Last surviving Polish Battle of Britain pilot dies

The last surviving Polish pilot from the Battle of Britain has died at the age of 97, according to a Toronto funeral home.

Brig.-Gen. Tadeusz Sawicz, aged 97, dies in Toronto nursing home

The last surviving Polish pilot from the Battle of Britain has died at the age of 97, says a Toronto funeral home.

Turner and Porter Funeral Directors said on its website that Brig.-Gen. Tadeusz Sawicz died Oct. 19 at a nursing home in Toronto.

Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza daily newspaper on Wednesday said Sawicz was the last surviving pilot among the Poles who served in Britain's Royal Air Force during World War II, and fought in the 1940 battle.

He served with the RAF until early 1947.

At the start of World War II in 1939, Sawicz fought in Poland's defense against the invading German Nazis. He flew under German fire to carry orders to troops defending Warsaw.

Following the collapse of the city's defence on Sept. 17, he joined Polish pilots fighting in France, but after the surrender of Paris in July he made his way — with tens of thousands of Polish airmen, soldiers and sailors — to Britain, making up the largest foreign military force in the country.

Later that year, Gen. Wladyslaw Sikorski, who was the head of Poland's Government in Exile in London, signed an agreement with the British Government to form a Polish Air Force in Britain, of which Sawicz was to play his part.

After training on Hurricane fighter aircraft, he was incorporated into RAF squadron 303 and later to squadrons 316 and 315. On and off, he served as a commander of the Polish wing.

Shot down 3 German aircraft

Sawicz was among the 145 Polish pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain, 31 of whom died in action. Other foreign pilots – from Canada, New Zealand,  Australia, Czechoslovakia, South Africa, the United States and Ireland – also flew with the RAF.

A few British pilots from the battle are still alive, but it is not known how many of the international aviators – known collectively, after a phrase coined by Winston Churchill, as "The Few" — are left.

During his time as an RAF pilot, Sawicz is credited with shooting down three German aircraft. He has been awarded Poland's highest military order the Virtuti Military medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross from Britain, the United States and the Netherlands.

Sawicz has lived in Canada since 1957, where he worked for aviation companies. He is survived by his wife Jadwiga.

A service is planned for him at a later date in Warsaw.