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Zbigniew Franciszek Klatkiewicz

Zbigniew KlatkiewiczWarrant Officer Pilot Zbigniew Klatkiewicz, 782158, 300 (Polish) Squadron, Royal Air Force.

Zbigniew Klatkiewicz was born in Oporowo, Szamotuly, Poland on the 28th March 1922. He married Marjorie Iseton (b. 1923) in the Spring of 1947 in the Durham S.E. Registration District. The couple had two sons: Bernard M. T. born in Newcastle in 1949 and Paul M. born in Wakefield in 1954.

Klatkiewicz became a Lancaster pilot with 300 Squadron, which was formed at Bramcote, Warwickshire on the 1st July 1940 as a bomber squadron. It was the first Polish manned bomber squadron to form in the RAF and most of the original bomber crews had previously served in Polish fighter units. Klatkiewicz would have been only 17 years of age at the start of WW2 and the German invasion of Poland, so it is unlikely that he was a fighter pilot at that early age, although he may have been in the Polish Air Force and made his way to England to escape the Nazi oppression.

Over a span of 2.5 years, 300 (Polish) Squadron logged 3,684 operational sorties and dropped nearly 10,000 tons of bombs on enemy objectives. The squadron won 107 decorations comprising 1 OBE, 1 BEM, 1 DSO, 1 MC, 63 DFCs, 1 DCM, 1 CGM, 1 MM and 37 DFMs.

They flew Lancaster B1 and BIII bombers from April 1944 onwards, and before that Wellingtons. They were based at RAF Faldingworth in Lincolnshire from March 1944 and before that RAF Ingham and RAF Hemswell.

In August 1948, Sergeant Pilot Zbigniew Klatkiewicz transferred to the Polish Aerospace Adaptive Corps (PRC) at RAF Hednesford, Staffordshire. He left military service in February 1949.

Zbigniew Klatkiewicz was awarded the Polish Order of the Virtuti Militari which recognises and rewards outstanding military valor above and beyond the call of duty. It is one of the oldest decorations for valor in the world and is equivalent to the US Medal of Honour and the British Victoria Cross. He was also awarded the Polish Cross of Valour (Krzy┼╝ Walecznych) which is awarded to one who has demonstrated deeds of valor and courage on the field of battle. He also received: the Air Crew Europe Star, a medal awarded to Commonwealth aircrew who participated in operational flights over Europe from UK bases, between September 3 1939 to June 5 1944 (outbreak of war until the start of the D-Day Normandy Invasion), the 1939-1945 Star and the Defense and War medals.

Sometime after WW2 and his marriage in N.E. England, Zbigniew Klatkiewicz moved to live in Wakefield, where he was employed as a baker. He then opened a grocers shop at the junction of Dale Street and Church Street in Ossett, which was called simply "Klat's".

Zbigniew Klatkiewicz died on the 21st September 1991 whilst visiting his family in Poland, aged 69 years. His widow Marjorie flew his body home to Englkand and he was buried at Newark on Trent, Nottinghamshire with other Polish airmen from 300 Squadron.

References:

1. Personnel of Polish Air Force in Great Britain 1940 - 47