Colonel Franciszek Kornicki, the last surviving Polish Air Force squadron commander, (317 Sqn) who celebrated his 100th birthday in 2016, has been chosen after a public vote as  ‘The People’s Spitfire Pilot’ in a poll held by The Royal Air Force Museum in the UK.

A full-length cut out image of Franciszek Kornicki will now stand beside the iconic Spitfire Mk Vb (BL614), in a new exhibition which tells the story of the first 100 years of the Royal Air Force.

Colonel Kornicki won the vote ahead of other well know British pilots and household names such as Sir Douglas Bader, is a demonstration of the respect and gratitude shown by the British public, and undoubtedly ‘British Poles’ for the heroism and courage of Polish pilots during the second world war and in particular their part in the Battle of Britain.

Commenting on the result Franciszek Kornicki said:

“I am surprised and a little bewildered. I was just one of a great many and there were far more distinguished pilots than me flying.

“My aircraft was cared for by a fitter and rigger – great chaps, both of them – and my only regret is that I cannot recall their names, because they deserve equal recognition for everything this wonderful aircraft achieved.

“When I commanded 317 Squadron at RAF Northolt, off-duty pilots went to the Orchard Hotel in Ruislip for a drink. There were Polish and British pilots, and civilians from the local area all drinking together. The landlord looked after the youngest and poorest pilots with particular care, and when he noticed a chap trying make his half pint of beer last the evening, he would discreetly send him a pint on the house.”

In 2012 Squadron commander Kornicki was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta (Order Odrodzenia Polski) and promoted to the rank of full colonel (Pułkownik) in the Polish Air Force, he still lives in the UK.

You can read more about his life in his Wikipedia listing.

(Source RAF Museum Press Release)

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