Tadeusz Krzystek (1919-2013)
e was born on 10 April 1919 in Lutynia Dolna, Zaolzie, which at that time was called Niemiecka. His adventure with aviation was inspired by the achievements of our airmen, when Jerzy Bajan won the Challenge competition organized by the Aero Club of Poland in 1934. Two years later he completed his first gliding course in Goleszów near Cieszyn. Within the next six months became a category C glider pilot. To continue training, in 1937 Krzystek joined the Labour Corps, thus after a year, he could choose some kind of professional course. In his case, of course, it was to be a military pilot course. In spare time he participated in the training organized by the Aero Club of Lwów in Bezmiechowa.
In April 1939 Tadeusz Krzystek entered to the army, and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the School of Air Force in Świecie near Wisła. “The barracks were on the edge of town and already housed two companies of Air Force N.C.O.’s Training School transported from Krosno” (included quotes come from unpublished memoirs of Tadeusz Krzystek). Unfortunately, due to a vision defect, he was not qualified for flying personnel. He was trained as aircraft engine mechanic.
During the September 1939 campaign, along with the 2nd Battalion, he was captured by the Soviets in the area of Kovel. As a prisoner he performed mainly road maintenance in different camps, and by mid-1941, when the Germans attacked the Soviet Union, he was in Skniłowo near Lwów. He was evacuated to a camp in Starobielsk, where after an amnesty, he was assigned to an Air Force Battalion.
The Krzystek’s route took to Great Britain was through Iran, Palestine, Port Suez, by sea to Mombasa, Durban, Johannesburg and Pernambuco. Finally, in November 1942 he reported to the Polish Air Force Base in Blackpool, where formerly was a disbanded his Air Force Battalion. During medical examinations he received his RAF service number (704615) but, to his chagrin, there was an entry in his documents to allocate him to the “general ground duties”. His disappointment was all the greater that the first unit of the Polish Air Force, where he came to serve in the United Kingdom, was 16 (Polish) Service Flying Training School. In March 1943 Tadeusz Krzystek was transferred to the Polish Technical Training School, where he attended a course for a second degree in flight instruments mechanics. After completion of training and receiving a rank of Leading Aircraftman, he was assigned to 302 Polish Fighter Squadron. A few months later, he began 1st degree training, after which in May 1944 he was assigned to the 315 Polish Fighter Squadron which operated in 133 Polish Wing. He served there until the end of war.
In October 1945, Tadeusz Krzystek enrolled in the newly established Polish Air Force Association in Great Britain. Over the next two years he served in RAF stations Cammeringham, Cosford (where he completed an instructor’s course), Framlingham, and finally after signing the contract under the Polish Resettlement Corps in stations RAF Driffield in 10 Air Navigation School and RAF Feltwell. After eight years of service in November 1947 he returned to civilian life initially working as a watchmaker (in the second half of the 50’s he graduated from Croydon University with an engineering degree).
After leaving the service, Tadeusz Krzystek actively participated in the life an émigré. In 1964, at airfield Lasham, which was the base for PAFA Glider Club, he hosted Polish glider pilots Edward Makuła and Józef Dankowski (one of the many Krzystek’s guests at the club airfield was one whose achievements his admired in his youth, płk Jerzy Bajan). In the same year he met with them again during his first, since the end of the war, visit to the home country. In the years 1966-1975 Tadeusz Krzystek served as President of the Polish Air Force Association Gliding Club, and was a licensed instructor the British Gliding Association (at the same time he obtained a PPL license as well). In 1970, he earned the coveted “diamond” for glider pilot badge. As one of the founding members of the Polish Automobile Club in England, for many years he served as Secretary of the Club. As a navigator he participated in rallies, organized under the auspices of the Royal Automobile Club, in Southern England and North Wales.
In the 60’s, Tadeusz Krzystek was Honorary Treasurer of the Polish Air Force Association in the Great Britain, a member of the Association Council, and over the next 24 years its General Secretary. In 1981, on behalf of the veterans’ organizations, he put in the hands of Winston Churchill a letter of protest about the Polish government’s proposal for an exhumation of gen. Władysław Sikorski (of course, here we mean the grandson of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was born in 1940, a member of the British House of Commons). After the political changes in Poland Tadeusz Krzystek participated in organizing the transfer of the Polish Air Force in Great Britain banner to the Command of the Polish Air Force and Air Defence.
In 1999, after the Polish Air Force Association disbanded, tadeusz Krzystek was appointed to the position of Office Manager and Treasurer of the PAFA Foundation. He held this position until his retirement in 2004 at the age of 85. He lived in Penrhos Care Home, North Wales, where, on behalf of the Association, for many years, he was one of the directors (after 34 years, at his own request, he resigned from the board). In 1998, together with his wife Anna and with the help of Mrs Danuta Sławińska, from the PAFA, they rewrote and organized the inventory of Polish personnel provided by the Ministry of Defence of those who during the war served in the Royal Air Force. Numbering over 600 pages, the list (16,868 names of airmen who served in the Polish Air Force in Great Britain and 1,313 women in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) is an invaluable source of information for historians and families of airmen (Tadeusz Jerzy Krzystek, Anna Krzystek, “Polish Air Force in Britain between in years 1940-1947”). After his retirement he continued work on the list. In 2007 the first edition was released, the second edition followed a year later and the last one in 2012.
Every year Tadeusz Krzystek visited Warsaw and on Polish Air Force Day, at the monument in the Pole Mokotowskie, paid tribute to his fallen colleagues. We planned our next meeting for August 2013 (he was a member of the Honourary Council of the Polish Aviation Historical Foundation). Tadeusz Krzystek died in Penrhos on February 18, 2013.
On April 10, 2013, the ashes of Tadeusz Krzystek were interred in the Polish Air Force Cemetery in Newark in the UK. He rests among those who were always close to him (at the Cemetery of Polish Air Force in Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire during the war, 353 airmen were buried. After the war in the Polish Air Force Association area on of the cemetery about 40 additional veterans are buried).
Piotr Hodyra, “Skrzydlata Polska” 4/2013