Sunday, 21 March 2010

JULIUS (OR JULIAN) MICHALSKI


He  was born on 5th February 1919 in Pulawy and joined the army in 1937and became a driver-technician in 24 Cavalry Pulku, who were in Krakow on the outbreak of war.  When the Russians invaded his unit crossed into Hungary and were disarmed but travelled on into Jugoslavia.  They were permitted to transit Italy and eventually reached France.

 When France’s defences were breached by the Germans, the Poles moved into Spain and attempted to take ship for Algiers.  He was held by  the Spanish authorities but escaped immediately and concealed himself amongst some crates; in this way he got on board the vessel and stowed away until the vessel docked in Algiers where he rejoined his unit.

From there they went to Casablanca but discovered that all available places on ships were reserved for airmen, who were desperately needed in Britain.  So they drove across the Sahara Desert and finally came to the banks of the River Niger.  They put their vehicles on rafts and crossed into Nigeria, finally reaching the British High Commissioner in Kano.  He arranged matters fom there.  After a spell in hospital, suffering a bout of malaria, he was sent by sea to Egypt where he joined the Polish contingent in Alexandria.  He fought at Tobruk and was later sent to Britain, via Cape Town, South Africa escorting German and Italian Prisoners of War.

On arrival at Liverpool, he volunteered for the Polish Air Force and was chosen to train as a navigator and was then sent to Glasgow from where he embarked for Canada.  He was to attend the navigator training school at Moncton, Ontario and later Prince Edward Island for advanced training at navigating over water.

He returned to Britain at the end of 1943 and was sent to the Polish Depot at RAF Blackpool where he was allocated to Coastal Command and 304 Squadron at RAF Benbecula on the Outer Hebrides, a remote island off the west coast of Scotland.  He flew many convoy protection and anti-submarine missions as far out into the Atlantic as fuel would permit.  At the end of the war he remained with the Squadron, flying transport duties to Italy, Greece and the Middle East until he was finally demobilised.

In civilian life, he returned to his studies, won a scholarship and became a lecturer, and later a professor, at Birmingham University where he worked for 25 years until his retirement.