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 firstname.lastname@example.org Any information on this incident, or a photograph of Sgt Gramiak would also be most welcome.
Thursday, 30 July 2015
Tuesday, 21 July 2015
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
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
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
Photo courtesy of Wojciech Zmyslony