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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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309 Squadron Crest
02.08.1945 No. 309 Squadron Mustang III FX876 WC-O W/O. Aleksander Pietrzak

Operation: Training

Date: 2nd August 1945 (Thursday)

Time: 11:15

Unit: No. 309 Squadron (Polish)

Type: Mustang III

Serial: FX876

Code: WC-O

Base: RAF Andrews Field, Essex

Location: Oaksfield, Goulds Farm, Rayne, / Andrews Field, Essex.

Pilot: W/O. Aleksander Pietrzak Virtuti Militari CV 2 Bars. 783147 PAF Age 30. Killed

Aleksander Pietrzak – Polish fighter pilot – V1 ‘Ace’ – husband – father – the starting point for Aircrew Remembered. Additional details can be found at the end of the page. We welcome any new information/photographs.

We are indebted to our friends and colleagues at the Wings Museum for their undertaking of the recovery of W.O. Pietrzak's Mustang, the main pieces of which are now on display at the Wings Museum. Others pieces that were kindly presented to the family have since been donated to our partners at the Polish Aviation Museum in Krakow, Poland and to the Polish Memorial Exhibition at RAF Northolt. Thanks also to Joe Fukuto of Canada and his work with the 'Aces Of WW2' Website for his support.


This pilot originally served with 302, 309 and 316 Polish Squadrons carrying out escort duties and diver patrols against the incoming V1 flying bombs.

This is the brief account of a Polish fighter pilot who served with the Royal Air Force during WWII.

Prior to this he had served in the Polish Air force escaping via Romania to join the fight in France. We have no details of this period. Although in 2010 we were contacted by a French family who had taken him in. They sent some remarkable photographs that we have produced on following pages.

After the fall of France he escaped (again we have no details of this) to England when in January 1943 Sgt Pietrzak started his retraining flying Tiger Moths and Spitfires at 58 OTU (Operational Training Unit) at Grangemouth, Scotland.

Following this he then joined 302 Squadron. His war over England had begun.

Above: Course 29, Squad 1 at RAF Grangemouth, Scotland: Front row: Fl/Sgt. Wojcik, Fl/Sgt. Finney, P/O. Parker, P/O. Webster, P/O. Zajdel, Fl/Sgt. Grondowski. Middle row: Sgt. Wlodarski, Sgt. Benner, Sgt. Gowers, Sgt. Taylor, Sgt. Luffman. Rear row: Sgt. Durys, Sgt. Pietrzak, Fl/Sgt. Urbanczyk.

On the 27th September 1943 he transferred to 316 Polish Squadron and flew on operations from February 1943 - March 1944 and took part in the defensive operations against the German V1 flying bombs. Joined 309 Squadron in February 1945.

Aleksander Pietrzak's total flying time as pilot by day was 784 hours, of which 246 hours were in Mustang fighters. He became senior NCO pilot of the Squadron stationed at Andrews Field and was highly thought of by his Squadron Commander. He had distinguished himself beyond the call of duty in the defence of this country during the V1 rocket attacks of 1944. He survived the air battles of World War II only to tragically lose his life in a flying accident on the 2nd August 1945 at Andrews Field.

Whilst serving with 302 and 316 Squadron Aleksander Pietrzak carried out fighter escort duties protecting Allied bomber sorties to Germany.

On two occasions Sgt Pietrzak was involved in combats with defending Messerschmitt Bf109 / FW190 fighters:
11th September 1943 - Weather: Cloudy and ground mist - wind S/S.S/W - Visibility 1.000-1500 yds. Cloud 5 to 8/10ths at 15.000 ft. 14 aircraft airborne at 16:00 hrs Ramrod S.216 Pt. 1 Escort cover to 21 Mitchell bombers bombing at Rouen. Sgt. Pietrzak damaged FW190 near Rouen at 17:10 hrs.
September 27th 1943 - Weather Fair - Wind 10/15 mph - visibility 2.000 yes. Cloud 4/10ths. 09:35 hrs take off - 12 aircraft acting as top cover for 1st fighter sweep with 72 Marauder bombers to St. Valary and area - Ramrod 250. Sgt. Pietrzak shot down FW190 at 11:00 hrs 10 miles West of Le Treport. Several landed at 11:35 hrs - others landed at various airfields due to shortage of fuel at 16:30 hrs.
14th October 1944 - Whilst with 316 squadron shot down a Bf109 10 miles north west Duisburg at 08:40 hrs.
18th October 1944 - 316 Squadron - shot down a Bf109F shared with Karnkowski 10 miles north east Aalborg 12:05 hrs.
18th October 1944 - 316 Squadron - shot down a Bf109F 10 miles north east Aalborg 12:05 hrs. ( Note: His son, Stefan, actually had corresponded with this pilot - Arno Rose, who managed to bale out of his aircraft and survive the war - sadly he passed away in 2010)
Left: Arno Rose pictured in 2008)

23rd February 1945 - Whilst with 309 Squadron damaged a Me262 in the Ruhr area 15:52 hrs.
23rd March 1945 - 309 Squadron damaged a Me262 10 miles south Dummer Lake 15:52 hrs

Shortly after Aleksander Pietrzak, now promoted to Warrant Officer, was transferred to No. 309 Polish Squadron stationed at Andrews Field (Great Saling) Essex

No. 309 Squadron 1945 - 1st August 1945

P-51 Mustang III with serial No. FX 876 to workshop to undergo routine minor inspection. The airframe was built by North American Aviation Inc., its total flying time was 307 hours. All modifications affecting airworthiness except No.691 had been embodied. The engine was built by the Packard Motor Car Company, No. V 324217, total running time was 664 hours. Both airframe and engine had been properly maintained and serviced, both had been certified fit for flight at 08.45 hours on August 2nd.

2nd August 1945

At 10.15 hours Mustang FX 876 took off on its first flight since the inspection was completed. It should be noted that the aircraft was not 'test flown.’

The pilot W/O. Pietrzak had been briefed to take part in a Squadron formation exercise which was to be followed by dive bombing practice. FX 876 was one of the first pair in the formation to leave the ground. The other member of this pair was the Squadron Commander.

Almost as soon as the two aircraft were airborne W/O. Pietrzak overtook his leader and a few seconds later called him on the R/T. (radio transmitter) to state that his rudder control had jammed and that he could not use starboard rudder but he could still apply port rudder.

The Squadron Commander immediately ordered him to return and land and W/O. Pietrzak thereupon turned away and disappeared.

Some four minutes later, after the rest of the Squadron had formed up with the leader and W/O. Pietrzak's original place in the formation had been filled, FX 876 reappeared and W/O. Pietrzak requested permission to rejoin, stating that his aircraft was now serviceable.

This permission was granted. Various squadron formation manoeuvres were then carried out for a period of forty minutes, during which FX876 appeared to fly normally. Dive bombing practice then began from a height of about 12,000 feet.

The Squadron formed line astern with W/O. Pietrzak as number 7. Each aircraft in turn pulled up into a stalled turn to the left and entered its dive, the instructions to each pilot being that recovery should be affected at 5,000 ft. FX876 entered its dive in exactly the same way as had those aircraft ahead of it but instead of pulling out at 5,000 ft its dive was seen by the pilot of number 8 aircraft which was close behind, to become suddenly steeper until it reached an angle over the vertical. Number 8 realised that something was amiss endeavoured to follow FX876 in order to keep it under observation.

The pilot of number 8 stated that when FX876 started to dive over the vertical he also noticed that it was side-slipping to the left and he declared that he had great difficulty in following it. He stated that he then saw it carry out an aileron turn one and a half times round and then pulled out of its dive inverted at an altitude well under 100 feet. The pilot of number 8 lost sight of it at this point because his own airspeed was over 500 mph.

I.A.S. and his height was only around 3,000 ft. He therefore had his attention fully occupied in recovering normal flight, which he did by using his tail trim after unsuccessfully trying to ease back the stick. He then caught sight of FX876 again. It was still inverted and climbing. Although he himself was still travelling at very high speed FX876 overtook him, nosed over into a dive which continued to the ground.

It subsequently transpired that W/O. Pietrzak had fallen out of his aircraft whilst it was inverted and travelling at tremendous speed across Andrews Field aerodrome at a height of only about 20 ft. He had undoubtedly been thrown from the cockpit under high negative 'G'.

The fact that no pieces of the cockpit hood were found away from the main wreckage suggested that the hood was open when the pilot was ejected, W/O. Pietrzak was killed instantly.

Examination at the scene of the accident at Gould Farm, Rayne, Essex showed that the aircraft had struck the ground whilst diving vertically at very high speed. The force of the impact and subsequent fire which broke out reduced the wreckage to such a condition that no technical evidence was obtainable from it, except that it was possible to state that there had been no structural failure of any major component in flight.

The engine had penetrated the ground to a depth of about 12 ft and had been smashed by the force of impact into three main portions.

There were indications that it had been running at high speed when the aircraft hit the ground.

Mustang FX876 in-flight - Alex at the controls understood to be taken over the Rhineland. This photo had only recently been discovered in Poland in 2007 by the webmaster.

His son, Stefan at his father's grave marker.

Grave at Epping in 2014 (Note: a piece of his aircraft left by webmaster)

Burial Details

W/O. Aleksander Pietrzak Virtuti Militari CV 2 Bars. Bury Lane Cemetery, Epping, Essex. Row Z. Grave 11. Husband of 'Binky' Josephine Pietrzak (née Tuffield), father of Stefan Pietrzak of 62 Victoria Avenue, Hounslow, Middlesex, England. The funeral of Aleksander Pietrzak was held at 15:00 hrs. on Tuesday, 7th August at Epping Cemetery. The car provided by the RAF to take his young wife and her mother to the funeral was late - they arrived after the service! One can only imagine the distress this caused, not only at the time but for the rest of her days.

With many thanks to the 'Wings Museum' for their valued assistance with this recovery. also to Agnes Modrzejewska for her research carried out on our behalf at the Kew Archives, and Joe Fukuto of Canada and his work with the 'Aces Of WW2' Website for his support.

KTY - 25.04.2016 - Map added.

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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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