304 Squadron was brought into existence at RAF Bramcote in Warwickshire on 22nd August 1940 with a complement of only a few senior British and Polish Officers. The next day it received its initial allocation of Officers and men, one of whom was Cpl Florian Stanislaw Bilicki (P-782091) a fitter grade II/E, although the original record gives his first name as Feliks.
Original notebook entry for 304 Squadron manpower
He was born on 4th May 1913 and, on the outbreak of war, he was serving with the Polish Air Force. When the Russians joined in the attack, the ground crews found themselves in a difficult position and so they destroyed their equipment and burned their remaining aircraft to prevent them from falling into enemy hands and then set out for the Romanian border, as ordered.
For two days and nights they drove and marched towards the border, skirmishing with Russian troops on the way. Finally they crossed the border into Romania where they were disarmed and interned. Twice he was in a group which escaped and tried to make for France to continue the fight but twice he was captured and returned to the camp.
The Polish Embassy staff were working in the background to help their men to escape to France and they provided false documents, travel tickets and money to help them. These materials were smuggled into the camp by a sympathetic priest. With papers, he was far less likely to be returned to the camp and so he set about his third attempt. He and four friends used the same escape route, one a day, meeting up later for the trip to France.
The internment camp was primitive and took its water from a well outside the camp; each day a group of prisoners took a truck with an empty water barrel to the well returning with the water. He was not in this party but went through the gates inside the barrel and made good his escape whilst the water party distracted the guards. The route he took is not known but it is known that he served in France because the first intake of men (including Florian) were described as French Poles in the initial squadron ORB.
On the French capitulation, he made his way to England and rejoined the Polish Forces via the Blackpool Depot and was then allocated to 304 Squadron and sent to RAF Bramcote. He remained with the squadron throughout the war and was enlisted into the Polish Resettlement Corps before opting to emigrate to Australia.
He sailed on the SS Asturias from Southampton on 26th October 1948 and arrived in Fremantle, Western Australia on 22nd November 1948 as part of the group of Polish forces personnel who chose to emigrate to Australia rather than be repatriated to Poland under the yoke of Communism.
His only obligation was two years service in employment nominated by the Australian Government. Although e was a trained fitter, he was sent to the small town of Miling, just north of Perth, where the only employment of note was relating to grain production, although it is certainly possible that he was able to use his skills working on the huge grain silos and associated equipment there. He presented as being happy there and was interviewed by the Daily News, a Perth newspaper, about his work there. This was about halfway through his two year contract and he cheerfully accepted his two years service but told the reporters that he would like to return to the aircraft industry when his time there was over.
Report in the Perth Daily News
29th October 1949
He must have travelled there under sponsorship as he is listed on the same ticket number as a considerable number of other ex RAF staff and it is well established that the British Government was anxious to resettle as many of the Poles as possible elsewhere.
Polish ex-RAF staff on the group ticket manifest of SS Asturias on 26th October 1948
The reason is not clear but he was released early from his two year contract on 29th May 1950 but granted leave to stay in Australia indefinitely so he could not have been dismissed for wrong doing. He next appears in the records as living in Maribyrnong, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria in 1954 and he also appears on similar Electoral Roll lists for Melbourne suburbs, finally at Doutta Galla in 1977.