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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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303 Squadron Crest
14.06.1943 No. 303 Squadron Spitfire Vb BL290 Fl/Sgt. Dąbrowski

Operation: Interception practice

Date: 14th June 1943 (Monday)

Unit: 303 Squadron

Type: Spitfire Vb

Serial: BL290

Base: RAF Northolt

Location: Islington, London.

Pilot: Fl/Sgt. Józef Dąbrowski 784758 PAF Age 22. Killed

January 2015 - We have been contacted by several relatives seeking the son of this pilot, named Chris - he was told of his father, later in his life from his mother and had been looking for his relatives - if you are able to assist further, please contact us.

Update May 2015 - Chris or rather 'Christine' has now been found and is in contact with us. We have placed her in contact with the many relatives of Józef. Great news indeed!

Update September 2015 - webmaster meets Christine and some of the Polish relatives at the Polish Memorial in Northolt


Weather on 14.06.1943: 10/10 cloud - visibility 5 miles. Rain showers. Fl/Sgt. Józef Dąbrowski killed during interception practice when his aircraft crashed at Islington Cemetery, Finchley.


The aircraft took off at 14:25 hrs from RAF Northolt on the 14th June 1943. It was flying in the company of another Spitfire to carry out CGI practice.

One interception was successfully carried out at 16,000 ft. and the aircraft were then instructed to continue at 12,000 ft. Extracts from the radio log show that at 15:31 hrs. BL290 acknowledged a vector of "port 190º and a minute later he received a fresh vector of "100º ". At 15:34 hrs BL290 stated: "I cannot go on 100º I am getting into cloud".

He was then told to turn port 010º and he acknowledged this message, but at approximately 15:35 hrs he signalled "Wait a minute - I have to get out of cloud".

This was the last message received from BL290.

Course 22B 58 OTU Grangemouth, Scotland: Front row: Sgt. Seaman, Sgt. Stockton, Sgt. Emes, Sgt. Walker, Sgt. Roberts and Sgt Robinson. Centre row: Sgt. Sorge, Sgt. Jackson, Sgt. Tysowski, Sgt. Utterson, Sgt. Warr, Sgt. Waterhouse and Sgt. Smith A.W. Back row: Sgt. Ksiazczyk, Sgt. Brygider, Sgt. Caliński, Sgt. Kraszewski, Sgt. Dąbrowski, Sgt. Zurakowski, Sgt. Bartlomiejczyk, Sgt. Rembowski, Sgt. Nowoczyn and Sgt. Szymkowiak.

At an estimated time of 15:35 hrs. eyewitnesses on the ground heard an aircraft diving through a large thunder cloud and several of them reported hearing a change of note indicating a "pull-out". There is some conflict in the evidence as to whether the aircraft came out of the cloud and broke up or had already disintegrated before it was first seen, but the latter seems more probable.

The weather in the Hendon area at 15:00 hrs. was visibility 12 miles, cloud 5/10 at 3,500 ft. 8/10 total, wind S.S.E. showers expected.

NOTE: All eyewitnesses are agreed that at the time of the crash there was a large and deep thundercloud over Finchley - Muswell Hill area and the aircraft fell out of the base of this cloud.

zef with friends at Christmas (courtesy Patricia Mary Clifford)

The pilot's total flying time in Britain alone amounted to just over 400 hours and he was an experienced operational pilot on Spitfire aircraft, his total time on this mark being 5.7 hrs. He was killed in the crash and had made no attempt to abandon the aircraft.

The scattered wreckage consisted of the outer section of the port wing, the port aileron, the tip of the port elevator and a large piece of the port side engine cowling was found along a line of approximately east to west and just under two miles in total length. The detached portion of the wing and the port aileron landed very close to one another.

Normal service lead was carried out but one 17½ lb. ballast weight was found on the tail ballast bar. This had apparently been introduced some time ago when the aircraft was held by 315 Squadron. An entry in the log book states that on 11-05-1943 all radio and I.F.F. equipment was removed and ballast weights were fitted.

When the aircraft was received by 303 Squadron the aircraft carried full radio and I.F.F. equipment but there was no log book entry covering the refinement of these accessories and it seems probable that the ballast weights was overlooked when this was done. As far as is known by this branch ballast weights are not used in the tail of the Spitfire V with standard service equipment.

Modifications 334, 338, 525 and 569 were incorporated and aileron up-float was checked on 15.05.1943 and again on the 19.06.1943. No adjustment was required on either occasion and the aileron cables were checked by tense-ometer on 06.06.1943.

The port wing failed in upload tip back, the front spar parting 9' 9" outboard of the root. i.e. just outboard of rib 14. The rear spar tore through 12 ft. from the root just inboard of rib 19. Before parting at this point it had buckled in compression on the inboard side of rib 19. (the outer aileron hinge rib) as a result of the rear end of this rib being pulled inboard by the aileron when the wing broke up. The D-nose failed in line with the front spar breaks and the outer portion remained attached to the length of the spar which pulled away. The inboard section of the nose plating was found in the main wreckage and had apparently been in position until striking the ground (Mod.525 was incorporated). The detached portion of wing was complete with D-nose and spar from fracture to tip, the wing tip and the rear spar with adjacent skin from rib 19 outboard.

The wing failed in upload between the aileron wing centres and as it pulled away the aileron dragged the rear end of rib 19 inboard before the outer hinge collapsed. The aileron then swung "outer and back and down" and tore away separately breaking off the rear 13" of rib 14.

The starboard wing and centre section suffered crash damage only.

The fuselage was largely intact until landing but it had been struck in the air on the port side by some portion of the wing structure (probably the aileron) The fin remained in position and was destroyed on landing.

The port tailplane was telescoped on landing and no useful information could be obtained on examination. The starboard tailplane suffered crash damage only.

Note: The tail unit remained intact until striking the ground with failure of the joint with the fuselage at frame 19 occurred.

The funeral (courtesy Patricia Mary Clifford)

Both sides of the elevator remained in position on their tail hinges and were undamaged apart from the loss of the tip on the port side. This ballast portion had torn away backwards without any sign of upward or downward loading and had apparently been knocked off.

The port elevator tab was not recovered but the starboard assembly was in position and was set very slightly down from the neutral position. This setting may not be reliable.

The rudder and rudder tabs were destroyed in the crash but both had been intact until striking the ground.

Left: Fl/Sgt. Józef Dąbrowski (sent by relatives September 2015)

The port aileron was detached in the air but this occurred in the course of wing failure. The tip portion had broken off downwards failing on the starboard side of the outer hinge box owing to fracture of the ball race housing. At this time the aileron was hard up beyond the normal limits of travel. The nose skin showed no signs of high air loading but while aileron was bent upwards at mid bay probably as a result of tip back movement when in the hard up position. The trailing edge of the aileron had been severely damaged by contact with some part of the airframe (probably the fuselage in the neighbourhood of the access door on the port side). There was no sign of reflexing of the trailing edge.

The starboard aileron remained in position but was almost completely destroyed by the fire and the impact. This assembly had been reflexed for not more than 14".

Mod.569. S.B.A. bolts in aileron bloater collar had been incorporated in both wings and these bolts remained undisturbed. The push pull tube in the port operating system had failed in bending and tension as the aileron pulled away but the starboard tube remained intact.

The control column was completely destroyed by fire and impact. The engine remained in position until striking the ground.

One ¼ lb. fitters hammer was found in the main wreckage but it has not been possible to ascertain from which part of the aircraft this came. The tool kits of all personnel who had worked on this aircraft while held at 303 squadron were inspected but each man had a hammer of this type in his box. There was no indication that this hammer had been jammed in any of the flying controls or had contributed in any way to this accident.

This accident was caused by failure of the port wing in upload. There was no sign of alien trouble or defective workmanship or material. The pilot was known to be flying in a thunder cloud immediately before the accident and over stressing probably followed loss of control. The aircraft was fully modified as regards aileron safety modifications and belts in the D-nose for the rest and the ailerons had been adjusted for ride up and the cables properly tensioned. It was noted that one 17½ lb ballast weight had been left on the tail ballast bar contrary to current instructions and this would tend to increase the longitudinal instability.

Signed T.M.B. 24/06/1943

L-R: Kelvin Youngs (webmaster) David and Christine Laing (with teddy) at the Polish War Memorial in Northolt, September 2015. (courtesy Barry Youngs)

Daughter and Grandson of Christine at the Polish War Memorial, September 2015 (courtesy David Laing)

Newspapers of the day (courtesy Patricia Mary Clifford)

Right: Christine Laing at her father's grave in Northwood 2015 - the teddy was one that she made and will be taken to Poland when she visits her extended family later in the year.

Burial Details:

Fl/Sgt. Józef Dąbrowski Northwood Cemetery - Middlesex, United Kingdom. Service Section H Grave 384. Born 17th March 1921, Poland - funeral taking place on 18th June 1943. Enlisted in Poland on the 15th August 1938. After the invasion of Poland let on the 17th September 1939 arriving in France at Istres on 1st November to continue the fight with the Polish Air Force under the command of the French.

For Patricia Mary Clifford (née McGrane) who was a dear friend of both Józef and Tadeusz Kolecki. Of course if the Polish family would like to contact us we would be honoured to provide all this information in another format for them. We would also be delighted to place them in contact with the family that have sent these superb photographs.

Acknowledgments: Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wojcik and Josef Zieliński for Polish information that we may have used. Photograph of grave courtesy David Laing.

KT Aug 2013

KTY Updated 25.11.2019

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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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