95-year-old Jim Auton is a veteran of two RAF flights to supply the Home Army (Armia Krajowa – AK) with weapons and ammunition during the Warsaw Uprising. After our article (and many others) about Jim and his poor health he received over 400 messages from Poles living around the world. He is very grateful for all the messages of thanks and prayers as he enters the final weeks of his life.
Next Tuesday night there will be the 75th anniversary of Jim and his crew’s first flight to Warsaw. They took off in Italy, avoided the German air defences over Yugoslavia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia then over Poland dodged both German and Russian flak and night fighters. The crew had all agreed that they would not fly home until they made 100% sure the AK had received the much needed weapons, ammunition, medical supplies and explosives. So for fifty minutes their aircraft circled burning Warsaw even as other aircraft were shot down around them until Jim (its bomb aimer) finally found the AK drop zone and released the 12 precious containers.
Two nights later Jim and his crew returned to Warsaw with more essential supplies.
Politicians and governments let Poland down but Jim and his crew would not.
Poland has no greater friend than Jim, he never forgot the bravery of the Poles. He wrote a book about how badly Poles were treated, he set up a charity which both gave financial support to Polish veterans including heroes from 303 Squadron and SOE parachutists but also supplied the latest medical equipment to Polish hospitals. He discovered that many Poles who had assisted British units during the conflict had either been killed or imprisoned by the Communist authorities. He argues that, once victory over Nazi Germany had been secured, British and allied governments betrayed these resistance workers who had so bravely served the cause and paid such a significant contribution towards the allied war effort. He describes this shameful betrayal in his second work of autobiographical memoir, which you can buy here.
In 1989 he built a monument in Newark Cemetery next to the Polish war graves so visitors could remember both the bravery of the AK and the 250 British, Polish and South African airmen who died trying to help Warsaw.
We live in uncertain times but Jim represents what is best between our two countries and how much one person can make a difference, maybe there are Poles alive today as a result of Jim’s actions both 75 years ago and in more recent years.
The video attached appeared as a surprise in his message inbox last night as a thank you from some Poles who had heard of his story/illness. Residents in Opoczno show their respect for Jim after learning he has only a short time to live and unable to join in with celebrations in Warsaw – he has previously attended events in Warsaw for 30 years. It is very moving and ‘a class act’.
If you want to send Jim a personal message (or a similar ‘Thank you’ photo/video) he can be reached on Facebook. Or you can just raise a glass of gratitude to Jim, his crew and the other airmen involved in the flights to Warsaw.
This years event to mark the Warsaw Air Lift operations will be held in Newark Cemetery on Sunday September 29th at approx.2pm. All are already invited!
Paul Trickett/Nel BadowskaHistory