G/Cpt Stanislaw Wandzilak
In 315 Squadron from Nov 1943 till Feb 1944. DFC,
Thursday, 7 December 2000 Obituary
Stanislaw Wandzilak Polish wartime pilot who was shot down over France - only to
be pestered by a platoon of German infantry who insisted on being taken prisoner
STANISLAW WANDZILAK was a wartime fighter-pilot who also made a valuable
contribution to the RAF during his postwar career. He was born at Kudrynce in
the Tarnopol province of south-eastern Poland. While still at school he took up
gliding and then learnt to fly. In 1937 he was accepted into the Polish Air
Force Officers' School at Deblin, from which he graduated as a fighter pilot on
September 1, 1939.
As there were no aircraft for reserve pilots like him to fly, he was sent to Romania to take delivery of Hurricanes being shipped out from Britain. In the event, Romania declared its neutrality, and he was interned.
Like many others, Wandzilak escaped from the internment camp and made his way via Syria to France, where the Polish Air Force was reforming. In the spring of 1940 he finished the French fighter- pilot's course at Etampes and was posted to a Polish flight defending Clermont-Ferrand.
With the fall of France, he was given the job of evacuating 40 ground crew, and after a number of adventures he got them aboard a British ship at Argelčs, near the Spanish frontier. They reached England on June 24, and on September 9, 1940, they became part of 308 (City of Krakow) Squadron, stationed at Speke near Liverpool. At last, Wandzilak climbed into the cockpit of a Hurricane.
Over the next three years, he flew with this and two other Polish Squadrons, 303 and 315, from airfields all over Britain, but always returning to the Polish Air Force hub at Northolt. In September 1943 he shot down his second Focke-Wulf 190 over northern France, but in the following spring he was transferred to staff work with the 2nd Tactical Air Force, preparing the D-Day landings.
A couple of weeks after the invasion he returned to combat duty, taking command of a flight of 308 Squadron, now operating from mobile airfields in northern France. On August 26, 1944 he was shot down by ground fire during his fourth sortie that day.
He managed to bail out of his burning Spitfire and avoid capture. Much to his annoyance, a platoon of German infantry he was trying to creep round spotted him and insisted on surrendering. He tried to get them off his back, but they were so afraid of being captured and shot by the French Resistance that they followed him around like dogs until he finally reached Allied positions and managed to pass them on to some Canadians.
Exactly a week after being shot down, he found 308 on an improvised airfield, and within a couple of hours he was in the air, leading his flight in an attack on Boulogne. The squadron continued in support of the Allied advance into Belgium, but Wandzilak's parachute jump had reopened an old wound and in October 1944 he was sent back to hospital in England.
That was the end of his combat career. He had reached the rank of flight lieutenant, and been awarded the Polish Virtuti Militari Cross, the Polish Cross of Valour with three Bars, and the DFC. He became ADC to the Polish Minister of War, and continued loyally in this post after the Allies withdrew recognition from the Polish government-in-exile. In 1948 he was offered a short service commission in the RAF, and this was turned into a permanent commission two years later.
Wandzilak went into flying training, and in June 1951 he became flying instructor on Meteor jets at the Advanced Flying School, Driffield. In 1952 he was promoted to squadron leader, and posted to flying schools at Full Sutton and Oakington where he trained pilots on Vampire jets. In 1955 he was awarded the AFC and transferred to HQ 25 Advanced Training Group, with special responsibility for developing flight safety programmes. He was appointed OBE in recognition of this work in the 1958 New Year Honours. He was then moved to the Flight Safety Directorate in the Air Ministry and promoted to wing commander. He specialised in accident investigation.
In 1963 he became commander of the Flying School at Oakington. When he left this post three years later, the school had clocked up more than 10,000 hours of flying training without a single accident, a record of which he was very proud. It won him the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air. Over the previous 15 years he had carried out 2,000 training and examination flights himself, with some 400 pilots. In 1966 he was promoted to group captain and posted to Flying Training Command. When his flying career was over he was moved to London to be Deputy Director of Personnel at the Air Ministry.
Wandzilak retired in 1972, and married Taisa Halicka. He adored flying and everything to do with aeroplanes. Above all he loved the Polish Air Force and the RAF, and the people who served in them. He returned to work at the Air Ministry as a civil servant after his retirement and became active in the RAF Benevolent Fund. As a member of the Polish Air Force Association he was energetic in helping to get a number of books about it published and the Northolt monument restored.
His last years were afflicted by failing eyesight, but his courage and good humour never failed. In 1990 the President of Poland awarded him the Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta in recognition of his life- long commitment to the Polish cause. Stanislaw Wandzilak's wife predeceased him; they had no children.
Group Captain Stanislaw Wandzilak, OBE, DFC, AFC,
wartime fighter pilot, was born on July 23, 1917. He died on
November 30 aged 83.