Dad was lucky not to have been sent to the gulags in Siberia when he was deported from Poland. From Kazakhstan he reached Persia (Iran) in April 1942. He convalesced in Teheran for 2 or 3 months to recuperate and gain strength after two years of starvation rations. Then in British Army lorries he travelled to Palestine and, wanting to become a pilot, he volunteered for the Polish Air Force based in the U.K.
He boarded the Aquitania in Port Said as one of 300 guards for 2000 prisoners from Rommel’s Africa Core. The British thought that the Poles might shoot the Germans so issued them with very old rifles, five rounds each, and only enough rifles for those on duty. At the end of each watch they had to go around a corner and hand the rifle to the next guard. There were however, two machine guns covering the exercise area manned by British sailors. They sailed through the Suez Canal and stopped at Madagascar, Cape Town and Freetown before heading for the U.S.A. In mid Atlantic they found themselves in the middle of a large German fleet spread out on the horizons. Sailing under full power (very uncomfortable with engines throbbing and life jackets on) they zigzagged between the German warships for three days. Dad has no idea how, with four funnels, they were not recognised! Leaving the ship and prisoners in Boston he travelled to New York and waited for embarkation on Manhattan Island. Sailing on to Halifax they waited for a convoy to form and arrived in Liverpool in the autumn of 1942. We pinpointed the timing of this trip because he remembers seeing the three great liners (Aquitania, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth) in New York at the same time. This appears to have been the first few days of September.
While doing his induction for the Polish Air Force it became apparent that Dad was still under 18. This prevented him from training as a pilot, an occupation with a short life expectancy and set in motion a different military career:-
- 316 Squadron where he loaded machine guns and prepared Spitfires for flying.
- RAF school at Halton he learnt English and qualified as an electrical fitter.
- Training at No. 9 Radio School RAF Yatesbury as a RDF (Radio Direction Finding) mechanic.
- Posted to RAF Exminster
- Posted to RAF Hope Cove in February 1945. It had been reduced to a skeleton staff as the war moved eastwards, but it was kept alert to watch for any threat from German planes or submarines. There were no raids and it was a very relaxed posting, almost like a holiday camp. It was here that he met my Mother. In July 1946 he was responsible for closing the station down, padlocking the gate and sending the keys to Group 60 Command.
- Posted to RAF Sandwich he was made a Corporal in charge of two mechanics, and put the station back on air after the operations room had been burnt down.
- Enlisted into the PRC (Polish Resettlement Corps).
- Released from the PRC/RAF to study at Woolwich Polytechnic on 12th July 1947.
To be continued.