Warwickshire based Polish airmen who lost their lives while serving with the RAF during the Second World War have been remembered.
On Sunday 1st November, members of the Polish community were joined by representatives of local Ex-service Associations and the Royal Air Force Air Cadets from 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron for a Remembrance Service at the St John the Baptist Cemetery, Baginton near Coventry Airport. The Service was 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.
The service was conducted by the Rev Romuald Szczodrowsdki, leader of the area's Polish Catholic Community who is based in Spingfield Road, Coventry
During the service Polish veterans and their families, members of other ex-service associations and the Air Cadets from 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron stood side by side in silent vigil at the graves of the Polish Airman as 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 which flew both Spitfires and Hurricanes from RAF Baginton, (now Coventry Airport) 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 4th 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.
Flight Lieutenant Paul Hincks, Officer Commanding 121 (Nuneaton) Squadron said, “The link between Nuneaton based Air Cadets and Polish airmen goes back to 1942 when our cadets regularly visited RAF Bramcote and RAF Nuneaton. In fact we have now managed to resurrect the annual Battle of Britain Day service in Nuneaton to remember the many Polish, German and Commonwealth servicemen who are buried in the Oaston Road Cemetery and hope we will be able to count on the continued support of the ex-service and Polish community for this event which will take place on Battle of Britain Sunday in September 2016”.
He added, “We are always delighted to be able to attend the Polish Ex-Combatants Association Remembrance Service and this year the sun really came out for the largest number of people I have ever known to attend the service. It's so important that we don't forget the ultimate sacrifice made by so many fallen Polish airmen who served with the RAF at our local airfields during the war”.
More photographs from the 2015 Polish Ex-Combatants Association Remembrance Service