|This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (November 2014)|
Jerzy Kazimierz Pajączkowski-Dydyński (19 July 1894 – 6 December 2005) was a British-based Polish veteran of World War I and UK's oldest man at the time of his death at the age of 111 years, 140 days, and one of the last surviving veterans of the First World War living in the UK. He died at a nursing home in Cumbria. In 1915, he was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army. He later fought for Poland. Pajączkowski-Dydyński, a former colonel, escaped from the German invasion that triggered World War II in 1940, and worked as a gardener in Scotland before moving to Cumbria.
Pajączkowski-Dydyński was born in Lwów (present-day Lviv, Ukraine), the capital of what became the Austrian province of Galicia. Although technically part of Austria-Hungary, the Galician Polish enjoyed a "degree of autonomy in local government". He began studying law at Lemberg University in 1912, transferring to the University of Vienna two years later.
World War I
Upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Galicians were subject to conscription, and Pajączkowski-Dydyński was called up. His training took place chiefly in Hungary and Bosnia. In 1916, he was sent as a sergeant to the Italian front in Montenegro and Albania. Although allied by treaty with Germany and Austria-Hungary, Italy had instead joined the war on the side of the Allied Powers in May 1915, in hopes of annexing parts of Austrian territory. In November 1918, he was taken prisoner in northern Italy during the last hours of the war. When he was freed the following Christmas, he was sent to France. Like many Galicians taken prisoner after being conscripted into the German Army, Pajączkowski-Dydyński volunteered to join the Polish Army Corps in France. This unit, which contained Polish-American volunteers, had seen action in 1918 in the allied campaign in Alsace-Lorraine, fostering an acute sense of Polish identity among the troops.
The Army of the Republic of Poland
When peace came, Pajączkowski-Dydyński elected to serve in the army of the newly proclaimed Republic of Poland guaranteed by the signatories to the Treaty of Versailles. He became a lieutenant and staff officer under General Józef Haller in an infantry division, and took part in the 1920-21 Polish War against Soviet Russia. This was fought between the Red Army and Poland over Poland's eastern border. Following the Armistice in November, he was moved to the Polish 2nd Army, and two years later he became a captain. After marrying Maria Lewandowska in 1924, Pajączkowski-Dydyński was stationed in Przemyśl. In 1925, he became a major, and in 1930, he moved to Warsaw with his wife and young son.
World War II
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Pajączkowski-Dydyński was a lieutenant-colonel. He was at the headquarters of the Polish Army in Warsaw when, on 1 September 1939, 1.8 million German troops invaded Poland. His wife and son fled to Romania by means of an evacuation train. When surrender seemed inevitable, he escaped to Bucharest to collect his family. Along with 30,000 other Polish, he was able to make his way to France through then still-neutral Italy.
When France fell to the Germans, Pajączkowski-Dydyński left for Britain, arriving in Plymouth on 28 June 1940. He stayed at military camps in ScotlandLanarkshire and Peebles, before being sent to Perth, where he took command of a Polish garrison. In 1943, he moved to Edinburgh, translating and adapting British military regulations and manuals for the use of Polish units.
When the war ended in May 1945, Pajączkowski-Dydyński made Edinburgh his home as Lwów had been annexed by the Soviet Union. Following the death of his wife Maria that year, he married Dorothy Caterall; the couple had a daughter.
Pajączkowski-Dydyński worked as a gardener. He was fluent in Polish, French, German and English. He had a passion for music and was a skilled viola player. In 1964, he was promoted to a full colonel. He did not return to Poland until 1989, when he was 95. He died in Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria in 2005, aged 111, survived by ten grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by both wives and his two children.
Decorations and medals
- Officer's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2001; previously awarded the Knight's Cross)
- Cross of Valour (1920)
- Silver Cross of Merit (1925)
- A Romanian decoration of distinction (1931) [clarification needed]
These are in addition to three Austrian decorations he received in World War I for active service.
- "PAJACZKOWSKI-DYDYNSKI". Announcements – Deaths. The Daily Telegraph. London. January 2006. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
- "UK News, World News and Opinion". Timesonline.co.uk. 1 May 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2012.[dead link]
- Arthur, Max (12 December 2005). "Col Jerzy Pajaczkowski". Obituaries. The Independent. London. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
- Veteran's Life in His Own Words, newsvote.bbc.co.uk; accessed 27 November 2014.