Born on 24 August 1910 at Sarnow, qKielce region, son of Jan and Marianna Burza. In 1931 he volunteered for the military service and was poseted to the 4th Air Regiment in Torun. In 1932 he completed a course of
assistant mechanics and graduated from the NCO School. In 1933 he completed a flying course at Grudziadz, and then was posted to the 42nd Line Flight of the 4th Air Regiment. In 1934 he completed an advanced flying course at Grudziadz and from 2 October he was a pilot of the 142nd Fighter Flight of the 4th Regiment. On 11 May 1935 he was involved in a mid-air collision of two PZL P.7s. Lt Dyonizy Durka, who was killed, was found responsible for the accident, while Lce Cpl Wladyslaw Gnys (P.7 no. 6.78) suffered only light injuries. On 1 August 1935, while taxiing in P.7 no. 6.87 he collided with P.7 no. 6.130. In the spring of 1936 he completed a flying instructor's course at the Air Force Officers' Training Centre at Deblin. On 1 October 1936 he joined the Cadet Officers' School for NCOs at Bydgoszcz. In August 1938 he transferred to the 3rd year (term) of the Air Force Cadet Officers School at Deblin. At the same time he was a flying instructor for cadet officers of junior terms. On 2 June 1939 he was posted to the 121st Fighter Flight of the 2nd Air Regiment in Cracow. On 1 September 1939 morning Gnys took off with the commander of the III/2 Fighter Squadron, Capt. Medwecki, to intercept German bombers. Capt. Medwecki was shot down over his airfield by a Junkers 87, but Gnys evaded the Germans and subsequently fought a victorious air combat. It is generally assumed that he was the first allied pilot to score an air victory in World War 2. In subsequent days he flew combat sorties, but failed to score more victories. On 18 September he crossed the Rumanian border at Kuty. He managed to leave Rumania by sea and on 19 November 1939 he arrived at Marseilles. In early 1940 he joined the so-called Montpellier Group. Following training he was posted to the section of Lt Kazimierz Bursztyn, attached to the Groupe de Chasse III/1. After the death of Lt Bursztyn on 25 May Gnys took command of the section. Following the fall of France, via North Africa, Casablanca and Gibraltar he reached Britain on 14 July 1940. He received service no. P-1298. On 20 August 1940 he was posted to No. 302 Squadron, but on 2 September he was reposted for training to No. 5 Operational Training Unit. On 26 September he rejoined No. 302 Squadron and with it he fought in the Battle of Britain. On 30 January 1942 he was transferred to the operations room of No. 302 Squadron (during summer 1942 for a short time No. 303 Squadron). In December 1942 he resumed flying with No. 302 Squadron. On 10 February 1943 he was reposted to No. 316 Squadron, and on 15 March he was appointed the 'A' Flight commander. From August to October 1943 he flew with No. 309 (Army Co-operation) Squadron, he was one of a number of fighter pilots posted to the unit to ensure smooth conversion onto single-seat fighter-reconnaissance aircraft. In October 1943 he was posted to the HQ 18 Fighter Wing (Sector). Subsequently he was a Liaison Officer at the HQ No. 84 Group RAF. On 26 August 1944 he took command of No.317 Squadron. The next day he was shot down during a bombing mission against German troops south of Rouen. Wounded, he was taken prisoner. Several days later he managed to escape with help from French partisans and hid until the arrival of allied forces. Subsequently he wa staken to a hospital in Swindon, England. Following convalescence, in January 1945 he joined the the Polish Air Force Staff College at Weston-super- -Mare. Upon graduation, in September 1945 he was posted to the HQ Fighter Command RAF, and stayed at thispost until the disbandment of the Polish Air Force. Demobilised, in 1948 he emigrated to Canada. He ran a farm, and then he worked in industry. In 1965 he visited Poland for the first time since the war. In 1982 his biography, written by his wife Barbara, was published under the title 'First Kill' (published in Poland in 1996). In 1996 he visited Poland and took part in the ceremony of naming the primary school at Zurada after him, and was made a honorary citizen of the town of Olkusz. He died on 28 February 2000 and was buried at Mount Osborne, Beanville,
His decorations included the
Bronze Cross of Merit (before the war),
the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari (no. 10766),
the Cross of Valour and two bars, and
the French Croix de Guerre.
In 1999 he was awarded
the Commander's Cross of Polonia Restituta.