Col Jerzy Pajaczkowski

Veteran of both world wars

At the age of 111 Jerzy Pajaczkowski was the oldest man in the United Kingdom. He saw action in both world wars, in the first with the Austrian army against the Italians and in the second with the Polish army fighting a rearguard action against the Germans and Russians. He also saw action against the Red Army in 1920.

This remarkable life began in July 1894, in Lwow, where his father was a general practitioner. When Jerzy Pajaczkowski-Dydynski was eight his father moved to Sanok to head a hospital, and it was there that the boy was educated. He went to an Austrian government school with Polish teachers and studied German, Latin and Greek. In 1912 he started reading Law at the University of Lwow but on the outbreak of the First World War he went to Vienna, expecting to join up immediately. He was not required and spent his time attending concerts and the opera until he was called up to the Austrian army in 1915.

After training in Hungary and Bosnia in 1916 as a sergeant, he went to Montenegro and Albania and saw fierce fighting against the Italians. In the latter part of 1918 his unit was in action in northern Italy and shortly before the Armistice he was captured by the Italian cavalry and made a prisoner of war. He was able to contact the Polish-French military mission in Italy and with their help was freed at Christmas and sent to France. By now he had become commissioned and was made assistant adjutant to a French colonel commanding a Polish regiment.

Back in Poland he became a staff officer under General Jozef Haller and was heavily involved in the desperate defence of his country against the invading Red Army who by August 1920, were at the gates of Warsaw. The Poles counter-attacked and forced the Russians to retreat. After the Armistice in October he was appointed to the staff of the Polish 2nd Army.

At the outbreak of the Second World War he was a lieutenant-colonel in the headquarters of the Polish army in Warsaw. On 1 September 1939 a force of 1.8 million German troops invaded Poland. By 14 September Warsaw was surrounded. The Poles were receiving no help from either France or Britain, yet they defiantly held out against overwhelming odds and continued to put up an aggressive stand even when Russia invaded from the east on 17 September. After intense fighting and some successes, the Poles finally surrendered on 5 October. They had held out for five weeks and inflicted heavy casualties - the Germans lost close on 50,000 men and 697 planes. (In the defence of their country the Poles inflicted more casualties on the Germans than the French and British forces in 1940.)

Fortunately he was able to cross the Romanian border and along with his family he reached Paris, where he worked at the new Polish GHQ. After the fall of Paris in May 1940, he desperately journeyed with his family to a number of French ports before escaping on 25 June from one near the Spanish border. He landed in Plymouth and was eventually sent to Perth, where he took command of the Polish garrison formerly occupied by the Black Watch. In 1943 he moved to Edinburgh, where he worked on translating and adapting British military regulations and manuals for the use of Polish units.

At the end of the war he made Edinburgh his home, until in 1993 he moved to be near his daughter in Sedbergh, Cumbria. When he was 97 he returned to Poland for his first visit since 1940.

Throughout his life "George" Pajaczkowski's abiding passion was music. A skilled viola player, he only gave up playing to conduct many of the classics, in particular Wagner and Mozart, with consummate skill. Like so many Poles who have been trained in their own country or whose education had been halted by the war, he was unable to continue his legal studies in his adopted country and for the rest of his life worked as a gardener. Fluent in French, German and English, he delighted in Scrabble and each day completed the crossword in Polish in the newspaper Dziennik Polski and often wrote to the compiler suggesting tougher clues.

His marriage to his first wife, Maria, was to last for 21 years and his second, to Dorothy, for nearly 50. This deeply proud man attended Mass every Sunday, enjoyed a glass of Guinness with his lunch, a glass of fine red wine with his dinner and the occasional cigar.

On his 107th birthday he was honoured by the President of Poland, who bestowed upon him the Officer Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.

Max Arthur

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
News
With its new studios in Paris, Dailymotion has reinforced its position as Europe’s most-visited website
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull
football
Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
film
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit