In Memoriam: Capt. Pilot Włodzimierz Klisz
We have just lost one of the oldest and most senior Polish pilots – eldest in terms of years of service and flying experience. Włodzimierz Klisz was born in 1893, in Ulucz near Lvov. Conscripted into military service in the Austrian forces [NOTE: These were the times when Poland was partitioned between Prussia, Tsarist Russia, and Austria, anc did not exist as an independent state], he joined the air force where he was trained at the famous Wiener-Neustadt school and made military operation flights on the Italian front. In 1918 [ie. at the conclusion of World War I] he returned to Poland [which had then just regained its independence] and took part in the defence of his beloved city of Lvov. During the years 1919-1920 [ie. during the brief and victorious war between independent Poland and Bolshevik-Communist Russia – the only one so far where Communist Russia got defeated.] he made military operation flights on the Polish-Russian front.
After the war, Włodzimierz Klisz was transferred to Warsaw along with Flight Squadron No. 7, and as part of the division under the command of Col. Kossowski, he took part in the creation of the First Air Regiment. From there, Klisz, along with another pilot, Capt. Burzyński, was one of the two very first pilots who formed the nucleus of Polish civil aviation, the „LOT” Polish Airlines. For that purpose, Klisz had undergone special training in Gdansk [which in those days had the status of „Free City” with a mixed Polish and German population] under the well known pilot- – instructor, Milch – who later was to become a marshall in the German Luftwaffe.
From that time on, right until the Second World War, Klisz remained in service with the Polish Airlines. He flew all types of aircraft and became a senior pilot. At all times, he was well liked and esteemed by all. He was awarded the Polish Silver Cross of Merit With Sabres.
When during World War II Poland came under German occupation, Klisz managed to get through to England, where already before the war he had made a name for himself in the civil aviation circles. There, he was posted to the then-recently formed „Ferry Command”, with the assignment of flying over to England from Canada various types of fighter planes which were being built in America for the Royal Air Force. While performing those duties, Klisz made no less than 23 transatlantic flights as captain of various crews.
In 1943, when he was leading a flight of three airplanes to Montreal, two of the planes caught fire in the air and the crews all drowned in the ocean. As he continued his flight, from Green¬land to Iceland, his own plane caught fire too. However, Klisz managed to reach Iceland where he made a forced landing on the beach. In the process, in order to avoid hitting a woman, he made an abrupt turn, with the result that his burning aircraft crashed. In recognition of his respect for the life of others while dis¬regarding his ото, Klisz was decorated with the „Air Force Cross”.
Towards the end of the war, Włodzimierz Klisz was posted to a special R.A.F. Hendon fleet entrusted with the transportation of dignitaries – the V.I.P. Flight. It was there that, at the age of 55, he concluded his years of active flying service. By then he had completed some 14,000 hours of flight and had gained a reputation that could be the envy of many pilots.
After the end of the war, he was appointed Budget Controller at the Directorate of AIR FRANCE in London, where he was known as „The Man Who Would Never Bend”. Upon retiring after twenty years’ service, he was honoured with the title of Honorary Member of the Association of Employees of AIR FRANCE. He was conducted to his final place of rest at Newton Abbot, where he is buried next to his beloved wife, who had predeceased him by five years.
Glory to his illustrious memory!