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Kaz Kijak, 315 Squadron fighter pilot

Article researched and written for Aircrew Remembered by Alan Scheckenbach of Canberra, Australia. 

Kaz was born in May 1919 in western Siberia about 130km east of Ekaterinburg, the city of the Czar’s murder. His father was a Pole who had been in Czar’s service as a blacksmith. His mother was the daughter of a southern Ukrainian Gypsy chief. They along with his baby brother took the long road back to his father’s hamlet, Zarudki, in central Poland during the winter of 1921/22. There he rose to the dizzy social heights of a farm boy,

Falling in love with aircraft when an Air Force plane touched down in the large wheat field nearby in the late 1920s, Kaz borrowed all the books he could, on any subject, so that he could learn enough to be able to join the Polish Air Force.

He was granted admission to the Polish Air Force’s Junior NCO’s Cadet School at Bydgoszcz in 1936. He trained to become a mechanic – although the school tried to make him an air-gunner. Kaz decided to do poorly at that as, if he was going to fly, he was going to be doing the driving.

After graduating, Kaz was assigned to 216 Squadron, a P37 bomber squadron in Warsaw shortly before the start of WWII. When war came, they had been sent to an out field and survived the initial bombings of Warsaw. The squadron was forced back, with Kaz and the other crews continually retreating while servicing their dwindling number of bombers. When the Russians invaded, they were told to run for the border with Romania. Kaz barely managed to make it to the Romanian border by road before it was closed by Russian tanks. He and many others escaped to France via Syria.

In France he was held in a camp in the south before being transferred to Paris, where he and many other sat around twiddling their thumbs. While in Paris, a circular came around asking for the names of personnel who had flying training. Kaz’s Mess only had three names. He and friend thought that wasn’t enough for the honour of the Mess so put their names down, thought up a believable number of flying hours and borrowed some instructor’s names. Honour satisfied, they forgot all about it.

He was transferred to England in early April 1940, where after being taught English and being able to speak it, after a fashion, he was posted to 316 Polish Squadron as ground crew, wielding a trolley acc’ with gay abandon, during the Battle of Britain.

Next he was posted to Brize Norton where he repaired ground support equipment – a dull and boring job - but cushy. Here he married an English girl. Shortly after that, he surprisingly, was posted to St. Andres in Scotland for flight school. That indiscretion in Paris had caught up with him. Kaz studied hard, passed well and was sent to Hucknall where he flew Tiger Moths – then to 16(P) SFTS at Newton, graduating on the 21st of October 1942. To gain experience, he was sent to 10 AGS on Walney Island, flying mostly Lysanders and towing targets for trainee air-gunners.

                        

After that he was posted to 58 OTU at Grangemouth where he converted to Spitfires and on the 23rd of October 1943, Kaz reported to 315 (P) Squadron at Ballyhulbert in Ireland. 315 was there recuperating. In November 315 was transferred to Heston, outside London where they flew sorties and bomber escorts into France. Prior to D-Day, 315 moved to Coolham near the southern coast of England and converted to MkIII Mustangs. The squadron flew on D-Day, with Kaz being one of the rostered pilots.

During June and July 315 participated in many dive-bombing, Ranger, Rhubarb and Rodeo missions over France, as well as a stint at patrolling for V1s out of Holmsley. Kaz was credited with 2 kills.

On the 18th of August 1944, 315 Squadron was involved in the Battle of Beauvais, where 12 of 315’s aircraft spotted a large number of Fw190s taking off from Beauvais. They dropped down on them and destroyed sixteen, damaged one and claimed 3 probables for the loss of only one, their famous Squadron Leader, Horbaczewski. Kaz chased one for a long while before turning back and shooting one down and damaging another.

August, September and October were mostly daylight escort missions into Germany. Kaz also flew escort and did a little straffing during Operation Market Garden. 

                   

Kaz and Eileen May 2009

In November 1944, 315 was transferred up to Peterhead in Scotland where they flew escorts for the Beaufighters and Mosquitoes of 133 Strike Wing. In later years Kaz has spent some enjoyable time over lunch and beer with Australian Beaufighter pilots from RAAF 455 squadron whom he escorted all those years ago. Flying at fifty feet above the North Sea in variable weather was not the most relaxing thing he’d ever done but they were given ten Woodbines and sardine sandwiches on every trip so it wasn’t all bad. Once, at fifty feet, Kaz’s engine coughed and he noticed that a drop tank had fallen off. With bum clenching alacrity, he flicked the fuel selector to the main tank, hit the boost pump and climbed back into formation. His mates later told him that they saw his prop wash on the waves as he recovered.

Mid-January 1945 saw 315 back down south again and in March, after sixty-seven combat mission, Kaz was posted out to 16 (P) SFTS at Newton and was there when the war ended.

Post-war Kaz went civil flying in England and was divorced in 1949. That year he joined the Royal Air Force, flying around the Empire’s lands in RAF Transport Command, moving to Bomber Command during the height of the Cold War before meeting some mahogany bomber pilots from London who arranged a posting to balmy Singapore in the late 1950s for his last flying job. Returning to England he was assigned office jobs where his considerable experience was used to keep several RAF Stations functioning correctly before being posted to a training section where his flying expertise was used to help young pilots from all over the Commonwealth gain competency in blind flying.

                          

Kaz and Alan Scheckenbach 2010

Kaz retired from the RAF in 1964 as a Master Pilot and with his wife and two daughters, emigrated to Canberra, Australia’s capital where his wife had relatives. They settled there and he turned his hand to a number of jobs during Canberra’s explosive expansion in the mid-1960s before he took up a position at NASA’s Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station which was being built as part of the tracking system for America’s moon-landing series of rockets. Kaz worked there for fifteen years as a power station mechanic, ensuring the electricity supply to the dish and the banks of computers used to communicate with and guide the astronauts in their space ships. After a busy time in the Polish and Royal Air Forces, Kaz was happy with a quiet and steady life.

His retirement involved a move to the sea and back, some travel, his grand and great-grand children and time developing a deep store of truly terrible jokes.

Sadly Kaz passed away on the 19th January 2011, Age 91, leaving his wife Eileen and an extended family.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning we will remember them. - Laurence Binyon

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Last Modified: 28 April 2014, 21:45