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

No comments: