Fighter Pilot turned Flying Instructor - Wladyslaw Goettel
Born in Poland in 1908, Wladyslaw Goettel trained as an observer during 1932, joining the Polish 6th Air Regiment at Lviv. Completing pilot training as a fighter pilot during 1934/5, by 1937 he was deputy commander of 161 Fighter Squadron, with whom he flew the PZL11c during the Poland campaign of September 1939.
Following the fall of Poland, the ‘Montpellier Group’ of Polish pilots served alongside the French Air Force; by the end of March 1940, 6 Polish flights of 3 aircraft each had been assigned to squadrons, each named with the first 2 letters of the Polish commander’s name. Goettel commanded No 6 ‘Go’ Flight, part of the 3 Sqn, Groupe de Chasse II/7, based at Luxeuil, flying the Morane MS406 fighter. His pilot colleagues were Sub Lt Krol and Cpl Nowakiewicz, later supplemented by Sqn Ldr Mieczylaw Mummler, who arrived to gain experience of command in combat.
Polish MS406s at Lyon (Bron) for the visit of Gen. Sikorski, March 1940
‘Go’ Flight’s first operational mission was on 4 April, logged 15 missions during the month, mostly defensive patrols over Luxueil, occasional sweeps over the Belfort-Besancon region and one mission to escort Potez 63 bombers attacking Lorrach. Goettel’s Morane was damaged by return fire from a Heinkel 111 on 19 Apr.
Luxueil was a target from the beginning of the German campaign on 10 May, with the Polish pilots in the thick of the action, including fights over the airfield, which was bombed repeatedly. GCII/7 moved to nearby Saint Sauver at the end of 11 May. During this intense period of activity from the new airfield, Goettel became progressively ill and eventually left the Flight for hospital on 2 June. Between 29 March and 20 June, ‘Go’ Flight carried out 110 sorties; its combat record was 7 1/3 enemy aircraft confirmed destroyed, with one probable and one damaged. The Flight lost 4 aeroplanes.
Qualifying on the Hurricane at No 5 OTU at Aston Down, Flt Lt Goettel joined 302 Sqn at RAF Northolt on 19 Oct 1940. He flew 13 patrols from Northolt and Westhampnett during November and December, his patrol areas including Guildford, Croydon, Biggin Hill, Maidstone, Tenterden, Mayfield and Shoreham.
302 Sqn Hurricane at Westhampnett, early 1941
Tensions between the RAF Squadron commander, a number of the RAF pilots and their Polish equivalents led to the posting out of Polish pilots Sqn Ldr Mumler, Jan Czerny and Goettel on 12 December 1940. The RAF pilots were posted away from 302 sqn some weeks later. 302 Sqn’s records show Goettel posted to No 1 Anti-Aircraft Co-Operation Unit, but we next encounter him as OC ‘D’ Flight at No 25 (Polish) Elementary Flying Training School at RAF Hucknall.
R4769, 12 June 1942
Thus far, our only record of Goettel flying R4769 is on 12 June 1942, when he carried out a ‘Flight Commander Test’ on student pilot Bronislaw Reckzkowski; given his role as an instructor at Hucknall, we would not be surprized to find more!
Wladyslaw Goettel survived the War and died in 1966.
Fighter Pilot turned Lancaster Captain - Antoni Ilnicki
Antoni Ilnicki was born on 19 June 1918 in Stanislawow, then in Poland but now part of Ukraine. Training as a pilot in Poland, he escaped to Romania with other Polish Air Force personnel in September 1939. Travelling via Yugoslavia, Italy and France, he arrived in England during 1940. Ilnicki flew his first Tiger Moth flight with 25 (Polish) Elementary Flying Training School at RAF Hucknall on 17 August 1941, with Flt Lt Gajeh, being sent solo by Flt Lt Norfolk on the 19th. His final flight from Hucknall after 53 hrs flying on the Tiger Moth as a solo spinning exercise, flown in R4769 on 18 September 1941.
Ilnicki continued his training with 16 (Polish) Service Flying Training School (SFTS), flying Fairey Battles and Miles Masters, graduating as a ‘F’ pilot on 11 Apr 1942. He joined No 6 Anti-Aircraft Co-Operation Unit, based at Manchester (Ringway), spending May 1942 detached to RAF Sealand, flying Lysanders and Masters, mainly on ‘Chester Co-Operation’. His flying from Ringway during June 1942, was mainly ‘Buxton Co-Operation' in Tiger Moths. One assumes that it was during this period that Antoni Ilnicki met his future wife.
Posted to No 58 Operational Training Unit, at RAF Grangemouth, he flew a Spitfire for the first time on 6 October 1942 and for the last time on 22 Oct. A dramatic change in his destiny occurred around this time, as he returned to 16(P)SFTS for a ‘refresher’ course, which involved him qualifying as a multi-engined pilot on the Airspeed Oxford between November 1942 and March 1943.
Warrant Officer Ilnicki joined 300 (Polish) Sqn at RAF Faldingworth with his all-NCO crew and carried out his first mission, to Gelsenkirchen, on 6 November 1944. During this mission, the crew witnessed an aircraft exploding and its wreckage falling past them; one 300 Sqn aircraft did not return. Ilnicki’s crew completed 32 missions against German industrial, transport and oil targets, and raids in support of the advancing allied armies. Their missions included Operation THUNDERCLAP against Chemnitz and the two largest raids of the War, against Essen and Dortmund. The details of all his missions can be found here.
Lancaster NG265, in which the Ilnicki crew flew most of their missions, at RAF Faldingworth
Settling in Manchester post War, Antoni Ilnicki worked as a heating engineer, decorator and repairing property. He died on 18 June 2000.
303 Sqn Spitfires & Mustangs - Marian Michalak
Michalak’s first flight in a Tiger Moth at Hucknall was on 21 August 1942, his instructor Sgt Swietlikowski. 48 flying hours later, on 23 Sep, he flew R4769 for the first time on an instrument flying, spinning and low flying exercise, again with Sgt Swietlikowski. From then until his final Tiger Moth flight on 14 Oct, Michalak flew R4769 a further 13 times, mostly solo, but with a number of dual trips with Sgt Krawczynski as his instructor. Michalak continued his training at No 16 (Polish) Service Flying Training School, flying the Miles Master, graduating on 20 April 1943 graded ‘Above the Average’.
Michalak flying R4769 from Hucknall
May 1943 saw Michalak flying Tiger Moths with No 7 Anti-Aircraft Co-Operation Unit, based at Castle Bromwich, but it appears much of his flying was carried out from Farnborough as ‘Co-Operation Deepcut’ and ‘Co-Operation Arborfield’. June saw a similar pattern, but this time flying mainly the Airspeed Oxford twin.
Flying a Spitfire for the first time on 2 Oct 1943, Michalak joined 303 (Polish) Squadron at RAF Kenley, his first operational mission in a Spitfire Vb being ‘convoy’ on 6 February 1944. His operational flying during the Spring comprised ‘convoys’ and ‘scrambles’; from May 1944 onwards, Michalak flew many ‘Ramrods’, offensive missions over enemy-occupied territory, often mounted from Manston and landing in France as allied forces re-occupied that country. On 19 Sep 1944, he deployed to Manston once more, from where he flew in Operation MARKET (the ill-fated Arnhem campaign) on 19 & 20 September.
During August 1944, 303 Sqn moved to RAF Coltishall in Norfolk, alternating between there and RAF Andrewsfield for the remained of the War. The Spitfire Mk IX appears in Michalak’s logbook from November 1944, his logbook showing many ‘armed recce’ sorties, including bombs, during 1945. He flew the Mustang Mk IV for the first time on 9 Apr 1945, 303 Sqn being the only Polish squadron to equip with this machine, Michalak flying a ‘Ramrod’ mission, landing at Eindhoven on 25 April 1945.
Marian Michalak’s last flight with the RAF was in a Mustang on 29 November 1946. Subsequently, he was one of 30 Polish pilots who joined the Royal Pakistan Air Force (RPAF), his logbook showing time as a Dakota co-pilot with 6 Sqn from January 1949 and Harvard and Tempest flights from the RPAF College during March 1949.