Ludwik Krempa przyszedł na świat 22 stycznia 1916 r. w SaHe was born to Wawrzyniec Krempa, a Post Office worker, and Anna de domo Kita on 22nd January 1916 in Sanok, Southern Poland, (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire). His father died shortly after the end of the Great War; the cause being complications to wounds suffered whilst serving in the Austro-Hungarian army.
He was educated in Sanok, Krystynopol and completed his final year in Krakow, at the Stanislaw Staszic State School of Industry, where he gained a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering.
In 1936 he developed his interest in flying by taking a glider pilots course at Biezmiechowa Gorna, which he passed with flying colours and became a Class A pilot. The following year he was conscripted into the army and he started at the Cadets School of Communication in Zegrze, near Warsaw; his gliding qualification helped him to get into the SPRL (Szkola Podchorazych Rezerwy Lotnicwa) Reserve Officers School of Aviation at Deblin in January 1938. He graduated as a pilot in June 1938 and was attached to the 6th Air Regiment reserves in Lwow, with the rank of Cadet Corporal Pilot. His flying training was in Sadkowo, where he trained on Bartel BM-5 bi-planes, RWD-8 monoplanes and the advanced PWS-26 bi-plane mainly used for aerobatics and pilot training.
In the same year he started work in Krakow as a draftsman, designing compressors for meat refrigerators. Whilst working as an engineer he maintained his flying Potez XIVs part time with the training squadron of 2nd Air Regiment based at Rakowice. Due to the imminence of war he was posted back to the 6th Air Regiment, in July 1939, and attached to 66 Reconnaissance Squadron. He took part in exercises for reservists starting on 21st July 1939 but, due to full mobilization, he was not released when they were completed and by the end of August he was based at Skniłowa Lublinek aerodrome near Lodz.
Ludwik Krempa, on the right, as a cadet in Poland
Prior to the outbreak of hostilities
On 7th September 1939 he was based at Polkowszczyzna near Naleczowo but due to a serious illness he was taken to hospital in Lublin. After a few days he was discharged but he was unable to walk properly and took little part in the September Campaign. He had been warned by the hospital staff, that the Germans were closing in on the city and he should get out as soon as possible.
He was unable to communicate with his unit but joined up with III / 2 Squadron aircraft pilot liaison and made several flights in an RWD-8. On 17th September 1939 he was based at Tarnopol airfield and witnessed the Soviet attack from the rear. This second invasion trapped him in Stanislawowo but he managed to get on a train to Lwow. When he realised that he was heading into Russian territory, he jumped train and returned home to Sanok by way of Krakow.
He took work in the mines at Grabownica Starzenska and in the spring of 1940, he joined a group who crossed into Hungary but he was arrested and sent back to Poland. His second attempt was successful and he travelled by Ungwar and a refugee camp for displaced Poles at Zahony. He travelled on to Budapest, Belgrade, Greece and the port of Mersin in Turkey where he boarded the Polish ship SS Warsaw, bound for Haifa in Palestine (now Israel).
On 19th August 1940 he joined the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade (Samodzielna Brygada Strzelcow Karpackich). When it was realised that he was a trained pilot, he was diverted to the newly formed Polish Air Force in exile in England. He travelled through the Suez Canal, via the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope to Gibraltar and on to Britain. His exact date and port of arrival are uncertain (but probably Liverpool or Glasgow), however, he was in the Polish Depot at Blackpool on 26th October 1940.
On 20th November 1940, he was sent to 15 EFTS at RAF Carlisle to learn the basics of British aircraft and procedures. In August of that year he moved on to 16 SFTS at RAF Newton in Nottinghamshire where, on 1st February 1942, he was granted the British rank of Pilot Officer and in July 1942 he was posted to 18 OTU at RAF Bramcote in Warwickshire where he learned British methods and tactics and was prepared for actual combat.
On 20th October 1942 he was posted to 304 Squadron and made his first operational flight eight days later. At this point, the Squadron was based at RAF Dale in Pembrokeshire, Wales and was part of Coastal Command. His duties included anti-submarine warfare, harassment of enemy shipping and convoy protection. He also took part in a bombing attack on the French Channel Port of Bordeaux on 26th January 1943.
In May 1943 he was sent on a crew commander’s course at RAF Cosford, Shropshire and from July 1943, he was involved in creating his own crew at 6 OTU, RAF Silloth , near Carlisle, Cumberland (now Cumbria) before returning with his crew to 304 Squadron at RAF Davidstow Moor in Cornwall on 10th September 1943. He was also promoted to Flying Officer at this time. The other members of his new crew were F/O Sawicki, Sgt Pawluczyk, Sgt Guminski, Sgt Piotrowski and Sgt Zientek.
He then undertook a further 34 combat missions over the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish Sea and the Bay of Biscay during which time he successfully located and directed naval forces to three enemy ships which posed a threat to Britain. He and his crew were involved in a considerable amount of skirmishes with enemy vessels and aircraft before completing his tour of duty.
In June 1944 he was posted to 16 SFTS where he trained as a pilot instructor on Airspeed Oxfords until the end of the war when he transferred back to 304 Squadron in its Transport Command role. On 24th January 1946 he transferred to 301 Squadron (also in Transport Command) flying Handley Page Halifaxes to Italy and Greece; he remained with them until they disbanded in December 1946 and was himself demobilized in January 1947.
Ludwik Krempa being decorated by General Sosnkowski in Great Britain in 1943
He was unwilling to return to Poland and so he enrolled in the Polish Resettlement Corps at East Wretham, Norfolk and served there for two years until January 1949. During his military service, he was awarded the Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Valour and bar and the Air Medal as well as British Campaign medals.
He re-trained as a draughtsman and went to work for Sentinel, a company who manufactured steam and diesel vehicles. His work was specifically on designing engines for buses. After about five years he went to work for Stone Platt Ltd in Crawley, Sussex, designing submersible pumps and emergency power systems. He stayed with them until he retired in 1981. In 1988 he returned to Poland and settled in Krakow.
He became involved with the activities of Air Force veteran organisations and was present at the 60th Anniversary Memorial Ceremony for Sgt Stefan Bohanes in 2004. In 2013 a film entitled “Wspomnien Czar” (Charming Memories) by E. Wyroba was dedicated to him. He still lives in Krakow and he had his 98th Birthday party at the military Air Base at Balice-Krakow. Sadly, he died on 3rd January 2017 in Krakow, just short of his 101st birthday.
With thanks to Ryszard Kolodziejski for a great deal of information and for finding the photographs on Polish websites. Full credit will be given if the copyright holders contact me.