||This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. (May 2008)|
The defense of Poland, September 1939
By May 1939 Gnyś had been posted to the 121st Eskadra Mysliwska (121st Fighter Escadrille) in the city of Kraków, equipped with obsolete PZL P.11c fighters. On 31 August the Squadron was assigned to operate with the III/2 Dywizjon (Group) and it relocated to a reserve airfield in Balice.
In the early morning of 1 September 1939, Gnyś was woken by a German bombing raid on Kraków. At about 7am (according to other sources, 5:30am) Gnyś flew a sortie with Cptn. Mieczyslaw Medwecki, the Group Commander. Just after take off and at about 300 meters altitude the Polish fighters were suddenly attacked by a pair of German Ju 87B dive-bombers from I/StG 2 "Immelmann". Unteroffizier Frank Neubert successfully fired at Medwecki and scored probably the first aerial victory of the war. The P-11 fell away having suffered serious damage, and Medwecki was killed. Gnyś was now also under attack, and he shot at a "Stuka" piloted by Lt. Brandenburg. The German aircraft started to smoke, but the aircraft managed to return to base at Nieder-Ellguth. A few minutes later Gnyś attacked two Do-17E bombers from KG 77. After a few passes both Do-17 bombers crashed in the country village of Zurada, near Olkusz. One of the German bombers was coded "3Z+FR" on its fuselage and all six crew members were killed, one later identified as a Uffz. Klose. On his return to base Gnyś met a lone He 111, but he was out of ammunition.
There is, however, controversy regarding this victory. According to Marius Emmerling, based on German wartime sources two Do 17Es from 7./KG 77 indeed crashed near Żurada, but this was caused by Polish anti-aircraft artillery, which damaged one Do 17 which then collided with the other. The combat in which Medwecki was shot down took place in 5:30-6:00am and, according to Emmerling, Gnyś only fired at the Ju 87 but did not hit it, nor did he meet Do 17s. Other authors however claim that damage to a Do 17, which caused a collision, might have been caused by Gnyś.
Gnyś personally scored another victory in September 1939, claiming a He-111. On the 6th, while other sources give the date as the morning of 9 September, Sergeants Leopold Flanek and Tadeusz Arabski were engaged in an aerial combat. During this engagement Flanek's plane was heavily damaged but was able to return to Kraczewice airfield. Tadeusz Arabski was able to share a single kill of a He-111 bomber.
After the fall of Poland Gnyś fled to France and served as a pilot with the French Air Force. Flying the Morane MS 406-C with GC III./1 and stationed at Toul Croix, Gnyś scored three shared victories; a He-111 on 12 May and two Do-17s on 16 May. After the French surrender, Gnys escaped and, via Oran and Casablanca arrived in Liverpool on 14 July 1940.
With the RAF 1940-44
Gnyś later fought with the Royal Air Force, joining No. 302 Squadron as a Pilot Officer on 17 August 1940 and seeing combat in the Battle of Britain and into 1941. On 21 May 1941 Gnyś' Hawker Hurricane was badly damaged by fighters although he managed to return to base.
On 22 August 1944, he was appointed to the command of No. 317 Polish Fighter Squadron. Two days later, Gnys was shot down over Rouen by flak and captured by German forces. Despite his wounds, Gnys escaped from a POW hospital a few days later, found by the French Maquis and returned to the Allied lines safely.
He settled in Canada after the war.
Croix de Guerre (France)
Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom)
Cross of Valour (Poland) 3 times
Silver Cross of the Order of Virtuti Militari
Commander's Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2 September 1999)
Bronze Cross of Merit (18 June 1935)
- Marius Emerling: Pierwszy zestrzał w kampanii wrześniowej 1939 r. - Mit ppor.pil. Władysława Gnysia in: Lotnictwo Wojskowe Nr.5/2002 (in Polish); Letters to editor in: Lotnictwo Wojskowe Nr.6/2002
Tyminski, Dariusz (October 8, 1998). "First Allied Victory in WW2".