A WAR hero and former hotelier who once met US president Dwight Eisenhower has died, aged 93.
Tributes have been paid to Franciszek Bakalarski, known as Frank, who was awarded the Polish equivalent of the Victoria Cross for his service as a pilot in the Second World War.
Mr Bakalarski was born in Poland and, like many of his compatriots, was sent to Blackpool upon Hitler’s invasion of his homeland – where he met future wife Jean.
He flew bombing raids during the D Day operation, where General Eisenhower offered him and his fellow pilots personal words of encouragement before take off.
Mr Bakalarski won the Virtuti Militari Cross for his service.
His son David, 60, said: “I believe he was the last survivor of that award, but he always refused to talk about the war.
“He had two swastikas on his plane so he must have shot down two German aircraft.”
Mr Bakalarski later ran the Gables Hotel, in Osborne Road, South Shore, which Jean’s family owned, and was a well known member of Blackpool’s Polish expatriate community – serving for many years as chairman of its White Eagle Club, in Hornby Road.
David added: “He was very forthright and you never knew what shaped him from his experiences because so many of his colleagues and dear friends died.”
Mr Bakalarski died at his home on Lytham Road and is survived by David, daughter Sandra, 70, and a grandchild and great-grandchild who live in South Africa.
His funeral took place today at 10am at St Cuthbert’s Church, Lytham Road, followed by his burial next to his son Michael, who died in 1993, at Carleton Cemetery.