Luftwaffe Junkers shot down over Tramore, Co. Waterford

On 23rd August 1942, a Luftwaffe plane came under attack from R.A.F. Spitfires from Northern Ireland and Wales before coming down in Éire.

On 23rd August 1942, the Luftwaffe set off for Belfast once again. Junkers JU-88 D-1 1688 of 4U+KH flew towards the city on a photographic reconnaissance mission but was soon engaged by R.A.F. fighters over the Irish Sea.

Attacking the Luftwaffe bomber were Supermarine Spitfires of R.A.F. 315 Squadron and R.A.F. 504 Squadron. The Allied planes scrambled at 0735hrs. Sergeant Francis of R.A.F. 504 Squadron engaged the Luftwaffe plane first, attacking in a 400m dive. Pilot Officer Boleslaw Josef Sawiak of R.A.F. 315 Squadron based at R.A.F. Angle, Pembrokeshire, Wales then began his attack on the enemy. After Francis’ engagement, the Junkers JU-88 took defensive action causing the Luftwaffe pilot to stop returning fire. At this time, both Francis and Sawiak scored hits to the enemy plane’s engines and cockpit.

Sawiak’s wingman, Sergeant Lisowski ran low on fuel and diverted to R.A.F. Ballyhalbert, Co. Down. Sawiak’s Spitfire had sustained damage and the Polish Pilot decided to crash land in Ireland. He sustained serious injuries when Supermarine Spitfire BL959 PK-T crashed at 0840hrs near Ratoath, Co. Meath, 18 miles north of Dublin in neutral Éire.

Sawiak was 24 years old at the time of his death en route to St. Brincin’s Military Hospital, Dublin, Ireland. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, he lived in Przemysl; a city now on the border between Poland and Ukraine.

1. Flying Officer Boleslaw Josef Sawiak, 2. Sergeant Jerzy Malec, 3. Flying Officer Czeslaw Tarkowski, 4. Sergeant Tadeusz Lubicz-Lisowski, 5. Sergeant Eugeniusz Malczewski, 6. Sergeant Dukalski.

Boleslaw Josef Sawiak with RAF 315 Squadron

Polish Air Squadrons Remembered Photo: Pilots of RAF 315 Squadron at RAF Woodvale. In this photo is Flight Sergeant Boleslaw Josef Sawiak. His Spitfire crashed in neutral Ireland in 1943. Photo used with kind permission of Wilhelm Ratuszynski.

Junkers shot down over Tramore

The Junkers continued south before another pair of Spitfires arrived on the scene. The fighters of Flying Officer Sizzer and Flight Sergeant McPherson of R.A.F. 152 Squadron engaged the enemy around 0900hrs. Locals on their way to Sunday morning Mass heard the noise of the aerial battle and ran for safety.

The Luftwaffe bomber had sustained too much damage to return home and crashed soon after 0920hrs at Carriglong, Tramore, Co. Waterford around 89 miles south of Dublin, Ireland. One of the 4 crew members sustained injuries. Leutnant Paul Störmer, Hauptmann Gottfried Berndt, Oberfeldwebel Karl Hund, and Unteroffizier Josef Reiser all became Prisoners of War at the Curragh Camp, Ireland.

On seeing the Luftwaffe plane coming down, a local farmer ran to help. The 4 Luftwaffe crew members held him at gunpoint. Once the situation calmed down, the farmer brought the men to his house, gave them a full Irish breakfast, and waited for the authorities to arrive.

Death of Pilot Officer Sawiak

At Kingstown, now Dun Laoghaire, the Irish Army gave Sawiak a send-off with full military honours before his body left for England on a mail ship. Also present at the docks were W.T. Dobrzynski (Polish Consul General in Dublin) and Wing Commander Webb (Air Attaché to the British Legation in Éire). Polish priests Father Nawak and Father Malazere said prayers before a bugler sounded The Last Post. N.C.O.s carried Sawiak’s coffin, draped in the Polish flag, on to the ship at 1340hrs as Major B. Dunne and Commandant W. Delamere of the Irish Army looked on.

On 23rd August 2017, Ratoath Heritage Group held a ceremony remembering Sawiak. Outside the community centre, local priest Father Gerry Stuart and Father Janusz Lugowski, a Polish chaplain from Co. Meath said prayers. Polish Ambassador Ryszard Sarkowicz and local government representative Regina Doherty laid a wreath. The community centre also held an exhibition relating to the 1942 incident. More than 75 years later, the community in Co. Meath still remembers the young Polish airman who helped take down the Luftwaffe in Irish skies.