Friday, 22 October 2010

HENRYK FRANCZAK


He was a pilot, born on 31st March 1918 at Zagorzycach near Krakow.

In 1936 he qualified as a glider pilot at Ustianowa and in 1939 he was assigned to the Air Reserve Officers School at Sadkow near Radom and later the Air Observers School in Deblin After the outbreak he was captured by the Russians but he escaped and travelled via Kaunas (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia), Stockholm (Sweden) and Oslo (Norway) to France where he joined L’Armee de l’Air at Lyon-Bron.

After the fall of France he escaped to England and joined the Polish forces at the Blackpool Depot, where he trained as a radio operator. On 20th August 1941 he was promoted to Flying Officer and posted to 304 Squadron. On 24th April 1942 he made his first combat mission to bomb the docks at Rostock. He flew 47 missions over Germany and Occupied Europe and was promoted to Flight Lieutenant.

In the summer of 1943 he finally achieved his ambition and was sent for pilot training; he qualified in October 1944. During his war service he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari as well as the Cross of Valour three times and the British DFC.

After the war he settled in Britain and remained with the RAF as an instructor until December 1948 when he was recruited, on a three year contract, into the Pakistan Air Force. During 1948/49 he fought in the first Kashmir War. He was in a transport squadron based at Peshawar, flying Douglas Dakotas. After his contract expired he worked as a pilot for Orient Airways (now known as Pakistan International Airlines).

In 1952 he married an American woman and, the following year, he moved to America where he worked as a salesman for Encyclopaedia Britannica, an insurance salesman and a bus driver.

On 28th November 1992 celebrations were held, by the Polish Embassy in San Francisco, for the bicentenery of the inception of the Order of Virtuti Militari. He was one of four Cavaliers of the Order to be awarded honorary citizenship of the Sate of California.

He had three brothers; one was killed whilst on Special Duties flights in support of the Warsaw Uprising, another was killed fighting with the Armia Krajowa at Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania) and the third survived the war whilst fighting with the RAF.

Footnote

According to the list of Tadeusz Krzystek, he was on board R1072 when it crashed on 11th July 1942 but he is not listed as being on that aircraft in other sources and is not mentioned on the Squadron ORB. This is a bit of a mystery, but there were unofficial passengers on board and, as he was unhurt, he may not have reported his presence, possibly to avoid disciplinary action.

He died in North Scituate, Providence, Rhode Island, USA on 1st July 2006 and, in accordance with his wishes, his ashes were buried in the Military Cemetery at Warsaw on 12th September 2006. He was accorded full military honours.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

KAZIMIERZ PAKULA - THE WHOLE STORY


PAKULA F/Sgt Kazimierz P-783110 (P-2918 on receipt of commission)

He was born in February 1920 at Kamionna near Miedzychod, Poland – just five miles from the German border. In the summer of 1938 he attended a Gliding School in East Poland and was accepted into the Officer Cadet Scool at Deblin to start in October 1939. In the summer of 1939 he was at an Air Force base near Lodz and qualified as a pilot on a course that was accelerated due to the imminence of war. In August 1939 he was recalled to join the 3rd Air Regiment at Lawice near Poznan but was bombed out and had to move on.

On 7th September 1939, he was en route for Deblin but hat base was also bombed out and then he was put on a train heading for Romania. On 17th September he was captured by the Russians at Horodenka and locked in a school for four or five days without food. He was then put on a cattle truck and taken to Russia where he was held in a huge cowshed which was used as a holding camp. He was fed only bread and thin barley soup. When they were being move to the railway station, he escaped by jumping into a ditch with a few others. Then they walked to the nearest town where they bought food and hitched a lift on a Russian convoy which was heading towards Lwow in Poland.

They were dropped off a few miles from the city and walked the rest of the way. Once there he was fed bread and cabbage soup by the Citizens Committee and he enrolled at the University where he was given students credentials. A member of the University staff put him in touch with the Underground and he was given winter clothes and money. He was told to travel alone to Drohobycz where he was picked up by the Underground and moved from house to house, sleeping by day and travelling by night until he crossed into Hungary on the night of 5/6 January 1940.

He was arrested and taken by sledge to a Polish refugee camp near Lake Balaton and was then placed with a farmer in Szabedhidweg. As an illegal immigrant, he decided to make his way to France; he went to the Polish Consulate in Budapest where he arranged for a passport and a ticket to travel as a student. He travelled via Zagreb (Jugoslavia), Milan and Modena (Italy) and into France at Sept-Fonds, near Marseilles, arriving on 22nd February 1940. He was taken to the Polish Air Force camp at Lyons Foire where he was told he would train as an army despatch rider not a pilot.

By June he had no idea of what was happening at Dunkirk but was sent to Granville in Normandy to report to the Infantry. When they found out about the fall of France his party asked the local Mayor to supply them with buses to take them to La Rochelle. They travelled via Orleans where the locals were celebrating the end of the war; they arrived at La Rochelle to find that their ship had been sunk. However, they got on board the SS Alderpool, a Scottish collier, and sailed on 19th June, arriving in Plymouth on 22nd June 1940.

On arrival in England he was fed by the WRVS (Womens Royal Voluntary Service) and escorted onto a train by the Police. His initial destination was Glasgow, a gathering point for Polish refugees, after that he was sent to RAF West Kirby, a satellite of RAF Blackpool, and then on to the Polish Depot at RAF Blackpool, arriving there on 2nd July 1940.

His welcome to England was a gift of ten shillings (50 pence) from King George VI which he spent on an English dictionary, a day at the Pleasure Beach (a 1940’s fore runner of a theme park) and he saved a little. To put this in perspective, that amount today would buy you two cigarettes and wouldn’t even get you a can of Coke.

He was accommodated in a boarding house in this resort city and immediately set about learning English before his training began in earnest; he was helped by the officer in charge of the RAF reading room. He did so well that this officer recommended him as an interpreter and, after only nine months, he was offered this job withthe rank of acting Sergeant with 306 Squadron at RAF Turnhill in Cheshire. However, they had been transferred to RAF Northolt in Middlesex and he was eventually posted (spring 1941) to RAF Padgate at Warrington, Cheshire. This was a receiving camp where airmen were assessed for future training. He was there as an interpreter for six months before being posted to RAF Leuchars near St Andrews, Fife, Scotland for ground crew training with the rank of AC2.

A year later, in spring 1942 he was sent to RAF Hucknall in Nottinghamshire where he had to qualify on Tiger Moths with only 12 hours flying time. However, operational needs changed and although he had qualified as a pilot, he had to retrain as a navigator, which he did at the Navigator School in Eastbourne, Sussex, finishing off at RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man in the autumn of 1942 before being posted to Coastal Command and further operational training with 1OTU at RAF Silloth, Cumberland (now Cumbria). Finally, he became part of an aircrew and in the summer of 1943 they were posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Davidstow Moor in Cornwall. During his service, he was awarded the Cross of Valour on four occasions. He was part of the regular crew of Wing Commander Jozef Werakso and, on the night of 3/4 March 1944, they attacked a surfacing U-boat which immediately dived. The British Admiralty claimed the boat was sunk but no confirmation was found in records after the war. A week later they sighted another U-boat but did not attack it.

He completed 50 operational missions before being selected for the Officer Training School at North Berwick in East Lothian, Scotland where he received his commission in December 1944.

After the war he attended the London School of Economics and then rejoined the RAF, serving in Africa, Aden (now Yemen) and Borneo. He left the RAF in 1965 and became a lecturer in Law and Economics until his retirement, although he continued part time until he was 70. In his retirement he became a keen and successful gardener, winning many prizes.

At the time of writing (October 2010) he is a sprightly 90 year old and lives with his family in Hampshire. He has visited Poland on many occasions since leaving the RAF.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

THE LONGEST BOMBER BATTLE

This is the story of the longest single battle ever fought by an Allied bomber against enemy fighters.  The crew were;  Edmund Ladro (pilot), Jan Bialy (co-pilot), Stanislaw Plachcinski (navigator), Kazimierz Chlopicki (wireless operator), Wladyslaw Piskorski and Antoni Ulicki (air gunners).

On 9th February 1943, whilst patrolling the Bay of Biscay, about four hours into the flight, they saw four Junkers Ju88s and immediately jettisoned their depth charges and dived to near wave top level; this was a tactic to prevent the fighters from attacking the undefended underbelly of the Wellington. The rear gunner poured accurate fire into one of the Junkers, knocking it out of the sky. The remaining three persisted with the attack until they ran out of ammunition and then tried to force the Wellington into the sea by dangerous manoeuvres. During the 57 minute battle the co-pilot and rear gunner received serious bullet wounds; the aircraft itself was riddled with bullet holes and had a two yard square hole torn in its right wing through cannon fire. This was the longest single battle fought by an Allied bomber during the whole of the war and, between attacks, the pilot steered with his knees to rest his arms. Unable to make it back to RAF Dale, they landed safely at RAF Predannack in Cornwall.

Eventually a squadron of Bristol Beaufighters arrived, in response to the Mayday calls, and shot down all three of the Ju88s.

Monday, 18 October 2010

TADEUSZ BLASZCZYCK

He was a pilot born on 18th February 1925 at Dobromil. At the age of 15 he escaped across the border into Hungary where he was held in the civilian internment camp at Kadarkut. This was a refugee camp administered jointly by the Poles and Hungarians. He completed his schooling on 17th May 1940 and then escaped from the camp. He travelled through Jugoslavia, Greece and Turkey and then crossed the Mediterranean on the vessel SS New York and finally arrived at Camp T2, a staging post for Poles in Beirut, Lebanon. On 6th January 1941 he lied about his age and joined the Carpathian Riflew who were forming up on Syria; he was one of the youngest soldiers in the brigade and fought at Tobruk and El Ghazal.
On 23rd January 1943 he joined the Polish forces at Khanaquinie in Iraq and was sent to England three months later. He was taken to the Polish Depot at Blackpool and completed his pilot training at RAF Hucknall and RAF Newton both in Nottinghamshire.

After the war, he passed his final exams in England and graduated with honours from the University of London with a degree in engineering. He died in London of a heart attack on 28th May 1979 while playing tennis. He was buried at Sutton and Merton Cemetery, Grand Drive, Morden, Surrey.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

JAN BAKANACZ

He was a pilot, born in Swisloczy in the province of Podlaskie in north eastern Poland; his flying career started on gliders in 1936. Immediately prior to the outbreak of the war he was a corporal pilot in the 24th Reconnaissance Squadron flying PZL23 Karas. He was evacuated to Romania and made his way to France where he served at Marseilles before moving on to Great Britain. He eventually joined 304 Squadron.

He had the good luck to survive two uneven skirmishes with German fighters. On 5th September 1942, he was involved in a fight with two Junkers Ju88s; this battle was fought virtually at sea level and required tremendous skill bearing in mind the size, slow speed and poor manoeuverability of a Wellington Bomber. About two weeks later, the aircraft did battle with a Focke Wulf 200 of the long range, elite Condor unit off the Spanish coast in the Bay of Biscay. On both occasions he escaped unscathed.

On 13th December 1942 he attacked a 3,000 ton enemy cargo ship but his stick of bombs missed by only 50 yards. He also served in 301 Squadron and 138 Special Duties Squadron.

On 3rd July 1945 he was awarded the British Distinguished Flying Cross with a citation stating that he had displayed a high degree of courage and decisiveness and had performed his tasks with great skill and efficiency. He was also awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari and the Cross of Valour four times.

He is believed to have returned to Poland after the war and one source states that he was still flying Ilyushins in the Polish Air Force in 1968 making him probably the oldest pilot there.

Friday, 15 October 2010

WILHELM ADAMIK

He was born on 19th April 1916 at Cieszyn and was a corporal air gunner in the 65th Bomb Squadron in Poland, before the war. On 2nd September 1939 his P23B Karas aircraft engaged a German armoured column and was badly shot up; the navigator was killed but Adamik was unhurt.

He was posted in to 304 Squadron from RAF Bramcote on 20th June 1941. He was killed on 20th October 1941 when Wellington N2852 was hit by flak during a raid on Emden and crashed in the sea near Heligoland. A distress signal was sent and another aircraft saw a flare but the crew could not be rescued. He formerly served with 301 squadron. He was awarded the Cross of Valour.

ALOJZY SZKUTA

 
He was a navigator, born on 29th January 1910 at Toszonowicach.  He graduated from the Aviation Cadet School in Deblin in 1931.  During the September Campaign he was a Lieutenant in 217 Bomber Squadron serving as a tactical officer.                  

In England he was posted to 301 Squadron, he was shot down over Germany, on 5th May 1942, on a mission to Stuttgart and escaped to fly again.  The aircraft was within 20 miles of its target when it was hit by flak and forced to turn back.  The crew baled out and the aircraft crashed in Belgium.  He landed near Namur and was eventually assisted to travel through France, Spain and Gibraltar from where he got back to England.

He was killed on Wellington R1716 which was lost on patrol over the Bay of Biscay on 1st November 1942, shot down by an enemy fighter.  German records show that it was shot down by Hauptman Hein-Horst Hissbach of 15/KG40 west south west of Brest, France at 16.56hrs.

He was awarded the Order of Virtuti Militari for bravery in combat in Poland and subsequently the Cross of Valour twice.

Photo copyright of the Sikorski Institute

ZYGMUNT NATKANSKI


He was a navigator, born on 4th September 1907 at Skierniewice. On 1st September 1927, he joined the Infantry Officers School in Ostrow Mazowiecka. After a three years he qualified and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 15th August 1930. He was posted to 28 Infantry Regiment in Lodz. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 1st September 1933. Immediately prior to the war (November 1937 until August 1939 he was commander of II platoon, 59 Squadron. On 3rd November 1933 he began Officer Training at the Deblin Aviation School Application taking a 9 month observer (navigator) course. He qualified in August 1934 and was posted to 55 Squadron within the 5th Air Regiment in Lida flying on the Potez XXV, a French built single engined two seat bi-plane. He soon moved to 56 Squadron where he was flying on the Lublin XIIIC army co-operation plane.

Between September and November 1936 he worked in the personnel section of the 5th Air Regiment, later returning to 55 Squadron as a tactical officer. In August 1937, he was transferred to 59 squadron at Lida, where he commanded II platoon. He was promoted to Captain on 26th April 1939 and given the post of Commander of the NCO School at Lida. On 24th August 1939 he was given command of the squadron’s base school.

After the outbreak of the war he remained at Lida throughout the heavy bombing of that aerodrome; he was ordered to evacuate to Romania on 17th September 1939 but because of the great distance and the entry of Russia into the war, he chose to escape to Latvia. On the following day they crossed the border at Turmonty and were interned at Daugavpils and, from 21st September 1939, at Liepaja. On 17th November he was transferred to a camp at Ulbroka near Riga. He escaped from the camp and got to Riga and the Polish section of the British embassy where he obtained travel papers for himself and his family.

As a result, he was able to leave Latvia and head for Sweden; from there he flew from Stockholm to Norway and on 30th December 1939, he made it to England. On 13th February 1940 he joined the Polish Air Force at RAF Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. His first task was to learn English and then, in the early summer of 1940, he was moved to the Polish Depot in Blackpool to be out of reach (or at the maximum range) of German bombers.

On 5th August 1940 he was sent to 1 Air Observer Navigation School at RAF Prestwick in Ayrshire, Scotland and after successfully completing the course, he went to 18OTU at RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton in Warwickshire for his operational training. He actually completed this training with 12OTU at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. He was then posted to 304 Squadron, reporting for duty on 24th July 1941.

He spent months bombing targets in France, Belgium and Germany and on the night of 9/10 March 1942 he was bombing the Krupps armament factory in Essen. The mission was successful but bad weather meant they were unable to locate their home base and landed at RAF Oakington in Cambridgeshire. Whilst parked, their aircraft (Wellington R1602) was struck by another aircraft and was totally burnt out.

He was killed when X9764 was shot down by a night fighter near Geetbetz, Belgium on 6th April 1942. Luftwaffe records show that they were detected by radar and pusued by a Messerschmidt Bf110; they were shot down by Oberleutnant Heinrich Petersen and Feldwebel Leidenbach of 6/NJG1 Geerbetz 10 KM North West of Sint Trond at 02.28hrs. Their port engine was hit by a burst of close range gunfire and immediately burst into flames and they crashed within a few minutes. He received head wounds and died in the arms of Belgian citizens at the scene of the crash.

He was buried Sint Trond but later exhumed and reburied at Heverlee War Cemetery, Leuven, Belgium. He was awarded the Krzyz Walechznych (Cross of Valour) by Air Vice Marshal Ujejski on 21st November 1941; he also won this decoration on another occasion. He was a married man (having married Elizabeth Michalowska on 15th June 1937) with one son, Thomas.

Photo © ARS Group

Friday, 8 October 2010

KAZIMIERZ PAKULA'S ESCAPE ROUTE

He was born in February 1920 in Kamionna, near Miedzychod, Poland, just 5 miles from the German border. At age 8 he saw his first aeroplane and set his course to be a pilot. He graduated from high school in May 1939 and was passed as medically fit for the Air Force.

In the July and August 1938, he attended a Gliding School in East Poland and qualified as a glider pilot which meant he was accepted into the Officer Cadet School at Deblin on the course starting in October 1939. Amazingly, his father had to sign to say that he would pay for any damage caused if he crashed an aeroplane!

He spent the summer at an Air Force base near Lodz where his course was accelerated due to the imminence of war and he qualified as a pilot on the RWD8 trainer. He then went home on two weeks leave but on 28th August 1939 he received a telegram recalling him to the Polish Air Force base at Lawice near Poznan to join the 3rd Air Regiment.

On 1st September 1939 he was sitting outside when six aircraft appeared and started to bomb the barracks and returned later to bomb it again. With a few others, he raided the cookhouse for cold snacks which he survived on for the next few days whilst he travelled to Central Poland.

On 7th September 1939 he was near Warsaw and heading towards Deblin but was diverted as it had also been bombed. For a while he was accommodated at the deserted married quarters and there he had a narrow escape when a bomb fell nearby but failed to explode. Others were injured in the raid but there were no emergency services to help them. After this he was put on a train heading towards the Carpathian Mountains then on towards Romania. On 17th September he slept in a barn in a village near Horodenka and it was here that he was captured by Russian tanks and infantry. They were marched at bayonet point to a school where they were locked in, without food, for four or five days.

They were then piled into cattle trucks and driven east to a huge old cowshed which was in use as a holding camp and was across the Russian border. After a couple of days they were given bread and thin barley soup from a field kitchen. When they were taken to the train to be moved, he worked his way to the back of the column and escaped by jumping into a ditch with a few others. They made their way to the nearest town where they bought food and, cheekily, thumbed a lift from the last lorry in a Russian convoy; this was a good move as it was heading west towards Lwow in Poland. They were dropped off a few miles short of the city and walked the rest of the way.

The Citizens Committee fed them bread and cabbage soup and accommodated them in a dance hall. He enrolled at the University and enrolled where he was given a student’s identity papers. He tried unsuccessfully to get a grant to live on but a Polish secretary told him she could put him in touch with the Underground and arranged for him to be fed three times a week at the hospital kitchen.

In October he was contacted by the Underground and given new winter clothes. Eventually he was given money and told to go to the south and to take a train alone to Drohobbycz and to talk to nobody. On arrival he was to turn left out of the station; he was picked up and moved house to house, sleeping by day and moving by night until he crossed into Hungary on the night of 5/6 January 1940.

He was arrested and taken by sledge to a Polish refugee camp near Lake Balaton and was then placed with a farmer in Szabedhidweg. He decided to make his way to France and was stopped by an unfriendly ticket inspector but then helped by the stationmaster to get a train to Budapest. There he went to the Polish Consul where he arranged a passport and a ticket to travel to France as a student. He went via Zagreb (Jugoslavia), Milan and Modena (Italy) and into France at Sept-Fonds, near Marseilles, arriving on 22nd February 1940.

He was taken to the Polish Air Force camp at Lyons Foire where he was told he would train as an army despatch rider not a pilot. By June he had no idea of what was happening at Dunkirk but was sent to Granville in Normandy to report to the Infantry. When they found out about the fall of France his party asked the local Mayor to supply them with buses to take them to La Rochelle. They travelled via Orleans where the locals were celebrating the end of the war; they arrived at La Rochelle to find that their ship had been sunk. However, they got on board the SS Adverpool, a Scottish Collier, and sailed on 19th June, arriving in Plymouth on 22nd June 1940.

Photographs courtesy of Kazimierz and Nicholas Pakula

Monday, 4 October 2010

ZYGMUNT PIETRASIEWICZ


He was born on 23rd March 1919 in Bobrus near Wilno (now Vilnius) and in 1938 he joined the training school in Swiecie. But because of the outbreak of war, he was unable to complete the course and was evacuated from his base in Moderowka to Romania. His escape route is uncertain but he arrived in France on 30th November 1939 and sought a transfer to England. This was granted and he arrived in England on 27th February 1940 and, after completing his basic training, began his aircrew training on 13th July 1941 and his pilot training two months later on 12th September 1941.

He finished the training at 34 Service Flying Training School at Medicine Hat in Alberta, Canada on 3rd July 1942. He was then returned to the Blackpool Depot and was sent to 16 SFTS at RAF Newton, Nottinghamshire on 20th October 1942 and, to gain flying experience, he was sent to 5 Air Observer School at RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man.

On 15th May 1944 he was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Chivenor in Devon and served with them until 21st November 1945 when he enlisted in the Polish Resettlement Corps at RAF Hucknall in Nottinghamshire. He was awarded the Cross of Valour twice and the Air Medal.

After his demobilisation he settled in the Nottingham area, changed his name to Hope and worked in the textile industry.

ZDZISLAW STANISLAW PIECZYNSKI

He was born on 28th April 1916 in Sulejewo near Poznan and in 1934 he joined the training school in Bydgoszcz in 1934 and qualified as a wireless operator in 1937. His first posting was to the 1st Air Regiment in Warsaw where he was attached to 214 Bomber Squadron and later to 211 Bomber Squadron. He took part in the September Campaign but on the night of 18/19th September 1939 he was evacuated to Romania. There is no information on his escape route but he made his way to France and immediately applied for transfer to England.

He was accepted and after further operational training he was posted from 18OTU at RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton in Warwickshire on 12th April 1942 (possibly 1941 to RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire – which seems more likely as he could not possibly have been so highly decorated in just 16 days) to 304 Squadron at RAF Lindholme in Yorkshire.

He was on board Wellington bomber Z1088 which disappeared on a mission to Cologne on 28th April 1942. His aircraft is believed to have been shot down near Villers la Ville in Belgium and he is buried in the Charleroi Communal Cemetery there.

He was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Valour four times and the Air Medal.

STANISLAW MASLON


He was born on 17th September 1917 at Choron near Czestochowa and joined the training school in Bydgoszcz in 1934; he qualified as an aircraft mechanic in 1937. His initial posting was to the 2nd Air Regiment in Krakow attached to 121 Fighter Squadron. His unit was involved in the September Campaign until they were evacuated to Romania, crossing the border on 17th September 1939.

His escape route is unclear but he travelled to Beirut and probably took ship from there until he reached France. He was sent to the Armee de l’Air base at Lyon-Bron and was utilised as a mechanic with the fighter group. On the capitulation of France he made his way to England, possibly via St Jean de Luz on the Basque coast, just north of the Spanish border. He arrived in England in early July 1940.

He was posted to 304 Squadron, where he trained as a fitter, and stayed with them until January 1943 when he began training as a flight engineer. On completion of this course, six months later, he was posted to 138 (Special Duties) Squadron based at RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire. This was very hazardous duty but he completed a tour of duty with them in June 1944, comprising 28o hours flown on 28 missions.

After only one week of rest he was posted to 1586 Flight of 301 Squadron as a mechanic on B-24 Liberators (also Special Duties) until 14th March 1945 when he was posted to 4 School of Technical Training at RAF St Athan near Cardiff, Wales as an instructor.

On 3rd January 1946 he returned to 304 Squadron as a pilot. By this time they were part of Transport Command and based at RAF Chedburgh in Suffolk where their duties involved flying supplies to Italy and Greece and bringing back released prisoners of war. One source suggests that on 30th November 1946 he was transferred to 301 Transport Squadron. If true it seems pointless as both squadrons were disbanded in December 1946. It seems more likely that he was transferred to the Polish Resettlement Corps as he was not demobilised until 1948.

He was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Valour, the Partisan Cross and the Air Medal. After his discharge he was awarded the civilian version of the Silver Cross of Merit for his welfare work in the Polish community.

As a civilian, he emigrated to Canada and went to work as a mechanic and then for Air Canada.  He died on 15th May 1997 at Montreal and was buried in the Field of Honour in the Veterans Cemetery at Pointe-Claire, Quebec, Canada.

STANISLAW JAN PIASECKI

 
He was born on 16th January 1922 at Tykocin near Bialystok and joined the training school in Swiecie in 1938. Because of the outbreak of war, he could not complete his course and his entire class was evacuated from their base in Moderowka to Romania.
16 year old Air Cadet at SPLdM - 1938
 

He arrived in France on 21st November 1939 and requested a transfer to England which he was granted and arrived here on 6th March 1940 apparently at RAF Manston in Kent. This is most unusual as the normal reception centre at that time was RAF Eastchurch (also in Kent).

His initial service consisted of duties with the anti-aircraft defence of RAF Bramcote in Warwickshire and RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire which were both Polish stations. One source quotes 304 and 305 squadrons but this is incorrect as neither had been formed at this point in time.

He began his pilot training on 9th September 1941 and completed it on 10th July 1943. In order to gain flying experience he was posted to 3 Air Gunnery School at RAF Castle Kennedy near Stranraer in Scotland but two weeks later he was sent to RAF Squires Gate (Blackpool) for a short navigation course. On 30th November 1943 he was posted to 3OTU at Haverfordwest in Wales for his operational training.

On 7th April 1944 he was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Chivenor in Devon. He completed a tour of duty with them and was sent back to the Polish Depot at Blackpool for a rest from operational flying in April 1945. He served for a while as a staff pilot until his posting to RAF Dunholme Lodge on a date that has been suggested as 1948 but this is unlikely as it closed at the end of the ward
During his service he was awarded the Cross of Valour three times and the Air Medal. He was demobilised on 12th November 1948 and went to work in the coal mines. From 1953 he worked as a skilled toolmaker. He retired early at the beginning of 1985 due to ill health. His civilian work would probably have been in Staffordshire as he was last heard of in Walsall in 1999.  He died in Cannock, Staffordshire on 16th October 2009.
Receiving the Cross of Valour from General Izycki
 
With special thanks to Ryszard Kolodziedjski for the use of photographs from his personal collection

Sunday, 3 October 2010

LEONARD GABRIEL POSTOL

He was born on 6th November 1920 in Tarnopol and he joined the training school in Swiecie in 1938. Due to the outbreak of war, he was unable to complete his course and was evacuated from his base at Moderowka to Romania. He arrived in France on New Year’s Day 1940 and immediately requested a transfer to England. He arrived here on 17th February 1940 and after finishing his basic training, he began pilot training on 19th July 1941 but six weeks later was transferred to air gunner training.

He completed this training at 7 Air Gunnery School, RAF Stormy Down near Bridgend, Glamorgan, South Wales and, on 25th September 1942, began his operational training with 18OTU at RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton in Warwickshire. Eventually, on 14th October 1943, he was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Davidstow Moor in Cornwall where he remained until 20th April 1944.

He survived the crash of Wellington bomber HF898 on 24th December 1942 when the aircraft ran out of fuel after 11 hours 56 minutes in the air and the crew baled out safely near Cannock in Staffordshire.

After leaving the squadron he was suspended from flying duties on 5th February 1945 and from all aircrew duties five days later for medical reasons. He was awarded the Cross of Valour and the Air Medal.

On demobilisation, he settled in Southampton but moved to Blackpool at some point and died there on 24th August 2008.

MIKOLAJ PAWLUCZYK

He was born on 1st or 15th November 1914 (accounts vary) in Minsk, Russia and he joined the training school at Bydgoszcz in 1930 but appears to have failed the course as he was released after two years. In August 1939 he was conscripted and sent to 6 Air Regiment in Lwow. He was evacuated after the September Campaign and arrived in France in January 1940. He stayed there until the fall of France and arrived in Britain on 27th June 1940.
After a period of training he was posted to 307 Fighter Squadron on 27th September 1940 at RAF Kirton in Lindsey in Lincolnshire. He requested aircrew duties and began wireless operator training at the Blackpool Depot on 24th November 1941; he completed the course at 1 Signal School RAF Cranwell, Sleaford, Lincolnshire on 17th September 1942. Next day he went to 8 Air Gunnery School at RAF Evanton, Invergordon, Scotland where he qualified on 16th October 1942. On 16th December 1942 he went to 7 Signal School and then on to 6OTU at Silloth in Cumberland (now Cumbria) for operational training. On 15th April 1943 he was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Docking in Norfolk.

He was on board Wellington bomber HE304 on 17th July 1943 when it ran out of fuel on the return journey from the Bay of Biscay. The whole crew baled out and landed safely at Carlow in the Irish Republic and the plane crashed near Ballickmoylar, County Laois. He managed to send out an SOS and three aircraft were sent out to look for them but they failed to find the crash because they were unable to violate Irish neutrality and the visibility was so poor.

He returned to the Blackpool Depot and was later posted to RAF Morecambe Polish training wing in Lancashire on 16th November 1944. Subsequently he was commissioned as an officer and transferred to 133 Wing as adjutant. On 3rd September 1945 he received his final posting to RAF Dunholme Lodge in Lincolnshire which appears to have been a storage facility for Hamilcar gliders at this time. He was awarded the Cross of Valour three times and the Air Medal.

After his discharge he returned to Poland and was last heard of in 1947.

ZYGMUNT STANISLAW PIECHOWIAK

He was born on 4th April 1920 at Buk near Poznan and he joined the training school at Bydgoszcz in 1937. His course was shortened because of the war but he qualified as a wireless operator at Krosno in 1939. He was evacuated from his base at Luck to Romania and made his way to France and stayed there until the country fell to the Germans, when he moved to England. He finished his operational training there at 18 OTU at RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton in Warwickshire and was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Tiree in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

He was a crew member of a Wellington that was jumped by 6 Ju88 fighters whilst on anti-submarine patrol near Bishop Rock on 16th September 1942. In a 12-15 minute battle, fought at 30 feet above sea level, this crew destroyed one enemy plane, saw large pieces break off the tailplane of another and scored hits on three more. In return they had a two yard square section of wing torn off by cannon fire and their petrol tank was pierced. They managed a power climb into the clouds and the action was broken off.

He was killed on R1413 which was shot down by three Junkers Ju88 German fighters of V/KG40 on 16th October 1942, whilst on patrol over the Bay of Biscay. Twice he sent out Mayday calls reporting the attack, but to no avail. His body was never found and he has no known grave.

The fatal blow was delivered by Uffizier Steurich on the second attack after R1413’s rear gunner had knocked out one engine on the first attack by Leutnant Dieter Meister, putting him out of the combat.



He was awarded the Cross of Valour three times and the Air Medal.

KONRAD JOZEF PASZKIEWICZ

He was born on 29th November 1920 in Gorzkowice near Lodz and in 1937 he joined the training school in Bydgoszcz. His course was shortened by the impending war and he qualified as a wireless operator at Krosno in 1939. He was evacuated from his base at Luck to Romania and made his way to France, arriving there in October 1939.

Once there he was placed under the command of Squadron Leader Jan Bialy (who later became the first Commanding Officer of 304 Squadron) and was based at St Jaques aerodrome near Rennes where it was intended to form a squadron of bombers. However, France capitulated in June 1940 and he was moved to Casablanca in Morocco and from there he took a ship to Glasgow, where he arrived on 17th July 1940. He was sent to the Polish Depot at Blackpool and did further training before being posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton in Warwickshire in March 1941.

On 14th July 1941 his aircraft, R1002 (NZ – L), was on a mission to Bremen and was hit by flak; he survived the crash landing near Stiffkey, Norfolk but was seriously injured. He returned to duty early in 1942. He also survived the crash landing of R1697 at RAF Lindholme on 24th April 1942 following a mission to Rostock. The aircraft jettisoned its bombs from 16,500 feet over Flensburg, following a surprise attack by a Messerschmidt Me110 fighter. The aircraft was damaged and the pilot (Squadron Leader Czetowicz) and rear gunner (P/O Apanasik) were struck by bullets but all survived.

In May 1943, after 42 operational missions, he was posted back to the Blackpool Depot for a rest from operational flying and in December of that year he was medically grounded and given a desk job at the Polish Headquarters in London. He had been decorated with the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari on 21st November 1941 by Air Vice Marshal Ujejski, the Cross of Valour on 28th June 1941 and two subsequent occasions and the Air Medal four times. He was finally discharged in 1948.

He took a job in the motor industry and retired in 1982. He died on 29th May 2001 at Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire and was cremated at Boston crematorium.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

MARIAN PIEKARSKI

He was born on 4th August 1920 in Stoczki near Lodz and he enrolled in the training school at Bydgoszcz in 1937 but his course was shortened due to the impendcing war; he qualified as an aircraft mechanic at Krosno in 1939.

He was evacuated from his base at Luck and crossed the border into Romania. He travelled on to France via Syria and stayed there until the capitulation was imminent and he came to Britain in May 1940. Once here, he trained as an air gunner at 18OTU at Bramcote near Nuneaton, Warwickshire and was posted to 304 Squadron on 30th September 1941 when they were based at RAF Lindholme in Yorkshire and still part of Bomber Command. He completed 50 missions with the squadron (17 with Bomber Command).

Early in 1943 he was posted back to the Blackpool Depot as a rest from operational flying and to re-train as a pilot. However he did not complete this training before the war ended. He was discharged in early 1947 and settled in Blackpool where he started his own upholstery business.

After the war he was also known under the name Piekarski-King (although he actually changed his name to King). He died in Blackpool on 10th February 2005; he is buried in the Polish plot at Carleton Cemetery. His son, also Marian but known simply as Roy King, became one of England’s foremost archers and bowmakers. Marian junior died in November 2009 and in his obituary, in the Daily Telegraph, it states that his father was a rear gunner who survived being shot down in a Wellington bomber – but there is no further information included.

In fact this occurred on 31st May 1942 when Wellington DV781 lost both engines and was forced to ditch in the sea – this was the first time one of the squadron’s aircraft had ditched whilst they were in Coastal Command. The crew were all safe and were rescued by the destroyer HMS Boadicea. At some stage he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Valour three times and the Air Medal.

MARIAN LESZEK NOWAK

He was born on 24th February 1916 in Jedrzejow in Kielce province and he joined the training school in Bydgoszcz in 1933. He qualified as an aircraft mechanic in 1936 and was posted to the 1st Air Regiment in Warsaw. He took part in the September Campaign and was evacuated to France and then on to England when France fell.
He worked as ground crew until 19th July 1941 when he started pilot training which he completed on 4th February 1942. After more training and two spells at the Blackpool Depot, on 19th August 1942, he went to RAF Cosford at Shifnal, Shropshire for four weeks officer training. After this he was commissioned as a Flying Officer and sent to 6 Anti-aircraft Co-operation Unit at RAF Cark in Cumberland (now Cumbria) to build up his flying experience. However, only five days later he was recalled to 18OTU to complete his operational training and then he was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Dale in Pembrokeshire, Wales on 12th October 1942.

On 3rd July 1943 he was on board Wellington bomber HZ575 flying on an anti-submarine patrol from RAF Davidstow Moor in Cornwall. This aircraft was probably shot down by German fighters about 40 miles North west of Brest, France whilst on a Musketry anti-submarine patrol. He was awarde the Air Medal.

ZYGMUNT NOWAKOWSKI

He was born on 22nd June 1918 in Piaski Piastowskie near Warsaw and joined the training school at Bydgoszcz in 1936. He qualified as a radio mechanic at Krosno in 1939. He was posted directly to the 4th Air Regiment in Torun, where he was attached to 41 Reconnaissance Squadron. He took part in the September Campaign under the control of the Pomeranian Army. On 18th September 1939 he went to Kuty (now Ukraine) and crossed into Romania.
There is no indication of his route but he arrived in France on 13th November 1939 and on 4th March 1940 he was assigned to the maintenance section of a fighter squadron. He left his base on 14th June, just before the capitulation of France, and arrived at Liverpool on 16th July 1940.

He took a course in electrical mechanics and was posted to 305 Squadron on 30th August 1940 at RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton in Warwickshire; this was the day before their initial inception so he was one of the original members of the squadron’s ground crew. He stayed with them almost to the end of the war, moving to 12 School of Technical Training at RAF Melksham in Wiltshire on 20th January 1945. Here he qualified as an electrician and on 19th May 1945 he was posted to 304 Squadron.

Finally he was posted to 58 Maintenance Unit at Newark, Nottinghamshire on 2nd July 1946. Then into the Polish Resettlement Corps on 7th May 1947. He was awarded the Air Medal and finally discharged on 17th March 1949 from RAF Cammeringham in Lincolnshire.

After his discharge he worked in the electrical industry in Nottingham and as an instructor at a rehabilitation centre at Balderton, Nottinghamshire. He finally retired on 21st June 1983.

STEFAN PILAT

He was born on 24th November 1918 in Karczmiska near Pulawy and entered the training school at Bydgoszcz in 1934; he qualified as a wireless operator in 1937 and was attached to the 1st Air Regiment in Warsaw. On 1st October 1937 he was posted to 214 Bomber Squadron for operational training as a wireless operator/air gunner and completed the course on 31st May 1938.

He was retained as an instructor and then took part in the September Campaign. Unfortunately he was captured by the Russians on 18th September 1939 as he tried to leave the country; he was deported to Russia. There is no information on his time there except that he was released on 21st August 1941 to join the Polish Army that was being formed by General Anders following the attack by Germany on Russia.

On 1st February 1942, by an uncertain route, he arrived in England and was sent to the Polish Depot in Blackpool. Between 2nd March and 13th November 1942 he trained as a wireless operator at 1 Signal School, RAF Cranwell at Sleaford, Lincolnshire and immediately began gunnery training at 8 Air Gunnery School at RAF Evanton near Invergordon, Scotland; he completed this on 19th December 1942 and returned to Blackpool. He did a further month training at 11 Signal School and was sent to 6OTU for operational training on 23rd February 1943.

Now fully trained, he was posted to 304 Squadron on 15th April 1943 at RAF Docking, Norfolk where he was to fly anti-submarine missions. His career with them was short lived. He was on board Wellington bomber HZ575 flying out of RAF Davidstow Moor on 3rd July 1943 which was probably shot down by German fighters about 40 miles North west of Brest, France whilst on a Musketry anti-submarine patrol.

He was awarded the Air Medal.

JAN MATEJACK

He was born on 29th April 1922 in Merrghole, Germany and in 1938 he joined the training school in Swiecie. Due to the outbreak of war his course could not be completed and he was evacuated from his base at Moderowka to Romania. There are no details of his route but he went via Syria and arrived in France on 22nd January 1940.

He remained there until the fall of France, after which he made his way to England. At this early stage of the war, he may have arrived at RAF Eastchurch in Kent. There is no further detail of his life until 1st September 1941 when he started his pilot training – which he finished on 15th July 1942.

From there he went to 4 Air Gunnery School at RAF Morpeth in Northumberland to acquire flying experience. This suggests that he was flying Blackburn Bothas which carried the trainee air gunners or possibly flying the target tugs. This lasted until April 1943 when he returned to the Blackpool Depot. On 15th January 1944 he began a navigator course on completion of which he was posted to 304 Squadron on 3rd March 1944. At this time they were engaged in anti-submarine warfare based at RAF Predannack in Cornwall and flying long missions out over the Bay of Biscay.

During his service he was awarded the Cross of Valour twice and the Air Medal.

He survived the war and died in the USA in February 1970.

JAN ANTONI PIECHOCKI

He was born on 16th May 1918 in Wrzesnia near Poznan and in 1935 he joined the training school in Bydgoszcz, qualifying as a wireless operator in 1938. His first posting was to the 1st Air Regiment in Warsaw where he joined 213 Squadron for bomber training. He finished the course on 30th April 1939 and was posted to 217 Bomber Squadron. He took part in the September Campaign and was evacuated to Romania on 18th September 1939.

There are no details of his escape route but he reached France on 29th October 1939 and immediately applied for service in England. He arrived here on 18th January 1940 and undertook further wireless operator/air gunner training until 18th March 1941 when he was allocated to 304 Squadron which was then at RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire.

During his tour of duty he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari on 21st November 1941 by Air Vice Marshal Ujejski, having previously been awarded the Cross of Valour on 28th June 1941. He was awarded the latter on two further occasions and also the Air Medal.

On 4th March 1942 he was seconded to RAF Boscombe Down near Amesbury, Wiltshire for the purpose of “experimental flying” which was actually evaluating new radio equipment. On 2nd May 1942 he rejoined 304 Squadron for a second tour of duty. On 28th January 1943 he was grounded for medical reasons and posted to 1 Signal School at RAF Cranwell at Sleaford, Lincolnshire two weeks later. His duties here were as an instructor.

On 10th July 1944 he was posted to 16 Service Flying Training School at RAF Newton, Nottinghamshire but in September he was sent to RAF Faldingworth in Lincolnshire, taking up the post of Chief Signals Officer until 18th December 1945 when he returned to 16 SFTS.

After his discharge he changed his name to Cunningham and went to work in the coal mines. He retired early due to ill health and died in Coventry on 9th December 1988.

Friday, 1 October 2010

HENRYK PLIS

He was born on 28th June 1920 in Wilkow near Pulawy and joined the training school in Bydgoszcz in 1937. His course was shortened because of the likelihood of war and he qualified as wireless operator at Krosno in 1939. He was evacuated from his base at Luck to Romania and made his way to France, via Beirut, arriving there on 14th January 1940. He was one of those who chose to come to Britain immediately and arrived here on 29th February 1940.

He completed his wireless training at the Blackpool Depot and was posted on 7th November 1940 to 4 Air Gunnery School at RAF Morpeth in Northumberland. On completion of his training there, on 6th January 1941, he joined 18OTU at RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton in Warwickshire for his final operational training. On 7th April 1941 he was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire.

On the night of 20th October 1941 he was on board Wellington bomber N2852 on a mission to Hamburg (or Emden?) from RAF Lindholme. He sent a Mayday message saying that one engine was damaged and reporting his position as near the German island of Heligoland. Other aircraft in the area reported seeing flares in the area but N2852 was lost without trace. His body was never found.

During his six months operational service he was awarded the Cross of Valour three times and the Air Medal.

Photo courtesy of ARS Group

EUGENIUSZ MAZUREK

He was born on 11th November 1919 in Zywiec near Krakow and in 1937 he joined the training school in Bydgoszcz. Because of the imminence of war his course was shortened and he completed it in 1939, qualifying as an aircraft mechanic in Krosno. He was based at Luck aerodrome and was evacuated to Romania when it was bombed.
By November 1939 he was in France; he did not stay there long as he volunteered for aircrew service in England. He arrived on 12th February 1940 and began further training before being attached to the newly forming 301 Squadron probably at RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton, Warwickshire. He began pilot training in October 1941 but he was switched to wireless operator and air gunner at the end of March 1942.

He started the wireless training at the Blackpool Polish Depot on 13th April 1942 but completed it at 1 Signal School at RAF Cranwell North on 18th November of that year. The very next day he went to 8 Air Gunnery School at RAF Evanton at Invergordon, Scotland. Now almost fully trained he returned to the Blackpool Depot on 8th January 1943 to await radar training which he began on 1st April 1943 at 11 Radio School at RAF Heaton Park, Manchester.

A few weeks later he went to 6OTU at RAF Silloth, Cumberland (now Cumbria) for his final operational training before posting to 304 Squadron on 5th August 1943. At this time they were based at RAF Davidstow Moor in Cornwall and serving in Coastal Command. He completed his tour of duty on anti-submarine sweeps and then returned to 6OTU as an instructor. On 20th February 1946 he was posted to RAF South Cerney near Cirencester in Gloucestershire; this was probably still in a training function. He left the Air Force in September 1948. During his service he was awarded the Cross of Valour twice and the Air Medal.

After the war he worked mainly for Rediffusion, a company who specialised in wired television and radio networks.

He died in Southampton on 12th October 2000.

EDMUND PIOTR PEKACKI

He was born on 12th May 1922 in Bialobrzegi near Radom. In 1938 he joined the training school in Swiecie. His training was cut short by the outbreak of war and he was evacuated from Krosno to the airbase at Luck. When that base was bombed, the students were scattered throughout the local area and some time later he was captured by the Russians at Chelm Lubelski.
He was sent to Russia but he escaped en route and made his way home. During a later attempt to cross into Romania, he was again taken by the Russians and held prisoner in Bialystock. After a “trial” he was deported to Russia where he was virtually a slave labourer in the city of Gorki.

Following the German attack on Russia he was eventually (March 1942) allowed to join the Polish army that was being formed in Russia by General Anders. It is known that he travelled through the Middle East, specifically Iraq, but there are no further details on how he came to Britain or when. Presumably he was routed through RAF Blackpool since he had volunteered for the air force.

He trained at No 8 Air Gunnery School at RAF Evanton, Invergordon, Scotland completing his course on 25th August 1944. Following this he attended No 10 Signal School (possibly at RAF Blackpool) where he completed his wireless operator training on 11th October 1944. He then joined 6OTU at Silloth, Cumberland (now Cumbria) on 5th November 1944 for his operational training. On completion of this course, he was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF St Eval in Cornwall on 10th March 1945 as a wireless operator/air gunner flying anti-submarine missions.

In his short period of operational service he was awarded the Silver Cross of Merit and both Polish and British Campaign medals.

He was discharged in 1948 and emigrated to Australia where he worked on the railways and whatever other jobs he could find. He returned to England in 1956 and trained in Nottingham as a welder then returned to Poland in 1958 where he continued in that trade.

ANTONI WITOLD MANDOWSKI

He was born on 17th June 1917 in Krasocin in the province of Kielce. In 1935 he joined the training school in Bydgoszcz, qualifying as an aircraft mechanic in 1938. After this he was sent to the 2nd Air Regiment in Krakow and attached to24 Reconnaissance Squadron, taking part in the September Campaign until he was evacuated to Romania on 18th September 1939.

Like so many others he went to France by an unspecified route and moved on to England after France capitulated. He was retrained on British aircraft and then posted to 304 Squadron where he remained until they disbanded in December 1946. He specialised as an engine fitter and played an important part in keeping the squadron airborne. He was awarded the Air Medal, having worked under difficult conditions on aerodromes that were always within easy reach of Luftwaffe bombers.

After demobilisation he emigrated to Canada and died in Rexdale, Ontario on a date unknown.