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AVM Aleksander Maisner

July 26, 1921 - December 21, 2008

Having survived the rigours of the Soviet Gulag system after being captured by the Russians in the wake of their invasion of Poland in September 1939, Aleksander Maisner was desperate to do his bit in the war. After a long odyssey, he reached England, joined the Air Force and learnt to fly. But he was just too late to get a combat posting before the war ended. He nevertheless became a fine pilot and went on to achieve higher rank in the RAF than any of his compatriots.

AVM Aleksander Maisner

Aleksander Maisner was born in Hamburg of Polish parents in 1921. He was brought up in Poland, and went to school in Czestochowa, graduating in May 1939. The outbreak of war found him in Warsaw, where he was about to begin studies at the Polytechnic. He joined the Citizens’ Guard and fought with it until the fall of Warsaw at the end of September 1939. With the country overrun by the Germans and the Soviet Union, Maisner decided to make his way to France, where the Polish forces were re-forming.

He was caught by the Russians while trying to cross the border into neutral Romania, and was sent to a labour camp in the far north of the Soviet Union, where he spent the next two years. He was very fortunate to escape the wicked murder of 12,000 Polish offiers by the Russians in the Katyn Forest.

Fortunately for him and thousands of other Poles imprisoned by the Russians the German attack on Russia in June 1941 and the subsequent Polish-Soviet agreement brought an amnesty for the hundreds of thousands of Polish prisoners and the formation of a Polish army there under General Anders. Maisner joined this, and left the Soviet Union with it in an arduous journey to British lines.

After training as an artillery officer in Iraq, he volunteered for the Royal Air Force and came to England in May 1943. He obtained his pilot’s wings in November 1944 and from then until the end of the war served as a staff pilot at various navigator training schools. When the Polish air force units were disbanded, he found himself torn between wishing to return to his family in Poland and not wanting to fall into the hands of the Russians again.

Though he had not seen his family since September 1939, he dared not return to communist-dominated Poland, so he settled in Britain. The RAF were looking for officers, and Maisner was offered a permanent commission.

He was posted to Transport Command, serving in various parts of the UK and overseas, and taking part in the Suez operation. Each of his flying assessments, on completion of his first two extended tours of duty, was marked 'Exceptional', and in 1955 he was awarded the Air Force Cross for distinguished service.

He was not only a very fine pilot, but an inspiring instructor as well. Having been transferred to Bomber Command, he was involved in the introduction of versions of the Canberra and Vulcan.

In 1960 he was sent on a tour of duty with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, and was Officer Commanding Flying Wing, RNZAF Ohakea, where he introduced the Canberra B1-12 into service.

In 1962 Maisner went to the RAF Staff College at Andover, Hampshire, and in 1965 came his first tour of duty at the Ministry of Defence. As Deputy Director of Air Staff Plans, he was involved in planning the contraction of the RAF presence overseas. In this connection came a posting as Officer Commanding RAF Seletar in Singapore, which ended with the difficult task of closing it down and handing it over to the Singapore authorities.

On his return to Britain in 1969, Maisner was appointed CBE, and appointed Assistant Commandant (training) at RAF College Cranwell. His arrival there coincided with the introduction of the RAF Graduate Entry Scheme, and Prince Charles was one of his students. Maisner’s combination of a quiet and gentle manner with a very strong character made him a good teacher and manager of men.

He spent his last four years in the service back at the Ministry of Defence in a succession of senior personnel posts, culminating in that of Director General of RAF Personnel Management, responsible for the careers of some 20,000 officers and 65,000 other ranks.

In the year of his retirement from the RAF in 1977, Maisner was appointed CB.

He took up a post at Reed International with responsibility for management development, succession planning and career counselling.

In 1982 he became director of the Industry and Parliament Trust, an organisation devoted to increasing understanding between industry and MPs, which provided a fascinating challenge for the last four years of his working life.

He was also an active president of the Polish Air Force Association.

After Poland freed itself from communism he received a number of decorations from the new, democratic Government of his native country. These were the Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta in 1990; the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit (Poland) in 1992; and the Order of Merit with Star (Poland) in 1998.

His wife, Mary, whom he married in 1946, died in 1997. They had a son and a daughter.

Air Vice-Marshal Aleksander Maisner, CB, CBE, Polish war veteran, was born on July 26, 1921. He died on December 21, 2008, aged 87. He is buried in St. Peter and St. Pauls Churchyard, Shiplake UK.

St Peter St Paul Shiplake

St. Peter St. Paul Cemetery Shiplake

Sources: Archiwum Polish Database,

SY 2022-08-20

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