Eugeniusz Horbaczewski

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Horbaczewski commander of the 315th Polish squadron, in the background his Mustang PK-G FB387 (1944)

Eugeniusz Horbaczewski (28 September 1917 – 18 August 1944) was a Polish fighter pilot, a flying ace of World War II, also known as "Dziubek" (the diminutive of 'the beak' in Polish). According to official lists, Horbaczewski was the third highest scoring Polish fighter ace, with 16.5 confirmed kills (16 individual and one shared) and one probable kill. He was awarded several decorations, among others Virtuti Militari IV class (posthumously) and V class, four times Polish Cross of Valour, Distinguished Service Order (posthumously) and Distinguished Flying Cross (twice).

Biography[edit]

Horbaczewski was born in Kiev, then his family moved to Brest. At school, he completed a gliding course. In 1938 he entered cadet flying school in Dęblin, from which he graduated in 1939.

During the Invasion of Poland in 1939 he was made a Podporucznik (2nd Lieutenant) but he saw no combat. He was evacuated through Romania, Yugoslavia and Greece to France. Still without a combat assignment he was then evacuated in June 1940 to Britain.

After training on RAF aircraft, on 21 August 1941 he was posted to the Polish No. 303 Squadron, flying the Spitfire Mk.V. He probably shot down his first aircraft, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter on 6 November over France. His first confirmed kill was a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 on 4 April 1942. He shot down a Bf 109 on 16 April and a Fw 190 on 19 August.

In February 1943 he volunteered for the Polish Fighting Team, also known as the "Skalski's Circus", attached to the Desert Air Force. Fighting from March 1943 in the Tunisia Campaign, the flight were attached to No. 145 Squadron RAF. On 28 March he shot down a Junkers Ju 88, then four Bf 109's (on 2 April, 6 April, and two on 22 April). On 6 April his Spitfire Mk.IX was hit and started burning, but as he prepared to jump the wind extinguished the fire and he managed to land on an airfield.

Remaining in Africa after the Flight was disbanded he was transferred to No. 601 Squadron, prior to becoming a flight commander in No. 43 Squadron RAF. He commanded the flight from May 1943 then in August he became a Squadron Leader (being one of three Poles commanding British squadrons). He fought with No. 43 squadron over Malta, Sicily and Italy. On 4 September he shot down a Fw 190 and on 16 September two more. In October he handed over command and returned to Britain.

On 16 February 1944 Horbaczewski took command of the Polish No. 315 Squadron, flying the new P-51 Mustang Mk. III. On 12 June [1944] he shot down a Fw 190, and on 30 July one Bf 109 individually and one with his wing man (counted as 0.5 'share'). At this time, he also shot down four V-1 flying bombs.

Death[edit]

On 18 August 1944 Horbaczewski led his squadron of 12 aircraft over France on a 'Rodeo' mission, despite being ill with flu. The Poles, using an element of surprise, attacked a group of 60 Fw 190s of Jagdgeschwaders 2 and 26, over an airfield near Beauvais. Horbaczewski quickly shot down three Focke-Wulfs, but went missing during the dogfight. In 1947 the wreck of his Mustang with his body was found crashed near Velennes (Oise).[1]

Exact circumstances are unclear; he was probably shot down in combat by an aircraft of II./JG 26. The Poles were credited with shooting down 16 aircraft in this encounter, with the only loss their Squadron leader (according to German documents, eight Fw 190 of JG 26 and four of JG 2 were destroyed).

Awards[edit]

POL Virtuti Militari Złoty BAR.svg Virtuti Militari IV class (posthumously)
Virtuti Militari Ribbon.png Virtuti Militari V class
POL Krzyż Walecznych (1940) 4r BAR.PNG Cross of Valour (Poland) 4 times
Dso-ribbon.png Distinguished Service Order (posthumously)
UK DFC w bar BAR.svg Distinguished Flying Cross (United Kingdom) and bar

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Paul Hamlin, Coolham Airfield Remembered, Private Pressing, Sussex (1996) ISBN 0-9527968-0-5