Spitfires collide over Woking course: 1941

THOSE brave airmen of the RAF who died in action against the German Luftwaffe during the Second World War are rightly remembered, while those who also gave their lives but died in training exercises are sometimes forgotten.

Polish airman Sergeant Aleksander Wlazlo survived the crash of his Spitfire after a midair collision

Nick Cobb is collecting archive material relating to West Hill Golf Club near Brookwood and contacted  me asking if there were any photos of a Spitfire that crashed there.

My friend Frank Phillipson, who is a local and military historian, has researched the crash. Although he has not found any photos of the crash, he has found out a wealth of details. And in fact it was two Spitfires that collided in mid air – with the other one crashing nearby at Woking Golf Club, Hook Heath!

The date was 21 August 1941 and the two Supermarine Spitfires were being piloted by Polish airmen of 61 Operating Training Unit, based at RAF Heston in west London.

It appears they were practising aerial ‘dog-fights’ and collided at 11.45am. The aircraft that came down at West Hill Golf Club crashed roughly in the middle of the course. It was piloted by Sergeant Aleksander Wlazlo, aged 21. He managed to bale out of his stricken Spitfire but was injured.

Tragically, Sergeant Bronislaw Śledziński was killed in the crash

The other pilot was Sergeant Bronislaw Śledziński, aged 22. Unfortunately his parachute failed to open and he was killed. He is buried at Northwood Cemetery in the London borough of Hillingdon.

After the outbreak of war, he evacuated through Romania and France. In June 1940 he came to the UK.

In his research with fellow military aviation historian Simon Parry, Frank Phillipson has obtained details by Ted Harding who lived in St John’s Road, Woking, during the war. He recalled seeing Sergeant Wlazlo parachuting down. He recalled: “He landed in the canal. I got down there and the parachute was still dragged up on the footpath. The butcher came down with a meat cleaver because he thought he was German, but the chap turned out to be Polish.”

After the war Sergeant Wlazlo gained British citizenship and by 1951 was studying engineering and living in Blackpool. He died in 2012 and was last known to have been living in Coventry.

If  you have some memories or old pictures relating to the Woking area, call me, David Rose, on 01483 838960, or drop a line to the News & Mail.

David Rose is a local historian and writer who specialises in what he calls “the history within living memory” of people, places and events in the west Surrey area covering towns such as Woking and Guildford. He collects old photos and memorabilia relating to the area and the subject, and regularly gives illustrated local history talks to groups and societies. For enquiries and bookings please phone or email him at: davidrosemedia@gmail.com

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