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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Leon Swietlikowski World War II Collection

Identifier: 2009-12-01
The Leon Swietlikowski World War II Collection is primarily related to the wartime activities of Swietlikowski, who served in the Polish Air Force during World War II. The collection includes log books, personnel documents, and photographs of Leon Swietlikowski and his wife, Bette. Please note: many of the items in this collection are in Polish, with a small amount in both Polish and French, including the military paperwork. Though the Polish Air Force was a part of the Royal Air Force during the war, the Polish pilots were often led by Polish officers and used their native language in their communications.

The first series, Textual Materials, includes Leon's logbooks from 1938-1944 as well as a very small amount of correspondence, identify cards and papers, military documents, and other assorted documents as well as a later (1968) Polish map. The log books give a detailed account of Swietlikowski's aviation activities both before and during World War II and include notes on where he was stationed. One of the log books is related to Swietlikowski's pre-war aviation activities, such as glider flights, in his native Poland.

The second series, Photographs, consists of forty-two (42) loose black-and-white photographs and an album of eighty-five (85) photographs documenting both Leon's and Elizabeth's wartime careers. Included are snapshots as well as formal group and individual portraits of Leon and Elizabeth and other Royal Air Force pilots, including a March 1943 group portrait with caption, "No. 8 Polish Course Officers' School," and the names of each officer, including Swietlikowski, printed on the front. One group portrait features twenty-four (24) members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and has a caption on the back "Senior N.C.O [non-commissioned officer] Admin Course, RAF Wilmslow, Oct. 1943." Also included on the reverse of this image are many signatures and brief salutations, such as "Best wishes," of the various members. Many RAF stations are also depicted, including Gosport, Wilmslow, and Cosford (England).

The photograph album primarily features Leon and Elizabeth Swietlikowski, and all images were all taken during World War II. Most of the photographs were taken at the various RAF stations in England where Leon was stationed during the war, but there are also some photographs which were taken in continental Europe. Some images feature an aircraft with the word "Bette" painted near the nose, likely after Swietlikowski's wife.


  • 1941-1948, 1968
  • 1968


Language of Materials

Some materials are in Polish, a few items are in Polish and French. All other materials are in English. Web tools were used for cataloging purposes to translate documents so translations may be inaccurate.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. For more information contact us.

Conditions Governing Use

The Museum of Flight (TMOF) Archives is the owner of the physical materials in the archives and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from TMOF archives before any publication use. TMOF does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.


0.4 Cubic Feet (1 full-width legal size document box)


Leon Swietlikowski (1912-1984) was born in Wilno, Poland and served in the Polish Air Force, as well as the Polish squadrons attached to the French Air Force and Royal Air Force, during World War II. The collection includes log books, personnel documents, and photographs of Leon Swietlikowski and his wife, Bette.

Biographical Note: Leon Swietlikowsi

Leon Swietlikowski served in the Polish Air Force, as well as the Polish squadrons attached to the French Air Force and Royal Air Force, during World War II.

Leon Lejek Swietlikowski was born on September 10, 1912 in Wilno, Poland to Kazimierz and Adolphina Swietlikowski. He worked as a pilot before joining the Polish Air Force at the onset of World War II. He flew in the September 1939 Campaign in Poland before fleeing to France to serve in the reassembled Polish Air Force there. Swietlikowski served in France from January of 1940 to June 21, 1940, whereupon he was forced to evacuate to the United Kingdom.

Swietlikowski joined the now twice-displaced Polish Air Force in Britain and came under command of the Royal Air Force (RAF) on July 1, 1940. The Polish squadrons fought in all the major campaigns, and Swietlikowski taught flying and also flew many missions over Europe as a bomber, reconnaissance pilot, and weather observer, including the missions to invade France on D-day. Swietlikowski served in the Polish Air Force in Britain until December 3, 1946.

While in Britain, he met his future wife, Elizabeth "Bette" Thomson Dale, who served in the RAF's Women's Auxiliary Air Force during the war. They wed in 1947. After living and working as a civilian in the United Kingdom for the next few years, Swietlikowski and his wife moved to America in 1951 and settled near Chicago. He died September 21, 1984.


Biography derived from collection materials and donor information.
Historical Note: Polish Air Force The Polish Air Force experienced many hardships during World War II, but managed to regroup twice and flew in many of the most significant aerial campaigns of the European Theatre. After the German Army invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, the Polish Air Force attempted to fight against the Nazis. By the end of the month, however, the pilots were forced to flee to France, and the aircraft of the Polish Air Force was captured and withdrawn to Romania, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia, and Sweden.

Upon the regroup of the Polish Air Force in France, the only complete unit of Polish flyers was the GC [Groupe de Chasse] I/145 fighter squadron, flying Caudron C.714 Cyclones. The remainder of the Polish pilots were assigned to various French squadrons. Once the French surrendered to the Nazis, however, the Polish flyers were once again forced to flee, with a majority landing in Great Britain. Polish units were formed in the United Kingdom, and over 17,000 Polish pilots became a part of the Royal Air Force. The following squadrons were formed upon their arrival in 1940:

  • 300 Squadron (bomber)
  • 301 Squadron (bomber)
  • 302 Squadron (fighter)
  • 303 Squadron (fighter)
  • 304 Polish Bomber Squadron (bomber, then Coastal Command)
  • 305 Squadron (bomber)
  • 306 Squadron (fighter)
  • 307 Squadron (night fighter)
  • 308 Squadron (fighter)
  • 309 Squadron (reconnaissance, then fighter)
  • 315 Squadron (fighter)
  • 316 Squadron (fighter)
  • 317 Squadron (fighter)
  • 318 Squadron (fighter-reconnaissance)
  • 663 Squadron (air observation/artillery spotting)
  • The Polish Fighting Team (also known as the "Skalski Circus") [attached to 145 Squadron RAF]
  • Immediate Source of Acquistion

    The collection was donated by the Thomas family, relatives of Elizabeth "Bette" Thomson Swietlikowski (née Dale).


    No further accruals are expected.

    Existence and Location of Copies

    Materials from this collection have been digitized and are available at The Museum of Flight Digital Collections.

    Separated Materials

    The following items were separated from the archival component and are kept in Objects storage:
    • RAF Pilot’s uniform cap
    • Leather flight helmet with goggles and earphones
    • Decorative Polish Flag banner with medals, pins, and RAF wings attached
    • Set of RAF dog tags
    • Escape Kit Map pouch with maps, German phrase list, and paper map of Europe
    • Large metal Madonna charm
    • Six (6) RAF wings patch
    • Two (2) Polish eagle pins [worn above ribbons on chest]
    • Three (3) Polish Eagle pins, small [one is a stick pin]
    • Two (2) RAF hat pins
    • Fourteen (14) various ribbons [some are sewn together]
    • Small collar compass [fits in a button hole]
    • Envelope of ribbon pieces
    • Polish Eagle pin inscribed with 'Szkocja' (Szkocja is the Polish word for Scotland)
    • Bronze Polish Eagle pin [Polish Air Force Insignia]
    • Three (3) unidentified lapel pins
    Guide to the Leon Swietlikowski World War II Collection
    Completed - Level 4
    L. Zaborowski, J. Parent
    Description rules
    Language of description
    Edition statement
    2nd Edition

    Revision Statements

    • 2018: This finding aid has been revised to reflect updated DACS and Museum of Flight standards.
    • November 2018: Finding aid migrated to ArchivesSpace.

    Repository Details

    Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

    9404 East Marginal Way South
    Seattle Washington 98108-4097

    The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
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