Wednesday, 18 December 2013

BOHDAN PIOTR RUSLAW LIPSKI

He was born on 31st March 1916 at  Rochaczew (which was in Russia at that stage in history), whilst his heavily pregnant mother was visiting friends there; he was the son of Pawel and Stefania Lipski.  He grew up in the Pultusk region of Poland as the elder of two sons, Leszek being the younger.  There are also unconfirmed reports that the family were very wealthy and extremely well respected  land owners in the area, employing hundreds of people.
On 4th November 1934, when he was 18, he joined the Air Force and between 1st February 1935 and 27th June of that year, he undertook a radio-telegraphy course, probably at Radom.  Presumably, as a career progression, he followed that up with a course in radio mechanics at the communications training centre CWL Zegrze near Warsaw – this lasted from 2nd January 1937 until 10th November 1937. 
 Radio-mechanics Course at CWL Zegrze, near Warsaw, 1937.  Bohdan Lipski (standing extreme right, second row).  No rank insignia visible
 
This may have been National Service, as there is no clear picture of what happened after this course.  However, he kept a diary of events from the outbreak of war and describes how he crossed the border into Romania on 18th September 1939; he stayed in that country until 18th December 1939 when he left for Syria, arriving there on Christmas Eve.
He remained in Syria until 15th January 1940 when he presumably boarded a ship for France where he arrived on 21st January.  There are no available details of his time there but he left France at the time of the capitulation, on 24th June 1940 and later arrived in England.
 
He qualified as an L/Ac wireless operator from No 2 Signals School at RAF Yatesbury, Wiltshire on 31st March 1941 – in spite of the problems with the serviceability of the Proctor aircraft (he also trained on Dominies).  Then, from 29th April until 6th June of that year, he attended No 4 Bombing and Gunnery School at RAF West Freugh, near Stranraer, Wigtownshire (now Dumfries and Galloway), in Scotland.  Later, from 7th-19th July 1941 he did radio training on Avro Ansons at RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton in Warwickshire.  Almost immediately afterwards, he carried out air gunnery training on Wellington Bombers also at RAF Bramcote, with 18 OTU.
 
Sgt Lipski (centre) at Gunnery School – RAF West Freugh near Stranraer, Scotland
 
Sgt Bohdan Lipski (extreme right) at RAF Lindholme    c Jan/Feb 1942

On 15th August 1941, he was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Lindholme in South Yorkshire, where he completed 24 bombing missions, on the last of which his aircraft, Vickers Wellington Mk 1c, W5627 (NZ-B) was shot down by flak, near Chatel-Censoir, France on the return journey after bombing Cologne on the night of 28th April 1942.  He was a member of the crew of F/O Julian Morawski and was the only member of the crew to be taken prisoner – the others all successfully evaded capture and made it back to England.
 
Sgt Bohdan Lipski    POW No 71
 
His diary reveals that on 1st May 1942 he was in Frankfurt and on 28th of that month he was in Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Germany (now Zagan, Poland).  By 6th   June, he was held at Stalag Luft I near Barth, Western Pomerania, Germany and on 5th November 1943, he was at Stalag IVb, Muhlberg, 30 miles north of Dresden, Germany.  He was still there on the night of 22nd/23rd April 1945, when the camp was liberated by the Russians, just over two weeks before the war in Europe ended.
The Germans wanted to round up the prisoners and march them westwards ahead of the Russian advance but the prisoners refused and the Senior American Officer is said to have persuaded the Germans not to force the issue as it would cause countless unnecessary deaths and injuries.  The German Officers surrendered  to him and promptly disappeared that night.  No doubt fearful of the treatment they could expect from the Red Army.
 

April 1945.  Sgt Bohdan Lipski (top right) and fellow POWs at
Stalag IVb, Muhlberg, Germany - on Liberation by the Russians 

 On 16th May 1945, he left Halle, Saxony-Anhalt and travelled via Brussells to England, arriving at the Polish Depot at Blackpool, two days later.  From there it was a slow process of waiting for demobilisation.  He remained at the Polish Depot in Blackpool until he was transferred to RAF Cardington in Bedfordshire on 28th January 1947; this was to be the final move of his military career until he was demobilised on 14th February 1948.
His first job in civilian life was as a garage hand, employed by a fellow Pole V. Skwierkowski in the town of Warrington, Lancashire (now Cheshire).  By the time he met his wife, Stanislawa Sobieraj, he had moved to London and was working at the Royal Free Hospital.  They were married at the Town Hall at St Pancras on 23rd July 1949 and subsequently had three children before moving to Swindon in Wiltshire in the early 1960s, after which they had a fourth child.
Once there he worked in several engineering companies before settling down to work for R.A.Lister, who later became part of Hawker Siddeley, near Swindon.  He retired in 1981 and spent his time reading, fishing and enjoying his pipe with his favoured St Bruno tobacco.  He was a quiet, placid man who never took risks – perhaps not surprisingly after a tumultuous start to his life.  He died on 20th April 1984.
He was awarded the Order of Virtuti Militari, by General  Sikorski, and the Cross of Valour, by General Kopanski, at RAF Lindholme on 25th April 1942 – only three days before he was shot down.  His son claimed his uncollected British medals – the Air Crew Europe Star and the 1939-1945 War Medal, as well as the Bomber Command Clasp – in July 2013.
 
Sgt Lipski’s Medals: Polish Gallantry Medals: Order of Virtuti Militari and Cross of Valour; British Campaign Medals: 1939-1945 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, 1939 – 1945 War Medal and the Bomber Command Clasp
 
Souvenirs of War: Polish Airman’s Gapa, Cross of Valour, Virtuti Militari and Polish and British Medal Ribbon Bars.  The two central items are the Caterpillar Club Membership Card awarded to any airman whose life was saved by parachuting from a stricken aircraft, awarded by the Irvin Parachute Company and the POW dog tag for POW No 71 at Stalag Luft III at Sagan – home of the Great Escape
 
All photographs used in this compilation are ©Eddie Lipski and are used with his kind permission;
All photographs and documents are from the Lipski family collection
 
 
 

 
 

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

ZYGMUNT PIETRASIEWICZ


He was born on 23rd March 1919 in Bobrus near Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania) and in 1938 he joined the training school in Swiecie.  But because of the outbreak of war, he was unable to complete the course and was evacuated from his base in Moderowka to Romania.  His escape route is uncertain but he arrived in France on 30th November 1939 and sought a transfer to England.  This was granted and he arrived in England on 27th February 1940 and, after completing his basic training, began his aircrew training on 13th July 1941 and his pilot training two months later on 12th September 1941.

He finished the training at 34 Service Flying Training School at Medicine Hat in Alberta, Canada on 3rd July 1942.  He was then returned to the Blackpool Depot and was sent to 16 SFTS at RAF Newton, Nottinghamshire on 20th October 1942 and, to gain flying experience, he was sent to 5 Air Observer School at RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man.

On 15th May 1944 he was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Chivenor in Devon and served with them until 21st November 1945 when he enlisted in the Polish Resettlement Corps at RAF Hucknall in Nottinghamshire.  He was awarded the Cross of Valour twice and the Air Medal.

After his demobilisation he settled in the Nottingham area, changed his name to Hope and worked in the textile industry.  He died on 9th March 2005 and was buried in Wilford Hill cemetery in Nottingham.
Photograph © Stefan Pietrasiewicz-Hope
 

Monday, 16 September 2013

MICHAL STEFAN PIENKOWSKI


Michal Stefan Pienkowski was born on 6th April 1914 in Lvov, Poland (now Ukraine). His father died in 1916 – a family story is that he was executed for his political views and espionage, as he was a supporter of the Austrian government.  His mother, Maria Sadlak, had independent means and was a landowner and the family  believe that he had quite a privileged upbringing - he certainly had horses and was taught to speak English, French and German fluently.  He was also taught to sew and would, later, tailor his uniforms to make them fit better!  Later still he used this skill to earn a living.
 

He studied Chemistry at Warsaw University and joined the Polish Air Force in 1937, after completing his studies – this was his compulsory military service.  At the end of the September Campaign he crossed the border into Romania where he was disarmed and interned for three months.  The family sent him money which he used to bribe his way out of the camp and he would almost certainly have had assistance and false papers from the Polish Embassy in Bucarest.
 
After his escape from the internment camp, he made his way, overland via Jugoslavia and Italy to France and then across France to Lyon-Bron where he rejoined the Polish forces in exile in January 1940 although his Identity Card was issued by L’Armee de L’Air on 21st May 1940.
French Air Force Identity Card
On the French capitulation, he made his way to the coast, almost certainly to St. Jean de Luz, just on the French side of the Pyrenees where he boarded the ill-fated SS Arandora Star and set sail for Liverpool, where he landed on, or about 28th June 1940.  He was transferred to the Polish Depot at Blackpool and formally enlisted with the Polish Air Force under the operational command of the RAF on 5th August 1940.
 
After initial training and familiarisation with British equipment, he served as an interpreter and then with 304 Squadron for the rest of the war, later transferring out to become an interpreter and an instructor at technical training schools.  Finally, he served with the Polish Resettlement Corps until his discharge on 9th June 1947 from RAF Dunholme Lodge.
 
He settled in Derbyshire where he married and had three children and earned his living as a tailor until he had saved enough money to open a shop known as Michael’s Stores.  Later he was the Sub-Postmaster at Duffield, Derbyshire for 17 years before retiring to Staffordshire where he ran a small-holding caring for animals and growing flowers and fruit.

 
He died in 1985 from pneumonia which he contracted during the war and had plagued him all his life.  There is much more to come on this story.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

R1268 - ANOTHER WITNESS


I was recently contacted with the following story, which I have reproduced in the lady’s own words:

My name is Sylvia Barnes (nee Durent).  At the time of the aeroplane crash, I was living at West Edmondsley Farm with my Great Uncle and Great Aunt who ran the farm.  Their names were John & Isabella Langton (known locally as Jack & Bella).

On 14th December 1940, we were listening to the one o'clock news; the weather was dreadful, torrential rain and poor visibility. I was looking out of the window and saw a huge aeroplane dropping into the trees (the wood) at the bottom of the field behind the farm.  My uncle and a farm worker ran down to see what had happened.  Apparently my uncle John Langton pulled the pilot from the cockpit and sent the farm worker to fetch some doors to use to get the airmen up to the farmhouse.  By this time other people from the village arrived.  The injured Polish men were brought into the large kitchen and one looked like his legs were broken and the one I spoke to had a big 'hole' right near his eye (Jan?).  My aunt got some blankets to cover the injured airmen (she was a St John's Ambulance member) and made them as comfortable as she could.  Our family doctor arrived to do what he could (Dr Muckergee) until the ambulances arrived.  One of the airmen had brought up some maps and other objects which had been put in the dining room.  My aunt sent me there saying I had a very important job to do, to look after everything in the room and not let anyone into the room until the police arrived.

I watched through the window and saw more and more people and cars arrive and they parked on the field in the front of the farm making it difficult for the ambulances to get up to the back of the house. There were so many people just looking and getting in the way.

Eventually, I was told by my uncle that the stretchers had to be lifted out of the kitchen sash window into the ambulance and the airmen were taken to hospital.

A group of airmen, the 'crash gang' I called them, arrived to stop people interfering with the plane's wreckage.  The two officers with them slept in one of the farm bedrooms and the others (when they were off duty from guarding the wreckage until it was removed) slept on the floor in the kitchen and back kitchen. These airmen peeled the vegetables and helped in any way they could and we gave them their meals with us.  A trestle table was set up in the kitchen and the men had their meals with us even on Christmas Day.  I remember coming down early on Christmas morning and stepping over the sleeping men to get to my presents.  It had snowed and they built me a huge snowman and gave me small gifts and made a great fuss over me (I supposed they were missing their own children).

In the evenings the airmen off duty would come into the dining room and play the piano and we all sang songs and toasted teacakes on the toasting forks in front of the roaring open fire.

For me, as a child of 7 years, it was the most memorable experience I have ever had and often told other people all about it. I shall be 80 years old in Novemeber [2013]and have never forgotten the events of that day and the weeks afterwards or the brave Polish airmen who were injured in the crashed aeroplane.

When they were well again, three of the airmen came back to the farm to thank my aunt and uncle. The following year 2 came back and after that we used to get a Christmas Card from them. I don't think my Aunt and Uncle heard from them after the war.

Note: The man with the hole near his eye was Sgt Stanislaw Boczkowski, who must have looked frightening to a 7 year old girl, but that was just a flap of skin and was negligible compared to his other injuries.  He is still alive today and living in Canada.  One of the men was later killed in action, another was killed in a road accident later in the war.  The others both won the Virtuti Militari – Poland’s highest award for gallantry and both survived the war.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

STANISLAW WACLAWSKI

He was a mechanic, born on 4th May 1909.  He survived the war but was involved in a road accident at Six Mile Bottom near Cambridge on the main road from Newmarket to Cambridge in mysterious circumstances on 8th November 1946.  The lorry involved disappeared shortly afterwards.  He died in Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge the next morning.  No inquest was held but witness statements were taken and sent to Group Headquarters.  He is buried in Cambridge.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

STANISLAW SZEWCZUK

Stanislaw Szewczuk was born in the village of Prusy, near Lviv, on 15th April 1913.  He was one of eight children, three of whom died in childhood, born into a humble family.  However, he completed his education, graduating from the National Gymnasium Hetman Stanislaw Zolkiewski at Lviv in 1931.  He followed this up with a course of training in mechanical engineering at Lviv Polytechnic, specialising in structural aviation.  He supplemented his income by tutoring other students and graduated in June 1938.
 
He then enlisted for his compulsory military service and undertook a course at the Szkole Podchorazych Reserwy Saperow at Modlin, where he completed his basic training.  On 1st January 1939 he was posted to the Reserve Officers School of Aviation (Technical Division) in Warsaw, where he trained to a very high level, with the rank of Cadet Sergeant.
 
His specialised training was in the construction of engines and airframes and, after completing this course he was posted to 6th Air Regiment in Lviv on 24th August 1939.  In that year, he married Irene Bryniarska but the impending war dealt them a severe blow as she was deported to Kazakhstan when the Russians invaded Poland and he was fighting in the west; they were separated until 1947.
 
He was active as a platoon leader during the September Campaign and was involved in the evacuation of airmen and equipment, crossing from Serafincach, Poland (now Ukraine) into Romania on 17th September 1939, when Russia entered the War.  On 4th October, he arrived in Bucharest and reported to the Polish Embassy where he helped other airmen and engineers to escape to the west.  On 24th October, he was given a visa, money and travel documents to take him, via Jugoslavia and Greece, to France where he arrived on 4th November 1939 and reported to the Polish authorities there.  He was sent to Le Bourget aerodrome just north of Paris, which was one of the Polish Air Force mustering points at that time; he later moved to the air base at Lyon-Bron.
 
As an engineer he was retained in France, whilst the aircrew were mostly sent to Britain.  He went to the Olaer factory at La Couronne, working on major components for the chassis and hydraulic systems on the Dewoitine D-520 aircraft.  He worked there until June 1940, when it was obvious that France would capitulate.  He did not manage to escape and was interned in a camp at Caylus, Tarn-et-Garonne Department in the Midi-Pyrenees region, guarded by the Vichy authorities.  Later he was moved to a hostel in Aix-les-Bains in the Rhone-Alpes region of South East France.  In 1942 he moved to Clermont-Ferrand in Central France, where he worked in various civilian jobs in order to live and later still, he was moved to Grenoble - also in the Rhone-Alpes region.

In November 1942 he was caught trying to cross the border into Spain and was taken to the internment camp at Gurs near Pau in South Western France, where the main problem was the shortage of food, but he survived because he worked in the kitchens.

The camp at Gurs was a collection of 382 cabins, each of which was windowless and without sanitation; they were constructed of thin timber covered with tarred canvas which easily leaked, allowing the rain to enter.  They were very cold in winter and had to house up to 60 people in a 25 square metre area - sleeping on palliasses made from straw filled sacks.

Toilet facilities were primitive closets and, when full, the tubs were taken out of the camp on horse drawn carts.  Fortunately it was not a particularly secure camp and the treatment of the prisoners left much to be desired, although it was not brutal.

He was then drafted to the Organization Todt, a paramilitary slave labour group, specialising in building military fortifications.  He was employed on projects near the Franco-Spanish border and managed to escape through Spain, via Madrid to Gibraltar.  Here he was provided with identification papers and travel documents and put on board ship for England.  Arriving in late September 1943, he was sent straight to the Polish Depot at Blackpool.

On 28th October 1943 he was allocated to 58 Maintenance Unit based at Newark upon Trent, Nottinghamshire, whose function was to recover crashed or damaged aircraft and to repair them or salvage any re-useable parts or equipment.  He was transferred to RAF Manby, near Louth in Lincolnshire on 28th April 1944, where he trained at 1 Air Armament School, qualifying as a Technical Officer on 3rd September 1944 and being commissioned as a Flying Officer then or shortly afterwards, following his posting to 304 Squadron.  This was at RAF Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides on 12th October 1944 - just in time for him to suffer the poor conditions of damp Nissen huts, gale force winds, severe rain and snow storms of a Hebridean winter!

Here he was responsible for the maintenance and repair of Wellington GR XIV bombers in their Coastal Command role, flying far out over the Atlantic on anti-submarine patrols, air-sea rescue missions and harassing enemy shipping.  He stayed there until the Squadron returned to St Eval in Cornwall on 5th March 1945.  Their duties were exactly the same, but their territory was now the Irish Sea, the Bay of Biscay and a much more southerly area of the Atlantic Ocean.  Cornwall could be just as bleak in the winter but at least they were on the mainland and could visit neighbouring towns.  However, the weather was improving and spring made flying and living conditions easier.  For about a month after the end of hostilities, they were still active in hunting down U-Boats whose crews refused to surrender.

On 6th June 1945, the Squadron was transferred, to Transport Command for duties including flying passengers and freight in unarmed aircraft, making his position unnecessary and he was transferred to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at RAF Boscombe Down at Amesbury in Wiltshire.  He was awarded the Air Medal for outstanding non-combative service and left the Air Force, returning to Poland in September 1947.

He lived in Sopot, on the Baltic Coast near Gdansk, where he worked with agricultural machines but in 1949 he began work teaching in the Technical University of Gdansk.  He worked simultaneously  on the Gdynia II and Olowianka-Gdansk power installations as an inspector of the construction work.  However, in the latter part of 1950, he was denounced andarrested by the Secret Police and was held in prison for several months without a trial or conviction.  During his time in prison his wife died in child birth.  On his release he moved, with his two children, to Opole in Upper Silesia but he struggled to find work, eventually returning to teaching.  In 1952 he married Alina Gajewska, whom he met during the course of his work and study; they had two further children together. 

In 1957 he went to work in the University and, in the 1960's, he received his Doctoral degree but sadly died on 17th June 1977 at the early age of 64.  He is buried in the municipal cemetery in Brzegu.

He had built up an eminent reputation as a scientist and writer and was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit and a Gold Medal from Wroclaw Technical University.

With special thanks to Wojciech Zmyslony for much of the information and the photograph from his polishairforce website    

Saturday, 22 June 2013

LESZEK OWSIANY


He was born on 29th September 1919 in Rakowice,  (site of the original air base at Krakow) near Ilawa and the family later moved to Lebcz, near Wladyslawowa, Pomerania, on the south coast of the Baltic Sea.  He received a primary education at Puck and further education in crafts and industry  at Gdynia.  He qualified as a locksmith at that establishment.  His family were of aristocratic descent – the family name being Ostoja-Owsiany; his father Tadeusz was an agricultural inspector and his mother was Jadwiga nee Marwicz.

In 1937 he went to work in the DWL experimental aircraft workshop where RWD-17 and RWD-21 planes were being assembled.  Two years later, he qualified as a glider pilot at Ustianowa gliding school, in the Bieszczady Mountains, having completed his A & B courses.    His first experience of flying was in a PZL-5 piloted by Michal Offierski (later, a bomber pilot during WW2).  This is when he began to develop his flying skills, he began to learn to fly powered aircraft at Maslow near Kielce on 15th August 1939 but his training was cut short by the onset of war.   
After this, training flights were stopped and, on 5th September 1939, he was evacuated towards the Romanian border but had to evade Russian troops in the Trebowli area and went, by way of Kolomyia, to the border crossing at Kut and crossed into Romania.  Along the way, he was detained at the military camp in Targu Jiu, where he stayed until April 1940.  With assistance from friendly Romanians, he boarded a train for Bucarest and went on via Jugoslavia and Italy, crossing the French border on the night of 9th May 1940.
He initially reported to a marshalling point near Paris and was sent on to the Polish Air Force base at Lyon-Bron.   In France, he served as a basic grade airman.  Due to the rapid capitulation of France, he was forced to make his way to the Basque port of St Jean de Luz, near the Spanish border, where he borded the SS Arandora Star for Britain, landing in Liverpool, before being sent north to Glasgow and then south to Carlisle in Cumberland (now Cumbria) and on to the Polish Depot at Blackpool, where he had to learn English.
On 1st September 1941, he undertook an elementary pilot’s course, on De Havilland Tiger Moths at 25 EFTS at RAF Hucknall, near Nottingham  He then moved to 16 SFTS at RAF Newton, also near Nottingham where he flew Airspeed Oxford trainers – basically to familiarise himself with British aircraft.  He then moved to 7 Air Gunnery School at RAF Stormy Down near Bridgend, Glamorgan, Wales on 11th May 1942,  where he trained on Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley Bombers; these were virtually obsolete but gave him the necessary experience and flying hours.  He then went to RAF Watchfield near Wootton Basset in Wiltshire for a short Blind Approach Training course.  Following this, in mid-July 1943, he transferred to 18OTUat RAF Finningley, (now Doncaster Airport) in South Yorkshire for operational training. 
On completion of this, he was posted to 300 Squadron at RAF Hemswell near Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, from where he undertook a tour of duty of raids on France, the Netherlands and Germany, being posted to the Blackpool Depot as a trainer, on completion of this tour.  His principal duties were mine laying in the sea off the submarine pens at Lorient and also at Brest and St Nazaire, France as well as the Wadden Islands and the coast of mainland Holland.  He also flew three air sea rescue missions, searching for downed airmen.  After this, on 1st March 1944, he was posted to Blackpool at the end of his tour of duty and placed on training duties.
He was unsettled and applied for a transfer to 1586 Special Duties Flight, which he knew was making trips to his native Poland.  No doubt, due to shortages of experienced aircrew, his request was accepted and he was posted to RAF Tempsford,  in Bedfordshire, the home of 138 Squadron, for training on Handley Page Halifax bombers.  On 25th May 1944, he was sent to RAF Campo Casale at Brindisi in Southern Italy, where he joined 1586 Flight.  The very next day, he flew the first of his 39 missions with them (to Jugoslavia).  Of these missions, 20 were to Northern Italy, 8 to Jugoslavia and 11 to Poland, including 5 to the participants of the Warsaw Uprising. 
On the last of these missions, on the night of 16/17 August 1944, he was attacked by a Junkers Ju88 night fighter and shot down over Bochnia in Silesia.  This Ju88 was probably piloted by Lt Gustav Francsi of 1/NJG100 who reported shooting down four aircraft, including a Halifax, on that night.  He had successfully carried out his mission and was on the way home when he was forced to the ground.
He was captured and subjected to a brutal interrogation before being sent to a hospital at Krakow Stalag Luft VIIIb at Lamsdorf, Germany (now Lambinowice, Poland) near Opole, in Silesia – a partitioned off part of Stalag VIII army POW camp, housing about 1,000 airmen, mainly NCO’s.
This camp was evacuated on 22nd January 1945 and the prisoners were marched west, ahead of the Russian advance from the east.  This was carried out under extremely difficult conditions; freezing weather, inadequate clothing and inadequate food supplies.  He was liberated by American troops at Kassel in Northern Hesse, Germany on 30th March 1945 and subsequently repatriated to Britain.  On 2nd April 1945, he boarded a Douglas Dakota and was flown to Oxford (RAF Benson ?).  At this time he was in very poor health, suffering from dysentery and weighing only 46kg, and was sent to Craighall Castle at Rattray near Blairgowrie, Perthshire, Scotland – where he spent time resting and recuperating until January 1946, when he was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Chedburgh, Suffolk, flying Vickers Warwick unarmed bombers in Transport Command to Naples and Athens until his discharge on 16th August 1946.
After the war, he decided to return to Poland and arrived in Gdansk on 14th October 1946, but the Communist regime would not allow him to live where he wanted and so he lived, briefly, with his sister in Gdansk then moved to Wejherowo.  In time, he moved to Walbrzych Mieroszow in Lower Silesia, where he was summoned to be interrogated by the Stalinist authorities, but he was not mis-treated.  In this place, he took over an almost derelict German garden centre and spent his savings in restoring it to functionality.  In the reconciliation period, in October 1956, (after the death of Stalin) he was able to take up a firearms licence and resume his passion for hunting.  He was also offered the chance to join the flying/gliding clubs at Wroclaw and Jelenia Gora, but he declined these offers.
He maintained his horticultural business until August 1993, when his health was no longer sufficiently robust to continue working there.  He sold the business and retired, moving back to Wejherowo, where he died on 28th January 2008.  He was buried in the Smiechowskim Cemetery there.
During his military career, he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari  and the Cross of Valour (three times).  After the war he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of Polonia Restituta.
With special thanks to Wojciech Zmyslony for information contained in his website

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

LEON KEGEL

In April of this year, I received a message with no return e-mail address.  It was from the daughter of this Polish Airman.  She gave me a tantalising amount of information on Leon Kegel, but used the Comments facility on the blog.  She left no return email address and, although I posted a reply on the same day she has not responded.  Her name is Gloria Prescott and she lives in Bermuda.
 
If you read this message, Gloria, please contact me again on my personal e-mail neville.bougourd@yahoo.com as I would like to feature your father on the blog and put you in touch with your cousin (see below).
 
I have also had a contact from a member of your father's family in Poznan, Poland, who would like to contact you.  Please get in touch and give me an e-mail address where I can contact you, as you left no contact details on your last message.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

WALENTY (MIECZYSLAW) SZKLARSKI

He was born on 11th March 1913 in the County of Lubaczow, to Roman Szklarski and Katarzyna (nee Hamuda).  He began his education at the Piramowicz School in Przemysl on 1st September 1919 and stayed there for the first three years, completing his education there in 1922.  After that, his father, who worked for PKP (Polskie Koleje Panstwowe), the Polish state railways, was moved to Domazyr near Lwow.  Following that, he passed the entry examination for the Koscuiszko Gymnasium School in Lwow, where he stayed until 1928 after being accepted for higher education.  He was forced to leave school because his father could no longer support the cost, because of events leading to the Wall Street Crash in 1929.

He stayed with his parents until October 1931 and, in May 1931, he applied to Panstwowej Komendy Uzupelnien in Grodek Jagiellonski for help to enrol him in the army.  He was accepted as fit for army service and remained there from October 1931 until September 1933 in 61st Line Squadron of 6th Air Regiment, based in Lwow.  From January to April of 1932, he trained as a mechanic and then did practical training as an assistant aircraft mechanic (apprentice?) until September of that year.

After this, he was placed on the reserve list and returned to civilian life.  He applied to a private school to finish his studies in the humanities, but had to give it up because these were the Depression  years and his family could not support his studies.  He applied to Government Agencies such as the state railways, the Police, the Post Office and the Ministry of Trade, but without success.

In September 1937, he was recalled for four weeks refresher training in the 6th Air Regiment and then returned to his civilian life.

In April 1938 he applied to Malopolski Zwiazek Mleczarski (roughly equivalent to the British Milk Marketing Board) and was accepted for three months unpaid training in the accounts department of one of the 1,475 co-operatives then extant.  He worked there from 1st May 1938 until 30th July 1938 and obtained good references but was not retained as paid staff.

Three months later, he was accepted as an assistant in the Trade Department (Commercial Office?) of the railway station at Hmirdyczow-Kochawina where he was paid 1 zloty 50 groszy per day but it only lasted until the end of 1938, when the budget for that post ran out.  At the time of writing (June 2013) that would just about buy one cigarette, half a bar of chocolate, a small bread roll or pay half the postage on a single letter within Britain!  I realise that there has been vast inflation over the intervening years but, even then, that must have been very low pay.

Two weeks later, on 15th January 1939, he took up a post at the paper works at Kochawina, near Stryj, where he worked until 14th September 1939 as a clerk.  During this time, with war imminent, he did a further four weeks training (19th June to 15th July) as a reservist with 6th Air Regiment.

He was lucky, in that he was not conscripted by the Russians, and left the area, escaping to Hungary via Ujhely and Miskolc to a little place named Merohoveod, where he remained until April of 1940.  During this time, he made contact with an illegal underground group in Eger who helped him to get to Budapest (where he arrived on 12th April 1940).

Later that night, he joined a group of Poles and they moved to the border with Jugoslavia.  Two days later, they made a night crossing of the River Drava and made their way to Zagreb, where they arrived on the 18th April.  Six days later, they arrived at Split, where they waited for a boat to evacuate them.  On 27th April 1940, they boarded the SS Patris and sailed for Marseilles, where they arrived on 1st May 1940. And made his way to join the rest of the Polish forces.

There appears to be some dispute about where the Poles gathered, but Sgt Szklarski’s own report states that they initially dispersed to Carpiagne the home of the 4th Regiment of Dragoon Guards.  He was moved to the barracks at Lyon-Bron on 4th May and left there on 17th May  1940  ‘as a member of 108 Batallion (Park) in Montpellier.  He remained there as a working assistant mechanic until the fall of France.

At that time, he was under the control of a Captain of Artillery, Loboda – and another named Tregano – and he left Montpellier en route for St Juan de Luz, where he boarded the SS Arandora Star.  He arrived in Liverpool on 27th June 1940 and, five days later, was sent to RAF Weeton  in Lancashire and later to RAF Blackpool.  He was there until 17th August 1940, when he was attached to the newly forming 304 on Squadron at RAF Bramcote.  He started work as a clerk there on 28th August 1940.

On 1st October of that year he was accepted as medically fit and trained as an airman and was sent for training as a wireless operator/air gunner on 12th October 1941 – a course that he completed on 22nd November 1941, after which he was sent to the Blackpool Depot.  On 9th December of that year, he was transferred to 18 OTU at RAF Bramcote, remaining there until 26th April 1942, when he was returned to 304 Squadron.  Two days later, he reported there and began his service with them.  During this service, he was awarded the Cross of Valour on three occasions and the Virtuti Militari on 7th May 1943.

He is known to have survived the war and settled in England, changing his name to Scot.  He died on 15th October 1986 in Blackpool and is buried in Carleton Cemetery.
 
With many thanks to Grzegorz Korcz for the additional information he supplied 

Monday, 3 June 2013

ALEKSANDER ROMUALD ONOSZKO-JACYNA


He was a pilot, born on 7th February 1910 in Chelm, Eastern Poland.  He trained as a pilot in the School of Aviation at Deblin.  In 1934, he became a test pilot at the Experimental Aviation Workshops in Warsaw and later a pilot with LOT Polish Airlines, where he flew the Lockheed Electra and Fokker airliners, amongst others.

He does not appear to have fought in the September Campaign, but escaped from Poland and, like many others, he took a tortuous route to the west.  He travelled via Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Jugoslavia, Italy and France before arriving in England where he joined the squadron. 

Reports differ as he may have been with the Squadron and then been seconded to 18 OTU for training on British aircraft, or he may have completed a tour of duty and then been posted there as an instructor.  In any event, he rejoined the Squadron from RAF Bramcote on 28th July 1942 and he flew a total of 43 missions with them.

In 1943, he is reported to have flown at least 11 Transatlantic flights for B.O.A.C. (British Overseas Airways Corporation).  These were mostly used as return flights for crews delivering aircraft from the USA to Great Britain and were made in unarmed and converted B-24 Consolidated Liberator bombers.

He had an amazing and distinguished career in civil and military aviation and wrote his memoirs in 1993 (in Polish) under the title of “Mimo wszystko latać (Still Flying)” which was published by Altair’s Polish Division and under the pen name of Aleksander Onoszko.  During the course of his wartime flying, he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Military Virtue, the Cross of Valour and three bars and the Gold Cross of Merit with Swords.

He survived the war and decided to remain in England but, in 1953, he and his family emigrated to Toronto, Ontario, Canada where he died on 8th July 1994.  He was cremated and his ashes were returned to Poland, where they were buried in the Powazki Military Cemetery in Warsaw.
 
Photograph courtesy of Tom Bakalarz Branch 20 Polish Combatants’ Association Museum Curator. Toronto, Ontario.
 

Sunday, 26 May 2013

STANISLAW JAN PIASECKI - UPDATE

For anyone interested in progress on the story of Stanislaw Jan Piasecki; new pictures have been added to the entry in his name dated 4th October 2010 , which can be accessed by the simple expedient of typing his name in the search box at the top left of the blog page.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

MARIAN MICHAL SZCZODROWSKI


He was born on 30th September 1916 at Krotoszyn, a Prussian  province of Posen, and was educated there.  He graduated in May 1937 and then joined the army, being enrolled in the Officer Cadet Artillery Reserve School at Wlodzimierz Wolynski. 

On 3rd January 1938 he was assigned to the Officer Cadet Aviation School in Deblin, where he trained as a pilot on the PZL23 Karas bomber.  He graduated from this course in 81st position on the XIII Promotion.  He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on the first day of the war and was evacuated to Eastern Poland on the same day.

When the Russians invaded on 17th September 1939, his group crossed into Romania where he was interned in the camp at Slatinie.  He escaped a few days later and made his way, via Bucarest, to Balcik, a port on the Black Sea where he boarded a ship (the St Nicolaus) for Beirut, Lebanon.  From there he, and a group of Polish Air Force officers, boarded another ship (Ville de Strasbourg)  and sailed for Marseilles.  He made it to Marseilles on 29th October 1939 and reported to the barracks at Salon.

Deblin 1938  -  PWS-26 Advanced Trainer
 
He volunteered to come to Britain and then, in January 1940, took a boat from Cherbourg to Southampton and was posted to RAF Eastchurch in Kent.  His first tasks were to learn English and to familiarise himself with the Kings Regulations.  At the end of the spring of 1940, he finally moved, with the whole Polish contingent to RAF Blackpool.  This was because RAF Eastchurch was a front line fighter base for the Battle of Britain and not a safe place to train these desperately needed volunteers.

From there, he was assigned to 15 Elementary Flying Training School at Carlisle in Cumberland for a refresher course and to make himself familiar with the controls of British aircraft, which were radically different from those of Polish and French aircraft.  He was also sent to 1 Air Armament School at RAF Manby, Lincolnshire for practical flying experience on British aircraft.  Later, on 15th July 1941, he was sent to 18 OTU, at RAF Bramcote in Warwickshire for operational training prior to combat flying.

In September of that year he transferred to 304 Squadron at RAF Lindholme, Lincolnshire  from where he saw his first combat.  On the night of 7th October 1941 he flew on his first mission to bomb the docks at Boulogne, France, beginning a campaign of bombing the French coastal ports.  He followed this up with an attack on Cherbourg on 25th October and another on Calais on 7th December.

On 16th December 1941 he was second pilot to Squadron Leader Jan Blazejewski and they took off in R1064, at 16.57 hours on a mission to Ostend, Belgium.  His aircraft was shot down by a German night fighter and was seen to crash into the sea about 30 kilometres from the Kent Coast.  At 19.05hrs, a distress signal was received at RAF Manston in Kent, but nothing could be done.  The whole crew perished and only four bodies were found; his was not one of them and he has no known grave.  He was posthumously awarded the Field Pilot’s Badge.  The other crew members were PO Jan Komlacz, Sgt Boguslaw Golabek, Sgt Kazimierz Suwalski and Sgt Hubert Rutkowski.

My thanks to Ryszard Kolodziejski for much information and photographs from his collection