Sunday, 4 September 2016

LUDWIK SWIERZB

He was born on 26th February 1900, the son of Jan and Wiktoria (nee Pula) at Dabrowa Tarnowska near Krakow and was listed as a fitter in civilian life.  He joined the Polish Army in 1918 and fought as a soldier in the Russo-Polish War of 1918-1920; he was in the 16th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Company.  He saw action in the Ukraine and in the battles at Cieszyn and Vilnius, during which time he was awarded the Cross of Valour and promoted to corporal. 

After the war, he stayed in the army serving as a mechanic with the 2nd Air Regiment at Krakow until he was placed on the reserve list and returned to civilian life in 1923.  He is known to have attended training courses at 1st Air Regiment based at the Warsaw garrison but the duration is unknown  He met and married Maria Wodka and they had five children during the peacetime years that followed.

Ludwik's wife, Maria Wodka

Still being on the reserve list, he was called up for service as the crisis with Germany continued and he was back in uniform when the War broke out on 1st September 1939.  He was involved in the September Campaign but was evacuated to Romania on 18th September 1939 - the day after the Russians attacked Poland from the rear.

Once in Romania, the Polish forces were disarmed and interned but the Romanian authorities were sympathetic and escape from the internment camps was easy once the Polish Embassy had provided false ID, money and travel documents.  There is no detail on the route he took - either overland through Jugoslavia and Italy or by sea from one of the Black Sea ports but the latter is most likely as he arrived at Marseilles on 3rd February 1940 and was transferred to Lyon-Bron two days later.  He was lucky and was employed there because of his trade skills.

After the Capitulation of France, it is most likely that he was one of those who arrived at St Juan de Luz, on the Spanish border, and was taken off as one of the last evacuees before the German and Vichy authorities took over.  At any rate, he arrived in England on 2nd July 1940 and remained at the Blackpool Depot until he was transferred to 304 Squadron on 23rd August 1940.

He was a mechanic who later specialised as a rusznikarz (armourer) and did a specialist training course on Fraser-Nash gun turrets  at No 10 School of Technical Training at RAF Kirkham near Blackpool.   This was particularly important to his work with Wellington Bombers.  On 1st march 1946 he was given the permanent war rank of Sergeant.

During his time with 304 Squadron he was posted to RAF Bramcote (Warwickshire), RAF Syerston (Nottinghamshire), RAF Lindholme (Yorkshire), RAF Isle of Tiree (Inner Hebrides), RAF Dale -twice - and RAF Talbenny (both in Pembrokeshire), RAF Docking (Norfolk), RAF Davidstow Moor and RAF Predannack (both in Cornwall), RAF Chivenor (Devon), RAF Benbecula (Outer Hebrides), RAF St Eval (Devon) and RAF North Weald (Essex).

He was to remain with 304 Squadron throughout the War before transferring to RAF Faldingworth then moving to RAF Skipton-on-Swale in Yorkshire with the rank of Corporal on 28th October 1946. It is not clear what he was doing there but he remained there after joining the Polish Resettlement Corps on 2nd May 1947.  He later moved to the PRC Camp at RAF Framlingham, Suffolk.  During his war service, he was awarded the British Defence Medal, the War Medal and the Polish Air Force Medal, which was for courage not in the face of the enemy and was probably for risking his life fighting a fire on board a Wellington Bomber and saving two others.  After the war he received a second, third and fourth award of this medal for unspecified actions during the war.  He also received a Bronze Cross of Merit for his actions prior to May 1942 - this was most likely for outstanding work rather than courage.  Few ground crew received so many awards.
On 17th December 1948 he was discharged from the PRC to take up a 3 year contract as a mechanic with the emergent Pakistan Air Force.  He continued to send money home to his family but then it suddenly stopped and I have been unable to trace his whereabouts in Pakistan or elsewhere, since that time in the very early 1950's. 
If anyone, particularly my readers in Pakistan, can help with further information please contact me on nevillebougourd@gmail.com
Photographs courtesy of Alicja Morawiec

 

2 comments:

Alicja Morawiec said...

Mr Neville Bougourd. thank you very much for taking time and write such detailed biography of my grand uncle. Your dedication to writing history of Polish Air Force Squadron 304 during WWII to immortalize their memory as thank you from a citizen of United Kingdom for their part in fight for freedom of England touched me deeply. Alicja Morawiec

ARCHIVE said...

I am very pleased you like the biography and I am still trying to find out more about his time in Pakistan and afterwards. Like all the Poles, he has my deepest respect and this is just my way of saying thank you for fighting for the freedom I now enjoy.