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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J Szlagowski


Josef Szlagowski was born at Koscieryzyna, SW of Gdansk, on 5th January 1914, the son of the local stationmaster. After leaving school Szlagowski became an apprentice electrician.

He joined the Polish Air Force in March 1934 and after completing his training at Torun he was posted to III/4, a fighter squadron. In 1937 Szlagowski was appointed an instructor at the Officer Cadet School at Deblin. He was still serving there at the outbreak of war and later escaped to Romania in a light aircraft together with his mechanic. They boarded a boat for Beirut in Balcik and from there sailed to Marseilles.

On 16th February 1940 he joined l'Armee de l'Air. He was sent to England for a course on 9th March and did not return to France. Szlagowski was at RAF Eastchurch from March 1940 where he was enlisted in the RAFVR. From 1st June he was at the Polish Wing at 3 School of Technical Training Blackpool, to await a posting.

In early July he was sent to 15 EFTS Redhill for testing and grading. He went to 5 OTU Aston Down on 20th July 1940 and converted to Spitfires. He joined 234 Squadron at St. Eval on 4th August.

After running out of petrol during a routine patrol on the 8th he made a forced-landing at Pensilva, near Liskeard, wrecking Spitfire N3278. On this day he shared in damaging a Do17.

Szlagowski claimed a Me110 and a Do17 destroyed on 4th September and he damaged a Me110 on 7th October.

He was posted to 152 Squadron at Warmwell on 21st October 1940 and moved to 303 Squadron at Northolt on 4th March 1941. He was awarded the KW (gazetted 1st February 1941).

On a Blenheim escort to Holland on 13th March the tailplane and rudder of Szlagowski's aircraft were severely damaged in collision with another Spitfire. He managed to get back to Northolt.

On 23rd June 1941 he probably destroyed a Me109 and two days later he was posted away to No. 1 AGS Manby as a staff pilot.

On 23rd December 1941 Szlagowski was sent to CFS Upavon for an instructors course. He joined the staff at 16 FTS Newton on 2nd February 1942 and became Airfield Controller there on 22nd July 1943. He went on a twin-engine refresher course at Newton on 14th September 1944 and then became a staff pilot there.

Slagowski was released from the Polish Air Force in November 1946 as a Warrant Officer. He married an English lady, settled in Britain and worked for Wilkinson Sword. He died on 4th December 1993.

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