Thursday, 4 February 2010


He was born on 11th March 1910 in Wilno (Vilnius, Lithuania) and on 12th April 1929 he was conscripted into the Air Force and posted to the Air Force Officer Training School in Deblin.  He decide to make a career of it and, in  May 1931, he enlisted as a regular and was sent to the Flying Training School in Bydgoszcz where he graduated as a pilot.  His first posting was to the 6th Air Wing in Lvov and during his time with them he attended the Advanced Flying Training course at Grudziadz..  He then studied at the Infantry Officer Cadets School at Bydgoszcz where he was posted to Pilot Officer and then Flying Officer.  He flew with 2nd Air Wing (21 and 22 Combat Flights) in Krakow.

At the beginning of the war he was flying in bombers.  He escaped to France, via Romania, and became a flying instructor at Rennes before making his way to England where he did conversion training to Wellington Bombers at RAF Bramcote with 304 Squadron.

He was a Flight Commander and, on 16th August 1942, he became Squadron Commander.  He held this position until 28th January 1943 when he was posted to the Air Academy and joined the Polish Inspectorate .

He was an active flier as well as the Squadron Commander.  He took part in a bombing raid on Hanover on 26th January 1942.  In May 1942, he and his co-pilot received a commendation for bravery for an incident that occurred on 24th April of that year.  The aircraft they were flying was severely damaged by machine gun and cannon fire from a fighter over Rostock.  The aircraft was out of control and Squadron Leader  was wounded.  They managed to regain control and limp home.  In spite of the undercarriage and the hydraulic system being unserviceable, they made a successful belly landing at RAF Lindholme, without further injuries to the crew.  This occurred during a visit to the station by General Sikorski, head of Polish forces.  The commendation was signed by Air Vice Marshall Ronald Graham.  He was awarded the Order of Virtuti Militari on 21st November 1941 by Air Vice Marshal Ujejski.  He had earlier been awarded the Cross of Valour.  The text of the citation:


The Commander-in-Chief wishes to bring to the notice of all ranks in the Command the courage and determination and skilful airmanship displayed by Acting Squadron Leader K. CZETOWICZ and Flight Sergeant ZIOLKOWSKI, K., both of No. 304 (Polish) Squadron.

On the night of 24th April, 1942, this officer and N.C.O. were Captain and 2nd Pilot respectively of a Wellington 1C aircraft detailed to carry out an operational flight to Rostock. On the outward journey a surprise attack was made on the aircraft by an enemy fighter which opened fire with machine gun and cannon, wounding the rear gunner in the arm. The Captain, while at the controls, also received wounds in the right arm as the result of which he momentarily lost control of the aircraft, but by great effort, and despite the pain he was suffering, he managed to regain control at 12,000ft.

Control of the aircraft, which had been rendered very difficult by the extensive damage sustained, was then taken over by the second pilot, the bombs jettisoned by the Navigator, and course was set for base. Despite the heavy damage which had rendered the hydraulic system and the undercarriage unserviceable, the second pilot made a successful belly-landing without further injury to the crew. The safe return of the aircraft to base can only be attributed to the
fortitude and great skill shown by both the Captain and 2nd Pilot.

He was awarded the DFC on 5th September 1942, citation:

“This officer has completed all his missions as captain of aircraft and his determination in the face of strong enemy opposition or in adverse weather has contributed to the successes attained. He has taken part in five raids on Cologne and three on Bremen besides numerous other important enemy targets. He has set a splendid example to all.”

There is another citation drafted on 26th April 1942:

“Squadron Leader Czetowski continues to display skilful airmanship and judgement and has proved himself to be an ideal Flight Commander. On four occasions his aircraft has been damaged by anti-aircraft fire before reaching the target, but undeterred he has completed his missions and pressed home his attacks. He has displayed skill and courage of a high standard.”

There is no evidence of an award following this citation, either a bar to the DFC or another award.  In addition to the previously mentioned awards, he also won the Cross of Valour on four occasions

After the war he settled in England and is believed to have changed his name to Cunningham; he died in London on 25th January 1983 and was cremated at Enfield, Hertfordshire.


Andrew Dale said...

Kai (as I knew him) was my next door neighbour at 66 Minchenden Crescent, Southgate, London N14 7EN from 1954 to his death. He adopted the name Cunnningham from his wife, Marjory, who he met in Scotland. He had one son, John, who must now be in his early 60s. He died in Highlands Hospital, Winchmore Hill, London where I was Hospital Manager at the time. He was a charming and unassuming man. He always wanted to be "British" and therefore wore a kotted handkerchief on his head when gardening in the sun! He was awarded some high military honour from Poland a few years before his death but I do now know what it was. He was also the personal pilot of an African Head of state for a while but left the job a few weeks before the plane was blown up to assasinate the Head of State (do not know which one)

Andrew Dale

John said...

Andrew, Thank you for your kind comments about my Father. You are correct in that he received a number of decorations long after the war from various Countries. They include the Polonia Restituta, which is still treasured by my Mother Marjorie (now 95 years). Kai was also a member of the Polish Government in exile and spent many years praying for the day that Poland would be free. Unfortunately health problems prevented him ever returning to his beloved Poland. Should any of Kai's family in Poland or elsewhere wish to contact me, please email me at John K H Cunningham.