Aviation training in Poland. 1920-1921.

Kraków 2017-05-09

Aviation training in Poland.

Part 4.



PWS-26. 2021. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman
PWS-26. 2021. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman

Description of the photo: Polish training and training planes PWS-26 were used in the school in Grudziądz.

In 1920, air training was spontaneously undertaken at Grudziądz Airport. Using the barracks (at today's Parkowa Street), the infrastructure, hangars and the airport located in the present "Lotnisko" housing estate, or the field airport in Bzów and the Group's training ground on the left bank of the Vistula. In the years 1920 - 1939, there were five aviation schools in Grudziądz.

Due to the good base in the form of fixed assets, the local aviation unit was equal to the full-time aviation departments from Bydgoszcz and Krakow. However, it should be remembered that under the Treaty of Versailles, Grudziądz was granted to Poland, therefore the Germans took away all movable property. This applied to all military facilities. The Germans did not leave many planes at the airport. There were only a few of them and all of them could be renovated. However, tools and materials were lacking. Aircraft crews and ground personnel were mainly recruited from Polish soldiers who had previously fought in the German army.

In the fall of 1920, the first combat units of aviation arrived at Grudziądz Airport: the 14th Intelligence Squadron under the command of Second Lieutenant Pilot Józef Mańczak, established at Ławica Airport, and the 1st Mobile Aviation Park, commanded by Lieutenant Jan Walecki. Later, the 21st Destroyer Squadron, which previously took part in the Polish-Bolshevik war, was included in the 14th Intelligence Squadron. The 18th Fighter Squadron was temporarily stationed at the airport.

In 1921, the existence of an aviation school was sanctioned, which was given the name of the Higher School of Pilots. Its first commandant was Lt. Col. Piotr Abakanowicz, and its chief was Maj. Jerzy Gilewicz. In 1922, the new commandant was Lt. Col. Pilot Jan Sendorek, a graduate of this school, and at the same time remaining a full-time officer of the 2nd Aviation Regiment in Krakow. He held the position of the school commander in Grudziądz until 1924, when he returned to the 2nd Aviation Regiment in Kraków.

The task of the Higher School of Pilots was to train on almost all types of aircraft at the disposal of the Polish Army. Especially fighter and destroyer planes. All students had the Lower School of Pilots in Bydgoszcz or Krakow behind them. The school was visited by the then Minister of Military Affairs, General Władysław Sikorski (May 17, 1924) and by the President of the Republic of Poland, Stanisław Wojciechowski (June 25, 1924).

It is worth remembering that at that time, Military Aviation was not a separate type of troops. It was in the service of other military formations. Therefore, in order to become a pilot, observer or on-board shooter, one had to join, for example, the infantry and apply for a referral to an aviation course while already in their formations. Therefore, in numerous photos from that period, Polish pilots wear various uniforms.

The changing situation meant that at the end of 1924, the College of Pilots was dissolved. Most of the staff have received new service assignments. The main reason was to make every airman an officer. In addition, efforts were made to make the military aviation a separate type of troops. The disbandment of the school did not mean the end of training in Grudziądz. Again, it was an informal training, as orders from Warsaw were awaited. In 20 years, Grudziądz became one of the bases of airplanes purchased in large numbers abroad, for which there was a shortage of flying and ground personnel. Therefore, decisions were made to further organize the training. Another aviation school had to be created, which was intended to educate officers for aviation. It was no accident that Grudziądz was chosen as the place where the school was formed. The school was named the Officers' Aviation School. It was organized from August 1, 1925. The staff for the school was obtained from other centers, including Warsaw, Kraków and Toruń. The first commandant of the school was the newly appointed colonel pilot Roman Florer, transferred from Toruń, and acting there, inter alia, the commandant of the School of Air Observers and Riflemen (1922-1923). Education in Grudziądz began on November 1, 1925.

Candidates with secondary or primary education were admitted to the school after initial military training in the Cadet Corps. That is, for the first time, they were candidates straight from the civilian, and not from other types of weapons as so far. The candidates were 18-24 years of age. They had to have Polish citizenship and in perfect health. The studies covered all aspects of military life, especially the specificity of service in aviation. This situation had the advantage that the students were young and all started at the same level. They also did not have features acquired in other types of services, not always advantageous in aviation. It was easy to keep them disciplined, and most importantly, they were highly motivated to learn. Therefore, from the very beginning, the school was called the forge of young aviation cadres.

Initially, only observers were trained, although applicants were accepted with the prospect of being military pilots. This caused dissatisfaction and revolt of some of the students who tried to starve. The rebellion was broken without any problems. Depending on the degree of involvement of the students in the rebellion, these were the penalties for them. The most recalcitrant were imprisoned for one year in the infantry and then returned. For others, promotions were postponed by up to six months.

The school had a two-year training system. The candidates were grouped in the School Squadron and were called cadets. They also received uniform uniforms. At school, the cadets underwent theoretical and practical training. They had a flight time of several hours. After two years, they obtained the title of pilot or observer, the rank of lieutenant and assignment to a combat unit. Further training, observers and pilots underwent training in combat units.

The first planes used at the school were the French Morane Saulinier MS-30. In 1927, new Bartel BM-4 planes were ordered from Wielkopolska Wytwórnia Samolotów "Samolot".

On April 14, 1927, an order was issued to transfer the Officers' Aviation School from Grudziądz to Dęblin. The porting was completed in May 1927. There was no promotion in Grudziądz, because the move took place 16 months after starting education. Since then, Dęblin has been the aviation capital of Poland. There were several reasons for the transfer of the school. One of them was the regulated legal property in Dęblin. The entire facility (palace, fort and land) was owned by the Polish state. In addition, the adjacent meadows were perfect for the field of flights. There were also more favorable weather conditions, favoring a greater number of flying days a year. In addition, the Vistula and Wieprz rivers and numerous railway lines were an excellent navigational reference. Moreover, the conditions in Grudziądz were difficult due to the cramped conditions caused by the presence of other military formations. Colonel and pilot Roman Florer, commandant, went to Dęblin together with the School.

However, Grudziądz's aviation adventure did not end there. As early as in the summer of 1927, a new school was established on the basis of the facilities of the former school, the purpose of which was to train airmen in shooting and bombing. The existence of the School was confirmed on February 4, 1928 by Marshal Józef Piłsudski himself, who was then also the Minister of Military Affairs. This confirmation was in the form of approval of the temporary organization of the Aviation School of Shooting and Bombing. On March 8, 1928, the Minister of Military Affairs issued an order approving the existence of the School in Grudziądz.

The teaching staff had to be assembled again. The training began on July 15, 1928. Initially, deck shooters were trained, recruited from the infantry. In 1929, training for pilots and observers began. They were acquainted with the latest technology and tactics in this field. Gunsmiths were also trained.

Aviation incidents in the Polish Military Aviation made it necessary to start training in acrobatics. This type of training was organized as part of the Higher Pilot Course. Officers-observers applying for a pilot's license also participated in these courses. This type of course lasted 3-4 months. There were his spring and fall sessions. Theoretically, the spring course was supposed to be for officers, and the autumn course for non-commissioned officers, but this rule did not always apply. The length of the course depended on the weather conditions, the number of flying days and often on the individual skills of the student. There were soldiers who completed the course within 10 weeks. The classes included not only individual pilotage with acrobatics, but also flights in formations, shooting at air and ground targets and bombing. Receiving and dropping reports was practiced. At that time, night flights had not yet been practiced. Elements of night flights appeared in 30 years.

Several Farman F-68BN4 Goliath bombers were delivered to Grudziądz. Thirty-two Goliath planes were ultimately not accepted into line squadrons, mainly due to unsatisfactory cruising speed and good payload. Potez XV planes were also used for training. During the 10 years of the school's existence in Grudziądz, almost all types of aircraft used in the Polish Army have passed through the airport.

The school had a relatively simple organization. It consisted of the school headquarters, administrative company, school squadron, training squadron, port company and port department. The port company and the port department dealt with the handling of the landing area as well as the maintenance and inspection of aircraft. The commandant of the school was Major Pilot Eng. Tadeusz Kajetan Wereszczyński (1928-1929). After him, the functions were taken over by Major pilot Bolesław Feliks Stachoń (1929-1932). The next one was Lt. Col. Piotr Dudziński (1932-1937).

On August 28, 1937, the order of the Minister of Military Affairs, L.dc. 4358 / Org.tjn., Pursuant to which the School was disbanded. However, the course of higher pilotage was left, which was renamed the Higher School of Pilotage. Probably in the spring of 1939 (possibly already in the fall of 1938), the Higher School of Pilotage was moved from Grudziądz to the Ułęż Airport near Dęblin. The commandant of this school was then Captain Stanisław Brzezina. The Ułęż airport was established in 1937 and belonged to the well-equipped spare airports. The College of Pilotage was commanded successively by Maj. Pil. Piotr Dudziński, Capt. pil. Stanisław Brzezina (it was under his command that the school moved to the Ułęż Airport) and Lt. Col. pil. Karol Malik. The course included one-on-one air combat tactics, team air combat tactics, shooting at air targets, acrobatics, increasing physical fitness and more. The course ended with an exam. Polish PWS-10, PWS-16, PWS-26, PZL P-7, PZL P-11 planes were used for training.

In order to use the training base left behind in Grudziądz, it decided to create the Civilian School of Pilots LOPiP im. Gen. Gustaw Orlicz Deresz. The training began in the spring of 1939 and continued until the outbreak of the war.

Written by Karol Placha Hetman