TRAGIC LOSS OF ALEKSANDER PIETRZAK
POLISH PILOT OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE
|Pilot: Warrant Officer Aleksander Pietrzak
(P783147) Tragically Killed
|Squadron: No. 309(P) Polish Squadron
|Operation: Squadron formation exercise & dive
|Date of loss: 2nd August 1945
|Time of incident: 11.15 a.m.
|Aircraft Type: North American Mustang III
Serial No: FX876
|This is the brief
story of a Polish fighter pilot who
served with the Royal Air Force. In
January 1943 Sgt Pietrzak was flying
Spitfires at 58 O.T.U. (Operational
Training Unit). Transferred to No. 316(P)
Polish Squadron and flew on operations
from February 1943 until March 1944
and took part in the defensive operations
against the German V1 flying bombs.
He joined No. 309(P) Squadron in February
1945. Aleksander Pietrzak’s total
flying time as pilot by day was 784
hours, of which 246 hours were in Mustang
fighters. He became senior N.C.O. pilot
of the Squadron and was highly thought
of by his Squadron Commander. He had
distinguished himself beyond the call
of duty in the defence of this country
during the V1 rocket attacks of 1944.
He survived the air battles of World
War II only to tragically lose his life
in a flying accident on the 2nd August
|No. 316(P) Polish
Squadron and the “Flying Bombs”
|Between June 13th
1944 and March 29th 1945 a total of
9,251 V1 flying bombs (known as Doodlebugs
or Divers) were plotted by the Royal
Observer Corps (ROC) from the 1,500
Observer Posts. Of these pilot-less
monoplanes 2,419 reached London. The
total number destroyed was 4,261 –
1,971 by anti-aircraft fire, 1,979 by
the skilled flying of the pilots of
the Royal Air Force, 278 by balloons
and 33 by the Royal Navy. A total of
412 came down in the county of Essex.
Sgt Aleksander Pietrzak of No. 316(P)
Squadron was personally responsible
for destroying 5 divers! On the 12th
July 1944 Sgt Pietrzak was detailed
to carry out diver patrols against the
incoming tide of V1 flying bombs. Flying
Mustang III serial number FB378 Sgt
Pietrzak intercepted a Diver and pressed
home his attack! After several bursts
of fire from his four 0.5 calibre machine
guns the Diver suddenly exploded sending
hot twisted debris through the air,
some of which smashed into his aircraft
causing serious damage to the flying
controls. Sgt Pietrzak had no option
but to abandon the stricken machine
after control was lost.
|Whilst serving with
No. 316 Squadron Aleksander Pietrzak
carried out fighter escort duties protecting
Allied bomber sorties to Germany. On
two occasions Sgt Pietrzak was involved
in combats with defending Messerschmitt
Bf 109 fighters, the first victory was
on the 14th October 1944 and the second
four days later on the 18th where he
claimed one destroyed and one shared.
His last combat was on the 23rd March
1945 on this occasion he claimed a Messerschmitt
Me 262 jet fighter as damaged. Shortly
after Aleksander Pietrzak now promoted
to Warrant Officer was transferred to
No. 309 Polish Squadron stationed at
Andrews Field (Great Saling) Essex.
Old and new CO sitting in front of
the group of No.309 Squadron pilots:
S/Ldr Glowacki (right) and S/Ldr Pietrzak.
Standing are: (from left) Sgt Halka,
F/Lt Klawe, F/Lt Haczkiewicz, Sgt
Kogut, P/O Czerni, Sgt Loska, Sgt
Eisenbach, F/Sgt Godlewski, Sgt Zaufal,
F/O Stankiewicz, W/O Murkowski, P/O
Turek, ?, ?, ?. First from in the
back is F/O Wisniewski, between Stankiewicz
and Murkowski is F/Lt Birtus.
|1st August 1945
P-51 Mustang III
with the serial No. FX 876 to workshop
to undergo routine minor inspection.
The airframe was built North American
Aviation Inc. and its total flying
time was 307 hours. All modifications
affecting airworthiness except No.691
had been embodied. The engine was
built by the Packard Motor Car Company,
No. V 324217 and its total running
time was 664 hours. Both airframe
and engine had been properly maintained
and serviced and both had been certified
fit for flight at 0845 hours on August
| 2nd August 1945
|At 10.15 hours Mustang
FX 876 took off on its first flight
since the inspection was completed.
It should be noted that the aircraft
was not test flown. The pilot W/O Pietrzak
had been briefed to take part in a Squadron
formation exercise which was to be followed
by dive bombing practice. FX 876 was
one of the first pair in the formation
to leave the ground. The other member
of this pair was the Squadron Commander.
Almost as soon as the two aircraft were
airborne W/O Pietrzak overtook his leader
and a few seconds later called him on
the R/T (radio transmitter) to state
that his rudder control had jammed and
that he could not use starboard rudder
but he could still apply port rudder.
The Squadron Commander immediately ordered
him to return and land and W/O Pietrzak
thereupon turned away and disappeared.
Some four minutes later, after the rest
of the Squadron had formed up with the
leader and W/O Pietrzak’s original
place in the formation had been filled,
FX 876 reappeared and W/O Pietrzak requested
permission to rejoin, stating that his
aircraft was now serviceable. This permission
was granted. Various squadron formation
manoeuvres were then carried out for
a period of forty minutes, during which
FX 876 appeared to fly normally. Dive
bombing practice then began from a height
of about 12,000 feet.
The Squadron formed line astern with
W/O Pietrzak as number 7. Each aircraft
in turn pulled up into a stalled turn
to the left and entered its dive, the
instructions to each pilot being that
recovery should be affected at 5,000
ft. FX 876 entered its dive in exactly
the same way as had those aircraft ahead
of it but instead of pulling out at
5,000 ft its dive was seen by the pilot
of number 8 aircraft which was close
behind, to become suddenly steeper until
it reached an angle over the vertical.
Number 8 realised that something was
amiss and endeavoured to follow FX 876
in order to keep it under observation.
|The pilot of number
8 stated that when FX 876 started to
dive over the vertical he also noticed
that it was side-slipping to the left
and he declared that he had great difficulty
in following it. He stated that he then
saw it carry out an aileron turn one
and a half times round and the pulled
out of its dive inverted at an altitude
well under 100 feet. The pilot of number
8 lost sight of it at this point because
his own airspeed was over 500 m.p.h.
I.A.S. and his height was only around
3,000 ft. He therefore had his attention
fully occupied in recovering normal
flight, which he did by using his tail
trim after unsuccessfully trying to
ease back the stick. He then caught
sight of FX 876 again. It was still
inverted and climbing. Although he himself
was still travelling at very high speed
FX 876 overtook him and nosed over into
a dive which continued to the ground.
It subsequently transpired that W/O
Pietrzak had fallen out of his aircraft
whilst it was inverted and travelling
at tremendous speed across Andrews Field
Aerodrome at a height of only about
20 ft. His body was found near by, he
had undoubtedly been thrown from the
cockpit under high negative “g”.
The fact that no pieces of the cockpit
hood were found way from the main wreckage
suggested that the hood was open when
the pilot was ejected W/O Pietrzak was
killed instantly. The funeral of Aleksander
Pietrzak was held at 3.00 p.m on the
7th August at Epping Cemetery.
Aleksander Pietrzak Bury Lane Cemetery,
Epping, Essex . Row Z. Grave 11.
now in touch with Kelvin Youngs who's
mother was married to Pietrzak,
Kelvin has a half brother Stefan,
who was of course Alescanders son,
Stefan lives in the USA.
|I am Alescander Pietrzak's
son. I was just 3 months old and my
mother just 17 when my father and her
husband died. It was so strange to hear
you and your compatriots had recovered
parts of the wreckage from the crash
that changed our lives forever. I never
imagined anything would be left.
I have made many lonely trips out
to Epping to visit his grave and those
of the other Poles buried nearby.
I felt very moved to see your photo
by his grave: it always upset me to
think he lay there unremembered by
the world passing him by.
My father's only brother Ryszard,
who fought throughout the war in the
Polish Secret Army (AK or Armia Krajowa),
came to visit his brother's grave
in 1982 or thereqbouts with me and
was of course very moved. His comment
was to the effect, if my brother had
to die, what
finer place could he rest than here
in this peaceful English churchyard.
He brought some earth from his mother
and father's grave in Warszawa with
him and we buried it at the headstone
in Epping, and he took some English
earth from the grave back to bury
it at his
parent's grave, where he too now lies.
My father was the recipient of the
Virtuti Militari, the highest award
for gallantry in the face of the enemy
granted by the Polish nation.
In May this year I took my father's
medals and his logbooks to the Polish
Air Museum in Krakow where I presented
them so that a part of him at least
could be back in the Poland he loved
and so that his memory could be honoured
there for generations to come. The
have long memories and are a proud
nation, and none are more highly honoured
than the Polish airman who fought
so tenaciously in the RAF for freedom.
We have some (but too few) photographs
and would be honoured to share them
with you. My brother Kelvin is undertaking
research and has assembled quite a
lot of material which he will share.
I am also friends with 2 eminent Polish
war historians and authors, Robert
Gretzyngier and Wojtek Matusiak. Kelvin
will show you the book they wrote
(published by Osprey) a few years
ago called Polish Aces of World War
2. I will keep them up to date with
your efforts to honour my father and
all those from Poland who fought so
long and so hard by the side of their
British and American comrades in arms.
The Poles of course, were in the war
opposing the Germans longer than anyone
else, from the very first to the last
Officer Aleksander Pietrzak - with
thanks to Kelvin Youngs
|Family of Aleksander Pietrzak
visit the display on Mustang FX876 which
is being erected by the Wings Museum.
|On Monday 17th December
2007 the family including the son of
Aleksander Pietrzak (from the USA) visited
the display which is being erected in
honour of Aleksander the pilot of Mustang
FX876. The family also presented the
museum with a Polish Flag which will
now be incorporated into the display.
Also an very rare photo of Mustang FX876
in flight was which was located while
on a visit to Poland by Kelvin Youngs
and a copy of which was presented to
the museum to include in the display.
The Wings Museum would like to thank
both Kelvin Youngs and Stefan Pietrzak
for the kind words, they will always
be welcome at the Wings Museum!
(front middle) and Stefan Pietrzak
(back middle) together with Kevin
and Daniel Hunt of the Wings Museum
standing in front of the propeller
blade recovered from Mustang FX976