Interview with Mieczyslaw Maryszczak


Interview with Mieczyslaw Maryszczak


Mieczyslaw Maryszczak was born in Bokyivka, Ukraine and served in the Polish Army and then the Polish Air Force. An early memory of the war is throwing bread to starving Russian prisoners being marched from Lviv to Podlesice. At seventeen he was in the Polish Army testing repaired tanks in Gaza. After the Allied victory at Alamein he went to Egypt where he joined the Polish Air Force, sailing via South Africa to Liverpool to train at RAF Halton as an armourer.
At RAF Halton he met fellow Poles from 303 Squadron who were there for three months training. He, however, was there for four years and received training very good on all types of armament and explosives, possibly in the context of weapon research and development.
He was there on VE Day but says the Poles didn't celebrate because of the Yalta agreement. He also recalls how, when some Russians visited, they were locked in a workshop out of the way. He recalls the barrack rooms and how they cheated the midnight bed checks when some were still out dancing in Aylesbury. He also says that the food was cooked by Italian prisoners and was very good.
In 1946 Michael went to RAF Cammeringham pending demobilisation. He was then detached to 48 Maintenance Unit at Wrexham, where he received and checked aircraft guns, before going to RAF Framlingham to await resettlement or repatriation.
Some Polish airmen returned to Poland but Mieczyslaw, by then know as Michael, went to London for resettlement. He claimed that trade unions didn't want the Poles and tried to send them into the mines and foundries but he refused and found a job making spectacles. He met his wife, who is also Polish, in 1960.
In London Michael attended social events and dinners at the Polish Club. He was awarded the Polish Freedom Medal in about 1990 or 1991.


Temporal Coverage




01:31:02 audio recording


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[Other]: Make a start.
Int: Right, I’ll just, I will leave it on because this is the rough cut. Obviously what we’ll do is, just give you a copy, on a CD, of the whole recording. And then obviously when we come to do a production side of it, we’ll cut out the bits that are relevant towards the Heritage Centre but we’ll give you a copy for your family, or a couple of copies if you’d like that.
[Other]: That’ll be lovely dad!
Int: We’ll just leave the camera rolling. If at any time you want to have a break, or you need to use the toilet, or you would like a drink, if we just say and we can stop, because it won’t matter on the film: we’ll just keep it rolling. Because sometimes, we found in the past, that when we’ve interviewed some of the veterans, they’ll say could I just stop now for a cup of water, glass of water or something, so we switch it off, and that’s when some of the very interesting little pieces of information come out, when they’re just chatting, so sometimes it’s worth leaving it on. I did a very, very quick bit of research into you before I came here, so I know a little [emphasis] bit about you, and it is only a very small amount, because I didn’t realise that you were an armourer, um, I probably should have done, and obviously although you’re known as Michael, or Michael now, obviously you had your Polish first name which, would you like to pronounce it for me?
MM: [Phonetically] Michislov. [Laughter]
Int: Thank you. My pronunciation would be very embarrassing to you.
[Other]: I can’t pronounce it, can’t spell it, let alone!
Int: M I E C H Z Y S L A W. Yes.
[Other]: Miecyzslaw, something like that.
Int: How do you pronounce your surname, your family name?
MM: [Phonetically] Marishtack.
Int: Marishtick.
[Other]: [Phonetically] Marishtak. Marishtak, yes.
MM: There, you see I was in Gaza at that time, that was, Rommel was, British was worried about that, taking over Suez Canal and I wasn’t in the Air Force yet, but was about hundred fifty Polish boys, we supposed to learn how to repair the tanks, you know, but that Australian say look, its take lot of time to learn, I’m going to teach you how to drive and we going to repair and we going on the desert and test them they okay, on the front because there was hurry, you know, be ready before Rommel attacks the Suez, so I got for that, medals.
Int: And how old were you at that time then, in the desert?
MM: I was very young, well [pause] about seventeen I think, seventeen.
Int: And were you part of the Polish Air Force or the Polish Army at that time?
MM: The Army.
Int: Part of the Polish Army.
MM: At Gaza, yes. Because that was Gaza, was on the Egyptian Palestinian border, that time was, [cough] well, under British rule in Palestine, you know that. I was in Palestine as well.
Int: And you’ve obviously mentioned that you were trained in the Polish Air Force to be an armourer. When you were in the Polish Army, in Palestine, did you also deal with the shells and the bullet side of things as an armourer, or not?
MM: No. You see after that I was removed, victory was Alamein, and they moved to Egypt, and Egypt er, that was quite lot of boys and was about, volunteers about six hundred fifty, because Polish was, more to, Polish aid for us in England. So there, you know, the examination, you know, doctor, you know, everything was, so six hundred, six hundred forty five, is only sixty five been accepted, and from that time I joined the, to the Polish Air Force.
Int: Why did you decide that you wanted to apply to join the Polish Air Force? What was the reasons behind that do you think?
MM: Well because Polish, they came round to Egypt and they want some replacement in England for the younger people, you know.
Int: I was just wondering why you chose, did they, was there any, was there an incentive?
MM: I didn’t choose that.
Int: You didn’t choose, oh, okay.
MM: They just said volunteers you see! [Laugh] So this stay in Egypt and from Egypt we travelled by Royal Britannia ship round Africa because we going to go through that where U-boat was, German U-boat, and round the Capetown. We stopped in Capetown for about three days and because not only Polish but was Yugoslavian, all different nationalities, Greeks, and they all different, and we arrived to Freetown, and Freetown to Liverpool. And from Liverpool came to Halton.
Int: What, what time of year did you arrive in Liverpool? Was it the summer, or the winter, or?
MM: That wasn’t winter, no, no, no, that was er, [pause] which date was that, approximately.
Int: I’m just thinking that having been in Palestine, and having been in in Egypt, and then even South Africa, coming to Britain, and Liverpool, must have been probably very cold, very wet.
MM: No, no, no, that was June or July, something like that, that time, we arrive to England. That was in, practically summer, was that time.
Int: What was your, can you remember your first impressions when you landed in Liverpool, in England?
MM: Balloons [laugh]. Yeah, there were balloons everywhere.
Int: Oh, the barrage balloons. Yes, yeah. And then you went, you said you went to Halton.
MM: Halton, yes.
Int: For your training. Can you tell me -
MM: We travelled during the night, I don’t know why, we actually arrived early and having travelled through the night, and I seem to remember they stop us in Crewe; they give us some cup of tea and sandwiches. [Laugh]
Int: That was nice, and was it in the back of a lorry then, that you travelled?
MM: No, no, it was train.
Int: Oh, on a train, right.
MM: Yes. I think it was Crewe which er, and we arrive very late in Halton.
Int: And what are your memories of Halton, as a training?
MM: Oh, they was very good, you know, because most of the people was coming from the 303 Squadron, from Northolt, for, to Halton, for training. Some of them depends what, some of them just gunnery, you know, three months training and you’re off you know. But you know, was very, very, training was very, very good, you know, was excellent, you know, we got everything. Even remember the Russian er, [indecipherable] Bureau like came round to visit Halton and what happened they, the Brit, they shut us completely! [Laugh]
Int: They just, they wouldn’t talk to you, they just ignored you completely.
MM: Yes. They said no, no, put in school and then they shut us, the workshop up is completely: all Poles.
Int: Shut away. And how long after you arrived, did you hand over your Army uniform and then you got the blue, the blue uniform for the Air Force?
MM: Oh yes. When we arrived to Halton I got given blue uniform.
Int: Blue uniform. Then you were in the Air Force, the Polish Air Force.
MM: Yeah. That’s right.
Int: And can you remember the insignia and the badges you wore at all? Were they RAF ones or were they Polish Air Force?
MM: Polish Air Force.
Int: Polish Air Force. How long, roughly how long did you stay at Halton for, to do your training?
MM: Oh, training for, because the, I was for training this time four years, for training.
Int: Four years at Halton!
MM: Because you know, we supposed to go to Poland, after the war and you know, but they, Polish Government, say you must let every arms they got in Britain, you know, like rockets and everything, you know, and at the time was top secret, you know.
Int: So, when your training had finished, at Halton, which RAF station did you go to after Halton?
MM: Hah, Lincolnshire.
Int: Lincolnshire. Can you remember the name of the station?
MM: Cammeringham. Cammeringham.
Int: At Cammeringham, you were actually at Cammeringham were you? Right. So that would have been, it changed its name from RAF Ingham to Cammeringham in November 1944, so if you knew it as Cammeringham, you must have gone there from November ‘44 onwards at some point. So, if you haven’t already got them we can get hold of your service records – you’ve got them have you? No. We can get your service records from Northolt. There’s a lady called Margaret Goddard.
MM: Oh yeah, I know her, yeah.
Int: And she can find your records, which will show the dates you went to each station, which is good for you, and for your family.
MM: I remember there used to be NAAFI canteen on that river in Lincolnshire.
Int: In Lincolnshire. NAAFI, NAAFI was.
Int: Was a NAAFI canteen in the middle of Lincoln was there?
MM: Yes, I can remember the river was you know.
Int: In the middle of Lincoln, there is a -
MM: Yeah. Not far from the Cathedral, you know.
Int: Yes, yes I know the one you mean. There’s a big, large, well they call it a pond, but it’s called Brayford, Brayford Pond, with all the barges.
MM: That’s right, that was NAAFI.
Int: Oh right, okay. What, can you remember much about Cammeringham, RAF Cammeringham? Just to help your memory, the airfield was on the top of the hill and the Station Headquarters was down in the village of Ingham. Does that ring a bell at all?
MM: Well you see at that time they knew that we never go back to Poland and a lot of people try to register, go to Argentina, to United States, you know, Canada.
Int: Oh, as part of the Polish Resettlement Act, yes, but you decided to stay at Cammeringham for a while.
MM: Actually, I was going to [chuckle] Argentina!
Int: Right, okay.
MM: But I met one chap, he was from Argentina, he was in Polish Army, and he said never go to Argentina!
Int: And why was that then?
MM: Because is, you got problems over there and he say I wouldn’t advise you to go to Argentina. So I’ve still got the papers, you know!
Int: That you could have decided to go there, but instead you stayed in England.
MM: Yes.
Int: And when you were at Cammeringham did you do any of your armourer jobs, was that with loading the machine guns or were you an armourer that dealt with the bombs?
MM: I had a, that was, from Cammeringham and was posted to 48MU, in Wrexham.
Int: Okay. Right.
MM: That was, I used to, quite lot of, because guns and machine guns, you know, in Wrexham. You know, Holyhead, if you go that way.
Int: So in Wrexham it was a big store for machine guns?
MM: RAF station!
Int: Oh, it was an RAF station was it, at Wrexham, right, okay. Was your job to maintain them or was it more for storage?
MM: Sort out, you know, quite a lot of them used to go to the, check them in the temperature and everything, you know.
Int: So did that include dismantling, taking machine guns to bits, and refurbish them, change the barrels and things?
MM: From the, yeah.
Int: Right. So is that a job that you could do with your eyes closed, when, at the time, you became very skilled at that.
MM: Well, yeah.
Int: Yeah. And did you get a chance to fire any of the guns on the practice ranges at all, or not? Or were you just purely putting the guns together?
MM: Not in the air.
Int: Was that a bit, was that a good job? Was it a boring job?
MM: Oh, you know. Well you know, somebody has to do it!
Int: Somebody has to do it. Before you went to Wrexham, if we could just go back one step to when you were at Cammeringham, what did you actually do at Cammeringham?
MM: Actually I was doing, there were no jobs, everybody was thinking what I’m going to do, you know.
Int: Right, so you were still in the Polish Air Force, but there wasn’t a job for you at the time? So you spent all [emphasis] of that time training and then you got to Cammeringham and there was no job for you.
MM: Well that was, you know, that was probably closed that station, you were just only waiting for the different people going different countries, you know.
Int: But there was a lot of Polish airmen at Cammeringham at the time, yes?
MM: Yes. Some of them they went back to Poland, you know, but.
Int: It’s not a good story, no. I’ve heard several accounts from people where they went, [beep] especially if they’d been in the Polish Air Force, and then they were arrested by the Soviets, and the Russians, and some were executed, which is er, just for being in the Polish Air Force. A lot of your colleagues were at Faldingworth, which was just about five miles down the road, a lot of them, and the Polish 300 Squadron were there. So you went to Wrexham and you did the 48MU job at Wrexham, how long did you stay at Wrexham, can you remember?
MM: [Pause] No, I said, I was, because my station was er, in Framlingham.
Int: Framlingham. Yes. I’ve heard of it, I’ve heard of Framlingham, right.
MM: There was er, and I was only been attachment to the 48MU’s just only, you know, so I wrote the letter to them: can you call me back to, on my station. So you know, so they, yeah, I went back and say look, now you have to go to London and you have to look for a job.
Int: And that was, so that was the end of your Polish Air Force career.
MM: Yeah. And I stay in South Kensington, and for looking for the job because only job they was offering us is coal mine, you know. [Laugh]
Int: Or engineering? Did they offer you engineering?
MM: Engineering? No, no chance. No chance.
Int: No? So what kind of job did you get in the end then? What was your first job, being a civilian after the war?
MM: They told me you to go to the coal mine, I said no, I never go to coal mine. [Laugh] But all, so they decided to last, and I was from National Health making glasses. Spectacles glasses.
Int: Okay, right, okay, that was here in London was it?
MM: Yes, in London yes, in Camden Passage, in Islington. So I said all right, I’ll go that, but I wouldn’t go to the coal mine. [Laugh]
Int: And when did you meet your wife?
MM: [Cough] Oh, that was [muttering] 19, about 1960 [pause], 1960.
Int: And was she Polish or was she English?
MM: She’s Polish.
Int: She was Polish. And had she been a WAAF during the, a Polish WAAF during the years?
MM: No, no, no. She wasn’t, no.
Int: She’d just come across from Poland, okay. I notice looking at your medals you have the, is it the Tute Militaire? The very first one that you have here. Can you tell me a little bit about how you were awarded that, that medal?
MM: This?
Int: No, the very first one, this one here.
MM: Oh, that, no, no.
Int: This one there.
MM: That was Freedom for Polish, Freedom.
Int: Oh, that’s the Polish Freedom one is it? Right, okay. So that was awarded in about -
MM: At the Embassy.
Int: At 1990, or ’91 when Poland got its freedom.
MM: I have somewhere, upstairs, the letters, that was yes, was in the Ambassy, in London.
Int: Going back to your time in the Polish Air Force again, do you have any funny stories, any funny things, because with your fellow kind of airmen, the Polish airmen, you must have done some funny things then.
MM: Well it was funny stories, you know because when it was in Halton you were only allowed to go out for [cough] eleven, you know, well not twelve o’clock, yeah, before twelve you must be.
Int: You must be back before midnight, yes.
MM: But some of them was climbing through the windows! [Laughter]
Int: And did they get caught, or not?
MM: Yeah, what happened, and the sergeant was checking every bed, and somebody was going to each bed and was like saying yes, he’s in, he’s in, but he’s out!
Int: And then he’s sneaking back to his own bed, good. When you were there, you obviously had the big dormitories, the barrack rooms where you all slept in, what was the food like? Was the food good at Halton? Because it was English food I presume, not Polish food.
MM: That was the, actually, no, it was good food there, yeah, sausages, you know.
Int: Plenty of food, plenty of food?
MM: Yeah. And usually that was prisoner of war working in the cookhouse.
Int: What, German prisoners of war or Italian?
MM: Italians.
Int: Italians. That could be a good thing if you like Italian food!
MM: And they was free to go to the cinema, everywhere!
Int: Really!
MM: Yeah!
Int: But you couldn’t go out after twelve o’clock at night! Huh. That’s very strange, isn’t it. Yeah.
MM: And they used to sell the jewellery because, well, they had some watches and the you know, they was free, they didn’t want to go back to, escape to Germany.
Int: They were happy to stay in England then.
MM: Stay. Otherwise they probably go to Russian Front, you know. Yes, they got.
Int: If we can go all the way back to the beginning of the story, are you okay, do you want a break, are you okay?
MM: It’s all right, yes.
Int: Going back to talking about Palestine and the time you were In the desert with Rommel, and fighting Rommel, and you were saying you were allowed you to drive, what was your job, what kind of job did you do?
MM: Well I was testing the tanks.
Int: You were testing the tanks?
MM: On the desert, because that Bill, they repair, because they, mechanics you know, to learn how to repair the tanks was take time, he said look, we going to repair, I teach you how to drive, on the desert, and that’s you know.
Int: So as well as repairing the tanks then, as a mechanic, you also did, you had to go and test drive them as well?
MM: No, I didn’t repair, I only just test.
Int: Oh, you were only doing the test driving then. And was that fun? Especially as you were young. Driving tanks round the desert?
MM: Oh yes! And that chap, after the, Alamein, he was going, his name was Bill, and he’s Australian, and he would just say, I got nothing else to give you, he just cut his button from his coat and give it to me. So I kept that all the time.
Int: Oh! Did Bill make it through the war?
MM: I don’t know what happened, I don’t know, might have been killed, I don’t know. But what happened, in a Polish club in London, I met there, she was Wing Commander from the Australian Embassy, and I told her I got the button which is that Bill give me, and oh, was probably my grandad, so I don’t know. What regiment he was? But I didn’t ask him!
Int: But he was in Palestine at that time then was he? Yes?
MM: And I give it to her and she says she’s going to find out, you know, the name of that is.
Int: That sounds like a needle in a haystack, but you never know, you never know. So do you attend a lot of the Polish events that happen in London, at the Social Club at Hammersmith?
MM: Yeah, we go so often. Usually, we usually have the dinners once a month, you know.
Int: Well I mean, obviously, I met you, you might remember, in September, at the Polish Memorial, Northolt. It’s great to chat with you, what I was going to do now was just, I was gonna have a rest, just in case you wanted a cup of tea or something, we can talk a little more. Cause I know sometimes it’s, you’re thinking back and your mouth can get very dry, can’t it, especially when we’re just talking and it’s a thing. So I’ll leave the camera on, but if you’re happy, I don’t know whether you’d like a drink of water or a cup of tea or coffee?
MM: No, that’s all right, no.
[Other]: Dad, but where were you when the war finished? That’s the bit I don’t get.
Int: Right. Were you at Framlington?
[Other]: Where were you actually, when the actual physically the war finished?
Int: When it was VE Day kind of thing?
[Other]: Where was he?
MM: [Pause] 1945.
Int: Where were you actually, where were you stationed, at that time, when it was VE Day? Can you remember which station you were on?
MM: 1945, which station, I probably was still in Halton.
Int: Did they not have big celebrations?
MM: No. Because they didn’t invite for the -
Int: For the Polish.
MM: For Britain.
Int: To go to London, did you have them, if you were at Halton, or Wrexham, or even Cammeringham, wherever you were at, when it was VE Day, did they have a party on the station?
MM: Wrexham, we only had one celebration then was when Prince Charlie was born, 1948, and we had a barrel of beer, we had drunk that, you know, on his birthday.
Int: So you were still in the Polish Air Force then, in 1948, so that must have been almost the last year, because most of the Polish Air Force, from what I’m led to understand, obviously straight after the war, after VE Day, along with the problems where they wouldn’t let the Polish parade through London because of the Yalta Agreement.
MM: That’s right.
Int: With Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill, and I know that’s why they had the Resettlement Act and they had to absorb the Polish Air Force into the Royal Air Force properly, just so Stalin couldn’t get -
MM: We had the contract two years, Polish Resettlement Course.
Int: And I think it was 1948 was the last, when the last Polish squadron was disbanded, so that probably ties all of that in. It would be interesting, you know, if your daughter Joanne’s able to, on your behalf, to get the, your service records from Margaret, or a copy of them.
[Other]: Yeah, I can do that.
Int: Cause then it’ll show -
MM: I know her. Yes, I’ll go and see her in.
Int: She’ll be able to photocopy them and then give you a copy and at least you’ll be able to read all the dates on, and if it’s, I think if it’s very similar to the RAF’s one, it’s just a piece of almost brown card, two sides, which shows all of your, all the stations you were at and any courses you did, and even things like when you were on the sick or on leave, it’s all on one card that they did at the time. It’s all handwritten.
[Other]: Cause I’m just a bit confused here dad, so you went from Halton to Lincolnshire and then Wrexham, yeah.
Int: Yes.
[Other]: And then you went to London.
MM: To London.
[Other]: What year?
MM: I came to London to look for job.
[Other]: What year? Cause you were saying you were under the RAF until 1948.
MM: That was Polish Resettlement Course.
[Other]: So I’m just, and I just. It’s all right, I’m getting there. A bit confused.
Int: So, if we get things in the right order: you went to Halton, and then from Halton you went to Cammeringham did you, or did you go to Wrexham first, after Halton?
[Other]: Cammeringham.
MM: No, Cammeringham.
Int: Cammeringham.
MM: And from Cammeringham I went to Wrexham.
Int: To Wrexham, and then to Fram –
MM: Framlingham.
Int: Framlingham or Framlington? I’ll have to check exactly where that is. And then from Framlington that was it: were out of the Polish Air Force then?
MM: Sent us to London for.
Int: To find a job.
MM: That’s right.
[Other]: When they sent you to London, did you stay in an RAF base, or no? Were you private dwellings?
Int: Was it a private house, or was it still in barracks in London?
MM: No, no, in London that was hostel, South Kensington, was houses was probably very expensive, London houses. That was big hostel over that square, that was square, I would call it square.
Int: Straight after the war.
[Other]: So dad, where were you when you, when the announcement of the Second World War was over? When Churchill said, we are not at war any more, where were you? [Polish]
MM: I said I was still in Halton.
Int: You were still in Halton.
MM: In 1945.
Int: So 1945 you were in Halton. Then you moved to Cammeringham in ’46 because I mean Cammeringham was one of the Polish Resettlement Units. And Dunholme Lodge.
MM: That’s right, and they posted us to Wrexham.
Int: It was still under the kind of the Air Ministry’s control.
[Other]: Umbrella.
Int: While they did some training and they did, there was quite a few training: carpentry, electrical. They did all the courses there so they just used it as an RAF station but it was more of a training camp for training purposes.
MM: That’s right.
Int: And then obviously the MUs, which are the Maintenance Units but they normally store, big store camps, so obviously Wrexham was a big store camp where all the machine guns were coming back and they were being -
MM: From there the Wellingtons and all that, big er -
[Other]: So really, until the war finished you were based?
MM: At Halton.
[Other]: Until 1945 and then after that the Resettlement Act came in and by 1948 you were discharged to civilian life. Right, I’ve got that now. Okay. But when the Second World War finished, what happened, because that was a big news! So was there no celebration? Do you remember what you were doing when you found out the war was ended. I mean.
MM: I was still at Halton.
Int: You were still at Halton.
[Other]: But what were you doing?
MM: There still was training.
[Other]: [Polish]
Int: [Beep] Did they have a party perhaps, a big party at Halton, that day?
MM: At Halton, even, because what’s his name, Bevan, and he asked, give us a letter and give us, every members of the Polish er, boys, been given, to go to Poland or, or were you going to join the Polish Resettlement Course.
Int: Yes. Because of the shortage of jobs, he was the Trade Union, Bevan was the Trade Union man, wasn’t he, and they set the Trade Unions up, and don’t get me wrong but his point of view was, he didn’t want the Poles in Britain.
MM: Britain, no. That’s right.
Int: And that’s why, I think that’s why they only offered the Polish military –
MM: Coal mine.
Int: Ex military the coal mine, and some of them got into the steel works, the foundries, almost the jobs that nobody else wanted to do, so it was very restrictive, and obviously because the Trade Unions came in straight after the war, that’s when they were created, and that was very much in the National Health Service and everything else, but that’s when they said jobs for the Britons, you know, it was almost like, Churchill was Conservative, although he led the Coalition through the war years then he was, straight after the war he was kicked out and the Labour government came in and that’s how the Trade Unions came about, and that’s why, the Agreement was obviously made at quite a high ministerial level to have the Polish Resettlement Act.
MM: That’s right.
Int: Of 1947 I think it was, to protect the Polish servicemen and women that wanted to stay in the UK, or it allowed them to go to the Empire countries, Canada, even America although that’s not an Empire country, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and - .
MM: All different countries.
Int: Yes, yes.
[Other]: But Dad, you misunderstand. I’m going to say it in Polish. [Polish]
MM: In Halton.
[Other]: [Polish]
MM: I can’t remember that.
Int: No.
[Other]: I was asking him what he was, the moment he found out when the Second World War finished. I remember when Diana died. I can tell you exactly what I was doing.
Int: Yes.
MM: We didn’t celebrate because was Yalta.
Int: Yes, because of Yalta a few weeks before this, and that meant you’d lost Poland.
MM: We didn’t celebrate.
[Other]: I see, okay, that’s a different side.
Int: That’s probably why, yes because I mean Yalta was really more Roosevelt and Stalin; Churchill was just a puppet.
MM: Puppet, yes.
[Other]: That explains that, yeah.
Int: He was part of the three but he had to go along with what the two big powerbrokers wanted and they carved up Europe at Yalta and Poland unfortunately was the one that suffered because it got kind of.
MM: Roosevelt was very sick man, he was very sick, he was actually dying and Truman took it over, you know, after Roosevelt.
[Other]: But in those four years that you were based at Halton, did you witness bombings in England, you know, saw the active stuff, you know, the active service. Obviously you get the planes ready for them to go off to battle, obviously I’m guessing here.
Int: Halton being a training -
MM: Training.
Int: Was all the four years that you did at Halton, was that all training or were you an instructor then?
MM: No, all training.
Int: Just all training. And was that just [emphasis] for training to maintain the machine guns or did you do bombs, fusing up the bombs and everything?
MM: Bombs, fusing, [indecipherable] everything.
Int: So as an armourer you did all the jobs.
MM: And then rockets.
Int: And the rockets.
MM: They been before well, they was first to use the aeroplane.
Int: To fire the rockets, right at the end of the war, so you had to be trained up to do all of that.
MM: That’s right.
Int: Whilst you were at Halton were there any air raids, at night, where the sirens went off and the bombs dropped at Halton, or not?
MM: What happened, for about each, because Air Ministry was worried when start bombing London, and they move us to Cosford, RAF station Cosford.
Int: Right, okay, yes.
MM: And I assume the Air Ministry wants to move to Halton, that’s, so they move and stay at Cosford, Wolverhampton, you know that.
Int: Yes. Over in the West Midlands, yes.
MM: We stayed there, I can’t remember how many, three months or something.
Int: Three months. And did you go back to Halton afterwards?
MM: Oh yes.
Int: So was just for three months they moved you out of Halton, over to Cosford near Wolverhampton. And did your training continue there, or did you do something special?
MM: Yes, it was training.
Int: Just normal training.
MM: Yes.
Int: At Cosford. And was that quieter at Cosford? Was there not as many air raids?
MM: No, well, was different was because the Cosford was, because Halton was, had the equipment for training but Cosford, you know.
Int: Didn’t have it. So what did you do while you were there then, at Cosford?
MM: Still, you know.
Int: Yes. And was there an airfield, as in where planes aircraft could land at Cosford or was it just a factory kind of?
MM: No, I think that was only for factory.
Int: Just like a training, in a factory, yes.
[Other]: Dad, sorry, why were you trained for so long, for four years, you know, normally now it’s just for three months off you go to, I just, why were they training you for so long?
MM: Don’t forget, we stake everything [emphasis].
[Other]: Yeah, but dad, it’s war, people, they need men.
MM: But you don’t. It’s not only that, you’re training each, even, even if you write there how to kill the person, you know, all different things we didn’t know.
[Other]: But that’s -
MM: Some, if you want to kill the person, if he’s going to start writing and it’s blow up his face and it kill them.
Int: I think what Joanne was perhaps meaning was, normally training would be maybe one year, maybe a little bit, but because it was war you would imagine that they wanted to get you trained very quickly and then straight out to the airfields. The question was -
MM: But not bomb everything targets, it’s not that simple like that.
[Other]: I know dad.
MM: It takes, you know.
[Other]: But four years in a war’s a long time, in a situation of war.
MM: Yeah, don’t forget four years, it’s not only that, guns. [Pause]
[Other]: I’ve lost you.
Int: So during your time at Halton, as well as going to Cosford, did you have small amounts of time where you went off to other RAF airfields to actually practice what you’d been trained, or not?
MM: No.
Int: No, you just stayed at Halton.
MM: They was trying to get more information, you know, and instructors who came from London and give us all the guns, well guns and ammunition and material which is TNT, you know, and so how to.
Int: It sounds a little bit like your training was more experimental training.
MM: Yes, yes.
Int: Not the standard training so any new bombs or new rockets – am I going down the right road here?
MM: Yes. Everything was secret and that’s why the training was so secret.
Int: Right, we’re starting to drill down into a little bit now.
[Other]: So, did you have to sign the secret service act?
Int: The Official Secrets Act.
MM: Well, we have to, you know. The service was secret.
Int: I meant as opposed to maybe an ordinary [emphasis] Polish Air Force armourer, that did his basic training and went straight out onto a squadron.
MM: Oh yes. That’s three month course.
Int: Yes, that’s the three months course. So in fact the time at Halton, although you said it was training, was it more, it sounds like it wasn’t basic training, it was specialist training as each new munitions came out, right.
MM: Yeah.
Int: So you were seeing how things worked and to improve it, so yes, you weren’t so much a student as a team that were there to um, I don’t know how to describe it to you, I’m trying not to put words into your mouth! So were you still in like a classroom situation at Halton?
MM: Yes.
Int: Oh right. But they would bring something new in and then talk about it. And what job did they give you to do? Was it to see how to make it better, or was it just purely to take it apart and put it together? I don’t want to put words into your mouth, I’m trying to find out exactly what you did at Halton.
MM: We usually, they like electrician was coming from London he was going to teach us electrician and some extras you know, which is, came round once a week and teach us electrics; it’s not only guns, everything you must know.
[Other]: What I think we’re establishing dad, is that you were, you’re right, you were training but you were given devices, or guns, or whatever, and they wanted you to try it out, it’s more that -
Int: Test and evaluation or something.
[Other]: Yes. You had your basic training of three months, yes. Everyone does three months.
MM: No, three years.
[Other]: Yeah, but. No.
MM: Basic training that’s only came only there for, for -
Int: I think what Joanne’s trying to ask the question is, you had your basic armourer’s training, at Halton – how to be an armourer basically. Your basic bombs and bullets, but then after that at Halton, you obviously specialised, at Halton, with maybe experimental bombs or experimental rockets, and new things; anything that was new. Cause if you had an electrician that came from London specially to Halton, to talk with you and to teach you, it sounds like what you were doing was more experimental work, maybe I don’t know. Hmm. Is it possible?
[Other]: How many was there in the class at one time, dad? Ten, twenty, fifty? Do you remember? And was there only one class or was there lots of classes?
MM: [Pause] |Well we had, it’s not only that, we had mathematics and everything, turrets, and you know, you have to, how to operate turrets for machine guns for the er, prepare the aircraft to, for the pilot to fly that Spitfire and you know, it’s not simple as.
Int: I know, I fully appreciate, it’s a very complicated.
MM: We started, you see you have to, to, must, it’s not only one turret you’ve got, all you’ve got different one top and bottom.
Int: Different kinds of makes and turret, yes, certainly. It’s interesting, maybe when you get the records from Margaret, it will actually say on there and remind you, you may well have been part, although you did your basic armourer’s training at Halton, perhaps they kept you at Halton, as part of a test and evaluation section and that’s why you stayed at Halton, that’s why you didn’t go to an airfield because the people from London would bring you up, he Air Ministry, would bring new things for you to look at and along with your colleagues.
MM: Because some people, some they decided they got enough and they went for the course for three months and came as a sergeant.
Int: Oh, okay!
MM: They didn’t want to continue.
Int: They didn’t want to continue, no. So it does sound like what you were doing there was some kind of specialisation, after your basic armourers training, so. And then that’s perhaps why you went to Wrexham afterwards, although you went to Cammeringham first didn’t you. But that was at the end of the war, so maybe they just used your skills as an armourer to deal with the machine guns and everything else because you were quite. What rank were you, that’s an interesting, that will give us, help a little.
MM: Well AC1, you know, when we finished.
Int: AC1 when you finished! Crikey. That’s interesting.
MM: We didn’t, we had.
Int: Right, and that was, AC1 is just aircraftsman first class. So that’s kind of the first or the second rung on the ladder, so after four years
MM: After everybody finished at Halton, they was first class.
Int: But you said some people could come out quickly and become a sergeant.
MM: Yes, they didn’t want to continue.
Int: So they didn’t want to do the armourers job.
MM: No, no, it’s not only armourers, they didn’t want continue because was different sections at Halton.
Int: Right, okay.
MM: It was not only the armourer, there was different sections.
Int: So they could change to a different section and become sergeant very quickly.
MM: Some of them engineer and so on, so that was different.
Int: I think it’ll be, it’s certainly worth you trying to get in touch with Margaret and see if you can get your records because that might, you might suddenly find that you were doing a very important job and you didn’t quite realise how important a job it was!
[Other]: But from what I’m hearing dad, because I’ve never heard of any of this, what I’m hearing is that, my understanding is that you, your division, whatever, at Halton, you were doing some secret service stuff, you know, you were examining.
Int: Possibly, yes.
[Other]: And you were probably told [emphasis] that you were under the training umbrella but you weren’t really, I think. [Beep]
Int: There’s a little bit more to this that perhaps they didn’t even tell you [emphasis]. They just said oh, you were doing some more training.
[Other]: So you were just told training so that if anything happened to you you’d say I was just doing training. In fact you were probably doing some.
Int: Some more interesting work.
[Other]: Without you realising you were doing.
Int: Which might be part of the reason as well, that you actually went to Cosford, to do some more things, but that you would think as just ordinary. Cause Cosford now, Halton and Cosford are still in the RAF now. Halton is the -
MM: No, Cosford, the reason we went Cosford because –
Int: They were doing something at Halton.
MM: They was bombing London.
Int: Oh, they were bombing! Right, okay.
MM: And the Air Ministry, I think they was trying to move to Halton.
Int: Right, that was the reason.
MM: That’s probably the reason, they move us from.
Int: Just, yes, they just give you some space at Halton possibly.
[Other]: Where is Halton, sorry.
Int: Halton is down kind of Aylesbury kind of way, that kind of.
[Other]: So it’s quite relatively near London still.
Int: Yes, it’s part of the old Rothschild’s estate.
MM: Yes, that’s right.
[Other]: And Northolt is the London base.
Int: That’s the one, yes, right just inside the M40.
[Other]: And your connections with Northolt is that you just used to go there?
Int: No, no, it was Cosford, which is over in the West Midlands. I don’t, did you ever go to Northolt during the war years when you were in the Polish Air Force? Or not?
MM: No. Some of them they’re coming from there.
Int: It was 303 Squadron that were based there, which is the Polish fighter squadron.
MM: They was coming for training.
[Other]: To Halton?
Int: To you, to Halton.
MM: You know for the, not only for me but for different engines or -
Int: Yes. So, so from 303 Squadron, the 303 Squadron armourers and the engineering teams for the engines and things used to come to Halton.
MM: They had the best in Halton.
Int: To get refresher training on new guns or new types of engines for the aircraft.
MM: They had special camp in Halton.
Int: Within Halton, right.
[Other]: It’s all kind of secretive.
Int: It’s kind of interesting, yes.
[Other]: This is quite intriguing.
MM: Sometimes when the cookhouse was closed for some reason, we went to the Polish dinner which is 303 Squadron used to have.
Int: Oh, they had a canteen, yes.
MM: We some Polish dinner!
Int: Proper Polish food, oh good! [Laugh] It’s interesting because as I say Halton is still there now, they use it for the new recruits just in any trade that come into the RAF. So Halton is still there. Cosford is still there and they do a lot of the training. In fact I think the armourers do their training at Cosford now, which is quite funny: that’s the complete circle has moved round. So both those stations are still there. Halton hasn’t really changed much, so if you ever got a chance to go there.
[Other]: I think Dad, you’ve been there.
MM: I’ve been to Halton, yes.
Int: Cause there’s just like the road that runs through the middle and there’s the top half of the camp and the bottom half of the camp.
[Other]: Yes, he’s been there. Okay.
MM: They use to march, they was calling Polish Avenue, and when they finish, they plant some trees, and they’re great.
Int: Huge big trees now, yeah.
MM: Polish Avenue.
Int: And they called that Polish Avenue did they? I’ll have to go and look. Next time I go to Halton, I’ll look and see if they still call it Polish Avenue.
[Other]: Thank you very much. So dad -
MM: We used to have, every morning we used to march to that, you know, after breakfast, to, to training.
Int: To your training area.
MM: At our school.
Int: Was it, can you remember now where, your barracks, when you lived in the barracks at Halton, were they at the bottom of the hill or the top of the hill? Could you, you probably can’t remember.
MM: The, the barracks, you can’t miss them because Polish Avenue, you’ve got Polish Avenue and that, as you’re walking, on the right hand side, that the barracks.
Int: That was your barracks.
MM: Two barracks, there was three, two barracks was. All different.
Int: And in your room, in your barrack room, it was just all Polish Air Force was it? Or was it a mixture of RAF and Polish?
MM: No. There was just two, two big barracks.
Int: Yes, but in the actual room, where you had maybe ten or twenty beds, in the room.
MM: There were many beds!
Int: But they were all Polish in that big room were they, or the English as well as Polish?
MM: No, no, no just Polish.
Int: Just the Polish.
MM: English were different.
Int: Yes. And when it came to special occasions during the year, special Polish occasions, including Christmas, did you have a Polish church, at Halton, that you could go to? A military church?
MM: Yes, yes. When Hitler declared war on the United States and we had, I remember one Christmas which is, the American came round and we had a big dinner.
Int: On the base, and did you -
MM: Yes. No, at Halton.
Int: Oh, at Halton. And di they bring a lot of extra food, special food from America?
MM: They had, you know, all different.
Int: Chocolate and things like that, yes. And when you were at Halton did you play any sport?
MM: Oh yes, swimming, we must swim, you know, you got, it doesn’t matter which is winter or summer still had to [indecipherable] had to learn must, you know, swim.
Int: I didn’t know whether you were perhaps a sportsman and you liked to play either football, or swimming or anything.
MM: Oh yes we usually have, used to have I think every Wednesday.
Int: Every Wednesday was sports day was it.
MM: And that was Mr Brown. [Chuckle]
Int: And Mr Brown was what, he was the instructor for sport?
MM: Instructor yes, for sport, yes. Was very nice chap.
Int: What’s your, what’s the memories, maybe one or two memories that you always have when you think back about Halton, anything to do with Halton at all. What’s the memories that you have, that you remember, if you were going to tell maybe two stories about Halton, what would those stories be?
MM: Well you know, the stories is completely different stories for our Wing Commander he was, well at that time he had a car, you know, Wing Commander what’s his name? Newbury. Newbury? And as he was coming to, to the station and two chap was walking, and he say can I give you a lift, you know, it was that station, and says oh yes please. And he say don’t tell the guards I left, don’t go through there, go to the main.
Int: And that was you was it? Oh, I thought it was you that he gave a lift to, but he gave a couple of guys a lift!
MM: He did.
Int: And at weekends, did you get time off at Halton? Did you get time off to go to the local town?
MM: Oh yes, we used to go to Aylesbury dancing, you know and also do dancing in Halton as well.
Int: And when you went off for your day off, or weekend, did you have to go in uniform?
MM: Yes.
Int: So uniform everywhere then. You didn’t meet any nice ladies then, when you were dancing? [Chuckles]
MM: Well!
[Other]: It’s all right dad!
Int: Good. Well that’s lovely. The only other thing I probably, we’ve talked an awful lot about Halton and I think there’s probably some more interesting little stories to come out of Halton. Could we, if you don’t mind, could we just go back to Cammeringham, how long do you think you were at Cammeringham for? Was it literally a couple of months, or was it a year?
MM: No, didn’t stay long.
Int: You didn’t stay very long.
MM: No. That’s why we posted.
Int: Yes.
MM: To the, from Cammeringham been posted to the Wales, you know that.
Int: To Wrexham.
MM: Wrexham.
Int: To Wrexham. So, you were saying that when you were at Cammeringham there wasn’t really a job for you, there was nothing to do.
MM: Cammeringham was just only for staying people.
Int: For the Polish resettlement.
MM: Yes, that’s right.
Int: So when you were there what did you do, each day, was there anything to do at all?
MM: Not really. No. The one chap he had a nice dog, and people’s giving him, sometimes give the dog penny, goes to the NAAFI, took penny and got the cake. [Laugh]
Int: Got the cake! That was the dog brought the cake back!
MM: Oh no!
Int: No, you got the cake for the dog!
MM: No, was for the dog!
Int: Ah right, I’m with you, right, okay. Can you remember when you were at Cammeringham, did you live in the village, in the barracks in the village, or up at the airfield?
MM: The airfield and the train was stopped, like where I was in the first squadron, and the train stop, you just put the hand, and the train stopped and you just can go to Ipswich or that place. Like bus now!
Int: Yes, oh man, that’s interesting.
MM: And a lot of people just playing the cards, you know, the cards.
Int: Yes. And that’s it that was it really, you played cards all day and then had your breakfast, your dinner and your kind of evening meal so that was it: there was nothing for you to do. Most of what’s, well, there is very little left at Cammeringham, or RAF Ingham now. There are a few, just a few nissen huts, a few buildings. The rank that you were at Cammeringham, I imagine the building that we’ve, that we’re renovating, was the building you would have eaten in because it was the airmen’s mess, um, oops, is it the other side round, wait a minute, yup, there we go, [paper shuffling] it probably looks very, very different, and that’s the thing with the kitchen, there was a dining room, and another dining room the other side, and that would have been the Junior ranks mess, up on the edge of the airfield, so I imagine, and that’s what it would have looked like, a computer drawing, so I imagine that’s where you would have eaten. You can hang on to that because it’s, some of it’s in Polish and some of it‘s in English, it just tells you a little bit about what we are doing at RAF Ingham, and you can see Cammeringham there, because obviously it was Cammeringham at the end of the war. It might jog a few memories. And we’ve got the web site as well which has got more photographs on it. I think, did I give you one of our cards beforehand? Did I?
[Other]: I’ve got your card.
Int: You’ve got my card, right that’s okay. But we’ve obviously got the web site and we’ve got a twitter now but we just use it purely and simply to put pictures on there and a little bit about what we’ve done the previous week when we’re doing all the works. We don’t use it as a chat room thing.
MM: And is another one which is from Halton, Sikorsky, when Sikorsky been killed, Mrs Sikorsky, and she invite me, I don’t know, another two chaps, for dinner to her, you know.
Int: To her house.
MM: Well, it’s a big house. And actually we came to London, she was in Baker Street, she was waiting for us, and the first thing we went to Madame Tussaud, and Sikorsky was already in Madame Tussaud. From Madame Tussaud we just walk maybe ten minutes, to big house, that policeman was standing in there [chuckle] and they prepare big meal you know, yes, we stay over there. And the evening we went to the, to the Piccadilly which is what er, the place, what you call it, because that Sikorsky had two sons and they was in Navy or you know, and they took us to the Prince of Wales, on Piccadilly, that was: Prince of Wales Theatre.
Int: The theatre, yes, yes. So you went there that evening. They took you for a night out.
MM: Yeah. The Prince of Wales. I remember that.
Int: And why were chosen to go to the evening meal?
MM: I don’t know!
Int: You hadn’t done something special you were being rewarded for?
MM: No, I don’t know!
Int: And what did your officers say, best behaviour and?
MM: No! It was free over there.
Int: That was free, okay, good.
MM: Yes, that was Prince of Wales.
Int: And when you went for this night, for the meal with General Sikorsky’s wife, and the sons, were you at Halton at that point?
MM: Yes.
Int: Oh, you were still at Halton.
MM: Yes, yes, at Halton.
Int: Again, very interesting, very interesting. Mmm. It creates more questions than answers.
MM: And Sikorsky, always, he was against the, you know, the Polish Army, and the army in Warsaw. He was against that, he said you not going to win with Stalin and because well, two hundred fifty, two hundred fifty thousand people been killed, or you know; destroyed Warsaw completely. But, and he was completely against that, [beep] Sikorsky.
Int: So he didn’t want to fight in Warsaw, he wanted to just -
MM: No, because you’re not going to win.
Int: Not going to win and it would just wipe out –
MM: And they just Ignored that, his advice.
Int: What, I haven’t asked you yet, but I should ask you. Where were you born? What’s your town or city you were born in, in Poland?
MM: The, in 1939 the Lvov which is [indecipherable] there was prisoner of war, er Russian soldiers taken to, from Lvov northward up to Podlesice and their massive [emphasis] horses and prisoners, you know. My mum, she gave some bread to me and I went over and throw it because I, well was not enough food probably, and their horses, massive [emphasis] horses, maybe some of them been probably killed in Kharkiv that time and when, when, because when they first er, I think they in the country, but first, because I used to live not far from railway station, and there was Polish policemen all, that took over by Ukraine and Jewish people, because of us welcoming the, Stalin in that way.
Int: Yes. So you’ve mentioned that you’ve been back to Poland since, did you say you’ve been back to Poland since it’s been free, since Poland was free? In ‘90 or ’91?
MM: Oh, yes.
Int: In 1990 ’91 was it, ‘91 when it became a Republic again, I can’t quite remember, with Lech Walesa?
MM: After that, yeah.
Int: So you haven’t been back to your town or your city to see it? No, you haven’t, no.
[Other]: Dad’s only been back to my mum’s side. [Indecipherable]
Int: Right.
[Other]: But can you tell Geoff where you were born dad? It’s what he asked you!
Int: Yes, I know, yeah.
MM: In the, Bokievka.
[Other]: Bokievka, which is on the Russian side.
Int: It’s on the Russian side then. Or is it still in Poland?
[Other]: It is now -
MM: No, that was, that time, when I born we was not Russian.
[Other]: It was Poland.
MM: No, it wasn’t, it wasn’t even part of Poland.
[Other]: What was it?
MM: Austria.
Int: Oh right.
[Other]: What? So when you were born dad, you were born in Austria?
MM: Austria. Because –
[Other]: Huh? But all the documents it says in Poland.
MM: Well, it’s Poland, yeah, it was Poland, but we been under the Austrian.
Int: Oh, was it the Austro-Hungarian?
MM: Hungarian, yeah.
Int: The Austro-Hungarian kind of part of it, it came up before, post, pre Second World War and all that, possibly.
[Other]: I think where dad now, the village, I think now is Lithuania isn’t it? Or Ukraine?
MM: [Indecipherable] is on the top.
Int: But the village, or the town where you were born -
[Other]: Is now –
Int: Which country is it in now [emphasis]?
[Other]: Lithuania.
Int: Is it Lithuania? Or is it still Poland?
[Other]: What is it then? Ukraine?
MM: Ukraine.
[Other]: Ukraine.
Int: It’s Ukraine, right, okay. So the borders have changed.
MM: Ukraine, Ukraine there.
Int: Okay. Is there anything else you can think of at the moment that you’d like to tell me about your time in the Polish Air Force at all? Anything you might have, because we’ve been talking about so many different subjects, and different times through your time in the Polish Air Force, did you, did you ever, here’s a question, at the end, when you’re finishing in the Polish Air Force, did you, did they allow you to keep any of your badges, or your hat, or anything at all?
MM: Yeah.
Int: Yeah? They allowed you to keep some things. That’s good.
MM: When the coat uniform, when demob only had one uniform, all the rest of them was RAF.
Int: So you kept them for a while. Did you, do you still have any of the badges or did you, have the badges all gone?
MM: I think probably got some buttons.
Int: From your original uniform. That’s very good.
MM: But er, well, we kept the uniform and everything.
Int: Well I hope that at some point in the near future, depending on how things go, we’re obviously hoping to open the Centre, maybe not this year, it might be next year now because we’re waiting for Heritage Lottery Fund, but then we’d love to invite you up, with your family, to come and see what we’re doing in Lincolnshire.
[Other]: Yeah? Do that dad.
Int: We are looking the big Memorial Garden, with the Polish Memorials in it, we’re hoping to open on the 26th of May this next year, with His Excellency the Polish Ambassador’s coming up and it’s going to be that kind of thing.
[Other]: Oh let us know.
Int: Once we’ve firmed everything up.
[Other]: Yeah, let us know.
Int: We will yes, we’ll let you know; it’s a Thursday. We thought that’s a little bit easier for people rather than weekends where it kind of clutters things up a bit, so we’re hoping to do all of that and with all the veterans we’ve found and managed to talk to, and what I have [emphasis] got for you, because you are an armourer, I’ve got some footage, it’s RAF footage, but it’s a training, it’s almost like a training video of how to arm up bombs and how to load and unload.
MM: [Indecipherable]
Int: We’ve got something like that already.
[Other]: What I’m trying to get in my head, is how you can train for four years.
Int: Oh I know, yes.
[Other]: When people dying.
Int: They’d be pushing them out onto the squadrons.
[Other]: They need the men. I just think my dad was told a certain thing to do but they were actually doing a different type of job, if that makes any sense.
Int: Yeah. Test and evaluation in some form, or testing new things, but they were training during that time. Yes, that’d be interesting to dig a little deeper into that. Yes.
[Other]: I can’t, I think dad’s been brainwashed by what they told him.
Int: Well yes, they would have just been doing more training, and more training, but maybe there’s a little bit more. It’ll be interesting to see, when the records come out, if, while you were at Halton, it says you were actually attached to a special section or squadron, you were doing test and evaluation, you know, for these four years, because it’s -
[Other]: So it’s Margaret we need to speak to. Do you have her phone number, dad?
Int: If not, I’ve got it. I can email it to you anyway.
MM: I know her!
[Other]: Well I’m sure you do know her, but we want to get your records. She can send you a copy of your records.
MM: We’re going to the [indecipherable] and she’ll be there.
[Other]: She’ll be there. And you can ask her. You want to ask her there, okay. All right then, we’ll go to –
MM: I’ve got her telephone number.
[Other]: He wants to that, okay.
Int: You might well have already have done this anyway, have you been down to the Sikorsky Institute and Museum? In London, down on King Street.
[Other]: Probably have.
Int: Because that’s the main museum for all kinds of things.
[Other]: Yeah, I’ve been there a very long time ago, but not recently.
Int: If you want to look at any of the archives I think you have to ring them up beforehand and book, to go at a certain time and then they’ll get things out. Once you see what Margaret’s got, it might be a case that they’ve got something to do with that particular Halton thing at, in the Sikorsky Museum. They may be able to bring out photographs, cause they’ve got tremendous, we haven’t even been down there yet to look at stuff to do with the Polish squadrons because we just haven’t had the time, but we know [emphasis] they’ve got film, they’ve got photographs; they’ve got a lot of stuff archived in the Sikorsky Institute.
MM: When I been in training the one, what’s his name, he just went you know, trained and was training and he went and shot down the German plane [laugh] and that Squadron Leader he was, I think he was Canadian, and he was very upset because he say you should stick with the, the, all together, anyhow, but later on he say from now on you are in operational; you done very well.
Int: So there was a Squadron Leader who shot somebody down and he was just there practicing or testing, and then they made him operational. Right.
[Other]: So dad, you were never operational then?
MM: Pardon?
[Other]: Did you shoot down any planes?
MM: No, I didn’t fly!
[Other]: No I know you didn’t fly but did you shoot any planes from ground force, from ground level?
MM: No, ground is different people was doing that, not shooting.
[Other]: So Halton was never attacked?
Int: Quite possibly so, yes, I would imagine they would have had some kind of air raids.
[Other]: So when Halton was attacked by Germans, where would you go? You know, like London, they used to bomb London.
Int: Did you have air raid shelters, under the ground? Were they in the basement of buildings? Or were they separate?
MM: We had air raid shelters, yeah.
Int: You had the shelters to go in.
[Other]: There was a, a drill went, you had to go to air raid, yes, but you didn’t actively shoot down planes.
MM: No, no, that was different people.
[Other]: I know but I’m asking, I’m just asking.
MM: No, there was, you’ve got, with the machine gun you can’t shoot them.
Int: No, exactly. they had to be the bigger, the anti-aircraft guns, yes. Oh, okay. Well, if we find out some more information, I’d like to come back maybe, at another time, for a, to have a chat with you again and we’ll put the camera on a second time. Because there might be some other, we might even find some documents or some photographs or something that explain the kind of job that you were doing a little bit more at Halton and it’ll be interesting to see if there’s a hidden story that perhaps you [emphasis] weren’t aware of, that they were getting you doing.
[Other]: I think they’ve got a [indecipherable] that he wasn’t aware of, that they [emphasis] were aware of.
Int: Because they, you were just, with your Polish colleagues, you were just doing training, but on maybe advanced weapons, and new weapons that were coming out which is why you said it was training because it was new stuff.
[Other]: But it wasn’t training.
MM: Yes, that’s precisely, there you go.
[Other]: But that wasn’t training.
Int: So you were doing testing on new [emphasis] types of weapons because you mentioned rockets didn’t you.
MM: Oh yeah, rockets.
Int: Now rockets didn’t come in until 1944 ’45 and they put them, not under the, not so much under Spitfires, but under Typhoon, the fighter aircraft and Mosquitos.
[Other]: But dad, did you put the bombs onto the planes?
MM: Well –
[Other]: Would you put the bombs under the planes?
MM: I didn’t put them, we just I didn’t do the training.
[Other]: Forget the training, did you physically put the bombs on to the planes?
MM: You don’t understand, that was training only.
[Other]: Well that’s what they told you.
Int: So when you actually did the training, as part of the training did they show you how to attach the rockets under the wings and things?
MM: Yes of course! We were doing that.
[Other]: But did you physically do that?
MM: That was not operational planes!
Int: Yes, I understand, because that was just training, so what they would do is, they would have a plane there, and you would practice putting rockets and things on to.
MM: You put the fuses to the bombs, everything.
Int: So the aircraft was just really for practicing your training, it wasn’t operational; I understand.
MM: Was not operational.
Int: So the aeroplane was almost part of your workshop. That you used it to practice putting the bombs and the rockets on.
MM: Yes, that’s right.
[Other]: But weren’t you kind of interested as to why you were constantly on training? For four years. You know, didn’t you think in your, amongst yourselves, we’re constantly training? Didn’t you think about it?
MM: But aeroplanes so complicated.
[Other]: Yeah, but dad no [sigh].
MM: Turrets and, you know, it’s not so simple you think can learn that in one day.
[Other]: But one year was a sixth of the Second World War! We were only at war for six years so four years is a big chunk.
Int: I think you were very lucky, because you were, it does sound like you were on experimental training for all the new weapons, but they told you that it was just training. But to have kept you there all that time I think you have to have been on a very special testing and evaluation.
MM: Like I prepare wings, then rockets, we have to calculate the pins which is going to shell that – it’s not simple.
[Other]: I’m not saying that dad, but dad.
Int: The timing mechanism on a rocket to when it explodes or was it just explode on impact or at a certain distance or height.
MM: Yes! And when the pilot pressed the button, they used to have a red, or the TNT burns and that shell, that pins.
Int: This, this is an experimental area. They were given rockets, but they’re obviously um, looking, your colleagues knew, they were obviously testing different types of fuse lengths and different fuse, not lengths but timers, for rockets and bombs to work in different ways, so some would be designed to explode above the ground, like an air burst, possibly, ground burst or some other. I think there was a lot of experimental work.
[Other]: So, did you think you were getting bombs to dad that were just straight off the, kind of, um tsk?
Int: I don’t think so much production, these weren’t production, these were, I think what you had Michael was pre-production.
MM: Pre-production. Yes, that makes sense.
Int: It was experimental. People who were coming up with the ideas, bit like Barnes Wallis did with the Bouncing Bomb, and you would have scientists that were going: I want to make this and then your bunch of armourers would be there say, working out how they can make that work.
[Other]: This pre-production. So really they weren’t training, they were testers. But they were told training.
Int: But it was classed as probably training, but they were testing different fuses and different things to work out what would work.
[Other]: Before they went into production.
Int: Possibly so, I think.
[Other]: Right, okay. I think, yes.
Int: I think that’s possibly, just listening to what you’ve told us.
MM: That’s right. Definitely
Int: So I think that’s a very important job, very important. Probably more important than you realised at the time.
[Other]: Yes. So basically you were testing all the prototypes and once you’d tried, agreed. So who would sign it off then? Who was it actually, this is gonna work? Who would sign it off, your chief commander? Who was your top man? Wing Commander, or?
MM: Yeah, would be the Wing Commander was. [Beep]
[Other]: Would have to sign it off.
Int: It would be head of that section probably.
[Other]: Who was head of sections, dad?
Int: Who was in charge of your training area? Would probably have been an officer I presume.
[Other]: Do you remember?
MM: Yes, that was er –
Int: Or a Warrant Officer maybe.
[Other]: So he was probably getting information from other agencies, or other.
Int: Yes, very interesting.
MM: That’s, that’s right.
[Other]: Do you remember the name of your head of training?
MM: Um, just a moment, I try to.
[Other]: Cause I think now, you’ve got your scientists, doing your prototype, next thing.
Int: Coming down to Halton, they’re going: right, here’s the basic idea, let’s see how we can make this work.
[Other]: These guys, let’s, and then -
Int: Look at existing –
[Other]: And then someone signs it off.
Int: Bombs and rockets they’ve got, and whether they needed modifying from the scientists and then they do the armourers part of putting the whole thing together and making it work from an armourer’s point of view. And [emphasis] how do you then fix that onto the underside of the wings or into the bomb bays, because obviously the, all the connections for the bombs and the -
MM: Got some of them, rockets, they’re shooting that, they stick to the tank and exploded.
Int: Yes. There you go. So to pierce armour, any, any good project, these days projectiles will go through some serious armour and then they explode inside the tank. So the first charge blows the hole in the tank, the second charge blows inside the tank.
[Other]: So dad, when you were doing all this, you were, you’re risking your life, every time!
MM: No, I’m testing.
Int: Probably not so much cause it was in a research.
MM: Research and test.
Int: In a research kind of environment so it would be like workshop, laboratory, research and they were working out how to, so that the rockets that were fired – cause they were right at the end of the war – they’d come off fighter planes that shoot, basic, very basic rockets at the end of the forties, but you could hit ground targets, so if you got tanks going across an open ground or something, or something like that, then obviously the fighter planes could get in and then fire the rockets to hit the tanks. But as you were saying, if it hits the outside of the thing and sticks to it, so it’s not going to bounce off, and then it explodes.
MM: Otherwise it can slide that, you know.
Int: There you go there’s a very interesting little piece of information there. That, and that’s something you’ve now remembered, getting something so they’d hit the target, and stick on it, and then explode. Rather than hitting the target and bouncing off.
MM: Bounced, yes.
Int: So there we are.
[Other]: Right. So that’s where your engineering, cause dad ended up being a production engineer, so he used to.
MM: That, you had the people was coming from London and was going teach us, you know.
Int: Yeah. It’s starting to come together now! We’re understanding a little bit more about what you actually did.
[Other]: Right! Yes.
Int: So it was probably -
MM: How to drop the bombs as well.
Int: Yes.
MM: You know, was teaching everything, you know.
Int: Which does explain perhaps why –
[Other]: You weren’t operational, non-operational.
Int: And you didn’t go up through the ranks because you were staying at that experimental, although you think they might have given you another rank or two for a little bit more pay, for the job you were doing! But maybe because that was, it was a shorter time and during the war.
[Other]: Four years is a long time in the war! That’s eighty percent out of four years.
Int: We can, the records, the main records for what happened at Halton research are probably out in the public domain now if you know where to find them, just to find out, test and evaluation centre that would have been there, or a small workshops as part of the armourers. And to be honest, if you’ve got the armourers there, the people that taught the armourers will be more experienced people anyway, so then they’d use some of those instructors, probably attached to, with your father, they’d be like the managers, the site managers, or the supervisors looking after the team of younger workers that were doing the test and evaluation on things.
[Other]: But my feeling is there’s a lot going on behind the scenes here.
Int: Oh, probably so, yeah. I mean that happened through the whole of the Second World War. Not just the Air Ministry, but in the Air Ministry would, there would have been a lot of small, trying new things, test and evaluation. I mean nobody had heard about the bouncing bomb, had they, and that just, that was all built.
[Joanne] Did you test the bouncing ball dad?
MM: No.
[Other]: Did you do anything with nuclear war? That nuclear?
Int: No.
MM: No. They was testing in Wales that, yeah.
Int: Yes, I mean the bouncing bomb was all done down at um, Teddington, Teddington Lock, the big old, the big water tanks that they had down there, in towards London. I don’t know what, I don’t know where all the nuclear stuff was done.
[Other]: Wales, dad said it was Wales.
Int: Wales.
MM: Wales, that was in Wales.
Int: Probably in and around the old quarries and things like that where you have low population.
MM: They was doing some in Wales, testing.
[Other]: Oh, very interesting, I didn’t know this.
Int: There we are. It’s interesting sometimes, when things, as people relax a little bit when we have the conversations, little things do tend to come out, so, and the nice thing is we’ve captured it all now so we can put it on to a disc so that if you need to look back and remember points that perhaps you’ll forget about, and then you think ‘oh yes, I said that’, so, and that’s, so it’ll help Joanne as well cause if you get the bug and start doing a bit of research we’ve got at least some ground area now.
[Other]: So, in your testing evaluation school, how many Polish people were there? Sixty, seventy?
MM: No, that was, there was I think six, was five hundred.
[Other]: Five hundred?
MM: But different sections!
[Other]: Yeah, but in your [emphasis] section?
MM: In my section er -
[Other]: Do you remember dad?
MM: No. In my section was [pause].
Int: Five hundred would have been probably for the whole camp. With the standard training for armourers in different points, but then -
[Other]: I can’t believe that dad.
MM: Thirty or forty.
[Other]: Thirty, so it’s quite a small group.
Int: Small group, concentrate on certain things.
[Other]: Concentrate, yeah.
MM: Thirty or forty there was, yeah.
[Other]: And all the other groups, you knew all the other groups, yeah?
MM: Well one actually, he was instructor, he went to Argentina and I think he passed away long time ago.
[Other]: So, so the friends that you see at your monthly Polish Air Force lunch, they used to be in Northolt, Halton, with you, yes? No? Yes?
Int: The people that you have lunch with, each month, your friends now [emphasis] when you see them each month now.
[Other]: They were at Halton.
Int: Are they the people from Halton, or are they just Polish Air Force people that you’ve met since?
MM: No, they’re probably different.
Int: From different things, right. Okay
MM: You know, from different.
Int: Well thank you very, very much.
MM: Not so many left now [laugh].
[Other]: Very interesting.
Int: No! Well thank you very, very much Michael, find where the turn off switch is.


Geoff Burton, “Interview with Mieczyslaw Maryszczak,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 17, 2024,

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