world war 2: warsaw uprising 1944

Flt. Lt. Roman Chmiel, Polish Air Force, Special Duties Squadron

Reprinted from Destiny Can Wait. William Heinemann Ltd., 1949, pp. 222-223.

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roman chmielWe had been ordered to carry out the sortie regardless of weather conditions. So, though the Met. forecast was exceptionally despondent, we took off. It's funny how only the gloomy predictions come true: sure enough, right from the Yugoslav coast fog stretched from the ground to 6,000 feet above. Fog was hardly the word for it – water vapour or steam would be more appropriate. We had no navigational aid from the ground; I tried map reading at first but even rivers were so obscured that we finally flew on solely with star ‘fixes'.

We had similar weather all the way until we crossed the Carpathians and got over Poland, where we saw a Jerry fighter shoot down one of our Halifaxes – it crashed and burst into flames. (There had been, by the way, a lot of flak over Yugoslavia and the Danube, and they had done their best to bring us down.) We pushed on and got a decent ‘fix' by the time we reached the Pilica. After that we flew on guided by the distant red glow over Warsaw.

We dropped to some 700 feet, got through a very dense flak barrage near Sluzew and so over the Vistula. Fires were blazing in every district of Warsaw: The dark spots were places occupied by the Jerries. Everything was smothered in smoke through which flickered ruddy, orange flames. I had never believed a big city could burn so. It was terrible: must have been hell for everybody down there.

The German flak was the hottest, I have ever been through, so we got down just as low as we could – 70 or a 100 feet above ground; it was really too low, but we had to get out of the line of fire. The flicks in the Praga and Mokotow suburbs lay down flat on the ground and kept us lit up all the time – there was nothing we could do about it. We nearly hit the Poniatowski Bridge as we cracked along the Vistula: the pilot hopped over it by the skin of his teeth.

Our reception point was Krasinski Square, so, when we got over the Kierbedz Bridge, we turned sharp to port and made ready for the run-up. The Square was nicely lit up. The whole southern side was blazing and wind was blowing the smoke south, much to our satisfaction. We dropped the containers and knew we had made a good job of it.

It was time to clear out. The pilot came down a little lower, keeping an eye for steeples and high buildings. The cabin was full of smoke which got into our eyes and made them smart. We could feel the heat from the walls of the burnt-out district.

We ripped along the railway line leading to Prushkow and Skierniewice. Some flak near Fort Bem tried to shoot us down. It came from an anti-aircraft train on the track, so we let go some bursts at it. We had a short breathing space until flicks near Bochnia picked us up and the flak got uncomfortably near. We passed over the crashed bomber in the foothills; it was now burning out.

We got through all the usual flak on the way back home and landed safely at base. The other Halifaxes – five of them that had taken off with us never returned. The Home Army people signalled that a supply was received on Krasinski Square on the 20th August at the time we noted in our log book. So we knew that at least our flight had not been in vain.
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