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Fl/Lt. Stanisław Socha VM, CV.

Borni in Lwow (now Lviv) Poland 27th April 1918. Died 7th May 2014, Canada Age 96.

Born in Poland, the son of Zofia de domo Ryżko and father, Antoni Socha who was a railway worker. A large family but the only boy with five sisters.

He grew up very close to the airfield of the 6 Air Regiment. Graduated from ‘Jan and Jędrzej Śniadecki’ High School for boys in 1938 and passed the A Exam.

His interest in flying started with flying gliders in Stanisławów. He learned how to fly RWD-8 then Bartel BM-4 training aircraft.

In 1938 he joined Polish Air Force Cadet Officers School in Dęblin, where he learned fly PWS-10, PWS-26, then fighters PZL P.7.

Socha performed his last training flight on 1st of September 1939. After landing he was informed about the war. He left Poland with a group of other cadets and arrived in Romania. In charge of his group was the famous Witold Urbanowicz, an experienced instructor. From the port of Balcik he sailed to Marseille in France.

His group was transferred to Lyon. Then he was posted to Rabat in North Africa where he flew Potez XXVs, Loire et Oliver Leo 206 and Dewoitine D 510. After the French collapse he left for the UK via Casablanca and Gibraltar.

Completed training in 15 EFTS (November 1940), 1 PFTS (Feb – March 1941), 1 AAS in RAF Manby (March Aug 191), then in 1941 (August – Sept) was posted to 61 OTU in Heston. (Operational Training Unit)

In October 1941 Sgt. Socha joined the Polish 306 Squadron, then in November, he was posted to 303 Squadron, flying the Spitfire.

In March 1942, for 3 weeks posted to No. 81 Squadron. Then he returned to 303. On the 1st January 1942 Socha was promoted to the rank of P/O.

On the 12th April 1942 the Squadron took off at 12.40 hrs on Operation Circus 122. South of St Omer he probably shot down a Bf109. From the station ORB:

‘The Wing was jumped on out of sun by 5/6 Fw190 which selected this Unit as Top Squadron. P/O. Socha turned and attacked a Me109 which he saw attacking a Spitfire. After the second burst greyish smoke was seen coming from it and it wont spinning down. Claimed as probable.’

He met his future wife, Isabella Leary in Coltishall, Norfolk, marrying her on 16th August 1942. Their only son, Paul Stephen was born in 1943.

19th August 1942, during the famous Dieppe raid (‘Jubilee’) he claimed one Fw190 and one Ju88 destroyed.

Between the 30th November 1942 – 11th February 1943 he served in the Air Fighting Development Unit in Duxford, returning again to 303 Squadron.

On 6 July 1943 near Berck he damaged one Fw 190. The station ORB (Operational Record Book):

‘F/O. S. Socha was leading white section at 18000 ft when he saw 4 Fw. on starboard and slightly above over the sea off Berck on the way out. They turned to attack and he followed the one on the left. He opened fire from 500 yds astern closing to 400 seeing strikes on the fuselage. Receiving warning of 4 e/a which had climbed he broke off at 7/8000 ft. When last seen the e/a was going down out of control. On examination of F/O. Soch’s machine a dent was found on the underside of the nose and a dent and scratches under the air scoop. He saw nothing fly off the machine but it is possible a piece of wreckage glanced off the underside of his kite. 1 Fw. claimed damaged, unless cine gun shows probable.’

He had further action on 22nd August 1943 in Sotteville, where he damaged another Fw190. The station ORB:

‘During this sweep Sq/Ldr. Falkowski saw some e/a and his report is as follows: When over Sotteville area he noticed 4/5 Fw190 at 20/21,000 ft. flying south. He attacked one of the last pair from above and astern and opened fire from 400 yds. He gave one short and one long burst after which the e/a started smoking and went vertically down in flames. He also gave one short burst to another Fw, but seeing his No. 2 F/O. Socha attacking he broke away. The COs claim of 1 Fw190 destroyed was confirmed by five other pilots of the Squadron. Cine gun exposed. F/O. Socha who was flying lower than Sq/Ldr. Falkowski went after the second Fw. who was diving and turning like a corkscrew. He gave a few bursts from cannons and MG from 500 to 300 yds. and saw bullet strikes on the port wing. The combat was broken off at 10,000 ft. Claim 1 Fw190 damaged.’

28th January 1944 F/O. Socha was posted for rest from 27th May – 29th August 1944, serving as an instructor in 61 OTU. (Operational Training Unit)

30th August – posted back to 303 Squadron.

On the 1st September 1944 Fl/Lt. Socha took command of B Flight, 303 Squadron. He served with them until the 25th May 1945, flying the Mustang IV.

Between August 1945 and January 1947 he served in HQ of RAF Coltishall, Norfolk. He was demobilised in 1948.

Decorations: Virtuti Militari, Cross of Valour and other British war medals.

Stanisław Socha emigrated to Canada, where in Alberta he bought a farm, and was also working in a garage, repairing cars. In 1950 he moved to Toronto. There again he worked as a car mechanic.

He moved to the USA for 15 years before returning to Canada.

His only son, Paul Stephen, died in 2000 (from cancer), his wife, Isabella, passed away in 2006. Stanisław Socha died on the 7th May 2014 in Bracebridge Hospital, Canada.

With thanks to Peter Sikora for extensive research and service photographs, also to Tomasz Magierski for photographs taken during his interview with him in 2013.

Stanisław Socha 1918 – 2014

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