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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. J Palak


Jan Palak was born on 12th February 1911 in Kozlowszczyzna, Poland. He studied aviation mechanics before starting his military service in the army in 1932. He then enlisted in the air force and at the time of the German onslaught was serving as an instructor at the Academy at Deblin.

Like many other Polish airmen he escaped through Romania to France and was accepted in the Armee de l'Air. He was posted to GC I/145, an all-Polish unit, operating the MS406 from Lyon-Bron.


Above image courtesy of Jaroslaw Gwardys via Joel Diggle.


The unit was in action after the German attack in the West and operated from Mions, Dreux, Sermaises and Chateauroux. Its last base before the Armistice was Rochefort and from here Palak made his way to La Rochelle where he was able to embark on a ship for England.

After assessment and training at 3 School of Technical Training at Blackpool he was posted to 302 Squadron at Leconfield on 23rd July 1940.

He claimed a Me109 probably destroyed and shared a Do17 on 15th September. He moved to 303 Squadron at Northolt on the 23rd and claimed a Me109 destroyed on 5th October.

Palak was awarded the KW (gazetted 1st February 1941) and Bar (gazetted 10th September 1941).

On 25th January 1942 he went to 58 OTU Grangemouth as an instructor. A return to operations came on 29th June 1942 when he rejoined 303 Squadron at Kirton-in-Lindsey.

Promoted to Warrant Officer on 1st September 1942, Palak went to the squadron's Operations Room on 11th September 1943. He was awarded a second Bar to the KW (gazetted 20th October 1943).

He moved to the Northolt Operations Room on 23rd November and remained there until 18th April 1944 when he rejoined 302 Squadron, then at Deanland.

Palak was posted to 411 Repair and Salvage Unit on 18th March 1945 as a test pilot. He was awarded the VM (5th Class)(gazetted 1st June 1945) and the DFC (gazetted 10th April 1946).

His subsequent movements are currently undocumented though it is known that he died on 10th February 1987 and lies in Haycombe Cemetery, Bath, Somerset.


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