Wing Commander Tadeusz Sawicz VM DFC
February 13 1914 – October 19 2011. Age 97.
When the Germans invaded his homeland, Sawicz was serving in Poland with the 114 Fighter Flight of No 1 Air Wing.
On September 1 1939, despite flying an antiquated biplane fighter, he damaged a Messerschmitt Bf 109.
On September 5 he was appointed a deputy commander of his squadron, and over the next few days was credited with destroying two enemy bombers and damaging two more.
On September 14 Sawicz flew from an airfield in south-east Poland to Warsaw, by then encircled by the Germans, carrying orders for the defence HQ from the C-in-C Polish Armed Forces.
He landed under heavy fire and, after completing his task and repairing his damaged aircraft, he took off the next morning, again under fire.
With the Germans in control of most of Poland, Sawicz led his flight to Romania on September 17.
He managed to reach France in early October , and joined a French squadron, Groupe de Chasse III/10, flying in action until the fall of France; he then flew to Algiers with other Polish pilots.
He arrived in England on July 7th 1940. After a hasty conversion to the Hurricane, Sawicz joined the second Polish fighter squadron in the R.A.F, No 303, and flew patrols during the latter stages of the Battle of Britain from Leconfield in Yorkshire.
Tadeusz Sawicz was born in Warsaw on February 13th 1914.
Having first joined the Army, he went to the Air Force Cadet Officers’ School in Deblin, where he trained as a pilot. After the Battle of Britain, Sawicz remained with No. 303 Squadron, flying defensive patrols, before joining No. 316 Squadron at Pembrey in south Wales in 1941.
On April 9th he shot down a Heinkel III bomber near St Anne’s Head, the squadron’s first confirmed success.
In July, Sawicz was awarded a Krzyz Walecznych (Cross of Valour), the first of four he would receive, and appointed flight commander.
In September 1942 he took command of No 315 Squadron, leading his unit on fighter escort missions and damaging a Focke Wulf 190 over Rouen.
His squadron often provided a fighter escort for bombers of the USAAF 8th Air Force, and he was awarded a DFC (United States).
He was made deputy commander of No 1 (Polish) Fighter Wing at Northolt in April 1943 and for his leadership and gallantry was awarded one of Poland’s highest decorations, the Virtuti Militari (5th Class).
In October 1943 he was decorated with a British DFC.
In March 1944, Sawicz was attached to the US 9th Air Force before joining the 56th Fighter Group led by his friend the American fighter ace “Gabby” Gabreski. Flying the P-47 Thunderbolt, he escorted USAAF bomber formations and was later awarded the US Air Medal.
Later that year Sawicz was appointed wing leader of 131 (Polish) Fighter Wing, part of the Second Tactical Air Force and equipped with three Spitfire squadrons. Flying from advanced landing grounds in France, Belgium and Holland, the wing was tasked in the fighter-bomber role to fly sweeps over the Continent.
Soon after taking command, Sawicz was seriously injured when his Spitfire was hit by a following aircraft while he was still on the runway. But he returned to command the wing, and on January 1 1945 led his squadrons in a successful attack on 40 German aircraft parked on an airfield.
He flew intensive operations throughout the spring of 1945 as the squadron moved forward with the advancing Allied armies. In June he received a third bar to the Cross of Valour. The Dutch government awarded him its equivalent of the DFC, the Vlieger Cruis.
After the war he commanded No 133 Wing and was released from the Polish Air Force in January 1947.
Sawicz remained in Britain for some years before emigrating to Canada in November 1957, where he worked in the airline industry.
In 2006, by order of Poland’s President, Lech Kaczynski, he was appointed brigadier-general.
Tadeusz Sawicz is survived by his third wife, Jadwiga.
Additional Information. Kindly supplied by Peter Sikora:
Sawicz never was in the Army. It was a requirement that before joining A.F. College he had to complete 3 months of unitary course in one of the Army regiments.
He was in Infantry Cadets School at Zambrow (3 months). Just to get to use with the drill, etc.
The Polish never used the term “Wings”. He served initially in 111 Eskadra then in 114 Eskadra within 1 Air Regiment (in Warsaw).
He flew PZL P.11c which was not a biplane. We had biplanes only in training units. His score during Polish campaign: 1 Bf 109 destroyed (Polish authorities gave him only 1/2 of damage) Do 17 destroyed Ju 86 destroyed (in fact Do 17 as Luftwaffe didn’t use Ju 86s in Poland) Ju 86 and Do 17 damaged (see comment above re Ju 86)
He became deputy commander of his unit on 4th September.
On 17th September he led only four aircraft to Romania. The rest were destroyed. Poland was also attacked by the Soviets.
He never joined French unit. He belonged to Polish attachment (section) led by Gabszewicz of GC III/10
Polish squadrons were never RAF (read Polish and British agreements)
He was posted to 316 Squadron on 20th February 1941.
Gabreski led 61st F.S. not 56th F.G. This group was led by Hub Zemke. Gabreski previously flew in 315 Polish Squadron led by Sawicz (to get combat experience. He spoke fluent Polish as his parents were Poles).
Before Sawicz (on 10th October 1944) was appointed flying CO of Polish 131 Wing he led (since 15th June) 3rd Polish Wing.
On 16th July 1945 he was again appointed CO of 3rd Polish Wing
From Boston Globe 27 October 2011
Tadeusz Sawicz, 97; Polish pilot fought Nazis with RAF
By Monika Scislowska Associated Press,October 27, 2011, 1:35 a.m.
WARSAW – A Polish World War II airman, believed to be the last surviving Polish pilot from the Battle of Britain, has died at age 97 in a Canadian nursing home.
Brigadier General Tadeusz Sawicz died Oct. 19 at a nursing home in Toronto.
Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza daily reported yesterday that General Sawicz was the last surviving pilot from the Polish Air Forces in Britain during World War II. He fought in the 1940 battle and served with the air force until early 1947.
Historian Adam Zamoyski – author of “The Forgotten Few: The Polish Air Force in the Second World War’’ – said that if General Sawicz was the last surviving pilot from the 1940 battle it closes an important chapter in the war’s and Poland’s history.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph obituaries column.
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Article prepared by Barry Howard.