Blackpool war hero rewarded at last

THE widow of a former Polish fight pilot, who was killed along with seven of his comrades, has spoken of her joy now his family have finally received a medal for his bravery.

Josephine Stebbing, from Poulton, is the former wife of Flight Lt Jozef Wolnik, a navigator killed when his Wellington Bomber crashed near the Leeds-Liverpool canal during a training flight.

He came to Blackpool, an RAF training base and home to more than 700,000 Polish airmen during the Second World War, where he met and married the young nurse.

His family, who live in Krakow, will now be handed a medal in his honour following a campaign by villagers close to the crash site.

The brave pilot's plane came down on September 23, 1943 close to Bradley Forge near Skipton.

Mrs Stebbing, who was only married to Jozef for a few weeks before the tragic accident, unveiled a memorial in his honour two years ago after The Gazette reunited her with relatives of other servicemen killed in the crash.

Today, she said giving a medal to Jozef's family was the right thing to do.

Mrs Stebbings, 86, said: "I have many happy memories of Jozef and presenting his family with a medal is the right thing.

"His brave actions are still remembered to this day at the village close to the crash site.

"It was a tragic accident, which not only killed my Jozef but also seven other people on board.

"They should all be remembered this way."

The medal will be presented to Josef's family in Krakow by Jim Hartley, who helped set up a memorial to the Poles who died in the tragedy.

On his trip to Poland he will meet Romana Pizon, of the Bradford Polish Veterans' Association, who will be on holiday and will help with interpretation.

Mr Hartley said: "It should be a very moving occasion.

"This story keeps on growing. It's amazing."

Mrs Stebbing joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a nurse with the Royal Navy and was posted to Australia soon after seeing her late husband buried at Layton Cemetery.