Below text is a translation of the diary of the 318 Squadron written by S/Ldr Leszek Wielochowski, VM, the first commander of the unit. Those notes - along with some photographs - were made avaialbe to me by his son, Andrew Wielochowski whom I sincerely thank.

S/Ldr Leszek Wielochowski

No. 318 (City of Gdansk) Fighter Reconnaissance Squadron

The history of the Polish youngest squadron begun on March 20, 1943, when the Polish Air Force inspectorate issued an order (no. L.598/TJ/ORG/43) to form a fighter- reconnaissance unit. It was given a consecutive number 318. Its objective: to cooperate with the Polish Army units formed in the Middle East. It was to contain two 9 aircraft Flights, operations, medical, liaison, photographic and fire sections, office, 3 messes, military police, radio, technical units, armoury and motor transport. The squadron was completely self-sufficient. Its personnel were detailed off from other Polish units.

Its activity begun at RAF Detling near Maidstone. After the short period of training (some frictions and icebreakers), on August 1943, the unit was shipped to Egypt.

Among the sands of Almaza, near Cairo, the unit goes through acclimatization and receives their equipment. Our doctor, F/Lt Kraszewski, together with the whole medical stuff, outdoes himself helping to recover people brought down by different illnesses and hot climate. Now, the exotic names of places write themselves into the squadron’s history.

On September 7, 1943, under the command of P/O Bereniecki, the motor transport starts to cross the Sinai desert and after three days arrives to Manquebilla near Haifa. A few days later, the unit’s pilots ferry in 18 Hurricanes.

The first visit of Gen. Anders was a memorable day. After the parade and speech, he was hosted till the late evening in the casino by officers of the squadron.

We established close social relationships with various Army units taking part in common military exercises. But our contacts are not limited to combat units. Members of the personnel often visit School of Women Volunteers in Jenin. We try to repay the hospitality shown to us and organize a reception at the airfield.

We moved to Wilhelma, Lida and Gaza consequently, and then return back to Egypt. Atthe desert airstrip Quasassin our unit suffers the first losses: in flying accidents died P/O Blaszczyk and P/O Glowacki. The unit suffers a moral blow since both were excellent pilots and respectable colleagues.

On December 8, 1943, we were visited by C-in-C Gen. Sosnkowski, accompanied by Generals Anders and Rayski. The inspection ends with a glass of wine at the officers’ mess.

We have received new equipment the Spitfire V, and long-awaited order to move to the Italian front. The unit is commanded by: S/Ldr Wielochowski, his 2nd in command F/Lt Moszynski, and three Flight commanders: F/Lt Kalinowski, F/Lt Gorniak and F/Lt Phreihs.

Flying over El Adem, Marble Arch, Castle Benito and Sicily, the aircraft are ferried to Italy on April 23, 1944. The ground personnel with all the equipment is shipped by sea to Bari.

The first operational flights are out of Tringo, where we are attached to No. 285 Wing, a part of the Desert Air Force. We are cooperating with the 8th Army, and its different Corps, including the Polish one. Our work comprises:

* visual reconnaissance of the enemy’s rear positions
* artillery reconnaissance (in log-books indicated as arty-recc) target finding and fire directing
* photo-reconnaissance
* strafing targets.

The requirements for the pilots are high: excellent flying skills and knowledge of military tactics of the troops and artillery. All sorties are done in pairs. The leading pilot is responsible for carrying on a tactical part of the sortie, while his wingman provides his cover. Flights are flown at medium altitudes, 4000 to 6000 feet, which is the best range for the enemy’s AA batteries. Soon enough our pilots experienced the effectiveness of German 40 and 88 mm guns, returning with many holes in their aircraft.

The beginnings – Excerpt from the Squadron’s Chronicle:

The first day at the frontline was quiet for us. The Germans kept their guns silent most of the time. The reports after two morning and two afternoon reccesorties were dull. Later though, those pretty looking black splashes of bursting shells became much less pleasant, especially when P/O Tatarski flew in with a big hole in his aircraft. We all quickly changed our opinion about friendliness of the Italian skies, and much more notes in red started to appear in the logbooks.

On May 5, 1944, we were strafed by a lone, low-flying aircraft. The next day we learned that it was a poorly navigating crew of a Baltimore bomber which took us for a German airfield. On May 6, 1944, for the first time our unit has been mentioned in dispatches.

Once the pilots got more experience, we received more commendations, and No. 318 Squadron became known as one of the best units of the Desert Air Force.

Excerpt from the chronicle:

No. 5 Corps Intelligence report No 112. 15 targets successfully engaged. This performance by 318 Polish squadron constitutes a record in this front for sorties flown and targets engaged. Signed G.S. Pickard major R.A.

CBO, No. 5 Corps 18 June 1944:

Dear Narzymski, Will You please convey to Wing Commander L. Wielochowski and the officers of 318 Squadron my very great appreciation and congratulations for all the splendid work they have carried out during the past month. I have visited many of the enemy gun positions which your pilots “shot up” and the accuracy of the gun shots is plain to see. I am sure the successes of the squadron are due in no small measure to your own hand and efficient marksmenship. Good luck and good shooting. Signed: G.H. Pickard Major.

The kind of flying we are doing requires that our airfield be close to the frontline. That gives us the possibility to recce deep into the enemy positions, and lets us stay over the frontline for the longer periods. Thus, in summer time when the frontline changed constantly, we had to relocate often. On the other hand, being closer to the enemy’s positions made us a target for artillery. Often close-by exploding shells made our nights sleepless.

June 14. We move to St. Vito. F/Lt Lutoslawki take the adjutant position, and F/O Szawlowski heads the educational section. Out technical officer, F/Lt Bartkiewicz is recalled to England. His farewell is a sad one. If not for his absolute excellent work and total devotion, the squadron would have never achieve the highest state of readiness and flown so many sorties.

July 2. We advance to Fermo airfield, where the 8th Army CO, Gen. Leese lands while visiting II Corps.

July 16. The visit of C-in-C General Sosnkowski, accompany by Generals: Rayski, Tokarzewski and Brzezina. The party is being welcomed by General Anders and the squadron’s CO.

July 17. The big day! The offensive for Ancona. The Day before pilots were given all the details of the Army’s activities. We work all day till the late night hours. Our pilots take advantage of the situation and strafe withdrawing German troops. We received many congratulatory letters and cables. Our losses that day were minimal: P/O Andruszko force-landed a damaged aircraft. Later we learned he was all right.

July 23. At the II Corps Headquarterstakes place a ceremony of decorating Generals Alexander and Leese with the cross of Virtuti Militari. The squadron’s CO was invited together with Gen. Rayski and Wing Commander G/Cpt. Millingham. Gen. Rayski is a frequent and very welcomed visitor to our unit.

Very favourable General’s description is found in the book “The Unseen Eye” written by Air Commodore G. Millingham CBE. DFC.: “Air Commodore Rayski a very Gallant and charming Polish Air Force officer, whose responsibilities was to look after and advise on needs of all the PAF units serving in the Middle East theatre. Although air commodore was 55 years old at this time and a little deaf, he insisted on flying a Spitfire on reconnaissance missions whenever he visited 318 Squadron. Later in August 1944 he piloted a Halifax bomber on a supply dropping mission at night over Warsaw and returned safely, unlike many other aircrew who were not so fortunate. For this gallantry over Warsaw at the time when units of the Mediterranean Allied Air Force were desperately attempting to assist the Polish Underground Movement, Air Commodore Rayski was awarded the DSO.”

In his book, Air Commodore Millingham often mentions in a commendable way the 318 Squadron.

July 27. HRH George VI arrives in Italy for troops inspection. His plane lands at the 285 Wing airfield in Castighione, where G/Cpt Millingham introduces to him commanders of all the squadrons (S/Ldr Wielochowski represents the 318).

Excerpt from the Squadron’s Chronicle:

August 19, 1944. We are a part of a new offensive working for the benefits of 3rd and 5th Divisions of the Polish Corps. The day starts badly. At dawn, during the first sortie, F/Lt Kuryllowicz was shot down. His wingman P/O Barwich saw him bailing out. This is the squadron’s most painful loss since the beginning. F/Lt Lew Kuryllowicz flew with us for a short time. He had been in a lot of perils, being interned by Russians, flying fighters in England and drifting in dinghy for a record time in the Channel before being rescued. Despite all that he was full of humour and charms, always an example of the officer and patriot. He volunteered for our unit. For a long time we hoped he would come back after sneaking through the enemy lines, and celebrate with us his return drying up our bar supplies while singing his favourite song. Regretfully this never happened. He vacated the post of the Flight B commander. After the war we learned that he was wounded in the head and spent a lot time in German and Italian hospitals. Liberated, he returned to England and settled down in Lasham.

They say “evil comes in pairs”. The same day shot down over the sea was F/O Sep-Szarzynski, who together with F/O Phreis joined No. 92 Squadron on an escort mission. He was a good pilot and a nice chap. His death lowered our morale.

On August 14, we were visited by Air Marshal D’Albiac MATAF, who accompanied by his adjutant S/Ldr Baring, they spent few hours in the officers’ mess chatting with the flying personnel.

August 23. We move to Chiara Valee and join again No. 295 Wing, No. 40 RSAF and PRU Flight.

August 25. The Army is pushing against the Goth Line. We work for II Polish Corps and Canadians who carry on the main attack.

August 30. We lost P/O Nowak shot down during a strafing run. The sad news brought F/O Hamankiewicz. Nowak was good pilot and friendly person.

August 31. The squadron moves to Piagiolino and ends the month with a record number of flying hours: 688 operational and 62 non-operational.

September 1. F/Lt Hamankiewicz lost in a sortie. We used to call him George. He was a rather cocky person when behind the counter of our bar; always prompting everybody either to get another drink or pay for the last one. He was a popular colleague and very good pilot.
F/Lt Michniewicz during artillery recce flight was attacked by two FW-190s, but managed to evade them and land his shot-up aircraft safely. As usually, in the mess, he was derided for confusing the attackers with American Thunderbolts. See the page from his Log book.

Heavy rains came and operational flying was suspended. We used that time to fly to Rome on board the old Anson, usually piloted by F/O Kesserling and F/O Telewiak. The latter taking advantage of the break, taught a few Army officers how to fly. Lieutenant Bialkiewicz made it.

September 16. The C-in-C of the Polish Armed Forces awarded the Cross of Valour to Muszynski, Berezeki, Kalinowski, Buckiewicz, Piaskowski, Gaworski, Andruszko, Kesserling and Swiecicki.

September 17. The squadron moves to Cassandro. Based on the received letters of commendation and dispatches from II Corps and 285 Wing COs, the P.A.F. commander issued the letter of citation for the 318's outstanding service.

W/Cdr Leszek Wielochowski (notice the Wing Commander's traingular pennat on the engine cowling) in the cockpit of his personal mount Spitfrire V at Rimini in September 1944. Talking to him is F/Lt Narzymski. Click on the thumbnail below to see big picture of this aircraft.

September 19. The C-in-C of the Polish Armed Forces promoted the following 318's officers (Polish ranks): Wielochowski to the rank of Major, Burzecki, Kalinowski to Captain; Galwin, Lipp, Nycz, Schreiber, Suszkieiwcz, Swiecicki, Wojtowicz and Szewlowski to the rank of Lieutenant.

Our football team plays a lot of friendly matches. We have several quite good players: Poplawski, Czak, Pelczynski, Krystek, Adamczyk, Studzinski, Gados, Franczykowski and Chmielowski. We beat Haifa 1:0, Rehowool(?) 3:1, tied with RAF Station Gaza and 2nd Battalion of the Carpathian Brigade. Deserved losses came playing with 3 DSK and 7th Tank Battalion.

Rudimentary facility apparently was enough to have memorable friendly games. Poles are wearing white stripe shirts.

On Tuesday we tied against a strong Italian team from Rimini, and beat the No. 40 squadron SAAF and the team of No. 285 Wing. Games played among the squadron’s personnel bring a lot fun.

September 30. The first pilot finishes the operational tour. We say good-bye to F/O Piaskowski. Later that day the enemy aircraft bombed out airfield. Neighbouring squadron suffered casualties (10 killed) and loss of equipment.

The expected move to the pre-war airfield of Rimini does not help much. The withdrawing Germans destroyed most of the installation and mined the airfield, which makes it very difficult to operate from.

November 11. We move to Bellarina.

November 20. We receive first few Spitifire IX.

November 28. A non-flying day. Stationing next-door South Africans, invited F/O Garlicki to make a speech for their national radio, emphasizing fruitful and friendly cooperation between our squadrons.

Then, we organized a big party in the mess and invited friends from other units. The 40 SAAF CO and his right hand dance a duet. At the same time, non-commissioned officers hosted a party for the South Africans as well. The next day flying birds avoided the airfield probably because of the alcohol vapour clouds.

November 29. The official count of the collection for the fighting in Warsaw: 104,000 Lira.

December 2. We move to Forli. We are comfortably lodged in abandoned houses. The down side is the front line being close by, and occasional shelling of the airfield. That week, F/Lt Muszynski got married in Rome, but only few could attend.

December 9. Six new pilots came from the Depot: Uchwat, Kocol, Knapp, Slusarski, Kosmalski and Kuroczynski.

December 24. Bad weather keeps us on the ground. Conditions allows only a modest Christmas Eve supper. Because of the German artillery which is within its range, we avoid gatherings. Only small delegations exchange wishes between sections. During the midnight mess our squadron’s choir debuted. Pilots Sawicki and Osostowicz posted to our unit.

December 31. Our choir sings Polish carols in Ricciane and the opera of Cesena. During a recce flight F/O Dusiacki is wounded, but manages to bring back safely his damaged aircraft. Pilots flew many sorties that day, and everybody is too tired to celebrate the New Year.

January 4, 1945. The whole squadron muster up to say good bye to W/Cdr Wielochowski. F/Lt Muszynski takes over the command. F/Lt Berezecki is relieved from the secretarial duties and replace by F/O Sawicki. F/Lt Berezecki is mentioned in dispatches to the DAF by the commander of the 2nd Canadian Brigade. Wolodia - as was his popular name - despite furious enemy’s AA fire, made several low level passes to take important photographs. The whole action was observed by Lt. Col Bogert.

January 11. During the routine arty-recc mission, F/O Czewrinski is hit by light German flak. He force landed his burning aircraft near Faenza.

Whoever knows Italy only in summertime, and never camped there in winter, does not know how much discomfort it can bring. We live in tents, under frequent snow storms and rains which prevent us from flying. Thus, we use that time to visit our nearby-stationed Army friends gaining more acquaintances.

For a moment a sudden sharp increase in flying petrol usage caused some concerns for our Technical Officer F/Lt Chelminski. But there was nothing wrong with our Merlin engines. He discovers that petrol became the only reliable source of heat in the men’s quarters. Equally, the alcohol consumption at the bar increased as well, mostly due to the frequent visits of our Army friends. The winter also froze up the frontline, which did not move till spring.

January 23. History repeated itself when near Imala two of our aircraft were hit by flak. Both F/O Kosmalski and F/O Kocot managed to bring back the damaged aircraft.

January 28. During the tactical recce mission, F/O Nycz and F/O Knapp bumped into 12 Messerschmitts, but were not engaged by the enemy.

January 29. The Polish Club opens at Meldoli. It has a good strategic location considering, a contingent of the Polish Women Auxiliary Army (Pestki), the transport unit and radio section, stationed nearby.

January 31. Near Znoli P/O Chlopek’s airraft is damaged by AAA. He managed to bring back his badly shot up Spitfire.

When there is no flying – which happens often nowadays – in the mess the most popular game, “Dziewiąty Wał” (9th Dick) is regularly played. This hazardous card game is very addictive and often a loser does not even notice when his last money is gone. 9th Dick is widespread and men are starting to categorize the squadron’s personnel according to who has played, are playing and who shall play. The players are called “Dickers” and the place where they play: the Dick Room. The game undeniably has the merit of helping to kill free time. Recently, the players taxed themselves and gathered a sum of 15,000 Lira to help Warsaw.

February 16. Sad news. F/O Kuroczynski died in hospital following his crash during a training flight.

March 8. During Army Recce sortie, F/O Knapp hit by flak. Luckily, he made it back to the base.

March 12. We were visited by General Anders, General Rayski and many other distinguish guests. During speeches we were informed about the situation in Poland and advised about the immediate future.

March 15. Promoted to the rank of Captain are Preihs and Cheliminski; to Lieutants: Chudzinski, Knapp, Kocot, Kuroczynski (post mortem), Osostowski and Rudomino-Rusiacki.

March 18. The president of Poland awarded the Silver Cross of the Virtuti Militari to F/Lt Nowak.

March 28. During the evening sorties, whilst strafing enemy’s motor transport, F/O Sawicki’s aircraft is damaged. With trouble he made it home. That day our squadron started to direct fire of the heaviest guns so far: 240 mm.

March 21. In the Church of Holy Trinity the wedding of F/Lt Chelminski takes place.

April 5. Briefing before the spring offensive. The strategic point of the front is located on the River of Senjo, the position of the Polish Second Corps, and where the Headquarters of Generals Clarke and Mc Greery are positioned. April 10, 11 and 12 are days of glory for the Polish Corps and our very intensive flying.

April 21. The advanced units of the II Corps entered Bologna. Germans withdraw behind the Po. We have absolute superiority in the air making the German withdrawal very difficult.

In April, our unit totalled a record of 755 hrs in 589 sorties, which constitutes ¼ of all the hours flown by all the Polish fighter squadron that month.

May 2. The anniversary of the 318 Squadron entering into action.

Recce = Reconnaissance sortie

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