“This was Sqn. Ldr. Kielich’s thirteenth operational flight. Before taking off, we had pulled his leg about it: we would certainly be shot down and it would be his entire fault. The outward trip was uneventful. Flak popped away at us over the target half-heartedly, we delivered the goods and were well over the Channel when the port engine began to splutter. The skipper told us it was only his No. 13 Gremlin at work that we were not to worry; the number was really his lucky one. In spite of that, the engine stopped soon after and of course the propeller followed suit. Kielich accelerated the other engine.                                                 

    “We at once changed our course, heading for the nearest section of the coast and the nearest aerodrome. The starboard engine was doing its best but we were getting lower and lower. I rapidly calculated our position and distance from land. We sent an S.O.S. to our base, giving our course and altitude. We all got ready to bale out the moment we reached land but none came in sight. The altimeter showed we were dropping slowly but steadily. Only 3,000 feet …the minutes passed . . . only 2,400 feet, and still no coast. Then, at 01.12 hrs. the front gunner reported we were flying over land.

      “The skipper ordered the rear-gunner to bale out. The altitude was now 1,800 feet. Keeping my eyes on the instrument I crammed all I could into my pockets. I put out the light. I mechanically did everything usually done on landing and leaving the kite. It was 1,400 feet as I went to the tail. I opened the hatch in the floor and waited until the wireless operator baled out. I baled out three seconds later and, believe me, I didn’t delay opening up my ‘chute too long.

     “Then I saw the coast-line three or four miles away and the sea under me. The wireless operator’s ‘chute was about 300 feet below me. I barely had time to blow up my Mae West when the water hit me. I choked and lost consciousness but I soon got to the surface - in fact just as the Wellington dived into the sea.

     There I was, all alone in the darkness and silence broken only by the quiet splashing of the waves. I undressed and began to swim. From time to time I shouted and the wireless operator responded some score yards away. Other voices came over the wind and I wondered whether they were the skipper’s and the rest of the crew or people calling from the shore.

      “The waves were high and buffeted me about, and the salt water was biting my eyes painfully. I did my best to swim towards the voices but seemed to make no progress against the current. They became fainter and fainter and, an hour later, I could no longer hear them. Darkness, cold and menacing silence. The kind of silence that makes the ears ache. I shouted again and again, but my voice was lost in the troughs of the huge waves. I lost all hope of being rescued, and had no idea where land lay - undressing in the water and getting free of the parachute had made me lose my bearings.

     “I got very tired and began to feel numb. The intensely cold water seemed to nip at my chest and constrict my throat. It was difficult to breathe and my muscles felt ‘pasty’ and weak. I kept on swimming, slowly, slower and slower. The electric torch behind the collar of my Mae West was still shining. ‘Fine idea,’ I thought to myself bitterly, ‘as if somebody knows just where to look for me. Useless I’

      “I felt fish slither against me every now and again. A faint, greenish, phosphorescent gleam appeared on the waves in places and once the water all around looked like an illuminated aquarium. I could see my legs. My arms gathered up smudges of light - strange indeed in that black night. My watch stopped at 2.30 a.m. - when I had been 75 minutes in the water. My swimming got clumsier and slower. Every movement was a tremendous effort and to make matters worse the harsh salt water bit into the sensitive places under my knees and on my arms where the parachute straps had scraped off the skin. My numbness was getting worse and I took a dimmer view of my situation than ever. Chums all lost - what a fine team we had been - there I was alone.

     “The waves swamped me more and more often. I had to keep my mouth open all the time to get enough air so the water got in every time a wave came over. A breeze sprung up and whitecaps appeared on the waves. I was tired, so tired and hopeless that death seemed a merciful release. I made ready to die.

      “Suddenly searchlights shot out from the coast. The lights slid along the water. They must be looking for us. I swam towards the beams but they were too far for me and I was at the-end of my tether. A tiny light caught my eye. It was moving through the waves and the darkness. Must be a rescue launch. But would it see me?

      “I began to shout and pray in turn. I put all I could into my hails. How I wanted to live now! I shouted again and they heard me. As they dragged me on deck, I giggled feebly. Very funny . . . I was still alive . . . I was living. I would live.”


F/O Idzikowski.
On December 18, 1942, he was killed in flying accident, when the Halifax DT542 crashed upon taking-off from Zietun, Malta.