Kosciuszko, Hendon Lamb and Mr. Merrill

Spitfire Site

This is a photo of Polish Sgt Wlodzimierz Chojnacki in his Spitfire, possibly taken at Northolt or Kirton in Lindsey in 1942. This gentleman ...

This is a photo of Polish Sgt Wlodzimierz Chojnacki in his Spitfire, possibly taken at Northolt or Kirton in Lindsey in 1942.

This gentleman is now living in Australia and aged 96 with his ex-WAF wife of 68 years. He has changed his name to Don Merrill for convenience. I am interviewing him with a view to collecting his stories, which in aviation terms began in 1932 when he began to fly in Poland.

The second photo at the bottom of this page is a document of Chojnacki’s first pilot’s course in 1932 (can you recognize the aircraft?).

Chojnacki career as a pilot begun in 1932 in Poznan, where he got his license. He quickly distinguished himself as a skilfull aviator. By the time the war broke out, he already was a qualified fighter instructor in the Polish Air Force.

Like many of his peers, after the demise of his home country Chojnacki escaped to Britain. There, for the 15 months’ in 1941 and 1942, he served with Nos. 303 and 129 Squadrons in which he flew Spitfires Mk. Vb and Vc.

After the Dieppe Raid where he flew on Operation Jubilee, he was awarded the Polish Cross of Valour which was presented to him by the Polish President at a special parade, about two weeks after the operation.

During his Flying Career, Wlodek flew nearly 4000 hours on 28 different types of aircraft.

Note the two emblems on the depicted Spitfire. The right one is the circular “Kosciuszko” emblem of No. 303 Squadron, commemorating a Polish general who fought in the American Revolutionary War (note that the emblem features the stars and stripes of the American flag). The second one, “Hendon Lamb” is a presentation name of this particular Spitfire, adorned by the coat of arms of Hendon – a Lamb carrying a St George’s Flag, which is seen on St Mary’s Church in the town.

The elaborate presentation logo is an interesting example of local patriotism – Hendon had become a municipal borough with its own mayor and the right to  to have its own coat of arms only eight years previously, in 1932 – when Chojnacki was going through his initial flying training…

No. 303 Squadron records indicate that the “Hendon Lamb” Spitfire was W3506, a Spitfire Mk. Vb marked RF-U.  This would date the photo to a period between 3 Oct 1941 (W3506 assigned to No. 303 Sqn) and 12 Apr 1942, when the same aircraft was lost. Damaged by a Fw 190 during a Circus 122 mission over France, it ditched five miles South-East off Dover; the pilot, P/O Wojda, was  rescued by an RAF launch.

[Don Merrill, via William Hart]

12 Comments | Add New

By Antoni Lachetta  |  2011-07-06 at 15:37  |  permalink

The aircraft is a Potez XXV, perhaps belonging to the Centralna Eskadra Treningowa based at Warsaw.

By Antoni Lachetta  |  2011-07-06 at 18:46  |  permalink

W3506 was one of four Presentation Spitfires purchased by the Hendon Fighter Four Fund, W3505 Hendon Endeavour, W3332 Hendon Griffin, W3506 Hendon Lamb, W3333 Hendon Pegasus. Each bore a crest based on a part of the Hendon Borough Council coat of arms.

W3506 never left Northolt. TOC 37 OTU 24th June 1941 and allocated to 306 (Polish) Squadron at Northolt on 6th July. Transferred to 303 Squadron on 3rd October when 303 squadron returned to Northolt. (It was the normal practice for the outgoing squadron to leave its aircraft behind for the incoming squadron.) On 8th December F/Lt Adamek shot down a FW 190 into the Channel. On 9th April 1942 it went to Heston Aircraft for minor repairs returning two days later. On 12th April while participating in Circus 122 it was hit in the engine by a Bf 109 and ditched in the Channel four miles south-east of Dover. P/O Wojda was wounded but picked up safely.

The photograph is well known and in the collection of the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum. The person in the cockpit is usually identified as F/O T.B.Simm, a RAF pilot briefly serving with 303 Squadron. (The Polish Air Force at War. The Official History 1939 – 1943. Jerzy B Cynk. Schiffer Military History 1998.)

Tadeusz Kościuszko is a hero to both the American and Polish peoples. More of an engineer than a soldier his contribution to the American War of Independence was in the construction of fortifications etc. Afterwards he returned to Poland where he led an eponymous anti-Russian revolt in 1794.

July 1919 saw the birth of an idea that American flyers should join Polish forces in their war against the Bolsheviks. The concept was put forward by Merian C Cooper who, rather than return home after Armistice, went to Poland as an Allied observer and advisor at the time of the fighting over Lwów. On his return to Paris he presented his idea of forming an air squadron, asking American colleagues to join the venture.

After talks with the Polish Prime Minister and other representatives, eight pilots signed contracts to serve in the Polish Armed Forces. By October the number had risen to ten. They failed to obtain approval to form an autonomous squadron and were posted to the 7th Air Squadron at Lwów. On 18th October Lt Rayski gave over command of the unit to Maj Cedric Faunt-Le-Roy but stayed on for a few more weeks to introduce the Americans into the organisation of the Polish Air Force. From that time the unit was known as the 7th Combat Squadron ‘Tadeusz Kościuszko’. After the Polish-Bolshevik War the premier fighter squadron of the Polish Air Force, in recognition of the service provided by the American volunteers, adopted the traditions and emblem of the ‘Kościuszko Squadron’.

The emblem was designed by one of the airmen, Lt Elliot Chess. The thirteen red and white stripes and blue stars of background represent the thirteen states the founded the United States of America. Superimposed are the symbols of the ‘Kościuszko Rebellion’ of 1794, the Cracow region peasant’s cap and scythes modified by blacksmiths into a type of pyke.

By William Hart  |  2011-07-08 at 00:24  |  permalink

Reference the comments by Antoni Lachetta, the pilot is quite definitely Sgt.Wlodzimierz Chojnacki who I have known for some time now. He has in his possession the Official Air Ministry Photographs given to him at the time. If the Polish Institute & Sikorski Museum has him wrongly identified as F/O T.B Simm then they need to correct it. I can find no record of a pilot of that name in the 303 Squadron Diary covering the period that the aircraft was on their charge. As it was a publicity photo, probably for the benefit of the people of Henon who donated their momey, it may well be that a fictitious name was used as Wlodzimierz to protect his extended family in Poland. Hope this clears up the confusion

By William Hart  |  2011-07-08 at 14:08  |  permalink

Corrected last line above should read….

As it was a publicity photo, probably for the benefit of the people of Hendon who donated their money, it may well be that a fictitious name was used to protect Wlodzimierz’s extended family in Poland.

By Editor  |  2011-07-22 at 21:44  |  permalink

Got this via email from the Spitfire Assiciation:

Dear fellow member

Bill Hart an experienced veteran has sent this in.

Martin Waligorski, a well known identity around the world when it comes to Spitfire aircraft, runs an interesting web site in the UK called, “The Spitfire Site”.

May we suggest you take off and land on Martin’s site and have a recce?

Bill said, amongst other things, “There’s a typo saying they have been married for 86 years, must have been me typing after midnight and after a strong scotch! as my fingers must have got crossed, so read 68 instead.”

I reckon Martin can fix that for you Bill. Just click on the LINK and good luck.


That was quite a silly mistake on my part.. Corrected now. Thanks so much for writing.

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