Thursday, 21 October 2010

KAZIMIERZ PAKULA - THE WHOLE STORY


PAKULA F/Sgt Kazimierz P-783110 (P-2918 on receipt of commission)

He was born in February 1920 at Kamionna near Miedzychod, Poland – just five miles from the German border. In the summer of 1938 he attended a Gliding School in East Poland and was accepted into the Officer Cadet Scool at Deblin to start in October 1939. In the summer of 1939 he was at an Air Force base near Lodz and qualified as a pilot on a course that was accelerated due to the imminence of war. In August 1939 he was recalled to join the 3rd Air Regiment at Lawice near Poznan but was bombed out and had to move on.

On 7th September 1939, he was en route for Deblin but that base was also bombed out and then he was put on a train heading for Romania. On 17th September he was captured by the Russians at Horodenka and locked in a school for four or five days without food. He was then put on a cattle truck and taken to Russia where he was held in a huge cowshed which was used as a holding camp. He was fed only bread and thin barley soup. When they were being move to the railway station, he escaped by jumping into a ditch with a few others. Then they walked to the nearest town where they bought food and hitched a lift on a Russian convoy which was heading towards Lwow in Poland.

They were dropped off a few miles from the city and walked the rest of the way. Once there he was fed bread and cabbage soup by the Citizens Committee and he enrolled at the University where he was given students credentials. A member of the University staff put him in touch with the Underground and he was given winter clothes and money. He was told to travel alone to Drohobycz where he was picked up by the Underground and moved from house to house, sleeping by day and travelling by night until he crossed into Hungary on the night of 5/6 January 1940.

He was arrested and taken by sledge to a Polish refugee camp near Lake Balaton and was then placed with a farmer in Szabedhidweg. As an illegal immigrant, he decided to make his way to France; he went to the Polish Consulate in Budapest where he arranged for a passport and a ticket to travel as a student. He travelled via Zagreb (Jugoslavia), Milan and Modena (Italy) and into France at Sept-Fonds, near Marseilles, arriving on 22nd February 1940. He was taken to the Polish Air Force camp at Lyons Foire where he was told he would train as an army despatch rider not a pilot.

By June he had no idea of what was happening at Dunkirk but was sent to Granville in Normandy to report to the Infantry. When they found out about the fall of France his party asked the local Mayor to supply them with buses to take them to La Rochelle. They travelled via Orleans where the locals were celebrating the end of the war; they arrived at La Rochelle to find that their ship had been sunk. However, they got on board the SS Alderpool, a Scottish collier, and sailed on 19th June, arriving in Plymouth on 22nd June 1940.

On arrival in England he was fed by the WRVS (Womens Royal Voluntary Service) and escorted onto a train by the Police. His initial destination was Glasgow, a gathering point for Polish refugees, after that he was sent to RAF West Kirby, a satellite of RAF Blackpool, and then on to the Polish Depot at RAF Blackpool, arriving there on 2nd July 1940.

His welcome to England was a gift of ten shillings (50 pence) from King George VI which he spent on an English dictionary, a day at the Pleasure Beach (a 1940’s fore runner of a theme park) and he saved a little. To put this in perspective, that amount today would buy you two cigarettes and wouldn’t even get you a can of Coke.

He was accommodated in a boarding house in this resort city and immediately set about learning English before his training began in earnest; he was helped by the officer in charge of the RAF reading room. He did so well that this officer recommended him as an interpreter and, after only nine months, he was offered this job with the rank of acting Sergeant with 306 Squadron at RAF Turnhill in Cheshire. However, they had been transferred to RAF Northolt in Middlesex and he was eventually posted (spring 1941) to RAF Padgate at Warrington, Cheshire. This was a receiving camp where airmen were assessed for future training. He was there as an interpreter for six months before being posted to RAF Leuchars near St Andrews, Fife, Scotland for ground crew training with the rank of AC2.

A year later, in spring 1942 he was sent to RAF Hucknall in Nottinghamshire where he had to qualify on Tiger Moths with only 12 hours flying time. However, operational needs changed and although he had qualified as a pilot, he had to retrain as a navigator, which he did at the Navigator School in Eastbourne, Sussex, finishing off at RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man in the autumn of 1942 before being posted to Coastal Command and further operational training with 1OTU at RAF Silloth, Cumberland (now Cumbria). Finally, he became part of an aircrew and in the summer of 1943 they were posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Davidstow Moor in Cornwall. During his service, he was awarded the Cross of Valour on four occasions. He was part of the regular crew of Wing Commander Jozef Werakso and, on the night of 3/4 March 1944, they attacked a surfacing U-boat which immediately dived. The British Admiralty claimed the boat was sunk but no confirmation was found in records after the war. A week later they sighted another U-boat but did not attack it.

He completed 50 operational missions before being selected for the Officer Training School at North Berwick in East Lothian, Scotland where he received his commission in December 1944.

After the war he attended the London School of Economics and then rejoined the RAF, serving in Africa, Aden (now Yemen) and Borneo. He left the RAF in 1965 and became a lecturer in Law and Economics until his retirement, although he continued part time until he was 70. In his retirement he became a keen and successful gardener, winning many prizes.

At the time of writing (October 2010) he is a sprightly 90 year old and lives with his family in Hampshire. He has visited Poland on many occasions since leaving the RAF.

1 comment:

Brian Northcott said...

I had the honor to serve under Flt.Lt. Kaz Pakula at
721 MSU Methwold, Norfolk in 1957. on National Service . I believe that at the time he was Bomber Command Tennis Champion.
We met up again 45 years later.

Cpl. Tech. Brian Northcott