Wednesday, 26 January 2011


This is a new and updated version of an old posting. It contains more details, particularly of his early life fighting in the Bolshevik War. Inevitably there is duplication but it gives a more accurate picture of the man.

He was born 1 May 1899, near Warta Sieradz and in 1918 he was already a volunteer in the military and was involved in disarming the surrendered German forces. He fought in the 29th Kaniowskich Rifles during the Bolshevik War and was wounded in the back in December 1919. On 16th August 1920 he received shrapnel wounds in the knee, by shrapnel from a grenade in the Battle of Radzymin, and, due to severe infection, he was told he would never be fit to fight again. He was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari for his actions in this battle.

However, he remained in the army and, in June 1925, he went to the flying school in Bydgoszcz. During his first flight, his aircraft burst into flames but he managed to land safely; he graduated as a pilot in 1925 and was posted to an Air Regiment based in Warsaw. On 1st January 1927 he was promoted to Captain. Prior to the outbreak of war, he progressed through various squadrons and rose through the ranks to commander of an air regiment.

Between the wars he made his name as an aviation pioneer with major flights across Africa and across the Atlantic and became the only Pole ever to win the Bleriot medal (in 1936) for setting an international distance record of 3582 kilometres for a Class II tourist plane. On 1st January 1934 he was promoted to major and, in 1938 to lieutenant colonel at which point he became deputy commander of the 4th Air Regiment in Torun. In August 1939 he was sent to Romania as the Deputy Air Attache.

When war broke out, he played a major part in organising the transit of Polish airmen to France before escaping himself. In France he helped to organise the elements of the Polish Air Force in exile. In late June 1940 he arrived, via France, in England and in 1941, he took command of the Polish Flying Training School at RAF Hucknall, later moving to RAF Newton in the same capacity.

At his own request, in December 1941, he went to RAF Bramcote to train on Wellington bombers and, in April 1942, he assumed command of RAF Lindholme which was the home base for 304 and 305 Polish Squadrons. Although not directly attached to either Squadron, he was still a fighter at heart and began to fly bombing missions as second pilot. On 25th June 1942 he was on a 305 Squadron mission to Bremen when one engine failed and they were forced to ditch in the North Sea about 40 miles off Great Yarmouth.

He was the last to leave the aircraft and the rest of the crew managed to get into a dinghy and heard his cries for help for about half an hour but were unable to save him. He had taken refuge on a piece of wreckage but was swamped by a wave and washed away. The rest of the crew were picked up by a Royal Navy vessel after about eight hours in the water but Skarzynski drowned and his body was washed ashore on Terschelling Island in the Friesian Islands off the coast of the Netherlands. He was buried in West Terschelling cemetery. He was posthumously promoted to Group Captain. In 1983 a plaque was fixed to his gravestone; it reads ZAWSZE RAZEM JULIA which means “Forever together, Julia” and marks the fact that his wife’s ashes were buried in his grave.

During the course of his career he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Independence, the Officer Cross of the Order of Poland, the Cross of Valour (four times), the Gold Cross of Merit and the Silver Cross of Merit. He also won the Cross of the Romanian Crown, the Hungarian Cross of Merit, the Brazilian Southern Cross and the French Legion d’Honeur. He was posthumously promoted to full colonel and awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta II Class.

He was used as the model for Edward Wittigowi’s design for the monument to airmen in Warsaw.
Photo courtesy of www.polishairforce


He was a pilot, born on 2nd February 1900 in Warsaw. From 1918, he served in the Polish Army but wanted to transfer to the Air Force. In 1921 he succeeded and went to the flying school at Bydgoszcz where he qualified as a pilot in spite of crashing a Caudron GIII trainer biplane. In 1922 he was posted to the school at Grudziadz and remained there until 1923 when he joined a fighter squadron attached to 7 Air Regiment in Warsaw, later becoming an instructor until his demobilisation at the end of 1924
Soon after that he went to work for Aerolloyd and Aerolot the forerunners of Lufthansa and LOT Polish airlines respectively. He then went on to work for LOT on its formation in 1929. He was also successfully involved in sport flying.

On the outbreak of war, he flew a Junkers Ju52 airliner to Romania and made his way to France via Jugoslavia and Greece where he joined L’Armee de l’Air as an instructor and worked to create Polish fighting units. After the fall of France he made his way to England and eventually joined 304 Squadron. After completing a tour of duty he went on to become an instructor and by November 1941 he was serving in Ferry Command delivering aircraft from Canada to Europe, Africa and Asia. In this capacity he made 38 unarmed flights across the Atlantic

He survived the war and was demobilised in 1947. He returned to Poland and resumed working for LOT until his retirement in 1964. He died on 8th March 1974 in Warsaw in a road accident involving a tram.

As a footnote, the Junkers airliner was handed over to Imperial Airways (allegedly sold to them) and went into service under the British registration G-AGAE.

Friday, 21 January 2011


This is a completely re-written version of a posting which appeared here in October 2010. It includes the answer to the mystery of why he was not recorded in the crash of R1072, how he escaped from Poland and a lot more personal information supplied from his own family records by his niece.

He was a pilot, born on 31st March 1918 at Zagorzycach near Krakow.

In 1936 he qualified as a glider pilot at Ustianowa and in 1939 he was assigned to the Air Reserve Officers School at Sadkow near Radom and later the Air Observers School in Deblin.

It was here, at 5am on 1st September 1939, that he had his introduction to war as the bombs began to fall. He spent the first hours of the war helping an ambulance driver to rescue the victims and bring the injured to hospital.

Afterwards, the cadets were ordered to get out of Poland any way they could and he set off for Romania on foot. He was a newly commissioned officer and so he stripped all insignia from his uniform and disposed of anything, including his ceremonial sword, that might identify him as an officer. Eventually he acquired old clothes from a group of peasants and was able to get rid of his uniform altogether.

He was half way to Romania when the Russians came and then he changed direction and headed for Wilno (now Vilnius). At one point the group he was travelling with were hiding in woodland but they were surrounded and captured by the Russians. All the men of military age were loaded into cattle cars on a train and were taken away but they had no idea where they were going. When they reached Bialystok, they had to change trains and he and one other bolted and jumped onto a train that was heading in the opposite direction. When the conductor came, Henryk gave him a few scraps of paper which he knowingly punched and moved on. Fortunately the train was heading for Wilno and so they made it to Henryk’s parents home in that city.

In the course of time, he met up with his brothers Stasiek and Jozef and they remained in Wilno for a couple of months, leading a more or less normal life under the Russians and in spite of a curfew. After investigation they found that Polish airmen were being evacuated from Kaunas in Lithuania so they went there, in December 1939, and easily acquired false papers. All three of them obtained evacuation papers to go to Sweden. The escape plan was to take a train to Latvia and then fly to Sweden. On the day they were due to go, the commander refused to allow three brothers to travel on the same aircraft and Jozef was forced to wait for the next plane. German threats to shoot down neutral Swedish planes carrying Polish airmen ensured that there was no next plane. The two brothers spent Christmas Eve in Stockholm and were then flown to London and on to France where they joined the Polish Air Force at Lyon-Bron.

After the fall of France he escaped to England and joined the Polish forces at the Blackpool Depot, where he trained as a radio operator. On 20th August 1941 he was promoted to Flying Officer and posted to 304 Squadron. On 24th April 1942 he made his first combat mission to bomb the docks at Rostock. He flew 47 missions over Germany and Occupied Europe and was promoted to Flight Lieutenant.

According to the list of Tadeusz Krzystek, he was on board R1072 when it crashed on 11th July 1942 but he is not listed as being on that aircraft in other sources and is not mentioned on the Squadron ORB. For a long time that was a mystery but the answer was provided by his niece. He was a passenger on that aircraft and was just hitching a lift. Apparently a door had been left open and he sensed that something was wrong; it didn’t feel or sound right so he jumped out before take off.

After leaving the plane he said it was taking too long to get up; the left wing dipped and hit a tree and there was an explosion and a fire. He assisted with the rescue and attended the funeral of one of the dead. He was not officially recorded as having been on board.

Henryk, second from left, with other Polish Airmen
In the summer of 1943 he finally achieved his ambition and was sent for pilot training; he qualified in October 1944. During his war service he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari as well as the Cross of Valour three times and the British DFC.

After the war he settled in Britain and remained with the RAF as an instructor until December 1948 when he was recruited, on a three year contract, into the Pakistan Air Force. During 1948/49 he fought in the first Kashmir War. He was in a transport squadron based at Peshawar, flying Douglas Dakotas. After his contract expired he worked as a pilot for Orient Airways (now known as Pakistan International Airlines).

In 1952 he married a Glasgow born, naturalised American woman and, the following year, he moved to America where he worked as a salesman for Encyclopaedia Britannica, an insurance salesman and a bus driver. In front of his house in America he always flew the Polish and American flags.

On 28th November 1992 celebrations were held, by the Polish Embassy in San Francisco, for the bicentenery of the inception of the Order of Virtuti Militari. He was one of four Cavaliers of the Order to be awarded honorary citizenship of the State of California.

He had three brothers; Stasiek was killed on Liberator EW278 of 1586 Flight (Squadron Code GR-U) which was supplying Warsaw during the uprising when it was shot down by a night fighter over Senta in Jugoslavia on the night of 11th September 1944. Edek who was an Officer in the Armia Krajowa and was executed by firing squad by the Russians in 1944 and Jozef (Lutek) who was captured by the Russians and spent two years in Siberia before he finally got to England and fought with the Royal Air Force until the end of the war.

He died in North Scituate, Providence, Rhode Island, USA on 1st July 2006 and, in accordance with his wishes, his ashes were buried in the Military Cemetery at Warsaw on 12th September 2006. He was accorded full military honours, including a gun salute, in both countries.
Photographs courtesy of Henryk's niece, Helena

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


He was a mechanic and was born on 9th May 1915 at Sulejowek, Poland which is about 10 miles east of Warsaw. Immediately prior to the German invasion of Poland the Poles had secretly moved their men and machines to grass airstrips so he would not have been bombed in the first days of the war. When the Russians attacked, 17 days later, they were evacuated to Romania where they were interned.

The Romanian authorities turned a blind eye to escapes and he would have simply walked out of the camp during the night. He would then have made his way to Bucarest where the Polish Embassy would give them money, false papers and practical assistance to get to Lyon-Bron in France, where the Polish Air Force was reforming. There is no documentation on how he got there but the most common routes were overland through Jugoslavia and Italy or through Greece and then by sea to Marseilles.

When France capitulated, in late June 1940, they were ordered to make their way to England. Because of the speed of his arrival in this country, he must have come by the shortest route from where he was. This involved an overland journey to Port Vendres, near Marseilles, and then on to the MV Apapa, whose normal run was Liverpool to West Africa. At the time it had been commandeered as a troop/refugee carrier. The vessel docked in Liverpool on 7th July 1940.

From Liverpool it was just a short train journey to the Polish Air Force Depot at RAF Blackpool. There is no doubt that he was there as all Air Force personnel were sent there for assessment and further training before being allocated to a squadron. In his case 304 Squadron and he was still with them in August 1942.

He was present at RAF Dale when Wellington HX384 (NZ-L) crashed on 12th August 1942 after being struck by ferocious cross winds as it tried to take off. It was blown into the sea and the entire crew were killed. His gruesome task was to watch over the wreckage, which was just offshore in shallow water, until the weather abated and the bodies could be recovered.

He survived the war and remained in England; the London Gazette records that he became a British citizen on 11th February 1950. At this time he was living in Horden, Co Durham and was working as a powerloader on the coal face of the local mine. He died on 28th September 1999 and is buried in Horden Cemetery, Peterlee near Sunderland.

Photo courtesy of Geoff Griffiths

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Photo courtesy of ARS Group

He was a navigator, born on 14th July 1917 and posted in from RAF Bramcote on 20th June 1941. He was the son of Apolinary and Ludwika Maczynski and had three sisters. They were from Grodno (now Belarus). He was killed when DV423 was shot down by a night fighter on a mission to Wilhelmshaven on 10th January 1942. In Luftwaffe records DV423 was claimed by Oberleutnant Rudolph Schoenert of 5/NJG2 10 kilometres north of Nordeney at 23.15hrs at an altitude of 5,000 metres (about 16,500 feet). He has no known grave but the family believes he may be one of the 158 unidentified bodies buried in the Sage war cemetery in Germany

He had previously survived the crash of X3164 on 30th November 1941 which was ditched in the North Sea 20 miles east of Great Yarmouth. They lost one engine over hamburg and limped home on the other. The crew had only seven minutes to escape before the aircraft sunk.

Polish airmen in front of a Wellington Bomber.  JP Maczynski is 4th from the right
On 13th January 1942 he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari, just three days after his death, so this was obviously for an earlier act of gallantry.

Group photo and Virtuti Militari courtesy of Krzysztof Dabrowski

Sunday, 16 January 2011


He was born on 17th May 1915 in Wola Duchaka near Krakow and was the son of Stanislaw, an officer in the Horse Artillery. Before the war he worked as a motor mechanic and played football (soccer) as goalkeeper for the local club Volania; he was also involved with amateur dramatics and a member of the Rifleman Club.

On 15th February 1938 he was conscripted into the army but did not finish his two years national service as the war broke out on 1st September 1939. He served in the Kosciuszko Mound garrison on anti-aircraft artillery.

Retreating under the German onslaught, they had reached the city of Kolomyia, near the Romanian border, when the Russians entered the war. His unit crossed into Romania where they were interned in Fagarasz Camp in Batory’s Castle in the Carpathian Mountains. It was one of the tougher camps and conditions were grim. He managed to survive by playing chess against the guards with extra food as the prize.

With others, he attempted to escape and he helped most of the other internees to cross a river before the guards arrived and he was recaptured. Undaunted, on 12th August 1940, he planned another escape after a recreational football match – a match that was difficult because the players were weak from lack of food. But this time, they had bribed the guards to turn a blind eye and he got away.

By 17th October 1940 he had made it to the Black Sea port of Constanta and from there he sailed for the Middle East where he spent some time in hospital in Sarafand, Palestine (now Israel) On his discharge from hospital he joined the Polish forces as part of the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade (Samodzielna Brygada Strzelcow Karpackich or SBSK) and served as a driver in the Light Artillery Regiment from 13th November 1940. He became friends with the renowned Polish painter Wlastimil Hofman.

His Regiment was sent to Greece but arrived too late to make a difference and, on 19th August 1941 they were sent to Tobruk in Libya to reinforce the besieged Allied garrison there. After the siege was broken he fought in the battles at Ghazala (now Sharm-el-Sheikh), Egypt and Bardia in Libya. Then they occupied Cyrenaica, the eastern coastal region of Libya which had been colonised by the Italians.

They were pushed back and the SBSK made a stand at Ghazala (Sharm-el-Sheikh) in 1942. Eugeniusz was wounded there during a heavy bombardment and was sent to Palestine (now Israel) in March of that year.

In Palestine, the SBSK was reinforced by the Polish refugees released from the USSR, and became 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division (3 Dywizja Strzelców Karpackich or 3DSK) which was sent to Iraq in September 1942 and whilst he was there, he volunteered for the Polish Air Force.

He was accepted and returned to Egypt in April 1943 and, via the Suez Canal, he had to travel across Africa and the Atlantic Ocean to finally reach England. During the journey his ship was attacked by an enemy U-boat which stalked them until they made a run for Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Eventually they made it to England. His first posting was to the Polish Depot at RAF Blackpool where he was assessed and selected for training as a wireless operator/air gunner. After training, he was posted to 304 Squadron as a rear gunner on Wellington bombers.

The exact date is unknown but the aircraft on which he served was equipped with a Leigh Light – a powerful searchlight which was used to detect surfaced U-boats at night. So his service was after the squadron joined Coastal Command. He stayed with them for several months and then transferred to 131 Wing which was made up of 302 (City of Poznan) Squadron, 308 (City of Krakow) Squadron and 317 (City of Wilno) Squadron – all fighter units – and moved with them to Plumetot in Calvados, France on 2nd/3rd August 1944. The reason for this move is unknown, perhaps he had finished his tour of duty or, more likely, his wound had made him unfit for flying duties. There was certainly no place for an air gunner on single seat fighters.

He was with them for only a few days as he took part in the Battle of Falaise. He must have transferred to the Polish 1st Armoured Division to have fought in this battle which took place between 12th and 21st August 1944 and the Polish forces saw the heaviest fighting. Following on from this they fought through Belgium, where he was wounded a second time, and on through the Netherlands and into Germany. The war ended for him after reaching Wilhelmshaven port, where he was moving behind the frontline, checking for German partisans.

When he came back to Britain, he would have enlisted in the Polish Resettlement Corps and was sent to RAF Ingham (by that time known as RAF Cammeringham) which was a Polish Resettlement Camp. He probably arrived there in 1945 since he left for Poland in 1947 – two years was the maximum time allowed in the PRC although most people (but not all) who joined the PRC retrained for civilian jobs and stayed in Britain.  He died in Krakow on 29th December 2005.
Photos courtesy of Przemyslaw Maciejasz 

Saturday, 1 January 2011


It is really encouraging to discover that this blog has been viewed 3,027 times since they started recording statistics in May 2010.  The top 10 countries being UK, Poland, USA, Canada, Germany, Australia, France, Slovakia, Denmark and the Netherlands.  Thank you all for your interest.