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Unveiling stained glass window commemorating 309 (Polish) Squadron.

6 Oct 2022

Unveiling Stained Glass Window commemorating 309 (Polish) Squadron.

The first and only permanent memorial to those airmen and ground crew of 309 (Polish) Squadron was unveiled at Saling Airfield, formerly RAF Andrews Field, on Sunday 25th September.

The commemorative stained-glass window was commissioned by the family of the first Polish Commanding Officer of 309 (Polish) “Ziemia Czerwieńska” Squadron, W Cdr Karol Zygmunt Pistl. The family are his granddaughter Marta Flavin (neé Pistl) her husband Shay Flavin and great-grandsons Matthew and Nicholas Flavin. Of the family, only Marta and Shay came to the UK to unveil the commemorative window.

The memorial stained glass window, representing the squadron emblem, was designed and produced by artist Angi Driver who attended the ceremony.

Also attending the ceremony was Polish Air Force Memorial Committee chairman Richard Kornicki CBE DL, who laid a wreath on behalf of the Committee.

Joe Pietrzak, the grandson of Sqn Ldr Henryk Pietrzak also attended. Sqn Ldr Pietrzak was the last Commanding Officer of 309 Squadron, taking command in July 1945, at RAF Andrews Field and leading the squadron until January 1947 when it was disbanded at RAF Coltishall.

After the ceremony, Spitfire Vc, BM597, flown by Clive Denney landed and taxied onto the apron by the clubhouse to spontaneous applause from the large delighted crowd. This Spitfire is part of the Historic Aircraft Collection based at Duxford and our thanks go to the owner and to Derek Rusling from the Polish Heritage Flight for enabling the aircraft to be brought to Saling Airfield, near Braintree, Essex. This Spitfire served with 315 and 317 Polish Squadrons during 1942 and currently wears the colours of 317 Squadron. While in 315 Squadron, it was flown by Richard Kornicki’s father, General Franciszek Kornicki during 1942. This is probably the first time that a Polish Air Force aircraft landed at Andrews Field since the station closed at the end of 1945.

Thanks also to Mike Rowland, Carol Cooper (the directors of Andrewsfield Aviation Ltd.), and several sponsors who enabled this day to happen.

The research and organisation of the day was by Tad Dippel, Operations at Andrewsfield. All photos courtesy Jason Gore Photography.

Karol Zygmunt Pistl (17 May 1897 – 20 November 1981)

Karol Zygmunt Pistl was born in Przemyśl, Poland. At the age of 10 he was sent to the Austrian Military School in Vienna and from that time it could be said that he had started his military career. He fought with the Austrian army during the First World War on the Italian front and was taken prisoner in November 1918. On release and return to Poland in March 1919 he enlisted in the Polish Army as a Lieutenant. Soon after he was again at war, this time with the Russians until May 1920.

He then transferred to the Polish Air Force, gaining his “wings” in 1926. When the Second World War broke out, he had gained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was deputy commander of the 1st Air Regiment in Warsaw. On 17 September 1939 he was ordered to travel to Romania where he worked in the Polish Embassy in Bucharest. There he organised the transfer of Polish airmen to France. He left Romania in February 1940, travelling to France, where he served in the Polish Aviation Training Centre in Lyon-Bron until the fall of France in June 1940.

He arrived in the UK with the Polish Air Force on 17 July 1940 and went to Renfrew, Scotland, where he assumed the post of Commanding Officer of the newly formed 309 (Polish) Squadron on 20 November 1940 in the RAF rank of Wing Commander. He remained with 309 Squadron until 14 February 1943. He was then posted to the Inspectorate General of the Polish Air Force in London where he served as a liaison officer until November 1945. He remained at the Headquarters until June 1947 when he enlisted into the Polish Resettlement Corps, finally being discharged in June 1949.

He did not return to Poland remaining in London where, for a time, he was president of the London Branch of the Association of Polish Airmen. During this period, he received, in May 1975, the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta. He died on 20 November 1981.

No. 309 (Polish) “Ziemia Czerwieńska” Squadron, Polish Air Force

No 309 (Polish) Squadron was formed on 8 October 1940 at RAF Abbotsnitch, (now Glasgow airport) soon moving to RAF Renfrew. The Squadron was formed as an Army Co-Operation Unit, consisting of both English and Polish personnel. Its first Commanding Officer was W/Cdr N.W.F Mason to be followed by W/Cdr Zygmunt Pistl on 20 November 1940. Polish flying personnel started arriving, mainly from Blackpool, from 12 November 1940. Their experience ranged from 300 – 3,000 hrs and most had not flown for six months to two years. By the end of November two Tiger Moths had arrived and refresher training started for the Polish crews. The initial primary equipment of the squadron was the Westland Lysander III, a two-seater aircraft armed with machine guns and light bomb racks. In the Spring of 1942, after conversion training at RAF Gatwick, the Squadron was redesignated a Fighter Squadron and re-equipped with the Mustang I. Wing Commander Pistl relinquished command of the unit on 14 February 1943 and was replaced by (Acting) Wing Commander Piotrowski. The Squadron had further changes in role and equipment but by September 1944, had become a fully-fledged fighter Squadron. In December 1944, the Squadron received orders to move to RAF Andrews Field from RAF Peterhead and became part of No 133 Wing. The aircraft, Mustang III’s, departed RAF Peterhead on 12 December, but it was not to fully arrive until 17th December due to poor weather. At RAF Andrews Field, the primary role of 309 (Polish) Squadron was daytime bomber escort, flying missions alongside RAF heavy bombers to targets in Europe and into Germany. On one such mission, on 9 April 1945, near Hamburg, Flt/Lts Gorzula and Mencel together with W/O Murkowski destroyed three Me 262s and W/O Murkowski damaging a fourth Me 262.

309 Squadron remained at RAF Andrews Field until 10 August 1945, moving to RAF Coltishall. It stayed there until disbandment on 6 January 1947, one of the last Polish Squadrons remaining operational.

Tadeusz Dippel Operations Andrewsfield.

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