02.07.1941 No. 303 Squadron Spitfire IIb P8596 RF-B Sq/Ldr. Lapkowski
Operation: Circus 29
Date: 2nd July 1941 (Wednesday)
Unit: 303 Squadron (Polish)
Type: Spitfire IIb
Base: RAF Northolt, Middlesex
Location: English Channel
Pilot: Sq/Ldr. Wacław Łapkowski CV VM P-1506 Polish Air Force Age 27. Killed
July 2018 - W have been contacted by his Great niece from Poland, she is trying to find out who the lady in the photograph is - described as his fiancée on the date of his loss.
Our leading Polish researcher thinks that he met her either at Northolt or whilst he was in hospital after being shot down on the 05th September 1940. He feels that it probably was whilst he was in hospital - 2nd pho†o could show Torquay although he was initially hospitalised at Rochford. Email us if you are able to assist (available in a higher resolution if required - also some others not shown here)
REASON FOR LOSS:
Shot down by Bf109 over the English Channel.
Born on 6th November 1913, Wacław Łapkowski serving in the Polish Air Force before the war, already with PAF 112 Squadron at the outbreak. On 6th September 1939 he shared a He111 and a Do17 with a He111 destroyed on the 9th.
He subsequently made his way to England. Details of this journey are unknown. Joining 303 squadron on the day it was formed at Northolt, 2nd August 1940.
He claimed a Ju88 destroyed on 5th September. On that day, whilst flying Hurricane P2985 he was himself shot down by a Me109 in combat over Gillingham. He baled out, with a broken leg and burns, landed at Hawkwell and was admitted to Rochford (Southend) Hospital. His Hurricane crashed at Bonvill's Farm, North Benfleet.
L-R: F/O. Jerzy Jankiewicz, Sq/Ldr. Ronald Kellet, 3rd: Sq/Ldr. Wacław Łapkowski, P/O. Franciszek Kornicki (June 2014: Richard Kornicki tells us this was staged for the Press at Leconfield in the Autumn of 1940).
Note: we have since been advised that the above photo with the label 3rd from left: Sq/Ldr. Wacław Łapkowski, is NOT him but that of Sgt. Edward Paterek 793342 PAF - killed on the 27th March 1941!
1939.09.06 - 112 Esk. P.11 - 1/3-0-0 He 111
1939.09.09 - 112 Esk. P.11 - 1-0-0 He 111
1940.09.05 - 303 Sq. Hurricane I P2985 RF-Z - 1-0-0 Ju 88
1941.06.04 - 303 Sq. Spitfire II P8331 RF-T - 0-0-1 Me 109
1941.06.18 - 303 Sq. Spitfire II P8507 RF-V - 1-0-0 Me 109
1941.06.22 - 303 Sq. Spitfire II P8507 RF-V - 2-0-0 Me 109
1941.06.24 - 303 Sq. Spitfire II P8507 RF-V - 1-0-0 Me 109
Awarded the VM (5th Class, gazetted 23rd December 1940), Lapkowski did not return to the squadron until 6th January 1941. He came back from a sweep over France on the 22nd with 25 yards of telephone wire round his engine. Lapkowski was awarded the KW (gazetted 1st April 1941). He was wounded on 13th April 1941 and admitted to hospital. Recovered, on 5th May he took command of 303 Squadron, and on 4th June he damaged a Me109, on the 8th he destroyed another, on the 22nd two more, on the 24th another and on the 27th he damaged another.
On 2nd July 1941 Łapkowski was leading 303, in Spitfire B8596, flying with the Polish Wing escorting Blenheims to Lille. They were attacked in mid-Channel by fifty Me109’s coming down from a higher altitude. Lapkowski was shot down. His body was washed ashore and he is buried in Lombardsidje Communal Cemetery, Belgium.
Lombardsijde Churchyard, with insert of Sq/Ldr. Łapkowski
Awarded a Bar to the KW (gazetted 10th April 1946) and two more Bars (gazetted 31st October 1947).
Sq/Ldr. Kellett wrote of his time with the Poles of 303 Squadron in a Chronicle kindly given to us by his daughter, Louise Pemberton:
“We fought together through the great offensive of 1940 and I then knew that the pilots of No. 303 Squadron were not only the best but would also see me through any troubles. In the month of September, 303 Squadron was on top – no squadron from the Empire could equal the courage and skill of our pilots, no bombing could daunt our airmen.”
Sq/Ldr Ronald Kellett 303 Squadron Chronicles.
Sq/Ldr. Wacław Łapkowski. Lombardsijde Churchyard - Middelkerke, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Grave 224. Next of Kin details not currently available. Born 6th November 1913 Dyneburg, Poland/Latvia.
With thanks to the following, "Fighter Command Losses" - Norman Franks. Robert Gretzyngier, Woitek Matusiak, Waldemar Wojcik and Josef Zielinski for Polish information that we may have used and Piotr Gorka - a good friend Aircrew Remembered met in Krakow, Poland. Also to Rodney Byles for corrected photo caption - April 2017. Also to Dorota Nowakowska and Peter Sikora - July 2018.