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The Three Musketeers - Witold Lokuciewski

Witold "Tolo" Lokuciewski, born on February 2nd 1917, was one of The Three Musketeers of the No. 303 "Kosciuszko" Squadron in World War II. An ace, Lokuciewski, was credited with 8 kills, although it could have been more, but he was shot down by a swarm of Me-109's during his return in a mission over France, and became a Prisoner of War (PoW). His brother-in-law was not so lucky, being one of the victims of the Soviet Union in the massacre at Katyn.

After his capture by the Germans, he was first sent to a hospital in Saint-Omer, where he underwent surgery to recover the injuries sustained by his left leg, and not long after, was transferred to a hospital in Germany. His final destination was to a Prisoner-of-War camp called Stalag Luft III, near Sagan, an area of Poland taken over by the Germany. At the time of his arrival, his inmates, most of them being Allied airmen were already planning, what would later be known as "the Great Escape." Lokuciewski sooned joined them.

In 1943, Lokuciewski's first attempt to liberty was thwarted by the Germans. He, and several other airmen managed to get out of the camp, and board a train, but was arrested by the Gestapo at the next station. When he returned, he joined in with the others to planning "the Great Escape." It involved a huge number of prisoners and so, in the initial breakout on March 1944, he was left behind. Turns out, he was lucky, 50 of the 78 prisoners who escaped were quickly captured and shot.

After the war, Lokuciewski chose to return to Soviet-controlled Poland and in 1956, was asked to rejoin the Polish Air Force (PAF), which he immediately accepted. After Stalin's death, the Polish Communist Government was much softer in its attitude toward returnees who fought for the British during the war. Together with several other Polish ex-RAF pilots, he underwent retraining in much more sophisticated MiGs, compared to the Hurricane, and Spitfire. However, Lokuciewski's skill in flying was so impressive that his instructors pronounced him ready for duty on the spot. Over the years, he grew in rank in the PAF and returned to London with his wife, as a military attache for Poland's Communist Government. Unexpectedly, many of his previous fellow pilots turned on him, especially those who remained in exile in Britain. To them, Lokuciewski had betrayed Poland by working for Communists, and through them, the Soviets. Luckily, the other Musketeer, Jan Zumbach, did not feel at all furious at him, and on the contrary, remained on of Lokuciewski's best friends.

Witold Lokuciewski died on April 17th, 1990. He was one of the best the Polish Air Force could ever have.

May he never be forgotten.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This famous pilot operated out of RAF Northolt and was a regular at the 'Orchard' in Ruislip. Today just a small memorial in the Orchard carpark remains to the memory of 'Tolo'
I ask that we remember him and his fellow 303 sqn. heroes. Many people lost their lives in WW2. Many lives were saved by brave fighter pilots like 'Tolo' !