The Airmen's Stories - P/O W Lapkowski
Waclaw Lapkowski was born on 6th November 1913 and was serving in 112 Squadron of the Polish Air Force at the outbreak of war. On 6th September 1939 he shared a He111 and a Do17 with a He111 destroyed on the 9th.
On 17th September Lapkowski flew his P11C to Romania, when the Russians invaded Poland. He made his way to France and joined l’Armée de l’Air. He served with a fighter section, defending an aircraft factory at Romorantin.
He subsequently made his way to England, details unknown, and joined 303 squadron on the day it was formed at Northolt – 2nd August 1940. He claimed a Ju88 destroyed on 5th September. On that day he was himself shot down by a Me109 in combat over Gillingham. He baled out, with a broken leg and burns, landed at Hawkwell and was admitted to Rochford (Southend) Hospital. His Hurricane, P2985, crashed at Bonvill's Farm, North Benfleet.
(L to R): P/O W Lapkowski, P/O AR Zatonski ( a glove covering his burned hand), F/O RA McGowan, F/O HG Hardman.
Possibly taken at Torquay while all were convalescing.
Awarded the VM (5th Class, gazetted 23rd December 1940) Lapkowski did not return to the squadron until 6th January 1941. He returned from a sweep over France on the 22nd with 25 yards of telephone wire round his engine.
Lapkowski was awarded the KW (gazetted 1st April 1941) and was wounded on 13th April 1941 and admitted to hospital. Recovered, on 5th May he took command of 303 Squadron, on 4th June he damaged a Me109, on the 8th he destroyed one, on the 22nd two more, on the 24th another and on the 27th he damaged another.
On 2nd July 941 Lapkowski was leading 303, in Spitfire B8596, flying with the Polish Wing escorting Blenheims to Lille. They were attacked in mid-Channel by fifty Me109’s coming down from a higher altitude. Lapkowski was shot down. His body was washed ashore and he is buried in Lombardsidje Communal Cemetery, Belgium.
He was awarded a Bar to the KW (gazetted 10th April 1946) and two more Bars (gazetted 31st October 1947).
He is also commemorated on the Polish War Memorial at Northolt (above).