Historical Figures

Stanisław Skalski (1915-2004)

Last updated:2022-07-25

Pilot Stanisław Skalski (photo:public domain)

Stanisław Skalski (1915-2004)

Polish pilot, fighter ace of the Second World War, participant in the Battle of Britain. He was awarded, inter alia, With the Gold Cross and the Silver Cross of the Virtuti Militari War Order. Stanisław Skalski was born on November 27, 1915 in Kodym near Odessa. He was the only child. After Poland regained independence, his family moved to the country and settled in Dubno. In 1933, Skalski passed his high school diploma and, at his father's insistence, entered the Warsaw University of Technology, which he later abandoned for the School of Political Sciences in Warsaw. His real passion, however, was aviation.

He completed a gliding course and military training. He completed training at the Infantry Reserve Officer Cadet School in Zambrów, then in 1936 he began to study at the Aviation Cadet School in Dęblin. He also graduated from the Higher School of Pilotage in 1938. When World War II broke out, he served as an officer in the 142nd Fighter Squadron in Toruń. Performing combat tasks, he became the most effective Polish airman in the September Campaign and the first Allied fighter ace during World War II. After September 17, he reached Great Britain via Romania. He was trained on British airplanes and then took part in the Battle of Britain as part of the 501st RAF Fighter Squadron.

In 1941, he was transferred to the 306th Squadron performing combat missions over Europe. He climbed the career ladder of the Polish Air Force, becoming, inter alia, squadron commander in the Polish 316th Squadron. At the beginning of 1943 he moved to North Africa to join the Polish Fighting Team which due to its extraordinary efficiency (the most effective fighter unit in North Africa!) was called the "Circus of Skalski". After the end of the war, the English offered him to stay in the UK, to accept British citizenship and to work as a lecturer. Skalski, however, decided to return to Poland.

In 1947 he found himself on the Vistula River and was admitted to the Polish Army. In 1948, Stanisław Skalski was arrested on false charges of espionage for the benefit of Great Britain, he was for years detained in the custody of the Ministry of Public Security on Rakowiecka Street in Warsaw and tortured. On April 7, 1950, he was sentenced to death in the so-called "toilet trial." He was on death row for a year. In 1951, at the request of the pilot's mother, President Bolesław Bierut took advantage of the right of pardon, Bierut decided to pardon him (his sentence was changed to life imprisonment). On April 11, 1956, the Supreme Military Court quashed his sentence and released him from prison and rehabilitated him. In 1957 he returned to the army with the rank of major. In 1972, at his own request, he went to the reserve. He was active in ZBOWiD and the Council for the Protection of Memory of Struggle and Martyrdom. He died on November 12, 2004 in a nursing home. His memories from the September campaign entitled Black crosses over Poland was first published in sections by the "Directions" magazine, and in 1957 they were published by the publishing house of the Ministry of National Defense.