BLATCH, Thomas Philip, Warrant Officer (476616) – 976618 – No.76 Squadron - Member, Order of the British Empire – awarded as per London Gazette dated 6 September 1946. Citation published there. Added biographical Information from Spink catalogue of 9 May 2002, transcribed by Huguette Momdor Oates.
“Warrant Officer Blatch was the Wireless Operator of an aircraft which caught fire and had to be abandoned in September 1942. He sustained head and foot injuries and was captured 24 hours later. In February 1943, he exchanged identity with a soldier at Lamsdorf and, whilst on a working party at a coal mine near Dabrowa, he escaped by means of a disused air shaft. He made for the East and next day made contact with a Pole who took him over the border and introduced him to a member of an underground movement.
“Warrant Officer Blatch was provided with Polish papers, clothing and money, and with a student member of the movement went on various missions, including one for the destruction of German road convoys and the local S.S. H.Q., at Przemysl. After a train wrecking incident, the Germans made a thorough check up and Warrant Officer Blatch, with others, was arrested and interrogated. He failed to satisfy a Polish interpreter and was taken to Monte Lubitsch Prison where he was kept for three weeks under sentence of death. He was later identified and in April 1943, returned to Lamsdorf. In March 1944, Warrant Officer Blatch, with a companion, provided with papers, money and civilian clothes, escaped through the wire and made their way to the railway station at Annadorf, where they boarded a train for Stettin. On arrival, they contacted some friendly Polish dock workers who gave them shelter until they could stow away on a Swedish vessel.
“They were however betrayed and arrested and Warrant Officer Blatch was sent to Stalag IIIA at Luckenwald. While at Stalag IIIA, Warrant Officer Blatch obtained civilian clothes and, with the aid of a Yugoslav, walked out of the camp and eventually boarded a goods train. He reached Posen next morning and there hid until dusk. He then contacted members of the underground movement, with whom he stayed until August 1944, when again he was arrested after taking part in an attack on a German ammunition dump. In April 1945, when the camp at Altengrabow was evacuated, Warrant Officer Blatch and another made their escape and contacted Russian forces five days later."
Flying Officer Thomas Philip Edward “Terry” Blatch, M.B.E., born in Kensington, London, in November 1916, served from 14.8.1931 to 8.9.1932 as a Boy Soldier with the East Surrey Regiment. Joining the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in January 1939 and qualifying as Wireless Operator/Air Gunner in April 1941, he completed 14 operations in Halifaxes of No. 76 Squadron against a number of Italian and German targets. In June, 1942, the Squadron joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and Blatch and his crew continued their tour of operations against Tobruk.
On 5.9.1942, however, their aircraft was hit by fighter and Anti-Aircraft fire during a trip to Heraklion. Fire took hold and the order was given to bale out. Blatch, though suffering from shrapnel wounds in the head and left foot, baled out safely with Warrant Officer Young and Flight Sergeant Robinson, but the Skipper, Flight Lieutenant Bryan and another crew member, Sergeant Potts, were killed. Unable to walk, Blatch was soon picked up and taken in a Ju.52 Transport to an Afrika Korps hospital in Athens. From there he was sent for interrogation to Dulag Luft at Obsel Frankfurt, prior to internment at Stalag VIIIB, Lamsdorf.
At Lamsdorf he met an acquaintance from his days as a winger for London-Irish. The friend, a Lieutenant in the R.A.M.C., gave him the idea of changing identities with a recuperating Private in the East Surreys, in order that Blatch might later get on one of the working parties closed to P.O.W. Aircrew. The ruse worked and he was sent to a coal mine near Dabrowa on the Polish border. During a night shift, he effected an escape via a disused air shaft and heading East made contact with a Pole who was engaged in smuggling activities over the border. The smuggler took him to Skawina where he introduced him to a member of the Armja Krowa (A.K.) Movement (Home Army). After security checks, he was passed on to a relative of the smuggler – a student and active A.K. member called Drem – who for the next few weeks made himself completely responsible for Blatch’s welfare.
Blatch was advised that returning to the U.K. would be extremely difficult but also that the best bet was via Libau in Estonia. Fortunately, he spoke reasonable German and was able to pass for a Pole. Accordingly, he decided to take the A.K.’s oath of allegiance, which carried with it the death penalty for betrayal, and participate in its sabotage activities until such time that a means of getting to Libau presented itself.
During the course of the next seven weeks, Blatch participated in the ambush and destruction of German road convoys, the destruction of the S.S. Headquarters at Przemsyl, and the destruction of a ammunition train South of Warsaw, with delayed action charges. The night after the latter action the German authorities rounded up large numbers of suspects in the city, including Blatch, and took them to Gestapo Headquarters for questioning. Blatch managed to satisfy the German-speaking interrogators that he was an innocent Pole, but their Polish interpreter was unconvinced for obvious reasons. At length, Blatch confessed to being an escaped P.O.W. identity as an R.A.F. Warrant Officer established, he was sent back to Lamsdorf.
On 20.3.1944, Blatch escaped again, this time with Private Parker, a Commando, and boarded a train for Stettin where they arrived 30 hours later. They made friends with some Polish dock workers in the hope of getting aboard a Swedish ship, but the Swedish vessels were berthed in a sector where the forced labour was French. One of the latter betrayed Blatch and Parker and they were arrested. As a result of his previous escape, Blatch was transferred to Stalag IIIA at Luckenwalde.
In July, 1944, he feigned toothache and obtained permission to leave the British compound and visit the hospital in the main (international) camp. Once inside, he had little difficulty in acquiring civilian clothes and walking out of the camp with a visiting party of Yugoslavs, having persuaded one of them to remain behind in order to leave the numbers of the party unchanged. Jumping an Eastbound goods train, he arrived at Posen next morning where, through a café proprietor, he was put in touch again with the A.K. His old friend Drem arrived about five days later and took Blatch back to the Przemysl area in time to take an active part in the Warsaw Uprising.
At 1700 hours on 1.8.1944, General Bor-Komarowsky, the C-in-C of the Polish Home Army, put his plan into action to reclaim Warsaw. Some 10,000 men bearing only light arms were organized across the city and for the next 63 days they engaged German forces, including tanks and artillery in order to assist the Russian advance. In the Wola District of the city, Blatch was attached to a unit defending the west wall of the Protestant Cemetery. On 3 August, his sector was subjected to attack by a Panzer unit. Intense house-to-house fighting continued for five days. On the sixth day, the Polish Company Commander was wounded and Blatch replaced him with Drem as his Second-in-Command, but both were wounded shortly afterwards while attacking German mortar positions.
Owing to the severe shortage of medical supplies, their wounds became infected and, following a hospital visit from General Bor-Komarwosky himself, they were evacuated to the south of the city. After three weeks, Blatch rejoined his Company in the Krakow District, and on 26 August took part in an ill-planned attack in ‘Divisional strength’ on a German ammunition dump. Blatch’s section of 12 men was immediately surrounded at the start of the attack and was forced to surrender after five men had been killed. Blatch was identified from his imprisonment at Monte Lubitsch in 1943 and was classified as a ‘Special Category’ prisoner at Altengrabow.
Finally, in April 1945, he slipped away with Warrant Officer Bird as the camp was being evacuated and after five days made contact with forward elements of the Red Army in the Brandenburg area on or about 5.5.1945.
Reference: ‘Free to Fight Again, RAF Escapes and Evasions 1940-45’ by Alan Cooper.
Last edited by HughAHalliday; 31st May 2022 at 13:32. Reason: adding unit.