W/O. Edmund Jan Czajkowski Born in Gruczno, Pomorże, (near Bydgoszcz) Poland Sunday 3rd June 1906. Died on Friday 14th November 1980.
(Aircrew Remembered welcome any contact from anyone or relatives of those who may have served with 309 Squadron, as would the son of W/O. Czajkowski)
Edmund studied at the gymnasium in Bydgoszcz before attending his military service at the air training school in Toruń from 1927 to 1929. His training as a pilot was interrupted by a leg injury. Afterwards Edmund studied as a furniture designer and architect in Berlin until 1933 where he witnessed Hitler coming to power and the sudden change of attitudes as the Nazis quickly took over, stifling free speech. Edmund then worked in Berlin for a couple of years before returning to Poland to work as a furniture designer and architect in Warsaw.
Having been placed in the airforce reserve, Edmund was called up on 24th August 1939 and attached to the 1 pułk 4 Dywizjon Myliwski (1st regiment of the 4th squadron) working with medical records in the station hospital. On 18th September 1939 he was ordered to travel, with other members of the squadron, to Romania where they were interned. Although Romania had an agreement to support the Polish airforce they became increasingly pro-German and ordered the internment of Polish evacuees. They were detained in a series of prison camps including the notorious Camp Badadag in the marshy area between the Badadag and Razim Lakes close to the Black Sea. Here both locals and Polish internees suffered terribly from malaria and many Poles, weakened by malnutrition, died.
The Polish Government in exile in Romania then bribed the Romanian authorities so that the majority of the Polish units could “escape”. They had to destroy all their papers and alter their uniforms to look like civilian clothes and destroy anything that that would suggest they were from Poland. On 13th January 1940 they walked along the railway line to Constanza, a port on the Black Sea where they took a ship, the S/S Besarabia to Beirut, spending several days waiting for permission to land. At this time they became known as ‘Polish tourists’. They eventually left Beirut in February since the British authorities had agreed with the French that French would look after the Polish Airforce and retrain them. They boarded the S/S Patria to travel to Marseille and on the way were dive bombed by German aeroplanes. They called in at Athens, in Greece, for supplies but since it was not known when the ship would sail no one was allowed to leave the ship with the exception of the doctor and Edmund who went to buy medicine on the black market. They spend most of the day looking around the Parthenon.
After arriving in France, where the Polish Government in exile had set up its headquarters, they were placed in the Septfonds camp towards the Pyrenees on 25th February 1940. The camp had been originally built to house refugees from the Spanish Civil war. Conditions were terrible for the Spanish who sat around in rags and were lice ridden. The Poles, eventually about 800 of them, cleaned and deloused their part of the camp to make it healthier and tried to get the Spanish to do the same but they wouldn’t. In the camp they received initial training to become part of the French forces. Edmund then transferred to Lyon- Bron where he started training as an officer.
Serving in Great Britain:
The collapse of France meant that the Poles had to run for it and on 27th June 1940 Edmund and many others arrived by ship in Blackpool. Edmund was sent to RAF Insworth, near Gloucester, where he worked as a translator in the hospital. There he met a nurse, Edith May Rumbold, a lieutenant nursing sister whom he later married. In November 1940, Edmund was sent to the newly formed 309 Squadron, part of the Polish Airforce serving under British Command. They were initially a fighter Army reconnaissance squadron working with the Polish army training in Scotland. Firstly based at RAF Renfrew, now Glasgow Airport, they were later, on the 12th December 1940 relocated to Dunino in Fifeshire. This was after a heavy raid on the airport and Glasgow. It was thought that flying from Dunino would give more time to intercept the German bombers. The squadron then moved to various bases in Scotland and England before arriving at RAF Snailwell, in southern Cambridgeshire in 1943. Edmund was then posted to the Headquarters of the Polish Airforce in Blackpool in 1944 and promoted to sergeant.
RAF Dunholme Lodge: Edmund married Edith May Rumbold on Sunday the 26th August 1945.
Due to the demobilisation of the Polish airforce, Edmund was released from British command on 4th December 1946 and he then enlisted with the Polish Resettlement Corps (Polski Korpus Przysposobienia i Rozmieszczenia) on the 5th December 1946. During their time there the Poles received education in English language and skills and customs that would allow them to get work and blend in with the British way of life. The Corps was set up to support those who could not, or did not want to return to Poland.
The new Polish Communist Government had been recognised by Britain on 5th July 1945 which meant that the legitimate Polish Government in exile was no longer recognised. The British government encouraged by the trade unions who claimed that Poles were taking British jobs first tried to force the Poles to return to Poland. However, the government eventually relented after public pressure and the resettlement camps were a way of a helping Poles to blend in with the British way of life.
Edmund was offered a warrant commission with the RAF in 1947. These commissions (as Warrant Officers) were highly desired by Polish personnel who were naturally used to a military institutional life. However, Edmund decided that he wanted to return to civilian life. He was temporary released from Dunholme Lodge Resettlement Camp after finding work as a cabinet maker with the joinery firm of John Holmes and Son, Navenby, south of Lincoln. In order to do this work he was given an advance of £2 .2s. 0d to purchase a tool kit from the Ministry of Labour. He and his wife had already bought a house in Rasen Lane, Lincoln, after living for a few months at the Vicarage in Scothern. It was possible to live outside the camp if you had secure accommodation. However, there was a desperate housing shortage due to bomb damage and few houses were available but Edmund and his wife Edith had been lucky. It was a condition of his release was that, as he was an alien, he should report to the police on a regular basis.
He was finally discharged from Dunholme Lodge on 9th January 1948 and decided to set up a business designing and making furniture. He obtained British nationality in 1949. The business continues to this day as Edmund Czajkowski & Son Ltd
at Woodhall Spa where they also restore furniture clocks and barometers.
Edmund never received any pay for the time when the Polish Forces were under French control. In the mid 1950s, he received a letter from the French government informing him that he was due for back pay. However, he would have to go in person to Paris to collect it. The cost of the trip was far greater than the money he would have received.
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