Czechs in Exile

People

General Frantisek Moravec

Frantisek Moravec grew up in the town of Caslav, east of Prague in the Austro Hungarian Empire, headed at the time by Emperor Franz Josef.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Moravec was studying at the University of Prague and fully intended to become a professor of Philosophy.

Interestingly, one of his instructors at this time was Thomas Masaryk, later to become the first President of Czechoslovakia.

With the outbreak of the Great War, Moravec was posted into the Austro-Hungarian army despite trying every avenue of avoidance.

Dissidence in the army was high and in January 1916 Moravec followed by the rest of his Battalion surrendered to the Russians. He was risking his future, but preferred to fight for the Russians rather than against them for the Austrians. There was great uncertainty over how the war would end but hope for liberation from the Empire was spreading.

From the camp in Kiev that Moravec and many other Czechs were initially transferred to, he was soon moved to Kazan where they were permitted to join the Serbian legion being organised in Odessa to fight against the Empire.

Moravec was sent as a Lieutenant to Dobrudza to fight on the Russian side but was shot in the ankle by retreating Bulgarian forces in October 1916.

He was recovering in hospital in Odessa in the latter part of 1916 leading up to the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. The czar was overthrown and the liberal government that was set up as a replacement was quickly recognised by the European allies.

The Czechoslovak Council for Liberation had already been created and was headed by T G Massaryk in London. He negotiated during this early period for the creation of a Czechoslovak Legion within the Russian army.

This army was involved in the 'Kerensky' Offensive in the summer of 1917. Masaryk though, worried about the political situation in Russia, arranged for the Czechoslovak Legion to be sent to the Western Front.

Moravec found hismself transferred in this first group of 1100 men, the only ones to get out in time. All the others became involved in the revolution before finally being evacuated some time later. Moravec was taken by train to the Baltic port of Archangel and then by Russian steamer to England and then France.

Moravec saw further action in Verdun (France), Salonika (Greece) and the Piave (Italy) before the signing of the Amistice finally brought the war to an end on the 11th November 1918.

Moravec was in the entorage following Thomas Masaryk, the first president of the newly independant Czechoslovakia, as he entered Prague in the days before Christmas 1918.

Moravec graduated from the military college in Prague in 1928. He was promoted to Major and then assigned to the headquarters of the Second Infantry Division in Pilsen. He was posted as Head of the Operations Section of the Divisional Staff and was happy with the position for many reasons.

In 1929 he was unexpectedly posted by the General Staff to the Intelligence section at the headquarters of the First Army in Prague.

With assistance from the British SOE, Moravec flew out of Czechoslovakia with 10 of his best men on the 14th March 1939, just before the Nazis fully invaded Czechoslovakia.

When the Communists took over Czechoslovakia in March 1948, Moravec planned an escape. He set up a daily routine of buying a newspaper at a railway station, which he broke on the 19th March, travelling by train to a frontier spa where prearranged contacts in the Underground assisted him crossing the border across the mountains into Germany. He carried with him minimal possessions and left all secret documents behind. With a falsified passport, his wife successfully travelled by train to Austria the following day, and together they travelled to America where they lived for the rest of their lives.

Morovec died in 1966 at the age of 71 whilst travelling to a regular job at the Pentagon. His daughter Hanyi Moravec Disher published his memoirs, 'Master of Spies', a few years later.




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This page last updated 25 March 2009
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