Polish and British Prime Ministers visit Polish Air Force Memorial
The Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło flew into RAF Northolt on Monday 28th November to meet the UK Prime Minister Theresa May for the first British and Polish intergovernmental consultations.
Prior to travelling to 10 Downing Street both Prime Ministers laid wreaths at the Polish Air Force Memorial at Northolt to commemorate the Polish airmen killed during the Second World War. They also had the opportunity to meet some veterans and descendants who were invited to the subsequent reception at 10 Downing Street.
“Thank you that we could jointly lay flowers at the monument commemorating the heroic Polish airmen who died during the Second World War, fighting for the freedom of the UK, but also for the freedom of Europe, all of us. Thank you that we could also talk to veterans who were there for us to meet,” said Beata Szydło.
Photos in the slide show can be viewed by clicking the image then the arrows. Photos copyright Fot. P.Tracz/KPRM and Robert Zapalski Polish Embassy.
All Souls' Ceremony in remembrance of the Polish Airmen who gave their lives in WW2
The annual All Souls’ Ceremony was held at the British Commonwealth and Polish War Graves Cemetery, London Road, Newark, on Sunday 30th October.
The very large gathering of guests and Standard Bearers assembled at the Thoresby Avenue entrance for the procession to the Polish War Graves Cemetery. Wreaths were laid by representatives of the Polish government, local authorities, the Polish Air Force, the Royal Air Force and veterans and their descendants, and by many Polish organisations. The Polish Scouting Movements had cleaned the graves - around 400 - and lit candles on each of them.
The service was followed by light refreshments at Newark Town Hall, Market Place, courtesy of the Town Mayor, Councillor Dean Hyde.
The Friends of Newark Cemetery opened the cemetery’s Chapel Interpretation Centre with its General Sikorski
A 35 minute amateur video of the Ceremony, made by Mariusz Błaszczyk, can be viewed by clicking this link.
Memorial to F/Lt Stanisław Roman Madej and F/O Józef Stanisław Gąsecki 307 Polish Squadron
A memorial to 307 Polish Squadron pilot, F/Lt Stanisław Roman Madej and navigator F/O Józef Stanisław Gąsecki, was unveiled at a dedication service on Saturday 17th September, at Home Farm, Withcall, near Louth, Lincolnshire, by the landowner Henry Smith.
F/Lt Stanisław Roman Madej and F/O Józef Stanisław Gąsecki, were killed on 18 September 1944 when their Mosquito HK194 EW-L was involved in a mid air collision with another 307 Squadron Mosquito HK228, piloted by F/Lt William Griffiths with navigator F/Lt George Lane. One of the engines of the British crew's plane caught fire and they were forced to crash land in a field near Sturgate. They were injured but managed to escape from the aircraft before it exploded.
The two Mosquitos were in a flight of six from 307 Squadron returning to RAF Church Fenton from Norfolk, having taken part in Operation Market Garden the previous night. F/Lt Stanisław Madej and F/O Józef Gąsecki were buried in Newark Cemetery.
In 1946 the Smith family purchased Home Farm, which is now owned by son Henry Smith. He has always known of the crash on the farm and has researched both crewmembers. Many years ago he arranged for two trees to be planted by the side of the field where the Mosquito crashed, in memory of F/Lt Stanisław Madej and F/O Józef Gąsecki.
However, Henry Smith always felt there should be a permanent memorial and made it a life's ambition to have a stone memorial on the edge of the field. Now 72 years after the crash Henry Smith has achieved his ambition and has paid for a memorial to be erected, in between the two trees, next to the field where the Mosquito HK194 EW-L crashed in 1944. The memorial is a fitting tribute to the two young Polish airmen, which exists due to one man, Henry Smith.
A large congregation from the local village of Withcall, together with Henry Smith's family, including eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, were present at the ceremony, despite poor weather. Also present were the 307 Squadron Project team who travelled from Exeter especially for the dedication service. (The 307 Squadron Project is a British-Polish organisation established to promote and research the role of 307 Sqn. See the Archive page for more information)
The local priest blessed the new memorial and gave a dedication at the crash site. The service continued in Withcall church, also located on Henry Smith's farm. The service concluded with a very moving recital by Polish soprano Paulina Hlawiczka.
Photos in the slide show can be viewed by clicking the image then the arrows.
Northolt Commemoration Ceremony
The annual and 56th Ceremony of Homage to Fallen Polish Airmen during World War II was held at the Polish Air Force Memorial at Northolt on Saturday 3rd September.
The Ceremony started with a Trumpeter from the RAF Central Band sounding the Assembly prior to the Parade of nine Standards led by the replica Polish Air Force Wilno Standard.
Polish Air Force Memorial Committee Chairman Richard Kornicki CBE DL, then followed with his introductory speech, welcoming the new Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, Mr Arkady Rzegocki and Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall Sir Stephen Hillier KCB CBE DFC, both attending the Commemoration for the first time.
In his opening address to the large assembly, gathered inside and outside the Memorial boundary fence, Richard Kornicki said that although this was a Polish commemoration it was also shared with many in Britain who wanted to mark the achievements and sacrifices of the Polish Air Force in the West. He added that there are around 2,000 names of Polish Airmen engraved on the walls behind the Memorial who fought and died Za naszą i waszą wolność – for your freedom and ours.
His address was followed by the Polish Roll-Call of the Fallen, carried out by the Officer Cadets of the Polish Air Force Academy, Dęblin; Prayers; the Last Post and a minute’s silence ended by Reveille. Invited dignitaries, representing national and local government, various organisations and associations laid wreaths on the Memorial, followed by veterans or descendants of the Polish Squadrons and Units commemorated on the Memorial. The hour-long ceremony ended with the Polish and UK national anthems. Unfortunately the flypast of a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was cancelled due to bad weather at its base at RAF Coningsby.
The Mayor of the London Borough of Hillingdon, Councillor John Hensley, then addressed the gathering to advise that the Memorial Garden, adjacent to the Polish Air Force Memorial at Northolt, had been granted Department for Communities and Local Government Green Flag status, which recognises the very best green spaces in the UK. The London Borough of Hillingdon, in partnership with the Polish Embassy, generously created the Memorial Garden, which was officially opened on Saturday 5th September 2015.
Following the Ceremony around 250 guests transferred to RAF Northolt for a reception and buffet in the Station’s Sword and Wheel Club, while being entertained by Polish dancers. The Station Commander, Group Captain David Manning and the Acting Republic of Poland Defence Attaché, Lt Col Dorota Kawecka, awarded PAFMC Commendations to people who, with no personal connections with Poland, have made an exceptional contribution to preserving the memory of Polish Airmen.
The Memorial programme, speeches and commendations can be viewed by clicking the relevant icons below. Photos in the slide show can be viewed by clicking the image then the arrows. Photos Crown copyright. An amateur video of the Ceremony, made by Andrzej Wzrołek, can be viewed by clicking this link.
Programme Speech Commendations Mayor's Speech
Next year's ceremony will take place on Saturday 2rd September, 2017 at 12.00.
Hero’s send off at RAF Northolt for Polish WW2 Fighter Ace
The ashes of Captain Kazimierz Sporny, fighter pilot of the famous Polish 303 and 302 Squadrons, were repatriated to Poland during a military ceremony at the Royal Air Force base in Northolt.
The Polish Air Force pilot, who fought in the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain in the Second World War, with five confirmed kills against his name, will rest at the military cemetery in his home town of Poznań.
Captain Sporny received Poland's military decoration for heroism and courage, the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. Sporny passed away on 17 May 1949 in Twyford Abbey after battling with cancer, and was buried at London’s St. Mary cemetery. However, his resting place was identified only 12 years ago, and the initiative to return his ashes to homeland was undertaken in June 2016.
In the morning of 25 August, a Polish Air Force CASA aircraft arrived at RAF Northolt to repatriate Captain Sporny’s ashes. They were escorted by a military Guard of Honour from the Queen’s Colour Squadron and the Polish Air Force, clergy, representatives from the Polish and British authorities and family members. Sporny’s burial with honours will take place in Poznań, just a few months after the 100th anniversary of his birthday.
Captain’s Sporny’s nephew Zygmunt Sporny said: “He fought for our freedom and yours. Thanks to the sacrifice and contribution made by Polish pilots like him, Britain never fell to the German invasion. Today, we take him back home, to be buried under the Polish sky, in Poznań his final wish. I am extremely happy and thankful to everyone who was involved in this initiative.”
RAF Northolt Station Commander Group Captain David Manning said: “It is a great privilege for us to be involved in the return of Captain Sporny to his homeland, and it is a great honour to look after the history and memory of the Polish contribution to the Battle of Britain and the Second World War. For me Northolt represents the spiritual home of the Polish Air Force during the Battle of Britain. Poles fought side by side with the Canadians and the British, and that sort of close support and camaraderie, which existed then, still exists now. It is very special that Captain Sporny, a legend of the Polish Air Force, is repatriated from Northolt, which is the final Battle of Britain station that is still operational today.”
Story: Sqn/Ldr James Tenniswood.
Photos in the slide show can be viewed by clicking the image then the arrows. All photos Crown Copyright.
303 Squadron Feast Day
Three descendants of a member of 303 Polish Kościuszko Squadron marked the 76th anniversary of the Squadron’s Feast Day (Święto) “in perpetuity” on the 1st September. A resolution had been made by the officers, warrant officers and other ranks on Christmas Eve 1940 that honour would be paid to those of the Squadron, who in the fight for Poland's freedom had fallen on English soil, by laying flowers on their graves.
The two sons and daughter of Władysław Burdziejow, an electrician in 303 Kościuszko Squadron's ground crew from 1 August 1940, laid red and white carnations on the 303 Sqn graves at Northwood cemetery on 1st September. There are 43 graves of Polish Airmen in the military section of the cemetery. Photographs can be viewed by clicking the icon.
RAF Northolt Station Commander Group Captain David Manning, and Polish Air Force Memorial Committee Chairman Richard Kornicki, laid wreaths on behalf of the Station and the Committee at the graves of those who took part in the Great Escape in March 1944 and were murdered on Hitler's orders after re-capture. The graves are in the Garrison cemetery at Poznań, which was recently visited for the annual Polish Air Force Day, which was held on 26th - 27th August.
Photos in the slide show can be viewed by clicking the image then the arrows.
Northolt Commemoration Ceremony
Places for the 56th Polish Air Force Memorial Committee Reunion lunch at RAF Northolt, after the ceremony at the Polish Air Force Memorial on 3rd September, are limited. Closing date for application for tickets is 30th July.
The booking form is available at this link.
Details of the Polish Air Force Memorial ceremony are available on the Events page above.
Memorial to pilot Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz 303 Polish Kościuszko Squadron.
A replacement memorial to 303 (Polish) Tadeusz Kościuszko City of Warsaw Squadron pilot, Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz, was unveiled at a dedication service on the anniversary of his birth, Sunday 19th June, at Squerryes Estate, near Westerham, Kent, with the very kind permission of the landowner Henry Warde.
A congregation of around 40 gathered in the summer sunshine on Hogtrough Hill to honour the memory of Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz, who paid the ultimate sacrifice in fighting for freedom. Relatives of Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz came from Poland especially for the service, joining other family members living in the UK, descendants of 303 Sqn and other interested parties.
The memorial is very close to the site where Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz’s Hurricane V7242, RF-B crashed at Hogtrough Hill. He was killed during the Battle of Britain on the 11th September 1940 while in a lone combat with six
Messerschmitt Bf109s. He destroyed one, and another probable, before he was shot down.
The original bronze memorial plaque was erected near the crash site on 11th September 2010, exactly 70 years after his death. This was arranged at the expense of Nina Britton Boyle who, with no Polish connections, has been researching 303 Sqn for the past 30 years, tending graves, creating memorials to Polish airmen and contacting relatives in Poland. Sadly the plaque was stolen and Nina replaced it, again at her own expense. This was also stolen. The Polish Air Force Memorial Committee presented Nina with a Certificate of Commendation in 2014 for her dedication.
The current replacement stone memorial, set in concrete, has been funded by descendants and friends of 303 Sqn. The new memorial, and the dedication service, were jointly arranged by Louise Pemberton, a daughter of Wing Commander Ronald G Kellett DSO DFC VM AE, the British Commanding Officer of 303 Sqn, when it was formed during the Battle of Britain, John Kaye, the son of 308 Sqn pilot F/Lt Jan Kurowski and Polish Air Force historian Piotr Sikora.
The service started with the presentation of the replica Polish Air Force Wilno Standard by 2427 (Biggin Hill) Squadron ATC, led by F/O Rob Smith RAFVR (T). John Kaye followed with a welcome and detailed address about Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz and the Polish Air Force in Poland and Great Britain during the war.
Nina Britton Boyle then read a moving letter on behalf of Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz’s sister Matylda, who lives in Poland. The letter is available in full at this link.
This was followed by a poem Impressions of a Pilot, by Gary Claud Stoker and read by Mike Render, Trustee of the Biggin Hill St Georges Chapel of Remembrance, available in the Order of Service at this link.
Squerryes Estate landowner Henry Warde then read the Act of Remembrance followed by The Last Post by Cadet Flt/Sgt Will Green, a minute’s silence and The Reveille.
The memorial was unveiled by Nina Britton Boyle and Sgt Stefan Wojtowicz’s great niece Beata Poldolska and flowers laid by the family and other members of the congregation, including a wreath on behalf of the Polish Air Force Memorial Committee by its chairman, Richard Kornicki. The memorial was then blessed by Father Ivan Aquilina from St John the Baptist Catholic Church, serving Westerham, Brasted, Sundridge and Ide Hill.
The service concluded with the Polish national anthem and closing words of thanks by John Kaye, followed by the march off of the Wilno standard and a visit to the nearby crash site.
Photos can be viewed in the slide show by clicking the image then the arrows.
Dedication Ceremony, Bradfield Green War Memorial.
Representatives of national governments, local dignitaries and residents came together on Saturday 4th June to honour, among others, six Polish aircrew who sacrificed their lives in the early part of World War 2.
The re-dedication of the War Memorial took place in the small Cheshire village of Bradfield Green, near Crewe and was the culmination of an 18 month project which saw the names of 22 fallen airmen, including the six Poles, inscribed on two green slate plaques and added to the existing war memorial. A local historian, Steve Bratt, has been responsible for much of the work and research behind the project and was present at the ceremony.
The Polish airmen were all crew members of Wellington bomber R1298, from 18 Operational Training Unit, RAF Bramcote and the story of their loss is a particularly tragic one. In the haste to train badly needed aircrew to operational standard, communication and planning sometimes suffered. Apparently maps showing the location of barrage balloons at local strategic sites had not been issued to all RAF units. The aircraft was on a training flight on 4th February 1941 in bad weather when it flew into a balloon cable attached to one of the barrage balloons defending the Rolls Royce works at Crewe. The collision caused the aircraft to stray off course and into the path of an anti-aircraft battery, which six weeks previously had failed to open fire on a German hit and run bomber attacking the Rolls Royce works. Consequently, the gunners opened fire on any aircraft that approached without warning, and they duly fired upon the Wellington. The stricken aircraft came down near to Bourne’s Farm at Minshull Vernon and burst into flames. All on board perished and two local police constables, Ernest Pocock and Frank Wiggins, were later awarded the British Empire Medal for attempting to rescue the airmen from the burning wreckage.
The Polish airmen were:
F/O Andrzej Minkiewicz age 33
Sgt Ludwik Jachna age 21
Sgt Jan P Orynek age 26
Sgt Zbigniew J Perkowski age 26
Sgt Stefan J Wojciechowski age 25
Sgt Henryk R Kwiatkowski age 21
The airmen were buried at Oaston Road Cemetery, Nuneaton in a service conducted by a Polish Chaplain.
The re-dedication was attended by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, Dennis Dunn JP; the Consul General of the Polish Government in Manchester Lukasz Lutostanski; The Lord Mayor of Cheshire East, Cllr Olivia Hunter and the Air Attaché from the Australian High Commission in London, Gp Capt Paul Nicholas.
At the Community Centre in Minshull Vernon, guests were welcomed by Chairman of the Parish Council Leslie Horne and then taken by coach on the short journey to Bradfield Green to assemble by the War Memorial.
There, a service took place conducted by the RAF Chaplain The Reverend Wing Commander Alastair Bissell. Unfortunately the planned flypast of a BBMF Hurricane failed to take place, possibly due to low cloud conditions.
The newly inscribed memorial plaques were unveiled by Steve Bratt and Gp Capt Nicholas. The Act of Remembrance then took place followed by the reading of the Roll of Honour and two minutes’ silence.
Wreaths were then laid and the service concluded with the Kohima Epitaph, after which guests were able to return to the Community Centre at Minshull Vernon for a buffet lunch prior to returning home.
It was a very moving and memorable day. I had the opportunity to speak with many interesting people, including Patryzia and Iwona Rek, the granddaughter and great granddaughter of Sgt Ludwik Jachna who said that they were delighted that the sacrifice of their loved ones continues to be remembered so long after the cessation of hostilities.
This re-dedication was a fitting tribute to fallen Polish airmen and also a tribute to the dedication and hard work of the local community who continue to remember. It was a privilege to have represented the PAFMC on such an occasion.
Photos of Bradfield Green can be viewed in the slide show by clicking the image then the arrows.
Change to headstone of 303 Polish Kościuszko Squadron pilot Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has agreed to correct the inscription on the grave headstone of 303 (Polish) Tadeusz Kościuszko City of Warsaw Squadron pilot Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz at Northwood Cemetery. Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz was born on 19 June 1919 and the incorrect age of 24 years will be amended to 21 years. This follows a submission to the CWGC of an official Polish Air Force document provided by the APC Polish Enquiries office at RAF Northolt. The CWGC is unable to provide a date for the amendment, but has confirmed it will be added to the CWGC’s extensive works schedule.
Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz was killed on the 11th September 1940 while in a lone combat with a number of Messerschmitt Bf109s. He destroyed one and one probable before he was shot down in his Hurricane V7242, RF-B and crashing at Hogtrough Hill, near Westerham, Kent.
On 11th September 2010, exactly 70 years after his death, a bronze memorial plaque was erected near the crash site. This was arranged at the expense of Nina Britton-Boyle who, with no Polish connections, has been researching 303Sqn for many years, tending graves, creating memorials to Polish Airmen and contacting relatives in Poland. The Polish Air Force Memorial Committee presented Nina Britton-Boyle with a Certificate of Commendation in 2014. Sadly the bronze plaque was stolen and Nina Britton-Boyle replaced it, again at her own expense, but this was also stolen.
A further replacement stone memorial, set in concrete, has been funded by some descendants of 303Sqn members and other interested parties. Arrangements are currently being finalised for a small event to dedicate the replacement memorial in the afternoon of Sunday 19th June at Squerryes Estate, near Westerham, Kent, by the kind permission of the landowner Henry Warde.