11.09.1940 No. 303 Squadron (PAF) Hurricane I V7242 Sgt. Wojtowicz loss
Date: 11th September 1940 (Wednesday)
Unit: No. 303 Squadron (Polish)
Type: Hurricane I
Base: RAF Northolt
Location: Hogtrough Hill, Brasted, Kent
Pilot: Sgt. Stefan Wojtowicz VM P-5024 PAF Age 21. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
Sgt. Stefan Wojtowic qualified as a pilot in June 1939 and first flew in defence of Poland with 111 Warsaw Fighter Squadron, in France in defence of Nantes and then joined 303 Squadron in August 1940, flying also in the Battle of Britain from RAF Northolt.
Above: Sgt. Stefan Wojtowicz VM in the middle , Sgt. Michal Brzezowski P-5122 KW on his left, Sgt. Eugeniusz Szaposznikow P-1653 on his right. (courtesy Peter Sikora)
On the 7th of September 1940 in a sortie with 303 Squadron he destroyed two Dornier 215’s. Later on the 11th September 1940, while fighting a lone dogfight with 6 ME109s, he destroyed two but his Hurricane was riddled with bullets and fire, and crashed into Hogtrough Hill, near Westerham, Kent.
His badly burnt body was identifiable only by the charred 'Poland' insignia on his uniform and the remnants of a smouldering map. He was posthumously awarded the Virtuti Miltaria medal and his name entered along with other pilots who helped save Britain in a book held in Westminster Cathedral. On the same operation another Polish pilot from 303 Squadron was also killed, 28 year old F/O. Arsen Cebrzyński.
On September 11th 2010, exactly 70 years after his death, a bronze memorial plaque was erected hear his crash site. Among those in attendance were two men, who as young boys had watched his last battle. A few days later it was discovered that the plaque had been stolen! See Daily Mail article below. (November 2014)
Above: Newspaper article published in the The Chronicle and Courier, Aug 17 1945 (courtesy Kate Tame via Newspaper archives)
Sgt. Wojtowicz is also remembered in a bible in Brasted Parish Church, Kent with the dedication in the front- 'Presented to Brasted Parish Church by the Brasted Air Raid Wardens Service in grateful memory of the airmen who gave their lives during the Battle of Britain in the year 1940. P/O. C.E. English (1) of Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne and Sergeant Pilot S. Wojtowicz of Poland who fell in Brasted. To replace the Bible of 1852, damaged by a flying bomb July 4th 1944'. Presented to the church in 1945.
Above, from left: Sgt. Stanislaw Karubin DFM F/O. Wojciech Januszewicz VM, F/O. Miroslaw Ferić VM KW DFC Sgt. Stefan Wojtowicz VM, then Sgt. Eugeniusz Szaposznikow who survived the war.
Daily Mail report on the theft of the memorial (courtesy Linda Ibrom)
Above: New memorial courtesy John Kaye (Kurowski) son of the Polish fighter pilot Fl/Lt. Jan Kurowski P-1213 PAF, killed on the 21st May 1944 whilst with 308 (P) Squadron. Understood to have been erected in August 2016. (photographs courtesy John Kaye sent to us in September 2018)
(1) 28 year old, P/O. Charles Edward English 77791 RAF killed whilst with 605 Squadron. On the 7th October 1940 during a patrol and shot down over Westerham during a dogfight with Me 109. He managed to bale out but his parachute caught on the tailplane. Sadly his brother 23 year old, Sgt. Robert Henry English 754475 RAFVR was also killed serving with 3 Squadron on the 5th May 1941. Detailed as Aerodrome Control Pilot whilst the Squadron was carrying out Operational Night Flying. At 01:30 hours whilst Sgt. English was operating the Chance Light an enemy aircraft with navigation lights on approached the flare path and machine gunned the Chance Light which was on. Sgt. English sustained cannon sheel wounds in the chest from which immediate death resulted. Buried together, the sons of Son of Joseph Edward and Bertha Evelyn English, of Jesmond, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England. Grave inscription reads: “Lovely and pleasant in their lives and in death they were not divided.”
Sgt. Stefan Wojtowicz VM Northwood Cemetery, Middlesex, Service Section H. Grave 209 (Grave inscription showing incorrect age)
Note: January 26th 2016, Mr. Rodney Byles has managed to have the records changed on the CWWG website - they have also promised that the headstone will be changed as and when time allows.
Born June 19th 1919 at Wynika, Poland. Completed Polish Air Force NCO's School for Minors. Participated in Polish campaign flying with 111 Eskadra Mysliwska of Pursuit Brigade. After Poland was invaded he escaped via Romania to France. Joined the fight then, after France fell left for England joining 303 squadron in August 1940. Took an active part in the Battle of Britain.
He also fought over France being attached to group of Polish pilots under command of Major Krasnodebski, then was moved to Kuzian's section protecting Nantes.
Assigned to 303 Squadron in August 1940, he took an active part in fighting in the Battle of Britain.
Sqd. Ldr. Kellett, Commanding Officer 303 Squadron during the Battle of Britain wrote this of his Polish comrades 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.” S/Ldr Ronald Kellett 303 Squadron Chronicles
Acknowledgments: With thanks to Linda Ibrom and Nina Britton-Boyle for her efforts bringing this sad story to the forefront. Also to Peter Sikora for photographs and further information, hopefully assisting in the replacement of the memorial with the kind assistance of Nina. It is also understood that Nina is preparing a book on Polish Air crew lost. Anyone wishing to add to this or other Polish pages, please contact us and we will forward your information. Also thanks to Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - "Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945"
Za Wolność Waszą i Naszą – For Your Freedom and Ours
Stephanie Drake contacted us with this moving message: 'Stefan was my grandma's fiancé - after he was killed she went on to marry my grandfather but she never forgot Stefan. Myself and my cousin Stephen were both named after him but we literally only knew his first name, that he was Polish and that he died in the Battle of Britain. About five years ago I did some research and was able to establish his full identity. We have since met several members of his family and been to a number of memorial events and 303 Squadron gatherings.'