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The Three Musketeers - Jan Zumbach

Jan "Johnny" Zumbach, born on 14th April 1915 in Urysnow, Congress Poland, Russian Empire, was a RAF ace in World War II. His parents were Polish-born Swiss', which made him be registered as a Swiss citizen. He hid his nationality in order to join the Polish Army in 1934, and served as an infantrymen until he was transfered to the Polish Air Force in 1936. His graduation from flight training was the year 1938.

Thanks to a broken leg, Zumbach could not fly in the German invasion of Poland, which marked the outbreak of World War II. It was caused in a flying accident during the summer of 1939. After Poland was taken over, but not surrendered, he and a huge number of other Poles both civilians and from armed forces was evacuated via Romania to France. A surprise awaited him in Romania. It's government, after seeing the quick victory of the Nazi, and Soviet Forces in Poland, was afraid of sending aid to the Polish refugees. However, most Poles evaded arrest by bribing the Romanian officers, which cared very little for escaping Poles. The money was from the Polish Underground.

In France, he and the other Poles' treatment was just slightly better. The French blamed them for starting the war. Even though they encouraged the Poles to come before, when they arrived, their mood changed drastically.

After France fell, Zumbach, and the other Poles had to make another long journey to Britain. This time, however, the French officers, unlike the Romanians, strangely were extremely strict and they were stopping any Pole leaving. Nevertheless, Zumbach, and thousands of Poles still made it to Britain. Many of them were pilots like Zumbach and they formed numerous new squadrons in the RAF. One of them was the No. 303 "Kosciuszko" Squadron, which Zumbach was assigned to. These new squadrons were very valuable in the upcoming Battle of Britain.

Zumbach survived the war with 13 kills, 5 probables, and 1 damaged, and was decorated with the Silver Cross of the Virtuti Military, the Polish Cross of Valour (with 3 bars); and the Distinguished Flying Cross (with bar). He also had many nicknames given to him by the British, the 2 most common is "Johnny," an Anglicization of his first name, and "Donald," because his sloping nose with its oddly upturned tip reminded people of Donald Duck's bill. Shortly after the war, he, and 2 other ex-RAF pilots started a charter air transport company that became a cover for a bank-note-smuggling operation. It's activities soon expanded into a wide range of illegal goods from various nations. Soon, he settled down, married, had a child, and stopped illegal smuggling for a while. In 1962, he set-up a primitive air force for Katanga, and another one 5 years later for Biafra during it's war with Nigeria. It's only aircraft was a World War II-vintage B-26, which Zumbach and his bombardier, an Ibo tribesman, dropped homemade explosives on Nigeria during bombing raids. Even in his seventies, Zumbach was still living on the edge. One day in late 1985, he told Ludwik martel in London that he was involved in a secret deal that was going to amek him a lot of money.

Jan Zumbach died mysteriously in Paris, France on 3rd January 1986 at the age of 71. Nobody knows why, but many of his friends were sure that he had met with foul play.

Nevertheless, Zumbach was a great man.


Maria Orzeszkowa said...

I'm Polish and I've just read an autobiography of Jan Zumbach.
I want to say that only his father was from Switzerland. His mother was polish nobleman's daughter.

Unknown said...

Hello Jan is or was my grand uncle ... who knows where the spitfire is ?