Anton (Anthony) WITKOWSKI

by his son

Anton was born in 1913 in Minsk, Poland to Stanislaw and Krystyna Witkowski. In 1917, the family moved to Wilno where his Grandmother lived. His father worked as a Railway Official and his mother was a Midwife. His father was a keen gardener and kept busy in their garden and orchard..

Anton was an Altar boy at St. Anne's Catholic Church in Wilno. He was a very keen stamp collector and had quite a valuable collection before the war.  He also enjoyed playing hockey.  After graduating from college, he worked in a Power Station as an electrician, before joining the Polish Air Force.  

When WW2 broke out, Anton was stationed at the 5th Regiment barracks near Wilno, and took part in the September Campaign.  His father had died and he had to leave his mother behind, as his unit had to flee the advance of the German forces.  Anton fled to Romania, where he was interned in various camps.  Along with his comrades, he was put to work on a farm where they  were given very little food.  He was very lucky to survive, as many of his comrades did not. A group of them managed to escape the farm and reached Bucharest.  

In March of 1940, Anton left Romania and made his way by sea to Haifa, Palestine via Istanbul, Turkey, arriving on 25 Oct 1940.  At Christmas, he visited Bethlehem for Midnight Mass. The choir on the night was made up of Polish Airmen. It was one of the most moving experiences he had.

In October, he was posted to the Reserve Centre of the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade.  It had been formed in April 1940 from Polish exiles in the French Levant (now known as Syria), as part of the French forces there. It included two infantry regiments, a cavalry regiment (Carpathian Lancers), and supporting units (including a Carpathian HMG Battalion) numbering 3500 soldiers. In June 1940,, the Brigade came under British control and moved to Palestine.  The Brigade fought at Tobruk in North Africa, and in March 1942, withdrew through Egypt to Palestine to reorganize.

Anton made his way to England in 1941, where he rejoined the Polish Air Force.  He was posted to the Polish Air Force Depot, RAF Station, in Blackpool. 

After the Germans bombed her house, Anton‘s mother moved to Biala Podlaska.  The valuable stamp collection was lost in the destruction.  Later in the war, the Russians interned her for two years.

Anton‘s service record shows that during WW2 he was stationed at many different Air Force Bases throughout the UK, such as Cranwell, Sealand, Northolt, etc.  He was with the 306 Spitfire Squadron, as an Electrical Engineer working on Spitfires.  He trained at the Signal School in Radio Signals and Communications at Cranwell.  Later, he went on to be a Signals Instructor at the school. 

His service record includes the following information:

19-9-1941 - No 1 Signals School, RAF Station Cranwell
23-1-1942 - No 306 Polish Spitfire Fighter Squadron
2-10-1942 - No 30 Maintenance Unit, RAF Station Sealand
15-3-1944 - No 131 Airfield HQ RAF, Station Northolt
24-4-1944 - No 6308 Service, Echelon (on the continent)
14-1-1946 - No 6315 Service, Echelon
08-8-1946 - No 1 Radio School, RAF Station Cranwell

 

Anton went on to serve with the 306 Spitfire Squadron, (Badge "Torunski") which was manned by Polish personnel and equipped with Hurricanes.  It became operational on 8th September and moved to Northolt in April 1941 to take part in sweeps over northern France.  In October 1941, it was allocated to the defense of Merseyside. Spitfires replaced Hurricanes in July 1941 and, in December, the squadron moved to south-west England to undertake sweeps over north-west France.  After a few weeks in Lincolnshire, No.306 was back at Northolt for further sweeps until moving to Yorkshire in March 1944, where it converted to Mustangs.  It helped cover the landings in Normandy, then combated flying bombs over southeast England. In October 1944, the squadron moved to East Anglia for bomber escort duties, a task which it carried out until the end of the war.  The squadron remained in Fighter Command until it was disbanded on 6 January 1947.

Following demobilization, Anton enlisted in the Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC).  He served in the UK until finally discharged at the rank of L.A.C, on 15 of January 1949, on absorption into civilian industry.

Anton was awarded the following medals:

  • Polish Air Force Medal with 2 Bars

  • the 1939/45 Star

  • the France and Germany Stars

  • the Defence Medal

  • the War Medal 1939/45 

  • Research shows his name is on a list of the Virtuti Militari Medal for his services in the War.  This medal is equivalent to the British Victoria Cross. 

 

The family believes he never received the Virtuti Militari medal and there may be a chance they can obtain it, as well as the other medals.

Anton’s service was unique, because he served in both the Army and the Air Force, which means he wore two uniforms during the war and two sets of insignias.


He was entitled to wear the following insignias:

  • 10 Year Long Service medal

  • WWII Army Medal

  • WWII Victory Medal

  • September 1939 Medal

  • September 1939 Cross

  • WWII Fighters of Freedom Cross and badge

  • Signal Corps Training Center

  • Radio School badge

  • Signal Corps School badge

  • 5th Air Force Regiment badge

  • 306th Torun Fighter Squadron badge

  • Radio crewmembers wings

  • Independent Carpathian Regiment badge

  • Polish II Corps badge

  • POLAND patch

  • 2nd Corps sleeve patch

  • 8th British Army patch

  • Carpathian Rifle Division patch

  • Repatriation Corps patch

  • WWII Exile Cross of Freedom Crowned Eagle

  • Air Force Crowned Eagle

  • Both pre WWII and WWII issue Air Force patch

  • Army Crowned Eagle

 

In 1944, he had married Mary Prendergast at St Chad's RC Church in Cheetham. The family still has the case Antoni kept with him from 1939, where his mother had placed a picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa (the Black Madonna).  His last known address in Poland was 3 Maja No 36 Slonim, County of Nowegrodek (now in Belarus).

 

Anton worked until retirement as an electrician at Bradford Colliery.  During his life in the UK he continued his hobby of stamp collecting.

Source:  A. Witkowski at BBC website: bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar

LAC Anton Witkowski ( far right of picture) & his pals in RAF 306 Spitfire Squadron.