The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J Kowalski
Jan Kowalski was born at Mircze, on the Poland/Ukraine border, on 19th November 1916. He entered the Polish Air Force NCO Training School at Bydgoszcz in 1932. He qualified as an aircraft mechanic in 1935.
He was then posted to the Air Force Officers Training Centre at Sadkow for pilot training, which he completed at the Advanced Pilots Training Centre at Grudzadz.
Kowalski then joined 112 Fighter Squadron of the 1st Air Regiment at Warsaw.
In 1937 he returned to the NCOs School as an instructor. He was evacuated with the student pilots to Romania in September 1939 and reached Marseilles on 31st October.
Above L to R: Sgt. Frantisek, Sgt J. Kowalski, Sgt. Wojciechowski, F/O Paszkiewicz, Sgt. Belc and F/O Zak.
He was at first posted to Istres airfield, then to the Polish depot at Lyon-Bron. From there he was assigned to instruct Czech and Polish airmen at Rennes in March 1940.
When France collapsed he made his way to England, arriving on 22nd June 1940. He went to the Polish Wing at 3 School of Technical Training Blackpool and from there joined 303 Squadron at Northolt on 21st August. He destroyed a Me109 on 26th September and damaged a He111 on the 27th.
He was posted to 315 Squadron at Acklington at its formation on 21st January 1941. Kowalski was awarded the KW (gazetted 1st February 1941) and a Bar (gazetted 19th February 1942). Commissioned in June 1942, he was posted to 58 OTU Grangemouth on 5th December as an instructor.
On 13th February 1943 Kowalski joined the Polish Fighting Team at West Kirby. The pilots flew to the Middle East in a C-47, arriving on 13th March. They were attached to 145 Squadron and operated in the Western Desert from 17th March to 12th May 1943 and downed 30 enemy aircraft.
Back in the UK, Kowalski joined 316 Squadron at Northolt on 21st July 1943 and was serving with it until 20th October when he was posted to HQ 131 Wing. He was awarded a second Bar to the KW (gazetted 20th December 1943).
On 28th April 1944 he joined 317 Squadron at Chailey. He went to the Polish Air Force Depot Blackpool on 1st May 1945. He was awarded the VM (5th Class) (gazetted 1st June 1945) and on 9th November was attached to HQ 131 Wing and posted to the Enemy Aircraft Salvage and Service Unit at Hamburg.
Kowalski was awarded the DFC (gazetted 10th April 1946) and released from the Polish Air Force in December 1948 as a Flight Lieutenant.
After the war Kowalski settled in Britain. He died on 15th May 2000 and is buried in St. Helens churchyard, Burton Joyce, Nottinghamshire.