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The Airmen's Stories - P/O L Martel


Ludwik Martel was born on 5th March 1919 in Piotrkow Trybunalski, south of Lodz.

After secondary school he studied textiles at the Lodz State School of Science and Industry. He attended the Reserve Officer Cadet School of Aviation in Radom. In September 1939 he was evacuated to Romania, via Yugoslavia and Italy to France.

He elected to carry on to England, arriving at RAF Eastchurch in early January 1940. He was commissioned in the RAFVR in May and from 1st June he was at the Polish Wing at 3 School of Technical Training Blackpool to await a posting.



He was at No. 1 School of Army Co-operation Old Sarum from 22nd to 29th July for testing and grading.

Martel arrived at 7 OTU Hawarden on 29th July and after converting to Spitfires joined 54 Squadron at Hornchurch on 23rd August. Martel transferred to the Polish Air Force on 6th August.

He made no flights with the squadron until 6th September, three days after 54 Squadron had moved north to Catterick. Martel was posted to 603 Squadron at Hornchurch on 28th September 1940.

He damaged a Me109 on 2nd October and destroyed one on 5th October. He was wounded in action on the 25th and was made non-effective sick. He returned to operations on 6th November. On the 7th he shared in the destruction of a Me110.

Martel was posted to 317 Squadron at Acklington on 19th March 1941. He was awarded the KW (gazetted 1st April 1941) and was rested on 28th January 1942, going to 58 OTU Grangemouth as an instructor. Martel returned to 317 Squadron on 25th August.

He went to West Kirby on 13th February 1943, to prepare for overseas service and on 13th March arrived in the Middle East in a C-47 along with other Polish pilots. They formed the Polish Fighting Team, otherwise known as Skalski’s Circus.

They were attached to 145 Squadron and operated in the Western Desert from 17th March to 12th May 1943 and destroyed 30 enemy aircraft. Martel damaged a Fw190 on 4th April and destroyed a Me109 and damaged a Mc200 on the 20th.

Back in the UK, Martel returned to 317 Squadron on 22nd July 1943. He was posted to 16 FTS Newton on 20th August as an instructor, but went back to 317 on 4th November as a Flight Commander.

Martel was awarded two Bars to the KW (gazetted 20th December 1943). Tour-expired, he was posted to HQ Polish Air Force on 12th September 1944 and awarded the VM (5th Class) (gazetted 25th September 1944).

Martel was attached to the School of Air Support at Old Sarum on 4th March 1945 for a course. He went to HQ BAFO in January 1946 for Operations Room duties and served with 131 Wing from 14th October 1946 until released from the Polish Air Force in January 1947 as a Flight Lieutenant.

Postwar he flew crop-spraying aircraft in East Africa but returned to London and ran a successful property maintenance business. He was a prominent member and trustee of the Polish Air Force Association.

Martel died on 25th April 2010.

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