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Thread: Help on the Numbering of Polish personnel in the RAF in WW2

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    Default Help on the Numbering of Polish personnel in the RAF in WW2

    Hello All,
    I have been using http://listakrzystka.pl/en/ to add to my uniformed meteorologists database. But – as is often the case – it asks more questions than it answers!!
    The List shows many – but not all - of the Commissioned Polish meteorologists as having two numbers. One is in the P-xxxx series, and the second number in an RAF 6-digit series. But it should be pointed out that very many (if not all – I haven’t yet finished checking!) of these 6-digit Officer Numbers are, in fact, from the two Enlisted Blocks (780000-784999 Poles in UK Dec 1939, and 792001-795000 Poles in UK Aug 1940). Robert Bojdys (whom I know), for example, was 780230 as a Sgt Met in WW2 (No P-xxxx in the List). He retained that number when Commissioned as a Reserve Met Officer in July 1955. The Polish Met WAAFs are different again. The NCO/OR ranks mostly have numbers in the WAAF 278xxxx series. The Commissioned Forecasters all seem to have only a P-xxxx number.
    Can someone, therefore, give me a brief run-down on how the RAF Service Numbers of ex-Poland personnel were allocated, and to whom? I suspect there may be the odd ‘typo’ in the List but until I have a background how/where/when for the allocations it is difficult to do a logical check. I am also aware that Commissioned/Enlisted Poles did not appear in the LG – for security and rellies safety reasons – but when was this ceased? Of the few that I have tried (Number or Name) in the post-WW2 LG nothing comes up!
    Or is this yet another one of those ‘minefields’???
    TIA
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 5th July 2016 at 12:13. Reason: QSD
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    Hello Peter,

    It gets worse! Generally speaking the numbering is, as you said, 7***** for enlisted men and P-**** for commissioned officers. But in the early days there was also a sequence of numbers 7**** (only five digits). I think this confusion was because the first influx of men were not given numbers until they actually arrived at RAF Eastchurch and later at the Polish Depot at Blackpool.

    This was because so many were killed or captured whilst trying to escape via St Jan de Luz on the Spanish border or from Marseilles to North Africa, then again from North Africa to Gibraltar. If numbers had been allocated once they reached (say) Gibraltar there would have been many gaps in the blocks of allocated numbers due to the action taken by the Germans in an effort to prevent them reaching England.

    As it happened, the numbers were issued as they arrived - a massive influx at first followed by a steady stream. The authorities were unable to cope with all the boats arriving all the way round the coast from Liverpool to London and some even in Glasgow. The army and navy had similar difficulties and there were often men from all three services arriving on the same vessel. A further complication was weeding out the fifth columnists who arrived with the documentation of dead servicemen.

    It was so hectic that original records were just hand written in British Civil Service notebooks. Once they were more or less organised, the recording became better regulated.

    At the War's end, many of them stayed on in the service and some retained their old numbers whilst others were given RAF numbers.

    Be prepared for anything that comes along with the Polish Air Force numbering system. It should also be said that some of the numbers in Krzystek's List were given by third parties. Tadeusz Krzystek prepared this list, well after the War ended, with a lot of help from others and he did a magnificent job with what he had to work with. But there are inevitably mistakes.

    I wish you luck!

    Neville

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    Neville,
    Thankyou for your prompt response. It is much as I had expected. Firstly, (a) a period of some low/middle-level Air Min civil servants saying "You want us to do what?!!!!!". This followed by (b) a period of "making it up as they went along"!! And, finally (c) where it is all sorted out bar the problems initiated in (a), and (b). Been there, done all three, at various stages in my career. Your final para tells me that the List is not without the odd 'glitch'!! That is a help.
    It is a little disturbing, though, that many of the Names do not come up in post-WW2 LG. Some appear on Naturalisation. Some stay in the RAF, and do 'good things'. Some, like the Polish Master Aircrew on 70 (etc) Sqn lead young meteorologists astray! Some, no doubt, returned to Poland? They may have had "difficulties" with the new administration in that country?
    Thanks again! If there are any other thoughts, please post!
    Rgds
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 5th July 2016 at 13:45.
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    Hello Peter,

    There is another glitch that I forgot to mention! It comes back to protecting families in Poland. Many Poles served under false names (with official blessing) and may be listed under those false names. There is a list somewhere of who served as whom - sadly, nobody seems to know where it is or all the Polish researchers would have a much easier life!

    Examples often appear on gravestones of those who were killed, or on memorial sites - but it would be a huge help if anyone had been able to confirm this and compare the names. Mostly, they continued to serve under their nom de guerre after the War - especially since the Russians were masters of Poland. Many of those who returned to Poland were persecuted - harassed by the security services, university educated people working as road-sweepers etc; some went to prison and some were even executed for treason. So there was no sort of cut off point for when this stopped. I suppose it was just as families died out and could no longer be used against them. It seems to have gone on to some degree right up to the break up of the Soviet Union.

    Are you using the on-line Krzystek List? or are you using the original List that went out of use on the death of Tadeusz Krzystek a couple of years ago? The latter sometimes has a little more information. I have a copy if you would like to refer to it.

    Regards
    Neville

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    Neville, Hi,
    I am using the http://listakrzystka.pl/en/ version which I copied from (I think?) one of Col Bruggy’s posts. Whether this is ‘up-to-date’ I know not? In the Met world most of us have worked (or heard of) with ex-Polish meteorologists. Indeed, the S Met O of the Met Office I went to on my initial appointment to the Met Office was known as “Zee-petrovski” – or, more formally, as Mr Peters! Thus my interest in this particular bit of the Met Office. The List shows a large number of Polish meteorologists – more than could be accommodated on Stations with Polish crewed Sqns. I am simply trying to record (and track) their where/whens.
    As far as I am aware only one ex-Poland Met Office staff was killed in the CWGC WW2 period. This is Met WAAF 2992592 Lili Stefania Bankier (Met Office RoH). But she is recorded in the List as Banker. You can, therefore, see why I was asking about typos/glitches. I have emailed the List pointing this out! I await, if ever, their reply.
    I have no axe(s) to grind in this matter. I am just part of that collection of researchers who are trying to get to the nearest approximation to the truth, after WW2, as is possible!
    We should be so lucky!!!
    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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    Hello Peter,

    The list in your link is up to date BUT the list I have is in greater detail but unfortunately in Polish! However, Google Translate copes reasonably well with it and I will happily send you copies of the two parts if you would like them. There is a lot of ancillary documentation but the list itself starts at about page 65 on the first file. It also includes WAAFs and you can just skim down the right hand side and look for Meteorolog in bold.

    Meanwhile,I found these:

    P-2886 (704588) Liberra Bernard 20.05.1911 ppor. / F/O Meteorolog
    P-2624 (703193) Ostrowski Antoni 15.08.1905 por. / F/O Meteorolog
    P-2339 (704585) Piegza Jan 20.01.1909 por. / F/Lt Meteorolog
    P-2445 (704587) Szczyrbak Stefan 12.02.1909 por. / F/O Meteorolog
    Showing commissioned number, enlisted number, name, date of birth and rank.

    Enjoy!
    Neville

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    Hello Peter,

    I don't know if this is quite what you are looking for, but it is about a Polish meteorologist airman - after a fashion!

    STANISLAW JERZY OLEJNIK

    During the September Campaign he served with 1st Air Regiment and, on 19th September 1939, he was evacuated to Hungary and interned in the camp at Eger which became a satellite concentration camp for Jews later in the war. Security was not tight and he escaped and made his way to France, in the company of a group of his colleagues. Later, he escaped from France and arrived at RAF Blackpool, the main Polish Depot where he trained as a meteorologist before being posted to 304 Squadron.

    Like most Poles he wanted to fight and he successfully applied to become aircrew as a wireless operator/air gunner. For a while he remained with them on anti-submarine warfare duties and was awarded the Cross of Valour for his skill and courage in fighting off an attack by a German fighter.

    In May 1944 he transferred to 1586 Special Duties Flight, based at Campo Casale, Brindisi, Italy and from here, he flew many missions to Albania, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Jugoslavia and Poland. There is a vague report that he was seriously injured in a forced landing in December 1944 and remained in a Polish field hospital in Italy, recuperating from his injuries until May 1945. I have not been able to confirm this but he was definitely not on board the only aircraft that 301 Squadron (successors to 1586 Flight) lost in that month. However, the description I have seen says it was a forced landing and mentions no fatalities, nor does it claim the aircraft was written off. If this is true, the aircraft most probably a Halifax would not be listed as a loss.

    On his return to England, he enrolled on a one year meteorology course, which he completed in August 1946. Two months later, he returned to Krakow in Poland and took a job as a weather forecaster for the Polish airline LOT. In 1949 he went to work for PIHM, the state meteorology department, and naturally applied his skills to aviation weather forecasting. He stayed there until 1959 when he left to become manager of the airport at Nowy Targ. From 1969 until 1989 he was employed by LOT as their manager in Krakow for the first four years and then as their manager in Milan, Italy.

    He died on 12th January 2005 and was given full military honours at his funeral in the Rakowicki Cemetery in Krakow.

    Regards
    Neville

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    It is simple. British law did not allow any foreign army to be based on the British soil. Hence Polish Air Force was to be a part of RAF VR, and and all the airmen had to make an oath to the king. All the officers, who were send to the UK in 1939/1940 were assigned RAF VR 5 digit numbers. When France collapsed, the rest of the Polish AF arrived, and merged as Polish Air Force, with the change of the British law. Therefore newly arriving officers were assigned new 4 digit numbers with P prefix, while those originating from RAF VR, retained theirs. Post was, those officers, who joined RAF, were assigned new numbers around 300XXX block. NCOs had 6 digit numbers from the start, and retained them post-war.
    I am not aware of any changes of names amongst the Polish airmen, so called nom de guerres. The only cases I am aware of, were ex-German army, who were assigned new names, to protect them in case of being taken PoW.

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    Thanks to all (particularly Franek) for the info on the numbering of the Polish AF in UK/RAFVR Poles. I do like working with experts - makes life so much easier!!
    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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    Hi all, Franek are you sure there is not a typo in your post? From our previous discussion on similar theme I understood that the block of post-war officers numbers was 500xxx not 300xxx.

    Pavel
    Czechoslovak Airmen in the RAF 1940-1945
    http://cz-raf.webnode.cz

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