Sunday, 25 March 2012

JAN PRAZMOWSKI


A lot more research is going to be needed but the following items have come to light. On 5th November 1942, it is recorded in the Station ORB, at RAF Talbenny, that he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant with the quite unusual qualification of Bombing Leader. Six days later, it records the award of the Virtuti Militari (5th Class), but quotes his earlier rank.

He was born on 27th November in Wegrzce near Krakow and completed his conventional education in 1932. He then went to the Officer Cadet School in Ostrowia Mazowiecka, North eastern Poland, for three years, graduating in 1935 as a Second Lieutenant and being posted to 22 Infantry Regiment in Piotrkow.

In 1938 he enrolled on a navigators’ course which he completed and was posted immediately to 26 Observer Squadron in Krakow. During the September Campaign he was active in reconnaissance until 20th September 1939, when he was evacuated to Romania via the border town of Kuty. He was interned but security was not tight and he escaped and made his way back to Poland.

From there he assisted with the evacuation to Hungary and, in late April 1940, he was ordered to make his escape to Hungary. During May 1940, he travelled through Jugoslavia to the Port of Piraeus, near Athens, in Greece from where he took a ship to France and joined the Polish forces there. Soon after his arrival, France capitulated and he escaped once again - via Bayonne and probably the port of St Jean de Luz which was the main route for Polish airmen coming to England. He then travelled to the Polish Depot at Blackpool where he completed further training and became familiar with British aircraft and the English language.

He was posted to 304 Squadron and served at RAF Stations Lindholme (Yorkshire), Tiree in the Outer Hebrides (off the West Coast of Scotland), Dale and Talbenny (both in Pembrokeshire, Wales). The maximum time span was between 20th July 1941 and 30th March 1943 but he served at all of them, being mentioned in all their Operational Records Books. He may have stayed with them for his full tour of 30 missions – or even more - but that is yet to be established. At this time, the Squadron was mostly in Coastal Command and involved with anti-submarine warfare and convoy protection. In the earlier days he would have been involved with bombing Germany and Occupied Northern Europe.

He was seconded to RAF Manby in Lincolnshire for a Bombing Leaders course on 18th April 1942 and was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 5th November 1942.

Being presented with his Virtuti Militari by Air Vice Marshall Ujejski 
11th November 1942 at  RAF Talbenny

During his service, he was awarded the Virtuti Militari, 5th Class which was presented to him by Air Vice Marshall Ujejski at RAF Talbenny on 11th November 1942 – which was a significant date for poles and British alike. Being Armistice Day, for the British, and National Independence Day, for the Poles. He also won the Cross of Valour three times, at least one of which was presented to him at RAF Lindholme by General Kopanski on 25th April 1942. In addition he was awarded the Air Medal three times.

In 1947 he was honourably discharged and returned to Poland where he undertook a variety of jobs. He was arrested and briefly imprisoned, at one point, under the Stalinist puppet government, but was “rehabilitated” and given an appointment at the People’s Army Cadet School in Radom. That year he was sent to Vietnam as a part of the Military Mission of Reconciliation. He retired in 1967, having achieved the rank of Major. He died on 21st September 1995 in Warsaw.
Relaxing with a fellow airman - undated but no POLAND shoulder flash

Photos courtesy of Peter Jefferies and text with thanks to Kamil Nowak

1 comment:

Julie Stevens said...

Hi, I came across this post whilst looking for information on my grampa. His name was Wladyslaw Alko Stefanski and this picture on this post came up. This is definitely my grampa. Does anyone have any more information, pictures or documents about him or if you can point me in the right direction to research this, that would be great! Many Thanks, Julia