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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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301 Squadron
07/08.11.1941 301 (Pomeranian) Squadron, Polish, Wellington IV Z1277, Sgt. Henryk Bolcewicz

Operation: Mannheim, Germany

Date: 7th/8th November 1941 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit No: 301 (Pomeranian) Squadron, Polish

Type: Wellington IV

Serial No: Z1277

Code: GR:Z

Location: Maldeghem (aka Maldegem) airfield, Belgium

Base: RAF Hemswell, Lincolnshire

Pilot: Sgt. Henryk Bolcewicz P782241 PAF Age 21. PoW No. 24522 *

2nd Pilot: Sgt. Zygmunt Stanisław Lenczewski P780886 PAF Age 21. PoW No. 24496 *

Obs/Captain: Fg Off. Adam Włodzimierz Kolanowski P0243 MiD PAF Age 28. PoW No. 678 **/Murdered (1)

Wireless Op/Air Gnr: Sgt. Albert Feliks Szczcpanowski P783504 PAF Age 20. PoW No. 24506 *

Wireless Op/Air Gnr: Sgt. Bolesław Wróblewski P783724 PAF Age 27. PoW No. 24519 *

Air Gnr (Rear): Sgt. Tadeusz Moryń P792868 PAF Age 25. PoW No. 24523 *

* Stalag 357 Thorn (Toruń) in Poland. Moved in September 1944 to the loosely named Stalag 357 Fallingbostel, Lower Saxony, Germany. Officially the designation was Stalag 357 (Oerbke)

** Stalag Luft 3, Sagan-Silesia, Germany, now Żagań in Poland. (Moved to Nuremberg-Langwasser, Bavaria)

REASON FOR LOSS:

Wellington Z1277 took off from RAF Hemswell at 18:47 hrs on the 7th November 1941 and joined a force of 53 Wellingtons and 2 Stirlings to bomb targets at Mannheim in Germany. 43 crews dropped their bombs in the area and reported a large fire. Z1277 was one of 7 Wellingtons that failed to return from this mission.

It was later established that there was no record of any bombs falling in the city. It is not known where the bombs from this force fell.

Z1277 ran out of petrol homebound from Mannheim and landed at Maldeghem (aka Maldegem) airfield and was captured intact by the Germans. The crew were all captured and became PoWs.

Maldeghem Fliegerhorst (airfield) was in north Belgium, 23 km NW of Gent (Ghent) and 15 ½ km ESE of Brugge (Bruges) and 2 km SE of the town of Maldegem.

The Wellington was refuelled and it is believed that it was flown the next day to Rechlin for evaluation and testing by the Germans.

Rechlin Fliegerhorst was the Erprobungsststelle der Luftwaffe (Main Testing Ground for the German Air Force) and is immediately SE of the village of Rechlin at the SE end of the Müritz See (Lake) in Northern Germany.

Above photographs of the captured Wellington (Courtesy of World War Photographs)

All the NCOs were promoted to RAF Warrant Officer (WO) whilst being PoWs.

Note: Traditionally the RAF rank conferred on Polish airmen was one higher than their Polish Rank:

plutonowy (plut) = Corporal (Cpl);
sierżant (sierz) = Sergeant (Sgt);
starszy sierżant (st.sierz) = Flight Sergeant (Flt Sgt);
chorąży (chor) = Warrant Officer (WO);
pororucznik (por) = Flying Officer (Fg Off).

(1) After the prerequisite visit to Dulag Luft Fg Off. Kolanowski was sent to Stalag Luft 3. He was part of the map department team which included the survey of the compounds for use by the tunnel engineers and acquiring maps for the escape. (Ref 1. p 164)

On the night of the 24th-25th March 1944, 76 officers escaped from the north compound of Stalag Luft 3 which, at that time, held between 1000 and 1500 RAF PoWs. The escape was made by the means of a tunnel. At about 05:00 hrs on the 25th March the 77th PoW was spotted by guards as he emerged from the tunnel.

An overview of the German response to the escape and the subsequent British prosecution of those responsible for the murder of fifty of the escapees is summarised in the report entitled “The Fifty - The Great Escape”.

It is not known when Fg Off. Kolanowski exited the tunnel nor with whom he travelled, if at all. What is known from the trial transcript is that he was captured at or near Sagan and that he was one of a number of recaptured officers who were gathered together in Görlitz prison in Germany which was under the control of the Gestapo. Gradually the numbers of recaptured officers grew until thirty-five were held there.

On the 31st March two of the surviving officers witnessed a number of Gestapo agents collected the following ten officers and take them away; Flt Lt. C.P. Hall, Ft Lt. Birkland, Flt Lt. B. Evans, Flt Lt. G.E. McGill, Flt Lt. E.S. Humphreys, Flt Lt. P.W. Langford, Flt Lt. C.D. Swain, Fg Off. R.C. Stewart, Flt Lt. E. Valenta and Fg Off. A.D. Kolanowski. None of these men were seen alive again.

It was alleged that a Gestapo agent by the name of Lux selected and commanded the death-squad that carried out the order to execute selected prisoners.

Believed to be Kriminalobersekretär (Chief Detective) Walter Lux who was reported to have been killed in the Siege of Breslau in 1945.

No one was formally charged with the actual murder of Fg Off. Kolanowski or the other fifteen officers killed by Lux and his death-squad. The bodies of this group were cremated at Liegnitz (Legnica) in Poland and their urns returned to Stalag Luft 3.

Burial details:

Memorial to “The Fifty” near to Żagań (Credit: CSvBibra - Own work, Public Domain)

Above: Grave marker for Fg Off. Kolanowski (Courtesy of TWGPP)

Fg Off. Adam Włodzimierz Kolanowski. Krzyz Walecznych (Cross of Valour), Medal Lotniczy za Wojnę 1939-45 x 2 (Air Force Medal of War 1939-45), MiD. Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery, 7.C.5. Born on the 11th August 1913 in Pawłowice, Leszno County, Poland.

Also remembered on the PAF Memorial in Northolt.

Fg Off. Kolanowski was Mentioned in Despatches (MiD) recognizing his conspicuous bravery as a PoW because none of the other relevant decorations then available could be awarded posthumously. Not promulgated in the London Gazette.

Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with additional thanks to Traugott for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’.

Thanks to ‘The War Graves Photographic Project for their great work.

Other sources listed below:

References:

1. Stalag Luft III - An official history of the “Great Escape’ PoW Camp - Published by Frontline Books - ISBN: 978-1-47388-305-5





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Acknowledgements
Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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