Thursday, 24 December 2015

SEASON'S GREETINGS

I hope that all my Polish friends will have a wonderful Wigilia and a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  I wish you all that you would wish yourselves.
 
I most especially wish a fabulous Christmas to Gary Marsden (Marczak) and his family and hope that the little surprise they will get on 10th January will make all the efforts of the last six months worthwhile.
 
And to Egbert Hughes, who made the story on Boguslaw (Bernard) Pilniak possible - I wish a fabulous Christmas and Happy New Year.  He may have hit his 89th birthday but he is still a young lion!
 
And, finally, to everyone who reads this blog - I wish you a very Happy Christmas season and I hope there will be many more equally happy repeats of this season.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

IN SYMPATHY AND SUPPORT FOR THE SUFFERING OF THE PEOPLE OF FRANCE

Liberte, Egalite et Fraternite
 
The people of France are in our thoughts and in our hearts

Thursday, 12 November 2015

TADEUSZ JAN KWAK


 
He was a pilot, born on 29th November 1911 at Krakow.  He was killed on X9829 which was shot down by a night fighter near the estuary of the River Ems close to Manslagt, Germany during a raid on Rostock on 24th April 1942.  This was a raid by six planes from 304 Squadron, each one carried 450 x 4lb incendiary bombs and 42 bundles of nickels (propaganda leaflets).  Rostock was a city of largely wooden buildings and this was the first of a series of fire raising attacks. He is buried in the Sage War Cemetery, Oldenburg, Germany, his body having washed ashore some time after the raid.

Luftwaffe records show that it was shot down by Hauptman Hans-Georg Schutze. He flew with 4/NJG2; shot down and confirmed a Wellington of 304 squadron X9829 at 03.37 hrs over the River Ems near Pilum, 15 kilometres North West of Emden.  Hauptman Schutze was killed shortly afterwards in air combat on the 17/18th May 1942. He was credited with 5 kills, this Wellington was his 4th.
 

Tadeusz Jan Kwak (3rd from right) and crew probably at
RAF Lindholme
 
Tadeusz Kwak's grave at the Sage War
Cemetery, Oldenburg, Germany
 
With fellow aircrew probably at RAF Lindholme
 
Off duty and relaxing with friends location unknown
 

Photographs courtesy of his Grandson Jaruslaw Kwak

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

304 SQUADRON NAME AND BADGE LIVES ON

It has now been formally decided that the 304 Squadron "winged bomb" badge will be accepted as the core of the new badge of 304 Squadron ATC at Hastings.  I have received this message from Tom Turley:
 
"It is with great pride that I can announce that 304 Sqn (Hastings) ATC will be changing its badge to honour the men who served in 304 (Polish) Sqn RAF .
We will hopefully have a Parade to formally change badges sometime soon or in early 2016 ,

We will be laying a cross at the upcoming Remembrance Parade at Hastings to Honour the Polish Airmen who served in 304 Sqn and we will also plan to lay a Wreath with the 304 Winged Bomb Badge sometime later this year .

I am very pleased to say that the cadets and staff are very proud about becoming Guardians of the Memory and Badge of the Original 304 Sqn "
 
 
He has also pointed out that the Winged Bomb badge is also being honoured in Poland, by the 44th Polish Naval Aviation Base in Siemirowice flying M28B Bryzas that could be a descendant of 304 Squadron.  One of their aircraft was spotted at Yeovilton air display this year sporting the 304 Squadron Flying bomb badge on its nose.  The badge can be seen just to the left of the words Bryza - 1R on the aircraft's nose
 
 
.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

304 SQUADRON (HASTINGS) ATC

The 304 Squadron (Hastings) Air Training Corps have shown me a mock up of their projected new Squadron Badge which is intended to honour the men of the original Squadron and I think it does that very nicely.  The original Flying Bomb emblem was designed by one of the Squadron's fitters and won him a prize of £7, which was a small fortune in those days.
 
Although the badge was adopted it was never official but it was worn with pride and merited great honour by the time the Squadron was disbanded after the War.  It will be nice, and a fitting tribute, to see it revived.  Please let me know what you think.
 

The motto, which I translate as High Flying or Flying High, is also a fitting tribute to keep their memory alive for many years to come.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

A CHALLENGE

These three members of the Polish forces escaped from Poland and made their way to Britain, via France, arriving on the Arandora Star from St Jean de Luz on its last trip before it was sunk.
 
Can anyone please put names to the faces?  Can anyone also explain the numbers on one of the photographs?  These were not POW numbers but may have been Hungarian internment numbers.
 
Please contact me on the email address nevillebougourd@gmail.com if you are able to help.  Please do not respond on the normal anonymous answering system as I will not be able to come back to you.
 
Here are the pictures:
 



I am seriously hoping that someone can add names to the pictures.


 

Saturday, 12 September 2015

MARIAN STANISLAW PLONCZYNSKI


He was a pilot, born on 2nd February 1900 in Warsaw.  From 1918, he served in the Polish Army but wanted to transfer to the Air Force.  In 1921 he succeeded and went to the flying school at Bydgoszcz where he qualified as a pilot in spite of crashing a Caudron GIII trainer biplane.  In 1922 he was posted to the school at Grudziadz and remained there until 1923 when he joined a fighter squadron attached to 7 Air Regiment in Warsaw, later becoming an instructor  with 1st Aviation Regiment until his demobilisation at the end of 1924
Soon after that he went to work for Aerolloyd and Aerolot the forerunners of Lufthansa and LOT Polish airlines respectively.  He then went on to work for LOT on its formation in 1929.  He was also successfully involved in sport flying.
On the outbreak of war, he flew a Junkers Ju52 airliner to Romania and made his way to France via Jugoslavia and Greece where he joined L’Armee de l’Air as an instructor and worked to create Polish fighting units.  After the fall of France he made his way to England and eventually joined 304 Squadron.  His name does not appear on the list of active pilots in the Squadron ORB and it appears that he was there in a training capacity - perhaps due to his age.  After this he went on to become an instructor and by November 1941 he was serving in Ferry Command delivering aircraft from Canada to Europe, Africa and Asia.  In this capacity he made 38 unarmed flights across the Atlantic.
During the course of his military career he was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta, the Cross of Merit with Swords, the Greek Gold Cross of the Order of the Phoenix and British campaign medals.
He survived the war and was demobilised in 1947.  He returned to Poland and resumed working for LOT until his retirement in 1964.  He died on 8th March 1974 in Warsaw in a road accident involving a tram.
As a footnote, the Junkers airliner was handed over to Imperial Airways (allegedly sold to them) and went into service under the British registration G-AGAE.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, 14 August 2015

WALDEMAR JOZEF SIEWRUK


 
He was born in Minsk (now Belarus) on 28th November 1915, the eldest of three children, but the family had moved to Pinsk (also now in Belarus).  They were forced to leave when he was only four years old - just ahead of the Bolshevik invasion of his homeland.  The family were quite well off and had a maid who escaped with them.  They fled in a boat and were later picked up in a horse drawn carriage and continued their journey by train until they arrived at Leszno, in Western Poland, where they settled in 1920.

Life seemed to be settled and he completed his education there before being conscripted into the army in September 1935.  The following January he applied for a position as Technical Officer with the Air Force which meant that he would have to enlist as a regular airman rather than continue as a conscript.  He also had to study mechanical engineering science and aerodynamics to degree level.

He was granted the rank of 2nd Lieutenant, posted to an airfield near Warsaw and given charge of a mobile repair unit which was intended to repair military aircraft wherever they may be.  Before he had a chance to start, he was woken in the early hours of the morning by the first wave of German bombers attacking the aerodrome.  World War II had begun.

He was ordered to Lodz but almost ran into the German advance and so he decided to make for Warsaw instead but circumstances and constant harassment by the Luftwaffe changed all plans and, when it became known that the Russians had invaded from the East, they were ordered to make for the Romanian border.

They were disarmed and interned but not treated badly and the Officers and NCOs were allowed the freedom to leave the camp and go into the local town for their meals.  During his time there, he was photographed and put on an orderly list of men to be helped to escape.  When he was advised that it was his turn, he and another airmen simply walked out of the camp.  They bribed a taxi driver to get them past the army patrols and into Bucharest.

They visited the Polish Embassy where they were issued with false documents and money to get them to Balcic (now Bulgaria) via Medgidia and Bazardzik and onward travel out of Romania had been arranged for them.  He was unable to get an exit visa and so he was one of a party of about twenty who were smuggled on board the Greek ship Patris before it set sail for the Mediterranean via the Black Sea.  They were ordered to Malta and here they were transferred to the SS Frankonia for the onward journey to Marseilles where they arrived on 19th November 1939 and were immediately put on a train for the air base at Lyon-Bron.

They were not put to any real use and spent a frustrating time there.  However, he was unfortunate enough to pick up an infection which turned out to be jaundice and he was to spend the rest of his time there in hospital.  He left without being discharged and joined the Polish forces heading for Britain but when they arrived at Port Vendres near the Spanish border their ship was held by the local Mayor and Chief of Police - the new Vichy French were hostile to both the Poles and the British.

When it was drawn to the attention of the Captain of a Royal Navy vessel, he threatened to shell the Town Hall and the Gendarmerie unless they were released immediately.

This vessel took them to Oran in Algeria where they were immediately loaded onto a train which took them to Sidi Chami where they spent an uncomfortable night in an empty school before taking the train to Oujda in Morocco and the next day they travelled on to Meknes and finally Casablanca.

They then made the short sea journey to Gibraltar where they stayed for a while until there was a convoy leaving for Britain.  They sailed on 2nd July 1940 and arrived in England on 12th July 1940.

This was probably Liverpool or Glasgow but within about four weeks they were sent to Blackpool where he was billeted in the Hartford Hotel and, because of his ability in English, he was put on a trainee interpreters course and at the end of February 1941 he was posted to RAF West Freugh near Stranraer in Scotland as an interpreter at No 4 Bombing and Gunnery School where he took a crash course as an air gunner so that he would understand the English terminology that he had to translate for the others.

In December 1941, he was posted to No 13 Initial Training Wing at Torquay, Devon where he completed his theoretical and physical training before moving on, at the end of March 1942, to No 25 Elementary Flying Training School at RAF Hucknall in Nottinghamshire and then to No 16 Secondary Flying Training School at RAF Newton, also in Nottinghamshire, in June 1942.

In November 1942 he was posted to RAF Llandwrog near Criccieth where he served until September 1943 as a staff pilot - essentially ferrying trainee navigators during their training miissions.  In September 1943 he was posted to the Deputy Inspectorate General at Blackpool where he completed courses in reconnaissance and navigation before being posted to 304 Squadron at RAF Davidstow Moor near Camelford in Cornwall on 10th December 1943.

Record of his arrival at 304 Squadron
 
Now he was in an active squadron and had his first taste of hitting back against the enemy and that taste came very quickly and with success that went unremarked in the Squadron ORB.  Patrolling the Bay of Biscay at 05.43hrs on 4th January 1944 his aircraft picked up a target on radar at a distance of 7 miles.  Five minutes later they had a sighting of a surfaced U-boat and immediately attacked, dropping six depth charges from a height of 100 feet and raking the deck with machine gun fire from the rear turret.  At this time the U-boat was clearly visible and the whole crew witnessed a big flash of white light on the water after the depth charges had exploded.  Both visual and radar contact were then lost.

The website uboat.net explains that this vessel was the Type VIIC, U-629 captained by Oberleutnant Hans-Helmuth Bugs.  It had picked up the crew of U-284 which was scuttled off the coast of Greenland.  Severe damage was caused but it managed to limp into Brest the next day.  However, it had to abandon its patrol and did not sail again until March 1944 - a significant achievement.

The next attack came very quickly when the same crew gave the Kriegsmarine another taste of the treatment available to them.  On 11th February 1944 a stick of well placed torpex depth charges landed about 10 feet behind a diving U-boat.  This must have caused some damage but the Admiralty Report was not charitable:  W/C Czeslaw Korbut wrote that the stick of depth charges was well placed except that it landed behind the diving submarine.  The Admiralty verdict was that the depth charges landed astern of the submarine and that there was no damage - a bit harsh, even if it was taking a pessimistic view, when the depth charges were seen to land within 10 feet of the U-boat.

On 28th March 1944, this crew was on a patrol over the Bay of Biscay when they were attacked by two Me110 fighters.  The combat report records that the pilots co-operated very well with the rest of the crew and that one of the Me 110s was hit by concentrated and accurate fire from the Wellington.  It is recorded as having crashed into the sea and exploded on impact.  The second fighter made a half-hearted attack from the distance of 1,000 yards before being driven off.  The tail gunner was awarded a DFC for his actions in this battle after suffering head and body injuries during the exchange of fire.

On 6th May 1944 he was sent to RAF Haverfordwest on a short course to convert him to first pilot - a captain of his own aircraft, but he was very quickly back on active service.  In May 1944 he was awarded the Field Service badge to his pilot's wings - effectively his coming of age as a combatant airman, and in June 1944 he was awarded the Cross of Valour.

In June of 1944, they attacked another U-boat but, in the excitement of the attack, the Leigh Light was not properly activated and was not working as expected. Six depth charges were dropped from

a height of 175 feet but the results were not properly observed  and no conclusive evidence of damage could be observed.  The Admiralty report was less than charitable about this attack; blame was laid on the Navigator's excitement in the heat of the moment as he forgot to turn on the Leigh Light's rotational valve.

On 6th July 1944, when Waldemar Siewruk was in place as senior captain, they attacked another U-boat under less than perfect conditions.  He dropped two depth charges, knowing that a seriously good result was improbable.  However, on this occasion, the boffins were a little more charitable in their assessment.  Captain D V Peyton-Ward R.N. stated: "I think the captain was quite correct in dropping a couple of depth charges to scare the U/B although as he dropped them on the swirl they would of course have exploded a long way (about 600ft) astern and the U/B would be about 100ft. below the surface."  Air Commodore J.B. Lloyd added his agreement.

Report on U-Boat attack
 
At the time Wing Commander Czeslaw Korbut, commandant of 304 Squadron wrote:  "This crew is a model of excellent teamwork and is one of the best crews in No 304 Squadron."  This was high praise indeed as W/C Korbut was no desk jockey; he flew many active missions himself and knew what his men had to face.

On 10th January he was promoted to Flight Lieutenant and five days later, having completed his tour of duty, he was posted out to 6 OTU at Silloth as a training instructor.  It was here that he met  his future wife, Dorothy Postlethwaite, a nurse, who was recovering from her own health problems.  They married on 21st June 1947 and his best man was a fellow airman, Flying Officer Mieczylaw Herman Sloboda.  Dorothy was unable to have children so they adopted two and had a loving family life until Dorothy's death after 58 years of marriage.  Sadly, Waldemar also died on Christmas Eve 2008 aged 93.

Waldemar Siewruk (left) and F/Lt Piotrowski at RAF Silloth
 
At some point, he received the award of the Virtuti Militari, Poland's highest award for military gallantry; the high point of an exceptional military career.  This was not for a single act but for many hours of combat flying in difficult conditions and several attacks on U-Boats.

Being decorated with the Virtuti Militari
 
At the end of his time in the Air Force he progressed through the Polish Resettlement Corps and was still technically an airman but this allowed him to re-train and prepare for life as a civilian.  Because of his previous training in Poland he chose to specialise in Mechanical Engineering.  There was no chance of him returning to Poland after the War and he spent his civilian life lecturing in this and allied subjects at Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

On 16th April 1952 he became a British Citizen.  This was announced in the London Gazette on 13th May 1952 when he was living in Western Way, Wellingborough and his profession is given as assistant schoolmaster.

He was active to the end of his life and, in November 2008, he spoke at the presentation ceremony, on Remembrance Sunday, at which a solid oak altar was presented to the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Mary Magdalene in Tavistock, Devon where he lived.  This altar had been paid for by former Polish servicemen.  At the end of the service he proudly carried the Union Flag to the altar.

Remembrance Day 2008 (from The Tavistock Times)
 
Following all of this, he wrote and published his own story in a book entitled "Three Escapes and a Final Capture"  The final capture is his marriage although I am still not sure whether it was he or Dorothy who was captured!  It is a comprehensive and easily readable story of his life and made the task of writing this story a lot easier than it might have been.  The details had to be researched but the basics were there.
 
Photographs courtesy of John Siewruk 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

JAN WALENTOWICZ - HELICOPTER XD163


XD 163 restored and on display in the Helicopter Museum
 
Since I wrote the original story of Jan Walentowicz and the follow up of his post war RAF career, fresh documents have come to light showing that one of the helicopters he flew in the Malayan Emergency was to be restored and displayed in the Helicopter Museum at Weston super Mare.  It came to light that this particular airframe had been modified but was the very first Westland Whirlwind delivered to the RAF.

Jan Walentowicz supplied copy Flying Log pages to the museum regarding his time in Malaya when he flew XD163 for a trouble free 82 hours and 5 minutes in total.  He notes in his letter to the museum that this was when our helicopters were fitted with tired and worn out old Pratt and Whitney engines removed from North American Harvard aircraft.

The helicopter has been beautifully restored and is now to be seen in the Helicopter Museum at Weston super Mare.
 
XD 163 on its way to be restored
 
 
 
With thanks to the Helicopter Museum, Weston super Mare for the use of the photographs and to Paul Walentowicz for the documentation.
 
 
 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

CREW OF P/O ANTONI ALEKSY ZIELINSKI P-1954

 
Can anyone please help with a photograph of the crew of P/O Antoni Aleksy Zielinski who were all killed when Wellington Z1172 crashed into Trearaddur Bay, Anglesey, Wales on 20thAugust 1942.  I have most of the crew's individual photographs (except Sgt Gramiak) but I do not have a group picture.  If you can help, please contact me on nevillebougourd@gmail.com  Any information on this incident, or a photograph of Sgt Gramiak would also be most welcome.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

HENRYK WLOSZEK (aka NEAUM)


He was born in Warsaw on 15th January 1915 and his father died when he was just four years old, leaving his mother to raise him and his sister alone.  This was a time of hardship and privation and could not have been easy for him but he also remembered the good times - skating on the frozen river Vistula near his home. 

In the mid 1930's he joined the army and was given training as an electrician.  In these early days the Air Force was a branch of the Army and he was allocated to an air base near Warsaw.

Immediately prior to the outbreak of war he was attached to the ground crew of 3rd and 4th Air Regiments maintaining the 10 PZL P7s and the 43 updated versions - PZL P11s under constant pressure to keep them flying for as long as possible and all the while being under attack from the Luftwaffe bombers.

After six days they had lost 38 aircraft in combat and were ordered to Lublin as the situation was becoming hopeless.  They had faced technically far superior German fighters with pilots battle hardened from the Spanish Civil War and they had performed superbly, being credited with 42 kills.

Just eleven days after they left for Lublin, the Russians invaded and the Poles were ordered to head for Romania.  The few serviceable aircraft were flown there and the remainder were destroyed before the ground crew made the long trek via what is now south western Ukraine to the Romanian border where they were disarmed and interned.

Escaping the internment camp was easy, after contacting the local Polish "agent", Henryk was given false identity papers, travel documents and money.  A small well placed bribe would ensure the guard looked the other way as he left the camp and he then simply made his way to Constanta, a port on the Black Sea which he reached in January 1940.  Travelling on from there on whatever vessels were available, usually oilers, colliers and cargo vessels, he spent the next three months travelling via Piraeus (the port for Athens), Greece to Naples in Italy, Valletta in Malta and then on to Marseilles in France where he rejoined the Polish Forces.

Initially he was posted to Toulouse military base (now Toulouse Airport) but very soon afterwards he was sent to Blida in Algeria which was the training centre for Polish bomber crews.  He was only there for a short time before the French capitulation and then he was evacuated by train to Casablanca in Morocco to move onwards to Gibraltar.  This was necessary because both Algeria and Morocco were Vichy controlled,  fascist and very pro-German.  This was a total devaluation of the Free French fighting forces and the genuine Maquis resistance movement; this was truly a stain on the honour of France.

There is some doubt about the vessel used to transport the Polish military from Morocco but the most likely seems to be on board the ORP Wilja which was laid up at Port Lyautey (now Kenitra) about 84 miles along the coast from Casablanca.  Henryk was one of a great many Poles trying to get out of Morocco under great pressure from the Vichy authorities and with as much haste as possible because of the imminent arrival of German forces.  Allied vessels were not welcome there so the Poles went about a very quick restoration of the Orp Wilja and skilled men such as Henryk were badly needed for this purpose.

In very short order, the Poles got the vessel's engines working and 1,870 of them boarded her before they put to sea and managed to get her to Gibraltar to await a convoy to Britain.  They were lucky to be allowed to join the first available convoy; the British gave them fuel and provisions for the journey and they left Gibraltar on 6th July 1940 as part of Convoy HG37.

Admiralty records show that this convoy was escorted by various British warships along the way but was escorted right to Liverpool by HMS Enchantress.  However the 34 year old Wilja was not able to keep up and was left behind because of the convoy's need for speed to dodge German bombers and U-boats.  She was advised to make for Vigo in Spain where she would be interned.

There was a general agreement among the Poles on board that, in spite of her failing engines and troublesome boilers, they would still try to get to Britain.  Somehow they managed to keep her going at a pitifully slow speed and when they had reached the South coast of Ireland and were about to enter St George's Channel, they were approached by an RAF Short Sunderland flying boat.  Having exchanged identity codes the pilot advised them to heave to and stay where they were until he could get a surface craft to guide them out of the minefield through which they were sailing!

Eventually they were extricated from the minefield and the rest of the journey passed uneventfully and they docked in Liverpool on 18th July 1940.  Their initial destination was the Blackpool Polish Depot from where Henryk was sent to the No 7 School of Technical Training at RAF Innsworth near Gloucester.  However, this was a very short lived posting and he was sent from there to RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton in Warwickshire where men were desperately needed for the formation of the Polish 304 Bomber Squadron on 23rd August 1940.  He would have had his first taste of the war in the West on 26th September 1940 when the station was attacked by a Junkers Ju88 intruder which strafed the area and caused minor damage to one of the Fairey Battles - not really serious but a warning that ground crew were not immune to danger.

He was immediately put to work as the Squadron was allocated 16 Fairey Battle light bombers and these had to be brought to readiness.  They were obsolete aircraft and everybody in the squadron must have been happy when they converted to Vickers Wellington bombers from 1st November 1940. 

On 1st December 1940, the Squadron moved to its first operational base at RAF Syerston near Newark, Nottinghamshire.  On 20th July 1941 they moved on to RAF Lindholme near Doncaster in Yorkshire and now the pressure began to mount as the squadron became more heavily involved in the fighting.

On 14th May 1942, the squadron moved again to RAF Tiree in the Inner Hebrides and began their tour of Atlantic anti-submarine patrols; this required long, low level flights over featureless ocean and meant that the ground crew had to make real efforts to ensure the aircraft were well maintained as there was no flat ground for emergency landings.  On 13th June 1942 they moved again to RAF Dale in Pembrokeshire, Wales where the same rules applied.

During this time, Henryk was afflicted by a severe skin irritation caused by some of the materials he had to handle in the course of his work.  He was so badly affected that he had to be taken to RAF Cosford near Wolverhampton and spent two months in the RAF hospital there.

In the eulogy at his funeral, it was claimed that he had spent several weeks in Lille and Cannes and gives a very positive date of D-Day + 9 (15th June 1944).  The latter must have actually been Caen as there were no Allied forces in Cannes until 24th August 1944).  This must mean that he moved to 2nd Tactical Air Force.  Unfortunately this information is unreliable as it also claims he worked on Lancaster bombers at Farlingworth (Faldingworth?) but the dates given make this unlikely as there was only a time lapse of three months between the time the first Lancasters were received by 300 Squadron and the time he was in France and most of this time would have been spent in 2TAF.

It is not impossible for much of this to be true, but I have not been able to confirm it with any degree of certainty.  Any solid information would be most welcome.
 
 
On 25th September 1943, he married Joyce Boot Neaum, a baker's daughter from Derby and they raised a family of three children.  Times were very difficult after the war, especially for Poles who were not popular with the Trades Unions, but he managed to make a living working as a motor mechanic in the Derby area.  His Certificate of Naturalisation was granted on 22nd September 1948 and he changed his name by Deed Poll to Neaum, his wife's maiden name.

He died in Derby on 12th July 1995, aged 80.
Photographs courtesy of the Neaum family

Saturday, 18 July 2015

LOSS OF WELLINGTON R1602


This aircraft was unable to operate from its base at RAF Lindholme due to bad weather conditions and the extreme wet state of this aerodrome.  It took off from RAF Swanton Morley on a mission to bomb the Krupp Works at Essen.  Not all the aircraft were able to bomb the primary target but all did bomb military targets.  On its return, P/O Alfred Osadzinski was forced to land at RAF Oakington because of fuel shortage.  Whilst he and his crew were being debriefed, another incoming aircraft struck R1602 and both aircraft were destroyed in the ensuing fire.

The incoming aircraft was Vickers Wellington Mk III X3642 (SR-G) of 101 Squadron, based at RAF Oakington.  It had flown out of RAF Bourn on a mission to Essen but was hit by flak and crash landed at RAF Oakington on its return, striking R1602 as it landed.  There were no serious injuries but the navigator ( P/O P.H. Waterkeyn) was taken to hospital in Ely; however he made a full recovery and retired in the 1970s as a Wing Commander.  The pilot, Sgt C.G.A. Ward won an immediate DFM for his coolness and courage in landing the shot-up aircraft with only one wheel down and with no serious injuries to the crew in spite of an eye injury incurred during the mission.

Friday, 3 July 2015

ALEKSANDER ZEJDLER


 
 
He was born on 25th February 1907, one of five children of Stanislaw and Bronislawa Zejdler and between 1916-1922 he attended the Stanislaus Jachowicza school in Plock.  Due to the unfortunate death of his father, he was obliged to leave school in October 1922 and take a job to help his mother maintain the family.  However, he still had to do his military service and he was conscripted into the Air Force, starting on 1st October 1925 in the 1st Aviation Regiment.  He graduated from the NCO School in June 1926 and joined his regiment.  On completion of his National Service, he remained in the Air Force and moved on to a course in bombing and gunnery which he completed at Grudziadz in January 1929.

His first experience in flying came on a French Breguet XIX and, over the next 10 years he built up an impressive number of hours fling in a wide range of aircraft, surviving a crash, just outside of Okecie airport, in which his aircraft was a total write-off.  On May 31, 1936, he married Natalia Krzesiak and they had three children, the last of which was born in May 1939.

During the 17 day war in Poland, he served with 211 Eskadra and was transferred to the air base at Ulez and on the outbreak of war, three days later, he was sent to Kuciny Alexandrov as part of the crew of a PZL P37B bomber.

Roman Bonkowski, the pilot of the PZL P37B “Moose” 72.18 described a flight which took place on 4th September 1939.  He said that they set off to attack a German armoured column close to the airport at Kuciny Alexandrov near Lodz.  Their plane was attacked by three German fighters and was also hit by anti-aircraft fire from the ground.  In flames, they crash landed in a field near Rychlocice after suffering severe damage from German flak and gunfire from a Messerschmidt Bf109D, most probably from 1 Staffel I/ZG2.  German records do not claim that his plane was shot down, but equally they do not acknowledge the Me109Bf claimed by the pilot on behalf of Zejdler. 

Roman Bonkowski (the pilot) stated that Aleksander Zejdler showed superhuman courage in strafing the German armoured columns from only 50-100 feet and also for bringing down this German fighter.  Injuries incurred during this action (bullet wounds in the knee and lower leg) are likely to be the reason why he was no longer fit to fly and had to take up a ground crew position.  They destroyed secret and vital parts of the already burning aircraft and set off on foot for Skierniewice.

On 17th September he flew to Romania where he was disarmed and theoretically interned and presumably acquired a false identity, money and travel documents from the diplomatic mission in Bucarest.  Eight days later he arrived in Constanta  and a couple of weeks later in Balcic (now in Bulgaria).  He waited there for a few days before boarding a Greek vessel that took him to Beirut via the Levant (Syria), Istanbul and Cyprus.  From Beirut he sailed on the French ship Ville de Strasbourg via Malta, Tunis and Sardinia to Marseilles.  He was billeted at Istres about 40 miles north west of Marseilles.  He was clearly unhappy there and volunteered to come to England, arriving here, via Paris and Cherbourg, in mid-December 1939.

He formally enlisted in the Royal Air Force on 8th February 1940 at RAF Eastchurch in Kent.  Due to his wounds he was no longer fit to fly and joined the ground training staff as a mechanic.  Later he was transferred to the Polish Depot at Blackpool.  In 1943 he was transferred to 304 Squadron at RAF Docking in Norfolk until September 1944 when he transferred to 25 (Polish) Elementary Flying Training School at RAF Hucknall in Nottinghamshire.  He is believed to have also served in 307 Squadron at some point.  He survived the war and returned to Poland in October 1946.

He worked in a clerical capacity but retrained and achieved managerial status in a variety of places, ending up as Head of Supply in a brewery.   He died in Plock on 5th December 1977 and is buried in the communal cemetery there.

During the course of his military career he was awarded the Polish Air Medal and several British campaign medals.

Photo courtesy of Wojciech Zmyslony

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

WELLINGTON ACCIDENTAL LOSS

On 20th August 1942, Wellington Mk 1c serial no Z1172 crashed into the sea in Trearaddur Bay, Anglesey near the South Stack lighthouse.  The entire crew were killed and the cause of the accident remains unknown.  Three bodies were found the same day and two more were picked up separately about two weeks later - all near Anglesey.
 
The sixth body, that of Sgt Grzegorz Piotr Gramiak washed ashore in Blackpool almost nine weeks later.  Will anybody who has information on this event please contact me on nevillebougourd@gmail.com or on this site but please leave a return email address.
 
I would love a photograph of Sgt Gramiak  (I have all the other crew), the aircraft or the incident.  Sgt Gramiak was a Polish American who came to Britain specifically to fight with the Polish Air Force in exile. 

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

MIKOLAJ SASINOWSKI


He was born on 16th October 1909 at Mieczki near Lomza.  He studied to be a priest and was ordained on 28th March 1936; he studied Canon Law at the University of Warsaw.  In 1939 he had been sent to France to learn the language and, when war broke out, he joined the Polish Army at Coetquidan.

On 9th February 1940 he was commissioned in the rank of Captain and posted to be a Chaplain at the Polish Aviation Centre at Lyon-Bron.  After the capitulation of France he was among those who escaped to North Africa and later he moved on to England.

He was a Chaplain to the Polish Bomber Squadrons (including 304 Squadron) at RAF Lindholme near Doncaster in Yorkshire and later at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire before moving on to RAF Halton Technical School at Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.  From September of 1940 he was given the British rank of Squadron Leader.  In addition, his pastoral care covered injured airmen and orphaned and neglected children.
Preparing to take a service - the exhaust of a fighter is just
visible (top right) and the flag is draped over the nose
 
In 1946 he left the Air Force and returned to Poland where he was vicar of Ostroleka before he resumed his religious studies and then achieved a Doctorate in Canon Law from the University of Warsaw in 1949.  He then became the Spiritual and Seminary professor at Lomza until 1967.  At this time he took over as Rector of the Seminary.     On 19th March 1970 he was ordained as a Bishop by
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski and Bishops Jan Mazur and Aleksander Moscicki during which time he was responsible for the creation of 11 parishes and the construction of 36 churches.  In 1975 he organised the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Diocese of Lomza.

For the purpose of raising the spiritual level of the priesthood, he founded the Diocesan Pastoral institute in Lomza where the priests were educated in the needs and challenges of the modern, post War world.  In Suwalki he created the Institute of Higher Religious Culture and Consultation Point Academy of Catholic Theology.

In Tykocinie he founded the House of Retired Catholic Priests; these ideas realised the concerns of the Second Vatican Council.

He saw the urgent need for the religious upbringing and development of young people and, for this purpose, he created several centres of retreat.  He attached great importance to the systematic catechesis as an inspiration for new priestly and religious vocations and the social and charitable association Unum was created on his initiative.

He was an activist in the apostolate of sobriety and was Vice President of the Episcopal Commission for Sobriety.  He was also chairman of the Polish Episcopate for the Ministry of Women and the National Chaplain of Military Veterans.  During the period of martial law, he gave support to the Solidarity internees and called for their release

In the final months of his life he was exhausted  and finally he died on 6th September 1982 and was buried in the Cathedral at Lomza under the stewardship of the Polish Primate, Archbishop Jozef Glemp.

With many thanks to Fr Jozef Lupinski for his invaluable help with this story

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

UNDOCUMENTED AIRCREW


The following Polish air crew managed about 20 missions together in 304 Squadron during the course of WW2

First pilot
W/O Tadeusz Boba  P782718
Born 23rd May 1920 at Zamosc, Lublin, Poland
Died 4th August 2002 at Kingston-upon-Hull, East Yorkshire, England

Second pilot
F/Lt Witold Michalewski   P2473
Born 31st May 1917 at Irkuck (Irkutsk ?) Russia
Died 25th July 2003 at Largo, Florida, USA

Navigator
Sgt Zdzislaw Eugeniusz Kostyrka  P781595
Born 7th June 1909
Died 22nd September 1951, London, England

Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Sgt Albert Czeszniewski  P704992
Born 2nd January 1925

Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Sgt Franciszek Rusiecki  P705036
Born 9th March 1924 at Hancewicze, Poland (now Belarus)
Died 14th February 2012 at Carleton, Nottingham, England

Wireless Operator/Air Gunner
Sgt Roman Potasinski  P703786
Born 12th January 1913

This crew flew about 20 missions together at the latter end of the War (1944/45) but seem to have attracted little documentary attention other than the Operational Record Book reports on their activities.  Even photographs are in short supply.  I have a confirmed photograph of Sgt Rusiecki and a possible photograph of W/O Boba but none of any of the others.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

JAN WALENTOWICZ - POST WAR LIFE

Jan Walentowicz in a Westland Whirlwind

On 1st October 1946 he was demobbed from the Polish Air Force and enlisted into the No 9 Polish Resettlement Corps at RAF Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.  The following year he was posted to RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire - the  Bomber Command Major Servicing Unit.

Not yet ready to give up the active life, on 7th January 1948 he joined the RAF as a pilot and, on 13th July of that year, he was posted to Bomber Command Communication Flight at RAF Booker near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.

On 17th August he was posted to No 1 (P) Refresher Flying Unit on No 26 Course at RAF Finningley, Yorkshire and on 20th October he was posted to the School of Air Traffic Control at RAF Watchfield, Wiltshire as a staff pilot.

During 1950, he moved with the School to RAF Shawbury, Shropshire where he later completed the No 3 Staff Pilot's Course and was later posted to No 2 Officer Cadet Training Unit at RAF Kirton in Lindsey, Lincolnshire and completed No K4 Course there.

On 17th June of that year he was granted British Citizenship and this was recorded in the London Gazette at the time.

On 6th July he was promoted  to Pilot Officer on a Short Service Commission and was subsequently posted to the No2 Aircrew Medical Rehabilitation Unit at RAF Collaton Cross, Devon.  On 6th September  he attended the Ground Combat Training Course at RAF Melksham, Wiltshire.

On 22nd October  he was posted to 62 Group Communication Flight at RAF Colerne, Avon but shortly afterwards, on 19th November, he was reposted to 63 Group Communication Flight at RAF Hawarden, Flintshire, Wales.  Over the period of 1952-1953 he was detached, on occasions, to the Air Training Corps summer camps at RAF Halton and RAF Cottesmore, finally returning to RAF Hawarden on 31st August 1953.

In June 1954, he found out that his wish had been granted and that he was to give up fixed wings in favour of rotary flying.  He had had enough of routine staff and communications flying and felt the need for a change.  On 12th July 1954, he was detached to the Air Ministry, London to attend a helicopter course at the Westland Aircraft Factory at Yeovil, Somerset and, on completion of the course (50 flying hours) on 14th November of that year, he was posted to 155 Squadron at Kuala Lumpur, Malaya for three years.

The journey to Malaya was by RAF Transport Command Hermes and took 34 hours flying time spread over four days.  There were seven refuelling stops en route: Rome, Nicosia, Bahrain, Karachi, New Delhi, Calcutta and Bangkok finally arriving at RAF Changi in Singapore.

A tour of duty in Malaya was considered active service and he had to be armed at all times that he was away from the base.  Travel was only permitted in escorted armed convoys and he had to be armed even when flying.

During the course of 1955 he was detached, on 12th January, to 1907 Flight of 636 Squadron at Teiping to fly Austers but 6 days later he was again detached to 1911 Flight of that Squadron at Benta where he could be flying Austers, other light aircraft or helicopters but was basically gaining experience of jungle flying and learning the locations of the isolated forts, landing strips and jungle drop zones around Malaya.  This was normally a two week secondment with an experienced army Air Observation Post pilot.  Following this he went straight into operational flying.  It should be explained at this point that this Squadron [636] did not have a conventional RAF Station base but was split into several Flights across small landing grounds throughout Malaya.
 
Tight landings in very small clearings with trees 250 ft-300ft high all around

On 24th June 1956, he attended a Jungle Survival Course at RAF Changi, Singapore; the basis of that was that he was taken by patrol boat to an uninhabited island off the coast of Singapore.  With nothing more than his basic survival kit, he had to swim ashore and set up his own survival camp and live off the land for four days before being picked up.

For the greater part of his three year stint in Malaya, he spent his time ferrying stores and troops, including 22 SAS, wherever they were needed.  They were also heavily involved with Casevac and  with any emergency flights and searching the jungle for hidden Chinese Terrorist bases and crop growing areas onto which they could direct artillery or bombers.

Although he had gone through several years of seriously hard warfare in the European Theatre and he had been on the run after twice escaping from his captors, he had absolutely no experience of jungle warfare or survival so this was essential training in this new environment.  He was suitably grateful to the men of 656 Squadron for their invaluable help in this respect.

One of the tasks he had to master was the ability to place a rather large helicopter on the ground in a very tightly restricted area.  Simple enough you might think but when you are surrounded by dense jungle and trees that are between 250ft - 300ft tall, it is not quite so easy to achieve this objective - especially when you have to worry about hostile fire.

The fixed wing pilots of 656 Squadron would often locate small food farms in the jungle and would direct the helicopters of 155 Squadron to come in and destroy their jungle crops by spraying them with a mixture of diesel and chemicals (a fore-runner of Agent Orange) which defoliated the crops and denied the terrorists food.  The armed convoys and harassment from the air prevented them from growing food or hunting wild pigs and drove them deeper into the jungle where food was not plentiful.

His first routine job was to ferry all the parts of a tractor to Fort Langkap in Central Malaya.  This involved four twenty five minute flights each way - the return flights involved carrying used cargo parachutes back to base.
 
Deploying 22 SAS Troopers in the jungle
 
Fort Chabai, Malaya.  A short landing strip is just visible in the left foreground
 
Jan at Fort Brooke, Malaya
 

Destroyed CT (Chinese Terrorist) Tapioca Farm in the Jungle

photographed approximately two weeks after defoliation

There were twelve Jungle Forts scattered along the Peninsula; some in the lowlands and some in the deep valleys of the central mountain range.  They were manned by the Malay Police or Federal troops and their staff had to be rotated periodically.  Some of these forts could only be reached by helicopter.  Even on the other side of the border, the Thai Police had to be rotated by RAF helicopters.  On such tours, Jan operated from permanent Army camps and these provided a garrisoned area with a supply of aviation fuel, food and temporary secure accommodation.


On two occasions, in 1956, he was called upon to assist the civil and military authorities with riot control in Singapore.  His and two other helicopters flew a total of 90 hours in 136 sorties to help contain the riots.  His main duties were to observe and report to the Police and Army and to drop leaflets and tear gas when necessary.  He also carried senior Police and Military officers to observe the events as they happened.
This may be the incident for which he was Mentioned in Despatches, having located Captain Badger and Captain Jones in their crashed Auster on 3rd December 1955 and flown them to safety at Bidor Airstrip
 

Congratulations Telegram he received from his Commanding Officer in Malaya when he received his Mention in Despatches
The military and the civil Police authorities recognised and acknowledged their contribution towards controlling the riots.  On 30th August 1957 he was Mentioned in Despatches; it was recorded in the London Gazette that this was for distinguished service in Malaya.
 
 
 

Programme from Exeter Air Display, 1960 in which Jan flew a helicopter exhibition
 
Programme from Exeter Air Display  - 9th July 1960 -  when he flew the Demonstration Helicopter
In August 1960, he was posted to RAF Shawbury for No 87 Joint Air Traffic Control Course after which he was transferred, on 24th October, to RAF Linton on Ouse, Yorkshire.  He returned to RAF Shawbury on 29th May 1962 for No 147 Radar Course.
On 31st January 1964 he was posted to RAF Khormaksar, Aden where his main duties were in the field of air traffic control.  This was a complete new experience for Jan and he must have felt somewhat inhibited by his lack of flying but for the next two years he had a great deal of responsibility as part of one of the shifts of Air Traffic Controllers controlling what was the busiest RAF Station in the world and all movements of the twelve resident military squadrons, twenty two civil airlines and many military emergency landings and through traffic.  He also had to control a plethora of aircraft types - enough to rival any major modern airport. 

These included ground attack Hawker Hunters from 8, 43 and 208 squadrons; photo reconnaissance Hawker Hunters of 1417 Flight; Belvedere helicopters from 26 squadron; Avro Shackletons from 37 squadron; Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneers from 78 squadron; Blackburn Beverley heavy lift transports from 84 squadron; Armstrong Whitworth Argosies from 115 squadron; Vickers Valettas from 233 squadron; Handley Page Hastings and English Electric Canberras from the Middle East Communications Squadron and the SAR Flight of Bristol Sycamore helicopters.
RAF Khormaksar also doubled up as Aden International Airport which had regular services from 22 civil airlines including the resident Aden Airways; BOAC; Air India and Middle East Airlines.  The RAF provided Air Traffic Control services to all aircraft operators using the aerodrome which also included No 653 squadron AAC (Beavers and Austers) and Royal Navy aircraft from carriers who happened to be visiting or in transit.
RAF Khormaksar, Aden
 

Air Traffic Control Staff, RAF Khormaksar, Jan is 3rd from right in the front row
 
After his two year stint there, on 14th February 1966, he was sent to RAF Ternhill in Shropshire for the No 20 Helicopter Refresher Course before being detached to RAF Valley on Anglesey on 6th March 1966.
On 1st April 1967 he was posted to RAF Leuchars, near St Andrews, Fife where he became Flight Commander of C Flight of 202 Squadron.  On 23rd June of that year he attended the Royal Navy Survival Training School, Seafield Park, Cosford, Wolverhampton for the Aircrew Underwater Escape from Helicopters course.
In December 1966, RAF Leuchars had a distinguished visitor  and Jan was the "air taxi driver" who took him back to Dundee on the first leg of his journey home.  Douglas Bader, the Battle of Britain Ace was not unappreciative of the favour:


Thank you letter from Battle of Britain Ace, Douglas Bader
For the last years of his career he lived the life that we mere mortals only dream of!  He may have been Commander of the Flight but he certainly maintained an exciting and interesting life.  Within the family, he joked about his training exercises and, when he come home with a live cargo, his son remembers that: " When he was on wet winching exercises in Scotland, the winch man would occasionally come up with a lobster pot, of which the inhabitants would be shared by the crew. I can remember seeing our kitchen sink filled with them crawling around."
Whilst he was at RAF Leuchars, he was called out to rescue an English Electric Lightning jet fighter pilot who had been forced to eject in the North Sea and was facing a long, cold night in a dinghy as darkness drew near. 
However an Avro Shackleton had located him and Jan and his crew managed to pull him out of the water before nightfall.  The pilot, Squadron Leader Ron Blackburn, bought his rescuer a few drinks in the mess that night.  It wasn't difficult - they were next door neighbours!


 North Sea Rescue  -  September 1967


Thank you letter from Group Captain Nicholls for the previous rescue
 Regretably not all rescues were quite so successful and Jan was thwarted in all his efforts to rescue a very sick man from a vessel at sea.  Ironically it was a Polish sailor who needed his help on this occasion.  The helicopter had to refuel in Aberdeenshire before heading out 70 miles into the Atlantic and hovering over the deck of the trawler.
Unfortunately the stricken man had suffered a massive heart attack and died before the helicopter could get to him.  In spite of all their efforts and flying with a damaged tail rotor caused by a bird strike, probably a seagull, they were just too late to be of help.  This was a situation beyond the control of the crew but no less distressing for that.  They had to land at Buchan, Aberdeenshire for replacement of the damaged tail rotor.

Birdstrike damage to the helicopter's tail rotor

 Stop Press:
 The damage shown in the above pictures was attributed to birdstrike by the press but it has now come to light that the actual damage had a totally different cause and no bird was involved.  Flight Lieutenant Waletowicz' own version of the story shows that the damage was actually caused by the helicopter tail rotor coming into contact with the foremast during the difficult manoeuvre of getting a man onto the deck of the vessel.


Jan's own description of events
 Location of the rescue attempt


The Polish trawler Tysmielnica, subject of an emergency call for a crewman who died after suffering a massive heart attack 70 miles off the coast of Aberdeenshire
 


 
Tail damage to the SAR helicopter; grounded at Buchan, Aberdeenshire for essential repairs



North Sea rescue - at the cutting edge

 
Jan Walentowicz story in the Newcastle Journal on his final posting to RAF Acklington

On 1st May 1968 he was posted to the Search and Rescue base at RAF Acklington in Northumberland and attended the Fire Officer's course at RAF Catterick, North Yokshire on 24th November of that year.  It was there that he became classified, as the local newspaper put it, as a mahogany bomber - desk  bound.
After 32 years of unbroken service, he decided to call it a day and retired from the Air Force.  He moved to Billericay in Essex where he started an Antiquarian Book Shop buying, selling and restoring old books and following his self-taught skill of framing pictures.
Now aged almost 70 Jan and his wife Winifred then had twenty happy years of retirement in the village of East Hanningfield near Chelmsford, Essex.  For many years, they used to stay in Florida, USA during the winter months in the charming resort of Dunedin.  In 1998 he was invited, together with Winifred, by the government to a ceremony in Poland to honour the achievements of the Polish Air Force in Exile during the war.
A few years before he died Jan met up with a man named Michael Forest who had been living locally and whom he had not seen for a very long time.  Last time they met they were both escaping from France to Britain and the man's name was then Michal Zalewski.  They both fought, in different ways, for their adopted country.


Jan Walentowicz (left of picture) aged 88 and still collecting for the benefit of others

In 2010 they received a congratulatory card from the Her Majesty the Queen to celebrate sixty years of marriage.  Jan remained reasonably healthy past his 90th year.  He was active in the Royal Air Forces Association’s annual Wings Appeal almost until his death on 21st July 2011 at the age of 90.  His funeral took place in Chelmsford, Essex and his ashes were buried in the Polish section of the cemetery in Newark, Nottinghamshire.