On Saturday, June 2, a memorial re-dedication service took place at the stone cairn in Deblin’s Green, near Powick, at 11.30am.
Branch Chairman John Mason said: “The memorial is for flying officer Franek Surma, who was a Polish pilot serving with the RAF.
“He survived a Spitfire crash after bailing out near the spot in Deblin’s Green - but a few months later was shot down by an Me.109 over the channel near Dunkirk and has no known grave.
The short service will be dedicated to all aircrew from the RAF and Commonwealth, and other Allies, who served with the RAF and made the ultimate sacrifice in the Second World War.”
Tomasz Wisniewski, Managing Director of After Brexit Support met with:
Dilip Sarkar, MBE FRHistS, Historian, Author & Presenter
John Mason - Branch chairman
Allen Denney - RAFA
Lorimer Stoddart - RAFA
Nigel Owen - Standard Bearer - RAFA
Arthur Burgess - RAFA
Kay Lowry - Secretary RAFA
Dilip Sarkar has been fascinated by the Battle of Britain since childhood, he remains both moved and inspired by the story of Churchill's fabled Few, those young airmen who stood between freedom and a Britain dominated by Nazi Germany. Since the 1970s he has met and interviewed more Battle of Britain pilots than any other historian. He has researched the subject thoroughly and has published over thirty books, titles which include the only biographical works formally endorsed by the families of both Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader and Air Vice-Marshal Johnnie Johnson. In 2003, Dilip was made an MBE for services to aviation history and elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Historical Society in 2006. He lives in Worcester.
When I’ve spoken with Dilip after the small ceremony, he shared with me his wonderful story with which I would like to share with you today.
In 1985, Dilip was a police officer at Malvern and learned from Andy that Surma had baled out of his Spitfire over Madresfield - which fascinated him.
He said: We traced eye-witnesses to the crash, located the crash-site, then created the Malvern Spitfire Team to excavate the aircraft and erect the memorial. We felt that because Franek was reported missing six months later, he should have some kind of memorial.
The excavation took place on 11 September 1987, at a public event supported by Malvern Hills District Council and other partners, which we arranged the raise money for the RAF Benevolent Fund. Thousands of people attended to watch. That afternoon the memorial was unveiled by Polish Battle of Britain Spitfire pilots Squadron Leaders 'Gandy' Drobinski DFC and Ludwik Martel VM KW; a wreath was laid by Mr Tadek Krysztik, secretary of the Polish Air Force Association in GB. It was an amazing event and the memorial remains the only such commemoration to an individual Polish fighter pilot in the UK.
In 1988, I was made an 'honorary Pole' at a special ceremony at the Polish Air Force Association's London HQ, in recognition of my work to recognise the Polish contribution to the Battle of Britain, and Surma's story in particular.
Over the years I traced all of the surviving Polish pilots who had flown with Surma, including his friend Jurek Poplawski in Argentina. I also found his surviving sisters in Poland, who were delighted with our project and interest - but in those days Poland was behind the Iron Curtain, making communication difficult, and as a serving police officer I was forbidden to travel to Soviet bloc countries. This enabled me, however, to piece together a detailed story of Franek's life and wartime service. He had flown Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain, during which I discovered that he had survived being shot down by my friend the German ace Gerhard Schopfel. I then forensically researched Surma's last operation, working out that he had been shot down over Dunkirk by Hauptmann Johannes Seifert of JG 26.
In 1992, my book tells the story of Surma and his Spitfire, R6644, was published, 'The Invisible Thread: A Spitfire's Tale'. This was launched at Malvern's Abbey Hotel, with a Spitfire displayed outside and 38 Battle of Britain and Spitfire pilots from later in the war attending. Guest of honour was Kazek Budzik, a Polish Spitfire pilot who had flown with Franek in 308 Squadron. The Polish air attache also attended. On that day, we also launched a charity, The Surma Memorial Trust for Youth, and raised £25,000 which was distributed to projects working to improve the quality of life for youth. Naturally, Franek's sisters, who were still alive then, were delighted.
Since that time I have left the police and become an established international expert on the Battle of Britain with an extensive list of publications. The journey all began, however, with Franek Surma, so remains close to my heart. I have most recently re-published the Surma story in my book 'Spitfire Voices' (Amberley, 2011, now available in paperback).
Recently, I discovered that a school has been named after Franek Surma in Poland; I was invited out there last month, to meet his family, but unfortunately, I was already committed. I intend to go next year, with Andy Long, who started this journey with me, and my friend Rado Papiewski (who works for me as my 'Building Bridges' education and integration project manager in my Fisheries Enforcement Support Service, more of which another time).
If you would like to find out more about Polish WWII Pilot Franek Surma his Memorial and history please go to the article:
Polish WWII Pilot Memorial - Worcestershire