The Airmen's Stories - F/Lt. Z Krasnodebski
Zdzislaw Krasnodebski enrolled in the Polish Army as a sixteen-year-old in 1920 and served in the conflict with Russia that lasted into 1921. When his army service ended he joined the Air Force in 1925 as a cadet, after basic training he went to the Military Aviation School, going with it to its permanent home at Deblin. He graduated on 15th August 1928 as a lieutenant observer and was posted to the 1st Aviation Regiment at Warsaw.
In 1929 he completed a pilot’s course and went in May 1930 to the 111th Fighter Squadron of the 1st Aviation Regiment ‘Kosciuszko’. Krasnodebski gradually rose through the ranks and was appointed commanding officer of the squadron in November 1935.
At the time of the German onslaught in September 1939, his squadron fielded 23 PZL P.11 aircraft. On the first day of combat Krasnodebski shared in destroying a Do17.
Later that day he was shot down by Me110’s and baled out. A Me110 approached to open fire on him but it was chased off by two of his colleagues. He returned to operations despite having been burned.
When the Russians invaded Eastern Poland Krasnodebski led his remaining aircraft to Romania, where they were abandoned, the airmen making their way to France to join the Polish detachments being set up there. Krasnodebski served with the French Air Force from 27th February till 18th June 1940, at the end in defence of the Hispano-Suiza plant at Limoges. from where they were evacuated to Bordeaux.
After the fall of France Krasnodebski escaped to the England, details currently unknown but in July 1940 he was assembled with other Polish airmen at Blackpool. Krasnodebski was commissioned in the RAF and was made joint CO of 303 Squadron at Northolt at its formation on 2nd August 1940.
He was shot down in combat with Me109’s on 6th September and baled out, badly burned. His Hurricane, P3974, crashed on Langley Park Golf Course near Beckenham, Kent.
Krasnodebski was admitted to Farnborough Hospital and later went to the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, where he underwent plastic surgery by Archie Mclndoe and became a ‘Guinea Pig’.
He was awarded the VM (5th Class)(gazetted 23rd December 1940) and this decoration was presented to him in hospital by General Sikorski (below). Krasnodebski returned to duty on 2nd June 1941 and was posted to Canada. He travelled through Canada and the USA as part of a mission to recruit young men of Polish descent to the Allied forces.
Back in the UK, he commanded RAF Heston from 1st April to 14th October 1943 when he was
posted to command RAF Northolt, remaining in this post until 17th February 1944. He was then seconded to 131 (Polish) Fighter Wing which was working up to take part in the invasion of Europe. Krasnodebski went to Staff College for a course on 2nd January 1945 after which he commanded the Polish Pilot School at RAF Newton from 15th October 1945 until his release in December 1946 as a Group Captain.
He was awarded the KW (gazetted 31st October 1947).
Krasnodebski’s wife Wanda had been trapped in Poland, she served in the Home Army and took part in the Warsaw Uprising. She was able to make her way to England in 1946 and together they emigrated in 1948 to Cape Town in South Africa. Krasnodebski was only able to find work as a taxi driver and in 1951 they moved to Canada where he had a successful career in the radio and TV industry.
Krasnodebski died in hospital in Toronto on 3rd August 1980.