Friday, 2 December 2016

STANISLAW MAZUR VEL BUTYNSKI


Stanislaw Mazur vel ButyƄski was born on 12th October 1915 in the village of Zablocie just across the river from the town of Strumien in Cieszyn, Poland.  He was the son of Jozef and Zofia (nee Czuban) Mazur vel Butynski.  His father was killed in the First World War and his mother died of an infection on his sixteenth birthday so he did not have an easy start to life. 


Stanislaw's home town - Strumien

Stanislaw's school photo and below a detail from it

 
 
Stanislaw's school band photo and below a detail from it
 
 
Even in his early teens, summer holidays meant work. 
Here he is shown, with his uncle, bringing in the harvest.
 
After finishing his education in Oswiecim (on the outskirts of which the German occupiers would later create the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp, now a memorial and museum) at the age of 19, he was conscripted into the army and served with 5th Air Regiment in Lida where he trained as a pilot around 1936.  In 1939, when war with Germany was imminent, he was mobilised and rejoined his regiment.  The photograph above shows him wearing the Pilot's Gapa and the badge of the 5th Air Regiment.

Detail from a poster in the secondary
school in Strumien depicting him as a pilot
 
At a very early stage in the war, he was sent to Romania to collect fighter aircraft shipped from Britain.  Unfortunately, on 17th September 1939, Russia attacked Poland and those aircraft were diverted elsewhere.  Being in Romania his group were interned and disarmed and they were sent to a camp in the Danube Delta, probably Tulcea.
 
Whichever camp he was sent to, he managed to acquire a forged discharge certificate which showed that he was a former Polish soldier and therefore now a civilian.  This was a great advantage as it allowed him to live openly as a non-combatant in a Polish School in Bucharest.  It was also a bit risky because the name he adopted was his mother's maiden name.

False Army Discharge Papers forged in the Internment Camp

However, that was a short lived advantage because he picked up a serious illness in the Delta and he was transferred from the internment camp at Tulcea to the healthier camp at Campulung Muscel where he was treated for a severe bout of malaria.  He almost died but eventually recovered and was then able to take part in a carefully staged escape plan supported by the Polish Embassy and sympathetic Romanian Officials.

Security in the camps was very lax but they were being surreptitiously monitored by German agents who were aware of the efforts being made to evacuate Polish fighting men to France.  He was supplied with a genuine Romanian identity card which had been provided to the Polish Embassy pre-stamped with official Romanian seals and issued in a false name.  He was also provided with money and travel documents.  He had the insignia stripped from his uniform and the uniform itself was altered to resemble a civilian suit.



Front and reverse of fake "genuine" Romanian ID

His method of "escape" was to simply walk out of the camp at a pre-arranged time and jump onto the running board of a passing car.  He was driven to Bucharest but through an area of German sympathisers and they had to drive through a road block and were fired upon but with his forged papers and civilian suit, once in Bucharest he was able to live openly. 

His next initial destination was the Black Sea port of Balcic where he stayed for about a month whilst waiting for his travel arrangements.  Later, he travelled the 70 miles or so to Constanta where he embarked on the Romanian ship "Transilvania" bound eventually for Beirut.  The vessel sailed on 21st December 1939 and took six days to reach Beirut.

 Military open air Mass at Balcic, Romania (now Bulgaria)
 
Stan's souvenir postcard of the Transilvania

The route taken was almost certainly via Istanbul, Piraeus (Athens) and on to Beirut where they changed ships, possibly to the SS Warszawa, and travelled to Marseilles via Tripoli in Libya.  Once in France they were placed in the military transit camp at Camp de Carpiagne before eventually being moved to the Polish camp at Lyon-Bron.

 
Camp de Carpiagne - overall view

Camp de Carpiagne - Hut 13 (front left) was Stan's barracks
 

 
Internal and external views of his Armee de l'Air ID
 
In due course he was moved to the Polish Depot at Lyon-Bron but he did not particularly enjoy his time there as he was not put to work in any significant way except digging trenches and other menial tasks - a situation mirrored by many Poles in France.  His main complaints were the poor living conditions within the barracks such as sleeping on the floor on a straw palliasse, poor rations, lack of hot water and an infestation of rats during the night.  He did get the occasional trip to Paris to cheer him up.
 
 
Stan and friends in Paris 1940
 
However, he was a trained pilot from his National Service days and he was selected by the RAF for pilot training in England and transferred there in early 1940. 
 
 
Stan (marked by red arrow) and fellow pilot trainees in London 1940
 
As a trained pilot he was expected to quickly learn the differences between handling British and Continental aircraft.  The main ones being that most British aircraft had retractable undercarriage and the controls were totally different and in different positions.  They also had to learn King's Regulations and they were expected to have a reasonable standard of English.  Unfortunately, it was discovered that he had malaria and was not fit to fly so he was very quickly transferred back to France - much to his dismay.
 
He was returned to a transit camp at Bressuire, which he jokingly referred to as a prison, on 29th April 1940 but he was only there for four days before returning to Lyon-Bron.  It was barely worth the journey back as the French capitulated only six weeks later and the Poles were evacuated to the small port of St Jean de Luz just on the French side of the border with Spain.
 

 Stan's party en route to St Jean de Luz
 
This was a much less publicised evacuation than Dunkirk, a couple of weeks earlier, but almost as many men were taken off and brought back to England.  It was no walk in the park as they were constantly harassed by the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine's U-Boats and many lives were lost just getting to the ships.  Eventually, Stanislaw boarded the Arandora Star which was heavily overloaded, carrying three or four times as many men as she was designed to do. 

She had to sail far out into the Atlantic in order to avoid the German U-Boats and the long range Condor aircraft.  It took three days to reach Liverpool but she arrived safely and disembarked all the rescued men.  She was torpedoed on her very next voyage and went down with enormous loss of life - mostly German POWs and Italian internees. The following is a selection of photos of the journey from St Jean de Luz to Liverpool where they arrived on 27th June 1940.


 Stanislaw is on the left in the above picture
 
 Overcrowded but not defenceless
 
 
 
Once off the ship they were moved to a transit camp the location of which is unknown but was probably quite close to Liverpool as the vessel did not dock until late afternoon and it would take a considerable amount of time to get them all through the basic immigration procedures, fed and prepared to move on to Blackpool Polish Depot for airmen.  The following photographs show that it was not really prepared for such an influx of servicemen and was still, at that early point in the war, tented accommodation, although it appears to be in the grounds of a prominent property - a stately home or castle.
 
 Washing at stand pipes
 
 Issue of the most basic equipment
 
 Tented accommodation
 
New arrivals checking out the location
 



Stanislaw (Still in French uniform) with two RAF friends
26th July 1940

He had not long been in England when he had a quite serious recurrence of his malaria in the form of Blackwater Fever.  This is a nasty complication which basically causes red blood cells to burst and can lead to kidney failure.  He spent some time in hospital and, as part of his convalescence, he was invited to the home of one of his fellow patients in Chopwell, County Durham.  This was a pleasant experience for him and, as he waited for a bus to return to duty, he met a young lady named Margaret Stamp and fell for her instantly.  He had enjoyed his time in Chopwell and now he had a reason to come back!

 

Stan and Margaret in Chopwell, 1940

Once he had returned to duty, Stanislaw set about practising his English, polishing up on his trade and getting down to work learning all the new aspects of his work on British aircraft.  There was a war on and malaria had put paid to his hopes of flying but there was much work still to do.  In the initial stages he was attached to the Polish Depot at Blackpool and the technical training schools at RAF Weeton and RAF Squires Gate, which were all part of the same complex. 


The Barracks at RAF Weeton - not luxurious but heated,

with proper beds and comfortable

Once this was completed, on 12th September 1941, he was posted to 304 Squadron who were then based at RAF Lindholme, Yorkshire.  At that time he would be engaged on maintaining the Wellington Mk 1c bombers which were, at that time, part of Bomber Command and heavily engaged in bombing mainland Europe.

 
Record of his arrival at 304 Squadron
 
On 10th May 1942, by this time in Coastal Command, the Squadron moved to RAF Tiree in the Outer Hebrides where they had to spend very long hours flying over featureless ocean and therefore relied on the ground crew to keep their aircraft in top condition. 
304 Squadron Movement Order to RAF Tiree
 
They were only there for a few weeks until 13th June 1942 when they transferred to RAF Dale in Pembrokeshire, Wales.  The targets were the same, as were the long over-sea flights; only the locations differed.  During their time at RAF Dale, they were also detached to RAF Talbenny, also in Pembrokeshire, for a month but Stanislaw would have missed all or most of that period because of a long and persistent recurrence of his Blackwater Fever.
 
He was admitted to the County Hospital at Haverfordwest on 9th November 1942 and immediately transferred to Pembroke Woodbine hospital which became a small emergency hospital for the armed forces.  After a further seventeen days he was transferred to Scolton Convalescent Hospital where he remained for another eleven days.  He continued to suffer the effects of this illness until well into the 1950s.
 
He continued his service with 304 Squadron and moved with them to RAF Docking, Norfolk on 2nd April 1943.  Shortly afterwards he was sent to No 2 Armament Practice Camp at RAF Thorney Island near Chichester in Sussex but the reason is not clear.  It would probably be on loan to service the electrics on their gun platforms or, more likely, to carry out electrical work necessary to move their equipment to RAF Docking - where it would be part of his job to service that equipment.
 
On 7th June 1943 the Squadron moved to RAF Davidstow Moor in Cornwall where he was responsible for the servicing of the electrics on Wellington Bombers that were patrolling the Bay of Biscay and the Western Approaches to the English Channel and were more likely to be fired upon by shore batteries, naval ships and fighters.  From 14th-28th October he was sent to RAF Angle in Pembrokeshire, presumably on an appropriate training course at the Coastal Command Development Unit.
 
In December 1943 the Squadron moved to RAF Predannack in the far south of Cornwall and in March 1944 to RAF Chivenor in Devon.  Then on 21st September 1944 on to RAF Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides for one of the worst winters on record.  In this place they worked up to twenty hours a day in appalling weather conditions and slept in damp and cramped Nissen huts.  There was a guide rope fixed to the ground to give them anchorage and protection against ferocious winds as they walked up the slope to the hangars.  This information came from the family of Sgt Marian Bogatek who, as a sergeant electrician, was probably Stanislaw's immediate superior.  At this time they were transferred (on paper only) to 8304 Service Echelon.
 
Benbecula in the snow
 
Even skilled men do guard duty!
 
On 24th September 1944, Stanislaw returned to Chopwell and married Margaret Stamp at the Church of the Sacred Heart, Chopwell. Because of the difficulties of spelling and also pronouncing his name he was always just known as Stan Mazur.  In fact his son Michael tells me that he was about ten years old before he knew the rest of his name!
 
The wedding of Stanislaw Mazur vel Butynski and Margaret Stamp
 
 
Press announcement of the wedding
 
Stan and Margaret in civvies
 
In March 1945 the Squadron moved to RAF St Eval in Cornwall where their main duties were to protect the Western Approaches to the English Channel.  This was particularly important since the invasion of Europe was in full swing and the constant flow of men and materials across the Channel had to be protected from U-Boats coming in from the Atlantic.  During his time there he would most probably have worked on the Wellington Bomber piloted by Rudolf Marczak who had the distinction of sinking the U-321, which was the last U-Boat sunk in British coastal waters in the Second World War.
 
The War in Europe ended on 8th May 1945 and Stanislaw was transferred, with what was left of the Squadron to RAF Chedburgh in Suffolk.  This marked the transfer of the whole Squadron to Transport Command.  Their duties from this point included transporting much needed supplies around Europe including freshly minted currency to replace the worthless currency issued by the German Generale Gouvernment and also to ferry released Prisoners home.  It was also a new challenge to the ground crew including Stanislaw.  They now had to maintain Vickers Warwicks and Handley Page Halifaxes.
 
From here they moved to RAF North Weald in Essex on 8th July 1945 until 6th September 1945 on which date they made their final move to RAF Chedburgh in Suffolk.  For Stanislaw this became simply routine maintenance of aircraft that spent a few months flying around Europe then were relegated only to training flights.  This was effectively the end of his service; on 15th January 1947 he visited No 4 Polish Resettlement Unit at RAF East Wretham where he signed up for the two year PRU course.
 
Stan's last meal ticket in the service
in the name of St. Mazur! 
Front and rear views
 
This gave him the security of pay at his current rank plus a place to stay whilst he retrained and improved his English and stayed as a non-active member of the RAF.  He actually only stayed until 19th April 1947.  He did not wish to return to Poland under Russian and/or a puppet Polish Communist government so he decided to settle in his wife's home town of Chopwell in County Durham.
 
Together they opened S & M Mazur, a general dealer's store in the village and kept it for many years until he retired.  The first shop was in Blyth Street shortly after the War but he moved to South Road around about 1960. 
 
S & M Mazur's first shop in Blyth Street, Chopwell
 
He also ran a mobile shop for those in outlying areas  It was then passed on to his daughter who continued to run it for a long time but it is no longer in the family.
 
Stanislaw died on 28th May 1998, in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at Gateshead, at the age of 82.  He was cremated and his ashes were buried in St John's churchyard in Chopwell.
 
By way of an epilogue, what follows is a montage of documents relating to his military service and some photographs of the Air Force equivalent of trench art which he made during his spare time.
 



 
 
 
Stanislaw's genuine military release document
 
 Stanislaw's Official Record
 
Stanislaw's Naturalisation (British Citizenship)
from The London Gazette 17th December 1948
 
Support document for Stan's  naturalisation papers and his
British Nationality
 
 
With thanks to Michael Mazur vel Butynski for all his insights, the use of his personal family archive and his personal comments and advice whilst I have been working on this story