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  1. Hello Britmodellers, My Grandfather (in-law) was with 145 Sqd (PFT) in North Africa. This thread is too help with a little real life account of a young English Flt Engineer looking after Skalski & Krols Merlins as his first assignment. The entire ground crew were English and were a close nit bunch working hard to keep the Spitfires working. I have included Q&A (Blue text) from Polish members to bring dialogue up to date. Please feel free to answer the questions i have for Brit members...I know Brit members know their history and if this little input helps with any 145 Spitfire builds then great, its just a little more information for you.....enjoy! Mechanic - Dennis came to 145Sqd after he finished his MU training (Maintenance Unit) in Egypt. He went on his own and from this unit to work with 145Sqd all English ground crew. He volunteered for this as he was ready and wanted in on the "action". “The Polish certainly delivered plenty of action he said”. MU Training just before assigned to 145 sqd The ground crew arrived at their airfield a couple of days before the PFT. They quickly got to know the tenacity of the Poles and easy nature outside the cockpit! “as long as the aircraft were tip top they were happy”. “Always eager to fly and get at the enemy” Hi, Thanks for your email, most interesting! There is nothing on PFT (as Polish flight is commonly known, usually dubbed Skalski's Circus) ground crew, so this is very precious information. As you probably know, there are no PFT pilots alive, Martel was the last, and Skalski predeceased him. There are many questions to be asked. What Dennis had been doing, ie. What kind of fitter he was and did he work on a particular plane or on all of them? Does he remember any other ground crew? Does he have any photos? I have some of PFT, so I can send them in turn. Best wishes Does Dennis remember anything particular in regard of Skalski? Any story? Also, did he recognise 'his' pilots, or alternately, does he remember number of 'his' plane, he serviced? Does he remember any of his colleagues? I mean fellow mechanics? It would be nice to establish a list of them, as they are not mentioned by name in the Operations Record Book of 145 Sqn. Skalski - I have visited Dennis this morning and we talked about 145Sqd. Dennis mentioned that he was "Skalski, s" engine man so he would have got to know him better than the other pilots! This came as a big surprise to me as Skalski is one of the No1 Polish pilot aces. “A Quiet deep thinking man small in stature but very well respected by ground crew and fellow pilots”. Polish pilot killed - Dennis recalls a Polish fighter pilot getting killed as he "broke away" from the STD 6 formation and went after 2 109,s. Polish pilot killed - actually he was not. His name Mieczyslaw Wyszkowski, and he went after two 109s indeed. Bounced, wounded, he force landed his aircraft and was taken PoW. Returned to the UK after the war, and in the late 1940s returned to Poland. He passed away in 1970s, but not before he wrote few books about his experiences. Mieczyslaw Wyszkowski - I will ask Dennis if he remembers his name and if this was the pilot - it sounds as it was indeed him! He will be pleased to hear that he survived but was taken prisoner! Mieczyslaw Wyszkowski - I have just phoned Dennis regarding Wyskowski and it was indeed him because he knew he has a surname sounding like ending in "Skalski" and add "Wysko" and you get "Wyskowski" a very young pilot, intelligent and full of fighting spirit. He was very pleased to hear that he survived the attack, at the time they all thought he had died. Human ballast – Ground crew had to jump on many occasions from the rear tail wings inc Dennis on one occasion – “they were eager to up”! Cry with pride – Dennis recalls actually crying with pride when all the Merlin engines fired up one by one! Spitfire’s colours - Dennis remembers the Beige and dark brown with red spinners and of course the Polish logo. Hello Franek, Whilst Dennis was in N.Afrika with 81sqd his superiors asked for volunteers to be with 145sqd Polish, so he thought it would be interesting! He can’t remember the exact Spitfire, it war a "ZX" something (now known as Zx-1 then 5 & Knolls ZX-6), he has an excellent memory, he might remember soon. He remembers a Skalski though! I am concentrating on 145 now as i have just finished his Burma campaign "op Broadway". Dennis liked the Polish pilot as they were easy going and he would have liked staying with them through Italy and Europe. I will find out more, send me any photos to show Dennis and he may remember more! Regarding his planes, the first was Mk V Trop ZX-1 - I do not have any pictures. Then, there was Mk IX ZX-1, until lost by another pilot, force landed at Gabes. The colour photo shows the aircraft during repairs there. It did not return. Then Skalski flew ZX-5, and then ZX-6. Mechanics - does he remember any other men, their names? Perhaps he has any photos by any chance? Colours - if you have a closer look, you will find that ZX-1 (obvious - colour pic), ZX-5 and ZX-0 look very much desert scheme or beige and brown. ZX-6 looks distinctly different however, as is unmarked Mk IX of LC Wade. Most likely they were in dark green, brown and sky scheme, but there are some suggestions, they could have been in dark blue-grey, brown, sky scheme as used on some Malta Spitfires. Another option is that different batch of beige and brown was used, hence different look. I can imagine after so many years it is hard to remember, though. Other Spitfire - Dennis also looked after Skalski,s next in command Spitfire ZX..? in the sqd, maybe you also know who this is ? Skalski's deputy was Waclaw Krol I think. He was one of the few, and already an experienced ace. Actually, he was angry to not be the leader! He mostly flew ZX-4, and I think he mentioned he had a Scottish fitter. Mind you the team was not ordinary unit, but rather a sort of blacksheep squadron, formed of the men just too eager too fights. They were not much on the drill side. Krol - I will mention "Krol" and see if it was his Spitfire he also helped out with ! This photo looks like a 145sqd Spitfire but as the photo says it was taken at Foggia - Italy (Dennis says) so it must be a 81sqd (FL - 8 ) as apposed to a (ZX - 8) of 145 sqd.....can you help ? ps...looks like a tropical filter is on the ground in front of the prop! Possible 145 spitfire (ZX-8) with 81sqd....any ideas? Geez, it knocked me down! Few points. It is Mark V, clearly, with three bladed prop. It has a digit. It is important, because PFT, being C Flight was cyphers rather than letters. When they were disbanded, their Mk IXs went to other squadrons, and a number of them adopted digits rather than letters to differentiate them from Mk Vs, like 43 or 601 Sqn. So a Mk V with a digit would have been unusual. Also, 81 Sqn already had Mk IXs, and used letters. Please, note, the style of code letters is completely different, and the style of '8' is consistent with PFT markings! If it is ZX-8 indeed, then it seems it is ES133. It did little flying. On 23 March: 10.10 - 11.10 Independent cover P/O Kowalski (returned early at 10.35); 13.35 - 13.40 Test F/Lt Horbaczewski; 16.25 - 17.10 Sweep W/O Popek. On 24 March: 10.15 - 11.10 Interception Gabes - Mareth P/O Kowalski; 16.35 - 18.05 Top Cover F/O Wyszkowski. And that was all, they converted to Mk IXs, and continued on them. The photo is of very good quality, and this suggests a pro photographer, rather than any serviceman. There was a visit of photo correspondents in March 1943, and they photographed a number of airmen in front of Wade's ZX-E, so perhaps it was at the time, mechanics got together on one of their planes? Amazing! May I ask for a high quality scan of the picture, please? And are there any more pics? Best wishes Browsed through ER and ES Spitfires, and found only one loss, which would fit. ES114 Vc CBAF M46 33MU 8-11-42 76MU 16-11-42 Guinean 30-11-42 Takoradi NWAfrica FAC2 9-1-43 Middle East 31-3-43 Damaged in air raid Salerno 18-9-43 SOC 1-12-43 Interestingly, ZX-4 was ES214, and the record for it is as follows. ES214 Vc CBAF M46 45MU 21-11-42 222MU 29-11-42 Empire Clive 18-12-42 Takoradi 23-1-43 Middle East 9-2-43 145S Engine cut ditched off Sicily 25-3-43 SOC 10-4-43 It was not uncommon, serials were confused, or dates wrongly entered in record cards. I will try to find my copy of 145 Sqn ORB, and check again, what it says. Certainly, it would be most interesting to try to decipher serial. In your photo, it seems it is just where the shadow of the man is. Very intrigued, to say the least! Franek any comments on this image of possible ex 145 sqd Spitfire ..? How about these questions: 1. When servicing Skalski's and Król's Spitfires did he actually deal directly with the pilots? If he did, what can he tell about them in terms of pilot-ground crew attitude and in terms of their engineering competence? Yes, when Dennis was assigned to Skalski & Krol aircraft Dennis spoke with and communicated "directly" with them, there was no intermediate - "it was direct". "When you are all in the field sharing everything you were all equal as far as the PFT were concerned. Dennis remembers Skalski quiet softly spoken but direct and as long as his Merlin was working ok he had no problems". Sometimes Dennis would wake up at 4am (if they had a number of sorties planned) to check over ZX-1 & 6 with a hot cup of tea from the field canteen "often shared with Skalski and the PFT as they were very keen to get airborne", "then start the engine run it at 1100rpm a little choke (not to much in the desert) or else the Merlin would produce a large backfire flame! Enough too soil your underwear" quote Dennis! Skalski never used the "get out of trouble" accelerator lever as the seal was never broken by Skalski at least while Dennis was with him - testament to his cool flying under duress! To recap the answer Dennis says that the complete English crew (many first assignment) gelled extremely well with PFT - "the comradary he felt was not not the same throughout WW11". 2. Were the aircraft actually assigned to individual pilots or was it more like any pilot flying any aircraft available? "In 145,s case the 12 allocated VTrop Spitfires were on the whole shared amongst the 16 pilots. The 16 pilots were split into 2 groups each 6 doing a rotation. In Skalski,s case ZX-1 & his deputy Krol ZX-6 these aircraft were assigned to them as "their" aircraft leaving the remaining 14 aircraft for rotation amongst the other pilots. Dennis looked after these 2 aircraft". 3. Does he recall victory markings painted on the Polish Spitfires? Did they denote victories of a particular pilot or kills scored in a particular aeroplane? Sorry, forgot to ask that question, will ask him next time! 4. Were the Spitfire IXs of the Polish unit fitted with camera guns? Dennis only remembers the VTrops while he was with them and "they had just guns"! 5. What was the colour scheme of the Mk IXs? Were they all desert camouflage (Middle Stone/Dark Earth over Azure Blue)? Does he recall the Spitfire of S/Ldr Lance Wade (EN186) known informally as the 'Blue Bird'? "Yes, Dark & Light brown , bluish belly"! 6. The 81 Sqn Spitfire Vs in the photos show aircraft ID as a digit rather than letter (FL-4 and FL-8) - was it usual to use digits, or does this actually mean these aircraft were inherited from the Polish flight (which used digits instead of letter as a distinguishing feature)? Asking Dennis about this and he confirmed to me that aircraft from 145 were distributed throughout the other squadrons. In the photo images case FL-4 & 8 were from 145. They must have at this moment in time captured them before being re-badged to proper known 81sqd codes! There may have also been another reason and that was the maintenance records carry on to 81 sqd as clear identification - I need to clarify this with Dennis. 1. Are any of the airfields known in N,Afrika where 145 sqd used ? 2. Is there any known English 145 sqd ground crew members left ? 3. Have you any general info on 145 sqd ? Dennis journey Malta-Burma 81sqd (see link) http:/www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/234948039-81-squadron-spitfires-mkv-to-1x-burma-inc-broadway/ Dennis with me and young Ben this Summer......
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