Sunday, 11 March 2012


He was born on 10th January 1920 in Luborzycy near Krakow and in 1939 he graduated from the University in Vilnius (now Lithuania). He was interested in aviation from an early age and was a member of the Aero Club in Vilnius. Between 1937 and 1939 he participated in gliding courses at the Gliding School in Ustjanowej and may have also flown powered aircraft there.

In the course of time, he met up with his brothers Henryk and Jozef and they remained in Vilnius for a couple of months, leading a more or less normal life under the Russians and in spite of a curfew. After investigation they found that Polish airmen were being evacuated from Kaunas in Lithuania so they went there, in December 1939, and easily acquired false papers. All three of them obtained evacuation papers to go to Sweden. The escape plan was to take a train to Latvia and then fly to Sweden.

On the day they were due to go, the commander refused to allow three brothers to travel on the same aircraft and Jozef was forced to wait for the next plane. German threats to shoot down neutral Swedish planes carrying Polish airmen ensured that there was no next plane. The two brothers spent Christmas Eve in Stockholm and were then flown to London and on to France where they joined the Polish Air Force at Lyon-Bron.

After the fall of France, he managed to escape to Britain, with his brother Henryk, where he completed his training and was posted to 304 Squadron.

He later volunteered for 1586 Flight (Special Duties) and was posted to RAF Brindisi in Italy. From there he flew several missions to Poland in support of the Armia Krajowa and was piloting Liberator EW278 (G-RU)  on 10th September 1944 when it was shot down by German fighters over Senta, Jugoslavia. He, and two of his crew, were killed and are buried in the military cemetery in Belgrade. Five of the twenty aircraft on that mission were shot down that night.

During the course of his military career, he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari and the Cross of Valour (twice)

Photograph courtesy of Henryk Franczak’s niece, Helena

No comments: