Polish pilot Franciszek Kornicki wins "Telegraph" poll
Franciszek Kornicki, the last surviving Polish squadron commander during World War II, topped a poll commissioned by the Royal Air Force Museum (RAF) and the "The Telegraph" which set out to choose the hero of the RAF Centennial exhibition in 2018.
Kornicki won 325,000 votes - sixteen times more than all other rivals combined - ahead of Sir Douglas Bader (6,300 votes) and Jackie Moggridge (2,600 votes).
During the vote, Poles mobilised support for the Polish pilot using social media platforms, where his story was told by the Polish Embassy in London, the British Embassy in Warsaw, as well as Polish Radio in London and other Polish media outlets in the UK.
As a result of winning the poll, Kornicki’s portrait will be displayed at the RAF Centennial exhibition planned for next year. It will be presented right next to the Spitfire VB BL614, a famous fighter aircraft that was used by the RAF during the Second World War, including by Polish Air Force pilots in Great Britain.
The biography of the Pole reported that he had entered the UK through Romania and France, and in 1943 – at the age of 26 – he became the youngest commander in the history of Polish aviation, taking charge of the the 308 squadron.
After the war he stayed in the United Kingdom, not recognizing the communist government in Poland, and he continued to serve in the RAF.
It was also added that he was awarded the Virtuti Militari, the highest military honour in Poland, for his courageous leadership. While protecting a brigade of British bomber planes over northern France he commanded brave attacks on a group of hostile planes.
On Friday, the newspaper published an extended biography of Kornicki with a short interview with the 100-year veteran.
The Polish pilot admitted that he was "surprised and a bit bewildered" by his popularity, but added quickly that he was only "one of many" to contribute to the triumph of World War II.
Kornicki’s son, Richard, who was a driving force behind the construction of a statue dedicated to Polish pilots near RAF Northolt in West London said the family is "delighted" by the results of the poll.
He also added that his father "would like to give equal attention to all those who participated in this fight."
"Poland was the only country in Europe that was occupied by the Nazis but that never surrendered, maintaining its government and armed forces fighting in exile, and everything in line with the motto ‘for your freedom and ours’," he recalled.