Kazimierz Bursztyn was born on January Ist, 1910 at Myslenice near Kraków in Poland. He became a flying instructor at the Flying School in Grudziadz and later in Ulez. In September, during the war between Poland and Germany he fought within the Dęblin fighter aircraft group. On September 19th, 1939, he was captured by the Soviet army but he managed to escape a few days later.
Using methods devised by the Polish authorities and others, details of which are hard to ascertain with certainty, the Poles managed to avoid being handed over by the Romanians to the Russians, or being permanently interned in Romania, and made their way to France, mainly by boats chartered by the Poles, and possibly by the French and British.
Polish forces were determined to a man to carry on the war against Germany and Bursztyn duly arrived in France via Romania along with several thousand members of the Polish Air Force probably in late 1939.
He was trained to fly Morane Saulnier 406 fighter aircraft, and became a flight leader of a patrol or a formation within III/1 fighter group.
Morane Saulnier 406 in French/Polish livery
After a stay in hospital, in May 1940 he joined his squadron in III/1 fighter group based in Plessis-Belleville.
After a mission during the morning of May 25th during which no enemy aircraft was encountered, III/1 fighter group resumed their mission in the afternoon to escort and protect a Potez 63 reconnaissance aircraft on a reconnaissance aerial mission to investigate the progress being made by invading German troops, flying over an area ranging from Arras to l'Ilse Adam via Condé-Valenciennes-St Quentin-Noyon (about 180km).
The Potez was protected by a formation comprising two 3-man patrols of Morane Saulnier MS 406, one flying top cover, the other close support.
Polish pilots in France 1940
Kazimierz Bursztyn was the leader of the top cover patrol in fighter 1047. At 15:10 the patrol was attacked over Bapaume by a formation of about 10 Messerschmitt Me 109s and Me 110s. The Group's French adjutant Gagnaire shot down 3 enemy aircraft but Bursztyn was mortally wounded and his aircraft spun out of control and on fire and crashed blazing in the Moyenneville sector in a place called La Plaine d'Ayette.
Bursztyn died in his aircraft, aged 30. His half-burnt body was found among the fragments of his aircraft and his identity badge bore just the one word : Mathilde.
Bursztyn's burned out wreckage
In 1951, he was exhumed from the village graveyard of Moyenneville and buried in the national cemetery of La Targette at Neuville St Vaast (Pas de Calais) in the 39/45 military precinct (Grave number 8401).
La Targette, Neuville-St. Vaast
In a prequel to the Battle of Britain where Polish pilots achieved great success against the Luftwaffe, during the 1940 battle over France, Bursztyn's fighter group was credited with 29 victories including 25 confirmed. The group disbanded on August 12th,1940.
Sources: History of lll/l Group Col. Salesse, lll/l Fighter Group Archives