Sunday, 15 March 2015

JAN WALENTOWICZ - POST WAR LIFE

Jan Walentowicz in a Westland Whirlwind

On 1st October 1946 he was demobbed from the Polish Air Force and enlisted into the No 9 Polish Resettlement Corps at RAF Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire.  The following year he was posted to RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire - the  Bomber Command Major Servicing Unit.

Not yet ready to give up the active life, on 7th January 1948 he joined the RAF as a pilot and, on 13th July of that year, he was posted to Bomber Command Communication Flight at RAF Booker near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.

On 17th August he was posted to No 1 (P) Refresher Flying Unit on No 26 Course at RAF Finningley, Yorkshire and on 20th October he was posted to the School of Air Traffic Control at RAF Watchfield, Wiltshire as a staff pilot.

During 1950, he moved with the School to RAF Shawbury, Shropshire where he later completed the No 3 Staff Pilot's Course and was later posted to No 2 Officer Cadet Training Unit at RAF Kirton in Lindsey, Lincolnshire and completed No K4 Course there.

On 17th June of that year he was granted British Citizenship and this was recorded in the London Gazette at the time.

On 6th July he was promoted  to Pilot Officer on a Short Service Commission and was subsequently posted to the No2 Aircrew Medical Rehabilitation Unit at RAF Collaton Cross, Devon.  On 6th September  he attended the Ground Combat Training Course at RAF Melksham, Wiltshire.

On 22nd October  he was posted to 62 Group Communication Flight at RAF Colerne, Avon but shortly afterwards, on 19th November, he was reposted to 63 Group Communication Flight at RAF Hawarden, Flintshire, Wales.  Over the period of 1952-1953 he was detached, on occasions, to the Air Training Corps summer camps at RAF Halton and RAF Cottesmore, finally returning to RAF Hawarden on 31st August 1953.

In June 1954, he found out that his wish had been granted and that he was to give up fixed wings in favour of rotary flying.  He had had enough of routine staff and communications flying and felt the need for a change.  On 12th July 1954, he was detached to the Air Ministry, London to attend a helicopter course at the Westland Aircraft Factory at Yeovil, Somerset and, on completion of the course (50 flying hours) on 14th November of that year, he was posted to 155 Squadron at Kuala Lumpur, Malaya for three years.

The journey to Malaya was by RAF Transport Command Hermes and took 34 hours flying time spread over four days.  There were seven refuelling stops en route: Rome, Nicosia, Bahrain, Karachi, New Delhi, Calcutta and Bangkok finally arriving at RAF Changi in Singapore.

A tour of duty in Malaya was considered active service and he had to be armed at all times that he was away from the base.  Travel was only permitted in escorted armed convoys and he had to be armed even when flying.

During the course of 1955 he was detached, on 12th January, to 1907 Flight of 636 Squadron at Teiping to fly Austers but 6 days later he was again detached to 1911 Flight of that Squadron at Benta where he could be flying Austers, other light aircraft or helicopters but was basically gaining experience of jungle flying and learning the locations of the isolated forts, landing strips and jungle drop zones around Malaya.  This was normally a two week secondment with an experienced army Air Observation Post pilot.  Following this he went straight into operational flying.  It should be explained at this point that this Squadron [636] did not have a conventional RAF Station base but was split into several Flights across small landing grounds throughout Malaya.
 
Tight landings in very small clearings with trees 250 ft-300ft high all around

On 24th June 1956, he attended a Jungle Survival Course at RAF Changi, Singapore; the basis of that was that he was taken by patrol boat to an uninhabited island off the coast of Singapore.  With nothing more than his basic survival kit, he had to swim ashore and set up his own survival camp and live off the land for four days before being picked up.

For the greater part of his three year stint in Malaya, he spent his time ferrying stores and troops, including 22 SAS, wherever they were needed.  They were also heavily involved with Casevac and  with any emergency flights and searching the jungle for hidden Chinese Terrorist bases and crop growing areas onto which they could direct artillery or bombers.

Although he had gone through several years of seriously hard warfare in the European Theatre and he had been on the run after twice escaping from his captors, he had absolutely no experience of jungle warfare or survival so this was essential training in this new environment.  He was suitably grateful to the men of 656 Squadron for their invaluable help in this respect.

One of the tasks he had to master was the ability to place a rather large helicopter on the ground in a very tightly restricted area.  Simple enough you might think but when you are surrounded by dense jungle and trees that are between 250ft - 300ft tall, it is not quite so easy to achieve this objective - especially when you have to worry about hostile fire.

The fixed wing pilots of 656 Squadron would often locate small food farms in the jungle and would direct the helicopters of 155 Squadron to come in and destroy their jungle crops by spraying them with a mixture of diesel and chemicals (a fore-runner of Agent Orange) which defoliated the crops and denied the terrorists food.  The armed convoys and harassment from the air prevented them from growing food or hunting wild pigs and drove them deeper into the jungle where food was not plentiful.

His first routine job was to ferry all the parts of a tractor to Fort Langkap in Central Malaya.  This involved four twenty five minute flights each way - the return flights involved carrying used cargo parachutes back to base.
 
Deploying 22 SAS Troopers in the jungle
 
Fort Chabai, Malaya.  A short landing strip is just visible in the left foreground
 
Jan at Fort Brooke, Malaya
 

Destroyed CT (Chinese Terrorist) Tapioca Farm in the Jungle

photographed approximately two weeks after defoliation

There were twelve Jungle Forts scattered along the Peninsula; some in the lowlands and some in the deep valleys of the central mountain range.  They were manned by the Malay Police or Federal troops and their staff had to be rotated periodically.  Some of these forts could only be reached by helicopter.  Even on the other side of the border, the Thai Police had to be rotated by RAF helicopters.  On such tours, Jan operated from permanent Army camps and these provided a garrisoned area with a supply of aviation fuel, food and temporary secure accommodation.


On two occasions, in 1956, he was called upon to assist the civil and military authorities with riot control in Singapore.  His and two other helicopters flew a total of 90 hours in 136 sorties to help contain the riots.  His main duties were to observe and report to the Police and Army and to drop leaflets and tear gas when necessary.  He also carried senior Police and Military officers to observe the events as they happened.
This may be the incident for which he was Mentioned in Despatches, having located Captain Badger and Captain Jones in their crashed Auster on 3rd December 1955 and flown them to safety at Bidor Airstrip
 

Congratulations Telegram he received from his Commanding Officer in Malaya when he received his Mention in Despatches
The military and the civil Police authorities recognised and acknowledged their contribution towards controlling the riots.  On 30th August 1957 he was Mentioned in Despatches; it was recorded in the London Gazette that this was for distinguished service in Malaya.
 
 
 

Programme from Exeter Air Display, 1960 in which Jan flew a helicopter exhibition
 
Programme from Exeter Air Display  - 9th July 1960 -  when he flew the Demonstration Helicopter
In August 1960, he was posted to RAF Shawbury for No 87 Joint Air Traffic Control Course after which he was transferred, on 24th October, to RAF Linton on Ouse, Yorkshire.  He returned to RAF Shawbury on 29th May 1962 for No 147 Radar Course.
On 31st January 1964 he was posted to RAF Khormaksar, Aden where his main duties were in the field of air traffic control.  This was a complete new experience for Jan and he must have felt somewhat inhibited by his lack of flying but for the next two years he had a great deal of responsibility as part of one of the shifts of Air Traffic Controllers controlling what was the busiest RAF Station in the world and all movements of the twelve resident military squadrons, twenty two civil airlines and many military emergency landings and through traffic.  He also had to control a plethora of aircraft types - enough to rival any major modern airport. 

These included ground attack Hawker Hunters from 8, 43 and 208 squadrons; photo reconnaissance Hawker Hunters of 1417 Flight; Belvedere helicopters from 26 squadron; Avro Shackletons from 37 squadron; Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneers from 78 squadron; Blackburn Beverley heavy lift transports from 84 squadron; Armstrong Whitworth Argosies from 115 squadron; Vickers Valettas from 233 squadron; Handley Page Hastings and English Electric Canberras from the Middle East Communications Squadron and the SAR Flight of Bristol Sycamore helicopters.
RAF Khormaksar also doubled up as Aden International Airport which had regular services from 22 civil airlines including the resident Aden Airways; BOAC; Air India and Middle East Airlines.  The RAF provided Air Traffic Control services to all aircraft operators using the aerodrome which also included No 653 squadron AAC (Beavers and Austers) and Royal Navy aircraft from carriers who happened to be visiting or in transit.
RAF Khormaksar, Aden
 

Air Traffic Control Staff, RAF Khormaksar, Jan is 3rd from right in the front row
 
After his two year stint there, on 14th February 1966, he was sent to RAF Ternhill in Shropshire for the No 20 Helicopter Refresher Course before being detached to RAF Valley on Anglesey on 6th March 1966.
On 1st April 1967 he was posted to RAF Leuchars, near St Andrews, Fife where he became Flight Commander of C Flight of 202 Squadron.  On 23rd June of that year he attended the Royal Navy Survival Training School, Seafield Park, Cosford, Wolverhampton for the Aircrew Underwater Escape from Helicopters course.
In December 1966, RAF Leuchars had a distinguished visitor  and Jan was the "air taxi driver" who took him back to Dundee on the first leg of his journey home.  Douglas Bader, the Battle of Britain Ace was not unappreciative of the favour:


Thank you letter from Battle of Britain Ace, Douglas Bader
For the last years of his career he lived the life that we mere mortals only dream of!  He may have been Commander of the Flight but he certainly maintained an exciting and interesting life.  Within the family, he joked about his training exercises and, when he come home with a live cargo, his son remembers that: " When he was on wet winching exercises in Scotland, the winch man would occasionally come up with a lobster pot, of which the inhabitants would be shared by the crew. I can remember seeing our kitchen sink filled with them crawling around."
Whilst he was at RAF Leuchars, he was called out to rescue an English Electric Lightning jet fighter pilot who had been forced to eject in the North Sea and was facing a long, cold night in a dinghy as darkness drew near. 
However an Avro Shackleton had located him and Jan and his crew managed to pull him out of the water before nightfall.  The pilot, Squadron Leader Ron Blackburn, bought his rescuer a few drinks in the mess that night.  It wasn't difficult - they were next door neighbours!


 North Sea Rescue  -  September 1967


Thank you letter from Group Captain Nicholls for the previous rescue
 Regretably not all rescues were quite so successful and Jan was thwarted in all his efforts to rescue a very sick man from a vessel at sea.  Ironically it was a Polish sailor who needed his help on this occasion.  The helicopter had to refuel in Aberdeenshire before heading out 70 miles into the Atlantic and hovering over the deck of the trawler.
Unfortunately the stricken man had suffered a massive heart attack and died before the helicopter could get to him.  In spite of all their efforts and flying with a damaged tail rotor caused by a bird strike, probably a seagull, they were just too late to be of help.  This was a situation beyond the control of the crew but no less distressing for that.  They had to land at Buchan, Aberdeenshire for replacement of the damaged tail rotor.

Birdstrike damage to the helicopter's tail rotor

 Stop Press:
 The damage shown in the above pictures was attributed to birdstrike by the press but it has now come to light that the actual damage had a totally different cause and no bird was involved.  Flight Lieutenant Waletowicz' own version of the story shows that the damage was actually caused by the helicopter tail rotor coming into contact with the foremast during the difficult manoeuvre of getting a man onto the deck of the vessel.


Jan's own description of events
 Location of the rescue attempt


The Polish trawler Tysmielnica, subject of an emergency call for a crewman who died after suffering a massive heart attack 70 miles off the coast of Aberdeenshire
 


 
Tail damage to the SAR helicopter; grounded at Buchan, Aberdeenshire for essential repairs



North Sea rescue - at the cutting edge

 
Jan Walentowicz story in the Newcastle Journal on his final posting to RAF Acklington

On 1st May 1968 he was posted to the Search and Rescue base at RAF Acklington in Northumberland and attended the Fire Officer's course at RAF Catterick, North Yokshire on 24th November of that year.  It was there that he became classified, as the local newspaper put it, as a mahogany bomber - desk  bound.
After 32 years of unbroken service, he decided to call it a day and retired from the Air Force.  He moved to Billericay in Essex where he started an Antiquarian Book Shop buying, selling and restoring old books and following his self-taught skill of framing pictures.
Now aged almost 70 Jan and his wife Winifred then had twenty happy years of retirement in the village of East Hanningfield near Chelmsford, Essex.  For many years, they used to stay in Florida, USA during the winter months in the charming resort of Dunedin.  In 1998 he was invited, together with Winifred, by the government to a ceremony in Poland to honour the achievements of the Polish Air Force in Exile during the war.
A few years before he died Jan met up with a man named Michael Forest who had been living locally and whom he had not seen for a very long time.  Last time they met they were both escaping from France to Britain and the man's name was then Michal Zalewski.  They both fought, in different ways, for their adopted country.


Jan Walentowicz (left of picture) aged 88 and still collecting for the benefit of others

In 2010 they received a congratulatory card from the Her Majesty the Queen to celebrate sixty years of marriage.  Jan remained reasonably healthy past his 90th year.  He was active in the Royal Air Forces Association’s annual Wings Appeal almost until his death on 21st July 2011 at the age of 90.  His funeral took place in Chelmsford, Essex and his ashes were buried in the Polish section of the cemetery in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

 
 

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

FAKE ID

In the course of my research, I have come across a lot of cases where the escaping airmen were provided with fake ID to help them get through to the Polish Forces in the west.  I have never before actually seen an example of these fake documents but the attached copy has been given to me by the sons of Jan Walentowicz.
 
I was not around during the period of World War II but I have worked in law enforcement intelligence and this looks pretty good to me!  At any rate, it enabled Jan Walentowicz to travel to the west as Jan Wojchiechowski from Bucarest.
 
 
The descriptive card was Jan's own wording
 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

ZBIGNIEW ZIPSER


 
He was the elder son of Aleksander Zipser and his wife Kazimiera (nee Lechowicz) and was born on 7th January 1910 at Podwoloczyska near Tarnopol, Poland (now Ternopil, Ukraine); he had a younger brother Mieczyslaw and a sister.  His father worked as a signalman on the main Lvov - Odessa railway line.

Zbigniew joined the Polish Army, which then controlled the Air Force, on 28th October 1928 and was well established by the time of the September Campaign.  He was attached to 3rd Air Force Regiment and then 161 Eskadra of 6th Air Force Regiment and took part from 1st September 1939 until they were ordered to retreat across the Romanian border on 18th September.  They crossed at Sniatyn and were disarmed and interned at various camps in Romania; at Turda in Transylvania from 20th September 1939 to 11th October 1939, Corugea near Tulcea in the Danube Delta from 12th October 1939 to 20th November 1939 and at Balcic (now in Bulgaria) from 21st November 1939 to 17th December 1939.

At Tulcea, the Polish forces rebelled and disarmed their guards in complaint against the authorities because there was almost no food and no medical supplies in this area which was, at that time, little more than a malarial swamp and they had to sleep in a tented encampment.

However, that was the extent of his internment before he simply slipped out of the camp and, with complicity and finance of the Polish Diplomatic Corps he made his way to join the Polish forces in France.  His probable route was by ship from Balcic, a Black Sea port, via the Bosphorus and into the Mediterranean to Beirut in the Lebanon and then a further sea journey to Marseilles.  From there he re-enlisted in the Polish forces at Carpiagne, near the Lyon-Bron airbase, with effect from 23rd January 1940.  Four days later he was based at the training base at Septfonds which was an appalling place without basic hygiene, running water and warm shelter.  Originally a WW1 transit camp and then being used as a camp for Spanish Civil War refugees, the Polish recruits were housed there initially.

When the French capitulated, in June 1940, he boarded a ship in Marseilles and sailed for England to continue his work with the Polish Air Force, this time under British command.  He was initially sent to the Polish Depot at Blackpool on 2nd July 1940 and then on to its satellite at RAF Kirkham, Lancashire where he did the basics of familiarising himself with British equipment, becoming an official member as of 5th August 1940 with the Trade of fitter and rank of sergeant..

Zbigniew Zipser standing behind a Coastal Command Wellington Bomber
 
His first deployment, on 24th August 1940 was to RAF Bramcote near Nuneaton, Warwickshire just two days after the creation of 304 Squadron.  He trained and moved with them to RAF Syerston in Nottinghamshire on 20th November 1940 after which they moved, on 20th July 1941, to RAF Lindholme near Doncaster, Yorkshire and to RAF Tiree in the Inner Hebrides on 20th May 1942.  His final moves with the Squadron were to RAF Dale in Pembrokeshire on 13th June 1942 and then to RAF Talbenny, also Pembrokeshire, early in November 1942.

Just as the Squadron were moving back to RAF Dale, on 10th December 1942, he was transferred to 6 (Polish) OTU (Operational Training Unit) at Silloth, Cumberland where he stayed until 5th October 1943 before transferring to 3 (Coastal) OTU at RAF Haverford West in Pembrokeshire.  He stayed there until it was disbanded and merged into 6 OTU - back at Silloth - on 4th January 1944.

Following this, he moved to RAF Gatwick in Surrey (now Sussex) on 7th March 1945 where he joined 5029 Polish Airfield Construction Squadron until 11th December 1945 with a short spell of about five weeks with 103 Bomber Squadron in November and early December 1945 whilst it was being wound down to disbandment.  His time with the Reconstruction Squadron was spent redeveloping what was to become the present Gatwick Airport and also repairing war damaged airfields in Germany which were to become RAF bases for the post war Occupying Air Force.

After this he moved to 16 Secondary Polish Training School at RAF Newton, Nottinghamshire from 5th June 1946 until 13th November 1946 when he transferred into the Polish Resettlement Corps until his demobilisation into civilian life on 19th February 1947.

His medal entitlement was the Polish Air Force Medal, the 1939-1945 Star, the Defence Medal and the 1939-1945 War Medal.

He met his future wife Rosalind at a dance in Carlisle whilst he was with 6 OTU at RAF Silloth and he liked the Nottingham area so, when he was finally demobilised they married and moved there to start a new life together.

He started a car repair business in the workshops of Mr Wincup a joiner at Radcliffe Mount, Radcliffe Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham.  After some time he started Trent Bridge Garage opposite the Cricket Ground around 1962/63.  With his brother Mieczyslaw, he developed a Singer Agency.

In about 1965 he wanted to diversify into the house building trade.  With two friends he formed HMZ Building Contractors.  They built three or four houses at Thrumpton, near Radcliffe on Soar, and about ten houses at Ravenshead.  He also had an interest in Avenue Garage on Central Avenue at West Bridgford, where he used to repair and re-spray cars.

Diversifying again, he built two wooden speed boats, called Solway I and Solway II which gave him great satisfaction, especially in use on the East Coast at Chapel St Leonards in Lincolnshire.

Sadly, he died very suddenly on 23rd July 1967 at the age of 57 years and was buried in the cemetery at Wilford Hill in Nottingham.


Zbigniew Zipser's Pre-war military record
Photos © Andrew Zipser

Thursday, 22 January 2015

HENRYK ZURAWINSKI


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.


Sunday, 18 January 2015

FLORIAN STANISLAW BILICKI


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.

Certificate of release from his work contract which doubles as an
Aliens Registration Certificate No W5218 issued in Perth, Western
Australia.
The search continues!