Franciszek Surma was born on 1st July 1916 in Gołkowice, Poland. He attended school in Zory and after graduating went to the School of Infantry in Rozan. He then went on to the Aviation Cadet School in Dęblin. He qualified as a pilot on 15th June 1939 and was posted to 121 Fighter Squadron of 2 Air Regiment in Krakow, operating the PZL11.
He flew many operational sorties against the German attack before escaping across the border to Romania on 18th September. He made his way via Lebanon and France to England and was commissioned in the RAF on 24th January 1940.
He did refresher training at 15 EFTS, going on to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on 18th July 1940 to convert to Hurricanes. His first posting was 151 Squadron at Stapleford where he arrived on 17th August. On the 30th Surma claimed a He111 destroyed.
He moved to 607 Squadron at Tangmere on 11th September and destroyed a Me109 on the 26th. He next went to 257 Squadron at North Weald, arriving on 20th October and claiming a He111 damaged on the 28th.
Surma was himself shot down on the 29th by Me109’s and baled out, unhurt. On landing, he was taken for a German, not surprisingly as he was wearing a Luftwaffe jacket with badges that he had taken from a wrecked bomber in Poland in September 1939.
On 12th December 1940 Surma was posted to 242 Squadron at Martlesham Heath. He left on 13th March 1941 to join 308 Squadron at Baginton. On 26th March he shared in probably destroying a Ju88 and on 27th June he damaged two Me109’s on the ground at Guines airfield. On 22nd July, 16th and 20th September and 12th October Surma destroyed a total of five Me109’s and he probably destroyed another on 27th September.
He was awarded the KW and Bar (gazetted 10th September 1941), a second Bar (gazetted 30th October 1941) and the VM (5th Class) (gazetted 30th October 1941).
On 8th November 1941, the squadron provided cover for bombers over France. Surma was shot down in Spitfire Vb AB930 ZF*J when the squadron was bounced by Me109’s near Dunkirk.
His body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Polish Air Force Memorial at Northolt.
Dilip Sarkar, a historian and an expert on the Battle of England, has recorded a video reminding the history of Franciszek Surma. You can watch it below.
Pictures: bbm.org.uk, Tomasz Wiśniewski, Twitter @DilipMbe
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