Alex Herbst – full story
As a young pilot in Poland, Alex survived the strikes of
Hitler’s Nazi Luftwaffe that destroyed the Polish Air Force and training
facility in 1939. He escaped on foot and traveled though Romania to France,
where he was finally brought to London during the Battle of Britain in the UK’s
famed Spitfire 303 Squardon.
The 303 was composed entirely of Polish fighter pilots that were the first
called to defend the UK and to attack Germany. Many of the pilots tried to be
married quickly, but there was little time for romance or relationships. Almost
the entire squadron were killed in action, leaving several widows and painful
memories of lost fellows.
Some pilots were died in air, others drowning in the English Channel, or
crashing on return to Britain. Even Alex was shot down three times, but survived
to fight again. Once floating in the Channel with no memory other than being hit
by another plane prior. Another time over Paris, where we was declared dead in
the London logbook, but was returned by the French Underground to fight even
On one mission over Northern Ireland, low on fuel and with no radio, he had to
rescue an American ship that was lost in impossible fog. Alex saved the sailors,
guided them, yet ran out of fuel and crash landed, fortunately surviving, yet in
time for D-day, where Alex fights more missions from Britain as one of the last
survivors of the 303 Squadron.
At the end of WWII, British authorities unfortunately did not initially
recognize the service of the 303, because it consisted only of Polish fighter
pilots, but was entirely British. Even Alex was out of the victory parade,
watching from the distance.
Dreaming afterward about a free Poland where he was born and grew up, Alex was
seen as a escapee by the Polish people, not suffering locally, and never saw
again his father, mother and girlfriend. He lost his citizenship, and did not
have access to his homeland for over 45 years.
Despite everything, Alex married and remained in London until the late 1960’s.
He then moved to New York and finally Seattle, where as a happy grandfather with
a full family, he recovers from his past, while he meets important people from
today’s world of aviation, becoming a true hero of British-Polish-American
history, even if he never felt he could be, just by serving the best as possible
and fighting for freedom. A living piece of incredible WWII history, witty and
still a survivor at the age of 94.
Blue Horizon Films LLC