Zumbach, Jan “Johnny”, born 14-04-1915 in Urysnow, Poland, was a RAF ace in World War II. His parents were Polish-born Swiss’, which made him be registered as a Swiss citizen. He hid his nationality in order to join the Polish Army
in 1934, and served as an infantryman until he was transferred to the Polish Air Force
in 1936. His graduation from flight training was the year 1938. Thanks to a broken leg, Zumbach could not fly in the German invasion of Poland, which marked the outbreak of World War II. It was caused in a flying accident during the summer of 1939. After Poland was taken over, but not surrendered, he and a huge number of other Poles both civilians and from armed forces was evacuated via Romania to France. A surprise awaited him in Romania. It’s government, after seeing the quick victory of the Nazi, and Soviet Forces in Poland, was afraid of sending aid to the Polish refugees. However, most Poles evaded arrest by bribing the Romanian officers, which cared very little for escaping Poles. The money was from the Polish Underground.
In France, he and the other Poles’ treatment was just slightly better. The French blamed them for starting the war. Even though they encouraged the Poles to come before, when they arrived, their mood changed drastically. After France fell, Zumbach and the other Poles had to make another long journey to Britain. This time, however, the French officers, unlike the Romanians, strangely were extremely strict and they were stopping any Pole leaving. Nevertheless, Zumbach, and thousands of Poles still made it to Britain. Many of them were pilots like Zumbach and they formed numerous new squadrons in the RAF.
One of them was the No. 303 “Kosciuszko” Squadron
, which Zumbach was assigned to. 126 German aircraft or “Adolfs” were claimed as shot down by No. 303 Squadron pilots during the Battle of Britain. General Władysław Sikorski
presenting Order of Virtuti Militari to Jan Zumbach
This is the score of “Adolfs” chalked onto a Hurricane
. The name of the Fighter Group chosen by the squadron was in honour of the famous Polish Kosciuszko Squadron which fought during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920. No. 303 Squadron was also linked to the original Kosciuszko Escadrille through personnel that had served in the squadron. Later, further air force units from the aforementioned unit were renamed the 7th, 121st and 111th Escadrilles of the Polish Air Force. Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko was a Polish-Lithuanian military engineer, statesman, and military leader who became a national hero in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and the United States.
These new squadrons were very valuable in the upcoming Battle of Britain under command of Bomber Harris
Zumbach survived the war with 13 kills, 5 probable’s, and 1 damaged, and was decorated with the Silver Cross of the Virtuti Military, the Polish Cross of Valour, with 3 bars; and the Distinguished Flying Cross, with bar. He also had many nicknames given to him by the British, the 2
most common is “Johnny,” an Anglicization of his first name, and “Donald,” because his sloping nose with its oddly upturned tip reminded people of Donald Duck’s bill. Shortly after the war, he and 2 other ex-RAF pilots started a charter air transport company that became a cover for a bank-note-smuggling operation. It’s activities soon expanded into a wide range of illegal goods from various nations. Soon, he settled down, married, had a child, and stopped illegal smuggling for a while. In 1962, he set-up a primitive air force for Katanga, and another one 5 years later for Biafra during it’s war with Nigeria. It’s only aircraft was a World War II-vintage B-26, which Zumbach and his bombardier, an Ibo tribesman, dropped homemade explosives on Nigeria during bombing raids.
Even in his seventies, Zumbach was still living on the edge. One day in late 1985, he told Ludwik Martel in London that he was involved in a secret deal that was going to make him a lot of money. Jan Zumbach died mysteriously in Paris, France, age 70 on 03-01-1986. Nobody knows why, but many of his friends were sure that he had met with foul play. Flight Lieutenant Ludwik Martel , Battle of Britain pilot, was born on 03-03-1919. He died on 02-04-2010, aged 91. Martel shot down a Messerschmitt 109 over the Channel. He would later recall his feeling of excitement, as a 20-year-old, after this dogfight. It was such that he could not answer the simplest of questions put to him by the intelligence officer on returning to base. A few days later he was forced down by an Me109, suffering shrapnel wounds. Johnny Zumbach is buried on the Powaski Cemetery in Warsaw. Close by the graves of General, Walerian Czuma, Generalmajor of the Para Troops the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade , during Operation Market Garden, Stanislaw Sosabowski. The Poles suffered significant casualties during the next few days of fighting, but still were able, by their presence, to cause around 2.500 German troops to be diverted to deal with them for fear of them supporting the remnants of 1st Airborne trapped over the lower Rhine in Oosterbeek. The Brigade had lost 25% of its fighting strength, amounting to 590 casualties. The British airbornes during operation Market Garden, lost 7.077 men, 1.174 were killed and 5.903 missed in action. Also buried here Polish Marshall, Edward Rydz-Smigly and General Michal Tadeusz Karaszewiez-Tokarzewskich