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.