115 years ago, on July 10th 1904, Zdzisław Krasnodębski was born in Wola Osowińska, Poland.
He enrolled in the Polish Army as a sixteen-year-old in 1920 and served in the conflict with Russia that lasted into 1921. When his army service ended he joined the Air Force in 1925 as a cadet, after basic training he went to the Military Aviation School, going with it to its permanent home at Dęblin.
When the Germans and Soviets invaded Poland in 1939 Krasnodębski joined the Polish detachments in France and served with the French Air Force. After the fall of France Krasnodębski was commissioned in the RAF where he was appointed as the first leader of Polish 303 Squadron in July 1940.
Krasnodębski shaped 303 Squadron into an organised fighting unit, which became the highest-scoring fighter squadron of the Battle of Britain.
He was shot down in combat on 6th September and baled out, badly burned. His Hurricane crashed on Langley Park Golf Course near Beckenham, Kent. Krasnodębski was admitted to Farnborough Hospital. Due to his severe injuries, he was retired from flight service, and served as an instructor and station commander until WWII’s end. “He didn’t score many victories in the air,” Urbanowicz explained. “His victory was on the ground — in the training and upbringing of the young officers in his command.”
He was awarded the Virtuti Militari and this decoration was presented to him in the hospital by General Sikorski (below).
Krasnodębski returned to duty on 2nd June 1941 and was posted to Canada. He travelled through Canada and the USA as part of a mission to recruit young men of Polish descent to the Allied forces.
After the war, Krasnodębski moved to South Africa and in 1951 to Canada, where he lived until his death in Toronto on 3rd August 1980.
303 Squadron had claimed 126 kills during the Battle of Britain – the most successful record for a RAF Squadron in this period.
Pictures: Niebieska Eskadra and Jag 303 SquadHistory