Tuesday, 18 November 2014


Wearing the uniform of l'Armee de l'Air
( French Air Force)
He was born on 29th May 1909 at Radom and he was a career soldier, having been in military service since 20th August 1927 when he enrolled in the School of Infantry at Ostrow Mazowiecka in north eastern Poland.  The following year he enrolled in the School of Artillery at Torun and, in 1930, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and was then posted too the 23rd Light Artillery Regiment at Bedzin in the Silesian highlands of southern Poland.

In 1933 he joined a weapons course at the Aviation School in Deblin.  On completion of this course, on 2nd July 1934, he was posted to 2nd Artillery Division in Grodno as a Battery Officer.  In 1935, he was posted to 5GB in Lida as an observer.  In September 1939 he was commanding a platoon of reconnaissance troops in the Modlin Army under the overall command of Lt. Col Wladyslaw Rylko.

They fought through the September Campaign until 17th September 1939 when their group crossed into Romania and were immediately interned.  Under the, then, sympathetic regime he was able to "escape" and make his way across Europe, by car, through Jugoslavia and Italy, to France where he served with the Free French land forces.

When the French capitulated, he was able to make his way to England and was then sent to the Polish Depot at Blackpool pending disposal to an Air Force unit.  He started at RAF Kingstown at Carlisle in Cumberland (now Cumbria) where he did basic flying training on Miles Magister trainers.  He then moved on to RAF South Cerney near Cirencester, Gloucestershire for conversion to twin engined aircraft, training on Airspeed Oxfords.

On completion of this training, he was sent to 18 OTU at RAF Bramcote at Nuneaton, Warwickshire for familiarisation with Vickers Wellington bombers and for tactical training.  On 3rd January 1942 he was posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Lindholme near Doncaster, Yorkshire.  During his time there, he flew missions, in Bomber Command, to Wilhelmshaven (railway station), Bremen, Boulogne (docks), Dunkirk (docks), Cologne, Hamburg, Essen (Krupps works), Dortmund and Rostock (incendiary attacks on the old, largely wooden, city.

He then moved with the squadron, following heavy losses over Germany, to Coastal Command at RAF Tiree, the most westerly of the Inner Hebrides in Scotland.  This was an alleged rest for the crews but involved many long, low level flights over the featureless sea, which required skill and a greater degree of concentration.  The following month, they were moved to RAF Dale on the wild coast of Pembrokeshire in Wales.

It was here that life got a bit more interesting and dangerous!  On the night of 29th/30th July 1942 he attacked a U-boat with depth charges and anti-submarine bombs but the results were inconclusive with only a patch of oil seen after the attack; this could have meant damage inflicted but it could also have been oil released as a red herring to let the crew believe they had inflicted damage.  His report read as follows:

"On patrol 17.34 hours Bishop Rock.  On course 242 degs. (T) at 1,000 ft., in position 4745N.  1259W., 1940 hours, observer sighted U-boat ¾ to 1m. distant on port beam.  U-boat, which was on course 270 degs. (T) began to submerge immediately it was sighted.  Speed estimated at 6 kts.  U-boat was very large - considerably larger than "H" type British submarine.  Long, rather squat conning tower, therefore thought to be Italian.  Guns not observed.  Aircraft circled to port, losing height, and attacked from astern, and dead on track, of U-boat, which was still visible a few yards below surface when 6 depth charges were dropped from 50ft.  All were seen to explode, first in stick about 15 yards ahead of swirl and other five ahead and on track of U-boat.  After attack aircraft climbed to 200ft., circling to port, and about one minute after explosions saw circular dark brown oil patch about 70 yards in diameter at scene of attack.  Half a minute later another similar but smaller patch observed immediately ahead, which fused with first patch.  Observer, misinterpreting Captain's order to release sea marker also released two anti-submarine bombs.  Aircraft circled position for 30 minutes, but 10 minutes after attack low cloud right down to sea level made further investigation futile.  Off patrol Bishops Rock 22.18 hours."

Soon afterwards, at 11.40am on 2nd September 1942, he was to have a considerably more exciting experience when he came across a fully surfaced submarine at a distance of 5-7 miles and that was too good a target to miss.  Using a verbatim copy of the Squadron ORB best describes the attack:

"Sighted U-boat at 11.40 hours in position 44.30N 04.30W.  U-boat was fully surfaced 5 to 7 miles distant, two points on port  bow.  Aircraft dived to attack and U-boat altered course 20 degs. to starboard just before aircraft released 6 depth charges along track of U-boat,  depth charges which was still surfaced.  Explosion of 4th and 5th completely obliterated [sight of] U-Boat and exploded right alongside conning tower on port side.  Aircraft machine gunned U-boat on run up, and several of crew who were on deck were seen to collapse.  No return fire from U-boat was experienced, but two 5-star red cartridges were fired as aircraft ran up to attack.  Aircraft then circled and released anti-submarine bomb from 500 ft. at U-Boat, which had now stopped.  This overshot by 20 yards.  A second anti-submarine bomb was then released which undershot by 10 yards.  The U-boat had moved only 20-30 yards since the initial depth charge attack and left a large oil patch abaft the stern.  The aircraft next circled and made five machine-gun attacks, expending about 2,500 rounds.  Ten of the crew, in swimming costumes, dived into the sea.  The U-boat had a definite list to port and was down by the bows with part of her screw showing.  The aircraft continued to machine-gun the vessel, and three or four more of the crew were seen to collapse on the deck and fall into the sea.  When the aircraft left the scene of the attack after half an hour the U-boat was still down by the bows and the oil patch had grown to about 400ft. across.  Throughout the entire action the U-boat made no attempt to dive and the crew made no attempt to man the gun."

This "U-boat" was actually the large (Liuzzi Class, 1,166 tons) Italian submarine Reginaldo Giuliani which had recently sunk two British and one American cargo vessels and was becoming a nuisance.  The previous day it had been attacked by two or three Short Sunderland sea-planes from 10 Squadron but the damage had been minor.  The fact that so many of the crew were in swimming costumes negates any idea of urgency of repairs and the lack of return fire may possibly be because the gunner was hit in the initial attack.  The damage inflicted was so severe that the crew believed the submarine was sinking but they managed to limp into the neutral (?) port of Santander in Spain, where extensive repairs (lasting two months) were effected and the submarine had a Luftwaffe escort back to its base at Le Verdon (Bordeaux), France.  It was never again used as an attack submarine, being downgraded to a transport for mercury and other precious cargoes to and from Japan.

The damage inflicted was recorded, in English, on a Regia Marina website in an excellent article by Cristiano D'Adamo and this report is very close to the one above but has more detail of the damage inflicted:

"September 2nd, 1942

12:44  From an altitude of about 30 metres the aeroplane drops four depth charges which fall one on deck, aft of the tower and then rolls into the sea, the other three within a few metres of the hull forward to the left. The bombs explode under the hull and the boat, hit full on, undergoes a very violent shock first, and then a tremble.   I’m pushed upward and then fall on deck.  The boat is hit full on by columns of water which completely cover it; it is still and heavily listing port side.  The sea is covered in fuel which is copiously leaking out of the main tanks and the other tanks which still have any left. From the explosion, helmsman 3rd Class Andra Assali and gunner Francesco Perali are thrown into the sea.

2:50  The aeroplane comes back for another attack and opens fire with machine guns and launches another depth charge which falls 40 metres off the stern.   Gunner Pietro Capilli, who at the time was holding the port side gun, suffers a broken arm.  Double hull N. 3 port side has been completely removed. Even double hulls 2 and 4 port side must have also been seriously damaged.

13:40  The aeroplane, after having strafed the submarine,  goes away.  The inside of the submarine is devastated by explosions and there is no light.  The boat is slowly recovering from listing, but at the same time is sinking.  From double hull N. 2 sea side some fuel is leaking from holes caused by the machine gun fire. Gunner Mario Gentilini - shrapnel in the right thigh - and sailor Odilio Malatesta –loss of a finger and large wound on his right arm - are also wounded.  Helmsman, Andrea Assali, and gunner, Francesco Perali, are lost at sea.

The attack causes extremely serious damage which jeopardizes the boat’s sea worthiness such that the aeroplane crew considered the submarine lost.  Instead, on the morning of September 3rd , the Giuliani was able to reach the Spanish port of Santander.  The same port had previously provided safe harbor to the Torelli a few months earlier.  From here, after lengthy repairs lasting more than two months, on November 8th the Giuliani was able to leave with the acquiescence of the Spanish authorities and reach Le Verdon safely under the escort of the Luftwaffe the following day. This would be the last patrol for the Giuliani as an attack boat."

As a direct result of this successful attack, Marian Kucharski was awarded the British Distinguished Flying Cross.  On 15th September 1942, he was posted to 300 Squadron, with the rank of Flying Officer, and took over command of B Flight on 1st October of that year with promotion to Squadron Leader.  On 1st December 1942 he was posted to the Blackpool Depot and on to Coastal Command Headquarters at as Liaison Officer.

On 2nd May 1943 he was posted back to 300 Squadron with the rank of Wing Commander and was given command of the squadron for the next six months or so.  During his two spells with this squadron, he flew 18 sorties which included mine laying in the Friesian Islands, St Nazaire and Brest.  He also flew bombing missions to Krefeld, Osnabruck, Duisburg, Dortmund, Wuppertal, Aachen, Hamburg, Essen, Munchen Gladbach, Boulogne and Hannover.  He also won the Virtuti Militari for his actions.

On 18th November 1943 he was posted back to the Polish Depot at Blackpool and, on 18th February 1944, he was transferred to 45 Transport Group, where he took charge of the Polish airmen in Dorval, Quebec and Gander, Newfoundland, Canada.  The function of this group was ferrying new aircraft from the American manufacturers across the Atlantic to Great Britain - a task he performed until the end of the war.

During the course of his career, he was awarded medals by Poland (Virtuti Militari, Cross of Valour and three bars, Air Force Medal and two bars); France (Croix du Combattant, Medal for Voluntary Service with the Free French, 1939-1945 War Medal, Liberation of France Medal) and from Great Britain (Distinguished Flying Cross, 1939-1945 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Defence Medal and 1939-1945 War Medal).

Medals from Poland, France and Great Britain
He was demobilised from the Air Force in 1946 and took British nationality with effect from 10th January 1950 and announced in the London Gazette on 14th February 1950.  At that time he was known as Michael Kucharski and lived in Stanmore, Middlesex, working as a radio mechanic.  At some point after that, he emigrated to Canada, where he married Lucy Cureton. 

He became deeply involved with Polish affairs in Canada and remained so until his death at the age of 59 on 27th January 1969 in Montreal.  He is buried in the Catholic cemetery at Pointe-Claire, Montreal.  A symbolic marker has also been placed on the family tomb in Radom, Poland.
Marian Kucharski's grave marker in Pointe-Claire Catholic Cemetery