P O L O N I C A in Scotland
RENFREW, St James's RC Church

Portrait of Our Lady given by 309 Polish Squadron and a Silver Plaque in Memory of three Polish Airmen

1 On a portrait of Our Lady of Czestochowa hanging at the altar in St James's Catholic Church in Renfrew there is an inscription which pleads
Przywroc Nam Wolnosc
Beneath the portrait there is a small silver plaque dedicated to the memory of three fallen Polish airmen who died in March 1941, 'Saving Our Church'.
These airmen were part of 309 Polish Squadron which was formed at Renfrew in November 1940.
On the night of 13 March 1941, German bombers commenced their heavy raids on Clydebank which resulted in an appalling loss of human life and caused considerable damage.
2 Renfrew did not escape that night and bombs and incendiaries fell on the town.
During the night of the 13th, L Cpl Pawel Radke,Aircraftsman Antoni Ptaszkowski and Zygmunt Sokolowski were at St James's and at great risk to themselves were extinguishing incendaries. The incendaries had caused a number of fires in the church. Two of the airmen were killed by a bomb, the other died the following day in Alexandria Hospital. They were in their twenties.
When 309 Squadron transferred to Dunino in Fife in May 1941, it presented to the church the portrait of Our Lady as a token of their appreciation to the people of Renfrew.
Parishioners never forgot their sacrifice and in October 1982, at a special Mass, a silver plaque in memory of these airmen and the portrait of the Black Madonna was blessed and dedicated by Bishop McGill. The plaque was crafted by a local Polish jeweller - Mr Eugeniusz Waclawski who also had the portrait restored.
3 Members of the Polish community in the west of Scotland, both young and old, along with Polish ex-combatants participated in a moving ceremonyat Renfrew.
In an article by Fr. Canning in the Scottish
Catholic Observer of 5th November 1982 he noted the words of Bishop McGill that Renfrew would be ever grateful to the three Polish airmen who gave their lives so heroically in trying to save St James' Church in the terrible blitz of 1941, the scars of which are to be seen in the pews to this day.



4 Arkleston Cemetery
Nearby Renfrew is Arkleston Cemetery which contains the graves of the three young Polish airmen of 309 Squadron who were killed during the 'blitz' on Clydebank.
Their graves are marked by two CWGC stones standing side by side at Arkleston cemetery, near the M8 motorway and close to the main runway of Renfrew airfield before it was incorporated into the M8.
A brief account of the incident which led to their deaths is given in (1) above.
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Last modified 28 February 2009
© Copyright R M Ostrycharz 1998