Pilot, Polish Air Force in Poland and in the UK
Gen. Stanisław Skalski, the first Pole to command a RAF squadron, was born on 27 October 1915 in the village of Kodyn, north of the Russian city of Odessa. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 his father sent him and his mother to Zbaraz, near Lwow.
After attending school in Dubno, Stanislaw learnt to fly gliders in 1934, and the following year he qualified on powered aircraft. He now decided to become a military pilot and entered the cadet school at Deblin in 1936. He completed his training in October 1938, graduating as an officer.
Skalski was assigned to the 4th Air Regiment at Torun, where he joined 142 Squadron, operating PZL fighters.
In September 1939, fighting in Poland, Skalski landed beside a Hs126 on the 1st and collected maps and documents from it.
On 2 September, he destroyed two Do17’s. On 3 September, he shared in destroying two Hs126’s and damaged a Do17. On 4 September, he destroyed a Ju87 and damaged a Do17.
After the fall of Poland, Skalski made his way via Romania to the Mediterranean and boarded a ship for England. Skalski was commissioned in the RAF in January 1940 at Eastchurch. On 1 June 1940, he was sent to the Polish Wing at the School of Technical Training in Blackpool, to await a posting.
From 5 July to 13 July 1940, he was on the first Polish Pilots Course at No. 1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum. He arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 14 July. After converting to Hurricanes, he joined 302 Squadron at Leconfleld on 3 August. 1940.
However, he was posted back to Blackpool on 12 August, then was posted to 501 Squadron at Gravesend on the 27th.
Skalski claimed a He111 destroyed and another damaged on the 30 August, destroyed a Me109 on the 31 August, damaged a Me110 on 1 September, destroyed two Me109’s on 2 September and shot down a He111 and two more Me109’s on the 5 September.
On this day Skalski was shot down by Me109’s in combat over Canterbury in Hurricane V6644. He was injured and admitted to Herne Bay Hospital.
He rejoined his squadron on 16 October and was operational again on 25 October. On 8 November, he shared in the destruction of a Me109.
Awarded the VM (5th Class) he was posted to 306 Squadron at Tern Hill on 25 February 1941.
Skalski destroyed Me109’s on 24 July 1941 and 19 August and 21 August. He was appointed Flight Commander on 15 August, awarded the KW and Bar, and destroyed two more Me109’s on 17 September.
In October, Skalski was posted to 58 OTU Grangemouth as an instructor.
He was awarded two more Bars to the Cross of Valour and the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). On 1 March 1942, Skalski joined 316 Squadron at Northolt as ‘B’ Flight Commander.
He destroyed a Fw190 on 10 April, damaged a Me109 on 25 April and probably destroyed a Fw190 on 3 May. He was given command of 317 Squadron, also at Northolt, on 11 June 1942. Skalski was awarded a Bar to the DFC and posted away on 2 November to 58 OTU Balado Bridge as CFI.
Skalski was sent to West Kirby on 13 February 1943 to prepare for overseas service. On 13 March, arrived in the Middle East in a C-47, with other Polish pilots, to form the Polish Fighting Team, otherwise known as Skalski’s Circus. They were attached to 145 Squadron and operated in the Western Desert from 17 March.
On 28 March Skalski destroyed a Ju88, on 2 April and 4 April, he destroyed Me109’s and on 6 April damaged another. The Team, led by Skalski, operated until 12 May and by that time had destroyed thirty enemy aircraft.
In mid-July 1943, Skalski took command of 601 Squadron at Luqa, Malta. He was only the second Polish pilot to be given command of an RAF squadron. Shortly afterwards the squadron moved to Sicily.
Skalski left 601 in early October 1943 to return to the UK. He was awarded another Bar to the DFC and appointed Wing Leader of 131 Wing at Northolt on 13 December.
Skalski moved to lead 133 Wing on 11 April 1944, with three Polish Mustang squadrons. He destroyed two Me109’s on 24 June.
Skalski was posted away from the Wing on 12 July, and was awarded the VM (4th Class). He attended a course at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on 4 October.
He returned to the UK in late January 1945 and was posted to HQ 11 Group as Wing Commander Ops. He was awarded the DSO.
At the end of the war, Skalski was offered a commission in the RAF, but he decided to return to Poland in June 1947. Initially, he served at the headquarters of the Soviet-controlled Polish Air Force but, following increasing tension between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers, he was arrested in June 1948 and charged with espionage and treason, as were many of his ex-RAF Polish colleagues.
In 1949, after a series of interrogations, he was condemned to death and spent the next six years awaiting execution. Eventually, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, and he was finally released in 1956 after eight years in prison.
Skalski was later in charge of aero clubs in Poland. He died on 12 November 2004 in Warsaw.