Flight Lieutenant Jan Preihs KW and Bar.
Born Friday, 3rd August 1917 in Zielen village near Torun. Died Friday, February 12th 2014. Age 97
Exchanged a 'liberated' Bf 109 with the Americans for a bottle of whisky.
Jan finished primary and high school in Torun. In 1937 he was accepted to the Polish Air Force Officers Cadet School in Deblin and completed gliding training in Ustianowa. On the 21st September 1937 sent for three months for the unitary training for cadets at 67 Infantry Regiment in Brodnica.
In January 1938 he joined Polish Air Force Cadets School in Deblin (XIIIth graduation). When Germans invaded Poland, Preihs was doing his second (out of three) year and completing advanced fighter course at Ulez near Deblin. Appointed to deliver PZL P.7 fighters to one of the units in the Eastern Poland.
Later, on 17th of September he crossed Romanian border where he was interned. Preihs and his colleagues were promoted to the podporucznik's rank (first officer's rank of the PAF Because of the circumstances it was decided that all cadets of the XIII Graduation completed their course). After successful escape from camp he sailed from Balcik and crossed Black Sea and via Malta arrived in France.
In France he trained in Bordeaux, flying obsolete Potez 540 planes. After the French collapse he was evacuated to United Kingdom. On the 25th March 1941 posted to the 25 Polish Flying Training School in Hucknall, then in April on to 2nd Signal School in Yatesbury. 15th June 1942 he was posted to 58 OTU in Grangemouth. Finally on the 14th September 1942 he was posted to Polish 302 - City of Poznan Squadron, flying Spitfire V's.
On the 5th April 1943 he was transferred to newly formed Polish 318 City of Gdansk Fighter and Reconnaissance Squadron at Detling (initially equipped with Hurricanes). In August, together with his unit Preihs left for Egypt, then Palestine and finally Italy. He was commanding C Flight.
He flew Spitfires. In July 1944 he was posted to 92 Squadron, then he served as personal pilot of the commanding officer of the 5th British Corps (he flew Austers). Preihs re-joined his 318 Squadron. On the 22nd December 1944 he was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and crash landed in a river bed. Rescued by the locals and with broken skull and damaged spine arrived in the hospital at Rimini. Despite his wounds he left hospital after just 10 days! Joining his unit to fly and fight again. Jan Preihs bought a Bf109 fighter plane from the American soldiers. He paid them with a few bottles of whisky. This Messerschmitt remained with 318 Squadron for some time, wearing the unit's code letters LW and the PAF checkerboard.
Captured and 'purchased' Bf109 shown right
In Italy he met his future wife, Katarzyna Łukaszewicz (a soldier with the Polish 2 Corps). After the war (1989) together with his wife, he gathered materials related to the XIII Graduation publishing a great research book. (Czyz mogli dac wiecej -Did they give more?) Shown below.
He owned a small business in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England, where he settled, repairing antiques.
Hw as awarded the Krzyz Walecznych (Cross of Valour) & Bar, the Medal Lotniczy (Air Medal) & Bar, plus the Odznaka Za Rany i Kontuzje (Wound Badge).
Jan Preihs died on Friday, 12th February 2014. He will be greatly missed by his many friends.
Above: Peter Sikora with Jan Preihs
Page written by his friend, Polish historian, author Peter Sikora. We invite others to send any further information for us to construct a page in the RAF memories page on his crash landing in Italy and other exploits. Contact us.
His published works: Czyz mogli dac wiecej
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