Stanisław Skarżyński

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Not to be confused with the Polish pilot Stanisław Jan Skarżyński (1897–1920)
Stanisław Jakub Skarżyński
Stanisław Jakub Skarżyński 1934.jpg
Stanisław Jakub Skarżyński in 1934
Born 1 May 1899
Warta
Died 26 June 1942(1942-06-26) (aged 43)
North Sea
Place of burial Terschelling
Allegiance Poland Poland
Service/branch Orzełek II RP.svg Polish Army
Roundel of Poland (until 1993).svg Polish Air Force
Years of service 1918–1942
Rank Naramiennik Pulkownik lotnicze.png Colonel (posthumously)
Battles/wars Polish–Soviet War
World War II
Awards Virtuti Militari Ribbon.png Virtuti Militari (Silver Cross)
POL Polonia Restituta Komandorski ZG BAR.svg Polonia Restituta (Commander's Cross with Star)
POL Polonia Restituta Oficerski BAR.svg Polonia Restituta (Officer's Cross)
POL Krzyż Niepodległości BAR.svg Cross of Independence
POL Krzyż Walecznych 3r BAR.svg Cross of Valor (3)
POL Złoty Krzyż Zasługi BAR.svg Gold Cross of Merit
POL Srebrny Krzyż Zasługi BAR.svg Silver Cross of Merit
Legion Honneur Chevalier ribbon.svg Legion of Honour
Order of the Southern Cross Officer (Brazil) Ribbon.png Order of the Southern Cross
Ro1ocr.gif Order of the Crown (Romania)
Order of Merit.PNG Order of Merit (Hungary)
Louis Blériot medal

Stanisław Jakub Skarżyński (1 May 1899 − 26 June 1942) was a Lt. Colonel in the Polish Air Force and aviator famous for his transatlantic solo flight in 1933.

Early military career[edit]

In 1916–17 Skarżyński was a member of the Polish Military Organisation (POW). In November 1918 he volunteered for the newly created Polish Army, and commanded units disarming German soldiers in Warta. He then fought in the Polish-Soviet War with the infantry, being promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in 1919. He was wounded but returned to the front. During the battle of Radzymin he was severely wounded in one leg on 16 August 1920. The infected wound needed long rehabilitation, and Skarżyński always limped thereafter. Unable to continue serving in the infantry, he managed to transfer to the military aviation arm.

He completed pilot training in Bydgoszcz in 1925, and served in the 1st Aviation Regiment in Warsaw. In 1927 he became a Flying Captain (kapitan pilot). Between 1 and 5 February May 1931 together with Lt. Andrzej Markiewicz, he flew around Africa in the Polish-designed aircraft PZL Ł-2 (registration SP-AFA), a total distance of 25,770 km.

Transatlantic flight[edit]

On 7/8 May 1933 Skarzynski flew solo in a small single-seater Polish tourist airplane RWD-5bis (SP-AJU) across the southern Atlantic, from Saint-Louis, Senegal to Maceio in Brazil. The flight took 20 hours 30 minutes (17 hours 15 minutes above the ocean). He crossed 3,582 km, establishing a distance World Record in a FAI tourist plane category II (weight below 450 kg / 1000 lb). The plane had no radio nor safety equipment, due to weight restrictions. The RWD-5bis remains the smallest plane to ever to have flown across the Atlantic. Plans of his flight were kept secret. It became a part of Warsaw – Rio de Janeiro flight, between 27 April and 10 May 17,885 km long. He then flew on to Buenos Aires and returned to Europe by ship.

Later service and World War II[edit]

In 1934 he was promoted to Major and commanded a bomber squadron, and from 1938 he was deputy C/O of the 4th Aviation Regiment in Toruń, with a rank of Lt.Col. (podpułkownik pilot). In April 1939 he became President of the Polish Aero Club. In August 1939 he was sent to Romania as the deputy Air Attaché.

After the outbreak of World War II he helped in transferring Polish pilots, fleeing from Poland, through Romania to France where the Polish Air Force was recreated. In 1940 Skarżyński after the fall of France he helped ship 17,000 Polish airmen Britain where he became Commanding Officer of Polish Flying Schools at RAF Hucknall and then RAF Newton.

He requested a combat posting, and was assigned as C.O. of RAF Lindholme and No. 305 Polish Bomber Squadron. On 26 June 1942, while returning from a mission over Bremen, an engine stalled in his Wellington above the North Sea. Skarżyński ditched the heavy damaged aircraft in the stormy sea and all the crew were saved. Skarżyński, leaving the Wellington last, was washed out to sea and was the only crew member lost. He was later buried with full military honours on the Dutch island of Terschelling.

Honours[edit]

Statue of Stanisław Skarżyński in his hometown, Warta

He was awarded the Virtuti Militari 5th class (for the Polish-Soviet war), Cross of Independence, Order of Polonia Restituta 4th class, Krzyż Walecznych (four times), Golden and Silver Cross of Merit, the French Legion d'Honneur and the Brazilian Order of the Southern Cross. The FAI awarded him the Louis Blériot medal (1936) of which he was one of the first recipients.

Posthumously he was made a full Colonel (pułkownik pilot) and awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta 2nd class by the President of Poland. There are numerous streets and schools named after him. He is the Patron of the Aeroclub of Włocławek and of the 13th Transport Squadron in Kraków. On 10 August 2009 the Minister of National Defense signed the Decree to appoint him as Patron of 8 Air Base in Kraków – Balice, which now is named after him.

Sources[edit]

  • (Polish) Konieczny, Jerzy and Malinowski, Tadeusz: Mała encyklopedia lotników polskich, Warsaw, 1983, pp. 155–164, ISBN 83-206-0337-4, Skarzynski, Maciej