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Jan Walentowicz (20 August 1920 - 27 October 2011)

 Jan-WalentowiczJan Walentowicz (20 August 1920 - 27 October 2011)

 Jan Walentowicz, who has died aged 90, flew Wellington bombers during the second world war and later became an RAF helicopter pilot. Born in Lida, then part of Poland (and now in Belarus), he was educated there and in Białystok. He joined the Polish air force for his national service. In September 1939 Germany invaded Poland.

Following his escape from Poland Jan eventually arrived in Great Britain from France. In 1942 he undertook pilot training and was posted to 304 Polish Reconnaissance Squadron, based at Benbecula, Outer Hebrides, flying anti-U-boat patrols.

Poland ended the war under Soviet occupation and Jan refused to return, remaining instead in the RAF. In 1950 he married Winifred, whom he had first met at a dance in Nottingham. In 1954 he qualified to fly helicopters, was promoted to flight lieutenant and was posted to 155 Squadron at Kuala Lumpur, Malaya, during the anti-insurgent campaign. On returning to Britain, Jan joined 22 Squadron, this time in a search and rescue role. In 1960 he completed an air traffic controller course, serving in Yorkshire and Aden. However, a shortage of experienced helicopter pilots led to his return to flying, as flight commander with 202 Squadron at Leuchars, Scotland. Jan was then – aged 47 – the oldest pilot in the RAF.

Upon leaving the RAF, Jan and Winifred moved to Essex, where they ran the Billericay Bookshop until 1989. Then followed 20 years of retirement in East Hanningfield and in Dunedin, Florida. Jan remained an active supporter of the Royal Air Forces Association until his death.

The Guardian obituaries: Jan Walentowicz