Plutonwy (Pilot; Sergeant)
No. P783150, 315 (City of Deblin) Polish Fighter Squadron
Killed in an aircraft accident on Saturday 11 September 1943 (aged 26)
Ballycranbeg (Mount St. Joseph) Roman Catholic Churchyard, Co. Down
Sergeant Wladyslaw Kolek was born on 2 July 1917 and, during the Second World War, he served with 315 (City of Deblin) Polish Fighter Squadron.
Saturday 11 September 1943 was described as ‘a black day for 315 Squadron’ which was based at RAF Ballyhalbert. Two pilots and three aircraft were lost. In the late afternoon, during adverse weather, three pilots took off in Supermarine Spitfire Mark V aircraft to practise formation flying. Flight Sergeant Stanislaw Grondowski was a very experienced pilot and he was leading the formation flight in W3427 (PK-J). The other two pilots – Sergeant E. Zygmund in AR338 (PK-P) and Sergeant Wladyslaw Kolek in BL469 (PK-F) – were undergoing training. For some reason, the three aircraft left the prescribed training area and in the bad weather they became separated. Within a short space of time, all three aircraft crashed in the hills west and north of Belfast.
Flight Sergeant Stanislaw Grondowski was killed near Plantation House, Lisburn, and Sergeant Wladyslaw Kolek was killed near Ballyutoag. Sergeant Zygmund was knocked unconscious when his aircraft crashed near Glengormley and then, after he regained consciousness, he climbed out of the wreckage (both wings of his aircraft had been ripped off) and walked to the nearest road.
Sergeant Wladyslaw Kolek was 26 when he died and, in accordance with Polish custom, burial took place three days after his death. Tuesday 14 September 1943 was described as a bright, warm day but ‘no-one felt very cheerful’. After High Mass in Ballyhalbert Hangar Church, Flight Sergeant Grondowski and Sergeant Kolek were buried in Ballycranbeg (Mount St. Joseph) Roman Catholic Churchyard. In addition to the official representatives and guards of honour there were many mourners from the local community. Flight Sergeant Grondowski was well known in the area; Sergeant Kolek died just two days after arriving from the Operational Training Unit (OTU).
Sergeant Wladyslaw Kolek is commemorated on Panel 30 of the Polish War Memorial at Northolt in London.