War hero to be honoured at Fairlop Remembrance with Polish flag after confusion over nationality
- Credit: David Martin
After a complicated journey, P/O Stanislaw Kurowicki arrived at RAF Station Fairlop on August 21, 1943, to serve with 317 (Wilenski) RAF Squadron.
He was born on May 22, 1918 in Kotelnia, Russia. His father Franciszek was a clerk from Nowogrodek, Poland, and his mother Antoninia, from Androszowka, Russia.
From his Przebieg Sluzby Wojskowej, (Course of Military Service) form, obtained from the Ministry of Defence (Polish Section), it shows that in 1936 he was undergoing officer cadet training in a Warsaw military school. He trained on gliders and until November 17, 1939 was in a Flight Company within the school.
Then two days later, Stanislaw was interned by the Russians and taken to a camp at Dyneburg, then Riga in Latvia. Until August 25, 1941, he was in a camp at Griarzowcu, USSR, when he joined the Army of Poland. The Sikorski–Mayski agreement of July 30, 1941 resulted in the Soviet Union agreeing to release tens of thousands of Polish prisoners of war held in Soviet camps.
In November 1941, he is shown departing from Archanglelyhe (Archangel). Then on January 24, 1942, departing Murmauske (Murmansk), on a homebound Arctic convoy QP 6. He arrived in Scotland on January 28.
All Arctic convoys bound for the Soviet Union were designated PQ and those returning were designated QP after the initials of Commander P Q Edwards, in charge of planning the earliest Russian convoys.
Convoy QP 6 consisted of six ships, three British, one Russian and two Panamanian, with eight escorts. Only two ships were destined for Scotland and are shown carrying a cargo of ballast and passengers. Empire Howard docked at Methil (Fife), and Empire Activity docked in Loch Ewe (north west Highlands). Stansilaw could have been on either.
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His progress into the RAF was swift, for he entered the Air Crew Receiving Centre at RAF Kirkham, on March 9, 1942, then onto a training school.
When he joined the RAF in 1942, he gave his occupation as pilot in the Polish Air Force and gave his cousin and sister as next of kin. Records show he was in the Polish Air Force from August 1939. As yet unexplained, his permanent address was given as Polish Inspectorate General, Polish Embassy.
He excelled in navigation, signals and aircraft recognition. He was below average for further training on large type aircraft, but not considered suitable as a potential flying instructor.
At Fairlop the squadron were in daily action escorting bombers, without loss. On September 11, 1941 there was slight fog in the morning, and in the afternoon, a successful Ramrod 216. The Squadron took off at 1800 hours, 11 aircraft were part of the Polish Wing, which made rendezvous and escorted bombers to a target at Rouen, France.
When over the target, all wings into fours with 10 or more pairs of FW 190s. Combat followed in which F/Lt Janicki damaged one FW 190, shared another destroyed FW 190 with F/Lt Martini, who destroyed a second FW 190 and damaged yet another. F/O Wal shot down a third. F/O Kurowicki shot down a fourth FW 190 before announcing on the RT that he was hit. Stanislaw did not return and is the only pilot the squadron lost during their time at Fairlop. He was last seen fighting with four FW 190s south west of Rouen.
Subsequent research with the Ministry of Defence, Polish Historical Disclosures, confirmed that he was born in Russia, but of Polish nationality.
The Fairlop Roll of Honour has been amended accordingly.
On November 11, 2015, Stanislaw Kurowicki was remembered by erroneously flying the Russian flag.
During the November 11 ceremony this year at Fairlop Waters Country Park, the Polish flag will be flown and the Polish National Anthem played in his honour.