Sergeant Bronislaw Malinowski of No.501 Squadron

Sgt. Bruno Malinowski (left) with the President of Poland, Władysław Raczkiewicz.
Jane Dunmill

Like many of the Polish pilots of WW2, Bronislaw Malinowski had an extraordinary story. Bruno (as he was known in Britain) was born in Lviv, Poland, in 1912, to a family with a strong military tradition.

One of 14 children, he lost three brothers in the 1918-1921 war. He dropped out of Technical College in 1929, aged 17, to enlist as a minor in the Polish Army, obtaining the required consent from his older brother instead of his parents. He joined the 6th Aviation Regiment in Lviv as a private. In 1930, he began pilot training and served as a fighter pilot with the 3rd Aviation Regiment in Poznań. By 1934, he was a flying instructor at the Aviation Cadet School in Dęblin, where Stanislaw Skalski was one of his pupils.

At the outbreak of WW2, Malinowski was one of the instructors, equipped with the outdated PZL P.7 fighter, who fought on an ad hoc basis, during the September campaign. Eventually, lack of fuel forced the beleaguered pilots abandon their aircraft. Bruno sold his flying kit to obtain the cash to escape to Romania. From there, he travelled through Yugoslavia and Greece, to France, where, after training, he served as a ferry pilot from 13th May, 1940. However, the fall of France, in late June, forced Bruno to flee from the advancing Germans again, this time on board a LeO 451 bomber, flying from Marignane airfield, near Marseille, to Oran with no maps, in bad weather. They completed the rest of the journey to Casablanca by land.

Bruno travelled by sea to Britain via Gibraltar, arriving in Liverpool on 13th July, 1940, and was initially sent to No.3 School of Technical Training in Blackpool, before being posted to 307 Squadron on 10th September, at Kirton-In-Lindsey. The intention was that they would become the first Polish night fighter squadron, equipped with the Boulton Paul Defiant, but training ceased as pilots were posted away to day fighter units in need of personnel. In October, Bruno was assessed at No.1 School of Army Co-operation, at Old Sarum, and then sent to No.5 Operational Training Unit to convert to Hurricanes.

On 25th October, 1940, he joined 43 Squadron at Usworth, flying Hurricanes, and saw action during the last days of the Battle of Britain, making a forced landing at Chirnside, west of Berwick, on 31st October, because of engine trouble.

On 27th November, he was transferred to 501 Squadron at Kenley. 

On 8th December, 1940, 11 Hurricanes, of 501 Squadron, RAF Kenley, took off at 1315hrs to patrol the Maidstone area. They landed at 1525hrs without having sighted the enemy. However, Sgt. Bronislaw Malinowski, crashed in Hurricane Mk.I, (R4101, SD-I), at Wye, near Ashford, through illness – he had fainted, but was only slightly injured in the crash.

On 9th April, 1941, Bruno joined 302 Polish Squadron, and probably destroyed a Me109 on 30th December. He remained with 302 for nearly a year before being sent to No.58 Operational Training Unit, at Grangemouth, as an instructor for six months. During this time, Malinowski was injured during a flight when his student, Stanisław Góralski, flew into a tree. Góralski also escaped with his life. 

In November, 1942, he returned to 302 Squadron, at Heston. The Spring of 1943 found Bruno flying with the Polish Flying Team, “Skalski’s Circus,” in Tunisia, where he destroyed a Me109 on 7th April, but he was back with 302 in Britain on 22nd July, 1943.

On 8th September, 1943, 302 Squadron were escorting 72 B-26 Marauders to Lille. Malinowski destroyed two Me109’s, but his Spitfire V, (AA928 WX-U), was damaged in combat over the French/Belgian border. He managed a forced landing at Zillebeke, near Ypres, and despite a shrapnel injury to his right leg and the burns he had suffered when his oxygen tank exploded, he managed to get out of his aircraft and hide in a vineyard. With the help of local farmers and the resistance, he evaded capture and the shrapnel was surgically removed from his leg, without anaesthesia, while he was being hidden in a hospital morgue in Ypres. Once his condition had improved enough for him to leave the hospital, Bruno was taken to Langemark, where he was given a false identity and then to Liege, where his escape through France and over the Pyrenees into Spain was organised by the Comet Line.

He eventually arrived back in Britain on 24th December, 1943, returning to 302. On 25th March, 1944, he was posted to No. 1 AIrcraft Delivery Unit at Croydon, but one month later he returned to 302 Squadron for the fourth time, at Chailey. On 30th July 1944, his Spitfire was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Not having enough altitude to glide to the Allied lines, he brought the aircraft down in No-Man’s Land. Both his legs were broken during the crash and jammed in the cockpit. Canadian forces got him out and took him to a field hospital. He was transported back to England where it took him many months to recover from his injuries.

During September, Malinowski was awarded the DFC and the Virtuti Militari (fifth class) both gazetted on 25th. A third bar to his Krzyż Walecznych (Cross of Valour) was gazetted in December, along with the French Croix de Guerre.

On 18th March, 1945, Bruno joined 133 Wing on the continent and flew several more sorties on Mustang III’s. He was released from the Polish Air Force in 1947 as a Flight Lieutenant, having flown 113 combat sorties.

Post-war, Bruno settled in Britain and started a car repair shop in Laud St, Croydon and later invested in a pub. He took a great interest in veteran’s affairs but it was only in the mid-70’s that he discovered the identities of the brave Belgians who had helped him evade capture.  In May 1976, Bruno visited Langemark, Belgium and unveiled a plaque, in Madonna, to remember the four Belgians who were captured and subsequently died in concentration camps, after facilitating his escape. 

Bronisliaw Malinowski died on 1st May, 1982 in Roehampton Hospital. After cremation, his ashes were taken to Poland and interred at the municipal cemetery in Ksawerów. Bruno’s niece, Jane Dunmill, remembers her Uncle fondly, recalling that although he was perceived as a tough guy, he was very kind-hearted, helpful and hopeful.

Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.

Many thanks to Jane Dunmill. Thanks also to Andrew Sankowski for information about the photo.
Operations Record Books

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