grateful to John Mitchell for contacting me in 2003 and sharing with me
his experiences of 2 Squadron and his memories of my father -
served as one of your Fatherís ground crew from 1949 to 1951 as an
Airframe Mechanic, on No 2 AC Squadron in
had served on the Berlin Airlift at an airfield called Wunstorf, and after
it finished in 1949, I was posted to RAF Wahn to join No 2 Squadron which
was equipped with PR Spitfires mark XIV and XIXs at the time. Also on the
station were 4 Mosquito Squadrons Noís 4, 11, 14 and 98.
after I arrived, so did your Father and some other Poles and Czech NCO
pilots, after their own squadrons and fighting units had been disbanded
after the war. They had joined the RAF instead of returning home under the
disgraceful Yalta Agreement between the powers that be at that time; many
were encouraged to return to their Communist controlled countries, only to
be persecuted when they got there.
Father and his colleagues were conspicuous by being informal, kind and
sociable to their ground crews, not like some others Iíve had to endure.
They wanted reliable aircraft to throw around the skies at will. They
certainly did this in a spectacular manner when ever they returned from a
trip, much to the disapproval of some on the station, but the Station
Commander, Group Captain D.J. Eayes used to be a 2 Squadron pilot himself
many years previously, so I think a lot of requested reprimands never got
off the ground!
of our pilots had seen wartime action, and had plenty of practice of doing
this type of flying during the Battle of Britain, and throughout the war.
also got away with it because, our Squadron Commander, Sdn Ldr Newenham
DFC was also an exí Battle of Britain veteran, and when he left, he was
replaced by Sdn Ldr Bartett DSO, another B of B veteran. After a while the
Squadron was treated with great caution by the rest of the administration
on the camp. They were a mad lot - you should have witnessed some of the
parties we had. All ranks, all looking after each other. Your Father being
in the midst of it, and at all times sporting his cigarette holder.
and my fellow mechanics were all of a similar age and had watched the war
unfold as spectators. Most of us, as soon as we were old enough, joined up
- and for the likes of your Father and his generation, we couldnít do
enough. They were all on average about nine years older than we were. In
hindsight, I donít know if your Father had any younger brothers or not,
but speaking for myself, it seemed that they were treating us as if we
were the younger brothers they might have left behind. 'Wojí was very
kind. When the squadron stood down for a long weekend, we would go with
him and the other pilots up to a place called Bad Harzburg. There was
skiing in the winter, (he loved skiing) in summer there was hill climbing,
and of course plenty of elbow bending at night in some bar.
Squadron moved up to an old Luftwaffe base called Wunstorf on the 15th
Septí49. I was on the advance party, which went by road a few days
before, ready to receive the Spitís. When they arrived, I remember,
there were joyful greetings and leg pulling when they taxied in safely, as
though they had just flown the
relate all this, because this type of relationship between Officers, NCOs
and other ranks was not encouraged in the forces. Indeed one was usually
reminded of oneís place quite often. Young men, still wet behind the
ears and far from home, appreciated a little kindness and understanding at
times. The likes of your Father, who were deprived of ever returning home
to see their own families, liked to include their young ground crews in
their recreation. It was a unique situation, and from what I remember,
nobody ever took any advantage of it. Your Fatherís kindness has stayed
in my mind ever since, and was one of the reasons why I tried to find him
after I retired, just to thank him. A kindness is never forgotten. Iím
Wunstorf, the squadron moved to an isolated airfield called Buckeburg on
the 29th of June 1950. About this time, I went on
leave, and your Father asked me to take a bottle of special liquor back
with me, and post it to the lady who would eventually become your Mother.
this time the squadron was very busy systematically photographing the
west of the Iron Curtain. At intervals, the squadron would go to the
for air firing exercises, I went in Janí 1950 and it was so cold the sea
was frozen between the island and the Danish coast.
internal leave, we would all go up to Bad Harzburg to let our hair down.
October 1950 we received our first jet engined aircraft. It was a dual
seat Meteor Mk 7, trainer. None of us like the idea of losing the
Spitfires, especially your Father and his fellow pilots; they had fought
so many of their brave battles in such aircraft.
November 1950, the first of the squadronís Meteor PR Mk 9s arrived and
later some PR Mk10s. Nobody seemed to like the jets, the pilots more than
the ground crew. We had quite a few who overshot the runway.
was a sad day in January 1951 when the Spitfires were flown back to the
. Iím glad to say one of them a Mk XIX survived, and is now part of the
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, PS 915. Your Father would have flown
her at times; it also shows how well she must have been looked after by
her ground crew to last so long!
stay with 2 Squadron was one of the most enjoyable periods during my 6
years service This was only due to the type of personnel we had on the
squadron, but regrettably my time in Germany came to an end and I was sent
to the UK as permanent staff on No 504 Aux Squadron, based at RAF
Wymeswold in Leicestershire. They had Mk 8 Meteors and were desperate for
Riggers with Meteor experience.
had my farewell party with 2 Squadron and left in the spring of 1951. That
was the last time I saw your Father, and many other friends I made on the
squadron. Thankfully after many years I have been reunited with many of
them, but not your Father.
the early 1990s my memories of your Father seemed to be more vivid and at
about the same time I saw an article in the daily newspaper, which stated
that the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were going to sell one of their
Spitfires to help pay for the restoration of a Hurricane Fighter, which
had Ďprangedí. I knew they had one of our old Spitfires there, so I
rang BBMF and asked if the Spití was PS 915, some clot the other end
said it was. I was incensed by this, and wrote to the press to the effect
that these aircraft were our heritage, and why wasnít there Government
funds to cover these contingencies etc? The Daily Mail took it up, and
came to see me and put an old picture of me standing by the aircraft when
I was with 2 Squadron, plus my views on the matter. It turned out that I
was given the wrong information, and it was not our old kite that was
being sold, but another Spitfire. Never mind, the principal was the same.
response was absolutely amazing; my sentiments reverberated throughout
just about every ex RAF chap who had anything to do with war, flying or
aircraft, from the highest to the lowest ranks. The newspaper passed
dozens of letters on to me, and the phone never stopped. One Ďphone call
was from Johnny Power, another 2 Squadron NCO pilot who served with your
Father. He remembered me and suggested that I come to a ĎSpitfire
Societyí meeting, which was being held at Hendon. I went and was made a
member. While we were there I asked him if he knew where your Father was,
and he gave me the unbelievable tragic news of your Fatherís death. I
was absolutely devastated, as I was hopefully going to track him done and
personally thank him for his kindness all those years ago.
cannot explain why thoughts of your Father were so strong after so many
years. If anybody was qualified to object to those old Battle of Britain
aircraft being sold, he was amongst the highest. One day I said to my
wife, ĎIím going to find Wojís grave, she must have thought Iíd
lost all my marbles, but we set off with only the knowledge that he was
killed flying from Middle Wallop. I went straight to St Peterís
churchyard and found your Fatherís grave. I must confess I found it very
moving after so many years, and not be able to shake him by the hand and
say thank you. I took some photographs, and wrote to the local school
nearby to tell them all about him and his wartime exploits. I believe they
put flowers on his grave on Remembrance Sundays.