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PAF Stories

Article about: War veteran returns to RAF Kemble Wierzbowski Tadeusz kpt. / F/Lt Pilot 300DB P-1696 Ted Weirzbowski (back row, centre) with his Lancaster crew after returning from a successful raid 1:00pm

  1. #1

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    War veteran returns to RAF Kemble

    Wierzbowski Tadeusz kpt. / F/Lt Pilot 300DB P-1696
    Ted Weirzbowski (back row, centre) with his Lancaster crew after returning from a successful raid

    1:00pm Friday 5th October 2012 in News By Liz Day
    A 92-YEAR-OLD war veteran, who has won nine medals for his outstanding bravery, returned to his former RAF base at Cotswold Airport last week.

    Squadron leader Ted Wierzbowski was born in Poland, but has lived in Ciren cester since he was posted at RAF Kemble in 1963.

    Ted said visiting the airfield brought back many memories, both good and bad. “It reminded me of being in the air traffic control tower when the two of the Red Arrows collided in 1971,” he said.

    The crash took place in mid-air, as a synchronised pair clipped wings during a partially inverted manoeuvre, known as “roulette”. “We lost two pilots in that collision,” he added. “I’ve seen too many accidents in my time.”

    Ted won the Air Force Cross after executing a successful emergency landing at RAF Shawbury, when the pla ne’s engine failed at 14,000 ft. Proud son Michael said: “Dad could have ejected, but he didn’t want to put any of the villages below in danger.”

    Instead, Ted managed to glide the plane, a Venom jet fighter, to safety. “He has always kept a cool head in a crisis,” said Michael. “The ambulance arrived, but dad just stepped out of the plane and went for a late lunch. He had quite a few narrow escapes.”

    Friend Gerald Green said Ted managed to succeed against the odds: “When he arrived in the country, his English wasn’t very good, but they really valued him in the RAF because he was such an excellent pilot.”

    Michael added: “The first thing dad bought was an English dictionary. I don’t know how he managed, because all of the operating manuals for the planes were in English.”

    Ted said he had wanted to become a pilot ever since he was a young child. “I collected model aeroplanes and I used to love flying them,” he said. “My father always encouraged my interest in flying.”

    Ted joined the Polish Air Force in 1938, escaping just before the German invasion the following year. He then joined the Free French Army, before becoming a p ilot in the Polish Squadron of the RAF until 1946.

    After the war, he was offered a commission and continued to fly with the Air Force until the early 1970s. His last posting was at RAF Kemble, where he served as Senior Air Traffic Controller from 1972 until 1976.

    At the age of 92, Ted still lives in Cirencester and is keeping busy. Gerald said: “He was still riding his bike around town at 91 and he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down yet.”

    Airport manager Nick Howard said: “We wanted to recognise Ted’s work because he had such an interesting service record and he has given so much of h imself to his adopted country.”

    He added: “Getting to 92 is quite an achievement when you consider only 50 percent of bombing crew ever came back. To get through all of that and to devote his life to a career in the British Air Force is a really special achievement.”

    Wartime pilot returns to his old air base (From Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard)
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  2. #2

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    Great story. Ted has had an interesting life in the RAF, and aviation in general.
    One of the Heroes who fought for our lifestyle today.........!

    Thank you for posting this, Mariusz


  3. #3

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    I second Walkwolf! Thanks for posting Marius.

  4. #4

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    Second World War pilot returns to Cotswold Airport

    DARING Polish pilot Ted Wier's return to Cotswold Airport was a bitter-sweet experience.

    The 92-year-old was being honoured for his service to the former RAF Kemble, near Cirencester, where he trained as a test pilot in 1948 and then worked as a senior air traffic controller from 1963 to 1966.
    It was while sitting in the control tower all those years ago that he witnessed a horrific crash which claimed the lives of two Red Arrows pilots.

    Squadron Leader Ted Wier, who changed his surname from Wierzbowski, said: "Two pilots were practising a manoeuvre – passing each other from each end of the runway.

    "They came too close and their tails collided."

    Proudly displaying his nine medals, including the Polish Cross of Valour and Air Force Cross, Mr Wier survived his own share of ordeals.

    His son, Mike, also from Cirencester, said: "Dad had quite a few narrow scrapes.

    "His Air Force Cross was for when he was a test pilot and took a Venom up to 14,000ft and it lost all its power.

    "Dad had the opportunity to bale out but glided it in and crash landed at RAF Shawbury, in Lincolnshire.

    "When he left the plane he told me he went and got a 'late lunch' and the bits that were broken – in the high pressure pump – were bought to him."

    Sqd Ldr Wier joined the Polish Air Force in 1938 and escaped to France after the start of the war.

    With the bombing of his flying school halting operations, he followed his instructor in a trainer plane to the Romanian border.

    "I only had my uniform and a rifle," he said. "I surrendered the weapon and became a detainee, joining other escaped Poles.

    "We were smuggled to Syria and then taken by boat to France, to another camp."

    The young serviceman joined the French Air Force in 1940 but following the country's collapse finally found himself on a boat bound for Liverpool.

    In June 1940 he joined the RAF Polish Squadron, instructing pilots, and also signed up for 300 Bomber Squadron in Lincolnshire. In 1948 he was commissioned to the RAF.

    He stopped flying in 1960 having piloted over 40 different aircraft including Canberras and Lancaster bombers.

    Giving the war hero a tour of today's control tower and lunch, Cotswold Airport manager Nick Howard said: "We thought it was relevant to honour Ted because he had such an interesting service record in and after the war.

    "Today is for the amount Ted has given to his adopted country."

    Second World War pilot returns to Cotswold Airport | This is Gloucestershire
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  5. #5

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    Tango lotnika - Airman`s tango
    Tango lotnika - Airman`s tango - YouTube


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    BATTLE OF BRITAIN: 501 squadron beats the nazis back - YouTube

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    Polish pilots in France - 1940 - Polscy piloci we Francji - YouTube

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    Poland`s air forces in Britain - 1940 - Polskie si

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    George VI visits Canadian and Polish pilots - Jerzy VI odwiedza Kanadyjskich i Polskich pilotów - YouTube

    Polish airmen in England - 1940 - Polscy lotnicy w Anglii
    Polish airmen in England - 1940 - Polscy lotnicy w Anglii - YouTube

  6. #6

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    Sqdn Leader Jurek Mencel, Polish war hero and longtime Wilmslow resident, died last week.

    His funeral is to be held on Wednesday, 12th September, 10 am at St Benedict's Catholic Church on Hall Road, Handforth.

    He fought with the French Air Force, joining the RAF after the fall of France. He won the DFC and the Air Force Medal and bars, flying Spitfires and Mustangs.

    Over Hamburg in 1945 he had the distinction of shooting down a Messerschmidt 262 jet fighter, a rare and talented accomplishment. After the war he became an executive with ICI, turning round their Greek operation.

    He was a gentleman of great charm, and was lionised in his native Poland after the collapse of communism, with a street named after him and his father in their home town. He deserves our recognition and thanks.

    This is a member post by Peter Stubbs.

    Farewell to a war hero -
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  7. #7

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    Josef Jeka was a Polish airman who came to Britain when Poland was overrun by Nazis

    IT was Winston Churchill who famously said on August 20, 1940: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

    When our formidable wartime prime minister uttered those words of gratitude to British and other Allied fighter pilots he of course had no idea that their greatest test lay just days ahead.

    On September 15 of that year – 72 years ago today – with Nazi Germany on Britain’s doorstep, Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe’s largest and most concentrated attack on London, aimed at effectively wiping out the RAF.

    Some 1,500 enemy aircraft were involved and the battles in the skies lasted from morning until dusk. In the climax of the Battle of Britain, Fighter Command stood firm and eventually saw off the German raiders.

    Today, on Battle of Britain Day, it is appropriate to recall the courage of The Few, the fighter pilots who confronted and ultimately defeated the Luftwaffe, thereby halting Hitler’s plans to overrun Britain in his quest for world domination.

    On Battle of Britain Day the exploits of three pilots who helped save our island from Nazi invasion are remembered in a new book and Channel 5 series

    My latest book on gallantry, Heroes Of The Skies, was published earlier this week and it contains many accounts of the astonishing bravery of our pilots and aircrew over the past century. My research for the book enabled me to appreciate the courage of these airmen to a greater extent than I had before.

    The following are just three of the stories of Battle of Britain fighter pilots who appear in my new book – and who truly deserve to be labelled as Heroes of the Skies for their fortitude on, before and after September 15, 1940.


    James “Ginger” Lacey was quite simply one of the greatest fighter aces of the Second World War, including being the second highest scoring British fighter pilot of the Battle of Britain.

    By the end of the war he was credited with 28 enemy aircraft destroyed, five “probables” and nine damaged. A talented pilot, brilliant marksman and an authoritative leader he was also understated and proud of his modest roots.

    By September 1940, Lacey – born in Wetherby, Yorkshire – had already been awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal. Announced on August 23, 1940, the decoration acknowledged his six “kills” and praised his “great determination and coolness in combat”.

    Yet the pressure of flying in combat up to eight times a day was understandably getting to him: every time he heard the order to scramble, he ran to the back of the dispersal hut and threw up.

    On September 15, 1940 Lacey was attacked head-on by 12 Messerschmitt Me 109s. He dived under them, pulling up sharply in a loop, and attacked the tail-end enemy aircraft while still upside down. His attack was successful and he saw the aircraft dive vertically in flames.

    His attack on a second Me 109 produced a white stream of glycol (engine coolant) before making good his escape. At 7pm the same day he flew against the Luftwaffe’s third wave of the day and, just an hour later, he shot down a Me 109 and a Heinkel He 111. In his log book he wrote of the second attack: “Certainly fooled this one!”

    On November 26, 1940, Lacey was awarded a long overdue Bar to his DFM. His citation credited him with 19 “kills” and praised his “consistent efficiency and great courage”. The incomparable “Ginger” Lacey survived the war and died on May 30, 1989, aged 72.


    Jozef Jeka, from Tupaldy in Poland, enlisted in the Polish Air Force aged 20 in 1937. After the German invasion of his homeland he escaped through Europe to Britain arriving in early 1940. After completing his training he flew Hurricanes and joined 228 Squadron at RAF St Eval, Cornwall, on August 31, 1940.

    On September 15, 1940 Jeka had his first combat when he shot down a Me 110 fighter before damaging a second one.

    Further successes soon followed: Jeka shot down two He 111 bombers on September 26 and he destroyed a Junkers Ju 88 on October 7.

    However on November 5 Jeka was shot down by Me 109s and baled out over Wimborne, Dorset. He suffered serious injuries and was taken to the Army Hospital in Shaftesbury.

    He made a good recovery and by February 1941 he joined 306 (Polish) Squadron at RAF Ternhill, Shropshire, where he began flying Spitfires. After being commissioned in November 1941 he became an instructor.

    His DFM was announced on February 19, 1942, after the recommendation for his award credited him with destroying five enemy aircraft, probably destroying two more and sharing in the destruction of another. The recommendation for his award also stated: “At all times he has shown the greatest courage and determination to inflict losses on the enemy.”

    Jeka survived the war and was later recruited by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) which, because he was a brilliant pilot and a stateless citizen, considered him perfect material for its various secret missions. On April 13, 1958, while on a secret mission in Indonesia, Jeka’s aircraft inexplicably crashed into trees shortly after take-off. He was killed aged 41.


    George Gribble was one of the most dashing and charming Battle of Britain pilots as well as one of the bravest. Gribble, born in north London, flew his first offensive patrol to Ostend with 54 Squadron on May 16, 1940.

    The previous evening, in an operational briefing delivered to the pilots, Al Deere, the legendary New Zealand fighter pilot, had scanned the audience and he later recalled: “The central figure was as always Pilot Officer George Gribble. Very English, very good looking and bubbling over with the enthusiasm of his 20 years, he epitomised the product of the public school; young yet mature, carefree yet serious when the situation required and above all possessing a courageous gaiety which he was later to display in abundance.”

    Gribble’s DFC was announced on August 13, 1940, after he had destroyed three Me 109s and damaged many others, adding: “Pilot Officer Gribble has led his section and recently his flight in a courageous and determined manner…”

    Many more daring actions followed and by early November 1941 Gribble’s score stood at six and one shared destroyed, two unconfirmed destroyed, two “probables” and at least nine damaged.

    On June 4, 1941, Gribble was seen leading his section against two Me 109s when his Spitfire was suddenly “bounced” by further enemy fighters. Gribble was heard to say over his radio: “Engine cut, baling out.”

    Despite a sea-search for him, Gribble was missing, presumed dead, two weeks before his 22nd birthday.

    In a letter to his mother the squadron’s CO wrote: “George was an exceptional pilot and leader and also a very keen officer. He was also very entertaining in the mess and most loved by all of us. The whole squadron will miss a very gallant and brave gentleman for a very long time to come…”

    It was Sir Walter Raleigh, the official historian of the RAF (rather than his namesake, the Elizabethan courtier), who said: “The engine is the heart of an aeroplane but the pilot is its soul.” Raleigh and others captured a wonderfully romantic image of flying.

    I have long been fascinated by a special human trait – bravery – that can also conjure up great images of derring-do.

    So when flying and courage combine – as they repeatedly did in the skies above Britain in the summer and autumn of 1940 (and indeed as they do in abundance in my new book) – it makes for a heady mix.

    By the end of October 1940 the Battle of Britain was won and although the Second World War lasted for another five years it was the British, Commonwealth and other Allied fighter pilots who had changed the course of the conflict.

    Today, on Battle of Britain Day, we should all pause to remember the raw bravery of pilots such as “Ginger” Lacey, Jozef Jeka and George Gribble.

    Gribble and many like him sacrificed their lives for their country, their sovereign, their comrades and for wider freedoms.

    That sacrifice must never be forgotten.

    • Heroes Of The Skies by Michael Ashcroft is published in hardback by Headline and costs £20 (RRP). It is available from all good bookshops or visit: Low Prices in Electronics, Books, Sports Equipment & more.

    All the author’s royalties are being donated to the RAF Benevolent Fund, the custodian of the new Bomber Command Memorial.

    - To order a copy of the book Heroes Of The Skies by Michael Ashcroft (Headline) at £20 please send a cheque or PO made payable to “Express Bookshop” to “Ashcroft Offer”, PO Box 200 Falmouth TR11 4WJ or tel * 0871 988 8367 (calls cost 10p per minute
    from UK landlines) or online at UK Delivery is free

    Heroes Of The Skies, Thursday September 20, 8pm, Channel 5

    My heroes of the air | Express Yourself | - Home of the Daily and Sunday Express
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  8. #8

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    Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage has commissioned a short film of Tad Wier, formerly Tadeusz Wierzbowski, who was a pilot and 'B' Flight Commander of 300 sqn at Faldingworth.
    In 1939, Tad Wier, then Tadeusz Wierzbowski, left Poland at the time of the German invasion of Poland, his homeland. Having made his way to the UK, Tad joined the Royal Air Force initially training new aircrew and then in 1945 he served with 300 Squadron, an all Polish Bomber Squadron based at RAF Faldingworth in Lincolnshire. In this film Tad shares memories of that time.

    Link to the film Tadeusz - A Polish Bomber Command Veteran's Story on Vimeo

    Link to Tad's biography at Tadeusz Wierzbowski
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  9. #9

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    Thanks for sharing Mariusz

    This is PAF clipping from 1943 HMG war cabinet report...nothing short of heroic!

    Click image for larger version. 

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    I collect, therefore I am.

    Nothing in science can explain how consciousness arose from matter.

  10. #10

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    Well done on the article for Tadeusz Wierzbowski (Changed his Surname to Weir in 1950), I just thought that you might also like to know that he was awarded the British A.F.C. (Air Force Cross) on the 1st January 1955 and was presented it at Buckingham Palace by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

    Keep up the good work.

    Best wishes


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