Early career

Witold Lanowski (8th June 1915 - 16th September 1993) was a Polish fighter pilot who’s career spanned several air forces during his flying career.
Born in Lwow Poland 1915 (Lwow eventually became part of the Ukraine following Poland’s occupation by the USSR), to a Polish father and German mother. His father was a Doctor of law and held several directorships, his mother was a carpet, kilim rug designer. He was a gifted sportsman competing in swimming, water polo, cross country skiing and shooting when he represented his country against Czechoslovakia in a shooting competition. Lwow was one of the Polish cities that had a serious dislike of all things authoritative in Poland at that time, especially the government in Warsaw which was effectively a military junta and the people of Lwow openly rebelled against  the government in Warsaw and what it represented. amazingly when the unrest occured in the air force pre-war the main leaders including Witold came from Lwow or the surrounding areas.

His flying career started when he was invited to attend a gliding course in 1934 and the bug bit! He qualified as top student and decided that this was what he wanted to be, a pilot.
In 1935 he entered Deblin officer cadet school and graduated as first pilot in 1938, but whilst in the cadet school he continued with his sports including pentathlon and became overall Polish ski champion in downhill, slalom and cross country and also won the Polish shooting championships.

He graduated from Deblin in 1938 with some of the notable Polish pilots of the time including Miroslaw Feric (303 sq), Tadeusz Sawicki, Stanislaw Skalski (C.O 317 sq) and Jan Zumbach (303 sq). Witold’s first posting as a pilot was to 121 Fighter sq in Krakow and whilst there he continued his training for the world ski championships. In February 1939 he won the interservices championships.
1939 saw him posted back to Deblin flight school as an instructor where he was to teach some of the pilots who would be influential in his later career namely Zbigniew Janicki, Tadeusz Andersz and Boleslaw Gladych.

September 1939 and the start of the Second World War:

Following hostilities breaking out with the Germans, on the 13th September 1939 he received orders to lead the remaining cadets out of the school south to Rumania to escape internment. On the 19th September he was captured by the Czech militia and handed over to Ukrainian soldiers but managed to escape from the convoy. Following a gruelling journey through Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Hungary they landed by boat at Marseille on the 12th November 1939 where he was posted with other pilots to 145 Sq at Villa Coublay flying in defence of Lyon and Paris.
It was here that Witold’s reputation as a rebel escalated when the Polish pilots were displeased with the Polish authorities regarding the leadership of the air force which was being commanded by army officers with absolutely no knowledge of air combat tactics or flying in general and Witold aired his and the other pilots views and was arrested by the Polish high command and imprisoned for `gross insubordination’ for court martial and possible execution. Witold and other Pilots had begun to realise earlier whilst in Deblin that all was not well in the air force command and had organised the publication of a paper that was read buy the other pilots highlighting the views of the pilots who came to be labelled `rebels' by the Polish high command. So Witold had already been on the watch list prior to his `insubordination' (Polish high command terminology not the popular opinion of the pilots).

With the capitulation of France and his escape from prison he re-boarded a boat at Marseille docking at Liverpool on the 12th July 1940.

*Note* refer to the `September 1939 Campaign historical information regarding claims & losses etc for both the Poles and Germans in the `Records and Extracts' section