Wednesday, 4 May 2016


He was born on 25th August 1907 at Lwow, Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine), one of 4 children of Jozef and Wiktoria Werbowski,  Jozef was a tailor and was comfortably well off.  The family kept dogs and horses and they holidayed and spent time skiing in the mountain resorts in their native Poland.
Skiing in Poland before the War

He remembered the hard times of his teens in the 1918-1920) period when he carried ammunition in the streets for the Poles who were fighting the Ukrainians.  He also remembered the fighting and the ultimate defeat of the Bolsheviks in the period immediately after the First World War when Poland established itself as a country once more and looked forward to an independent future.

This was followed by a happy time when Poland had regained its freedom and it was an optimistic place for a few years.  After completing his education he joined the army as an Officer cadet and was commissioned into the mounted artillery in 1928.
Pre-war career soldier

He was a career Officer and stayed there until 1935 when he transferred to the air force - which, at this time, was still part of the army.  At the outbreak of war he was a Tactical Officer with 65 Eskadra of the 6th Bomber Division.  He was also trained as an observer (navigator) and as such, he was in the thick of the fighting from 1st to 18th September 1939 when his unit was ordered over the border into Romania, where he was disarmed and interned.

Emblem of 65 Eskadra Bombowa
With assistance from the Polish Embassy in Bucarest and after exchanging identities with his brother in law, he obtained false papers and an exemption certificate from military service (which stated he was a teacher and not fit for military service) he set about escaping from Romania.  Early in the war this was not too difficult as the Romanian authorities tended to turn a blind eye - especially when assisted with a suitable bribe.

Military Exemption Certificate

A false passport in his brother in law's name and with visas to cover all eventualities

As with all Polish military staff, he would have been provided with money, travel documents and whatever else was necessary to get him to France in order to rejoin the Polish forces.  His passport shows that they covered all the bases with entry visas for France and Great Britain and a transit visa for Italy.  The latter suggests that he was to take an overland route via Northern Italy into France. 
He left for France on 23rd December 1939.  On arrival there he was sent to Lyon-Bron where the conditions were very poor and the men were expected to sleep on straw mattresses on the floor and wash in cold water.  It was not a popular place.

French ID Card

There was little for the Poles to do and it must almost have come as a relief when the French capitulated and the Poles could make a run for Great Britain.  They were evacuated to Port Vendres, a small port in the South West of France, near the Spanish border.  It was a time of considerable anxiety as all of the British, Polish, Free French and Czech military personnel were trying desperately to get out of France.

His route is uncertain but he boarded the vessel MV Apapa which is likely to have gone to Britain via Gibraltar.  The vessel left Port Vendres around 17th June 1940 and arrived in Liverpool on 7th July 1914.  From there it was just a short train ride to the Polish Depot at Blackpool.


MV Apapa
Due to some very serious medical problems, he was not able to take part in the active fighting but maintained his service with the Polish Air Force in exile by acting as the Adjutant  with No 8304 Technical Section of 304 Squadron and later with the main Squadron itself.
After the War, on 28th January 1947, he enlisted in the Polish Resettlement Corps where he was still on the books of the RAF but had all the time and stability to retrain and make the transit to civilian life.  He remained there until 14th April 1948 when he relinquished his commission and moved into civilian life.
During his many visits to the Paderewski Polish Military Hospital in Edinburgh, he met Margaret Collie and they were married in 1943, having a daughter in 1947.
Kazimierz with two of his nurses from the Paderewski
Hospital.  The one on his right became his wife in

Once he had left the Air Force, they ran a small boarding house in Edinburgh.  After a few years they changed to a small medical nursing home but his eyesight deteriorated to the point where he could no longer help with the work.  Eventually he undertook some specialist training and became a very skilled leather worker with the Scottish National Institute for War Blinded.  He was plagued with problems with his eyes for the last 25 years of his life but he never let it get him down and he never gave up - retraining as a leather worker.  Ten years after the War, he wrote to his old subordinate, John Comper, he talked of old times and of being beset with health problems but he had not given up and he never felt sorry for himself.
Both of his parents and one of his sisters died during, or just after, the War but he did manage to make contact with his brother who visited him in Scotland after the War.  He also kept in touch with his former assistant, John Comper, with whom he became good friends.
Sadly he developed heart problems and he suffered a coronary and died on 24th January 1966 at the relatively young age of 58.  He is buried in Edinburgh.

As a postscript, a letter has been uncovered which was written to his former aide, John Comper, about 10 years after he had left the forces.  It shows his humility and calm acceptance of the handicap of blindness.  He is not bitter or angry and has accepted his misfortune with good grace.  A lesson to us all.  The letter is reproduced below.

With thanks to Barbara van Rooyen for access to her family archives
And to Ben Haslam for the use of the letter from Kazimierz to John Comper



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