He was born on 24th March 1916 at Partyn, near Poznan to Jozef Czerniejewski and Kamila Kuzdrzal; he was one of eleven children (six girls and five boys). He was a Boy Scout at the school in Srem and became an Eagle Scout, leader of the table tennis team and assistant to the Scout Master.
After leaving school, he took employment at a sawmill owned by Mr Jozef Lozynski. He is described as an educated worker and was probably more than a simple manual labourer. Later, he went to Krakow where he lived with his brother whilst he studied to be a plumber. At this time he became a Scout team leader and spent a lot of his spare time organising scout camps in Nowy Targ. This is a town that was invaded by the Germans on the first day of the War, and saw the formation of the Tatra Confederation resistance movement in 1941 and the liquidation of the Jewish ghetto in August 1942.
He was conscripted into the army and, from 6th February 1938, he was based at the Air Force base at Krakow, where he did his basic training. On the first morning of the war, at first light, this base was devastated by wave after wave of Heinkel 111, Junkers Ju87 Stuka and Dornier Do17 “Flying Pencil” bombers. The military students were evacuated to the Romanian border for safety and, eventually, crossed into Romania. Their destination was France where they hoped to reform and re-organise to carry on the flight. Their route is uncertain but they would probably have gone via Bucarest where the Polish Embassy would probably have supplied them with false travel papers, money and tickets to get to France. He may have been interned, for a while, because it took him until 23rd January 1940 to make contact with the Polish forces there.
His French l'Armee de l'Air Identity Card
As time passed the French became hostile to the Poles and even some of the French military wanted to hand them over to the Germans! This was an early step towards Vichy collaboration and one reason why so many ex-Polish military despise the French. But very little is known of his time in France.
He arrived in England on 27th June 1940, probably on board the Arandora Star which had arrived at Liverpool that day from St Jean de Luz, almost on the Spanish border. This was the port used by many Polish military evacuees from France and was relatively close to the air base at Lyon-Bron where he served – his French identity card for l’Armee de l’Air shows he was resident at Bron. If this is correct, his luck held because on, arrival at Liverpool, this vessel was narrowly missed by a German bomb. Sadly it was torpedoed and sunk , with enormous loss of life, a few days later on 2nd July 1940 en route to Canada with German and Italian internees and prisoners.
He then underwent his basic training in gunnery and probably wireless operating and he would also have taken lessons in English and a familiarisation course on British aircraft and the different layout of their controls from French and Polish planes. On completion of the training regime, he would be promoted to Sergeant and posted to a squadron. This happened on 21st April 1941 when he was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Syerston, near Newark in Nottinghamshire. At this time they were still part of Bomber Command. In the intervening months he was based at the main Polish base at Blackpool with various long courses elsewhere in the country including operational training, probably with 18 OTU – which was a Polish unit.
With an unknown friend at an unknown location in England
after qualifying - note the Sergeant's stripes
On the night of 17th/18th July 1941, he was on a successful mission to bomb the docks at Rotterdam and he was almost home when his plane was jumped by a Messerschmidt Me110 intruder. An intruder is a fighter which lurks around air bases and attacks returning bombers whose crews are tired and less alert after a long, arduous mission. They were attacked and shot down just 2 miles from Cowtham House Farm, Balderton just two miles from their base at Newark, Nottinghamshire.
The whole crew, pilot F/O Janusz Tomaszewski, navigator F/O Bronislaw Klatt, wireless operator Sgt Jan Sylwestrowicz, co-pilot Boleslaw Kuzian and air gunners Sgt Jan Podziemski and Sgt Marian, Czerniejewski were all killed. They are buried in Newark Cemetery – the largest Polish Air Force cemetery in the world
Original grave marker at Newark Cemetery
Many websites have missed this crash, or attributed it to 301 Squadron because 304 Squadron had lost so many planes that they had to borrow it for the mission.
For his courage on this and earlier missions, he was awarded the Cross of Valour.
All photographs and documents courtesy of Dagmara Plociennik