Wednesday, 7 December 2011

FRANCISZEK KICINSKI


He was born on 29th January 1914, in Warsaw, the son of Stanislaw Kicinski and Stanislawa Domagalska. He was educated in Warsaw and trained as a hairdresser. In 1934 he joined the army and served in the Ostroleka horse artillery, where he completed his non-commissioned officer training. He later trained as a glider pilot at the military school at Ustianowa near the border with Ukraine. He transferred to the Air Force and trained as a pilot in Warsaw

At the end of 1938, he left the military and went to work as a clerk for the Warsaw public transport corporation but, when war was imminent, he was mobilised and rejoined the air force in Warsaw. Little is known of him after that except that he escaped to France through Romania, arriving in France on 22nd January 1940.

His route is not known, except that he arrived at Marseilles by sea, in a group of Polish pilots, on one of two voyages made by the French liner Explorateur Grandidier from Beirut to repatriate French soldiers from the Levant (now broken up into Palestine, Israel, Jordan,Syria and Lebanon). This vessel was later scuttled near Marseilles by the Germans. On making contact with the Polish authorities, he was posted to the aviation school at Lyon but did no training or fighting. On the capitulation of France, in June 1940, he went to England by sea but his route is unknown.

He was based in the cluster of RAF Stations around Blackpool. He spent over a year under training and learning English, he moved, on 1st September 1941 he went to RAF Leuchars at St Andrews, Fife in Scotland.

He learned to fly British aircraft on De Havilland Tiger Moths at 25 EFTS at RAF Hucknall and later on Airspeed Oxfords at 16 FTS at RAF Newton – both in Nottinghamshire. After finishing these courses, he qualified and was promoted to Sergeant. He was then, September 1941, posted to 3 Air Gunnery School at RAF Castle Kennedy in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. Here, his tasks were flying the gunners under instruction and flying the aircraft which towed the targets. The aircraft he flew were Bristol Bolingbrokes and Blackburn Bothas.

On 15th July 1943, he was posted to 3 School of General Reconnaissance stationed at RAF Squires Gate (Blackpool). His main task was to learn to navigate over water for the duties that would be required by Coastal Command – seeking out U-boats and enemy surface vessels. He was then posted to 6 OTU at Silloth, Cumberland, for operational training. The purpose of this was to bond the crews of the U-boat hunters and their Wellington bombers.

On 29th February 1944 he joined 304 Squadron at RAF Chivenor, Barnstaple, Devon who were then dedicated to Anti-Submarine Warfare. His first operational flight was in March 1944 and he went on to fly several missions filling in for crew who were sick or on leave. At the beginning of August 1944 he was posted to 6 OTU at RAF Silloth, Cumberland, to form a team of his own for future missions. He returned to 304 Squadron, after the six week course, with his own regular crew – but by this time they had moved to RAF Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides.

Soon after the war ended, at the end of May 1945, he was posted to RAF North Weald, Essex with the rest of the squadron, which became part of Transport Command and later to RAF Chedburgh in Suffolk. Their task was to fly men and supplies between England, France, Italy and Greece. The aircraft they used were Wellingtons, Warwicks and Halifaxes – all ex bombers converted to cargo planes. He stayed with them until the squadron was disbanded in December 1946 and then transferred to the Polish Resettlement Corps to stay in uniform but also to prepare for life as a civilian in Britain. During his time with 304 Squadron, he won the Cross of Valour twice.

He stayed in Britain until 1957 when he moved his family to Melbourne, Australia. He became an artist and had several exhibitions there. He died there on 22nd January 1992; he was cremated at the Springvale Botanical Cemetery. He is recorded there as Frank Kicinski.

Photo courtesy of Wojciech Zmyslony

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