Thursday, 22 January 2015


He was born to Piotr and Maria (nee Czyzewska) at Kacice near Warsaw on 20th July 1919 and, after completion of his education, he joined the XIV promotion of Officer Cadets at the aviation school in Deblin in 1939.  This was the unfinished course, cut short by the German invasion on 1st September 1939.  He was involved in the September Campaign but was ordered to cross the border into Hungary when the Russians attacked from behind and rendered the Polish cause hopeless.

With his fellow students he crossed into Hungary where he was disarmed and interned in the camp at Nagykata from 20th September to 15th October 1939 in line with Hungarian neutrality.  Being one of the first internees, he was not subjected to the later harsh regime and was able to leave for France very quickly.  He made his own way there, almost certainly with help from the Polish Embassy with respect to a false identity and papers, travel tickets and money.  He was taken to the Polish Air Force training camp at Lyon-Bron.

L'Armee de l'Air ID Card
When France capitulated, he set out for England, arriving there on 27th June 1940.  This early arrival suggests that he was on the early transports from one of the northern Channel ports before the mass evacuations along the entire northern coast of France.  On arrival in England, he was sent to the holding camp at RAF Kirkham in Lancashire where he stayed from 28th June to 4th September 1939.  He was then moved to the Technical Training centre at RAF Weeton in Lancashire, although the reason is not clear.  From 27th March to 9th May 1940 he was at the Polish Depot and this was probably to learn or improve his English as well as learning the King's Regulation and familiarising himself with British equipment and aircraft.

From there he went to 15 Elementary Flying Training School at RAF Carlisle (formerly RAF Kingstown) in Cumberland where he began his flying training on Miles Magisters.  On completion of this course, on 2nd August 1941, he was sent to the Air Crew Reception Centre in London but he was only there for a week before being posted to 8 Service Flying Training Centre at Montrose in Forfarshire (now Angus) where he trained, probably on twin engine Airspeed Oxfords, and gained his pilot's wings on 3rd December 1941 and was promoted to Sergeant.

Eight days later he was posted to 9 Air Observers School at RAF Penrhos near Porthmadog, Wales.  This was a bombing and gunnery school where the crews trained on the basics of their trade.  He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer on 1st February 1942.  He undertook a three week Officers course at RAF Cosford in August 1942.  After this  he returned to RAF Penrhos, where he joined 9 AFU (Advanced Flying Unit) for further training on twin engined aircraft.

Certified pilot of fighters, bombers and transports
Following this he was posted to 18 OTU at RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton in Warwickshire and later at RAF Finningley near Doncaster in South Yorkshire.  The length of time he spent there (about ten months) suggests that he was there in a training role - that is teacher rather than pupil.  His next move was to RAF Squires Gate at Blackpool where he seems to have been attached to 3 School of General Reconnaissance and training facilities at the Blackpool Depot until 10th February 1944 when he moved to 16 SFTS and 12th July 1944 when he moved to 10 Air Gunnery School at RAF Walney Island, Barrow in Furness, Lancashire (now Cumbria) .  During this time he received promotions to Flying Officer (1st October 1942) and Flight Lieutenant (1st February 1944); further reinforcing the idea that he was active as a trainer.  Details of the aircraft he flew and the training hours that he accumulated (996) place his role as a trainer beyond doubt.

After a two month spell at 10 AGS, he was back to the Blackpool Depot; training needs were no longer as great and he was eventually moved to an active role at 304 Squadron on 25th November 1944.  At this time they were based at RAF Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides and it was in climatic conditions that were harsh even by the standards of Polish winters - a bad time to arrive on the island.

Nonetheless, he immersed himself in the Squadron's activities and flew six missions in the crew of F/Lt Bohdan Ejbich and four in the crew of F/Lt Tomaszewski before the war ended,  As with all crews in Coastal Command, he had to endure many boring hours of low level flights over featureless ocean, flying at low altitude which made them an easier target to hit by the Luftwaffe, surfaced U-boats or armed merchantmen.

On his fifth mission, whilst at the controls of Wellington XIV HF303 - E, he was alert enough to spot the wake of a U-boat.  The wake was 50 yards long and 15-20 yards wide and moving at 10 knots and he saw a tubular, pencil like object within it.  This was probably a schnorkel.  He warned the senior pilot who took over the controls and dived to 100 feet before they released six depth charges all of which hit the water on the port side of the wake and all of which exploded.

A round bluish white patch, about 40 yards in diameter, was seen but disappeared quickly and a little while later they saw an oil patch 100 yards by 150 yards in extent.  Making another run around, they illuminated the area with a Leigh Light but could see no more clearly because of a surface haze.

Search procedures were initiated and markers were dropped but nothing further was seen and no more signals were picked up.  Although an experienced pilot, this was Henryk Zurawinski's first live sighting of a U-boat and he was sensible in handing over control to F/Lt Ejbich.

With the exception of a short secondment to 6 (Coastal) OTU, he stayed with 304 Squadron until 9th July 1945.  By this date, the squadron had moved to the milder conditions at RAF St Eval in Cornwall and there was no requirement for the staffing levels that existed and consequently, he found himself surplus to requirements.  Along with more than a hundred other airmen, he was despatched from Newquay station to No 17 Air Crew Holding Unit at RAF Snaith near Goole in East Yorkshire.  Unlike most of them, he was soon to be re-employed and found himself at 109 OTU at Crosby on Eden near Carlisle in Cumberland (now Cumbria) which was a Transport Command  unit for training crews of the Douglas Dakota.  On 11th December 1945 he was posted to the HQ of the Transport Support Training Unit at RAF Syerston, Nottinghamshire.

On 9th February 1946 he married Ethel Clayton at Holy Trinity Church, South Shore, Blackpool.  They had two children

On 12th March 1946 he was posted back to 304 Squadron where his experience was put to use in their new role as a part of Transport Command.  He stayed with them until they were disbanded in December 1946 and then enlisted in the Polish Resettlement Corps on 8th January 1947.  Here he had time and help to prepare for civilian life on a two year contract which ended with his final demobilisation on 8th January 1949.  He had flown a total of 99 hours Operational flights and 996 hours training flights on fighters (Hawker Hurricanes), bombers (Vickers Wellingtons) and transports (Douglas Dakotas) plus others during his own training.

He died on 11th August 1982.

He was the recipient of the Polish Cross of Valour and British Campaign Medals.

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