Written by his son, Jan Bartkowiak for Aircrew Remembered
(Continued from the report of his Spitfire EN836 RF-T Loss)
Like so many young Polish teenage youths, Zenon Stephan Teofil Bartkowiak found himself in amost frightening, worrying and uncertain position when on 1 September 1939 Germany invaded HIS
Poland. He had already been accepted into a military ﬂying school to be trained as a pilot but other than for taking a glider course he had not by then acquired sufficient skills to use in the defence of his homeland. The only way he was advised to do so by the authorities was to hurriedly leave to reach a friendly country willing to continue his training so that he could later take up the fight against those who had overrun his birthplace.
The Young Man Polish-man
So he set course on an unknown and circuitous journey to reach France and then England. This entailed internment, several escapes and a hazardous trip across several seas before he could reach France, this he did on his 18"‘ birthday and later arrived in England to join the Royal Air Force.
Despite the fact that he had to pass through several foreign countries whose languages and customshe neither spoke nor understood, they did hasten his early experience to enable him to become ayoung man in a very short time period.
Along with many other young Polish-men with the same aim in life he had to come to terms with the rules and discipline of another country's military arm. This must have been extremely difficult for him to comprehend and assimilate in a short period. He also had to bide his time until an opportunity arose to prove he was worthy of consideration to become a pilot. This took much longer than he had hoped for, but he stuck to his ground crew duties initially assigned to him like a man.
When the opportunity did arise, he soon proved he was capable of becoming a pilot by taking and passing an elementary flying course in England that allowed him to be considered for further training.
The Advanced Student
This involved an advanced course that he undertook as part of the Commonwealth Air Training Plan on a Canadian airﬁeld situated on the vast plains of Saskatchewan. Here almost 3 years after departing from his beloved Poland he achieved his reason for leaving. He proudly returned to England resplendent in his uniform that now possessed his pilot's wings above his breast pocket.
After a spell of flying with battle experienced pilots to gain operational knowledge and technique, he was considered sufficiently qualified to join an operational squadron.
The Squadron Pilot
At last he was in a position to fight and in June 1943 he had been selected to join the second Polish Air Force unit to be formed in England, No 303 Kosciuszko Squadron. This unique Squadron was already famous for its tremendous exploits that lead to its outstanding contribution to the winning of the Battle of Britain. A battle that changed the course of the war.
He regularly flew with this Squadron on operations across France and the Low Countries in preparation for D-Day under an entirely different name for reasons of his own. Unfortunately he was shot down over Northern France shortly before that momentous day.
Introduction - Overview
Chapter 1 - Early years and escape from Poland
Chapter 2 - Zenon joins the RAF
Chapter 3 - A life changing flight
Chapter 4 - In hiding
Chapter 5 - Return to England and his squadron
Chapter 6 - Discharge and marriage
Chapter 7 - Life in France
Early years and his escape from Poland