Thursday, 4 February 2010



He was born on 22nd January 1916 in Zukowice near Minsk in Belarus but his family fled to Poland when he was a small boy.  He was conscripted into the army at age 20 and at the start of the war he was teaching in the Technical Department of the School of Aviation in Warsaw.  He left Poland by way of Romania and Syria and made his way to France.  From there he crossed to Oran and went overland to Casablanca and on to Gibraltar and Liverpool.  He spent time training air crew at RAF Hucknall, Nottinghamshire and then on to St Andrews (RAF Leuchars) and RAF Blackpool (Squires Gate).  In February 1943 he graduated as a pilot and was posted to 304 Squadron.  The following month he was promoted to Lieutenant and posted to 6 OUT at RAF Silloth, Cumbria.  Three months later he returned to 304 Squadron.

On 18th June 1944, he saw 2 U-Boats on the surface between the Bay of Biscay and the English Channel and attacked one, which he appears to have destroyed by the  accurate dropping of depth charges.  The first charges dropped were near misses but the second batch  were seen to straddle the deck.  A great deal of large pieces of wreckage and an oil spill were seen in the area; the oil spill was noticeably bigger on each of three passes made after the attack.  Conflicting evidence suggests that this sub (U441) may have been destroyed by a British Liberator aircraft but it is now thought that it may have actually been U1191 which was lost in the same time scale and in the same waters.

Official Report CHI/UBAT/31 dated 20th June 1944 gives the detail which, briefly  states that two submarines were sighted and the pilot attacked the first.  At 22.57hrs he dropped six depth charges from an altitude of 100 feet, spaced at 60 feet and set to 14-18ft.  The rear gunner observed them straddle the U-boat and explode.  He saw a long, black pipe like object blown 100 feet into the air.  Circling the spot, two burning flame floats were spotted about 500 feet apart with a lage bubbling oil patch between them.  Two dark cylindrical objects and a considerable amount of debris was also observed.

Naval staff speculated that the pipe like object could have been part of the schnorkel tube and the cylindrical objects could have been external deck carriers for additional torpedoes, although these had not thought to have been in use for some time.  In his website, Icelandic expert Gudmundur Helgason says that U441 was sunk on 8th June 1944 in the English Channel with the loss of all 51 crew members, in approximate position 48.27N, 05.47W by depth charges from a British Liberator from 224 Squadron.  This is what he describes as a revised fate and states that the attack by a Polish Wellington (NA-A) of 304 Squadron was probably against a non-sub target, although he does not elaborate.  He is a very well respected researcher and must be taken seriously.

He also gives the information that U1191 was missing in the English Channel since 12th June 1944 and all 50 crew members were lost.  Of course it may just have been out of contact and could have been the object of this attack.  One point to consider is that U1191 was equipped with a schnorkel and U441 was not.  The absolute truth may never be known but the naval authorities were satisfied that a submarine had been destroyed and F/O Antoniewicz was credited with a kill.  Three days later he attacked another U-boat in the English Channel.

On 17th September 1944 he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and after completing his tour of 30 missions, he was posted back to 6 OTU, at RAF Silloth, as a flying instructor.  During his career he was awarded the Order of the Militari Virtuti Silver Cross and the Cross of Valour (three times) as well as other decorations.  He had clocked up 1,064 operational flying hours.
After the war, he settled in Britain and began work as a watchmaker and later he went to University College Hospital in London, where he graduated as a dentist in 1960.  He treated his last patient in 2005 at the age of 89!

I am happy to report that Leopold Antoniewicz has just celebrated his 94th birthday.

Leopold Antoniewicz and his flight crew; Antoniewicz is third 
from the left

Photographs courtesy of Piotr Sikora

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