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Thread: Polish Graves at Benson

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    Default Polish Graves at Benson

    Hello All,
    I donít want to start a big debate, I just want a bit of guidance.
    In the Benson (St Helen) Churchyard Extension there are the graves of 3 Polish airmen (W Makarewicz, F Blyscal, and A Ignaszak (apologies for the incorrect script)) all of 12 OTU (Benson/Mount Farm) and killed in an accident on 26 Nov 1940. These 3 were in a Battle (number/code not known) that crashed shortly after take-off from Mount Farm(?).
    My question is: why were we training very valuable Polish aircrew to fly a useless airframe? The pre-Dunkirk debacle in France had proved this. Was it because we were desperately short of aircraft? The OTU got Wellingtons a week later (according to RAFWEB) and started to train night-bomber crews.
    TIA
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Hi Peter,
    Guess you're right on that or so it appears. ! Group was reformed in June 1940 with 12, 103, 142 and 150 squadrons all on Battles. They initially were on anti invasion standby and later more direct action against the barges in French ports. The Poles joined them in July as 300 and 301. Desperate times.
    All these units re equiped with Wellingtons in Oct/Nov 1940 period as well as two more Polish units , 304 and 305, that were still training up on Battles.

    The three gallant Poles you mention were lost in L5071 of 12 OTU, which lost height after take off and crashed one mile north west of Mount Farm.
    regards Peter

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    Peter,
    Mni tks that - much appreciated! As you said "desperate times". Or - as a colleague has suggested - the keen Polish aircrew could get into less trouble in the air than they could if not in the air - if you follow my meaning!!!
    Answers the question!
    Yrs Aye
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Peter, to put this on perspective: at the time of this accident the RAF SFTS at Kingston in Canada was using Battles to train future FAA fighter pilots. Not because the Battle was good for this, but just because that was all they had.

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    Chorley tells us the Battle was L5071.

    Colin Cummings

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    F/O Wladyslaw Makarewicz (pilot), F/O Antoni Ignaszak (navigator), Sgt Franciszek Blyskal (wireless operator/gunner)

    IIRC it was the Polish AF HQ that opted for Battles as the initial equipment of Polish bomber squadrons. The Wellington was a very heavy bomber by pre-war Polish standards and the Polish crews had to learn many general technological differences compared to their Polish aircraft (such as the throttle operating in reverse direction etc.). I believe it was assumed it would be easier for Polish crew to first convert onto a type that was more similar in size and performance to pre-war Polish bombers.

    BTW, "the keen Polish aircrew" had already been in UK since December 1939, so those of them who were likely to "get into trouble if not in the air" had already gotten into it - if I follow your meaning...

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    VoyTech, Hi
    Many thanks for the technical explanation of how the Polish aircrew came to be flying Battles. Exactly what I was after!
    I worked on at least 6 RAF Stations (in the early 1950's) with Met Forecasters/Assistants who had arrived with the Polish Air Force in WW2 so I am not entirely unfamiliar!!! Indeed, the S Met O of the first Station I was at when I joined the Met Office was Polish (S P Peters).
    Appreciate your last sentence! The aircrews flew hard - and played hard!! I have been on the receiving end of that more than once!!
    Rgds
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    I would expect it to be a bit more complicated. Poland discussed acquiring Battles or Blenheims before the war, and finally went for the former (IIRC Belheim was finally refused). Mind you, it was still believed it was a good aircraft at the time. After the Polish Campaign Polish airmen who were transferred to RAFVR were on some sort of low priority training, being treated with some reservation. On the other hand, Polish authorities pressed to get Polish units formed as quick as possible, if not due to military reasons, then especially to propaganda ones, and indeed, Battle could go enter into action without delays. At the time RAF suffered shortages of aircraft, and the original RAF units were to be reequiped first, to go into action as quickly as possible, while there was still plenty of targets on the French coast that were in the range of Battles. Also, Poland had to pay for those aircraft, and given Poland already had a credit for Battles, and allocated planes, it may have simplified all the financial issues. The latter factor was never properly researched to my knowledge.

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