Second World War pilot returns to Cotswold Airport
DARING Polish pilot Ted Wier's return to Cotswold Airport was a bitter-sweet experience.
The 92-year-old was being honoured for his service to the former RAF Kemble, near Cirencester, where he trained as a test pilot in 1948 and then worked as a senior air traffic controller from 1963 to 1966.
It was while sitting in the control tower all those years ago that he witnessed a horrific crash which claimed the lives of two Red Arrows pilots.
Squadron Leader Ted Wier, who changed his surname from Wierzbowski, said: "Two pilots were practising a manoeuvre – passing each other from each end of the runway.
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"They came too close and their tails collided."
Proudly displaying his nine medals, including the Polish Cross of Valour and Air Force Cross, Mr Wier survived his own share of ordeals.
His son, Mike, also from Cirencester, said: "Dad had quite a few narrow scrapes.
"His Air Force Cross was for when he was a test pilot and took a Venom up to 14,000ft and it lost all its power.
"Dad had the opportunity to bale out but glided it in and crash landed at RAF Shawbury, in Lincolnshire.
"When he left the plane he told me he went and got a 'late lunch' and the bits that were broken – in the high pressure pump – were bought to him."
Sqd Ldr Wier joined the Polish Air Force in 1938 and escaped to France after the start of the war.
With the bombing of his flying school halting operations, he followed his instructor in a trainer plane to the Romanian border.
"I only had my uniform and a rifle," he said. "I surrendered the weapon and became a detainee, joining other escaped Poles.
"We were smuggled to Syria and then taken by boat to France, to another camp."
The young serviceman joined the French Air Force in 1940 but following the country's collapse finally found himself on a boat bound for Liverpool.
In June 1940 he joined the RAF Polish Squadron, instructing pilots, and also signed up for 300 Bomber Squadron in Lincolnshire. In 1948 he was commissioned to the RAF.
He stopped flying in 1960 having piloted over 40 different aircraft including Canberras and Lancaster bombers.
Giving the war hero a tour of today's control tower and lunch, Cotswold Airport manager Nick Howard said: "We thought it was relevant to honour Ted because he had such an interesting service record in and after the war.
"Today is for the amount Ted has given to his adopted country."