He was an air gunner, born on 20th January 1915 and known to have been a member of 304 Squadron on 16th December 1942 but transferred to 138 Squadron at RAF Tempsford.On 17th September 1943 his Halifax bomber BB309 was shot down at Slagille, Denmark on its way back from Poland.The mission was part of Operation Neon 3 which involved successfully dropping weapons and two agents into occupied Polish territory.They were detected by the German Radar Station “Seehund” and a Junkers Ju88 night fighter was scrambled and shot the Halifax down.It crashed into a house, killing three adults and two children but six other children miraculously survived.
Four of the crew were killed instantly, one died later of his injuries (severe burns) and another suffered a broken arm and leg but escaped from the hospital, with the help of the local Resistance, to neutral Sweden three weeks later.There was an immediate burial of the dead in shallow graves in the church yard without a service much to the chagrin of the local priest.He arranged for them to have a proper burial with a Christian service rendered in English.The expenses, including coffins and flowers, were covered by A.P Moller, a Danish shipping magnate.
The German fighter, flown by Lieutenant Richard Burdyna from IV/NJG3, also crashed.One report claims that it was hit by return fire from the Wellington, but the general consensus is that the aircraft was circling the wreckage and flew into power cables, killing the pilot and his two crewmen.The Polish dead are buried in Slagille Kirkegaard Cemetery, Denmark and the German crew were interred in Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen, Denmark.
The seventh member of the crew, SergeantRoman Puchala, suffered only minor head injuries and escaped across the fields and was sheltered on a local farm, where he was captured after a few hours. He was initially taken to Dulag Luft, a Luftwaffe transit campnear Frankfurt am Main, Germany for interrogation and then on to Stalag Luft VI Gross Tychow, near Tychowo, Poland..Finally, he went to Stalag 357 at Fallingbostelin Lower Saxony, Germany.
I am a local historian who got involved with the Polish Air Force because one of their aircraft fell out of the sky near the village where I was born. That was in December 1940 and I never even heard of it until September of 2007. It started as a local history project, then snowballed into an obsession as I realised the huge contribution made by Polish exiles who fought for our freedom. I never realised just how big was the Polish contribution, nor how badly the British and Americans treated them at the end of the War - just to appease Joseph Stalin's territorial ambitions - a matter of expediency taking precedence over decency and with no justifiable reason.
Now that all, or almost all, of these Polish heroes are dead, it is not too late to ensure that these brave men are remembered and that those memories are preserved forever. It's time the British showed the Poles that some of us remember and appreciate just how much they did for us. They fought, and very often died, for our freedom - and we owe them a debt of honour.