague via satellite in Europe, Africa and Asia and the Pacific on the WRN English channel five times a day. The current broadcasting schedule is available on our website. Radio Prague’s transmissions are also rebroadcast by a number of shortwave stations, among them Radio Miami International.

Whichever way you prefer to listen to our broadcasts, your reception reports will be verified by one of our eight QSL cards, this year featuring natural monuments of the Czech Republic.

We received quite an unusual query from Richard P Robinette from the United States:

“My wife, a German citizen, born on February, 1944 in Prague in a hospital on Beethovenstrasse, has always been curious about where Beethovenstrasse is located. The name has probably been changed. We could not find it when we were in Prague. We appreciate any information you could give us.”

But later he corrected his query:

“It turned out that my wife made a mistake about the hospital location. It was Prof. Urban Sanatorium on Radetzky Strasse. Thanks again for your response.”

The maternity hospital was located in a villa in the residential district of Bubeneč. It was in operation there until the mid-1980 when it was closed down. Instead of the Czech-born Austrian general Joseph Radetzky, the street is now called after the US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The powers that be in this country have a habit of changing street names as regimes come and go, so the former Beethovenstrasse in Prague is today’s Opletalova. It was named after Jan Opletal, a medical student killed by the Nazis during a demonstration in 1939.

František Janeček,  photo: archive of JAWA
And now onto our monthly quiz where I ask you to find out the names of outstanding personalities of Czech origin. This time:

“...the answer to the August quiz is... František Janeček. I did not know much about JAWA motorcycles. I'm sorry,” writes Hisanobu Ota from Japan. And Jahangir Alam Manto from Bangladesh adds:

“The Jawa motorcycle is well-known for its design, style, clarity and uniqueness. Jawa's first two letters represent the name of its founder Janeček František. He was not only a successful founder, owner and engineer of JAWA but also a renowned Czech inventor and patent designer...

“As for his personal life, there was an interesting story. While riding a bike to work in Holland he collided with a car. The car driver took him into his home and his daughter nursed him. Later he married the lady. Baroness Carolina Strijk Van Lindschoten and František Janeček had one son, who also a pioneer in Czech history. “

Hamad Kiani from Pakistan writes:

“František Janeček founded the JAWA motorcycle company in 1929. He bought the motorcycle division of Wanderer in 1929. The name JAWA was established by concatenating the first letters of Janeček and Wanderer.”

Hans Verner Lollike from Denmark noted:

“František Janeček invented a hand grenade – named after him, but luckily he was more known for developing the JAWA motor bike.”

Radhakrishna Pillai from India used to listen to Radio Prague shortwave programmes many years ago and has now returned to our station:

“JAWA is one of the most famous Motorcycle Production Companies in the world was established by František Janeček in 1929 in Prague. He was the designer, the founder of the production of Jawa Motorcycle. Janeček was born on 23 January 1878 in Klášter nad Dědinou, in East Bohemia. He studied at the Prague Technical School then moved to Berlin College of Engineering in Germany. After graduation he returned to Prague and worked as a designer at the Kolben Company. In 1901 the company sent him to their new factory in the Netherlands. In 1905 he returned to Prague. Proceeds of several patents enabled him to continue inventing and in 1908 he set up his own machine laboratory.

JAWA factory in Týnec nad Sázavou,  photo: archive of JAWA
“In 1927 he turned a former armament factory into a motorcycle manufacturing company. The new company was named JAWA in 1929; a compound of the first letters of Janeček and Wanderer. For his outstanding service in 1938, he received an honorary Doctorate in Engineering... František Janeček died on 4 June 1941 in Prague.”

Jayanta Chakrabarty from India went into considerable depth, as usual:

“Born into a humble peasant family in one of the smallest villages of Eastern Bohemia, František Janeček rose to be one of the world's stalwarts in mechanical engineering and industrial entrepreneurship and an expert in production technique as well as a prolific inventor.

“Most people remember Janeček as the founder of the renowned JAWA motorcycle company but he is also credited with 60 industrial patents which include improved hand grenade, sewing machine, arc lamp and various industrial tools and instruments.

“The 'Janeček' hand grenade became the standard hand grenade of the Czechoslovak army. The sleepy village of Týnec in was transformed into a vibrant industrial centre famous for modern aluminium and cast iron foundry, thanks to the efforts of Janeček. A prolific designer and businessman with a vision, he used his knowledge of engineering and expertise to produce motorcycles in factory mass production technique which was a new concept in the 1930s. Thus the Czech-made JAWA two-stroke engine motorcycle with advanced lightweight features like the shift drive and steel frame became the most popular motorcycle in the world.

“When the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia, his machine laboratory and production centre possessing high technology and skilled labour was used to produce German aircraft engines and generators. However, being a true patriot, Janeček was unable to come to terms with the occupying German forces and worked in secret on his innovative ideas.

JAWA 500 OHV,  photo: Marek Koudelka,  CC BY-SA 3.0
“For his invaluable contribution to Czechoslovakia's industrial sector, he received numerous accolades like being awarded Honorary Doctorate in Engineering on his 60th birthday, nominated as a Member of the Administrative Commission and Chairman of the Commission for Electrical Businesses of Prague. We also know Janeček as a philanthropist. He contributed to charitable activities, helped in construction of telephone exchanges, reconstruction of schools, electrical networks and roads in Týnec town. The memory of František Janeček will forever remain indelible in Czech history.”

Colin Law from New Zealand sent in another of his thoroughly researched answers:

“František Janeček, the founder of the Jawa company, was born on January 23, 1878 in Klášter nad Dědinou, a small village to the east of Prague and about 20km north east of Hradec Králové.

“František was born into a peasant family and despite his preference for a career in medicine, was encouraged by his father to train in technology. His older brother Josef was a coal miner and younger brother Rudolf worked in a Prague factory making electric boilers. František graduated from the Higher Technical School in Prague and studied electrical engineering for a year at a university in Berlin. After Berlin he started to work for one of the biggest companies in Bohemia, Kolben in Vysočany, Prague. In 1901, aged 23, Kolben entrusted him with the setting up and management of a new factory producing electric dynamos in Maarssen, Holland. In 1901 he also married the daughter of the local mayor, Johanna Caroline Strick van Linschotten, and signed his first patent which was for underground electrical power. Two years later a British company paid him £2,000 for his patent. 1904 saw him returning to Bohemia, still with the Kolben company. His first child, František Karel, was born on February 29, 1904.

“Janeček's patent for an arc lamp was sold to Germany and the money used in the years 1908-09 for a study tour of England, Belgium and Germany. Then came the First World War and Janeček began perfecting weapons which meant that by 1918, he had sixty patents. The factory he established for the production of machine guns did not do well after the war and he began to look for another enterprise.

“In 1922 František bought a property in Prague which was destined to be the home of the Jawa company. At that time it employed over 1100 workers who were producing large shells and other ammunition. In 1927 the government terminated the contract and once again František was seeking another enterprise.

JAWA 550,  photo: Public Domain
“In the years 1927 - 1928 František Janeček hoped to produce sewing machines and planned a factory. A year later, Janeček bought a license to manufacture the Wanderer motor-cycle and founded the company JAWA. That name was made from the first two letters of Janeček and the first two of Wanderer. The company produced motor-cycles and some cars and František's son František Karel joined the company.

“After the Nazi invasion of Sudetenland threatened the Janeček family estates, František Karel visited Britain regularly to try to interest the British government in his latest design for an anti tank gun. During one such trip, František Karel learned that Prague had fallen and a few hours before the Nazis marched in, George Patchett (Jawa designer and motor-cycle racer) had thrown the only two prototypes of the new weapon over the wall of the British Embassy. The prototypes were successfully smuggled to Britain inside a sofa. František Janeček was perhaps the only other person back in Prague to know about this exploit and although he was dying of cancer it must have been some comfort to know that his son was working against the German invaders.

“František Janeček died on June 4th 1941 aged 63.

“After the end of the war the communists nationalised the Jawa factory and František Karel moved to Switzerland and Sweden, before eventually settling in Canada with his Canadian born second wife, whom he met in wartime Britain.”

And finally Mary Lou Krenek from Texas, USA, wrote:

“František Janeček is synonymous to the development of the Czech motorcycle industry. He was the founder of JAWA motorcycles. He was an engineer who studied mechanics at the Prague Technical School and engineering in Germany at the Berlin College of Engineering.

“Janeček did well at an early age. At 23, he was appointed manager of a factory in the Netherlands opened by the industrialist Emil Kolben. At 31, he opened his own engineering workshops in Prague.

“During World War I, Janeček had a prolific period of designing and inventing resulting in over sixty new patents. He designed a new hand grenade named Model 21 and nicknamed the Janeček.

Photo: archive of JAWA
“Janeček's opportunity came in 1927 to turn a former armament factory into a motorcycle manufacturing company. He depended on his knowledge of engineering and his experience with factory mass production techniques. His new motorcycle designs were based on an existing 498 cc engine made by a German company called Wanderer. Janeček named his new company JAWA in 1929, a compound of the first to letters of Janeček and Wanderer. His first motorcycle had a number of advanced features including shift drive and a steel frame. Janeček along with experienced British motorcycle designer George William Patchett developed a range of competition motorcycles to promote the new JAWA brand. In the 1930's, Janeček expanded his motorcycles to include lightweight economy models based around British Villiers two-stroke engines as well as the middleweight 350cc side valve and overhead valve motorcycles under the JAWA brand.

“During World War II, the Nazis took over his factory to produce German aircraft engines and generators. Janeček continued to work in secret on the development of single cylinder two stroke motorcycles and restarted production after the war.

“Another invention of Janeček's was the Littlejohn adaptor, a device that could be fitted on to the British QF 2 pounder (40mm) anti-tank gun. It extended the service life of the 2 pounder during World War II by converting it to squeeze bore operation. Littlejohn was the anglicization of Janeček's name.”

Thank you very much for your answers – I always enjoy reading them and learning new details about the respective mystery persons. Alas, there can only be one winner each month and this time our prize goes to Gregory Lagat from Kenya. Congratulations and we do hope the postal services will be more reliable this time than when we tried to mail a parcel to New Zealand – and failed twice.

In September’s quiz we’d like you to tell us the name of the Austrian businessman and founder of a grocery retail and coffee empire named after him. He was born in 1824 in the West Bohemian town of Kraslice.

We expect your answers at the usual address, by October 1st. Until then we’ll be looking forward to your questions, comments and reception reports. Thanks for listening and good-bye.