Date: 25th November 1942
Unit: 300 Squadron (Polish)
Type: Wellington IV
Location: Bergen, Holland
Pilot: Sgt. Władyslaw Kaźmierczak V.M. C.V. P-784069 PAF PoW No. 42728. Camp: Stalag Muhlhausen (1)
Obs: F/O. Jan Gerstel P-0034 PAF PoW No: 863 Camp: Stalag Luft Sagan and Belaria (2)
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Józef Skoniecny P-792624 PAF PoW. (Died 06-02-1943) Age 38.
W/Op/Air/Gnr: Sgt. Czesław Gębaczka P-784359 PAF Age 28. Killed
Air/Gnr: Sgt. Stanisław Abłamowicz P-781178 PAF PoW No 42682 Camp: Stalag Luft Barth Vogelsang (and others)
Would Nick Howard please make contact - his email address that we hold is no longer valid and a serious researcher from his fathers home town would like to make contact - October 202.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Took off from Ingham, Lincolnshire at 11:46 hrs detailed to bomb Essen. It was a daylight operation carried out in adverse weather conditions. Wellington Mk. IV. Z1495 was shot down by German Flak units II Zug 3. Lei. Abt./764 and I-IV Zug 3. Lei. Abt/845. on the way to the target Essen, Germany. There was lack of cloud protection.
The aircraft crashed 3 km North of Bergen Airfield, 8 km NW of Alkmaar, the Netherlands., bursting into flames. It is written that Sgt. Józef Skoniecny was grievously burnt and although received treatment in a German hospital he died on the 6th February 1943 from a heart attack.
A boy of 9 years old, Wim Dolfer, died the same day after he had eaten white tablets out of the Wellington.
Above left: Sgt. Władyslaw Kaźmierczak (Courtesy Nick Howard) Right: Sgt. Czesław Gębaczka (see credits)
While the Polish crew were flying over the Netherlands on their way to the target, their Wellington suddenly shuddered. The aircraft was hit by flak. The clouds were too high to provide cover, so the pilot decided to dive and fly at tree-top level. "Anti-aircraft fire from starboard" - shouted the rear gunner. "And from port" - he added almost at the same moment. Just as the pilot was preparing to jettison the bombs, he suddenly felt that his right leg went numb. At once he knew he had been wounded. He opened the bomb doors. Noticing that there was a Dutch village below, he dropped the bombs on an empty field farther away and turned heading for home. "Starboard engine on fire" - reported the wireless operator. Immediately the pilot switched on the fire extinguisher.
His Wellington was a sitting duck for the German flak crews, but he couldn't keep it under control with only one leg on the rudder pedals. "Port engine on fire" - a voice yelled in the intercom. "Fire in the fuselage" - added the same voice seconds later. The navigator let the gunner out of the front turret. "We're going to crash land!" The pilot could see a small meadow ahead (3) and some trees. He tried to fly over them... too late... a terrible noise. This must be the end.
When he opened his eyes he realised that the nose section of the Wellington must have been torn off as he found himself sitting in his pilot's seat on the ground in the open. Turning round he saw that the aircraft was burning. He tried to jump to his feet but fell down. His right leg, hideously injured, was barely attached to the rest of his body. Kazimierczak was trying to crawl away from the burning wreckage when he saw two German soldiers pointing their rifles at him. He asked them for help. They took him by the arms and dragged him behind one of the long wooden huts. Seconds later the fuel tanks exploded and he lost consciousness. When he came to, he was already in an ambulance.
5th From the left: Sgt. Kaźmierczak (Courtesy of his son, Nick Howard) others unidentified as yet.
The navigator, bomb aimer and wireless operator were lying next to him. The rear gunner, Sgt Czeslaw Gebaczka, must have died in flames. "How many people were on board?" - asked the German soldier who opened the ambulance door. "Five" - replied the pilot. "Then one of you is dead" - the German confirmed their worst expectations."
(Translated out of the book "Berlin Na Bojowym" by Andrzej R. Janczak.)
Crash site of Wellington Z1495 BHJ (see credits)
(1) Repatriated in a PoW exchange via the Swiss Red Cross, after being considered unfit for active military service. This followed his leg amputation during hospital treatment. We are now in contact with his son Nick Howard and hope to discover further information. Sgt. Władyslaw Kaźmierczak sadly passes away in 1974.
(2) Jan Gerstel wrote a book after he was released titled “For you the War Is Over”. Out of print and despite many efforts we have not managed to find a copy.
(3) It turned out that Sgt Kazimierczak landed his Wellington near Bergen in the middle of a German military camp, among cleverly camouflaged barracks.
Sgt. Czesław Gębaczka. Bergen General Cemetery, Netherlands. Grave. II.E.1. Born 10th July 1914. From Bukowiec Górny, Leszno, Poland.
Sgt. Józef Skoniecny. Berlin War Cemetery. Germany Grave. VIII, J, 34. Born 4th February 1905. From Osieniny, Nieszawa, Poland.
We would like to thank Robert Gretzyngier, Woitek Matusiak, Waldemar Wojcik and Josef Zielinski for the use of some photographs. We highly recommend their publications regarding the WW2 Polish Air Forces. Also thanks to Andrzej R. Janczak for the use of the translation. Also of course to Nick Howard, son of the pilot for information and photographs.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember
them. - Laurence
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