The Airmen's Stories - F/O W Zak
Walerian Zak was born in Bobrka, SE Poland on 14th April 1911. He joined the Polish Air Force as an officer cadet and was commissioned in 1934 at the Deblin Officers School as an Observer.
He was posted to the 1st Air Regiment in Warsaw but returned to Deblin after this posting to train as a pilot. He completed flying training and was posted to the 112th Fighter Squadron. In 1938 he was posted to the Advanced Flying Training School in Grudziadz as an instructor, in March 1939 the school moved to Ulez near Deblin. In September 1939 he fought in the Deblin Group, composed of instructors defending the airfield.
After the Polish collapse he escaped, like many other Polish airmen, through Romania to France where he was absorbed into the Polish contingent of the l'Armee de l'Air and assigned to a unit operating from Clermont-Ferrand. When the armistice was declared he escaped again to England, arriving there on 27th June 1940.
After training in RAF procedures he was posted to 303 Squadron at Northolt on 21st August 1940.
He claimed a Do17 destroyed on 15th September and a He111 on the 26th. He was shot down in Hurricane V7289 in combat over the Horsham area on the 27th, baled out and was admitted to Leatherhead Hospital with burns.
Zak was awarded the KW and Bar (gazetted 1st February 1941) and posted for a rest to the 303 Squadron Operations Room on 22nd May 1941. He was appointed a Flight Commander in 303 Squadron on 9th July 1941 and posted away to 58 OTU Grangemouth on 4th December as an instructor.
Zak rejoined 303 Squadron, then at Northolt, on 7th April 1942 as a Flight Commander then was made CO on 6th May, serving as such until the 25th of that month, when he took command of 308 (Polish) Squadron 'City of Kracow'.
He took command of 308 Squadron at Hutton Cranswick on 27th May and was awarded the VM (5th Class) (gazetted 15th November 1942).
Zak probably destroyed a Fw190 on 3rd February 1943 and was posted away to HQ 12 Group on the 13th as Polish liaison officer. On 29th June Zak was appointed Wing Leader of 133 (Polish) Wing at Kirton-in-Lindsey, moving on to lead 18 Wing on 4th October 1943.
He was posted away to HQ 11 Group on 15th February 1944 and awarded two more Bars to the KW (gazetted 15th February 1944).
Zak went to HQ ADGB on 24th April and was awarded the DFC (gazetted 15th April 1944). He moved to 61 OTU on 8th January 1945 and then to RAF Coltishall on 18th July. Zak's final posting was to 5 RU on 15th January 1947 as Senior Admin Officer.
Zak remained in the UK and died on 13th March 1969 in Surbiton.