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. This was an unthinkable prospect and, were it successful, would have laid Britain under the heel of the Jackboot as firmly as the rest of Europe. The War would have been much shorter but the destiny of the free world would have been bleak beyond all reason.
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 engines were started, and given a pre-flight check, ten minutes before take off – which was scheduled for 22.45 hours on 27th May 1941. They were given the green light and the aircraft rolled down the runway in full readiness. The sky was clear and visibility was very good as they lifted into the night sky. They found the French coast easily and the nose gunner was able to guide the pilot onto the target without difficulty.
The mission went well and they were over the target at 00.25 hours and dropped their bomb load without problems (although one report states that they failed to find the target) but then they were hit, by flak, in one engine, and the Wellington was suddenly tossed upwards and then made a very significant drop in altitude before the pilot wrestled the aircraft back under control. Following the pilot’s orders, one crew member (Sgt Drozdz) had already baled out and was lost forever, with no known grave.
The Wellington bomber was well known for its ability to stay in the air in spite of taking tremendous punishment. With a skilled pilot, this aircraft did just that as they turned back for home. Once back over England, the second engine, under tremendous strain, overheated and caught fire and the aircraft was doomed but two more crew members (Sgt Jozefiak and Sgt Nilski) baled out over Kent 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 and burned out, killing the three remaining members of the crew.
This was the first operational mission of F/O Waroczewski’s crew and four members of that crew died. However, they had struck a blow for Poland and for England against the Third Reich. Those who did not make it will never be forgotten and those who followed in their footsteps kept their aspirations alive.
REPORT ON PARACHUTISTS - VERBATIM COPY OF SUSSEX POLICE REPORT
POLICE REPORT ON THE CRASH OF R1392
AIR RAID INCIDENT (MISCELLANEOUS)
Parish: Heathfield Date: 28th May 1941 Time: 02.40 hrs
East Sussex Constabulary
Nature of Incident: 2 Friendly Polish Airmen landed by parachute. (1 injured)
Police Station: Hailsham
I beg to report that at 02-40 hrs on the 28th Inst. 2 Friendly Polish Airmen attached to 304 Bomber Squadron (Polish) RAF Station, Syerston Nr Newark, Notts made a parachute decent (sic) from a Wellington Bomber which crashed at a spot near Battle, Sussex shortly afterwards. The first man, Sergt. No. 780327 A,C.2. Stanislaw Jozefiak (front gunner) was found in the garden of a cottage at Broad Oak, Heathfield with a fractured left leg, and was taken by ambulane to The Kent and Sussex Hospital, Tunbridge Wells and detained. The Sccond Airman Sergt No. 781069 Josef Nilski (Wireless Operator) reported at this station at 05.15 hrs the same morning, having been suspended from a tree in a wood close by since his decent.
The R.A.F. Authorities at Hawkinge were notified, and the uninjured Airman was conveyed back to Hawkinge later that day. Hailsham Police & Battle Police were notified at 05-30. hrs. 28/5/41
Time and Date information received by Police: (02.45. hrs. & 05.15. hrs. 28/5/41.)
Signature: Stanley Newman P.C. 181.
GRAINY OLD PHOTOGRAPHS BUT NO LESS POIGNANT - FUNERAL OF THE THREE CREW MEMBERS WHOSE BODIES WERE RECOVERED
AND THE ORIGINAL GRAVE MARKERS
All photographs courtesy of the Aircrew Remembrance Society