Aviation training in Poland. 1945-1950.

Kraków 2017-05-29

Aviation training in Poland.

Dęblin.

On March 8, 1945, 13 UT-2 training planes were flew from the Mokre Airport near Zamość to the field airport of the Dęblin School "Eaglet School" in Podlodowo, Podlodowo Airport. By March 20, 1945, the entire 3rd School Squadron had moved to Podlodowo and Dęblin. The cadets of this squadron began basic training in the air. Social and living conditions in Dęblin were very difficult, therefore it was decided to distribute the training. In April 1945, the Radom-Sadków Airport was also included in the school.

Supreme Commander of the Polish Army by the order No. 89 / Org. on April 13, 1945, he dissolved the WSLWP, and established: the Military Pilot School (WSP) in Dęblin; Military Aviation Technical School in Zamość. The reorganization of the school initiated a new stage in the development of Polish aviation education after the war. The transfer of the school from Zamość to Dęblin took 6 days. On April 25, 1945, the last railway transport arrived in Dęblin. The school in Dęblin received 1,228 positions, including 500 cadets.

You need to write a few words of comment at this point. Transferring the training to Dęblin also had a political dimension. Returning to training in the cradle of the Polish Military Aviation was supposed to be a return to the roots. The place was the same, but systemically it was not the Polish Training System. It was argued that progress in aviation during the Second World War was so great that it was impossible to go back to the "old" methods.

The organization of the WSP school in Dęblin was carried out simultaneously with the regular training activities. On June 21, 1945, the first post-war promotion took place in which 49 cadets took part. According to other data, there were 51 cadets. They all followed the 6-month course that was conducted according to the war program. 19 of them were former graduates of the basic aviation course and were left at the School for an additional one-month UT-2 instructors course. This was due to the need to increase the number of instructors that were still missing.

During this period, the School had Russian Po-2 and UT-2 machines, which did not perform well as a school. Both planes were powered by the same weak engine, the M-11 D. 5-cylinder air-cooled radial engine with a take-off power of 92 kW (125 HP). Each Polish training plane used in the School before the war was better than these machines.

Yakovlev UT-2. Dęblin 1945. Photo of LAC, history museum
Yakovlev UT-2. Dęblin 1945. Photo of LAC, history museum

Polikarpov Po-2. 2017. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman
Polikarpov Po-2. 2017. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman

The situation in the School began to improve at the beginning of May 1945, when Polish units, on May 2, 1945, received an order to withdraw to Poland. Several front officers joined the school staff.

In April and May 1945, military supplement groups enrolled in the military schools of the People's Army of Poland, including the aviation. At the end of May 1945, the School had too many candidates for the next course. They underwent medical examinations before the wax medical commission, in terms of suitability for service in the aviation. They were admitted as cadets to the 3rd School Squadron and initially divided into fighter pilots, stormtrooper pilots, observers-radiotelegraphists and shooters. All of them were to be trained on UT-2 planes. At the beginning of June 1945, theoretical training in the construction of UT-2, Po-2 and engine construction began. All July 1945, theoretical training was conducted. At the turn of July and August 1945, cadets were assigned to the newly created squadrons: 1st Fighter Squadron and 2nd Assault Squadron. The 3rd School Squadron was also still operating, in which cadets completed the basic UT-2 pilot course. Those cadets who were unable to master both theory and practice were transferred to other services. Usually these people became airframe, engine, armament and communication technicians. In August 1945, the first groups of educated radio operators and deck gunners left the school gates.

The created assault squadron was a novelty in aviation, because so far fighter pilots on the Jakowlew Jak-1 and Jak-9 planes and "bomber" pilots on the Polikarpow Po-2 planes had been glazed.

Yak-9 nb 23.2012. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman
Yak-9 nb 23.2012. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman

Attack training trainees, who already had independent flights on UT-2 planes, were transferred by train to Radom. There were several Ilyushin Il-2 planes belonging to the Russian army. About 40 students were trained very intensively, and the weather was favorable for the flights. The training program envisaged mastering the flights in the circle and to the zone, where the trainees mastered the figures of lower pilotage. The next stage was navigation flights along the route, including low-altitude flights, about 100 m. The third stage was flights to the zone, where at an altitude of 100-150 m, specific maneuvers necessary in attacks on ground targets were learned. After completing the full program, the students took the exam before the examination board. The exam included performing two flights in a circle and the third flight to the zone with the examiner, where the student performed an acrobatics flight.

Ił-2 nb 21. 2012. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman
Ił-2 nb 21. 2012. Photo by Karol Placha Hetman

Students belonging to the 1st Fighter Squadron were trained in Dęblin. 35 cadets and one second lieutenant were qualified for training flights on the Jakowlew Jak-7 UTI and Jak-9 planes. The commander of the 1st Fighter Squadron was Major Pilot Mikołaj Lebediew. Later school commander in Radom. His deputy for political and educational matters was lieutenant Zbigniew Pelczarski, and the chief of staff was captain Władysław Moskałow.

At the beginning of September 1945, the 1st Fighter Squadron was transferred by train to Nasielsk and then by cars to the destination airport in Kroczewo. The cadets were accommodated in the local school, and the staff in private quarters. The practical training began with flights on UT-2 aircraft, which took place from 10 to 21 September 1945. There were flights around the circle and to the zone for acrobatics. The pilots had a raid of about 6 hours. The training on fighter planes began on September 22, 1945 with the training of taxiing on the Jakowlew Jak-1 plane. The further program included flights on the Jakowlew Yak-9 planes. There were circular flights, flights to the zone for medium pilotage (ceiling 300-600 m), low-altitude flights and steam flights. Winter came relatively quickly and at the end of October 1945, the 1st Fighter Squadron ceased flights. In the winter of 1945/1946, flights were rare. This period was devoted to supplementing the theoretical knowledge of cadets. On January 30, 1946, the 1st Fighter Squadron was transferred to the Modlin Airport, where the training conditions were much better. At the beginning of May 1946, the cadets passed the Yak-9 piloting exams.

All those who crossed the gates of the unit in Dęblin in 1945 immediately noticed the traces of the war. There was no building that was not even slightly damaged. There was a lot of rubble and scrap metal on the streets and sidewalks. There were holes and big bomb craters everywhere. Demolished concrete structures protruded around it. A tangle of metal bars and steel structures. In the patched hangars, mechanics began to renovate the engines. The take-off site was more like a training ground than an airplane take-off site. There was only a narrow strip with buried bomb craters, which was the runway. There were a lot of damaged barrels and other scrap metal around.

Every dozen or so days, groups of eager young people to serve in the air force came to Dęblin. Nobody gave them hope. For now, they were more workers than airmen. They removed debris, erected fences and gates, installed windows and doors, patched and painted barracks, repaired roofs, and repaired railway sidings. In September 1945, unitary training of recruits began, who were not even dressed in the same way. Increasingly, they had a rifle in their hands instead of a shovel. Hours of study and work have been standardized. Military craft lessons until lunch, and renovation works in the afternoon. Nobody was slacking off, although those who had been drafted into the army had already started their aviation training. Conditions gradually improved.

In October 1945, most of the soldiers were transferred to the renovated barracks. Conditions improved significantly, although there were still no beds and people slept on mattresses. At that time, the power and water network was launched. There were still frequent failures, but they were quickly repaired. Electric lighting allowed for learning after dark.

Gradually, the soldiers were assigned to various courses, such as navigators, shooters, and pilots. At the end of October 1945, the 4th School Squadron was created. Its students were to become liaison and transport aircraft pilots. The training was planned to start with the Po-2 aircraft. The selection consisted of appearing before the verification committee. At the same time, the candidates stood before a medical commission, which determined the suitability of the candidate for service in aviation. Here it turned out that a sincere desire and young age are not enough to become a pilot. Even stout peasants were sent away. Most dropped off after visits to the ophthalmologist and neurologist. They were given stupid advice - "Eat the wagon of porridge and report back." About 60 young men successfully completed the tests.

The qualified ones were organized into training groups and directed to the already functioning Department of Sciences. The director was a Russian, Lieutenant Colonel Zlatoustov. The navigation manager was Lieutenant Colonel Nigow. The lecturers were mainly Russian officers who did not know the Polish language, and the students did not know the Russian language. Science was very slow. There were lectures on navigation and aircraft engine construction. For many, it was black magic. There were a lot of neologisms. It was real Polish-Russian Esperanto. In fact, knowledge was gained by asking Polish pilots and mechanics, and explaining many things until late at night. Aerodynamics was taught by the Russian aviator Jaicka. She had a lot of patience. Fortunately, the number of teaching aids was increasing.

In mid-December 1945, the theoretical course was completed and examinations were conducted. Those who passed the exam were divided into keys and air groups, and came under the command of Lieutenant Czarnecki, who was the commander of the 4th School Squadron. Practical training began with workshop work on airplanes, and then there were classes in the cabin.

Steadfast soldiers.

In the poviats of Garwolin, Puławy, Łuków, Lubartów, Kraśnik and Kozienice, there was a unit of major Marian Bernaciak, nicknamed "Orlik". A soldier of the Home Army and WiN association in the Lublin region. During the Second World War, he conducted over 20 combat actions against Germany. In August 1944, at the head of 350 Home Army soldiers, he set out to help Warsaw. The action failed and "Orlik" disbanded the unit and hid from the NKVD for several months. In March 1945, "Orlik" reconstructed its unit from people at risk of arrest. Marian Bernaciak "Orlik" was promoted to the rank of major. His unit consisted of about 200 soldiers. In actions he broke up the KBW, NKVD and MO units. On April 24, 1945, his unit smashed the County Office of State Security in Puławy, freeing 107 prisoners and killing 5 security officers and 2 militiamen. On May 1, 1945, he chased a communist one in Kock and organized an anti-communist one. During the retreat, he crashed a UB group that prepared an ambush for him. On May 24, 1945, the unit fought a battle against a 680-strong group of NKVD, UB and MO. On July 27, 1945, the unit released 120 prisoners from the transport. Several other successful actions were carried out, including a regular battle with Red Army soldiers. Marian Bernaciak's troops also conducted intensive intelligence, political and social matters, and propaganda activities. The main part of the latter was the printing and distribution of the press and leaflets in the form of announcements, information, appeals, occasional texts, the most famous of which were "Orlik to the society on the occasion of the people's referendum in 1946" and the leaflet "Katyń Puławski". Marian Bernaciak died on June 24, 1946, attacked by a branch of the KBW near the village of Piotrówek.

The activity of Major Marian Bernaciak's unit "Orlik" was used in Dęblin for propaganda, calling WiN soldiers a "gang" murdering Polish and Russian soldiers. Nothing like this has ever happened. Nevertheless, several legends were born. During one of the flights, the lieutenant pilot-instructor Licow was forced to land on the Yak-1 plane. It crashed during landing and was killed. The School said that he had landed, but a gang caught up with him and killed him. Already in the fall of 1945, numerous guard posts (two and three-shift) were introduced inside and outside the unit. The soldiers who were training also guided the watch. They definitely preferred two-shift posts because it was only worth the night and the day could be spent on training. It was hard to make up for the lost day.

Further aviation training.

At the end of January 1946, the Po-2 planes were unexpectedly changed to UT-2. The reason was that the UT-2 planes were suitable only for training, and the Po-2 were more universal. Besides, the Po-2 were much easier to pilot. UT-2 was a natural selection of pilots by ... the cemetery. The students returned to the lecture halls to get to know the UT-2 plane. The engine was omitted because both machines had the same drive.

In the spring of 1946, there was a good change for the students. The first group of new Polish lecturers after a technical school from Warsaw came to the school. They were the ensigns: Romanowicz, Wojewódzki, Jajszczyk, Lancmański. Now the students liked navigation, meteorology and other subjects. At the same time, a concrete runway was put into use on the take-off site. Finally, the trainees received new uniforms, especially new soldiers' boots.

In May 1946, the 1st Fighter Squadron returned to Dęblin. A few days later, the 2nd Storm Squadron reached Dęblin from Radom. On July 6-9, 1946, examinations were conducted in 11 subjects included in the teaching. On a sunny Sunday, July 21, 1946, the promotion of 59 pilot officers took place. The ceremony was an occasion for a great socialist demonstration. The promotion was attended by: General Połonin, the commander of the Polish People's Army, General Romeyko, General Zawadzki, General Mossor, General Smaga and Colonel Madejski, the commander of the OSL "Eaglet School". The act of promotion was made by Marshal Michał Rola-Żymierski. There was a parade, an air show, a festive dinner. The newly appointed lieutenants-pilots transferred General Michał Rola-Żymierski from the canteen to the C-47 (Douglas DC-3) plane, which he flew to Warsaw. Years later, one of the newly ferry officers explained that they wanted to get rid of him this way as soon as possible.

Newly promoted lieutenant pilots. Dęblin 1946-07-21. Photo of LAC, history museum
Newly promoted lieutenant pilots. Dęblin 1946-07-21. Photo of LAC, history museum

The training of this group of second lieutenants-pilots lasted 13 months. 28 pilots on Yak-9 fighters and 31 pilots on Il-2 assault fighters were trained.

At that time, the 3rd School Squadron became the 3rd Mixed Squadron in which there were bomb pilots, navigators and shooters. After a few weeks, the 4th Mixed Squadron was created. On May 3, 1946, the 3rd Squadron was sent for practical training at a field airfield (probably Ułęż Airfield). There were about 100 cadets at that time. The students were accommodated in farm buildings. The cadets had to get used to the farm smells and the ubiquitous mosquitoes. Officers were quartered in a palace situated in a park among ponds. On May 5, 1946, preparations for UT-2 flights began. Several wooden mock-ups of UT-2 cabins were built to practice stick and pedal movements. The service of the UT-2 aircraft was provided by the Russian staff. The only Polish officer was the instructor-pilot Kazimierz Oleński. The rest are Russian officers: Captain Terchirov and others. There was an examination that allowed for flights.

Training on real UT-2 aircraft began on June 20, 1946. The layout in the cabin was like this; the instructor sat first and the student sat in the second cockpit. In addition, there were only controls in the second cabin. The communication on board between the student and the instructor was provided by an intercom, a tube with tubes at the ends. There was no radio link to the ground. The whistleblower issued permits with a white flag, and bans with a red flag. The plane was difficult to fly. The fixed undercarriage was brittle and could be easily damaged. During take-off, the plane easily lifted off the ground, but at low speed it could collapse onto the wing and crash. Overall, the students made many mistakes. What had been assimilated on the ground flew from the air in the air. It took many additional flights with an instructor. In the beginning, the take-off, the circle over the airport and landing were mastered. Then the flight to the zone and the first figures of the lower pilot. When the instructor decided that the student was ready, he performed a single circle flight. And finally, the exam at the end of the first stage of the basic training with an instructor, and then an independent flight with a sandbag instead of an instructor. At the turn of October and November 1946, basic training on UT-2 aircraft was completed.

At that time, the cadet received an assignment of 25 cigarettes a day. It was a good source of income for frugal students. The civilian population paid PLN 2 for one cigarette. You could earn up to PLN 500 extra a month.

In November 1946, the 3rd Mixed Squadron returned to Dęblin. The barracks were completely renovated. Soldier rooms equipped with beds. 30 cadets in one soldier's chamber. The cadets returned to their lectures in the Department of Sciences. The lectures and training were interrupted by intense communist agitation and the admission of cadets to the PPR party. Sunday was discredited as the Lord's Day at every step. It was often a normal working day. Religion was officially said to be "Religion is the opium of an uneducated people." In January 1947, almost the entire population of the School in Dęblin was involved in the parliamentary elections, first after World War II, on January 19, 1947, bringing people to polling stations and arresting protesters. They operated in a similar way as in June 1946, during the "Three Times Yes" referendum. Both votes were forged by the NKVD and communists.

As mentioned above, the training in Dęblin was multidirectional. Among others, observers were trained. On February 3 (or 2), 1946, the first promotion of 54 cadet observers took place, 6 of whom received the ranks of second lieutenants, and the rest - ensigns. 18 promoted remained at the School as lecturers and instructors. The rest were sent to line units to navigational and staff positions.

Pursuant to the Order of the Polish Army Aviation Commander No. 61 of May 17, 1946, the Military Pilot School was renamed the Polish Army Officers' Aviation School. Her personal condition was reduced. The structure was reorganized. The basic unit of the School was a newly created training and preparation company, educating cadets in general-military and theoretical-specialist terms. The training of aviators was multidirectional. Trained for: pilots, navigators, on-board shooters and radiotelegraphist shooters.

In 1946, the aviation needs of the People's Republic of Poland were assessed as having three fighter regiments, three assault regiments, one bomb regiment and a naval squadron. By the end of 1946, the basic needs of aviation units were satisfied with the officers and non-commissioned officers. It was necessary to prepare middle and upper command staff to partially replace the Russian officers. In January 1947, training of the first Polish regimental commanders and staff officers began.

In February 1947, the first textbooks in Polish appeared in the School. The requirements for the amount of knowledge acquired by cadets have increased. Flights resumed only in April 1947. The aviation education program at the "School of Eaglets" has been slightly modified. It is still based on the experiences of Russian aviation schools, taking into account, however, the specificity of Polish Aviation. This specificity is a big word. It consisted in leaving Polish uniforms (though not pre-war). Polish military ranks, commands, drill. The theoretical and practical stages were distinguished. And most of all, the training time was extended. The theoretical training of the pilots lasted 12 months, and the practical training - another 12 months. The theoretical training of navigators lasted 24 months, and practical 12 months. So, studies in Dęblin lasted 2 or 3 years.

In March 1947, the School underwent another reorganization, which resulted in it being renamed the Officer Aviation School, while the training squadrons underwent further changes. Thus, the 1st Fighter Squadron was created from the 1st Fighter Squadron and the 2nd Assault Squadron, which received a permanent airport in Radom as its seat. On the other hand, from two mixed squadrons, successively bomber pilots, navigators and shooters; the 2nd School Squadron was created. It took over basic training on UT-2 aircraft. Thus, in March 1947, the School in Dęblin began to function at two basic airports: Dęblin and Radom. 379 pilots were educated at the Officers' Aviation School.

It was in April 1947 that trainee pilots, after basic training, began to be assessed in terms of suitability for particular types of machines. And so, to the 1st Platoon there were future fighters (Yak-9), to the 2nd Platoon - stormtroopers (Il-2), and to the 3rd Platoon - bomber (Pe-2). Individual platoons began to learn theories about their future planes. Nevertheless, all aviation personnel were still trained in UT-2 flights. The training on this type of aircraft was completed in April 1948 with the state examination.

On December 15, 1947, 134 graduates (not pilots) of the Officer's Aviation School were promoted in Dęblin.

In April 1948, some of the fighter cadets moved to Radom, and some to Krakow, to the 2nd Fighter Aviation Regiment. In May 1948, training flights began on the Yak-7 and Yak-9 airplanes. Likewise, the stormtrooper cadets were transferred to combat units where the Il-2 planes were. In August 1948, both groups of fighter cadets were joined in Radom to pass their exams here. The chairman of the commission was Major Piepielin, the commander of the 1st PLM at that time. First there were test flights, then theory. The theoretical exam was important because it was the decision about the place, and the place about the service assignment. The promotion of this group of soldiers took place on September 5, 1948, after three years of study, in Warsaw at the Okęcie Airport. Marshal Michał Rola-Żymierski was promoting. They all received the rank of ensign.

In the fall of 1948, the training of reserve cadets began. In the spring of 1949, pilot training for the needs of LOT Polish Airlines began. At that time, there were four squadrons of training cadets in Dęblin.

Undoubtedly, the greatest contribution to the development of the School was made by the Commander, Col. Szczepan Ścibor, a graduate of the "School of Eaglets" from 1927. He was appointed Commandant of OSL in Dęblin on August 27, 1947. Colonel pilot observer Szczepan Ścibor was murdered by the communists on August 7, 1952 in the Mokotów prison. At that time, the people's government began to shape a new socialist society. The communists in Poland have already grown stronger. On August 29, 1949, the CCCP detonated its first own atomic bomb. From April 1948 to May 1949, the CCCP blocked West Berlin. They contributed to the outbreak of the war in Korea. In Poland, on June 30, 1946, they held a "Three Times Yes" referendum. The vote itself went smoothly, but the results were not announced until August 12, 1946. The repressive actions of the authorities intensified, the possibility of the legal opposition operating was limited and the opposition was practically liquidated.

The decisions taken at that time had a significant impact on the country, the armed forces, military aviation and the School in Dęblin. Political decisions were made which had a huge impact on the level of recruited candidates. According to the Order of the Minister of National Defense (Michał Rola Żymierski) of April 30, 1949, candidates admitted to military schools should come from the community; workers 60%, peasants 30%, working intelligentsia 10%. Additionally, the requirement for candidates to complete only a 7-year primary school has become established. Therefore, most applicants did not have secondary education. This state of affairs must have had a negative impact on the final level of education of school graduates. But we emphasize strongly. It was not the fault of the candidates, but of the communist authorities. After all, it was possible to extend the period of study and raise the level of training. But there was no one to do it. Russian lecturers could not do much more than the young Poles who were trained. Additionally, a significant percentage of candidates, apart from primary school, had completed vocational schools and they had a broad understanding of the technique. It was only after a few years that Polish officers supplemented their general knowledge to the level of high school during one-year courses. Also, let's not forget that the underlying issue was the political stance.

Written by Karol Placha Hetman