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.
304 SQUADRON AIRCREW AT RAF PREDANNACK, 1943
EUGENIUSZ MACIEJASZ IN THE MIDDLE
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