Polskie Siły Powietrzne w II wojnie światowej
Adam Kropiński

Adam Kropiński

Adam Bolesław Kropiński was born October 11, 1900, in Przemyśl, the youngest child of Bolesław Włodzimierz Kropiński, a municipal official, and Aniela Maria née Bambach. He had three older siblings also born in Przemyśl: brother Tadeusz and sisters Maria and Janina.

When he was born at the turn of the twentieth century, Poland was still partitioned by Germany, Russia and Austria. He lived in Galicia which was governed by Austria.

In the school year 1907/08 Adam began attending the 4-grade St. Jan Kanty Public School for boys in Przemyśl. He graduated in June 1911 close to the date his father died. In the years 1911-1918 he attended C.K. II Gimnazjum secondary school. Polish was the language of instruction but Adam also learned learned German, Latin and Greek.

While in high school he joined 1 Drużyna Skautowa boy scout group and soon reached the level of patrol leader. He then joined the Organizacja Młodzieży Niepodległościowej "Zarzewie", which trained for the expected fight to regain Poland's independence.

On March 15, 1918, he was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian Army receiving an assignment to 3 Heavy Artillery Regiment of Prince Rudolf Kinsky in Budapest. Shortly thereafter he was enrolled in the Artillery Reserve Officers School in Hajmáskér, Hungary. He graduated six months later, with the rank of gunner. After finishing another artillery course at the training grounds in Hajmáskér, on October 30, 1918, he was promoted to corporal.

With the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he returned to Poland from Hungary. On November 9, 1918 (two days before Poland declared its independence at the end of WW1), he joined the emerging Polish Army as a volunteer and took part in the battles for the liberation of Przemyśl from the Ukrainians. He had the rank of kapral (corporal) and the status of podchorąży (cadet officer).

One month later, he joined No. 4 Battery of 1 Heavy Artillery Regiment in Kraków and fought in the Polish-Ukrainian War (1918-1919) near Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine), performing intelligence operations. He remained on the front lines until August 18, 1919.

Shortly after the war with the Ukrainians, Poland had to fight against the Soviets who were determined to bring communism to Europe. In the Polish-Soviet War, Kropiński was again performing intelligence functions for 1 Pułk Artylerii Ciężkiej Legionów (1 PAC Leg.; 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment of the Legions) and for gen. Bułak-Bałachowicz's Army. He fought in battles ranging from Latvia in the north to Kyiv in the south, as well as the Battle of Warsaw.

On March 30, 1920, he was posted to the just-formed 16 Brygada Artylerii (16 Artillery Brigade) in Grudziądz and participated in the Kyiv Offensive, attacking Kyiv from the north via Chernobyl. During the operation he was comissioned podporucznik (2nd lieutenant).

On September 23, 1920, he was transferred back to 1 PAC Leg. After the ceasefire in the fall of 1920, he was sent to Modlin for a two-month course to learn about French artillery equipment.

On March 1, 1921, he was sent on a course for junior officers at Centrum Wyszkolenia Artylerii nr 2 (No. 2 Artillery Training Centre) in Toruń, which he completed two months later. He then returned to No. 1 Battery of 1 PAC Leg. as Senior Officer. In the summer of 1921, he was the commander of No. 1 Battery of 1 PAC Leg. From there he was moved to 3 PAC in Warsaw as Senior Officer - a post he held for six months. In the spring of the following year, the regiment moved to Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania), where he was promoted to the rank of porucznik (1st lieutenant) with seniority from July 1, 1920, and made platoon commander in No. 1 Battery. He held this position for one year before becoming Adjutant of 1 Dywizjon (1st squadron) for three months.

On July 1, 1923, he was assigned to 3 Dywizjon Artylerii Konnej (3rd Horse Artillery Squadron) in Wilno, where he took over the function of officer at No. 1 Battery. From March 19, 1924 and for the next two years, he held the posts of Adjutant, Staff Commander of Reserve Battery, and Personnel Records Officer.

At his request, on April 12, 1926, he was sent on a course for pilots at 3 Pułk Lotniczy (3rd Air Regiment) in Poznań. After completing the course seven months later, he received a transfer to 31 Eskadra Liniowa (31st Line Flight) of 3 PL, where he served as a junior officer. According to contemporary practice that required a one-year wait, on June 11, 1927 he was formally transferred from the artillery officers corps to the aviation officers corps.

On November 10, 1930, he was transferred, for seven weeks, to 32 Eskadra Liniowa and, among other duties, replaced its commander for a brief period. He then returned to 31 Eskadra Liniowa, where he also served as the commander. For two weeks in the summer of 1931, he was a test pilot in 34 Eskadra Liniowa of 3 PL, and then once again returned to 31 Eskadra Liniowa, as its commander.

On December 3, 1931, he was transferred to 35 Eskadra Liniowa of 3 PL, for the position of tactical (i.e. intelligence) officer. He was promoted to kapitan pilot (captain) on January 1, 1932. In addition to these duties, he was also an ex-officio member of the Łódź Flying Club representing the Initial Military Training and Physical Education (Przysposobienie Wojskowe i Wychowanie Fizyczne). On April 1 of that year, he was appointed commander of the flight school at the Lublinek airfield near Łódź. The school was initiated by 3 PL for candidates from the Przysposobienie Wojskowe Lotnicze (PWL; Initial Military Training - Flying). At the end of May he was also in charge of the training camp in Łódź for a 3-month course. He became commander of the 3 PL's sister PWL facility in Poznań on August 1, 1932.

From April 1932, he was also the chief instructor and air liaison officer at the Poznań Flying Club, where he served probably until sometime in 1936. In May 1932, he assisted in a firefighting course for officers of the Łódź fire service district, held in Rzgów. The following year he was a lecturer in Poznań for a similar course.

By mid-April 1933, he was a member of the team representing Poland at the international competition of sport aircraft in Sofia, Bulgaria. Along with Kropiński, the team of pilots consisted of: mjr Andrzej Chramiec, kpt. Tadeusz Halewski, kpt. Józef Lewoniewski, and por. Józef Orłowski. In the competition, Kropiński flew a PZL-19 aircraft (SP-AHH), one of only three ever made. The competition for rival Polish and Bulgarian pilots was located at Bozhurishte airport, 18 km from Sofia. Daring aerobatic flights took place on Monday, April 20, and were watched by 50,000 spectators.

Also in 1933, on May 24 and 25, Kropiński participated in an international aeronautical show in Warsaw, winning first place (out of 15 participants) piloting a PZL-19 (SP-AHH or SP-AHK) in the orientation flight. His winning flight resulted in him being awarded 300 złoty and the "Czechoslovakia Cup", donated by Mr. Hugo Táborský, vice-president of the Moravian-Silesian Flying Club in Brno.

In the beginning of June, he competed in flying events in Poznań. The first day, flying a PZL-19 in the orienteering race, the oil pump failed and he had to make a forced landing. After a simple fix, the next day he won the rally in the PZL-19.

During 1933 he was a member of a six-man commission developing rules and sporting regulations for the Governing Council of the Aeroklub Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej (Flying Club of the Republic of Poland).

In the first week of July 1934 he was the chairman of a three-day competition at Ławica airport for 260 model aircraft, involving mostly school children from across Poland.

In mid-July he was Chairman of the Sports Commission for the first air show in Inowrocław-Zdrój. As such he helped create the program of events and regulations for the Aeroklub Kujawski (Kujawy Flying Club). Over 20,000 attended the air show.

During April 1934, he took a course for flying instructors at the Lotnicza Szkoła Strzelania i Bombardowania (LSSiB; Air School of Gunnery and Bombardment) in Grudziądz. At that school in mid-August of the same year, he also completed a two-month course in advanced flight training. Later in October, he returned to 3 Pułk Lotniczy in Poznań to the post of commander of PWL. On November 1, 1934, he received a First Class Pilot Badge.

The following year, on April 19, he was appointed commander of 32 Eskadra Liniowa in 3 Pułk Lotniczy based in Poznań.

In mid-September 1935, Kropiński and kpt. Edward Suszyński, representing the Poznań Flying Club, piloted RWD-5 planes (SP-ALR and SP-ALS) to the Gordon-Bennett Cup ballooning/air show event in Warsaw. There Kropiński placed 5th out of 17 in a flying competition to see who could land in Warsaw closest to a pre-selected time. The next day they started participating in the Rally of the Balkans. The actual route was: Lwów - Cernauti (now Chernivtsi, Ukraine) - Bucharest - Sofia - Thessaloniki - Larissa - Athens - Thessaloniki - Belgrade - Vienna - Poznań. The last section of the race from Vienna to Poznań was held on September 27 without landing for 4 hours (500 km straight line).

On June 6, 1936, Kropiński took off from Ławica civilian airport in an RWD-13 (SP-ATA) on a touring flight from Poznań to Spain, with kpt. Zygmunt Zbrodzki as observer and physician Dr. Zbigniew Kajkowski as passenger. All were members of the Poznań Flying Club. That afternoon they landed in Berlin. Bad weather over Bavaria resulted in a few days stopover, but finally after two weeks, via Switzerland and France, they arrived in Barcelona. On June 22 they set off on the return journey, landing in Poznań five days later.

On November 3, 1936, he was sent to the Wyższa Szkoła Wojenna (Staff College) in Warsaw. He graduated one year later, and, as a qualified training officer, he was assigned to 3 Grupa Lotnicza (3rd Air Group) in Kraków under the command of płk pil. Władysław Kalkus, where he served as second staff officer.

On December 18, 1937, he was transferred to 2 Pułk Lotniczy in Kraków for the post of commander of II Dywizjon Towarzyszący (II Army Co-operation Squadron).

Starting in the early 1930s Kropiński learned to ski, eventually becoming a ski instructor for the Polish Air Force. In the period from March 4 to 18, 1934, Kropiński was on a ski course in Worochta. The following year from January 2 to 16, 1935, he was on a ski course in Dolina Pięciu Stawów near Zakopane, and from January 17 to February 17 of that year, on a course in Bukowina, where he was a ski instructor. Thanks to his athletic ability, an aptitude for teaching and the results achieved, he was again appointed an instructor for the next ski courses in Zakopane (February 3 to 27, 1936) and Hala Gąsienicowa (March 14 to 29, 1936). On January 18, 1938, he was sent on a one-week advanced qualifying course for ski instructors in Dolina Chochołowska near Zakopane. He completed his training with two ski courses in Zakopane ongoing from February 7 to 17 and from February 23 to March 10, 1938. In Zakopane he taught selected members of the Polish Air Force to ski.

He was promoted to the rank of major pilot on March 19, 1938. Six months later he was appointed commander of the Dywizjon Szkolny (Training Squadron) at 2 Pułk Lotniczy in Kraków.

In October 1938, during the occupation of Zaolzie, he was transferred to the Samodzielna Grupa Operacyjna "Śląsk" (Independent Operational Group "Silesia") as an officer in organization and supply on the staff of Air Force commander płk pil. Władysław Kalkus.

In March 1939, Kropiński was temporarily transferred back to work with the staff of 3 Grupa Lotnicza searching for suitable places for airfields, etc. In June 1939, he returned to the Dywizjon Szkolny in 2 Pułk Lotniczy.

Nothing is known about his mobilization assignment in August 1939. It is known, however, that on September 12, 1939, he crossed the Polish-Romanian border at Kuty-Vijniţa (now Vyzhnytsia, Ukraine). He probably belonged to the group of Polish Air Force officers negotiating with the Romanian authorities the conditions of transit for Polish war supplies, sent by sea from France and Britain. He escaped from Romania to France, and by November 2, 1939 he had reached Paris. During November he worked on the mission preparing for transferring airmen to England.

He was the senior officer on the first transport of Polish airmen from France to the British Isles. The group left Paris on December 6, 1939 for the port of Cherbourg and arrived in the UK the next day. The following day the group proceeded to RAF Station Eastchurch.

Kropiński was given the British rank of Acting Squadron Leader. His service number of 76600 was the very first issued in the initial series assigned to Polish officers in the RAFVR. According to a report in his flying log book, on arrival he had 1500 hours on single-engine and 30 hours on twin-engine aircraft and a good knowledge of English.

At RAF Eastchurch he was appointed commander of I Dywizjon, and then II Dywizjon after a reorganization on January 25, 1940. In March he was sent for one week to RAF Watton to observe how a bomber station operated. As he was expected to become the commander of No. 1 Flight of No. 1 Polish Bomber Squadron, he was sent on courses for pilots on British equipment in No. 15 EFTS at RAF Redhill, and in No. 18 OTU (Operational Training Unit) at RAF Hucknall, Bramcote, and Thurleigh. His training included 58 hours flying in Miles Magister, Fairey Battle, Avro Anson and Airspeed Oxford airplanes and 187 hours in Vickers Wellington III and IV bombers.

While undergoing training in No. 18 OTU until June 18, 1942, he also performed, respectively, the functions of: Commander of the Training Squadron, Senior Polish Officer, Commander of "C", "D", and then "A" Flights.

On June 18, 1942, Kropiński was posted to No. 300 (Polish) Bomber Squadron "Mazovia" at RAF Station Ingham as a pilot. He flew his first bombing mission a week later, on June 25. From August 2 to 7 he was on Beam Approach Training at RAF Station Mildenhall, Suffolk. He was promoted on September 1 of that year to the British rank of Squadron Leader.

He was transferred on September 7 to RAF Station Hemswell, where he assumed the duties of an intelligence officer. He held this position until October 31, 1942. Because Hemswell and Ingham were only 4 miles (6.4 km) apart, he also went on bombing missions from Ingham during that period.

On November 1, 1942, given the rank of Acting Wing Commander, he took over as Commander of No. 300 Bomber Squadron and remained in that position until May 3, 1943. During his service in No. 300 Squadron, flying Wellingtons (Mark III and IV), he made 22 missions on night operations. The bombing of: Bremen (June 25 and July 2, 1942), Wilhelmshaven (July 8, 1942), Duisburg (July 13, 21 and 25, 1942), Hamburg (July 26 and November 9, 1942), Saarbrücken (July 29 and August 28, 1942), Düsseldorf (July 31, 1942), Osnabrück (August 9, 1942), Frankfurt (August 24, 1942), Kassel (August 27, 1942), Krefeld (October 2, 1942), Lorient (February 13, 1943); and the mining of waters around the German naval bases in Western Europe (flights code-named "Gardening"): near St Nazaire, France (July 5, 1942), near West Frisian Islands group, Netherlands (July 7, 1942), near Langeoog Island in East Frisian Islands, Germany (September 15, 1942), West Frisian then East Frisian Islands (September 24 and October 11, 1942), Little Belt Strait, Denmark (October 12, 1942).

His regular crew consisted of: Sgt Karol Kramarczyk (navigator), Sgt Konstanty Czernek (wireless operator), Sgt Jan Horoch (air gunner), and P/O Henryk Paschalski (air gunner). Occasionally, Kropiński also flew with 11 other crew members.

On March 1, 1943, he was promoted to the rank of podpułkownik pilot (lieutenant colonel, equivalent to Wing Commander in the RAF). After the May 4, 1943, transfer of the squadron commander's responsibilities to W/Cdr Marian Kucharski, Kropiński was assigned to work in the Polish Air Force Inspectorate in London. There, on May 17, 1943, he was appointed head of the Department of Defence Intelligence.

On August 22, 1943 he was transferred to RAF Ingham (the location of Nos. 300 and 305 Polish Bomber Squadrons) for the post of Polish Station Commander, while granted the rank of Acting Group Captain. For the next two years, except for a 7-week period in the middle of 1944, he held this temporary rank. On September 1, 1943, he received the permanent RAF rank of Wing Commander.

On March 1, 1944, No. 300 Squadron moved to RAF Station Faldingworth, and he was appointed Polish commander of the station, at which post he remained until June 18, 1944. He then returned to the Polish Air Force Headquarters.

On August 8, 1944, he was posted as a liaison officer (rank of Acting Group Captain) in the Polish Military Mission to the General Staff of SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force). He went to the Headquarters in Paris on September 6, 1944, serving for almost a year in France and Germany, remaining on the assignment until August 13, 1945. The latter part of the time he was assigned to the Displaced Persons Branch of the G-5 Division of SHAEF.

Returning to London, he relinquished the rank of Acting Group Captain and was transferred to the Polish Air Force Depot as a supernumerary officer.

On December 6, 1946, he joined the No. 3 Polish Resettlement Unit at RAF Dunholme Lodge. He formally served in the Polish Resettlement Corps until 12 April 1948, but in fact left the service on March 15, 1948, when he and his family prepared to emigrate to Canada. He was honourably discharged with the rank of podpułkownik and Wing Commander (before he was Acting Group Captain).

Not willing to return to a communist-controlled Poland, Kropiński and his family (wife and three sons) emigrated to Canada in 1948. The family bought a large farm on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. Farm work was physically demanding, especially for Kropiński who was now 48. It was also financially challenging because of the added cost of farming on an island and the generally depressed prices for farm products. Eventually, through hard work and Kropiński's financial acumen, they made the farm a success.

In the mid-1950s the family sold the farm, moved to Kamloops and bought a 45-room hotel with business offices and retail stores underneath. Kropiński eventually retired to Vernon. With his health failing in his late seventies, he moved to Vancouver for better care.

Podpułkownik Adam Kropiński died on March 2, 1982, in Vancouver and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery, in the War Veterans Section.

In 1932 he married Krystyna née Tomaszewska. After the divorce, while in Britain he married Diana née Ware, an English WAAF officer. They had three sons – Andrew, Christopher and George. After the marriage ended in divorce, he married in 1969 Irena Pasławska née Maciejewicz.

In 1918-1939 he was awarded with: Krzyż Walecznych (Cross of Valour) and bar and Złoty Krzyż Zasługi (Golden Cross of Merit). He received also commemorative medals, Polish: Medal Dziesięciolecia Odzyskanej Niepodległości (Medal of the 10th Anniversary of Regained Independence), Srebrny Medal za Długoletnią Służbę (Silver Medal for Long Service), Brązowy Medal za Długoletnią Służbę (Bronze Medal for Long Service), Medal Pamiątkowy za Wojnę 1918-1921 (1918-1921 War Commemorative Medal), Gwiazda Przemyśla (Przemyśl Star), Krzyż Waleczności byłej Ochotniczej Sprzymierzonej Armii gen. Bułak-Bałachowicza (Cross of Valour of the Former Volunteer Army of Gen. Bułak-Bałachowicz), Odznaka Pamiątkowa Obrońcom Kresów Wschodnich (Eastern Borderland Commemorative Badge); Latvian: Latvijas Republikas atbrīvošanas cīņu 10 gadu jubilejas piemiņas medaļa (Commemorative Medal for the 10th Anniversary of the Battles for the Liberation of the Republic of Latvia) and Latvian military pilot's wings.

For World War 2 he was awarded with Polish: Virtuti Militari Order Class V (No. 9680), Krzyż Walecznych and two bars, Medal Lotniczy (Air Medal) and two bars, Polowy Znak Pilota (Operational Pilot Badge; No. 1220); British: Distinguished Flying Cross and Mention in Despatches twice. He received also campaign and commemorative medals, British: 1939-1945 Star with the Bomber Command Clasp, Air Crew Europe Star with the France and Germany Clasp, Defence Medal and War Medal 1939-1945; French: Croix du combattant volontaire de la guerre de 1939-1945 (Cross of Volunteer Combatant of the 1939-1945 War).

Chris Kropinski