HERE'S WHAT HIS FRIEND,
MR ALAN SCHECKENBACH
WROTE FOR HIS FUNERAL.
I’ve been given the privilege to have been asked to say a few words about Kaz’s military career and accomplishments.
Let me start by saying that Kaz’s greatest accomplishment is to a great extent gathered here in this room.
He did many things during his long life but his family, of which the greater part is gathered here, and his friends, some of whom are here and others are scattered across the world, are his greatest work.
· The love I see in the family that Eileen and he grew really is worth more than anything else he had – even more than his store of truly terrible jokes!
· His nature was to be friendly and generally cheerful and was fun to be around.
· I am sad for me, for Eileen and for all of us that he is gone to wherever you go when you die but I am happy for Kaz because he’s now crossed the divide we used to talk about and doing whatever it is you do when your body dies.
· Kaz was born way back in 1919 in western Siberia, the first son of his father, Wladek a blacksmith, formerly in the service of the Czar and his mother Zofia – the daughter of a southern Ukranian Gypsy chief.
· In 1921, his parents took Kaz and his younger brother Ludwik out of Russia on a moderately epic journey by rail and foot back to his father’s village, Zarudki, in central Poland on the eastern bank of the River Vistula. After his mother was forced out by the family and local priest probably for not being Catholic.
· Kaz grew up on the farm and rose to the dizzy social height of Polish farm boy. He also grew a chip on his shoulder about not being good enough. And was baptised at least three times by his Grandmother and family – just to make sure.
· Through the kindly intervention of Pan Pokraka, the head man in his village he gained a spot in the 1936 intake of the Polish NCO Cadet School in northern Poland. When he got in, he swore a might oath to himself, that no matter what, he was going to make good at the school or never come back. He had intended to join a ship at Gdansk and sail the oceans if he failed.
· Kaz spent three years there and qualified as a trained aircraft mechanic. Shortly afterwards he was posted to a medium bomber squadron at Warsaw and was what we would call a crew chief on a particular aircraft.
· When the war started they were well outside Warsaw and sent their aircraft on missions against the invading Germans but were continually forced back by the invading Germans.
· When Poland was stabbed in the back by Russia, Kaz’s unit was told to cut and run for the Romanian border, which they reached just hours before it was closed by Russian tanks.
· After a trek through Romania to the Black Sea he and several comrades were collected by Polish agents and along with hundreds of others were transported by ship to Syria and then to France where they eventually made it to Paris. It was here that he and Konrad Szymanski unwittingly changed the course of their lives.
· Only a couple of days later, while they were wasting time in their tents after the evening meal, there came a list, doing the rounds of all inhabitants. It asked for the names of any person who had taken any flying instruction, the hours flown and the name of the flying instructor. In Kaz’s group of thirty-two, only three put their names down. Kaz and Konrad Szymanski thought that this was not nearly enough to uphold the honour of their group, so they borrowed an instructor’s name, thought up a believable number of flying hours, eighteen hours and twenty-five minutes, and added their names to the list. The final tally of five looked much more impressive.
· They promptly forgot about that and a few days later were sent to England and were looked after by the RAF.
· Then followed intensive English language training, an introduction to cricket, bagpipes and best of all – Wall’s Pork Pies!
· Kaz was posted as ground-crew to Polish 316 squadron in the south of England during the Battle of Britain when England was literally holding on by the skin of her fighter pilot’s teeth. For three or four weeks he was very busy using his trolley accumulator to start the squadron’s Hurricane fighters when they went on patrol or were scrambled to attack an incoming German raid.
· When the pressure eased off Kaz was posted to Brize Norton where there was a large equipment maintenance facility and he and his comrades refurbished tired but essential aircraft ground support equipment.
· It was here he met a WAAF, Noreen Laughlan who he married. It was with Noreen that he had two children Tony in 1942 and Pauline in 1943. This was an unhappy marriage which finally broke down in 1948.
· Shortly after Kaz and Noreen were married, that little stunt in Paris about flying hours came home to roost and Kaz was instructed to join a pilot’s course in Scotland.
· With some considerable effort and calling upon what he had learned, Kaz learned to fly, graduated from the course and was sent on to learn to fly single-engined fighters.
· In late 1943 Kaz was posted to Polish 315 Squadron, arguable the most famous of the wartime Polish fighter squadrons. He flew the legendary Spitfire and flew it in combat against serious opposition – the Germans.
· He flew quite a few missions over France before the Squadron transitioned to the new Mustang III. Kaz was glad to leave the Spitfire and its limited range and no heater behind. The Mustang had range, firepower speed, ash-tray and piss-funnel and was Kaz’s favourite fighter.
· Kaz flew a dive bombing mission on D-Day – a coveted mission.
· He flew long-range bomber escort missions deep into Germany
· And flew ground attack missions on whatever German targets they could find.
· Kaz was awarded a Mention-in-Despatches for hitting a ground target by fluke with a bomb which he was only trying to get off his wing. Something he used to laugh about. (Tell story)
· Kaz also flew patrols waiting for V1 flying bombs to come over from France. He managed to knock down two.
· On the 18th on August 1944, Kaz was flying with the squadron when they attacked a large number of German aircraft who were taking off on a mission to intercept Allied bombers. This mission became known as the Battle of Beauvais. On this flight, 315 squadron shot down the most enemy aircraft in a single mission during the entire war and Kaz was credited with one shot down and one damaged.
· In late 1944, 315 was transferred up to Scotland for a rest and along with 316 Squadron they escorted aircraft of 133 Strike Wing to Norway for anti-shipping strikes. RAAF 455 Squadron was part of that Wing and we have Peter Ilbery and Bill Herbert here today from 455 to honour Kaz. When Kaz first met Bill and Peter and they thanked him for his escorting – he was so pleased he nearly burst. No-one had ever said thank you before.
· In January 1945 315 was transferred south again and it was bomber escorts over Germany. Still dangerous work.
· In February Kaz had completed a tour and was posted to a training squadron where he taught pupils the finer points of aircraft handling. He was there when the war ended.
· He did not return to Poland as it was under Communist rule and was likely to have been imprisoned at best if he returned.
· Eventually Kaz was demobbed and studied hard for his civilian pilot’s license, gaining it in 1946. He worked for several companies and in 1948 settled into aerial photographic work.
· It was here, that he met Eileen for the first time and as his marriage to Noreen was in tatters, developed a relationship with her.
· When Photair failed, Kaz took up work as a milkman – and had several good stories about that – and then worked as an ice-cream-seller whilst he was waiting to rejoin the RAF.
· In late 1949 Kaz joined the RAF and was trained on multi-engined aircraft and flew the Wellington, a wartime medium bomber, still in service but no longer a front-line aircraft. It was his favourite bomber.
· After getting through all the familiarisation Kaz was posted into Transport Command as a second pilot and flew in Hastings transports down to Africa and Egypt and even out to Singapore. There were some very long flights.
· He was then posted to 7/76 bomber squadron where he flew the Avro Lincoln, the development of the famous wartime heavy bomber, the Lancaster and formed part of the deterrent to the Russian threat against Europe during the early part of the Cold War.
· Kaz was one of the few pilots given the task of flying formation at the new Queen’s Coronation in 1953 – after which he took some time off and married Eileen. And went on a short honeymoon.
· Kaz was nearing his flying use-by date by now and was posted to the Bomber Command Bombing School to pass on his accumulated experience to the young ones coming through.
· About a year later later, Carol was born to great celebration at the Kijak married quarters on RAF Lindholme, followed by Christine in April 1956.
· In June 1956, Kaz’s posting to Seletar in Singapore came through and he left Eileen with the girls and was flown to Singapore. Eileen followed by ship several months later. You can imagine that trip – a toddler and babe-in-arms…
· Seletar was Kaz’s last flying job and a lovely time for the family. There was a motley collection of aircraft in the base flight and Kaz flew Beaufighters- the same as he escorted to Norway during the war, as well as jets and was pleased to have been able to break the sound barrier a couple of times.
· Kaz was asked to apply to be an officer several times during his career but turned it down every time as he couldn’t see himself as an officer.
· In 1959 Kaz was posted back to England and the family set off by ship back home.
· Kaz was sent on an administrative course where he learnt the ins and outs of running RAF establishments and was then sent to Bircham Newton and Hawkinge as Station Warrant Officer. People like Kaz were valuable in terms of their accumulated knowledge and formed the backbone of the administrative structure of the serious militaries across the world.
· It was at this time that he became infected by boats and fishing – a malady he never fully recovered from.
· After a couple of years of that work he was posted up to RAF Acklington where his long years of flying experience were used to train young pilots from all over the Commonwealth in blind flying techniques.
· In 1964 Kaz’s Air Force career ended with his retirement but only after he completed RAF transition training on earthmoving equipment.
· After a short stint selling garbage trucks, the family emigrated to Canberra where Eileen’s sister and brother were living.
· Kaz turned his hand to a number of jobs in the fast growing Canberra before finding himself work as a powerplant mechanic at the new Honeysuckle Creek tracking station being built for the Apollo moon-missions.
· Kaz was there for many years on rotating shiftwork making sure power was supplied reliably to the dish and computers in the complex.
· Kaz was very proud to have been on duty and supplying power when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on the 20th of July 1969.
· He worked there until the end of 1981 when he officially retired.
· Colin Mackellar formerly of Honeysuckle Creek sends his condolences to Eileen and your family.
· From then on, Kaz enjoyed some travel around Australia with Eileen, they moved down to the coast at Tuross where they had LOTS of visitors and the fishing disease flared up even worse than usual.
· After four years they moved back to Canberra to be closer to family while their grandchildren grew up.
· Kaz had a knee and hip replacement in the early 1980s. The inserts were German steel. He used to laugh that the Germans had tried for the entire war to get their steel into him but they only managed it after he gave them permission!
· In the last ten or so years Kaz met a number of people who fought during WW2 and was pleased to be able to roll those hangar doors back and roll out the war stories over a couple of beers.
· I know he really enjoyed the lunches we had down at the Yacht Club on the lake. I’m sure Kaz is pleased to see some of his friends here today.
· In the last couple of years Kaz also managed to contact his family and his old primary school in Poland and close the circle of uncertainty of what happened to his family during the war years and while Poland was behind the Iron Curtain.
· Pleasingly the school commemorated his life and rightly honoured him as a war hero. That is no exaggeration.
· And that brings us to where we are today – then end of Kaz’s life with but his influence lives on in our lives.
· I consider myself better for knowing him.
Alan Scheckenbach 19 Jan 2011