New book explores Aylesbury Vale's connections with the Czech Republic during the Second World War

The front cover of Neil Rees new book The Czech Connection
The front cover of Neil Rees new book The Czech Connection

A new book exploring Aylesbury Vale's links with the Czech Republic during World War Two has been released.

The Czech Connection by Neil Rees explores Aylesbury Vale's strong links with the country during the Second World War, when it was called Czechoslovakia.

Neil Rees speaks about his new book The Czech Connection during a talk at the Czech Embassy in London

Neil Rees speaks about his new book The Czech Connection during a talk at the Czech Embassy in London

Neil's interest in the country started when he had a job teaching English at a university in Plzen.

He said: "Although it wasn't a country I knew much about when I started working there I really enjoyed my time teaching.

"My grandmother lived in Rowsham and told me there were connections with the Czech Republic.

"I spoke to a man from Aston Abbotts, who worked at Osborne Stores, and he knew a lot about it so was a good starting point.

"I gradually got introduced to more and more people and it started to snowball from there and I got lots of good material.

"In an effort to speak to people on the Czech side I contacted the Czech embassy.

"I found a newsletter for Czech veterans, put an appeal in and got contacted by various people offering their stories.

"I also went through the archives of The Bucks Herald and used some of their old cuttings."

The story starts during the Second World War when Czechoslovakia (now the Czech and Slovak Republics) became a victim of Nazi Germany and about 20,000 Czechs and Slovaks came to Britain as refugees - Czech refugees came to live in Beaconsfield, Wendover, Berkhamsted and other places in the area.

Among the refugees in Bucks, was the then president of Czechoslovakia Dr Edvard Beneš.

He originally came to live in Putney, but after the Blitz in London, he left Putney to come and live at The Abbey in Aston Abbotts from 1941 - which then became the capital of Czechoslovakia in exile.

At nearby Wingrave, the Old Manor House became a safe haven for the then president's close staff members.

The properties were leased from their owners, and the connection was the Rothschilds at Ascott House near Wing who helped their Czech friends.

At Aston Abbotts the president met with other wartime leaders such as Winston Churchill, but also with other exiled leaders especially General Sikorski of Poland, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, King Haakon VII of Norway and Charles de Gaulle of Free France.

In the village of Addington near Winslow, there was a safe house for members of the military intelligence staff - men who worked with the special operations executive and their network of training centres across the area.

The only real monument to Czechoslovakia's wartime presence in Buckinghamshire, is a brick-built bus shelter on the A418 between Aston Abbotts and Wingrave.

This was paid for by the Czechoslovak Government in Exile as a gift to the local community in 1944.

The bus shelter is now a Grade II listed building due to its historical importance and has a plaque on it which reads 'this bus shelter was donated by President Benes of Czechoslovakia to thank the people of Aston Abbotts and Wingrave whilst he and his cabinet were in exile here during World War Two.'

The Czech Connection was launched at an event at the Czech Embassy in London on Thursday August 22.

It took place in the embassy's cinema room and sold out within two days.

Neil said: "We had around 80 people there, and they all had some sort of connection with the Czech Republic.

"It was a great event and I had a good chat with a lot of the people there at the drinks reception afterwards."

To purchase a copy of the book visit www.hawkesdesign.co.uk