Stanislaw Skalski was born on 27th October 1915 at the village of Kodyn, north of the Russian city of Odessa. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 his father sent him and his mother to Zbaraz, near Lvov.
After attending school in Dubno, Stanislaw learnt to fly gliders in 1934, and the following year he qualified on powered aircraft. He now decided to become a military pilot and entered the cadet school at Deblin in 1936. He completed his training in October 1938, graduating as an officer.
Skalski was assigned to the 4th Air Regiment at Torun, where he joined 142 Eskadra, operating PZL fighters.
In the September 1939 fighting in Poland, Skalski landed beside a Hs126 on the 1st and then collected maps and documents from it.
On the 2nd he destroyed two Do17’s, on the 3rd he shared in destroying two Hs126’s and damaged a Do17, on the 4th he destroyed a Ju87 and damaged a Do17.
After the fall of Poland, Skalski made his way via Romania to the Mediterranean and boarded a ship for England. Skalski was commissioned in the RAFVR in January 1940 at Eastchurch. On 1st June he went to the Polish Wing at 3 School of Technical Training Blackpool, to await a posting.
He was on the first Polish Pilots Course at No. 1 School of Army Co-operation Old Sarum from 5th to 13th July 1940, for testing and grading. He arrived at 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 14th July. After converting to Hurricanes he joined 302 Squadron at Leconfleld on 3rd August.
However he was posted back to Blackpool on 12th August and remained there until the 25th, when he was posted to 501 Squadron at Gravesend, he joined it there on the 27th.
Skalski claimed a He111 destroyed and another damaged on the 30th, destroyed a Me109 on the 31st, damaged a Me110 on 1st September, destroyed two Me109’s on the 2nd and shot down a He111 and two more Me109’s on the 5th.
On this day Skalski was shot down by Me109’s in combat over Canterbury in Hurricane V6644. He was injured and admitted to Herne Bay Hospital.
He rejoined his squadron on 16th October and was operational again on the 25th. On 8th November he shared in the destruction of a Me109.
Awarded the VM (5th Class) (gazetted 1st February 1941), he was posted to 306 Squadron at Tern Hill on 25th February 1941.
Skalski destroyed Me109’s on 24th July and 19th and 21st August. He was appointed a Flight Commander on 15th August, awarded the KW and Bar (gazetted 10th September 1941) and destroyed two more Me109’s on 17th September.
In October Skalski was posted to 58 OTU Grangemouth as an instructor.
He was awarded two more Bars to the KW (gazetted 30th October 1941) and the DFC (gazetted 19th February 1942). On 1st March 1942 Skalski joined 316 Squadron at Northolt as ‘B’ Flight Commander.
He destroyed a Fw190 on 10th April, damaged a Me109 on the 25th and probably destroyed a Fw190 on 3rd May. He was given command of 317 Squadron, also at Northolt, on 11th June 1942. Skalski was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 15th November 1942) and posted away on 2nd November to 58 OTU Balado Bridge as CFI.
Skalski went to West Kirby on 13th February 1943 to prepare for overseas service and on 13th March arrived in the Middle East in a C-47, with other Polish pilots, to form the Polish Fighting Team, otherwise known as Skalski’s Circus. They were attached to 145 Squadron and operated in the Western Desert from 17th March.
On the 28th Skalski destroyed a Ju88, on 2nd and 4th April he destroyed Me109’s and on the 6th damaged another. The Team, led by Skalski, operated until 12th May and by that time had destroyed thirty enemy aircraft.
In mid-July 1943 Skalski took command of 601 Squadron at Luqa, Malta. He was only the second Pole to be given command of a RAF squadron. Shortly afterwards the squadron moved to Sicily.
Skalski left 601 in early October to return to the UK. He was awarded a second Bar to the DFC (gazetted 20th October 1943) and appointed Wing Leader of 131 Wing at Northolt on 13th December.
Skalski moved to lead 133 Wing on 11th April 1944 with three Polish Mustang squadrons. He destroyed two Me109’s on 24th June.
Skalski was posted away from the Wing on 12th July, was awarded the VM (4th Class)(gazetted 25th September 1944) and went on a course to the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on 4th October.
He returned to the UK in late January 1945 and was posted to HQ 11 Group as Wing Commander Ops.
He was awarded the DSO (gazetted 26th May 1945).
At the end of the war Skalski was offered a commission in the RAF, but he decided to return to Poland in June 1947. Initially, he served at the headquarters of the Soviet-dominated Polish Air Force, but, following increasing tension between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers, he was arrested in June 1948 and charged with espionage and treason, as were many of his ex-RAF Polish colleagues.
In 1949, after a series of interrogations, he was condemned to death and spent the next six years awaiting execution. Eventually, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he was finally released in 1956 after eight years in prison.
Skalski was later put in charge of aero clubs in Poland.
He died on 12th November 2004 in Warsaw.
Pictures: Institute of National Remembrance, Kraków
Poles in UK