AR banner
search tips advanced search

Info LogoAdd to or correct this story with a few clicks.
Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.


We seek additional information and photographs. Please contact us via the AddInfo button, or send us email from the Helpdesk.
PAF Roundel
Return to 303 Squadron from France

Chapter 5

Zenon obviously flew from Vitry to Hendon as he arrived the same day that he left France, 4 September 1944. The type of plane used is not recorded, but it is likely that he returned in the ubiquitous Douglas Dakota, probably along with other service personnel some of which might have been wounded as the fighting front was then still close to Vitry. On arrival he was interrogated and his report was circulated widely to include several different intelligence departments, presumably in case they considered that Zenon might be able to help them in their current activities. The fact that he hid for a time alongside of a V1 launch site, etc was of possible interest as well as who he contacted while in hiding.

After a medical examination and possibly receiving a new issue of kit, Zenon travelled to the Polish Air Force unit at Blackpool where no doubt he was given leave. During his spell there he was promoted from Flight Sergeant to Warrant Officer effective from 17 October 1944. He returned to 303 Squadron on 4 November that year.

RAF Coltishall

At this time of the war, 303 Squadron was based at this airfield some 9 miles north of Norwich in Norfolk, not far from the East Anglian coast. It was once again equipped with the Spitfire Mark IXC as it was at RAF Northolt when Zenon joined it in June 1943. His records do not show that he undertook any local familiarisation flights before returning to operations as he had not flown for some 5 months, but no doubt he did so.

By the 30"‘ of November 1944, Zenon was back on operations flying a Ramrod escort, this time to Bottrop just north of Essen in Germany. This would have been a long flight for a Spitfire IXC from Coltishall and return even when fitted with long-range fuel tanks, but perhaps they landed on the way home at one of the recently occupied airfields in Belgium although the flying time of about 2 hours logged did not suggest this. On the first day in December Zenon was airborne in EN182 RF-Y on an armed reconnaissance operation but was recalled after some 45 minutes owing to an adverse weather report. His records show that on 4"‘ December he was on another armed reconnaissance in the area of the Hague and that he was hit by flak but returned safely. Next day he was scrambled on a rescue mission, but no details were given as to what had to be rescued or where. On the 8"‘ of the month he participated again in an armed reconnaissance but met much cloud and flak up to around 8000 ft some of which hit his aircraft but he returned safely. He flew EN 182 again, RF-Y.

On 10"‘ December when returning home from Amsterdam close to the Hague, Zenon and F/Lt Rzyski had cause to land at Ghent that was in Allied hands, because both reported engine and drop tank troubles. They stayed there for the night and returned to Coltishall the next day. Zenon was flying MA683, RF-M on this operation.

January 1945 appeared to be a quiet month as far as Zenon's flying was concerned but in February the Squadron once again changed its aircraft type. This time it was equipped with the Spitfire Mark XVI that was virtually a Mark IX with an American Packard-built Merlin 266 in place of the Rolls- Royce Merlin 66. There were other detail differences and production Marks from this month onwards had cut down rear fuselages with tear drop canopies for better all-round visibility, but it is not known if 303 Squadron received this type. From a piloting viewpoint there was little noticeable difference between the two marks.

Throughout February and March 1945, Zenon was involved mainly in further armed reconnaissance’s in the Hague area in Holland, although occasionally he was part of an escort to Halifaxes, perhaps providing equipment to ground troops by parachute. There was also one anti intruder patrol north of Norwich.

RAF Turnhouse

On 1 December 1945, 303 Squadron was on the move again, this time to RAF Turnhouse about 3.5 km west of Edinburgh, Scotland to what became much later that city's own airport. The Squadron only stayed a month before it was on the move even further north. its reason for being there is not known.

RAF Wick

On 5 January 1946 it found itself on the most northeasterly airfield on the mainland of Scotland, just 700 m northwest of Wick itself. During the 2 months the Squadron was based there it took part in intensive 'Dodgem' training exercises. These consisted of simulated raids by 316 Squadron Mustangs attacking targets at Scapa Flow and Dalcross while 303 and other squadrons become part of the defending force. Zenon’s flying hours while at these Scottish airfields were very low, possibly due to their location and the time of the year when weather conditions were usually foul. However due to complaints from the local authorities about noise and low flying aircraft, 303 had to once again move.

RAF Charterhall

This airfield was about 15 km east of Berwick-on-Tweed and when 303 Squadron arrived on 6 March 1946 the airfield was in the throes of closing down. The Squadron only stayed for a fortnight and was mainly engaged on air to ground gunnery practice. It was said to be the last flying unit based there.

On 23 March it packed its bags once again, but on this occasion it was for the last time.

RAF Hethel

This airfield situated some 5 km southwest of Norwich in Norfolk was built in 1941 and for the whole of its wartime life was used by heavy bombers of the USAAF who had returned home by the end of May 1945. On 23 March 1946 when 303 Squadron arrived it joined 316 Squadron with its Mustang Ills. By October 1946, 302 Squadron arrived flying its Spitfire XV|Es along with 308 and 317 Squadrons with their Spitfire Xv’s. The pilots of all these Squadrons were either Polish or Czechoslovakian and consisted of those who had courageously come to aid the allies eradicate Nazism but with the end of the war found it impossible to return to their homelands then occupied by communist regimes. In hindsight it appears that UK authorities had assembled all these European fighter pilots and their ground crews at one location before deciding their future. Despite the rapid demobilisation of UK and other overseas ‘hostilities only’ airforce personnel there remained far too many pilots and aircraft from which to form a peacetime air force. A decision was therefore made in late 1946 to disband all these Squadrons. During the 9 months that 303 Squadron was there Zenon’s records show he amassed yet another 40 hours flying time.

Left: Zenon and Michel in 1946

On 11 December 1946, 303 Squadron was disbanded. Zenon had flown a total of just a few minutes short of 670 hours with this remarkable Squadron, a not inconceivable record and one he could be proud of. However he like many other of his associates left the Squadron with a very bitter feeling that they had been sold short. Britain and France had given a guarantee on 25 August 1939 that they would come to the aid of Poland if it were attacked yet they took no immediate action and by the end of the war had allowed the USSR to occupy Poland. Zenon was left in a foreign country on his own with no obvious skill other than flying. Life at that point in time must have looked very bleak.

Resettlement

The RAF did however make some attempt by setting up Resettlement Units where various skills were offered as an introduction to civilian life. Zenon’s records suggest that he was listed at a Personnel Record Centre, thought to be called No 5 Resettlement Unit, from 13 December 1946. On 5 June 1947 he moved to RAF Watton, SW of Norwich in Norfolk that was then the Central Signals Establishment. It is not known what he did between these dates, nor what he did at Watton until he moved again to RAF Framlington, west of Saxmundham in Suffolk on 4 November 1948.

No 3 Resettlement Unit was based at Framlington that was believed to be concerned with the demobilisation of Polish Air Force personnel. This was where Zenon officially left the Polish Air Force on 13 December 1948 and stepped into civilian life. There does not appear to be any record of whether Zenon gained any skill or introduction to one during the period from when 303 Squadron was disbanded to the time he became a civilian.

Contents:
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

Discharge and marriage


Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
Click any image to enlarge it
Links in this story were correct at the time of writing, but can change.
Please tell us via Helpdesk of any that no longer work.

Do you have more information or corrections to this story? Use our AddInfo facility

Readers Interested In Further Reading:
More personal histories and associated material
Show Research Material

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon
All site material (except as noted elsewhere) is owned or managed by Aircrew Remembered and should not be used without prior permission.
© Aircrew Remembered 2012 - 2017
Last Modified: 17 March 2015, 14:36

Monitor Additions/Changes?Click to be informed of changes to this page. Create account for first monitor only, thereafter very fast. Click to close without creating monitor