Saturday, 20 March 2010


He was a Polish American and was born in Cleveland, Ohio on 23rd December 1916.  When he was about six years old his family returned to Bielsko-Biala in Poland.  Because of his father’s ill health he was forced to drop out of school early and take work.  In 1935 he enrolled on a course as a glider pilot in Goleszow in southern Poland; he graduated  with honours and so his love of aviation was born.  The following year he undertook more glider training and then volunteered for the Second Air Regiment in Krakow and did his mechanical training with 121 fighter squadron before becoming a reservist.

In August 1939 he was called to arms and returned to his old squadron.  On 18th September 1939, the day after the Russian invasion, he was part of a mass exodus of 121 and 122 squadrons that crossed the Border into Romania.  In spite of the Polish mutual aid agreement with Romania, they were all disarmed, interned and sent to a camp at Turnu Severin (now Drobeta-Turnu Severin).

He escaped from this camp and made his way to the Polish Depot at Lyon-Bron, France via Greece.  He did not stay there long and left France three months before the capitulation. It seems likely that he was one of those selected for service with the Polish Air Force in England as he arrived at RAF Eastchurch in Kent.  Due to the fact that this was very close to France (minutes in flying time) it soon reverted to a fighter base and its function as a reception unit was moved to Blackpool in Lancashire which was at extreme range for German bombers.

He was sent to RAF Turnhill at Market Drayton in Shropshire (home of No 24 Maintenance Unit) where he trained as an engineer and was then assigned to 304 Squadron.  It is not clear whether he was ground crew or a flight engineer but the latter seems most likely as he was also given flight training and experience whilst at RAF Turnhill.

His next move was to train as a pilot after which he moved on to 300 Squadron, making his first operational flight in April 1943.

In September 1943 he was flying on a large scale bombing mission to Dortmund when he had to take extreme evasive action to avoid a collision with an Avro Lancaster bomber.  The two aircraft made no contact but the engines on the Wellington stalled and it plunged several thousand feet before he managed to restart the engines and bring it under control.  Undeterred by this, he flew on and dropped his bombs on Dortmund before turning for home. 

On another flight he was targeted by anti-aircraft gunfire and his Wellington took many hits; he took evasive action by diving to a very low altitude and risking contact with barrage balloons.  However, his nerve held and he succeeded in bringing his badly damaged aircraft home.  He flew a full tour of 30 operations with 300 Squadron, several times returning with serious damage and once with an onboard fire; on this occasion he narrowly avoided a collision with a Halifax bomber.  On completion of his tour, in January 1944, he was posted to a Flying Training School as an instructor.

He also undertook further conversion training and in November 1944 he was posted to 1586 Special Operations Flight at Brindisi in Italy.  He flew 11 missions to Czechoslovakia, Jugoslavia and Poland then returned to England in March 1945 with 301 Squadron.  He trained as a transport pilot and ferried supplies to Greece, Italy and Norway.
In June 1947 he returned to Poland where he had a difficult time until June 1948 when he became a pilot instructor in a civil aviation school at Ligocie, near Katowice, until August 1951 when he left the aviation industry.  In 1956 he returned to graduate from high school in Opole.

Between July 1957 and May 1977 he flew over four thousand medical flights, many in adverse weather conditions, from his base with the Medical Aviation Team in Katowice.

He was awarded the Order of Virtuti Militari 5th Class, the Cross of Valour (three times), the Gold Cross of Merit, the Air Medal (four times), the British Distinguished Flying Medal and several other foreign decorations.

He died on 2nd October 1983 in Bielsko-Biala and is buried there.

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