Sergeant Stefan Wójtowicz

Stefan Wójtowicz was born on 19 June 1919 in Lublin, Poland. Wójtowicz entered pilot school aged just 17 and graduated from the Polish Air Force school for non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in 1939.

On 1 July 1939, he was posted to the 111th Fighter Flight of the 1st Air Regiment in Warsaw. In September 1939, he fought with the 111th Flight as part of the Pursuit Brigade. The Pursuit Brigade was the most successful element of the Polish Air Force in its defensive operations against Nazi Germany in early September 1939. The Soviet Union attacked Poland from the east on 17 September and a day later, Wójtowicz crossed the Romanian border at Śniatyń. He reached France, where in the spring of 1940 he was posted to the independent fighter section of Captain Kazimierz Kuzian, defending Nantes from Luftwaffe attacks.  

After the fall of France on 22 June 1940, he was evacuated to Britain. On 2 August 1940, he was posted to No. 303 (Kościuszko) Squadron at RAF Northolt. 

In the early days of September, Wójtowicz was involved in heavy fighting and showed himself as a capable fighter pilot. He was shot down over Tenterden in Kent on 3 September 1940, but managed to land only with minor  injuries.  

Flying Hurricane V7242, Wójtowicz took to the skies mid-afternoon on the 11 September 1940 from RAF Northolt. That was Wójtowicz's last flight, as he was killed later that day. There were eye witness accounts from fellow airmen who witnessed the attack. All of them attest to Wójtowicz's performing feats of immense courage on that afternoon. Wójtowicz was killed in the same action as Flying Officer Arsen Cebrzyński, on what was a tragic day for No. 303 Squadron.

A letter written by a fireman from Westerham in Kent, who witnessed Sergeant Wojtowicz' last moments. He attests to his bravery and expresses his desire to have been able to do more to help. Photo credit: © The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - London.
 
A report written by a fireman from Westerham in Kent, who witnessed Sergeant Wojtowicz' last moments. He attests to his bravery and expresses his desire to have been able to do more to help. Photo credit: © The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - London

In his book: On Wings and War, Pilot Officer Jan Zumbach gave a vivid account of the aerial action on 11 September 1940:

"It was a fearful jumble of roundels and black crosses, flame and tracer crossfire, a dance of turning wings and drifting parachutes. The roar of explosions and whining engines almost drowned the shouts coming over the ear-phones in a medley of Polish and English." 

Squadron Leader Johnny Kent, was also in the air on that afternoon and stated the following in his book, One of the Few:

"Sergeant Wójtowicz became separated from his flight and fought a long drawn out battle with 6 109s single-handed and managed to shoot down 2of his opponents before he himself was shot down dear Westerham in Kent, not far from the Prime Minister's home. The fight came down to quite low altitude and was clearly witnessed from the ground. A very gallant young man. Sergeant Wójtowicz, because he was a foreigner, we could not recommend for our only posthumous decoration, the Victoria Cross. Later his own government awarded him the Polish equivalent, the Virtuti Militari."

An intelligence officer named Flying Officer E.H Hadwin who served with No.303 (Kościuszko) Squadron attempted to find out what had happened to Wójtowicz and discerned the following: 

"Yesterday 13.9.40, I went to Westerham and saw the body of Sergeant Wójtowicz - he had been shot in the forehead by a cannon shell and crashed in flames 2 miles east of Westerham Village. Several of the local Special Police stated they had seen his Hurricane fighting with a number of Me 109s and Me 110s over the hills to the West of Westerham at about 1630 hours on 11.9.40. During the few minutes of the combat, 2 Me.109s crashed in the neighbourhood of Westerham, and there is reason to believe that they were accounted for by Sergeant Wójtowicz, but no claim has been put in." 

Page last updated: 28 Sep 2021