He survived the Soviet Gulag and went into exile in England, where he died

Farewell to Mieczysław Frąckiewicz, the last Polish aviator of World War II

Today the sad news of the death of Second Lieutenant Mieczysław Frąckiewicz at the age of 104 became known.

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The Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) of Poland has communicated this morning its death, noting that he was "probably the last living WW2 Polish Air Force veteran."

According to Polishairforce.pl, Mieczysław was born on November 3, 1919 in Sopoćkinie, in Augustów County of the Białystok Voivodeship (now part of Belarus). His hometown was occupied by the Soviets in the Soviet-German invasion of Poland in 1939. Like many other Poles, he and his family were deported to Siberia. There he was separated from his family, from whom he never heard again.

Mieczysław Frąckiewicz in a Polish aviator uniform in World War II (Photo: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej).

In Siberia, Mieczysław was sent to do hard labor in the construction of a railway line until 1941. After the German invasion of the USSR, he was incorporated into the Second Polish Corps under the command of General Władysław Anders, serving in the 14th Infantry Regiment. Like the rest of this Polish Corps, he went to Persia and then to Iraq. At the end of 1942 he volunteered to serve in the Polish Air Force in the United Kingdom. He arrived in Britain by sea on 3 March 1943, serving as an airborne radar operator, being assigned to Coast Defense Aviation and flying a Vickers Wellington to search for and destroy German submarines.

Mieczysław Frąckiewicz holding a portrait from his time as a Polish aviator when he was young (Photo: britishpoles.uk).

On 8 August 1944, Mieczysław was assigned to the 304th Bomb Squadron "Ziemia Śląska", based at RAF Chivenor, in southwestern England. He made his first combat flight in that unit on August 20, 1944 as a radar operator, searching for enemy submarines and serving as a radar operator. Two of these missions ended in combat against German submarines launching depth charges from the aircraft on February 2 and April 2, 1945. After the end of the war, the Polish 304th Squadron was converted into a transport unit and Mieczysław flew as a radio operator on Vickers Warwick C.Mk.III and Handley Page Halifax C.VIII aircraft.

Mieczysław served in the Polish Air Force in the United Kingdom until its disbandment in 1947. He retired to civilian life in April 1949, after participating in 27 combat missions. He twice received the Cross of Valor, twice the Air Medal and the Radio Telegraphist's Field Mark (No. 446), as well as British commemorative medals.

Mieczysław Frąckiewicz at a meeting with members of the Polish Air Force in September 2023 (Photo: britishpoles.uk).

After the war and like many other British soldiers who fought alongside the Western allies, Mieczysław was forced into exile, settling in the United Kingdom. The Polish communist dictatorship imposed by Stalin in Poland stripped those Polish soldiers of their nationality. Officially stateless, Mieczysław received British nationality on October 26, 1949. That month he married Pamela, a British citizen, and adopted the name John Franklin. They had two daughters, Linda and Stephanie.

Mieczysław Frąckiewicz at the ceremony in which the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, awarded him the rank of Second Lieutenant and the Cross of Siberian Exiles (Photo: Oficjalna strona Prezydenta Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej).

Mieczysław settled in Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, where he currently resided. On August 3, 2019, the president of Poland's Andrzej Duda granted Mieczysław the rank of Second Lieutenant and awarded him the Cross of the Siberian Exiles.

Fly high, Mieczysław! Give him, Lord, eternal rest. Let perpetual light shine upon him. Rest in peace.


Main photo: britishpoles.uk.

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