I had the honour to exchange few letters with this GREAT man!
I have just received information, that Paddy Szrajer passed away. He was one of the top Polish bomber/special duty pilots with 100 missions during the war. He saved London, flying pieces of V2 rocket from occupied Poland to Italy. Between 1941 and 1983 he spend 25,000 hrs in the air. I will miss him.
I had the honour to exchange few letters with this GREAT man!
Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
Thank you for posting news of Szrajer's passing. I did not know him personally but about three years ago, I gave a lecture about the airlift to Warsaw in 1944 and the WILDHORN sorties in which he participated, flying as a co-pilot on WILDHORN 3 IIRC.
As I read of his experiences, I was humbled at his courage and tenacity and also the resolve of his colleagues to carry the fight to the enemy.
Another of that remarkable band was Warrant Officer Stanislaw Klowoski, who had been awarded the DFC and the DFM, in addition to the VM and the Cross of Valour. He remained in UK post war but was killed on 17 September 1971, when standing at a bus stop in Streatham, south London, after a bus crashed into the queue. He was age 58. His 100th birthday will be 11 January 2013.
The free world owes men like these a debt that can never be repaid but sadly these days, few people know of their exploits.
I will be sending an email to the chap who writes the Daily Telegraph 'air force' obits to see if he will do one for Szrajer.
Last edited by Oldduffer; 20th August 2012 at 21:28.
Above, I commented on 'Paddy' Szrajer and I take the liberty of posting the opening part of the lecture to which I referred. The account went on to cover the airlift to Warsaw and the political fallout. It also described the attempts to bring help to Warsaw, some unrealistic requests from the Poles and the unreasonable criticism of the British by both the Poles and South Africans. It also commented on the casualties suffered by the Poles, South Africans and British air forces and the others who flew with them.
I hope those who know little of this unhappy period, will find the WILDHORN saga of interest.
"SPECIAL DUTIES OPERATIONS – THE POLISH DIMENSION
This last presentation of the seminar summarises the involvement of Special Duties (SD) crews in one of the less well-known but very significant campaigns conducted in, or perhaps from,. the Mediterranean theatre and one which was to have long-term political repercussions – the uprising in Warsaw in August and September 1944. As a precursor to that, however, we should first consider the WILDHORN sorties flown by No 267 Sqn earlier in that same year.
The Poles of the Brindisi-based No 1586 (SD) Flt had been delivering supplies and agents to the resistance movements in their homeland, and elsewhere, since February 1944 but their Halifaxes and Liberators lacked the ability to handle pick-ups. What was needed was an aircraft that could fly into and out of a relatively short airstrip while having sufficient performance to permit it to fly to Poland and back with a worthwhile payload and to complete the round trip within the hours of darkness.
As was so often the case with air transport problems during WW II, the answer, was the ubiquitous Dakota. By 1944 several squadrons were operating them in the Mediterranean theatre, among these No 267 Sqn, nominally a general purpose transport unit but one which often provided crews and aircraft for one-off operations.
On 15 April 1944, the first WILDHORN sortie was flown from Brindisi into a clover field near Lublin. The Dakota, which had been fitted with eight additional fuel tanks, was flown by Flt Lt Edward Harrod. His co-pilot was Fg Off Boleslaw Korpowski, an experienced SD pilot, attached from the Polish-manned No 1586 Flt, who had been shot-down over France and made a successful ‘home-run’. The sortie succeeded in delivering two couriers and bringing out five high value personnel, including General Stanislaw Tatar, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armia Krajowa (AK) – the Polish Home Army. The aircraft was only on the ground for about fifteen minutes during which it encountered some problems with soft ground, a tendency to become bogged down while standing still, followed by a difficult take-off.
Having proved the concept, a second sortie was flown some six weeks later. On this occasion, the captain was Flt Lt O’Donavan and his co-pilot, again drawn from No 1586 Flt, was Plt Off Jacek Blocki. The sortie, escorted as was the first WILDHORN, for part of the way by a pair of Liberators, delivered two senior officers to a field at Zaborow near Tarnow and after only six minutes on the ground it took off with three passengers. Perhaps because of their sensitivity there is little reference to these missions in No 267 Sqn’s Operations Record Book, although the Polish Air Force history is more forthcoming, as is Blocki’s autobiography, First Tango In Warsaw.
The third WILDHORN operation was probably the most important of these sorties and it also came the closest to failure. The landing strip was the same one as had been used for the previous sortie but the load to be brought out was extremely valuable. Following the RAF attack on the experimental establishment at Peenemunde, the Germans had moved their rocket development programme to Mielec in Poland. The Blizna artillery range was rapidly expanded and exceptional security arrangements were implemented – all of which served to attract the attention of the AK.
When the test firings began, the Germans deployed teams to retrieve the wreckage of rockets which had failed. On 20 May 1944 a relatively intact V2 fell into a swamp. Before the Germans could find it, the Poles had camouflaged the site so successfully that the search was eventually abandoned. A few nights later, it was dragged from the swamp by three pairs of horses and spirited away to be dismantled and examined. In due course London was informed of this major coup and WILDHORN III was mounted to collect detailed drawings and some parts of the salvaged missile.
This time the Polish co-pilot was Kazimierz Szrajer, another special duties pilot, with over ninety sorties to his credit, and the captain was a New Zealander; Stanley Culliford. The escorting Liberator was flown by the co-pilot from WILDHORN I – Boleslaw Korpowski on the final sortie of his third tour. On the flight to Poland, the aircraft carried four Polish officers and nineteen suitcases of special equipment.
The two aircraft flew together until just before nightfall, when the Liberator turned off to proceed on its own task. Navigation was hampered by haze until a positive pinpoint was obtained as the Dakota crossed the Danube. The Hungarian Plain was crossed at about 7500 feet as it was believed that German night fighter radars were badly affected by ground returns below 8000 feet. The wireless operator was able to assist in the construction of fixes by taking bearings on radio transmissions from German airfields. A final turning point over the Carpathian Mountains was reached almost on ETA and the aircraft descended rapidly towards the airstrip. As it transpired, enemy troops had been camped nearby that morning and two aircraft had actually been using the strip for circuit training during daylight hours.
While approaching the airstrip, which had not been marked as previously briefed, the Dakota passed over a road along which a large military convoy was moving. Nevertheless, having been obliged to carry out an overshoot, the aircraft landed successfully off its second attempt. Once on the ground, the aircraft was rapidly off-loaded and reloaded and was ready to depart within minutes. It was then that the trouble started.
At first the parking brake would not release and after this had been resolved, the aircraft still declined to move, even with full power applied. Reasoning that the brakes had seized, the captain decided to cut the hydraulic pipes, but this did not help. Several bouts of frantic digging, encouraged by the indomitable Szrajer, followed and the aircraft, now with no brakes, finally broke free – and proceeded to go round in circles. By using differential throttles, Culliford eventually managed to get the aircraft lined up for take off. Wet ground meant that the first attempt to get airborne had to be abandoned and the second only just succeeded with the Dakota narrowly clearing a ditch as it was pulled off the ground at 65 knots.
The undercarriage was still a problem, as it could not be retracted because the hydraulic fluid had bled away. The pilot’s report merely says that the reservoir was recharged ‘with all available fluids’ until sufficient pressure was obtained to permit the undercarriage to be pumped up by hand. To ensure the aircraft’s safety, it was imperative that it should be clear of Yugoslav airspace before daylight. Now 65 minutes behind schedule, this meant that corners had to be cut, putting the aircraft dangerously close to known night fighter hotspots. Fortunately, no serious challenges were made and the aircraft arrived at Brindisi, where a brakeless landing was made on a runway that was still under construction.
For Culliford there was a DSO, with the briefest of citations, and for his navigator and wireless operator a DFC and DFM respectively. The Poles were also generous with their awards and Culliford received the Virtuti Militari and was further rewarded by them many years after the war."
Exactly as I remember the story from the Czech book Nejtek Vilém - Smrt se učí létat where all the development of V-1 and V-2 is desribed inlcuding the undeground factories with prisoners.
Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
To complete Colin's message, the medals of Stanley George Culliford are on public display in the RNZAF museum at Wigram (Christchurch) in New-Zealand. I saw them in a showcase last March. There was also a text and picture explaining how he earned his DSO and the Virtuti Military.
Thanks for that Franek. May he fly amongst his colleagues amongst the stars forever at peace!
Last Tuesday I met a friend who writes the air force obituaries for a national newspaper.
I told him about Szrajer's passing and he was very interested in the possibility of producing a suitable tribute of the standard expected of a 'serious' national newspaper.
If anybody cares to post a reliable account of Szrajer and his life, this would provide a very useful basis from which to work and my friend could then incorprate same in his piece.
CAUTION it has to be reliable and not just gossip.
See the link above, and of course, you can contact me off board for more details.