The Airmen's Stories - F/O A K Gabszewicz
Aleksander Klemens Gabszewicz was born in Szawle, Poland on 6th December 1912 and entered the Cadet School at Komorow in October 1931. He took a gliding course in September 1933 after which he was commissioned and posted, as an infantry officer, to command the 6th Company of the 30th Kaniowscy Fusiliers in Warsaw.
Gabszewicz had previously applied for transfer to the Air Force. This came through and in September 1934 he was posted to the Air Force Officers Training Centre at Deblin.
He qualified as a fighter pilot and joined 114 Squadron in 1937. On 1st September 1939, the day the Germans invaded Poland, he and another pilot shared in the destruction of a He111, the first to fall in the Warsaw area. Later that day he was shot down and baled out, with burns.
After the fall of Poland, Gabszewicz escaped to Romania and then to France, arriving in October 1939. He joined l'Armee de l'Air and in March 1940 he did a conversion course at Lyon-Bron, after which he joined an ad-hoc flight for the defence of Lyon, flying the Caudron C714.
He commanded this unit from 11th June 1940, attached to GC III/10, operating the MS406. Gabszewicz was credited with destroying a He111 on 1st June and was awarded the KW (gazetted 11th June 1940).
After the collapse of France he flew across the Mediterranean to North Africa and then travelled through Algeria, Morocco and Gibraltar, arriving in Britain on 22nd June 1940. After arrival in England he was commissioned in the RAFVR.
Gabszewicz went to 5 OTU Aston Down on 25th September 1940, converted to Hurricanes and then joined 607 Squadron at Tangmere on 9th October and moved to 303 Squadron at Leconfield on 12th November. He was given a Bar to the KW (gazetted 23rd December 1940).
On 22nd February 1941 he went to 316 Squadron at Pembrey at its formation, as a Flight Commander.
On 1st April Gabszewicz shared a He111 and on 24th July he shared a Me109 destroyed and probably destroyed another. He was awarded a second Bar to the KW (gazetted 15th July 1941) and given command of 316 Squadron on 14th November 1941.
He claimed Fw190s destroyed on 10th, 25th and 27th April 1942, a probable Fw190 on 4th May and shared a probable Me109 on the 6th.
Gabszewicz was posted to HQ 11 Group on 4th June, was awarded the DFC (gazetted 20th August 1942) and the VM (5th Class) (gazetted 28th August 1942). On 25th September 1942 he went to 58 OTU Grangemouth as an instructor.
He was promoted on 27th January 1943 to lead No. 2 Polish Wing at Heston, moving later to lead No. 1 Wing. On 4th April 1943 he destroyed a Fw190, on 4th July another and on 6th July a Me109.
He was awarded the C de G (Fr) (gazetted 7th July 1943). He destroyed one Fw190 and damaged another on 19th August.
He left the Wing on 12th December 1943 and was attached to 56th Fighter Group USAAF. Gabszewicz was promoted to Acting Group Captain on 29th February 1944, to command HQ 18 Fighter Sector.
Awarded the VM (4th Class) (gazetted 13th March 1944) and the DSO (gazetted 15th May 1944), he moved as CO of HQ 131 Wing on 12th July 1944. Ten days later the advance party of the Wing landed in France.
Gabszewicz went to HQ 84 Group on 19th June 1945, was given command of RAF Coltishall on 2nd February 1946 and was released from the Polish Air Force in January 1947.
He was awarded a third Bar to the KW (gazetted 31st October 1947) and was invested with the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1947. Gabszewicz settled in Britain after his release.
He died on 10th October 1983 and in 1992 his ashes were scattered over Deblin airfield in Poland.