Battle of Britain.

Pilot Officer Waclaw Lapowski.

Grave of Pilot Officer Waclaw Lapkowski.
Copyright. The War Graves Photographic Project.
Lombardsidje Communal Cemetery. Belgium.
Copyright. The War Graves Photographic Project.

Pilot Officer Waclaw Lapkowski, was born on 6 November 1913.  Before the start of World War 2 he was serving in the Polish Air Force and at the outbreak he was with it’s 112 Squadron.  Wishing to support the British war effort against Germany he made his way to England and joined 303 Squadron based at Northolt.

On 5 September 1940 he was pilot of Hurricane P2985 and while in the in the sky over Gillingham, Kent, he was shot down by a Me109 (Messerschmitt).  He bailed out and landed at Hawkwell, Essex.  Suffering from a broken leg and burns he was taken to Rochford Hospital, Essex.  His Hurricane crashed on Bonville’s Farm, North Benfleet.  After recovering from the injuries he went on to fly in more combats.

His bravery recognised he was awarded Polands highest award for valour, the the VM ‘Virtuti Militari’ 5th Class, (gazetted 23 December 1940).   In 1941 he was awarded the KW ‘Kryz Walecznych’ Cross of Valour (gazetted 1 April 1941).

On 2 July 1941, while leading 303 Squadron in Spitfire B8596, escorting Blenheims to Lille, they were attacked over the English Channel by fifty Messerschmitts.  His Spitfire was shot down and Pilot Officer Lapkowski was killed.  His body was washed ashore and taken to the Lombardsidje Communal Cemetery, Belgium, for burial.

An additional picture is on the Air Crew Remembered site.

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  • Miraculously the frame of parts referred to above was re-entered in October’s auction. This time, to my enormous delight I bought it.

    By Keith Macaulay-Fraser (22/10/2017)
  • My son bought me the book, ‘With Great Sacrifice and Bravery’ last year. It’s a good read and the book is aptly named. Very brave people that we should never forget.

    By William West (30/09/2017)
  •  A frame containing twenty or so small parts of this Hurricane (and labelled thus) was auctioned at Brading (I.o.W.) yesterday.

    It made a derisory £55.

    By Keith Macaulay-Fraser (20/09/2017)
  • Hi Phil.

    Thanks for that info, a very interesting book. Sad that it takes so long to get permission to explore a WW2 crash site, as I`m sure Bill Keeling, showed me that engine valve in late 1960s, and as you say the Hurricane was not excavated till 1979. I must bear in mind, that the MOD would have to check if the pilot was not in the plane when it crashed, as then it would be classed as a war grave. 

    By John Wernham (28/07/2015)
  • Hi John,

    Thanks for the information. A search on the web shows these pictures from a book called “With Great Sacrifice and Bravery: The Career of Polish Ace Waclaw Lapkowski 1939-41” by Glenn A. Knoblock obtainable from Amazon. The Hurricane was excavated in 1979. These pictures of the parts can be seen on Google Books.

    By Phil Coley (26/07/2015)
  • Hi. Back in the late 1960`s Bill Keeling who`s father owned  Bonville`s farm back then, showed me a large inlet valve which he had ploughed up in one of his fields. I told him I believed it was from a Rolls-Royce Merlin Engine. ( The engines used to power the fighter planes and Bombers of WW2 ). He contacted the people that dig up old WW2 crash sites, and they did a search of his fields, and they found the crashed Hurricane. This must have been P.O. Waclaw Lapkowski plane. Where the remains of his Hurricane were taken to I do not know. But what I do know is without my boyhood interests in large powerful engines, this Hurricane would never have been found. 

    By John Wernham (21/07/2015)

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