Flashbacks 0 to 4



Flashbacks 0 to 4


Starts with commentary on family in Poland and names recorded on visits to Poland. Continues with account of early life, school and life in Poland before the war.
Flashback 1. Mentions first operation on 300 Squadron at RAF Faldingworth. Continues with account of training in England at Hucknall, Montrose and Western Zoyland. He then trained as an instructor and was posted as a flying instructor. He volunteered for operational duties and eventually was allocated to a bomber squadron at RAF Finningley training on Wellington where he crewed up before posting to RAF Faldingworth, Continues with description of first operation to Wiesbaden and mistakenly landing at RAF Fiskerton on return. Concludes with a 10 year old schoolboy's wish to be a pilot.
Flashback 2. Account of Tadeusz joining the Polish Air Force including the reasons for his ambition, early experience of gliding, labour camp and military training. Continues with account of flying training with various incidents. Describes events during German invasion and escape to Romania.
Flashback 3. Continues with events after arriving in Romania and then travelling onwards by boat to Beirut then onwards to Marseille, Lyon. Gives account of German invasion of France in May 1940 and his escape via Toulouse, Bayonne and St Jean de Luz and then by British ship to Liverpool.
Flashback 4. Writes of changing his name and of his career in the RAF after the war including continuing flying with 300 Squadron and his final operation to Berchtesgaden as well as prisoner of war repatriation flights and food drops in Holland. Continues with account of flying troops back from Italy and a visit to Berlin. He was posted to ferry aircraft of many different types.






Twenty-five page printed document


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SQN. LDR. T. WIER, A.F.C., R.A.F. (Retd.)

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[underlined] 0 FLASHBACKS 0 [/underlined]

Most of my family are of the opinion that I ought to write something about my childhood. I guess they are right because I came and eventually settled in this country over half a century ago and with the exception of my wife and my son, Michael, no other member of my immediate family have seen or heard much about the part of Poland where I come from.

I must confess that up till now I did not think that the times of my youth were particularly interesting but, having lived all these years I have come to the conclusion that one should leave something in black and white for the children and succeeding generations.

I can even cite a personal example why one should do so. I have never met or known my grandparents because I was born quite a few years after their death. Therefore, the only good and reliable source of information about them would have been my own parents but, due to the way my life has been fashioned by world events, I could not talk to them about it, simply, because I was not able to see them in my later years. I saw the family for the last time during the Christmas holidays in 1938 when I was already in military uniform and spending the few days of my leave at home between recruit training with the infantry and posting to the Officers' Flying Training School in Deblin, Poland.

My father died less than a year later and I was not able to visit my mother after the war because the communist regime would not allow Polish citizens any social contacts with the people living in the Western countries. Actually, I received a letter from by brother about my mother's death six months after her demise while I was serving in Singapore. She died on the 1st of May, 1960, age 77 years. The next person to die in my family was my eldest brother, Wacek, and I got the news of that event again half way round the world while I was serving in Belize, British Honduras, in the early seventies.

It is obvious that I should start writing my story from as far back as it is possible. And, as all the beginnings come from our ancestors, then it must be in order to mention them at this stage.

Every time when I go to Poland, I set aside a few hours to visit the Parish Cemetery in ZGIERZ where a lot of my dead relations are now buried. It is not in any way a depressing experience because I usually find people there tending the graves, bringing flowers, clearing the footpaths or just simply walking about. There are permanent flower stalls outside the cemetery gates and they are open every day of the year. I still remember All Saints' Day celebrated on the 1st of November each year when there is a real flood of people who turn out in the evening to light the candles on the graves of their family departed. Some persons travel long distances, even scores of miles, to visit on that day their parents or other relatives graves

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and also to meet old colleagues and friends. Most of the graves will have dozens of candles flickering in the wind, others a few and there may be the odd one unattended. Very likely it will have a candle lit by a neighbour. The glow of thousands of candles is visible a long way off even on a darkest night, no matter what the weather. It is a real social occasion and one not to be missed lightly.

Last year, when I went to the cemetery, I made a note of the inscriptions on the gravestones of my grandparents and my parents.

Here are the names and dates I have noted: -

My mothers' parents: -


ZYL LAT 39, ZM. 4.10.1904 (Born 1582)
ZYLA LAT 67, ZM. 28.11.1917 (Born 1850)

My fathers' parents:-


ZYLA 44 LAT, ZM. 3.1.1904 (Born 1860)
ZYL 56 LAT, ZM. 20.1.1906 (Born 1850)

My mother: -


UR. 22.11.1882, ZM. 1.5.1960 (Lived 77 years)

My father: -


UR. 19.3.1883, ZM. 1.10.1939 (Lived 56 years)

Some explanatory notes: -
ZYL, ZYLA means Lived
LAT means Years
ZM. (Zmarl, a) means Died
UR. (Urodzony, a) means Born

WIERZBOWSCY is a collective name of the family.

It seems that in the nineteenth century Poland people did not live too long – old age being an exception rather than the rule.

As I said before, I never saw my grandparents and now I very much regret that I did not talk closely to my parents about the life of our ancestors. Were my mother and father

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alive today, I would have hundreds of questions to ask them but, unfortunately, it is too late and I have only odd bits of information which remained in my memory.

Somehow, I don’t think there was an opportune time, urge or sufficient will to delve deeply into my parents’ past. Neither do I know if the lives of my grandparents were particularly happy or joyous. None of them lived in a free country because Poland was then partitioned amongst our age-old enemies of Russia, Germany and Austria. It is certain that they were not benevolent as masters.

By a curious coincidence my mother’s parents had the same surname as my father. I queried that fact once or twice with my mother but she assured me that there was no blood relationship between her and my father. Apparently, her family came from a small settlement 25-30 miles to the west of KROGULEC which was the name of the village where we lived. I suppose, the chances are that some Wierzbowski strayed in one direction or another long, long ago and started a new branch of the family. However, my maternal grandparents must have lived not too far away because they are buried in our cemetery.

I only vaguely remember being told that my father’s parents lived in a neighbouring village and raised altogether twelve children, my father being the eldest of the five brothers. My mother had two brothers and two sisters, making five children in all on that side of the family. When I went back to Poland for the first time after my retirement in 1976, my brother, Ryszard, and I sat down and made a list of our first cousins. There were over sixty of them and some were already dead. One was killed as a soldier during the Polish campaign and another was murdered by the Gestapo during the occupation.

I think that my paternal grandfather was a small farmer because I remember that the parts of the land which were inherited by my father and belonged to our farm were really in the next village where the grandparents lived.

There is not much more that I can write about my grandparents so I will now say something about my parents, my brothers and my only sister.

My mother was married twice, my father being her second husband. Her first husband’s name was KOSTECKI so that my two elder brothers and the sister had that surname. Her name was GENOWEFA, I think she was born in 1900 or 01 which made her the eldest of the children. Unfortunately, she died in 1936 with lung disease – her trade was tailoring. Next was my brother WACLAW who served as an officer in the Polish Army (Armoured Brigade) and he was followed by HENRYK who trained at an Agricultural College and became a farmer. I believe their father died just before the First World War at a fairly young age.

I was born on the 2nd of January 1920 as the first of three brothers, the other being RYSZARD born in February 1921 and ZENON born January 1927. Ryszard became a chemical

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engineer and Zenek studied Agriculture and eventually took over our farm. There is only Ryszard left now of all of my family and we are in a kind of a race for the second place with the undertaker. I think our chances are fairly even.

Something about my father. As far as I can figure out, our part of Poland was under Russian occupation because my father was called up or conscripted into the Russian army. I still have a photograph of him in a Russian army uniform which was taken somewhere in Moscow. (There is an inscription on it to that effect). He was eventually taken prisoner by the Germans during the First World War and spent sometime in a Prisoners of War camp in Germany. I want to mention one legacy of those times which remained with him for the rest of his life – he had a somewhat choleric temperament and when he got mad he could swear fluently in three languages – Russian, German and Polish!

He returned home after the war and married my mother who was then a widow. I suppose one of the factors which helped in the marriage was the fact that my father's land was adjoining my mother's. The plots were divided only by the village road so it made economic sense to combine the two properties together. As a matter of fact, this made our farm one of the largest in the neighbourhood.

I was really born in a thatched cottage. It was very ancient, rather small and built on my mother's part of the property. A few years after my birth my parents must have decided that a larger dwelling was necessary. A new house was built of bricks and roofed over with tiles simply on the outside of the old cottage so that we had somewhere to live while the building was going up and the new roof covered the lot. I was then 4 to 5 years old.

One incident from that period of time remained in my memory and it concerns the actual new building. Well, the external walls were built of red-fired bricks but, I think, that in order to save expense, the chimney which was located in the centre of the house, was built of dried but unfired clay bricks. It was an important structure in the house because it contained near its base a kind of bakery for making our bread every week. I guess it was an accepted practice to use unfired bricks in that situation because, when the fire was lit in the bakery stove, it produced a lot of heat and would, obviously, further dry and harden the bricks. The chimney was partly built and then one night it came crashing down. There must have been some damage but, fortunately, no one was hurt. Next morning the builders inspected the havoc and looked for the cause of the disaster and eventually said that it must have been one of our dogs which peed against the corner of the chimney and thus weakened the structure. Some explanation! In point of fact I now think (with hindsight!) that the mortar they used which was lime and sand only might have been too wet and thus soaked the unfired bricks so they eventually gave way. Anyway, I believe they stuck to their story but had to rebuild the chimney where it stayed until recent years.

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One of the earliest memories which I have is that of our orchard. This happened while we still lived in the cottage and when I was very young. I was sick with measles and on top of that I caught a cold or some other infection, became very seriously ill and remained in bed for good few weeks. I remember when I was eventually allowed outside I saw the orchard in full bloom. We had a lot of fruit trees; - apples, pears, plum and cherry trees, damsons and also lots of fruiting shrubs. The time must have been in May or so because all the trees were covered in blossom. They looked beautiful to me and after being cooped up inside all those weeks, seeing the sun and the blue sky, and feeling the warm spring air, was as good as heaven to me, or at least a kind of paradise. I have never forgotten the experience.

I was my father's oldest child and he must have been quite fond of me because I was often with him and sometimes he led me around the farm by the hand. Life slows down in winter on the farm, the days get shorter so on most evenings my father would sit me on his knee and read aloud books to me. They were mostly fairy tales and, of course, I was fascinated by the wonderful stories. When my father read to me he also used a pointer showing me the words and letters as he pronounced them. Somehow or other I very quickly learned to read myself and from then on I was always in love with the written words and the treasures and wisdom to be found in books. Later on, when I was at school, I belonged and used three different libraries so that I would always have an unread book at hand. To illustrate my commitment to reading I will quote my uncle who seeing me for the first time during my return visit to Poland in 1976 said:- “Last time I saw you before the war you were reading a book and now almost forty years later on you still have a book in front of you.” Another uncle used to say to his children:- “Why aren't you like Tadek and read books?!” Those cousins reminded me of that many years later. I must have been a real pain in the behind to them.

The school starting age in Poland is seven years, although now they have a kind of preparatory classes from the age of six. My father knew the local village Schoolmaster fairly well and he arranged for me to start school before I was even six years old. It was a very small school, one classroom, one teacher and the kids up to the age of twelve or fourteen. I was probably a little shrimp of a lad amongst the other village boys and girls but I could read, while my contemporaries were beginning to learn the alphabet. Life was real easy for me then.

I don't really remember too much about that school except that I busted my collar-bone during one playtime period and was off school for two or three weeks. It was a peculiar kind of a game called “Snake” where about a dozen boys and girls would join hands in a line, usually according to size and then run. The 'heavy' end of the Snake would turn and the whole line would act like a whip. I was the sucker at the end of the line and went flying as if I were shot out of a catapult. Result, damaged and painful arm.

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I left the village school at the age of ten to attend a large school in town. From there to the Gimnasium still in Zgierz where I matriculated in 1938.

A few lines of information about our farm. It was situated 2 1/2 miles or so west of Zgierz which was our nearest town. I think we had over 25 acres of land and were mostly self-sufficient in food. 2 or 3 horses to work on the farm. 6 to 8 cows, some pigs, chickens, geese and turkeys. The farm produce included mainly rye grain, oats, barley, potatoes and plenty of fruit in the season. We had to go occasionally to town to get such things as sugar, coffee, tea and again fish which was usually salted or fresh herrings.

While I was at home, that is to say between the wars, we always had a hired man and woman living in; the woman helping mother in the house (laundry, baking) and working outside on jobs like milking cows and feeding poultry and pigs. The man would work mainly in the fields with my father. Of course, at harvest time everybody was on the go including us when we were off school. When the cherries were in season and there was no panic about work I would often hide in a tree with a book and stuff myself with fresh fruit. Now and again mother would chase us around to pick the cherries or plums as they could be sold in town without any trouble. They were sure great times!

I do not wish to create the impression that we were particularly well-off. Far from it! There was never too much money about and regular taxes to pay. It was the time of the Great Depression and there certainly weren't any farm subsidies to collect. It was more or less a hand to mouth existence and people would work for next to nothing, very often for their keep and a small reward. For instance, I never heard of the idea of pocket money for kids until I came to this country. I guess it would be very difficult to starve on a farm but we certainly never had any luxuries. Nevertheless, it was a healthy kind of life and the sun always seemed to be shining. Youth is such a wonderful time but one only learns to appreciate it in later years!

January 1992 T. Wier

N.B. One of my Aunts' first name was NEPOMUCENA. How about that?!

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[underlined] FLASHBACKS 1 [/underlined]

I still remember our first bombing raid. Not necessarily because it was the first but because it did not go exactly according to plan.

I was posted with the crew just after Christmas 1944 to No 300 Bomber Squadron at Faldingworth, near Lincoln. It was snowing heavily at the time - fortunately the journey was not too long, about 30 miles from Blyton, near Gainsborough, where we had finished our training on four-engined Halifaxes and Lancasters.

I think I ought to write something about my experiences in England up to that time because it is likely that they are different from those of my colleagues.

I started flying in England in May 1941 about 10 months after the collapse of France. I had one week on aircraft type Magister at Hucknall, near Nottingham and after that to Montrose in Scotland (NO 8 SFTS) for training on Masters and Hurricanes. From September until the end of that year I was in the south of England flying Henleys and Lysanders at Weston Zoyland [sic], Somerset. January and February 1942 Flying Instructors Course at Church Lawford, near Rugby and then a posting to No 25 (P) EFTS at Hucknall, Nottingham for duties as a Pilot Instructor. I must have been one of the youngest instructors there – a new, 22 year old Pilot Officer serving in “C” Flight with Capt. Tanski as Flight Commander.

The next two years felt like a constant roundabout. Each instructor had, normally four pupils every eight weeks and the first ten hours flying (average) with a pupil is mostly all talk in the air and often lots of explanations on the ground. So much talk that often one’s throat would get sore. And the pupil listened and learned to fly, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. What amazes me now is the fact that they learned so much in such a short time – first solo, spinning, aerobatics, instrument flying, cross-country flights and even night flying. I remember one poor soul made 23 approaches before finally landing without mishap. I must admit that landing was difficult that particular night because the wind was from the wrong direction. The Flight Commander and the instructors heaved a sigh of relief – somebody wanted to bring anti-aircraft artillery!

At Hucknall there was also another problem.

Practically each and every one of the instructors wanted to join an operational Squadron. Of course, the result was that there was a regulated list of such volunteers and one had to wait for one’s turn to be released from flying instructor’s duties. I must have been way down the list because my turn did not come until June 1944. Moreover, I only got in because someone ahead of me declined this privilege.

I received an allocation to a bomber Squadron and a posting to Finningley, near Doncaster for training on twin-engined Wellingtons. I was very pleased that my instructor would be Janek Dziedzic and Flight Commander Jozek Nowak – both of them my colleagues from the Flying School, Deblin, in Poland.

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At Finningley, apart from flying training the aircrew personnel were formed into individual aircraft crews, that is to say the crew would consist of pilot, navigator, bomb-aimer, radio-operator and two gunners. The flight-engineer would join the crew later for training on four-engined aircraft.

I was very lucky with my crew. They approached me as a gathered and complete group – all good lads – I had a lot of flying hours under my belt, maybe that helped. They were all N.C.O.s, younger than I was with the exception of the bomb-aimer a year or so older. The youngest was the rear-gunner, only nineteen!

Flight Sergeant Hieronim Stawicki, our Flight Engineer, became eventually “The Father” of the crew. I think he was 27 years old at the time and started flying with us in November 1944.

I return now to our arrival at Faldingworth. The end of December, winter, frost. There were not too many people as the older crews were finishing their tours of duty and some of the others simply were not returning from the raids. In spite of the fact that the Germans were retreating on all fronts, the Squadron was still losing crews. One aircraft lost meant seven aircrew, leaving a large hole in the Unit. Even during the last raid of the war on the 25th of April 1945 while bombing Berchtesgaden, one of Squadron aircraft was so badly damaged that the pilot was forced to crash-land in France. Luckily, the whole crew escaped without too many injuries. The bomb-aimer in that crew was my school-friend, Flying Officer, Roman Piaskowski.

A few weeks after our arrival, reporting to all our Commanders and some training flights we found ourselves on the 2nd of February 1945 at the briefing with all other aircrews for our first raid on Germany. Target – WIESBADEN. A night flight, but not too bad because most of the route was over France. The flight duration was about six hours.

As far as I remember the weather was fairly good. From time to time we could see the other aircraft in the stream. The only problem which we discovered on route to the target was strong head wind, much stronger than forecast – the navigator was complaining that we should be late over the target. I was not sure what to do about it – we increased the speed slightly, but this was not necessary as we discovered after our return to base. The correct procedure was to continue as per flight plan following the principle that the same wind was affecting all the other aircraft. I guess we must have been in good time over Wiesbaden.

There was quite a bit of anti-aircraft fire on the approach and over the target. Not much time to worry about it because one has to fly accurately following bomb-aimer's instructions. After a while the aircraft jumps up, “Bombs gone!”, bomb doors close and the aircraft shoots forward without the load.

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14,000 pounds went down – a great relief for the aeroplane and all crew members.

The return flight is always easier. The aircraft is very light and after crossing of the Channel everyone feels fairly safe. We were returning to Faldingworth from the south. When the navigator said that we were getting near the airfield I noticed the lights and received clearance to join the circuit and to land over the R/T. Normal circuit, approach and landing without much trouble.

Then our problems began. After clearing the runway and taxying [sic] to dispersal we stopped the engines and started to leave the aircraft. To my surprise we had landed at FISKERTON, an airfield few miles south of Faldingworth which also had Lancasters probably taking part in the same raid.

The worst trouble was that we were not allowed to take off again and return to Faldingworth because we had one or two hung-up bombs in the bomb bay which we were unable to jettison earlier. And naturally, the Armament Officer in charge of such operations decided that it would be more sensible to tackle a job like that in daylight rather than in the middle of the night. We, of course, had to sit and wait there, returning eventually to Faldingworth eight or nine hours later.

What had happened? Well, there were quite a number of Bomber Command airfields in Lincolnshire (I can list 10 of them within 12-15 mile radius of Faldingworth) and they were very much alike. That is to say, their lighting was similar, the runways more or less in the same direction and of nearly standard length. One thing which distinguished one airfield from another were the recognition letters placed in, what was called “The Outer Circle” of airfield lights. Nearly always they consisted of two letters – the first and the last letter of the airfield's name. Thus Faldingworth had FH and Fiskerton FN. I did see the letters when I was doing the circuit, but unfortunately, I did not know or realize that there was an airfield with similar letters so close to ours. As a matter of fact, I thought that the installation of the lights was slightly damaged and the centre bar of the letter H had dropped at one end and was simply leaning over. I fully intended to report the matter on the ground after landing.

This is my explanation of the incident. It ended without mishap, but now I realize that we really avoided trouble. A simple oversight on my part, but talking to our own air Traffic Control and landing at another airfield was neither a sensible nor a safe occupation.

I stopped flying as a pilot in the Royal Air Force towards the end of 1959. Sometime later I read the following short article (I do not know the author and I decided that it would be appropriate to place it on the last unused page of my Pilot's Flying Log Book:-

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[underlined] “I WANT TO BE A PILOT” [/underlined]

[underlined] by a 10- year old Schoolboy [/underlined]

“....I want to be a pilot when I grow up ….because it's a fun job and easy to do. That's why there are so many pilots flying today. Pilots don't need much school, they just have to learn to read numbers so they can read instruments. I guess they should be able to read road maps so they won't get lost. Pilots should be brave so they won't be scared if it's foggy and they can't see, or if a wing or motor falls off, they would stay calm so they will know what to do. Pilots have to have good eyes to see through clouds and they can't be afraid of lightning or thunder because they are closer to them than we are. The salary pilots make is another thing I like. They have more money than they can spend. This is because most people think plane flying is dangerous except pilots don't because they know how easy it is. There isn't much I don't like except girls like pilots and all the stewardesses want to marry pilots so they always have to chase them away so they don't bother them. I hope I don't get air sick because I get car sick and if I get air sick I couldn't be a pilot and then I would have to go to work....”

I guess this is the right way to finish this part of my recollections.

June 1991

T. Wier

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[underlined] FLASHBACKS 2 [/underlined]

There must be lots of reasons which influence and help young people in the choice of their career. I was already interested in flying in Primary School – I read what I could find about the subject, made flying models of gliders and aeroplanes and when I was in Gimnasium (Grammar School) I attended several lectures given by a glider instructor. At fifteen or sixteen I received a brochure describing conditions of Service in the Polish Air Force and in the Officers Flying Training School situated at that time in Deblin forty or fifty miles south of Warsaw. There were a number of photographs in the book and the one that impressed me a lot was a photograph of a pilot with the rank of a colonel in the Polish Air Force. He looked very smart at at 36 was about to retire. Fantastic! Of course the profession was somewhat risky and there was always a possibility of a fatal accident but the pilot then had a very impressive funeral and a propeller over his grave!

One of the books which I read was by Captain Janusz Meissner and the title of it was “School of Young Eagles”. Beautifully written and the contents were really inspiring – kind of an answer to the dreams of all would-be young Flyers. As it happened we met Captain Meissner later while we were interned in Romania and where he was our Unit Commander for a while. A very imposing and kind officer – he looked after us like a father. Very much like “Captain Grey” - the character in the book I mentioned.

While considering my future career I received some advice from my older colleague. Takek Walczak matriculated from the same school in ZGIERZ one year ahead of me and joined the Polish Air Force in 1937. He was actually then at the Flying School and I met him while he was on leave all resplendent n his uniform and the “walking out” dagger at his side. My original intention was to apply for admission to the Technical Officers School but he soon convinced me that life as a “plumber” would be very dull and that of a pilot much more interesting.

I must now admit that he was absolutely right. I can not now imagine the 22 years of my life from 1938 to 1960 in a profession other than as a military pilot. I feel certain that I have lived during the “golden age” of aviation. When I started flying the aeroplanes were “string, wires and canvas” (at least the first ones I trained on were!) and by 1948 I was flying the early jet aircraft. In 1957 the SPUTNIK was circling the globe and in 1969 NEIL ARMSTRONG walked on the surface of the moon. What progress!

Soon after my matriculation in 1938 I received a notification to attend a course on gliders in Ustianowa, South-East Poland. Two weeks earned my category “B” on glider type “Wrona”. Week or two later another course in Ustianowa but this time for selection to the Officers Flying Training School. Gliders “Czajka” and “Salamander” ending with the award of category “C”.


After all these valiant efforts the authorities still managed to get hold of me and sent me to a Labour camp in Southern Poland. The work involved building a road and was kind of obligatory for all students who have completed secondary education. I think the attachment was for a month or so. However, the Camp Commandant realized that I have done my stint of service for the Government and sent me home after three or four days. Just in time for the harvest! Father was very pleased – great help on the farm.

End of September 1938 found me in a khaki uniform with a very short haircut in the barracks of 31st Infantry Brigade in Lodz for my course of Recruit Training. Lots of drill, marching, weapon training, instructions in field tactics, rifle and machine-gun range firing and, thank God, after Christmas posting to Flying School in Deblin. Much, much better there! Fitted uniforms, modern barracks, mattresses instead of straw pallets. (Easy to remake the bed after duty N.C.O.s' failed inspection). About an hour of drill a day and an awful lot of lectures. I think that we had about seven hours – one had to have a brain like a sponge to assimilate it all – somehow a lot stayed in. We started lectures about six or seven in the morning then one break and a small snack at eleven. Lunch was well after two in the afternoon. And one hour of drill after that!

Spring 1939. The weather was kind because I remember that we finished initial flying training on aircraft RWD 8 fairly quickly. We used a small grass satellite airfield called Zajezierze on the west side of the river Vistula. I ought to add that the main airfield at Deblin, the other satellite airfields and the nearby town Irena were all on the right, east bank of the river.

Before the first solo we had a dual flight and carried out spinning on aircraft type PWS 26 (our initial RWD 8 was non-aerobatic and not stressed for practice of spinning) and after that a free fall parachute jump out of a large three-engined Fokker aircraft. There were six of us in each group to carry out the jump and I was the first to be pushed out of the aeroplane. I do not know if I was the lightest or the heaviest in the group but I fell down fairly fast. 3 seconds later I pulled the ripcord and the parachute opened without any trouble. One had to hang on to the handle of the ripcord because it’s loss meant a small fine and every penny of our meagre pay soon got used up. What actually frightened me most was the fact that I seemed to be heading straight for a huge metal wind indicator which was situated in the corner of the airfield not too far from the Officers’ Mess. However, my Guardian Angel looked after me and I managed to land several yards away from this obstruction. There would not be much fun having an argument with such a heap of iron and one could certainly do oneself an awful lot of painful injury by landing on it.

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I do not remember now the exact date but early in June we found ourselves at another satellite airfield called Borowina. I still had my original instructor on the next type of aircraft which was a biplane PWS 26. I think now that my instructor was near enough a saint – he never got angry and had infinite patience. Only once, I remember, he told me after an hour’s instrument flying under the hood that he could not have lasted much longer. I don’t know if it was my flying or some other reason that caused the remark.

I recollect a couple of incidents from that part of my flying career. I was very impressed with the speed with which our Technical Branch dealt with a problem which was discovered in our aircraft following a near-fatal accident. It happened that one of our lads, Stasiek Litak, was carrying out an exercise in spinning. This required starting the spin, two or three turns and then recovery. Fairly simple exercise – one needed some height, a clear bit of sky, speed reduced to minimum and then the stick fully back, rudder pedal hard over to one side and the machine goes round. for the recovery exactly opposite action of the flying controls, that is to say, the stick fully forward and the rudder pedal hard over to the other side. I must add that Stasiek Litak was a big chap and wore very large size boots. (This has no connection with the incident but he was a brilliant player on the accordion). What I heard eventually was that Stasiek started the spin OK but while doing so his foot slipped of [sic] the rudder and got jammed by the side of the fuselage and the bar itself. In spite of great efforts he was unable to pull his foot out and apply the opposite rudder. And so the aeroplane continued spinning although at a slower rate all the way down. I believe Stasiek was injured but, fortunately, still able to explain what had happened.

Few days later all the PWS 26 aircraft were modified – special wooden guards were fitted to prevent the foot getting jammed. Very simple and effective.

We had a very comprehensive program of flying exercises to carry out. Towards the end of the course one of them involved live air to ground firing – fixed machine gun firing through the propeller into a target on the ground. The target was a large rectangle of cleared ground and covered with smoothed-out sand so that every bullet hitting it would show a trace. We had a prescribed number of rounds loaded for each pilot to fire and it was thus fairly simple to count the hits and figure out who was a good shot.

As the target was flat on the ground, one had to dive and aim the aircraft. Furthermore, the nearer the vertical the dive and closer to the ground, the better the score. Of course, we were limited to the number of passes we could make on the target so one had to judge everything nicely – there wasn’t much time to correct any mistakes.

I guess, I must have got a pass-mark for my live firing – I certainly do not remember my score. But I remember what happened to another pilot doing the same exercise.

Parallel with our course we had eight or ten officers from the Bulgarian Air Force trained by Polish instructors. They were not billeted with us and we saw them only from time to time. Their senior officer was a Bulgarian captain, very strict, keen and correct. He was always trying to get top marks in every activity, no doubt to set a good example to his other officers.

Unfortunately, as I said before, one did not have much time to correct mistakes during the air firing exercise. It was necessary to stop the firing and pull out of the dive in good time to avoid crashing into the ground. Few seconds too long and the pilot was in trouble which is exactly what happened to our Captain. He must have pulled out very hard but did not quite make it and left some bits of his aeroplane on the surrounding bushes and trees. Somehow he got away without serious injury himself.

September 1939 and the German invasion of Poland. The bombing of Deblin and our own airfield was not very pleasant. Fortunately, we were a mile or so away from the airfield and nobody was injured in our Section. The bombing took place about lunchtime on the 2nd of September and that afternoon we cleared out of our barracks and continued the march for most of the night in the direction of Lublin, which was South-East of our airfield. We stopped for a couple of days near a large farming estate and from there I was detailed for my last flight in Poland. I do not know how it happened but I think that my instructor must have been confident of my flying ability because I was instructed to fly one of our training aircraft, PWS 26, in formation with my instructor in the direction of Lwow in South-East Poland. These aircraft were already dispersed from our home airfield so the take off and landing were to be on temporary landing grounds. My instructor flew ahead and I had to follow him. We were flying quite low and I simply kept close so as not to lose his aircraft – he was navigating for both of us. My attention must have wandered off temporarily because I got a real fright when a tall chimney of some brickworks or a factory suddenly appeared ahead of me. Quick yank on the stick and full throttle got me out of that predicament. I landed, eventually, behind my instructor on a field still covered with short stubble from the recent harvest. After landing, the aeroplane was pushed tail first into a nearby wood, few branches across the front completed the camouflage. I guess, the Russians found the aircraft there when they marched in, we could not fly them any further because of lack of fuel.

About 11 o'clock on Sunday, 17th of September our Commanders received a message that the Russians have invaded Poland from the East. Soon after came the order to evacuate the Unit in the direction of Rumanian border and next day we found ourselves in that country – disarmed and in a foreign land.

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It must have happened during our journey to the southern region of Rumania. Somewhere and somehow I contracted dysentery, most likely eating contaminated fruit. I spent about a week in a hospital in Tulcea and slowly recovered my health. My youth and skilled medical care helped to overcome a very unpleasant illness.

Unusual coincidence. My father, in Poland, only 56 years old at the time, also contracted this disease about the same time as I did. He died because of it on the 4th of October 1939. I received the information about his death and the cause of It well after the war ended. Life for a life?

The following recollection which touched me very deeply will always remain in my memory. It happened on the first Sunday of our internment in Rumania. A large camp of tents, Holy Mass in the open and at the end a hymn: -

O God, Who for centuries Have allowed Poland
The splendour of might and glory and Who
Protected her with the shield of Your care
From the misfortunes which had threatened.
We carry this prayer before Your altars
Bless our free Motherland, O Lord.

We sang:-

Return to us our Motherland, O Lord.

I was then nineteen....

Tadek Wier

August 1991

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[underlined] FLASHBACKS 3 [/underlined]

Rumania. Soon after my return from the hospital (first days of October, 1939) we were moved from the tented camp in Tulcea to a village in Dobrudja, somewhere near Bazargic in South-East Rumania. Bolek Uszpolewicz and I were billeted with a village family which consisted of the old farmer and wife, his married son and wife, and a younger daughter of the old farmer, about twenty years of age. Bolek was six years older than I and his family lived in Lithuania.

I must add that I am relying entirely on my memory when writing these recollections and sometimes I am not quite certain of the dates. The reason for this is that during our internment in Rumania everybody was trying to escape to the West, that is to say to France or England which were still at war, and so to continue fighting the Germans. The right way to go about it was to get rid of everything which would connect a person with the fact that he was in the Polish Forces, then acquire a civilian suit and proceed to a designated collection point given to us just before the escape. Therefore, all the photographs, documents and papers had to be destroyed or thrown away. As a result, I do not have any positive records from that period of time. I am not quite certain now that such a drastic clear-out was absolutely necessary, but when one is young and without experience of tricky matters, it is best to listen to the advice of people who are older and have the knowledge of what to do in unusual circumstances.

Our old farmer left the house practically every day to work in the fields and always took with him a full jug of wine. The jug was a fair size, three pints or so and when he returned in the evening he was in high good humour. His son invited us one day to have a look at their cellar where the wine was kept – huge barrel, about five feet in diameter – must have lasted a whole year until next grape harvest.

I am ashamed to say that I do not remember our host's name or even their religion. Rut religious they were. Each Sunday the young woman in the house would trot off to church and later join the group of young people gathered in the village square. There was a small band of musicians and men and women would dance. The dances had a definite oriental flavour – very likely the influence of Bulgaria and Turkey.

A small happening which I recollect with pleasure. Our food was no great shakes and there wasn't too much of it. The winter was approaching fast, November, snow, frost and often howling wind – a hungry person feels such discomforts quite a lot. Bolek and I decided that it would be nice to have a real feast for once. We managed to save some money and then bought a goose from a neighbour's wife. This lady, very kindly has agreed to cook or roast the goose for us. The cooked bird was truly delicious – stuffed with sauerkraut and paprika. These two ingredients seemed to a perfect flavouring for the goose meat, I would recommend this method of preparing it to any cook or chef.

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Sometime at the beginning of December we got our, sort of, civilian outfits, some extra money for the journey and one early morning caught a train which eventually took us to Balcic on the coast of the Black Sea and very close to the Bulgarian frontier. We waited there a couple of weeks or so for the boat and for our travel documents. These, of course, were forged and our senior officers had a lot of work inventing new names for all of us. I don't think they had much trouble finding one for me – Tadeusz Eugeniusz Wierzbowski disappeared and Maciej Gruszka showed up in his place. I guess I ought to add that there is a common Polish proverb which says that the good times will come when willow trees will start growing pears. And wierzba means willow in Polish – gruszka is a pear!

A few days before Christmas a boat called “Patris” showed up in the harbour. There must have been several hundreds of us and all eager to get away. We eventually found out that our destination was Beirut in, as it was then Syria. The boat must have been fairly small and rather unstable because when we were passing one of the islands and most of the passengers on top moved to one side to get a better view, the boat listed quite a few degrees towards the island.

We landed in Beirut two or three days before Christmas and spent the next three weeks in a military camp just to the north of the city. With French hospitality we were treated at Christmas to a choice meal and half a bottle of champagne. Once or twice we wandered into the city – very busy, lots of money changers and cafes – sweet, thick coffee and cakes when one could afford it! What surprised me a lot was the sight of fruiting orange trees (January!) and the cheepness [sic] of oranges – one could buy a dozen for next to nothing.

About the middle of January we embarked on a large passenger ship and after leaving Beirut spent few pleasant days on the journey to Marseille [sic]. They were pleasant because the weather was quite good and when we sailed through the Straits of Messina (between Sicily and Calabria – Italy was then still neutral) we had a good view of Mount Etna and sometime later the island and volcano of Stromboli.

The ship docked in Marseille on the 20th of January, 1940. Hard winter there - frost, some snow and a short stop-over in a camp just outside the town. Very primitive, I think we inherited it after the refugees from the Spanish Civil War. Eventually we were transported to a camp near a village of Sept Fonds, not far from Caussade in South-West France. Lovely countryside, but the camp not so good, very much like the one in Marseille.

The situation improved a lot when we were moved to Lyon in March, 1940. We stayed in Lyon-Foire, a large building which housed some sort of Exhibition a year or so before. It was located on the edge of the city and right on the bank of the River Rhone. Nearby was a nice park – I still remember a flock of peacocks which was kept there – they would strut around and display their dazzling tail feathers.

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The city itself was very impressive – lovely buildings, bridges over the Rhone, spring and early summer – about the best time of the year to get to know the place and to learn French which was most important for further service in the Air force there.

It did not last long. The German offensive started on 10th of May, 1940. We had an early raid by German bombers directed mainly against nearby airfield of Lyon-Bron used by our training Units. There were casualties, killed and wounded. One of the young officers in the air at the time attacked the formation of bombers but was himself shot down by them and killed – death of a hero!

The 18th of June, 1940 was a sad day in Lyon. The end of the fighting in France and the armistice. Also the tears of the women who wept as they watched us marching from Lyon-Foire to the railway station. Overnight journey and we found ourselves the next day somewhere near Montpelier on the Mediterranean coast of France. We waited there nearly two days because our Commanders expected a boat or a ship to transport us to North Africa or to England. Unfortunately, nothing turned up and we were loaded on to a train again and transported in the direction of the West coast of France. The train stopped for several hours in Toulouse on a siding and alongside a goods train. I mention this because someone discovered that one of the wagons of the goods train was loaded with boxes of fresh peaches. I do remember that we were very hungry, so in no time at all quite a few of the boxes found their way on board or our train. Soon there was no trace of the peaches and the empty boxes disappeared also. Since then, I have noticed, that I had become very indifferent to the sight or taste of fresh peaches.

After our stop in Toulouse the train headed southwards towards the Spanish frontier through Bayonne and halted eventually in St Jean de Luz. I think we spent the night there and the next day started boarding a British ship which was anchored about half a mile from the shore. The ship was called “Andora Star”.

The following letter from a reader appeared in the “Sunday Times” on the 13th of October, 1991:-

LAST TO LEAVE: The account of Sir James Goldsmith's escape from France in 1940, News Review last week stated that his family left from Bayonne in the last ship to leave for England. On Monday, June 24 1940, we (my family) overtook a German advance military unit just north of Bordeaux and raced on to Bayonne to find the British Consul had moved to St Jean de Luz. It was there that we boarded the Arandora Star, together with the remnants of the Polish air force. The ship sailed at 17.30 on June 24 with 4000 on board and reached Liverpool on June 27. That was the last sailing from the Atlantic coast of France to England.
I remember it well – I was there. - R.S. Bendall, Exeter.

I was there as well among the others....

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I also have a Post Scriptum about the ship “Arandora Star”. It happened that the journey from St Jean de Luz to Liverpool was the last that the ship completed successfully. The next sailing from Liverpool to Canada on the 1st of July 1940 ended tragically when the ship was torpedoed soon after passing Ireland by a U-boat whose Captain was the renowned Gunther Prien of Scapa Flow fame. The Arandora Star went down in half an hour with the loss of 800 lives.

My Guardian Angel was still taking care of me.

Tadek Wier.

October 1991.
[underlined] FLASHBACKS 4 [/underlined]

I ought to explain how it came about that I changed my surname from WIERZBOWSKI to WIER.

During the second half of 1948 I received my appointment to a Short Service Commission in the General Duties Branch of the Royal Air Force. This was a very welcome news because, before that, I spent my time in the Polish Resettlement Corps on detachments to various R.A.F. Units where I was employed on administrative duties and later, just over four months of 1948, on a training course in Millom, Cumberland, learning the trade of turner and metal-worker. I enjoyed that course quite a lot because I was always interested in technical matters. The theory and practice of turning and metal work came in very handy when I retired from the Royal Air Force in 1975 and managed to do one year's training in watch and clock repair under the auspices of the Training Opportunities Scheme (TOPS) which was then available for ex-service personnel.

It was great to get back to flying. I shall always be grateful to the members of the R.A.F. Selection Board for allowing me to continue my career of the military pilot which was my original choice when I left school in Poland in 1938. My flying stopped when I left 300 Polish Bomber Squadron a few months before the Squadron was finally disbanded on the 11th of October 1946.

Actually, I did a fair amount of flying with the 300 Squadron from the end of the war until 7th of June 1946 – my last flight there recorded in my Pilot's Flying Log Book.

My final wartime bombing raid was on Berchtesgaden, Hitler's residence in the Alps, on the 25th of April 1945. Three days later, on the 28th of April we were off again to Europe, but this time on, a kind of, rescue mission, that is to say, repatriating former British Prisoners of War from one of the Allied forward airfields which I think was somewhere in Belgium. We were scheduled to carry back 20 men from Belgium to an airfield just north-west of London. We were taking with us 20 extra Mae Wests (life jackets!) for our passengers. I mention this fact because the flight did not start very well as one of our engines caught fire few seconds after take off. To close the throttle, feather the propeller, turn off fuel and press the fire extinguisher took less than a minute and we were back again on the ground in 12 minutes-flat landing on 3 engines.
While we were carrying out our circuit and landing, Wing Commander Jarkowski, our Squadron Commander, did some very smart, fast footwork and organised a replacement aircraft, so that after landing all we had to do was to transfer our own flying gear and the extra 20 Mae Wests to the other aircraft which was waiting for us with engines warming up. We were slightly behind the rest of our chaps but at least we got on the way without further problems and well in time to collect our 20 passengers who, otherwise, would have been cruelly disappointed.

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About one and a half hours after take off from Belgium we were landing in England. There was a very touching moment when we were coasting in somewhere near Dover and my crew brought the passengers forward in small batches to see The Cliffs when we were approaching the coast. There were some tears – quite a few of the men have been in captivity since 1940.

Few days later starting on the 2nd of May we carried food supplies to Holland which was then still under German Occupation. The drop was made from a very low altitude to prevent scattering of the load. These supplies were desperately needed because the people in Holland were near starvation and the drops must have been a success because we flew again on identical missions on the 5th and 7th of May, 1945.

The war in Europe ended on the 8th of May 1945. From then on we were busy carrying supplies to Europe and on the return journey bringing back former Prisoners of War. One or two flights were to and from temporary forward airfields surfaced with PSP (Pierced Steel Planking) making it a bit of tight squeeze to land a four-engined Lancaster on an airfield used only by our Spitfires or other light aeroplanes.

These operations ceased towards the end of June 1945 and we were then able to relax and fly over Germany on sightseeing trips. I have two such sorties listed in my Log Book – the first with my crew only to see the damage caused to targets which we bombed and to observe the results of the bombing from a comfortable height of 2000 or 3000 feet. Appropriately, this flight was named “Post Mortem”. The second flight was made for the benefit of our ground crew personnel who worked all hours of day and night throughout the war years to keep our aeroplanes in the air. No doubt, they understood that without their contribution, it might have been German airmen looking at such sights over England.

In September 1945 we started flying to Italy to transport mainly army personnel back to United Kingdom for their leave. Again 20 men at a time were back in England in about seven hours. The route for the outbound and return flight was via the South of France, near Northern Corsica, then Elba, with landing at Pomigliano, close to Naples which was our pick up point. On one occasion, when we were approaching Naples, I made a wide circuit over the Vesuvius and Pompei and actually had a look from above inside the cone of the volcano. It looked like a funnel of ashes – that’s all.

We usually spent one night in Naples and then back home the next day with the passengers. I remember that on one of my trips when we were delayed, I managed to get a ticket and see a splendid performance of the opera “Aida” at the Royal Opera House in Naples. Beautiful singing, music of the orchestra, costumes and scenery – quite an experience, I must say.

As a Flight Commander, it fell to me on one return journey to carry 20 nurses – all females; and all delivered safely back to England.


Some of the flights were not very pleasant because, as the autumn progressed, we had to fly sometime through severe storms which seemed particularly vicious at that time of the year in the Bay of Genoa and on our route. For the comfort of the passengers and safety we had to maintain heights of about 5000 to 8000 feet and these are pretty nasty heights to fly through a thunderstorm. Fortunately, such bad flying conditions do not last for very long and twenty to thirty minutes was enough to get through the worst turbulence, hail rain, lightning or what there was about. Nevertheless, we were unlucky in losing one aircraft and the crew somewhere over the Mediterranean. I do not remember now if they had any passengers on board or not.

On the 4th of November, 1945, my crew and I flew to Gatow airfield, Berlin, for an overnight stay and to have a look at the capital of Germany which was then still mostly in ruins. A short wander around the City, a walk through the parts of Reich Chancellery which were accessible and a flight back to UK. I guess, we used the same corridor route as the aircraft which were to fly in the supplies during the Berlin Airlift a couple of years later.

I had 2000 flying hours flown on various types of aircraft when I left the Squadron in 1946. I suppose this flying experience helped me to be selected for service in the Royal Air Force and to be employed on flying duties as a pilot.

Because I haven't done any flying for over two years I had to complete a 3-week Pilot Refresher Flying Course at R.A.F. Finningley and then I was posted to No 4 Ferry Pool which at that time was located at R.A.F. Hawarden, near Chester. I also spent further 3 weeks at R.A.F. Aston Down, near Stroud, converting to other types of aircraft, as well as jets.

I found the task of ferrying aeroplanes very rewarding and interesting for two main reasons. The first was the fact that I visited just about all the airfields in use in the United Kingdom at the time, delivering or collecting aircraft. The flights were carried out normally in fairly good weather but, inevitably, one encountered all sorts of conditions on longer trips and sometimes diversions were necessary. Great experience for getting acquainted with the geography of the country as we operated the length and breath [sic] of Great Britain, from the very North of Scotland to the Channel coast in the South and from the North Sea in the East to all of Northern Ireland in the west. Later on we also flew on some of the ferrying duties between UK and our Units in the British Zone of Germany.

The second interesting point was the variety of the aircraft which we ferried about. I was lucky because I qualified on all the categories which were then currently in use. All the single-engined, twin, four-engined and jets. Such was the variety that flying three different types and categories in one day was routine.

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Looking through my Log Book and monthly summaries I have the following: -
January 1949 - 9 types
May 1949 - 10 types
June/July 1949 - 12 types
June 1951 – 13 types

With such a collection of aeroplanes, one would learn peculiarities of each type and remember the differences – Pilot’s Notes were always handy to refresh one’s memory. Fortunately, flying itself is always standard; forward fast or slow, left or right, and up or down!

As I mentioned before, ferrying of aircraft meant landing and taking off from a lot of different airfields. Visiting 20, 25 locations in one month was again routine. Normally, the flight details would be passed to these airfields by phone from our Operations Room first thing in the morning and, similarly, that information updated would be phoned through between the airfields concerned as the day progressed.

One of the items of information phoned through would be the aircraft captain’s name and, of course, a name like Wierzbowski with eleven letters in it offered innumerable permutations for misspelling to the Air Traffic Control clerks who would copy out the name on the Movements Board for use by the Controllers.

A pilot would usually visit or contact the Air Traffic Control after arrival or before departure to check on the weather or other flight information of the destination aerodrome. Nearly every time during my visits I would see my name misspelled in a variety of ways. Then, after a few weeks with the Unit even our operations people got tired of spelling-out such a long name and started using a shortened form of the first four letters of it, that is to say, WIER.
I suppose, it was lucky that we had no other pilot with a name like WEIR because that is how my name sometime still appeared. And still does!

I guess what really convinced me that it would be right to change my name formally was the incident which occurred when my daughter, Elizabeth, started attending the Primary School in Ellesmere Port where we lived from 1949 onwards. I do not remember the exact date when this happened but Libby was then about eight years old and, one day, her teacher asked Elizabeth to write her full name on the blackboard for all the children in the class to see. No doubt, the teacher meant well but was somewhat insensitive to Libby’s embarrassment at being so different from all the other Smiths, Jones, Mills or what have you. I believe, Libby cried and refused to obey the teacher’s request and had to suffer painful consequences as a result.

I changed my surname by Statutory Declaration soon after to WIER. Even after that, my name was still somewhat

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unusual because of the strange spelling and until my retirement from the Service in 1975 was the only one so written in the Official Air Force List.

My son, Michael, was born in February 1952, a couple of years after the change of my surname and was duly registered as Michael Richard WIER. Sometime in his teens he decided that he was deprived of his Polish heritage to a certain degree and so after his eighteenth birthday he added the full name of Wierzbowski to his own. This was all done legally and at his own expense. I must say, I was quite touched by his determined action and, of course, very proud of the fact that he wanted to acknowledge his paternal ancestry and descent.

I imagine all this sounds like a very long-winded explanation of a simple happening but I have to point out that the situation and conditions 40-45 years ago were very different from the present. Life is much simpler now – we have Singhs, Patels, Wongs or Muhammads, one hears names like Gorbachev or Yeltsin and nobody bats an eyelid at the sound of them. It sure is a very welcome progress!

Talking of progress; I had a good example of it when Michael was about 3 years old. I will mention it now because at the time it made me realize that the world is developing much faster than we think or are aware of.

We lived in Whitby, Wirral, not very far from R.A.F. Station, Hooton Park, which was then used by an Auxiliary Squadron equipped with jet aircraft. These were flying around quite a lot and on occasions fairly low so that Michael was very familiar with the shape and sound of these aeroplanes. Well, one day, we were waiting at the traffic lights on the road passing the end of the runway at Hawarden near Chester, where I was actually stationed. As it happened, and old ANSON (twin-engined, propeller driven aircraft), was coming in to land and passed in front of us very low, throttled back and with the propellers turning slowly. I still remember the remark which, greatly astonished Michael made :- “Look, Daddy, an aeroplane with windmills on!”

June 1992.

T. Wier.



T Wier, “Flashbacks 0 to 4,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 27, 2023, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/32503.

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