Friday, 21 November 2008

A BIT OF HUMAN NATURE

Taken from www.scotsatwar.org.uk with thanks
A poignant and melancholy letter from a 304 Squadron crewman at RAF Benbecula. Reading it saddened me and accented the hardships experienced by Poles on remote outposts fighting a war they never wanted, but one they wouldn't run away from.
"Summing up their loneliness, George (Jerzy) Glebocki of 304 (Slaski) Squadron wrote from Benbecula in 1944, "
“ Our quaint little isle, inhospitable and unfriendly as it seemed at first has many hidden charms. As if nature herself in recompense for bad weather and rain, wanted in the rare moments of respite, to stun and intoxicate us. Morning rose like many others, bathed in misty drizzle. A new flight was already hovering somewhere out over the icy Atlantic, tracking German U-boats, waging a cunning and ingenious war against the inventive skill of German engineers, and against the U-boat Schnorkel. An almost hopeless war. So many flights endured in vain in this terribly difficult struggle. So many hundreds of hours of torture, vomiting, engines and crews dying in wild, devilish burst of squalls, in the cruel clutch of icing 500 feet over the raging Atlantic. Till finally one morning in the grey dawn “X”, for X-Ray, from our Squadron reported that he was attacking a streak of smoke ahead of him. A flame growing from the water. He knew that it was the first and probably the last chance for attack. The explosion and the plume of foam blotted out the scene. When the water settled there was on the spot of the attack an ever-widening patch of shiny oil. That was all. Hundreds of flying hours for an attack lasting a few seconds. Night again lengthens and at last the wind falls. Slowly we leave the mess. This solitude on the island, this desertedness, this overlooking of all our work. The uncertainty of our fate and our morrow, and the wrong done against the living body of our nation, against all that is holy to us. What is the aim, the essence of this war? The wind catches our words and tosses them into space. We do not know whether it is the wind or the rain, or whether tears flow over our cheeks”.
I am sure you will have your own feelings on this.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

JAN LUSZCZEK - THE POLISH HOUDINI



He was born on 21st December 1918 at Ratulow near Nowy Targ and before the war he did parachute and glider training. He was captured by the Russians at Chelma but escaped and was captured by the Ukrainian Militia but escaped again. He was the captured by the Germans but released after two days.

In December 1939 he fled to France via Slovakia and Hungary where he was interned but escaped again finally getting to Marseilles via Jugoslavia. He then went to Cherbourg via Paris and took ship to Southampton. He worked as a mechanic aon Hurricanes and Spitfires then retrained as a navigator but specializing in radar. He trained at RAF Blackpool and at RAF Silloth before being posted to Coastal Command at RAF Benbecula on 6th October 1944. He and his crew flew 14 missions before the war ended; the first was on Christmas Eve 1944 when one of their engines caught fire and was extinguished by a steep dive. On another occasion they were out of fuel and landed with a full load of bombs, much to the consternation of the ground crews! He survived the war and returned to Poland. He won the Silver Cross of Merit with Swords. He was still alive in August 2004.

ONE GOOD TURN DESERVES ANOTHER!

Tonight I received an e-mail from a lady in Poland; she had been reading this blog and asked for information on her great uncle. I had never heard of him and I was sure he was not from 304 Squadron. Nevertheless, I did a bit of digging and found an obscure website with his name on it. It led me to other information on an aircraft crew that I had not previously recorded. I hope the lady was happy with what I sent her because I am ecstatic with what I found out on the crew and particularly the navigator (see my next post). It pays to help people.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

A LONELY MEMORIAL


On 21st December 1943, HF208 was struck by lightning and crashed in flames into a remote hillside in the Irish Republic. I have known about this crash for quite a while now and felt sad at the agonising deaths experienced by the crew. The thought of death by fire has always horrified me since I was in a house fire many years ago.


I have recently discovered that these men were not burnt at all; they were thrown clear of the aircraft but were killed by exploding ammunition from their own machine guns. Today I received this photograph of some of the wreckage, still lying where it fell sixty five years ago; a poignant memorial. Thanks for the photograph go to Dennis Burke, whose own website on the subject of air crashes in Ireland is one of the most impressive I have ever seen.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT BRONISLAW FRANCISZEK LEWKOWICZ




He was born on 9th March 1913 in Jaruslaw, Poland, and after graduating from Grammar school he joined the Army Cadet Corps No 3 in Rawicz. In 1934 he was admitted to an artillery officer school in Torun and in 1939, he completed a course for air observer / navigators and was posted to the 212 Eskadra of the 1st Air Regiment in Warsaw. In September 1939 he was captured by the Russians but escaped and made his way to England via Romania and France. He joined 304 Squadron and took part in a number of bombing missions to Germany. He was awarded the Cross of Valour, for bravery in action, by Air Vice Marshal Ujejski on 28th June 1941 (he won this medal on a total of four occasions) and later the Order of Virtuti Militari on 21st November 1941 also by Air Vice Marshal Ujejski. He survived the crash landing of R1697 at RAF Lindholme on 24th April 1942. The aircraft jettisoned its bombs from 16,500 feet over Flensburg, Germany 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 and made it safely home. He was in charge of the advance party to RAF Tiree on 7th May 1942. In 1943 he volunteered for service with the Armia Krajowa, which was the main underground organization in Poland, and he was parachute into Poland as an SOE operative. He eventually became second in command of the AK 25th Infantry Regiment. Under the pseudonym of Kurs, he became involved in an action against the SS Galizien Division in which he was badly wounded and later died. He was buried in the cemetery at Leceniczowka. After the war he was exhumed and buried in the Catholic cemetery at Gielniowo.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

AN EYE WITNESS REPORT TO THE CRASH OF R1268


The following is an eye witness account from one of two teenage boys (Tom and Jacky Lamb) who were present at the time of the crash; this is a verbatim account and all spelling and grammatical mistakes have been faithfully copied except that the original was in block capitals and contained a sketch of the scene. The author, Tom Lamb, went on to become a very well respected pitman artist.

“It was December 14th 1.30pm 1940.
My brother and I were in Millwood to gather holly for Xmas. We suddenly heard a sound. It’s a plane. There she is Jacky shouted, coming over our village just above the trees. It seemed to be coming straight above us rocking from side to side and losing height. We became aware the huge bomber was heading for West Edmondsley Farm. It was a very dark colour except for the very bright ring markings in the dull light of the December afternoon.

The pilot turned a hard right to avoid the farm, and with, a loud crash dropped into a wooded riverine with a stream running through. ‘Wardels Wood’. My stomack felt sour as I remembered the last plane crash. Oh please don’t let them die! We soon arrived at the crash. A sorry sight met us. The first thing we saw was the huge tail fin. The plane had brocken its back, leaving the tial- fin and the main part of the fuselarge on the slope of the [deletion] riverine its wings spreading out in the valley, and its nose broken open in the stream, with the pilot strapped in his seat, open to the air. Only one of the four airman could walk. He had injured his forhead. The others were alive but badly injured.

Jacky and the farm workers carried the airmen to the farm house, using an old door, as a stretcher. The airman who could walk got the maps and other various documents from the plane, and came up the slope towards where I was standing near the tal-fin. He turned and looked back at the crash. He asked me, where are we? I told him County Durham. I walked with him to the farmhouse, and was met by Mrs Lawton who said the doctor had arrived, and was given morphian to the other airmun, and dressing their wounds. The airman was in a state of shock and mumbling that they were on a training flight and got [deletion] short of fuel.

Soldiers arrived from their camp at Edmondsley to guard the aeroplane. And to take the airmun to Chester-le-Street Hospital. The Polish airman all survived. The bomber was a Vickers Wellington No R1268 604 Sqn. [error should be 304] Some of the ladys of the village would visit the airmun in hospital.”

All in all, this is an excellent, and mainly accurate, description – not sensationalised (as you might expect) by a teenage boy. The sketch is also very good and clearly shows the geodetic framework. Unfortunately, the copy I have is a very poor quality photocopy and cannot be reproduced here.

Friday, 8 August 2008

TWO MORE MYSTERY CRASHES

I have spent the last month reviewing information I have received and I have come across two more crashes that have been only lightly recorded:
HE304 17th July 1943

Recorded only in the RAF Davidstow Moor Operations Record Book and Dennis Burke’s excellent website on foreign aircraft landings in the Irish Republic. This Wellington Mk X was returning from an anti-submarine patrol over the Bay of Biscay when it ran out of fuel. The crew baled out and landed safely in Carlow and the aircraft crashed near Ballickmoylar, Co Laois. Three aircraft were sent out to look for it but found no trace as they did not violate Irish neutrality by searching over the Republic. The crew returned to Britain and continued to fight; they were Sgt Stanislaw Kieltyka, Sgt Remigiusz Duszczak, Sgt Karol Stefan Pasieka, Sgt Mieczyslaw Franciszek Salewicz, Sgt Mikolaj Pawluczyk and Sgt Wladyslaw Kaczan.
HE150 7th November 1943

During the course of a Leigh Light exercise, this aircraft suffered engine problems and attempted an emergency landing at RAF Haverfordwest with disastrous results. The crew are unknown but the pilot was Flight Lieutenant A A Kasprzyk and the co-pilot was Sergeant Karol Polanin. The accident report is difficult to read but the following is a transcript:

EF [Engine Failure] Loss of revs on port engine. Pilot of HF150 [error, should be HE150] decided to land at strange airfield, overshot and went round again and on final landing struck unlighted a/c 615
Close to midway. Co-pilot could have returned to base. COF Airfield controller to blame gave 615 green permission to cross runway should have given 150 a red when he saw him coming in to land the second time 1000 yards away. Pilot of 150 allowed his a/c to drift and did not synchronise his motors. Did not get a green to land 2nd time. CO Commanding pilot of 150 to blame AOF Pilot to blame. Discip action. A/O CinC agrees with AOC.

The results of any disciplinary action are unknown, but both aircraft were destroyed in the ensuing fire.
I cannot understand why these crashes are omitted from so many major websites. HE150 was a training accident, so maybe that is understandable, but HE304 was an operational loss.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

SERGEANT FERDYNAND MICEL

This is a photograph of Sergeant Ferdynand Micel who was the subject of my last post. It is a detail cropped from the 1942 fliers photograph and gives a clearer picture of the man himself. My own father, though not a Pole, was also a refugee who enlisted and fought for Britain. It seems to me that there are striking similarities between my dad and Patrick's. No, they don't look alike but they were both clean cut young men who suffered the loss of their home land (although I have to say Patrick's father suffered greater hardships). In the wake of all this, they were both ordinary men who were sent out to do extraordinary things; dreadful things that decent men should never have to do. In spite of personal danger, fear and every other human emotion, they just got on and did it. They deserve every free man's respect and that is why people like me and Patrick will always try to honour and preserve their memory.

Monday, 30 June 2008

ANTI-SUBMARINE WARFARE

Taken at St Andrews, 1942, just after arriving in Britain; he is 4th from the left on the 4th row back
Taken in Poland before the War; the inscription reads Instructors and Trainees. He is second from the right, lying down

Fliers 1942; he is on the back row, extreme right

I have received the above 3 photographs from Patrick Micel, whose father, Sgt Ferdynand Micel, fought with 304 Squadron during their Coastal Command days. Once again, I felt strange looking at the faces of the men I have been researching for so long - especially when I can now put a face to a name that I have been working with. Like so many Poles, he ran away to fight another day (in France) then again in Britain. Thank God the Poles didn't know when to give up because we'd have been in dire straits without them. Heroes one and all. Anyway, here's his story:

MICEL Ferdynand (Sgt)
Attacked and damaged a U – Boat in the English Channel on 21st June 1944. He was born in Berdjansk, Ukraine but lived mostly in Bialystock, Poland until he was captured by the Russians on 17th September 1939. He was sent to Krzywy Rog then Siewzeldorlag in Siberia on 11th September 1940 where he suffered the mental torture of at least one “mock” execution, involving a night in the condemned cell and a visit from a priest. In 1941 he was transferred to Juza camp in Iwanowska province and then, on 4th September 1941, he was able to come to the UK from Archangel. He trained on gliders at Leeming and Sutton Bank and then spent time with 304 Squadron in Coastal Command. Later he flew weather flights from RAF Aldergrove (Belfast) and served at Hullavington, Syerston and Hornchurch ending up at Gan in the Maldives. He survived the war and died on 6th April 1983 in Leicester and his ashes are buried in Wrexham, Wales beside his mother and sister.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

WELLINGTON BOMBER HX384 PARTS SALVAGED



On the way to an anti-submarine sweep, this aircraft was struck by ferocious cross winds and failed to take off. It was blown over the edge of the cliffs by the runway at RAF Dale and the entire crew were killed.
The wreckage was found on 21st September 1991 by divers from the Llantrisant Sub Aqua Club. Subsequently machine guns and propellers were recovered and restored; one of each is now on display at the ATC museum, Abergavenny, South Wales. A similar set was donated to the Polish people in a ceremony aboard the sailing ship Iskra on 15th July 1993, which was attended by members of the Polish Military and War Veterans Association. The vessel was docked at Newcastle upon Tyne for the Tall Ships Race. These relics are now housed in the Military Museum in Warsaw.
The picture shows members of the club with a propeller recovered from the wreck.

WELLINGTON BOMBER - ENIGMA OF W5627

On the night of 27/28 April 1942, W5627 was shot down on its way home from a bombing mission to Cologne and crashed near Chatel_Censoir, France. There are reports that Sergeants Lipski and Polesinski were killed but RAF records show that Lipski was captured and interned in camps L3 and 4B. Polesinski also survived and escaped to Gibraltar. Mariusz Konarski states that the whole crew were interned and later returned to England. Other reports claim 2 fatalities but do not name them. The pilot, F/O Julian Morawski escaped via the Free French Zone and into Spain where he was interned but escaped and made it to England.
That leaves 2 crew members with stories untold so if anyone has information on them, I'd love to hear from you. Their names are Wacinski and Woznial.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

THE LAST FLIGHT OF R1392

The last flight of R1392 started out as a perfectly normal mission for the Polish crew. Their target was the French port of Boulogne where the Germans had assembled a fleet to invade the United Kingdom. The crew knew that the anti-aircraft and night fighter defences were particularly strong but were not deterred from doing their duty. They made the usual pre-mission short flight to test their equipment and then returned for the aircraft to be fuelled and armed before they set off. They went through the routine briefing where they were given details of their target, route, defences etc. It was a clear night with no cloud cover – beneficial to both bombers and defences – and they were due over the target less than half an hour after midnight.

The mission went well and they dropped their bomb load without problems but then they were hit, by flak, in one engine, and made a very significant drop in altitude before the pilot wrestled the aircraft back under control. One crew member had already baled out and was lost forever, with no known grave. Once back over England, the second engine caught fire and the aircraft was doomed but two more crew members baled out and survived with only minor injuries. Sgt Jozefiak crawled half way out and then pulled his ripcord, which dragged him out to safety. A wild gamble which could have seen him severely injured or killed had he been hit by the tail fin or the propellers. Sadly, the plane failed to make it to an airfield and crashed, killing the three remaining members of the crew.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

HAPPY NEW CONTACT

I am delighted to have made contact with Mariusz Konarski, author of 304 Squadron, and he has promised to send me some information on the Squadron. With his knowledge, I am sure that this will be quality stuff and I am anticipating great things. More as soon as I have it.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

I SPOKE TOO SOON

In the few minutes since I posted the last entry I have received a few photographs of 304 Squadron graves in Newark Cemetery. My friend who took the photographs has several more which he will pass on in the next few days so the information stream has started to flow again. Additionally, I have been reviewing notes that I have made and I will have much more to post very soon.

IT'S ALL GONE QUIET

I am disappointed that the last couple of weeks have seen the information flow dry up. Disappointed but not disheartened because I've been through these slow periods before. I have totally given up hope of receiving photographs of Jan Stanislaw Waroczewski from his niece. I can't understand why she hasn't sent them but I just have to accept the fact. So, if any one out there can help, please leave a message here or e-mail me at nevillebougourd@gmail.com

A QUIET TIME

I'm getting disappointed that information sources have appeared to dry up in the last couple of weeks. Disappointed but not disheartened as I've been through these quiet periods before. I have now totally given up hope of receiving photographs of Jan Stanislaw Waroczewski from his niece, so if there's anyone out there who can help, please leave a post here or e-mail me on nevillebougourd

Sunday, 25 May 2008

HAPPY DAYS

Well that's the whole Blog transferred (and deleted from AOL) so it's time to move on and keep it updated. At least I can find this one! And there's a great deal to post. With over 250 hits and no comments, I wonder what's going on with that once excellent provider. My other blog had over 1100 hits and scores of comments before it closed.

BREAKTHROUGH

Originally posted 22nd May 2008
After recent disappointments, I have just acquired a copy of the book 304 Squadron and it has proved a revelation. It has given me a fuller report of the last flight of Jan Stanislaw Waroczewski and also 2 photographs of R1268 (NZ - T). This is incredible because it was only 22 days old when it crashed and had only been in the hands of the squadron for 8 days,so it is really surprising that photographs even exist. I am only waiting for permission from the author and publishers before reproducing the photographs and the expanded story on this journal.

THE ETERNAL OPTIMIST

Originally posted 15th May 2008
Things have been very quiet over the last couple of weeks and I have still not received the photographs from Jan Waroczewski's niece; I think I'll have to abandon all hope on that one. However, being an optimist, I guess that someone out there will have one so my new quest is to find it!. I've still not received a response from Wilhelm Ratuszynski, which is a big disappointment as I sent him some good information that he has not previously published and all I wanted in return was an address.

DISAPPOINTMENT

Originally posted 1st May 2008
In my wildest dreams, I hoped for a photograph of Jan Stanislaw Waroczewski, who has become a personal hero, and I had hoped to get one from his niece - but those hopes are now fading. I also hoped that I'd get something interesting/useful from Wilhelm Ratuszynski after supplying him with information on a crash (R1268) that he had not recorded. Sadly, I have not had the response I had hoped for from either of them. In short, I have had nothing at all from either of them. However, being the eternal optimist, I live in hope.

SUBMARINE KILLERS














Originally posted 30th April 2008
These photographs show 304 Squadron pilot Antoniewicz and his crew together with their aircraft. They were in the front line against the German U Boat menace in the Atlantic, the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay. In the picture above Antoniewicz is in the centre; in the one below he is third from the left. The white paintwork on the Wellington tells you that this aircraft was in Coastal Command.

This crew are credited with seriously damaging one U Boat and sinking another through accurate bombing. Thanks to Peter Sikora for the photographs.


WEST EDMONDSLEY FARM

Originally posted 30th April 2008
This is a modern picture of West Edmondsley Farmhouse, a Grade II listed building, which was courageously avoided by Flying Officer Waroczewski during the crash landing of R1268 on 14th December 1940. Photograph courtesy of Durham County Council (The Durham Record, taken in 2004)

MEN, MACHINES AND BASES

Originally posted 22nd April 2008
My knowledge of 304 Squadron is growing daily and I have had a great deal of help along the way. However, there is still a lot I don't know and I am desperately short of photographs to illustrate the manuscript whether it finally emerges as a book or a website or both. If you can help, please e-mail me. Although I have had help from Polish sources, most of what I have has come from British and Irish ones and I am a bit disappointed at the number of Polish organisations that have not even replied to my contacts.

FOLLOW UP

Originally posted 22nd April 2008
I have now followed up the two contacts I made today, and I have spoken to the lady who I am now sure is the niece of Flying Officer Waroczewski. I have sent her all the information I have on her uncle and she has surprised me with the information that her father and another uncle also served with the squadron. She has also agreed to let me have some photographs to copy and that has really made my day.Meanwhile, my other new contact has also agreed to help with information and photographs and he has already made some enquiries on my behalf. With the help of these two people, I now feel like I am making real progress.

U-BOATS

Originally posted 22nd April 2008
I have had a response from one of my new contacts, who has promised me a photograph of the crew of a 304 Squadron Wellington which sunk a U-Boat (probably either U441 or U1191, both of which were lost at about the same time between the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel) on 18th June 1944. He also has other photographs of 304 Squadron during its days in Coastal Command, on anti-submarine patrol.

EXCITING DEVELOPMENTS

Originally posted 22nd April 2008
I have just come home from work and found two e-mails which negate my previous comments about Polish sources. One is from a Polish Air Force historian who is willing to help and has a collection of 304 Squadron photographs. The other is from a lady who is the niece of Jan Stanislaw Waroczewski; she has given me more information and she, too, has photographs. I have to check these two sources out, but the signs are good. Watch this space!

WLADISLAW TADEUSZ KALICIAK

Originally posted 21st April 2008
A man of considerable fighting pedigree, he fought with Polish (Army) forces until the collapse of the September Campaign in 1939, then joined the Polish Resistance. After capture by the Russians, and internment in a Siberian labour camp, they released allied prisoners of war when Hitler broke his pact and invaded Russia. He continued to fight with reconstituted Polish Army forces from 1941 until 1943, when he came to the UK via Basra in Iraq.
This indomitable fighting spirit led him, like so many others, of whom I have no details, to join the Royal (Polish) Air Force at the PAF Depot at Blackpool, Lancashire. He went on to the No 13 Training Wing at Torquay, Devon and the Air Crew Despatch Centre No 31PD in Canada, then the No 6 OTU at Harrogate, North Yorkshire. In 1945 he went to 304 Squadron (Coastal Command) at St Eval, Cornwall where he was involved in anti-submarine warfare, and then on to RAF East Wretham, although not with 304 Squadron, serving with the Polish Resettlement Corps until 1948.

Photo courtesy of Jan Kaliciak
 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF 304 SQUADRON

Originally posted 20th April 2008
There was no cogent reason for the destruction of Poland, other than the German dream of lebensraum, which led to the deaths of 5 million Poles, the devastation of a country and the ultimate defeat of Germany and the final collapse, after 12 years, of a Reich that was designed, intended and stated to be there for a thousand years. In the summer of 1939, Germany turned its Blitzkrieg on Poland and Great Britain did the honourable thing, followed its treaty obligations and declared war on Germany. Sadly, at the end of the conflict, Britain and America caved in to the whims of Josef Stalin and gave away Polish sovereignty to Russia. A real slap in the face to our staunchest ally and an act of such ignominy towards the many thousands of Poles who fought for us during the War years. I hardly dare say that the battle hardened Poles were the fourth largest force fighting for our freedom at that time. In fact their fighter pilots were the most successful during the dark days of the Battle of Britain. Although battered by the German Blitzkrieg (German pilots were battle hardened by their efforts in the Spanish Civil War) and with most of their aircraft destroyed on the ground, the Poles fled to France, where they fought on against the hated enemy. With the almost immediate collapse of the French forces, the Poles might have given up, but they fought bravely on and made their way to Britain, the last bastion of resistance to the German might.
Travelling via diverse and tortuous routes, they came in their thousands to build up a core of fighting forces to resist the Germans. With refugee status, they were under no obligation to fight but still they provided a land army, naval presence and 15 Air Force squadrons to keep the battle going.
After taking a mauling by the Luftwaffe, the Poles were defeated on the home front, devastated by the swift collapse of France and ran to Britain. But they did not run for cover; they ran to fight another day, only waiting to be re-equipped by the British. When that re-equipment came, they proved themselves to be without equals in courage and fighting spirit.
This is the basis of the Polish fight back and what follows is my assessment of 304 Squadron as a representative sample of Polish forces and the history of their efforts.
The squadron was formed at RAF Bramcote, on 23rd August 1940 from 185 men, including 31 Officers, most of whom saw action in Poland and France with 2nd Air Regiment (Cracow) and 6th Air Regiment (Lwow) and with the French Army. This became 304 Silesian Squadron, commanded by Wing Commander Bialy with Wing Comander WM Graham as its British adviser. It was attached to No 1 Bomber Group and was given 16 Fairey Battles for training purposes. The main problems were the language barrier and the lack of instructors on an aircraft which was unfamiliar to the Polish fliers. At the time, the Battle of Britain was in full swing and bombers were relegated to a back seat. In December 1940, the squadron converted to Vickers Wellington Mk Ic medium bombers. At this time, the squadron suffered its first (accidental) loss when R1268 crashed near Edmondsley, 5 miles west of Durham on 14th December 1940, during the transition period between RAF Bramcote and RAF Syerston.
This crash has not been recognised in many sources, including the history of the squadron, written by Wilhelm Ratuszynski, and the general impression is that the first loss was on 15th April 1941 when Wellington R1212 lost power in both engines simultaneously and crash landed on hilly ground, killing three crew membersTheir first operational mission was on 24th April 1941 when Flying Officer Sym and Flight Lieutenant Czetowicz flew a mission to bomb fuel dumps in Rotterdam. This was to be the precursor to attacks on Bielefeld, Brest, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Nuremburg and Osnabruck. After a long series of raids on Europe, the squadron sustained heavy losses and, on 10th May 1942 was re- assigned to Coastal Command. This was originally a temporary measure but was soon confirmed as permanent.
They were transferred to RAF Tiree and had to accustom themselves to much longer flights over water on anti-submarine patrols. The first attacks on submarines were made in May 1942 and the first successful attack was credited, by the British Admiralty, to Flying Officer Skarzynski.
Low level flying over water was an extremely stressful activity but the Polish airmen coped admirably. About a month after their arrival at RAF Tiree, on 13th June, 1942 they were transferred to 19 Group and sent to RAF Dale and RAF Talbenny in Pembrokeshire, South Wales.
From here, their operations changed to anti-submarine patrol and convoy protection in the Bay of Biscay. This was a more dangerous area of operations, but gave the Poles a better chance to have a go at German U-Boats. On 25th June 1942, seven of their Wellingtons joined a 1,000 bomber raid on Bremen and one aircraft was lost. The pace of war was dramatically increased and it is a credit to the ground crews that they kept the squadron airborne. On August 13th 1942 Flying Officer Nowicki and his crew engaged and sunk a surfaced U-Boat with only three depth charges. The squadron became such a menace to submarines that an increasing number of German fighters were diverted to attack the bombers.
On 30th March 1943 the squadron transferred to 16 Group at RAF Docking in Norfolk and were given Mk XWellingtons. It was intended that they should become torpedo bombers, but fortunately it was realised that theywould be too slow, and an easy prey for German fighters. On 10th June 1943 they returned to 19 Group, transferred to RAF Davidstow Moor in Cornwall and resumed anti-submarine patrols over the Bay of Biscay. They were re-equipped with Wellington Mk XIII’s which were specially equipped to detect submerged submarines. In September, they were again e-equipped with Mark XIVs which carried additional detection equipment and the newly developed Leigh Light which enabled them to detect surfaced submarines by night – a considerable tactical advantage.
Towards the end of the year, Luftwaffe fighters became more frequent and the Wellingtons of 304 Squadron took a battering but they were again re-equipped with Mk XIV’s which carried the Leigh Light and enabled the crews to detect surfaced submarines at night. On 13th December 1943 they were transferred to RAF Predannack, Cornwall and, in spite of bad weather conditions, the pace of battle speeded up with significant contacts with enemy aircraft and submarines.
1943 had been a very bad year for 304 Squadron and they sustained many losses. Shortly afterwards they returned to 19 Group and resumed anti-submarine activities over the Bay of Biscay.
On February 19th, 1944, the squadron transferred to RAF Chivenor near Barnstaple in Devon. The squadron flew 110 sorties totaling 1074 hours, in spite of bad weather.
In March 1944, Sergeant Baranski was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for shooting down a German fighter in a near sea level encounter; such was his accuracy that the fighter exploded before crashing into the sea. For the rest of the summer, there were many contacts with enemy aircraft and in spite of taking tremendous punishment, most of the Polish aircraft made it home without serious injury to the crews. June and July was the squadron’s most successful period with 3 probable submarine kills.
In September 1944, the squadron was transferred to 15 Group and moved to RAF Benbecula to hunt submarines in the North Atlantic.
Early 1945 (January) saw the squadron command taken over by Wing Commander Zurek, who presided over Squadron Leader Pilniak and Squadron Leader Krsepisz who commanded A and B flights respectively. There were several unsuccessful attacks on U – Boats in this month.
On 5th March 1945, the squadron moved to 19 Group at RAF St Eval in Cornwall. They were paid a particular compliment at this time, when Air Commander Pritchett wrote a comment in the squadron diary; “They fly when seagulls won’t”.
On May 11th 1945, one of the squadron’s Wellingtons captured a German U – Boat and they flew their last operational sortie on May 30th 1945. On 14th June 1945 they transferred to Transport Command, flying out of RAF North Weald in Essex.
In August, they were re-equipped with Vickers Warwicks Mk I and Mk III and then, in January 1946 with Handley Page Halifaxes. Wing Commander Piotrowski took charge in September 1945. Most of their time was then spent ferrying supplies to Greece and Italy until they were disbanded in December 1946.
Wherever possible, I have credited the copyright holders of photographs used but I have been given photographs where the true copyright holders cannot be identified. In such cases, I will be happy to give due credit, if anyone can identify the owners. This is not a profit making document and is intended only as an historical record

THE MAIN WEAPON


Originally posted 22nd April 2008

The main weapon used by 304 Squadron in their bombing missions to France and Germany and their anti-submarine role over the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Biscay was the Vickers Wellington medium bomber. Designed by Barnes Wallis on the Geodetic principle, which enabled it to absorb incredible punishment and still stay airborne. Lovingly known as the Wimpey (after the cartoon character) or the Flying Cigar. (Photo from Wikipedia)

ONE REAL MAN


Originally posted 21st April 2008

When I write about the heroic Poles who fought for us, it is so easy to forget that they were real people. Ordinary men who were sent out to do an extraordinary job. I was brought down to earth when I received my first photograph (see below) which was taken in about 1943 when this ordinary man, Wladislaw Tadeusz Kaliciak, was in the Polish Army. He later became a member of the Polish Air Force and flew with 304 Squadron. His was an amazing story, which will appear later, and typifies the indomitable fighting spirit of the Poles. Thanks to his son, Jan Kaliciak, for the photograph

THE CREW OF R1268 AND THEIR FATE

Originally posted on 22nd Feb 2008
I have learned from my own research that the aircraft was manufactured in the Vickers Armstrong factory at Chester and that it had only been delivered to the Royal Air Force three weeks before the crash. In fact it had only been delivered to 304 Squadron six days before its destruction.Now, my friend Michael has sent me information that it was on a practice cross country flight in bad weather when the wings iced up and the windows iced over at 3500 feet. The pilot lost sight of his chosen emergency landing ground, crashed into some trees on a hill top and ended up in a dip in the ground due to his efforts to miss the farm house.  I believe that it was also one of the worst winters on record.I have already related the fate of Flying Officer Waroczewski, who sustained a fractured wrist and facial lacerations and was shot down and killed the following year, but what of the other three? Flying Officer Kostuch injured his wrist and suffered facial lacerations enough to keep him off flying duties until 17th March 1941. Flying Officer Stanczuk fractured his leg and suffered facial and chest lacerations. Sergeant Boczkowski received chest injuries and facial lacerations. As far as the latter three crewmen go, I have no further information. So if anyone out there has any information, please leave a comment here or e-mail me

THE UNRAVELLING MYSTERY OF R1268

Originally posted on 21st Feb 2008
Even though I have just started this Blog, I have had remarkable success. A fellow enthusiast, who was just surfing the net, saw it and e-mailed me. We exchanged information; I gave him details of the crew and he gave me a photocopy of an eye witness account of the crash, complete with a faded, but very good, sketch of the scene. It appears that the aircraft broke in half on impact and, as this happened in fairly dense woodland, it is a miracle that all the crew survived.If I can get permission from the copyright owner, I will post a copy on this Blog in the near future. Hopefully, I will also be going to have a look at the crash site too - subject to permission from the land owners.

IT PAYS TO ADVERTISE (I HOPE)!

Originally posted on 21st Feb 2008
On Sunday, a radio station in Cambridge broadcast this story on their programme "Polish Waves" which goes out monthly in English and Polish. They are going to appeal to the families of ex-Polish Air Force personnel for any information on 304 Squadron. Most of the original air and ground crew will be dead now, but I'm hoping for stories and photographs from their children and grandchildren. Cambridge has a large Polish community, many of them descended from the aircrew who were based at the many airfields that were in the area during the Second World War. So there's always a chance

THE SECOND BOMBER

Originally posted on 8th Feb 2008
The second bomber mystery is a Mk 1c Vickers Wellington which crashed on 1st October 1941 near Micklefield, close to Leeds, West Yorkshire. There is very little information on this crash except that the pilot was Sergeant Lozowicki and he had a crew of three mechanics. The aircraft was taken away and salvaged, or rather repaired as it flew again and was lost after being shot down over the Bay of Biscay on 16th October 1942 with a totally different crew. The original crew all survived but one member was injured and treated at RAF Church FentonIts final destruction is well documented but there is virtually nothing on the earlier crash landing. My main interest was in R1268 but I have become passionate about anything concerned with 304 Squadron and I am also trying to find out anything I can about R1413 to help my friend who has done so much to help me. So if anyone out there has any information from their fathers or grandfathers, please pass it on.

THE FIRST BOMBER

Originally posted 5th Feb 2008

It was early afternoon, around 1.30 pm, on 14th December 1940, a Wellington bomber which had got lost over the North Sea ploughed into trees on high ground near West Edmondsley Farm. Well, planes do come down in wartime, but not usually on this sleepy little hamlet. The impact point was in the woods close to the Wardle’s Bridge Inn.Out of fuel, the plane was seen to make a hard right turn to avoid the farm, a Grade II listed building, and the people in it. At the crash scene the Wellington’s back was broken and the nose area, presumably the Perspex front gun turret was broken open and in the stream. The pilot was still strapped in his seat.There were four crew members aboard, unusual as a Wellington normally carries six, and all were injured, three of them quite badly but all were alive. The alarm was raised and the injured were taken to the farm dairy, using an old door as a stretcher. They were given morphine and first aid by Dr Mukerji, the local GP from Craghead. They were taken to Chester-le-Street Hospital and later transferred to York Military Hospital.The crew were Flying Officer M. Kostuch, Flying Officer Jan Stanislaw Waroczewski, Sgt J Boczkowski and P/O Stanczuk. Flying Officer Waroczewski was later to become something of a hero, as will be explained later.There were various reports of this accident and most were generally accurate but a few errors had to be sorted out before the real picture emerged. The plane was said to be a Mark III Wellington from 604 Squadron flying out of RAF Syerston. 604 was a fighter squadron (flying Mosquitoes, Beaufighters, Gladiators and Blenheims) and did not fly out of RAF Syerston and the Mark III did not come into service until six months after the crash, nor did 304 Squadron ever fly Mark IIIs. However, 304 Squadron had just moved to RAF Syerston and flew Mark Ic Wellingtons.It was actually on a training mission, not a bombing mission, as reported. 304 Squadron did not fly operational missions (i.e. bombing raids) until the following AprilOnce this was established, I tried to track down the crew. I still could not identify the two unnamed crew members and M Kostuch does not appear in any further records I have seen, except an entry in the Squadron’s Operational Record Book which says that he returned to the squadron on 17th March 1941. A fellow amateur researcher found more details and passed them on; the two missing crewmen were Sergeant Bogradowski and P/O Stanczac (the spelling on the latter is uncertain). Jan Stanislaw Waroczewski was born on 25th December 1911 at Suchiednow in the Province of Kielci, Poland. In spite of his injuries, he returned to the squadron and was, sadly killed in another Wellington (R1392) on 28th May 1941. His aircraft was hit by flak whilst he was on a bombing raid over Boulogne and one of his crew baled out but was killed. The pilot regained control of the aircraft and managed to get it back to England. Another two crew members baled out and survived but the plane crashed at Darwell Hole, near Brightlingsea, Sussex. Flying Officer Waroczewski and the two remaining crewmen were killed. His body was taken back to RAF Syerston (Nottinghamshire) and he was buried in Newark Cemetery – he was twenty nine years old. He is also remembered on Panel 75 of the War Memorial at RAF Northolt.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Originally posted 5th Feb 2008
Around about September 2007, I heard the story of a Wellington bomber that crashed just outside the village where I was born. Having a love for local history, I thought it would be a nice little project to occupy my time, soI started investigating. It was incredibly difficult to find any really concrete information on either the crash or the crew.During the course of my research, I made contact with a man who was doing precisely the same and who was having the same sort of trouble.By an incredible coincidence I was looking for an aircraft that crashed in County Durham and he was looking for one that crashed near his home village in West Yorkshire. Both crews survived, both crashes were accidents rather than being caused by enemy action and both aircraft belonged to 304 Squadron and were crewed by Silesian Poles. Both aircraft were Mk 1c Vickers Wellington Bombers They were R1268 NZ-T which crashed near West Edmondsley Farm, 5 miles north west of Durham and R1413 NZ-? which crashed at Micklefield near Leeds. More detailed information will appear in subsequent postings.We have both had considerable help from various experts and we have both been stonewalled by so called experts who had no knowledge of the incidents. Between us, the two talented amateurs have outdone those experts and found out a great deal! We are continuing to build on our knowledge and anyone with any information can post a message here or e-mail me

FOLLOWING ON FROM PREVIOUS BLOGS

Originally posted 5th Feb 2008
The following is the basis of a number of attempts to create a blog; failed attempts and with no help from AOL when things went wrong. What's the point of having a blog you can't access? Well this is the last attempt before I move to another provider. I have e-mailed AOL to this effect on several occasions; the first time they promised assistance but failed to deliver, and on every other occasion they took the easy way out and ignored my contacts.Being the eternal optimist, I'll try again, so here's what I've done so far