Interview with Andrezej Jerziorski

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Interview with Andrezej Jerziorski

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Andrezej Jerziorski's wartime memories. Andrezej Jerziorski was born in Poland but after he and his father were evacuated from France, he managed to join the RAF and flew in Coastal Command during the war, stationed as far apart as Scotland and Cornwall. Andre explains about submarine hunting and conditions on the stations where he served. He became a civil pilot after the war flying all over the world.

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00:59:29 audio recording

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IBCC Digital Archive

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This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

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GB: Okay, we’re recording now, so. What would you like me to call you by the way?
AJ: Andre.
Andre.
AJ: Andjay is the correct pronunciation, but, I don’t know why, in RAF and in Britannia they always called me Andre. [Laugh]
GB: Andre right, Andre it is then, lovely. Can we start, first of all, could you tell me, please, what year you were born and where you were born in Poland, please?
AJ: I was born in, on 23rd of December 1922, in Warsaw.
In Warsaw itself.
AJ: And I lived in Warsaw most of the time, well, say important [emphasis] part of my youth I lived in Warsaw. Part of the time I lived in, when my father was serving officer Polish Air Force, so I spent four years in Polish Air Force Academy in Deblin. Before that we were in Paris for a little while while my father was studying at the Ecole d’Aeronautique in Paris.
GB: And how old were you when you were in Paris then?
AJ: Oh, I was four years old.
GB: Oh, four, so very young, probably didn’t realise Paris, what Paris was.
AJ: I still remember a little bit, not much.
GB: And as it came towards the beginning of the Second World War, was your father involved in defending Poland?
AJ: He was already retired, but working as an engineer in aeronautical, in engine manufacturing, aero engines factory in, but he was still reserve officer and he was called back to, to the service just before the war.
GB: So it was natural for you to want to join the Polish Air Force.
AJ: Yes, but unfortunately it didn’t start with that, [chuckle] it was, took me a long time before I managed to get to the Air Force. I joined the Army first.
GB: Right, okay. Can you tell me a little bit about that, and your journey?
AJ: Yes. I managed to get to France after the campaign in Poland, with my father. We travelled via Romania, Yugoslavia, Italy, Italy to France, where I went back to school, for a year, and in 1940, the German offensive already started, I joined the Polish Army, in France, and I was posted to Officers Training School in southern France near Orange, place called Boulin; it was the Tank Corps Officer’s Training School. Of course I didn’t stay very long because France collapsed, we were evacuated to the harbour, very close to Portuguese, to Spanish border, Saint Jean de Luz, it’s a small fishing village to the south of Bayonne. And Polish ships and British ships picked us up from there and we sailed from Saint Jean de Luz, well actually, we had to first of all row to get to the ships because they were moored about a mile or two from the shore.
GB: You had to row!
AJ: [Laugh] Yes. This is just fishing village. Anyway, it took us about four days and four nights to get to Plymouth, part of that we were escort by Sunderlands, and then we were transferred from Plymouth to Scotland when, where the Polish Army started to re-establish again. [Laugh]
GB: How did you get from Plymouth up to Scotland?
AJ: By train.
GB: Oh, by train, not by lorries or anything, no.
AJ: No, by train.
GB: Quite comfortable though.
AJ: Very comfortable, by comparison to France it was great camp. Everything was, I must say, very well organised. We landed at [indecipherable], we had to wait for everything to be arranged for us, when we left the ship everything was prepared for us, a big buffet, tea [laugh] typical NAAFI tea, sweet, and we were sort of given some food to take with us for the journey to Scotland.
[Other]: Shall I put it on the table?
GB: Please, if you’d like to yes, thank you, yes. Sorry, do you want me to help at all? Would you like me to, shall I move that for you just while you do that? Is easy? Is that all right there?
[Other]: It’s fine. [indecipherable]
GB: Oh lovely, thank you very much. [clinking china]
AJ: So we, it was amazing how quickly we managed to get organised. First of all we were given the infantry equipment, but soon afterwards [door noise] bren gun carriers started to arrive, then small tanks, Crusader and Valentines and eventually Churchills.
GB: And this was all up in Scotland.
AJ: Up in Scotland. Initially in a place called Crawford, I think that’s where we trained, and then we were moved to Blairgowrie, near, in Perthshire, and we were based there for about just over a year trying all the time to get to the Air Force, eventually I managed, in beginning of 1942.
GB: How did that come about, that you, you say you managed to get into the Air Force, did you have to keep asking and applying, or were they after volunteers?
AJ: I have to, well I was trying to tell them, this is, you know, my father served in the Air Force, why shouldn’t I serve in the Air Force!
GB: Better than the Army.
AJ: I volunteered anyway, to join the Army from, eventually they considered my application and immediately I joined the Air Force I started training. First of all in Brighton, I did have initial training in Brighton, then initial flying in Hucknall, near Nottingham, and service flying in Newton, also near Nottingham. All the training, Polish Air Force training, was concentrated round Nottingham.
GB: I know, I’ve just finished thirty years in the RAF myself, and I did some of my training at Newton. Oh thank you very much. Yes, so I do know Newton, unfortunately, this last, whoops, excuse me, [crashing sound] I tell you, I’m all fingers and thumbs, let me just, excuse me.
AJ: Use my spoon, I’m not going to use it.
GB: Are you sure? Thank you. Yes, they have started to pull Newton down now unfortunately, it’s no longer an RAF camp, which is very sad. They’ve knocked a lot of the old blocks down there, but it happens all over.
AJ: Pity. Pre war station wasn’t it.
GB: I think they’re possibly going to put a memorial up to the Poles, on the station which is very, very good. So you did your training at Brighton, Hucknall and Newton then, yes.
AJ: Then I was posted to first bombing school as a staff pilot to fly with the bombing leaders [dropping sound] [laugh] on the various exercises, bombing exercises. The, Manby was the, well pre-war station was first armament school, very nice station, maintaining all the pre-war traditions including dining in nights every Thursday. [Laugh].
GB: Did you like those? You found them very?
AJ: Yes. I must say it was very nice, your guys always [drinking] parade every, every Wednesday morning. [Laugh] Station Commander Parade. But there used to be quite a lot of flying, mainly on Blenheims, Blenheims I and IV.
GB: Right.
AJ: Quite interesting.
GB: Did they try and persuade you to do a different job other than pilot, or it was straight away you want to be a pilot?
AJ: No, after initial training in Brighton, there was, that’s where we could sort of either choose to go as navigators or as pilots, or sometimes they simply they told you you are very good for navigation, you are going to navigate! [Laugh] Anyway I went for pilot’s training.
GB: Do you think, yourself, do you think you were a very good pilot at the beginning? Or did, did you take to it naturally?
AJ: Er, no, I wouldn’t say it was all very easy, it was, I was an average pilot, not bad.
GB: Some bumpy landings then!
AJ: [Laugh] Well, had no trouble with landings, more with, initially we were flying on instruments there but it all came back, working. Eventually, I can’t imagine now without, flying without good instrumentations.
GB: Obviously after the war when you flew civil aircraft it was all much better instruments, probably, than through the war. So when you’d finished your flying training then, and your staff position at Manby.
AJ: I was posted to General Reconnaissance Course, that was in Squires Gate, near Blackpool. It was a two months course for aircrew detailed to go to Coastal Command, mainly navigation training. Very, very tough course, but very good one. But, and after that I joined the squadron.
GB: Was, was the actual navigation course that you did there, the air reconnaissance course, was that all based in the classroom or was there a lot of work out and about?
AJ: There was quite a lot of flying as well, on Anson, Avro Anson, over the Irish Sea.
GB: Anson. Not the best [indecipherable].
AJ: Not many flying hours as pilot but quite a few, as navigators, with day and night, various exercises, including astral navigation and everything. So it was very interesting, very interesting indeed. I joined the squadron when the squadron was at Chivenor, it was.
GB: Down in Cornwall, isn’t it.
AJ: In 1944, Autumn 1944. The squadron was based at Chivenor, equipped then with Wellingtons 14s. Specially adapted Wellingtons for work, as an anti submarine work, equipped with very good, for those days, radar, ASV - Aircraft Surface Vessel. That went with seven, later eight machine guns, and six depth charges in the main bomb.
GB: Yeah, the bomb bay
AJ: Bomb bay, the aircraft was of course prepared for very long patrols, so the additional tanks in a bomb bay, so we could stay on patrols for over ten hours. So it was, we had sufficient fuel for just over eleven hours.
GB: Was that mainly daytime or was that night time flying as well?
AJ: Mainly night.
GB: Night.
AJ: Some day, but mainly night. Aircraft was, apart from radar, was equipped with a Leigh Light, the huge hydraulically operated reflector in the middle of the fuselage which was operated by the navigator during the attack, and the usual stuff, I’m detailing you with?
GB: No, no this is very good, the details are very important so as many details as you like!
AJ: Providing you stayed safe, radar operator picked up contact, could have been anything, could have been submarine, could have been fishing vessel, or small coastal vessel, French. We were, of course, told never to attack either the fishing or the coastal vessels because we were on anti-submarine work and we had to stick to that, but we of course didn’t know what the contact was.
GB: Until you got very, very close.
AJ: Until we were right on top of it. So the radar operator used to guide pilot towards the target, of course pilot used to decrease the height to minimum. We were equipped with, the only Wellingtons equipped, with the, it was a sort of a radar altimeter, we called it electrical altimeter. It was a very accurate machine and could estimate our height above the sea level. We could go actually, with a little bit of risk, we could go down to fifty feet on, using that altimeter. Although it was bit of a risk, but anyway during the attack it was quite [beep] altimeter, very, very good instrument. Now the idea was that the radar operator used to guide the pilot toward the target, the aircraft was all prepared for the attack. The navigator was forward operating the Leigh Light, he used to operate like two handlebars, up and down, left and right.
GB: And it was a million candle watts or something like that, that kind of power was it? Must have been quite, er.
AJ: That’s right. The first officer, or actually the second pilot, was standing above him, operating machine guns, and the idea was to get to the target to within one mile and then navigator used to count to ten then switch on the light, of course becoming a magnificent target for the submarine to open fire. [Laugh]
GB: And I presume the submarines were always on the surface at night time because they considered there was less chance to be seen.
AJ: Contrary to opinion, submarines tried to stay on the surface all the time, if possible, and submerge only when either there was a danger of air attack or, or say they picked up a convoy and they wanted to attack the convoy. They were trying to have batteries in best condition possible for this kind of work. So, most of the time, time, submarines were actually on the surface, so it was possible to pick them up with radar. But of course they were not asleep, as soon as they heard us they used to crash dive or change course and become a disappearing contact.
GB: It was a case of picking them up on nights where it was a bit. So was it a case you had to try and catch them on nights where weather wasn’t so good so they couldn’t hear, lookouts couldn’t actually see you.
AJ: In 1943, that was before I, before I joined the squadron, the Germans were actually ordered to stay on the ground, on the surface and fire back. They were equipped with very good anti aircraft guns and they were very dangerous indeed, particularly at night, because of Leigh Light. One of our aircraft attacked submarine, they damaged it, but aircraft was also very badly damaged. It was, I remember, Flight Lieutenant Jan Sobraski, they survived, but only just. They managed to get to base but with huge holes in the wing and in the tail.
GB: That’s probably testament that they got back to the -
AJ: So that was only proof.
GB: The geodetic design of the Wellington.
AJ: Oh yes, Wellington could withstand considerable contact.
GB: Could stand that: burn all the skin off and still stay in the air couldn’t it, yes. So during your time with 304 down at Chivenor, can you tell me a little bit about what life was like on the ground during those days when you weren’t actually flying?
AJ: Chivenor of course was always a very nice station, beautifully situated. When I joined the squadron, squadron was very, very happy. [Laugh] Social life was very, very lively at Chivenor. Of course crews, only, when one arrived as a pilot to join the squadron, first ten flights was always as a second pilot, just to get experience because of waves, navigation and weather and also the difficulty in picking up the targets, it was necessary actually to gain some experience. First ten flights was always as a second pilot, so I was flying there as a second pilot. Life on the station as well, I remember at Chivenor was, we didn’t stay, we didn’t stay, I didn’t stay perhaps long enough to know it better but it was, I know quite a few parties organised at the officers mess and so the social life was very pleasant, overall, particularly during the summer when plenty of tourists about.
GB: The beach is a lovely place to be, and Chivenor, is that Devon or Cornwall?
AJ: It’s Devon, still Devon. Later on, after Benbecula, we were stationed at St Eval and that was in Cornwall.
GB: Yes, I’ve heard of that. So when you were at Chivenor then, were you in, was your accommodation in nissen huts or was it proper brick built?
AJ: It was not nissen huts, it was sort of a barracks. We shared rooms, normally two officers to one room. Sometimes it was bigger accommodation for four officers in one room, and that was quite a big room, so it was reasonably comfortable. But I say, I didn’t stay very long because, Admiral Donitz started his offensive with submarines equipped with snorkels, you probably heard about that. We heard for a long time that they were moving such a possibly to operating diesel under the sea and to work sort of exhaust pipe sticking out, but it was a matter who actually invent, was quicker in inventing it. The Germans were a little bit quicker and there was a danger that Admiral Donitz would start new submarine offensive going around Scotland, entering the Atlantic from the north, so the squadron was moved from Chivenor to Benbecula, to Outer Hebrides, and that was quite a considerable change from the comfort of Devonshire to the Outer Hebrides.
GB: And the weather as well I would think!
AJ: The weather was absolutely, and that was winter 1944 45. After several, actually, the biggest enemies there were a, weather, b cruel seagull. But, so, still ten hours patrol in continuous sort of westerly strong winds and very frequent wintry showers, with visibility dropping to zero; it was quite tiring, tiring patrol.
GB: What kind of, obviously I know you wear wearing flying clothing with the big fur jackets, the leather jackets but did you have any other form of keeping you warm in the aeroplane?
AJ: Wellington was heated a little bit, the worst place was tail of the aircraft, but up to position of navigator it was not necessary to wear any specially hot clothing, just ordinary flying suit.
GB: Just your flying boots. And the big fur boots.
AJ: Sometimes some pilots used to wear those fur, Scottish aero jackets but I used just ordinary flying suit and I was quite comfortable, I was not cold at all.
GB: On a normal, average, ten hour flight that you did, the operational flight, how much of it was actually action and how much of it was just, not mundane, but just looking and everything is quiet?
AJ: Well during the ten hour patrol, sometimes we had to go down perhaps three, four times to investigate what the target. Most of the time it was a fishing vessel, we used to scare them! [Laughter]
GB: Suddenly putting the light on, yes.
AJ: Sometimes it was just a coastal, coastal one, little one, ship, same as coast to French, crossing Bay of Biscay, plenty of fishing vessels and our patrols from Benbecula used to go the almost to the, almost to the coast of Iceland but not quite. We could see Iceland on the radar.
GB: I’ve read, I’ve looked into a lot of the operational records of 300 and 305 Squadron, and they’ve flown Wellingtons Mark III, IVs and Xs, and they seem to have an awful lot of problem with hydraulics was one problem, oxygen supply seemed to fail to the back gun turret a lot. and there was another one, I think was it oil pressure, oil pressure on the engines, and they seemed to be the things that, they’d fly out on an operation they’d have to turn back and in the column at the end, the, is it the 541 or 540 that the Station Ops would write afterwards.
AJ: When they were operating Bomber Command they had different engines. They had I remember the big [indecipherable]. We used to have already Hercules 100, much better engines.
GB: The Bristol Hercules.
AJ: And we didn’t have much trouble with, in fact great admiration for our engineers who maintained our aircraft on Benbecula in atrocious conditions. We didn’t lose one [emphasis] aircraft throughout the winter. It was amazing to think that they, every time the aircraft was prepared up to the best, was the best possible condition.
GB: Were you the only squadron up there or was there any other squadrons?
AJ: No, initially when we arrived there there was our squadron and four Fleet Air Arm squadrons, they operated Swordfishes on patrols closing shores, and we used to go into the Atlantic.
GB: Further afield.
AJ: Initially we sort of looked at each other, but not becoming too friendly! But the Station Commander said now this must end, so he asked us to organise a huge party. So we arrange huge party and entertain four, four squadrons of Fleet Air Arm and after that we were great friends. They stayed, in think, on Benbecula for, with us, for about two to three months around then and then they left. I think they, I don’t know where they were posted back to [indecipherable] somewhere.
GB: And what was roughly the date, or the month and year when you left Benbecula can you remember? Can you remember when you left Benbecula?
AJ: Ah, we left Benbecula in spring 1945. I was due to go to OTU to pick up a new crew, already, and as a captain but it was, for some reason, the course was delayed and the squadron was posted back from Benbecula to St Eval, in Cornwall, and started to operate over the English Channel again.
GB: Just in time for the summer!
AJ: Yes, that’s right. Anyway, and I did one operation, last operational flight as second pilot from St Eval and then after that I was supposed to pick up a new crew in number six OTU at Silloth, near Carlisle. And that’s where the war ended, [laugh] when I was, when we had just completed our course, due to be posted back to the squadron as a unit. And after that the squadron was, shortly after, was posted to Transport Command and I, with part of my crew, I was posted to Transport Command TCU at Crosby on Eden to train to go to India but unfortunately my navigator failed the last medical, for overseas medical. They discovered anginal heart, and so I was posted back to squadron again with only radio officer so I, instead of flying Dakotas in India, I was flying Warwicks with 304 Squadron again after the war, mainly operating to Athens, to Naples and east in south of France.
GB: All difficult destinations then, after the war! [Laugh] Naples and South of France.
AJ: Well, South of France was all right. But even in winter, the weather sometimes over the, over the Masif Central of France could be quite nasty and the Warwick was not particularly good in the bad weather, so.
GB: No. So how did you end your time in the Polish Air Force, you became part of the RAF didn’t we in 1947?
AJ: Well actually towards the end we [bleep] part of the RAF, and then the authorities decided to form what was called the Polish Resettlement Corps, and to, but then I was already determined to join civil aviation. Because I completed the course for Transport Command, and because I completed the navigation course with general reconnaissance, I managed to get civil licences very easily because they considered those courses up to standard [laugh] so I managed to get civvie licences, and very quickly after leaving the Air Force I was employed by Lancashire Aircraft Corporation, first. Initially at Blackpool but then they operated from Birmingham and all over the world.
GB: Yes. Well, you’re obviously, you were the right person at the right place and the right time really, to get that because I’ve spoken with many veterans, who after the war, struggled to find a job because obviously there were only limited occupations that the then British government would allow the Polish, the ex Polish veterans, to go into. You were, well not lucky perhaps, right place, right time.
AJ: I was. I must say that from the moment I joined the civil aviation I was sort of walking from one job to the next. My firm, I was changing the firms but it was simply because the firm decided to change the name! So from Lancashire Aircraft Corporation it was Skyways, from Skyways it became Britannia eventually. So I stayed with the same, more or less, same pilot same firm, for my flying career.
GB: If you could, if now, if you, if I said to you you can fly any aircraft you like, that you’ve never flown, past or present, what, if you could have a wish, to fly one aircraft now, if you were capable and able to fly, what would be the one aircraft, past or present?
AJ: Most favourite aircraft was, for me, was Boeing 707 320 Intercontinental. It was a most magnificent plane and I used to fly, well we used to fly, to Los Angeles, direct from Los Angeles back to Luton, used to fly to South America, to Far East, to Tokyo, everywhere. Beautiful aircraft.
GB: Beautiful aircraft.
AJ: Absolutely superb aeroplane; that was absolutely my most favourite aircraft ever.
GB: Compared to the Wellington.
AJ: Well, the Wellington also, from, well perhaps from military.
GB: From that era.
AJ: I would say Wellington was nicest planes to fly.
GB: They were very nice. Do you have any particular memories from the time that you were in 304 Squadron? Any funny stories that happened on the ground or in the air, anything?
AJ: No, I was, I must say, I am one of those lucky ones. My worst incident was in the beginning of my career in civil aviation when flying Haltons, that’s Halifaxes actually, we, well that was on one, that was very close one because we caught fire on number one engine after take off, we were actually at top of climb, flying to, was the beginning flight to Hong Kong and we were due to pick up some freight from Hamburg, we were flying from Birmingham to Hamburg and we just reached the top of climb and I just reached down to start navigation and all of a sudden bells started to ring and we caught fire number one. Few moments later, the whole engine separated and the propellor sort of twisted and hit the leading edge of the port wing, where oil tank was for the inboard engine, so we lost all the oil from the inboard; we lost two engines. One engine was completely gone, separated, and one we had to stop. But it was very difficult to fly because of this huge, flat surface where engine was, and that was not aerodynamic, so the huge drag, to fly straight you had to drop on one wing and anyway, we managed to, the weather was superb, we could see Birmingham for miles and miles and we flew slowly back to Birmingham and landed Birmingham without any incident; that was an experience!
GB: Oh, you go through the whole of the war years and afterwards.
AJ: Surprisingly enough, this aircraft was serviceable within two days!
GB: Really.
AJ: They changed the leading edge and changed the tank, they changed the engine aircraft was fully serviceable and flew to Milan as far as I remember.
GB: That just shows you. I’m sure these days it would be in the workshops for weeks and weeks wouldn’t it – that’s the difference. [Pause for tea!] During your time up at Benbecula, was the accommodation a bit more sparse up there?
AJ: Benbecula we stayed in nissen huts, and we shared nissen huts, well as far as, four officers to a nissen hut. We had a batman too who kept sort of fire going all throughout the night.
GB: You had a stove in there.
AJ: Right in the middle and sometimes it was too hot! [Laugh] [Cough] But kept it running. And of course it was reasonably comfortable, but what was amazing really, because of these very harsh conditions, very hard conditions in Benbecula, the squadron kept together and we had much more pleasant memories from Benbecula than we had from many other stations, for some reason. Was difficult to explain, but because of the harsh conditions, and difficulties, difficulties everywhere.
GB: It brings you together I think.
AJ: It brings the whole squadron together.
GB: I’ve experienced that in my time in the RAF, that when you’re away deployed to a location which is very sparse and you’ve perhaps just got a couple of tents and some camp beds, it’s better because people do bond closer together, whereas if you’re in a nice posh barracks or things, or there’s a town just down the way, people disperse and go everywhere, don’t they.
AJ: You know, for many many years during the conversation when we used to meet, we always used to remember Benbecula as the place, not St Eval and Chivenor, but this difficult station, where we are not even allowed to use the public transport which was, there was a communication between Benbecula and mainland was maintained by Rapides, de Havilland Rapides, and this was only for civilian populations, we were not allowed to use it unless there was an aircraft of ours going somewhere, that was different. But we had to go by boat from Lochboisdale to Oban or to Mallaig; that’s sixteen hours sailing, you know, atrocious weather, you know, waves appear to be higher than the mast.
GB: The boat disappears and comes back up.
AJ: And screw come, can sometimes coming out of the water, vibrating, it was most unpleasant. Sixteen hours of suffering!
GB: It was one of those places. I mean the furthest north I ever got posted was Lossiemouth, in the Moray Firth, and that was, that could be good weather and it could be bad weather a lot, lot further north, my goodness me.
AJ: Well I remember on Benbecula gusts to eighty, eighty miles an hour every few days and quite often we were unable to land back from the patrols on Benbecula, we had to divert. Divert to Tiree which was most, probably nearest, but also to Limavady and Ballykelly in Ireland, sometimes had to stay in Ireland for a day or two too.
GB: Ah, that was difficult for you, yes, I’m sure!
AJ: Usual practice was that we had to bring one bottle of Irish whiskey back [laugh]!
GB: I was going to say, I knew where that was going!
AJ: That was a duty!
GB: And some nice Irish food in boxes and see what you could bring back.
AJ: That was duty to bring one bottle of whiskey for the Officers Mess.
GB: Do you know, sixty or seventy years later, when an RAF aircraft has to stop over somewhere unusual, they’ll normally have a box of something in the back they’re bringing back for the groundcrew normally, as well as the aircrew, back at the home base, so that still goes on even though it’s not so much wartime. Nothing changes, does it. [Laugh] Goodness me. When you, with um, with your squadron being Coastal Command, when you didn’t have the second pilot was it still just a five man crew for the Wellingtons, or was more was it?
AJ: Normal crew for Coastal Command was always six.
GB: Six.
AJ: Six.
GB: Six, and then you had the extra second pilot.
AJ: Two pilots.
GB: Oh, two pilots
AJ: Two pilots, navigator and three radio officers, air gunners, they all, radar operators, gunners and radio were trained, they changed every two hours.
GB: So even the second pilot, if he wasn’t training, you still had a second pilot, automatic.
AJ: Automatic, yes. That was necessary because we, to change.
GB: The amount of time that you’re in the air.
AJ: We used to change very two hours.
GB: Yes. To give them a break.
AJ: Every two hours we used to change.
GB: I imagine, and you’ll probably be able to tell me, but even when you’re flying the Wellington I imagine there’s a lot of vibration through the yoke is there? Or not?
AJ: No, in smooth, when weather was smooth, aircraft was very nice to fly and it could go through quite rough weather, very nicely, so it was very strongly built however. We trusted it!
GB: Have you had a chance to look at the Wellington that was at the Museum, the RAF Museum, at Hendon?
AJ: Yes.
GB: I know it’s at Cosford at the moment, they’re taking it apart, rebuilding it, yes.
AJ: But that one was Mark 10 I think, not Mark 14.
GB: Yes. Was it 304 Squadron that had the Wellington with the big metal loop at the front? That was a kind of a protype radar. Was that an anti submarine radar? It was a huge big -
AJ: No, no. The 14 had the sort of, underneath the nose, antenna in a sort of covered compartment.
GB: And that was the radar was it?
AJ: Just underneath the front, where the front um –
GB: The bomb aimer?
AJ: Front gunner used to.
GB: Okay. When I go back I’ll have to research now and have a little look at them, because obviously we -
AJ: 14 was quite nice really, was quite an open, good visibility prospects.
GB: Would need to be.
AJ: One would sit and have a very good view.
GB: Did it have upper gunner on the 14 or not?
AJ: No. Just one gun forward, later two, they were very high, had a high rate of fire with very automatic pistols, anti personnel.
GB: Yeah. What was that, was that Browning 303s was it?
AJ: I can’t remember the rate of fire, but it was close to two thousand rounds per minute.
[Phew]
AJ: The normal Browning had one thousand three hundred something, but the, two Brownings for Wellingtons 14 had very, very high rate of fire.
GB: Very short bursts too, otherwise you’d have no ammunition left.
AJ: Towards the end of the war we had two, so that was very, very high. The fore gunners in the back and two guns on side.
GB: Guns on either side, right, okay.
AJ: Operated by radar operator.
GB: Well, that’s, it’s quite interesting to hear it from your perspective because obviously, a lot of the veterans I’ve spoken to so far, over this last year, have been on either 300 or 305 Squadron, very much bomber Wellingtons and members of the aircrew and even, we’ve spoken to a rear gunner Jan from, Jan Black, I can’t remember his, er, oh crikey, he lives here in London. He crashed and suffered a lot with burns and he was in the early Guinea Pig Club. What was his name? Let me have a quick look, but we spoke to him quite a bit. Um, Jan Stanichki? That’s him there, I don’t know if you perhaps see him or not. Obviously he married a lady called Black so he changed his name. It’s the one in brackets at the very top there.
AJ: Stangryciuk. I don’t know. [bleep]
GB: He lives in London, but he was an air, a rear gunner for 300 Squadron. But he, although he got badly burnt, he managed to get enough treatment and well again and so he carried on then, on to Lancasters, as well. So, he’s obviously got other stories to tell, and some are not so nice, but lots, that’s to do with the crashes and things. And then one or two others, a couple of gentlemen I’m going to go and see on Monday over in Birmingham, and I think one of them is a navigator actually, let me have a little look, oh crikey, I’m just wondering if that was somebody from 304 Squadron as well? Stanislaw Jusefac?
AJ: Jusefac. He was in 304 Squadron initially as an air gunner, then they crashed and then he was trained as a pilot.
GB: As a pilot on Spitfires
AJ: And flew as a fighter pilot.
GB: Yes. Two hundred and sixty six missions all together in total.
AJ: Something like that, yes.
GB: That’s crazy isn’t it, when you think of the whole year, the whole war time, the amount of flying, but the other gentleman was, I can’t see it now. There’s another one from 304 Squadron. But I can’t see it, I wrote it down on one of the pieces of paper. Never mind. But it’s just very interesting, listening to different, different stories and accounts of how their war kind of panned out, what they did and things. So thank you very much for chatting. Is there anything that else you think, because what we’d like to do is, once the Heritage Centre, which is the old airmens’ mess, it’s a brick built airmens’ mess, at RAF Ingham but it was only, it’s one of the war years ones so it’s just a single story with a kind of corrugated roof, and we’re renovating it to turn it into a museum, a heritage centre. Originally it was just going to be for the three squadrons that were at RAF Ingham which was 300, 305 Polish and 199, but Richard, and the Polish Memorial, asked us, because we’re the only people in Lincolnshire looking after and telling the story of the Polish bomber squadrons, because Northolt looks after the fighter squadrons, he asked us if we would accept the honour to become the home of the Polish Bomber Squadron so, and we’ve included 304 in that because flying Wellingtons you kind of fit in with that, so the intention is, when we open hopefully later next year, that part of the Heritage Centre will just purely be given over to the four squadrons to tell their whole, the whole story, but not just the squadrons, but individuals, like yourself, just to tell a little bit of your story, so it’ll be like wartime pictures and then hopefully a little bit of you, because we have a technical gentleman who does all the, he’ll cut short little bits out where you’ve been talking today, perhaps thirty seconds to a minute where you’re talking about maybe Benbecula, and then future Polish, and British, generations can come along to the centre and hear what you have to say. I don’t know, have you got a family here in Britain at all? Have you got sons and daughters at all, or not?
AJ: Yes. My son is in Germany, although he was born here, then he’s, one daughter is working in London and one in Birmingham.
GB: It would be lovely to invite you and your wife, and your family down, at some point once we’re open, for you to look around and hopefully we have done justice to the men and women of the Polish Air Force, cause we’ve, we’re covering everybody, not just the aircrew. We’re looking for, there was a lady, Zosya, not Kulinski, she was actually a cook, but she has some funny stories to tell, working in the cook, so that’s good. We had suppliers, we had a female who was doing instrument checking, so she had a workshop, she would do the instruments then go on board the aircraft, fit new instruments into, I presume your cockpit, test them and things, so that was her war and we found one or two this morning, I spoke to the, another gentleman who was an armourer so he concentrated on the bombs and bullets side of things. But it’s telling everybody’s story, and it’s, hopefully it’ll be there for future generations, Polish and British, to be able to say: never forget this; this is what happened and these are the people that it happened with. We don’t have, the group of local community volunteers that work on the project, none of us have a Polish connection, we just were so [emphasis] interested. The more we researched our little airfield above our villages we realised what had happened there, and the Poles, and then we started to do the research into the Polish Air Force and found out a lot more, and then obviously we had the connection with Richard down here in London and also the Polish Consulate General in Manchester: Lukash Lutastanski, and he’s very much on board and he’s provided some funding from Warsaw, to help with our project, so it’s exciting. I never fail to kind of be amazed when I come to visit veterans like yourself, you tell me your story which is everyday story, this is how your years went, and it’s really, really nice so thank you very much.
AJ: So we’ll probably see you at the memorial next September.
GB: Well, yes, but we are hoping, we haven’t officially announced it yet, on the 26th of May we are hoping to open our memorial garden with the memorials at Ingham because that will be done before the building is, because we’ve received some funding from different locations. So there’ll be a huge big memorial stone for the three squadrons at RAF Ingham, but there’s another big, huge big memorial stone for the four Polish squadrons, including 304, and we’ve got two nice granite name plates, because although RAF Ingham was only operational from 1942 to the beginning of ’44, a hundred and forty two aircrew lost their lives flying from Ingham, of which two thirds were Polish. So the name boards, a bit like you have at Northolt, will have everybody’s name on them, in the memorial garden. So once we know, once it’s been confirmed with the Embassy and various other VIPs, that everybody’s good to go, then we’ll send out a letter, so obviously we’ll send yourselves a letter as well, invite to come down for the day, and hopefully, well up, down, I’m used to being in Lincolnshire, up to Lincolnshire for the day, and it would be lovely to welcome you and show you what we’ve got. It’s not Chivenor, and it’s not Benbecula but it, we’re hoping that it will be embraced as the home of Polish bomber squadrons, including 304. Do you have any photographs from your time in?
AJ: Do you know, I was looking at photographs the other day, all my photographs practically evaporated, because all the, [cough] every time I was interviewed they used to borrow them and never returned.
GB: Nobody’s brought them back! [Sigh]
AJ: Sorry, but er.
GB: No, no. That’s okay. We were going to do differently. What we do is we put the photographs on the table and we photograph them, we’ve got a high resolution camera, and then take, so you always keep the photographs because several had people said that to us, that they, you know, they’ve given them out, which is really bad of people not to then return them.
AJ: But you know when, during the war, no one really bothered to take photographs somehow, although it was, there could have been some [indecipherable].
GB: I’ll have a look through my collection, they’re all electronic on the computer, but I’ll have a look through my collection, see if I can find anything with you in them, and if I do I’ll print a copy off and send it in the post to you, just so you get, it’s almost like me returning a couple of photographs to you. I’ll see what I can find.
AJ: There is one photograph of my crew in Cynk’s Memorial, Book on Polish Air Force.
GB: Yes, I’ve seen that, the two volumes.
AJ: That, yes.
GB: Oh right.
AJ: That photograph my crew in that, that photograph was taken, I think it was taken at St Eval.
GB: I’ll have a look now you’ve mentioned that, when I get home tonight I’ll have a look.
AJ: Whole crew except first officer. He took that photograph [laugh]so he is not on, but the rest of us are on.
GB: Lovely. Well thank you very, very much, I’ll just er.

Citation

Geoff Burton, “Interview with Andrezej Jerziorski
,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 25, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/34780.

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