303 Squadron 1
303 Squadron 2
A New Home
|In 1953, 247 Squadron were
based at Odiham and about to convert from Meteors to the new Hawker
Hunter. Odiham is now a helicopter base and from the length of the
original runways, it's easy to see why. Amongst the legends of the Hunter
and Javelin squadrons based there, two stand out. The first is that, if you drive
round the base now, you'll still see the gaps in the hedges where aircraft
only just made it into the air, bouncing off the top of the single decker
buses in the perimeter road. The second was that the RAF employed a gate
keeper at the end of the runway. His job, when told of a possible problem,
was to run down to the gates and open them before the jets crashed through
|Since 247 Squadron were only
the second operational group to fly the Hunter, pilots were instructed to
bale out on any red light. It never happened, although red lights did. The
Hunter, even for a Spitfire pilot, was fast and beautifully balanced and
Mirek enjoyed every flying moment, including the fly past at the Queen's
Coronation in 1953.
|Meanwhile, just after the
birth of his son Jan in 1955, the RAF told Mirek that he was a little too old
to be flying fast jets. He was 38. Flying was his life and he had never
really thought about giving up, although he had no intention of leaving the
and 247 Squadron with one of its Meteors
|He applied to go on
and familiarisation courses. These lasted a week or so; he would come
back, fly his jets again and tell the RAF that "it wasn't quite what
he wanted". In this way, another year went by.
|Already a very experienced
Flight Instructor and pilot, with many different types in his log book, he
continued to fly at every opportunity. One of his great loves was the old Gypsy Moth. Whilst he
enjoyed the fast jets, he still hankered, like so many of the older pilots,
for the "feel" of flying these older aircraft.
and Tiger Moth of 25 EFTS
|During 1955 and 1956, Mirek
"tried out" Air Traffic Control, the Central Navigation School
and various other non flying duties. It isn't likely that his score of
zero in 247 Squadron's annual air combat target shooting was held against
him; apparently, no one else hit the trailed drogue target either.
I'd like to thank Norman Bowry for
contacting me and giving me his memories of Mirek's final days with 247
I was an air wireless fitter with 247
squadron at Odiham in the fifties and have very fond memories of your
father. 'Woj' as he was always known to us would often come into our small
workshop for a chat and a cup of tea, the only pilot on the squadron
allowed to do so, he not being a commissioned officer.
We once asked him why he didn't go in for a
commission. He replied that it would be no advantage to him as he was
perfectly happy as he was, having more freedom and not having to pay mess
fees. My most vivid memory of him was when he was allowed to take up a
Meteor for a personal air display before he left to take up his new
posting. He duly took off and disappeared. Silence ensued. We were all
standing between our hangar and the next facing the airfield.
As we were wondering where he had got to he suddenly roared over our heads
at extremely low level, coming from behind through the camp! Frightening!
He landed and the aircraft was towed back
into the hangar. Soon afterwards one of the aircraft riggers looked in at our
door and said 'Come and look at this 'plane'. As you no doubt know, the
skin of the Meteor consists of plates riveted on. The riggers showed us
where rivets were coming loose at various points on the airframe. They
expressed the opinion that if he had stayed up a little longer pieces of
the 'plane would have started to fall off.
We were very saddened to hear of his death
not long after. To think of all he had been through, only to die in such a
tragic way. was delighted to discover your website. 'Woj' was the sort of
man you don't forget.
|Mirek's wife "Panda"
recalled that he was still serving with 247 Squadron in October 1956. His
RAF records show that he was transferred to 288 Squadron flying out of
Paul Balliol T2
Ministry of Defence have given the following extract from surviving
the night of 22nd October 1956 your father was flying as second
pilot on Balliol Mk T2 Serial WG184 of 288 Sqn then based at RAF
Middle Wallop. The first pilot was Sqn Ldr Charles Warren MBE, DFC.
During dual night circuits and
landings and shortly after calling downwind for landing on the
second circuit, the aircraft collided with a Chipmunk (operated by
Air Services Ltd) between 1500 and 1800ft. The captain, Sqn Ldr
Warren, jettisoned the canopy and baled out, injuring himself on
landing. Your father was sadly killed when he struck the ground with
his parachute only partially opened. It is not known whether he
baled out or was thrown from the aircraft on impact with the ground.
The Chipmunk pilot, Flying Officer Htay Maung (Burmese Air Force)
baled out and was injured on landing.
The Court of Inquiry concluded that
the accident had been caused by the divergence of regulations
governing civil and military flying, in that the Chipmunk was flying
just within the airfield traffic zone. Contributory factors were
considered to be the restricted visibility caused by the darkness
and the large blind spots caused by the canopy structure of the
The Ministry will not release the
detailed Court of Enquiry records until 75 years after the date of death
or discharge of all personnel involved.
was buried with full military honours in the tiny country churchyard at
Middle Wallop. As a serving officer in Her Majesty's forces during the era
of the Cold War, he was never able to return to his native Poland.