Vladimir Kroupnik


Allan Hunter Hammet was born in Melbourbe in 1921. He worked as a chemist assistant before the war, and in 1940 enlisted in the Army and was sent to Canada, where he was trained as an air force wireless operator. In 1941-42 he made 33 sorties over Europe on Wellington and Lancaster bombers (12th and 460th squadrons RAF), and in November 1942 due to his knowledge of French language he was transferred to Marocco to work as an instructor for French wireless operators. After 11 months of service in Marocco Hammet volunteered to join the 178th squadron of Liberator bombers, based in Foggia in Italy. He took part in 20 bombing raids on oil plants in Romania, southern cities of Germany and mined the channel of Danube. The last three sorties were aimed at delivery of supplies to the Polish Home Army fighting in Warsaw. On 17 August 1944 his aircraft was shot down en route home (on that tragic day RAF lost 87 aircraft over Poland).

His plane was attacked by an enemy fighter 20 miles south of Cracow and was quickly set afire. The commander managed to order the crew to bail out, and, apparently, only Hammet  could do that: the other 5 crew members, including an Australian Liversidge, went missing.

Two days after landing Hammet chanced to reach a lone farm, where he asked for help. The hosts dressed his wounds, fed him and in a day moved him, hidden in hay, in a horse drawn wagon to another place where a doctor came to see him. He was moved from place to place  and hidden in peasant huts many times after that. Country roads then were full of German patrols looking for airmen from downed British and American aircraft, but the Australian was lucky - the Germans didn't find him although they once came to the farm Hammet ws hiding in. Finally the wounded airmen found himself at a base of a partisan detachment of the Polish Home Army. He was recovering quickly and and on 20 September took part in his first partisan raid on a railway station. The raid was aimed at capture of arms and German uniform for following diversions. It was obvious, that by that time many Germans soldiers were not keen of fighting and, as Hammet later remembered, gave away their arms and uniform without resistance. But on 23 September he took part in his first real battle on the Polish soil in the town of Kazimierza, in which the partisans killed all guards of a sugar mill and distributed sugar among the locals. This battle was followed by other ones, including several raids on convoys with spirits headed to Germany. The Australian remembered that these raids were especially popular and the partisans were merely eager to fight for it.

Hammet wanted to return to Great Britain and several times unsuccessfully attempted to walk over the German-Soviet front line, but soon he understood that it was impossible. The Australian undertook a desperate effort - he asked the Poles to move him to Warsaw so that to let him get to Gdynia and then to Sweden. The Polish partisans took his request seriously, but Hammet never managed to reach Warsaw - the fighting between the rebels and the SS units was still on. For several days he was hidden in a suburban house and soon it became clear that he had no chance to reach Gdynia...

The Australian decided to return to the partisan detachment and on the way back tried a few more times to cross the front line - all unsuccessfully. Having returned to the detachment, Hammet found in it two more British who had escaped from the German captivity and along with them he worked out a new plan of crossing the front line - to join a Polish work brigade employed by the Germans for trench diggings in the front line and try his luck again. Everything had been going well until the brigade reached a bridge across a small river beyond which the German positions were. An identification check-up was to occur and hammet and his mates didn't risk to produce their forged certificates...

By the end of october a German reconnaissance plane Storch had tracked down the Hammet's detachment, but the partisans managed to bring it down by small firearms fire. Apparently, the German pilot had transmitted on radio the location of partisans as in several days an about 100-men strong Ukrainian punitive detachment sent by the Germans caught up with the Poles near Swiecice. The Poles and Ukrainians had their own accounts to square, the latter were strongly pro-German and usually massacred locals with no mercy. Battles between the Polish Home Army and the Ukrainians were always especially ferocious, and the battle between them and the Hammet's detachment was not an exception: nine partisans were killed and among them - two British.

The Australian decided to avenge the death of his comrades. Later he remembered:

Some days later I learned that three Ukrainians in the German forces were in a peasant's hut in Slaboszov. I threw a Mill's bomb into the room they were in. I didn't wait to see the results, but I heard later that they had been killed.

In the beginning of the winter the Germans and the Polish Home Army came to an agreement that the first would stop mobilization of Poles to work near the front line whereas the latter would stop the partisan activity. For some time, nevertheless, skirmishes between the partisans and gangs, consisting of Poles, Ukrainians and Russians, wondering in the countryside and robbing the locals, went on.

On 20 January the long awaited liberation came - the area in which the Hammet's detachment was operating, was taken by the advancing Soviet troops. Hammet and three other British survivors were to have a long trip - guarded by Soviet soldiers they had to walk down several hundred kilometers to Czestahow. Apparently, the battle merits of the Australian airman had not stayed without attention of the Soviet authorities - in the beginning of February he was appointed as a head of nearly 800 British, Australians and South African servicemen, liberated from POW camps.  A bit later, already in Cracow, other 90 men joined them. In the beginning of March 1945 all former POWs were sent to Odessa, and on 15 March - to Great Britain.

The data for this page was supplied by the Australian War Memorial

Back to contents