RAF Halton Heritage

Polish Monument

Polish Monument

Polish Monument At the beginning of 1945, the Polish Air Force Command received the news that with the Corps of Gen Anders 1500 boys aged 15 arrived in the Middle East. Gen Karpinski submitted to the Chief of Staff, Gen Sosnkowski a proposal to organise an Aircraft Technical School for Apprentices, which would provide a beginning fore a series of similar schools, after the eventual return to Poland. The Commander-in-Chief agreed to the proposal and recommended that a start be made to obtain the agreement of the British Authorities. The project of opening such schools in Great Britain found favour with the Air Ministry, with the recommendation that Polish schools should be formed at Heliopolis near Cairo in Egypt for 200 apprentices and in England at RAF Halton for 300 apprentices, with a proviso, that after initial training, 100 boys would be transferred to RAF Cranwell.

At the time, the Aircraft School at RAF Halton had already existed for 24 years and had trained thousands of British boys. To this school then, the Polish Squadron for aircraft apprentices was attached and on 12th of September 1943 Sqn Ldr Henryk F Wirszyllo was nominated as its Commander by the C-in-C.

Before taking up his duties, he reported to the Commandant of the Polish Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Lzycki, who informed him that Lady Jersey has agreed to act as a Godmother to the Polish School. On the same day he reported to the Commandant RAF Halton, Air Commodore H G White, OBE.

On 13th September 1943, 264 boys arrived at Halton and on the next day were warmly greeted by Air Commodore White and Wing Commander Rudnicki, Commandant of the Polish Aircraft Technical School (located at No 6 Wing for the Polish Air Force personnel). The British personnel showed great interest in the Polish boys and were always willing and very helpful in organisational matters connected with the school. This friendly atmosphere existed up to the closure of the Polish School.

Senior RAF Officers frequently visited the school, conversing with the boys in order to find out what these poor souls suffered in the Soviet Russia. At the request of Sqn Ldr Wirszyllo Lady Jersey together with Bishop Matthew and Mrs Woodroff, the wife of the well known editor of one of the London dailies, found 300 English families which offered hospitality to the boys during their holidays. These holidays spent with the English families helped to a great extent in learning English.

As proof of the extent of interest in the school and the boys by the Polish Society in exile, was a visit in September 1943 of the C-in-C of the Polish Forces, Gen Sosnkowski and on the 17th December by the President of the Polish Republic, W Raczkiewicz who shared the first Christmas Eve Supper with the boys.

On 25th May 1945 there was a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the RAF Aircraft Apprentice Scheme at Halton. The Air Commodore made his wish known that Polish Apprentices should also take part in the parade with their British counterparts, together with their band which he called “A very attractive Polish Apprentice Band”. It was a great honour for the Polish school. At the celebrations, the Marshal of the RAF, Viscount Trenchard represented HM King George VI, accompanied by the Chief of Staff of the RAF Sir C Portal, Air Marshal Sir A Barratt, Air Vice-Marshal C G Leask and Air Vice-Marshal Lzycki.

On the 10th of March 1947 by order of the Commandant of the Polish Air Force Vice-Marshal Lzycki, Sqn Ldr Wirszyllo became the sole Commandant of the Polish Air Force Technical School at Halton, and on the 17th of March all of the Polish personnel had to sign a two year contract when transferring to the Polish Resettlement Corps at the same conditions as were in force in the active service, with the proviso that they were free to leave the school at any time in search of work.

In such a situation, the school could not continue. Luckily, there happened to be a small group of conscientious officers and NCOs, who volunteered to stay with the apprentices for the remaining 13 months, until the end of training. The only payment for this sacrifice and devotion to the boys was a feeling of the job well done for the Homeland. As a replacement for the Polish staff that left the school, the new Commandant of RAF Halton, Air Commodore Titmas assigned at
Sqn Ldr Wirszyllo’s request, some English instructors.

Polish Monument On the 29th of July 1947, 136 Polish apprentices completed the school, and on 10th of March 1948, the remaining 31 completed the course. All finished the school successfully, obtaining the Trade Apprenticeship Certificate ratified by the Central Trade Test Board, together with the certificate of completion of the Polish Secondary School (Gimnazjum No 2) from the Polish Ministry of Education.

The Polish Monument was unveiled on 21st June 1947. The bronze plaque with the legend: “Polish Avenue” was attached to the wall of Block No 9, the living quarters for the last four years of the Polish apprentices, situated at the road “Polish Avenue”. This road was used by the Polish apprentices a few times a day, marching from their living quarters to school, workshops, to the playing fields and back, and that is why this road was given the name “Polish Avenue”.

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