On Sunday 02 nd November cadets from 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron attended the Polish Ex-Combatants Association Remembrance Service at the Baginton Cemetery near Coventry Airport. The Service was being held to remember the valour of the Polish Airman who lost their lives whilst serving with the RAF in the area during the Second World War.
Sgt. Brian Ferris a piper from the band of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and the drummers from the Air Cadet band led the parade of Polish and other ex-service association standards and personnel to the St John the Baptist,Baginton Cemetery for the act of Remembrance which was conducted by Rev. Dr Romuald Szczodrowsdki, leader of the area’s Polish Catholic Community based in Springfield Road, Coventry.
During the service Polish veterans and their families, members of other ex-service associations and the Air Cadets stood side by side in silent vigil at the graves of Polish Airman as the bugler sounded the Last Post and the standards were dipped in salute of those who gave their lives in the service of their country and the defence of Britain.
There are nine graves of Polish airman at Baginton, which was a fighter station during the war. They were all serving with number 308 (Krakow) Squadron at RAF Baginton, between 1940 and 1941.
Flight Lieutenant Paul Hincks of 121 Squadron said, “When you look back at some of the duty logs of the time that 308 Squadron spent at RAF Baginton you start to see some of the dangers that these brave Polish airman faced, not only from enemy action but also from the inherent hazards of flying training”.
Three of the polish airman buried in Baginton Cemetery; Aircraftman 2nd Class, Edward Cebula aged 24, Aircraftman 2nd Class, Josef Jurkowski aged 20 and Aircraftman 1st Class, Franciszek Krzeminski aged 31 all died as a result of enemy action on the 14th November 1940, the night of the air raid that destroyed much of Coventry city centre. They apparently left the relative safety of an air raid shelter to investigate falling parachutes believing them to be parachutists, unfortunately they were in fact parachute retarded landmines which detonated prior to hitting the ground.
Pilot Officer, Ryszard Koczor aged 24 who died on 4 th December 1940 was on a non-operational flight on his way back to RAF Baginton in a Hurricane, when he hit a balloon cable with his port wing. The collision sent his aircraft into a spin from which he managed to recover, unfortunately despite all his efforts he could not prevent a second spin which led to the fatal crash.
Flight Lieutenant, Nikonow Witalis, aged 37, and Pilot Officer, Jerzy Wolski, aged 23 died on a training flight at Kirby Corner near Baginton, 11th January, 1941.
Sergeant, Mieczyslaw Parafwski aged 26. died on 26th February, 1941 when his Hurricane crashed during a training flight at Cottesbroke near Northampton.
Sergeant, Antoni Lesnak and Corporal, Gawlik Pavel both died in a road traffic accident on the 3rd January, 1942. By this time 308 Squadron was no longer stationed at Baginton.
There are also several more Polish airmen buried at Nuneaton’s Oaston Road Cemetery who lost their lives whiles serving with RAF Wellington bomber Squadrons based at RAF Bramcote and RAF Nuneaton.
Flight Lieutenant Paul Hincks went on to say, “The link between Nuneaton based Air Cadets and Polish airmen goes back to 1942 when our cadets regularly visited RAF Bramcote and RAF Nuneaton. It’s so important that we don’t forget the sacrifice made by the Polish airmen who served with the RAF at local airfields during the war and we are delighted to be able to support the Polish Ex-Combatants Association Remembrance Service.”
He added, “Young cadets from all three services will be out on the streets this Saturday collecting for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal and I would urge everyone to dig deep and buy a poppy.
“On Sunday 11th of November the Nuneaton Air Cadet Band will also have the honour of leading the parade of veterans from the Royal British Legion and other ex-service organisations to and from the Nuneaton War Memorial in Riversley Park for the towns Remembrance Service and I would encourage other people to come along and take part in the service”.
“In the past, most people have associated Remembrance Day as a time to remember those who had given their lives during the two World Wars. In recent years the large contingents of World War II veterans attending Remembrance services have been swelled by servicemen and women who served in other more recent conflicts. At a time when thousands of our forces are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Remembrance Day has an even deeper meaning for the Air Cadet Organisation as we pray for the safety of many of our former cadets who are currently serving in the armed forces”.