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Sqd. Ldr. Tadeusz Andersz VM DFC DFC (US) Krzyz Walecznych (x3)

September 27, 1918 - October 29, 2007

Squadron Leader Tadeusz Andersz was one of that large contingent of Polish airmen who escaped to Britain after the fall of France in June 1940. They were to form the nucleus of the 15 Polish fighter and bomber squadrons based in Britain during the war, two fighter squadrons being formed in time to take part in the Battle of Britain.

Tadeusz Andersz was born in 1918, in the Netherlands. This was not long before Poland regained independence after more than 100 years of partition between Prussia, Russia and Austria. His father had moved to the Netherlands to escape military service in the German Army. The family returned to an independent homeland.

Andersz completed his schooling in Poznan and before national service with the infantry he did a gliding course, which instilled in him a desire to be an airman. He entered the Polish Air Force Academy in Deblin in January 1938. His intake did not have the opportunity to fight in the campaign against Germany, which invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, but was evacuated to Romania.

Escaping internment via Yugoslavia and Greece, Andersz made it to France, where Polish forces were being re-formed under General Sikorski as Prime Minister and Commander in Chief. Andersz, based in Lyon, trained on Morane MS230 and Dewoitine D501 fighters but was able to take part in only a few sorties in the defence of Rennes before the French capitulation in June 1940.

Sikorski had ordered his men to try to make it to Britain, Europe's last bastion, and Andersz managed to do so via Bordeaux in a British ship. After further training he was posted to 315, City of Deblin, Polish fighter squadron flying Spitfires. Though he took part in many operational flights it was not until April 4, 1943, that he made his first kill, an FW190 over Rennes.

In November 1943 he was posted as an instructor. In March 1944, he returned to combat flying. Under the consent of the Polish Air Force Command, he moved to the 61th Fighter Squadron, 56th Hunting Group of the 8th Air Force of the United States, where he flew on heavy P-47 Thunderbolts. At that time the unit's operations officer was Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Gabreski, who was to become one of the US's top aces, with 37 kills in the Second World War and the Korean War.

Gabreski, born of Polish immigrant parents, was a fluent Polish speaker. He had previously sought an assignment with the Polish Air Force and spent several weeks honing combat experience with the aggressive Poles in 315 Squadron. Andersz and several Poles were in turn invited to fly with 56 Group flying P47D Thunderbolts. Flying as a maximum endurance escort to B17 Flying Fortresses on April 9, 1944, Andersz destroyed an FW190 over Kiel.

On August 19, 1944, he returned to 315 Squadron, taking over its command after the death in action of Squadron Leader Eugeniusz Horbaczewski.

In April 1945 he was transferred to HQ Fighter Command and then in September to the Polish Air Force Staff College in Weston-super-Mare. After graduating he was posted to 306 (City of Torun) Polish Air Force fighter squadron of which he became commanding officer.

In 1947 Polish forces under overall British command, about 200,000 strong, were disbanded; with them 306 Squadron, of which Andersz was the last commanding officer.

The majority faced a life of exile, their homeland now having fallen under Soviet control. (Curiously one unit, 663 Air Observation Post Squadron of the Polish 2 Corps in Italy, was to metamorphose into what is now 663 Squadron of the Army Air Corps which holds dear its Polish ancestry.)

Andersz was one of several Polish pilots who were recruited to fly with the RAF after the war. First joining Transport Command and then as an air traffic controller, he served with the RAF until retirement in 1973.

On May 4, 1946, he became the last commander of 306 "Torunski" Fighter Squadron, disassembled in 1947. In 1947, he joined the Royal Air Force. Until his retirement in 1973, he worked as a transport pilot for VIPs (on routes between New Zealand, Singapore and Japan) and as a ground-based air traffic controller.

As a pensioner, he was the vice president of the Polish Aviators' Association. He was an adjutant on behalf of the Polish Air Forces Presidents Edward Raczyński, Kazimierz Sabatta and Ryszard Kaczorowski.

During the war, Tadeusz Andersz made 167 combat flights. He shot down 2 enemy aircraft and 1 probably. He is decorated with the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, three times with the Krzyz Walecznych (Cross of Valour), English and American DFC and four times the American Air Medal.

For post-war activities, he is decorated with the Officer's Cross and the Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta. The service in the Polish Air Force ended in the Polish rank of the Major (RAF Squadron Leader). In May 2005, he received a nomination for the rank of Brigadier General.

He then devoted much of his time to work with the Polish Air Force Association in London. He was ADC to the last three Polish presidents-in-exile. On September 3, 1992, he was part of the colour party that saw the Polish Air Force standard bidden a solemn farewell by the RAF at Heathrow on its return journey to its homeland.

The standard had been made by Polish women in Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania) in 1940. With the help of the Japanese consulate in Kovno (Kaunas) it had been taken in the Japanese military attaché's diplomatic bag to Stockholm.

Relations between Poland and Japan were cordial as both countries had seen themselves as potential allies against Russian imperialism. On July 16, 1941, it was presented to the Polish Air Force at RAF Swinderby. In 1947 it had been laid up in the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum in London, awaiting return to a free Poland.

Andersz's wife, whom he met as a dental surgeon with the Polish Air Force, predeceased him. There were no children.

He is buried in Powazki Cemetery, Warsaw, Poland (right)

Squadron Leader Tadeusz Andersz, VM DFC, Polish wartime fighter pilot, was born on September 27, 1918. He died on October 29, 2007, aged 89

SY 2018-08-20

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