The Polish Airman

For many years, ever since I was little, really, my mother has told me the story of how, during WWII, her family met and became friends with a young Polish airman, serving with the Polish Air Force, under the auspices of the RAF.In about 1940, my grandfather was recovering from an illness and was sent by his doctor to recuperate at the seaside.Since many hotels were reserved as billets for servicemen and women and other people whose jobs were deemed “important for the war effort”, one had to get special permission to stay at these hotels. As my grandfather was a clergyman, he was given a permit to stay at a hotel, likely in Blackpool (I have to verify this with Mom). It was at this hotel that my grandfather, grandmother and my mother met Alojzy Dreja, a young Polish airman and his captain whose name is forgotten.

They became friends and exchanged letters for some time after. The captain was killed sometime later, in action.

Eventually, however, they lost touch with Alojzy. They never knew what happened to him.

Since my grandfather died between VE Day and VJ Day, and my mother and grandmother had to leave the Manse, any letters which came may have gone astray. My grandmother died shortly after the war and my mother left Scotland for Canada in 1950.

All that remained were my mother’s story and two New Years cards, and accompanying letter dated Dec. 27, 1940, and a Christmas wafer enclosed in a piece of folded writing paper. All these years later, I still have them all, including the Christmas wafer which is now broken in a hundred pieces.

This week, I was reading an article by Stan Oziewicz in the Globe and Mail about his father receiving a medal from the Polish government for his wartime service with 300 Squadron of the Polish Airforce, in England. Information about the squadron spurred me to look again for Alojzy. I had tried a few years ago but found not a mention of him.This time, however, I found a few tantalizing details using Google… details like his being awarded the Virtuti Militari, Poland’s highest military honour, the name of his squadron other details, and that it appeared that he had written a bookon another Polish airman (I think… the book is in Polish). However, I found little else.I did come across two people with the same last name but nothing more about him.

Just clutching at straws, I even emailed one of the two men with the same last name as him. The other one is Chris Dreja, one of the founding members of The Yardbirds! Hardly likely to be related…. I simply passed him over. However…. his name kept popping up so I had a closer look.

Chris Dreja was born in Surbiton, Surrey in 1945. I was born in 1956. My mother said that Alojzy was “a few years older” than her, possibly 22 or so when they met. Was it possible that Alojzy is Chris’ father? It certainly warranted checking, just on the off-chance.

After tracking down the name of his booking agent, I emailed him with the question of whether he knew or was related to Alojzy.

Today, it occurred to me to do a search of the telephone directories in the UK, including old directories. Unfortunately, you couldn’t simply do a search for the name. You had to put in a town or county. Not having any other starting point, I put in Alojzy Dreja and Surbiton.

Lo, and Behold…. Alojzy Dreja was listed in the early 1950s as living in Surbiton, Surrey! Sadly, in doing a subsequent search using the same database but searching other records, I discovered this:

Name : Alojzy Baltazar Dreja
Birth: 1 Jan 1918
Death: Dec 1985 – Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

I cannot tell you how my heart sank when I read this.

My one hope is that my query gets to Chris Dreja and that he is, as I strongly suspect, Alojzy’s son (or at least a relative).

I have to say that it wasn’t until I began this search just a few days ago that I began to feel as though the 1930s and 1940s is fast falling into history (with a capital “H”). I have lived with my mother’s stories of her wartime service, with my father and step-fathers’ stories. Now it strikes me that they are like sand falling through my fingers…. It makes me very sad.

I updated this in a later post in September 2009 and again in Feb. 2010. I actually got the reply from Chris Dreja the day after I wrote the initial post, above.

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13 Comments

  1. Michal Palica said,

    September 18, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    Jackie,
    I send all book with your sugestion by DropBox to mudhooks. Please let me know if you get it.
    your grandfather did great work.
    Also hat off to your father.
    Warm feelings to you all
    Michal

  2. Jackie Dreja McTear said,

    September 15, 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Michal,
    I think this is wonderful! A friend recommended we use “Drop Box” or another of the online file-sharing services. It is free. I can investigate how to do it. I will be in touch.

    Thanks so much!

    Jackie

    • mudhooks said,

      September 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm

      Drop Box is great. There are several others I use, as well,

      http://www.dropbox.com/
      https://rapidshare.com/

      However, I think your best bet is SkyDriveLive which also has a service. It is easy to sign up with and you can place documents in folder and share them. with whoever you want. You can add a person either through their WindowsLive ID or email address.

      https://skydrive.live.com/

      The files would probably have to be compressed

  3. Michal Palica said,

    September 15, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    For mudhooks and granddaughter of Alojzy Dreja
    Hello,
    I just have scanns of all the book written by Alojzy Dreja.
    I think that the best will be sending part after part to one of you.
    Finally you will find good translator and edit this book in english.
    Please answer me what you think about this idee
    Sincerly
    Michal P

  4. June 28, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Last time I read a book of Adam Zamoyski, theme : Polish airmen, the II ww. I also found a book written by Alojzy Dreja in one of internet old book’s shops.
    On my website I write about all polish airmen from Rybnik and Rybnik’s neighbourhood I know.
    My father served in Polish Army in Scotland. I still have his soldier,s papers including even his drive permisssion. He told me about his “Indian” many times. After war he studied in England and after in Poland he was a photographer. I like my sister and me pictures he made when we were kids. I also like photography.
    So, history, music, photography and many others united us through Alojzy Dreja and his sons and his granddaughter….
    Best wishes to Jacki Dreja Mc Tear and mudhooks
    Michal

  5. Jackie Dreja McTear said,

    June 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Aloizy was my grandfather. Chris is my father. My grandfather did write a biography, however to date it is still in Polish. My uncle (my Dad’s brother) goes to Poland often and is the historian of the family. My grandfather married an English woman (my grandmother) and lived in Surbiton until he died. I found your blog because I am trying to find the Polish Airforce Officer’s club in London. I wanted to see if there is a list of the air men because I met a woman yesterday who’s uncle was also a Polish airforce pilot who escaped to England and also married an English woman. He changed his last name to Anderson. I’m assuming my Grandfather must have know him. I live in America and it’s such a small world. Please reply…..

  6. Michal said,

    March 13, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Hallo,
    I was born 1952, Rybnik, Poland. Especially interesting in history of Rybnik between the world wars. Sorry for my english but not use it daily. Maybe you know polish ?
    I know Alojzy Dreja by my town history. Dreja finished school in Rybnik. And his name is in special book of his school from 1947.
    My generation live music with english rock. So I look for a contact to Chris Dreja.
    When I discovered that he maybe a son of Alojzy – it was amazing. Does he maybe remember something of polish language ? Could I get his email address ?
    I was looking for to maybe three years to check if Chris is a son of Alojzy. Now I found and I’m happy. Many thanks
    Regards
    Michal

  7. M. said,

    May 19, 2010 at 1:34 am

    hallo,
    I life in Poland. Please, tell me why you want know about Alojzy Dreja?
    M.


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