Oxford PH404 - Beinn a Bhuird
Returning of the Watch
On 9th October 2006, Philip Kammer, Lt Col Arnost Polak, S/Ldr Sandy Reid, Mrs Sheila Reid and myself, flew from London to Prague. The following morning, our small party attended the investiture and presentation of Jan Vellas DFC to his daughter, Blazena Husakova-Vellova, by the British Ambassador, HMA Linda Duffield. Also present was Jan Vellas granddaughter and the Embassy's Military Attaché.
There then followed a very moving moment as Philip Kammer outlined his finding of the watch and attempts to trace the Vella family before finally handing the watch to Blazena in a special presentation box which had been organised by Sandy. She was also presented with a photograph album containing pictures documenting the Cairngorm Memorial project. Finally, Arnost presented Jan Vellas granddaughter with a frame containing a photograph of her grandfather and a miniature DFC. It was a moving and emotional event for all those involved.
The next day, the party, with the addition of Pavel Vancata (an Aviation Historian from Prague) who had been closely involved with researching the loss of Jan Vella and crew, travelled 30 kms west of Prague to Jan Vellas home town, Kladno. As guests of the Mayor of Kladno we attended a small reception at Kladno Town Hall during which the Mayor announced that a ceremony would be held at the end of October 2006 in which a posthumous award of Freedom of the Town of Kladno to the memory of Jan Vella would be made.
We were then taken on a tour of Kladno which included a visit to the street they have named in his honour and a stop outside the house Jan Vella and his family lived in prior to him making his escape from the Germans to the UK in 1938.
As we sat that evening enjoying our last hours in Prague before returning home we reflected on the events of the past months and concluded that Jan Vella must have been quite a remarkable man who made his mark on those he met and who continues to do so many years after his death.
Thanks to Blazena Husakova-Vellova, Pavel Vancata, Sandy Reid, Philip Kammer & Arnost Polak.