New documentary celebrates Czechoslovak war hero, RAF pilot Emil Boček

Emil Boček, photo: ČT

A new Czech documentary film pays tribute to one of the country’s last remaining war heroes, Czechoslovak RAF veteran General Emil Boček. The 94-year old war pilot made headlines last year when he got his wish to fly a Spitfire once again, more than seven decades after his last flight in the iconic plane. Documentary film maker Daniel Hnát was in London for the memorable occasion and the result is a half-hour documentary called “Twenty minutes over London”.

Emil Boček,  photo: ČT
When war veteran General Emil Boček voiced the dream to go up in a Spitfire once more a number of organizations including the Czech Spitfire Club and the Czech Mint company got together to make it come true. With cooperation from the British authorities they arranged a trip to London’s Biggin Hill where a disbelieving General Boček climbed into the cockpit of a Spitfire and took to the skies for a twenty minute flight, piloting the aircraft himself for a while after it was airborne. After touch-down he was swamped by reporters and was clearly extremely moved by the experience.

“If I said I liked it, it wouldn’t be accurate. I simply loved it.”

Among the people dogging the general’s footsteps was documentary maker Daniel Hnat, who recorded the memorable occasion. One camera recorded the flight from the general’s plane another from an accompanying plane. He captured the general’s joy at seeing his dream come true, his memories and the reactions of those around him, to create a 30 minute documentary celebrating one of the country’s last remaining war heroes. Its public premiere is scheduled for March at the film festival Febiofest, but on Thursday night it was shown to a select circle of friends at the Prague Pilot’s Cinema, a film-house dating back to the early 20th century when it was run by the Czechoslovak Association of Pilots.

The film’s author, Daniel Hnát says work on the documentary was extremely rewarding and the interest the flight generated in Britain showed the enormous respect the general enjoyed.

“Rarely does a Czech pilot attract so much attention -the BBC and the British media were out in force to document the flight and it made the news that day. That kind of thing does not happen often.”

Emil Boček,  photo: YouTube/Twenty minutes over London
General Boček was present at the film screening and said he greatly enjoyed “re-living the experience”, telling journalists he had been afraid to believe it would actually happen until he was sitting in the cockpit.

“Pilots never forget the experience of flying. And I would say I had more than my share of luck because I escaped death several times.”

The documentary has once again highlighted the legacy of the country’s war veterans. The head of the Czech Mint Company Ales Brix, which co-financed the film, said the firm had been honoured to have a part in the project. “There is so much nonsense getting attention today. The powerful story of these people’s lives, the positive message it contains, deserves to be highlighted and should serve as an inspiration to us,” he said at the screening.