A remarkable encounter in Brno

On the afternoon of the first day of our visit to the Czech Republic, my wife and I were given a private tour of the new Knights of Heaven exhibition and the RAF Museum in Brno by its founder, and our host, Jan Kratchovil. Jan's tour of the museum was all translated into English by Roman Brazdil who was our translator for the weekend. Afterwards, Roman treated us to dinner before we all returned to join Jan for a drink at a bar adjoining the museum.

Jan was now in the company of an elegantly dressed elderly gentleman who, as we sat down, immediately introduced himself, in English, as John Bok. He explained that he had travelled to Brno for the exhibition the following day, as his father had been in the Czechoslovak 311 Squadron. I introduced myself and my wife to John, informing him that I worked at the museum in Tain, where his father likely served in 1944 and 1945.

John then took great delight in telling us, that his father served at Tain, but also that he "was made in Tain."

His mother, from Leeds, also served at Tain, where she had met his father during the war. As John explained how his father first served with the Czech army in North Africa before he volunteered to join the 311 Squadron, I recalled the poetry in our collection, 'Thank You People of Tain' by a Czech airman, Bedrich Bok.

I interrupted and asked John his father's first name and whether he had ever returned to Tain after the war. He told us all his father was named Bedrich and began explaining in detail how, in the 1960s, his father had met and befriended two Scottish soldiers from Irvine who were visiting Czechoslovakia, where they had been prisoners during WW2. As John continued, I searched on our website using my phone for Bedrich's poem. John informed us that a year later, one of these soldiers wrote to his father inviting him to Scotland.

As John finished his story, I was sure his father had written the poem. I showed him on my phone the poem and painted card his father had made and presented to Tain during his visit (photo). A little amazed and emotional, I read a little of his father's poem to him. As I did this, I recalled the Quaich I had taken over as a gift to present to Jan for the Museum in Brno. I had the Quaich inscribed;

"To the brave men of the 311 Squadron from the town of Tain"

on one side whilst I used an extract from Bedrich's poetry on the other side;

"They sleep so far from home, but none are forgotten".

I showed John pictures of the Quaich with the inscriptions I had taken on my phone. John stated that this is a "Life moment", a moment in life where everything comes together and makes it all worth living. It was certainly a remarkable coincidence.