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!

Friday, 9 January 2015


 
JE SUIS CHARLIE
 
 

 
WITH SUPPORT AND SYMPATHY FROM ENGLAND





EUGENIUSZ SIEDLECKI


He was born on 14th April 1919 at Zaborol in the Luck district (now in Ukraine).  From 1935 to 1938 he trained in Bydgoszcz he trained as a radio operator/air gunner and then joined the 1st Air Regiment in Warsaw and went on to serve in the 213 and 217 Bomber Squadrons and fought in the opening campaign of the war until he was evacuated to Czerniowice aerodrome in Romania with the rest of his crew and their aircraft.  He was interned but soon managed to escape from the camp.

He made his way to France via Jugoslavia and Greece, arriving there on 23rd October 1939.  He was posted to a reconnaissance squadron and his crew was eventually ordered to Oran in Algeria.  The aircraft had to make an emergency landing in Spain where he was detained for a month before being handed over to the Vichy French authorities.  This was the same aircraft on which Bernard Poloniecki  made his first attempt to get out of France.  He was demobilised and spent some time in the American Hospital hospital  in Marseilles whilst his escape was arranged.  He escaped from Marseilles in January 1941 and fled to Oran where he was interned for a month before being sent to another Polish detention camp in Algeria.  He attempted to escape but was caught and sent to a punishment camp in the Sahara Desert where he stayed until he was liberated by Allied forces.  He left Algeria at the end of November 1942 and arrived at the Polish Depot at Blackpool on 6th December 1942.

He was posted to RAF Halton where he began training as a wireless operator/air gunner and he moved on to 6OTU on 30th May 1944.  He was then transferred into 304 Squadron on 8th August 1944 at the Coastal Command base at RAF Chivenor in Devon, where he flew 29 missions .  During his career he was decorated with the Cross of Valour three times and the Air Medal and was promoted to Warrant Officer on 31st August 1945.

In England he met and married his wife of 67 years and they emigrated to the USA in 1948.  They settled in Woodstock, Illinois and raised a family of seven children.  The family moved to Grayslake in 1963 and he spent the rest of his life working a five acre smallholding and made a living growing and selling vegetables and flowers.

Subsequently an obituary has been  published revealing that he had died in Grayslake, Illinois, USA on 18th December 2010 and was interred there in the Avon Centre Cemetery.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

MIECZYSLAW PRONASZKO


 
He was born on 22nd October 1902 in Warsaw and in 1918, he joined the 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment.  He fought in the Polish-Bolshevik war.  In July 1924 he was sent to the Officer Cadet School in Warsaw then moved to the 83rd Infantry Regiment until 1926 when he opted to join the Air Force and went to the flying school in Grudziadz, graduating two years later as an observer with the rank of Pilot Officer and posted to the 1st Air Wing in Warsaw and later the 6th Air Wing in Lvov.  By November 1938 he was in command of No 64 Bomber Flight.

He was still there on the outbreak of war and flew mostly anti-personnel missions against the invading German army.  He escaped to Romania and made his way to France and subsequently England.

At first he was posted to 300 Squadron as commander of B Flight.  He moved on to 304 Squadron on 10th August 1942 and remained an operational pilot.  On Christmas Eve 1942, returning to RAF Dale from an anti-submarine patrol, fog made it impossible for him to land he could not make radio contact with RAF Chivenor to divert there.  After 11 hours 56 minutes flying time, the aircraft, HF898, ran out of fuel and the crew all baled out safely near Cannock in Staffordshire.

On 29th January 1943 he took command of the squadron and remained there until 18th November of that year when he moved on to the Polish Air Force Inspectorate.  His next move was to the American 9th Air Force (December 1944 until April 1945).  He then moved to the Polish Air Force Headquarters.
During his service he was awarded the Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari 5th Class, the Cross of Valour (four times) and the British Distinguished Flying Cross.

On 2nd April 1947 he was demobilised and emigrated to Montreal, Canada where he died on 12th September 1968; he is buried in the Veterans Cemetery at Pointe-Claire.