Veteran Polish RAF hero dies in UK
PR dla Zagranicy
Franciszek Kornicki, winner of “The People’s Spitfire Pilot” title this year , has died a month before his 101st birthday. The news of his death was announced to the Polish Press Agency by his son Richard.
Franciszek Kornicki as a young pilot. Photo: Gabukasv/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
He died on Thursday, with his wife, Pat, and two sons, Peter and Richard, as his side. He had been married for 69 years.
“We have lost our beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Long live his memory!”, Richard Kornicki wrote.
His biography compiled by the Friends of the RAF Museum group says that after the invasion of Poland in September 1939 by both Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, Franciszek Kornicki “found himself flying an outdated PZL P.7 fighter in a losing battle. Undaunted by the collapse of Poland’s defences, he, like thousands of other servicemen, made his way to Britain to continue fighting.
“His ability as a pilot and quiet authority were noticed and, in February 1943, he took command of 308 Squadron which operated Spitfire Vbs. He was, at 26, the youngest squadron commander in the Polish Air Force. After surviving more than three years in the front line, Franciszek Kornicki became a staff officer in 1944. After the war, Poland was controlled by Stalin’s communists, so he decided to remain in exile and joined the RAF; serving as an officer for over 20 years.” He retired in 1972.
Two months ago, Franciszek Kornicki scored a landslide victory in a poll to select a Spitfire pilot with the most captivating individual story to be highlighted at a major exhibition marking next year’s centenary of the Royal Air Force.
His full-length image will be turned into a life-sized cut-out to stand beside an iconic Spitfire VB BL614 in the exhibition gallery.
Kornicki’s honours included the Order of the Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Valour and the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.
Adam Kwiatkowski, a senior official in Polish President Andrzej Duda’s Office, told the Polish Press Agency: “Another hero of the struggle for an independent and free Poland has passed away. Colonel Kornicki was among those who created our history. It is a challenge for us to see to it that young generations remember these heroes.”