Saturday, 3 April 2010


He was born on 10th January 1919 at Warsaw and he served with the 4th Air Force Regiment from 30th September 1937 until 18th September 1939 – the day after the Russian Invasion of Poland and fought in the Polish campaign.  After this he crossed the Romanian frontier and made his way to France where he joined the Polish Air Force under French Command and was sent to the Polish Air Force Reserve Depot at Lyon-Bron.
He was assigned for service in the United Kingdom and arrived on 7th March 1940 and, two days later, joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve at RAF Eastchurch in Kent.  After the surrender of France, in June 1940, the Polish Air Force was formed under British command and he joined it with effect from 6th August 1940.  He was a wireless operator and air gunner and was under training as a navigator.
On 16th July 1940 he was posted to the Polish Air Force Training Centre at RAF Hucknall and then, on 10th October 1940, he was assigned to 304 Squadron at RAF Bramcote, transferring with the Squadron to RAF Syerston in December 1940 and then on to RAF Lindholme in July 1941.
On the late evening of 27th May 1941, his crew took off for a bombing mission to Boulogne and on the return journey one engine was hit by flak and the plane went out of control and plunged several thousand feet.  The pilot gave the order to bale out and one crew member did so, over the English Channel.  His body was never found and he has no known grave.  A little later the pilot again gave the order but no one jumped as they were still over the sea.  Gradually they limped back to England and the order was given again; two of the crew jumped and were both injured.  The aircraft crashed very shortly afterwards, near Hastings, killing the three remaining crew members.  In the ensuing fireball the pilot was burned beyond recognition and the other two crew were also badly burned.
Reports vary on the injuries sustained by Sergeant Nilski and his fellow survivor but both were out of action for several months.  After breaking his ankle and being hung up in a tree, Sergeant Nilski made his own way to a Police Station some two and a half hours after the crash.  He was taken to hospital in Tonbridge Wells in Kent.
He married ten days later.
On 30th August 1941 he was transferred to the Polish Air Force Depot at RAF Blackpool, which was quite normal for injured airmen who were not ready to return to active duty.
He was never to return to active flying but remained in the PAF as a Leading Aircraftman (ground crew).  The remainder of his service was as follows:


5th October 1941
300 Squadron at RAF Hemswell
18th December 1941
305 Squadron atRAF Lindholme
10th January 1942
301 Squadron at RAF Hemswell
21st November 1942
50 Group at RAF Watchfield
7th November 1942
301 Squadron at RAF Hemswell and, from 19th April 1943, at RAF Tempsford
22nd November 1943
5091 Mobile Signals Unit at RAF Chigwell
28th February 1944
84 Group at RAF Northolt. As far as I can find out, 5091 MSU was part of 84 group which had, by then, become part os 2TAF (Second Tactical Air Force) made up mainly of squadrons of the RAF and RCAF (about 2,000 aircraft) under joint command with the army.  They spent the first half of 1944 training to assemble and dismantle fully operational, but temporary, airfields to move at the speed of the advancing armies and therefore always able to operate from forward positions.
On 15th November 1943 2TAF was formed as part of the Allied Expeditionary Air Force which was under the command of Air Chief Marshal Sir Trafford Leigh-Mallory and was formed as a precursor to  the invasion of Europe.  It was a very successful force and in its last few days of operational activity (early May 1945) its aircraft – Typhoons and Tempests devastated Axis shipping in the Baltic and destroyed many transport aircraft and fling boats which were trying to make a Dunkirk style evacuation of Norway.  A further 141 aircraft were claimed as destroyed during its operations against shipping in the Baltic.  On 16th July 1945 2TAF re-grouped and reformed as the British Air Force of Occupation in Germany.  Sgt Nilski and his former crew mate, Sgt Jozefiak, were both involved in this force.
1st August 1944
Back to 5091 Mobile Signals Unit on posting to France (Second Tactical Air Force) supporting the Invasion forces after D_Day
14th January 1945
10 OTU in the UK
23rd February 1945
Air Crew Training Centre at RAF Hucknall
22nd June 1945
Polish Initial Training Wing at RAF Croughton
8th November 1946
Demobilised from the PAF and enlisted in the Polish Resettlement Corps
10th July 1947
Honourably discharged into civilian life with a conduct rating of very good.

As well as his various British and Polish campaign medals, he also won the Polish Cross of Valour.  Although his injuries kept him from operational flying, he never ceased to make the effort and to make his contribution to the war effort.  He remained in England and sadly he died on 23rd April 1974 at the young age of 55.

Photo © Zyg Nilski


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