Monday, 17 March 2014

STANISLAW MICHAL JURA


He was born on 23rd September 1918 into a prosperous family of merchants in the small town of Kety in the Silesian foothills.  He began his education there, but was sent as a boarder to the National Gymnasium in Wadowice  after graduating from high school.  One of his fellow pupils there was Karol Wojtyla – better known as Pope John Paul II – and they remained lifelong friends.

In August 1938, he completed a gliding course in Bezmiechowa near Lesko . In October of that year he was conscripted to the Divisional Reserve Officers Training School in Krakow and went on to serve in 12th Infantry Regiment in Wadowice with several school friends, including Karol Wojtyla, He was their Commanding Officer when Germany invaded Poland.

When Russia joined the hostilities, on 17th September 1939, he was near  Kolomyja and made for the border with Hungary, where the Polish forces were interned but treated kindly.  He was held in camps at Nagysenk and Kicsenk, where he met Arpad Goncz (later President of Hungary) who was a good friend and whose family supported Jura financially during his detention.
 
At the earliest opportunity, he left Hungary by way of Jugoslavia and travelled to Beirut, Lebanon, where he joined the Carpathian Rifle Brigade.  He remained with them when they moved to Palestine, under British command, and fought across North Africa in the desert campaign across Egypt and Libya and took part in the defence of Tobruk.
 
Whilst there he volunteered for the Polish Air Force in exile and was sent to Britain to undergo training.  As a trained glider pilot he would have a better chance of acceptance and having fought with British forces in North Africa, he would have picked up some English.
 
His initial training on aircraft would have been on British machines so he would not have needed familiarization but would have started from scratch on pilot training and learning English properly.  After qualifying as a pilot, he was posted to 304 Squadron and would have spent most of his flying career in Coastal Command on anti-submarine warfare, convoy protection and harassing enemy shipping.  Later, he would have flown with Transport Command ferrying supplies to Italy and Greece and probably transporting released Prisoners of War back to Britain.
 
After the war he transferred to the RAF in 1333 (TS) CU as a pilot towing Airspeed Horsa Gliders and carrying paratroopers.  The aircraft used for this were mainly Douglas Dakotas and Handley Page Halifaxes.
 
In 1948 he was discharged and returned to Poland, where he worked in a sawmill, owned by his family until it was nationalized.  Until 1953 he was unable to find work or housing and was persecuted and kept under surveillance by the secret police due to his military service with the British.  Finally he was able to find work in Kety as an accountant in the Public Roads office until he retired in 1983.
 
During his military career he was awarded the Cross of Valour  and the Cross of Merit as well as Polish and British campaign medals.  On 31st October 2008 he was given one of Poland’s highest honours, the Krzyzem Oficerskim Orderu Orodzenia Polski (The Order of Polish Officers) by President Lech Kaczynski.
 
He died on 23rd December 2012, aged 94, in his hometown of Kety and was buried on 29th December of that year at the municipal cemetery after a service at the Church of St Margaret and St Catherine.  He was given full military honours and a volley was fired over his grave in salute to his war service.
 
With thanks to Ryszard Kolodziejski for supplying me with a considerable amount of additional information

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