World War II fighter pilot is reunited with the Spitfire he was shot down in 65 years ago
A fighter pilot shot down over France more than 65 years ago has been re-united with the Spitfire that almost became his tomb.
Piotr Kuryllowicz was serving with the RAF in 1943 when he bailed out of his blazing Spitfire Mk IX over the Somme after an attack by a Luftwaffe fighter.
The plane, which plummeted 20,000 feet into the ground, lay buried six metres deep until it was recovered in 2005 by French enthusiasts and sent for restoration.
Piotr Kuryllowicz surveys parts of the wreckage with Pierre Ben, the archaeologist who led the team which recovered the aircraft
And in May 2009, the 90-year-old who now lives in Canada, took his place back behind the controls for the first time since he was shot down. I’ll
Remembering the last time he flew the plane with No. 315 and No317 Squadrons, he said: ‘We were always having lectures, every week it would be something different. In one they told us if you are more than 250 feet away from the enemy, don't bother firing because you will only dent the aircraft from that distance.
‘Well, we were over Somme flying close escort and I looked over my shoulder and could see someone firing at me, I think it was a Focke Wulf or a ME109.
‘I thought they were too far away to do any damage, the next thing I know I could hear someone on the radio saying Kuryllowicz is on fire.’
Mr Kuryllowicz, who received the Polish Cross of Valour for his wartime efforts, was captured by the Germans while the plane lay wrecked in the French fields until 2005.
He remained a POW until the end of the war, interned in the Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp made famous in The Great Escape and The Wooden Horse.
Sergeant Kuryllowicz is pictured second from the right in this photograph of 317 Squadron taken in 1942
The plane was recovered by French aviation enthusiast Pierre Ben and a team from Somme Aviation 39-45, who discovered it buried 6 metres below the ground.
Remarkably some of its original skin was intact, including the squadron insignia and markings, which helped them to identify it and trace Mr Kuryllowicz.
At a special ceremony in France in 2006, he saw the wreckage for the first time and was presented with a crowbar that could have saved his life.
Mr Kuryllowicz used the tool, mounted on the inside of the door, to break the jammed lock of the cockpit canopy, before climbing free of the burning plane and parachuting to safety.
‘As I climbed out on to the side of the plane I remember looking at the rivets and thinking how big they looked. It is strange the things that go through your head when something like that happens,’ said Mr Kuryllowicz.
‘I make sure I have a crowbar in every car I drive now.’
This past week BS410 took to the sky’s once again.
Mr Kuryllowicz is 103 and living in Georgtown Ontario.