Rayski in 1930s
|Born||29 December 1892|
|Died||11 April 1977(aged 84)|
|Place of birth||Czasław near Wieliczka, Galicia|
|Place of death||London, United Kingdom|
|Years of service||1914-1949|
|Battles/wars||World War I, Polish-Bolshevik War, Polish-Ukrainian War, Polish Defensive War, World War II|
Ludomił Antoni Rayski (1892–1977) was a Polish engineer, pilot, military officer and aviator. He served as the commander of the Polish Air Force between 1926 and 1939, being responsible for modernization of Polish military aviation. Throughout his life he also served in the Austro-Hungarian Army, Polish Legions, Turkish Army, Turkish Air Force, French Air Force, French Foreign Legion and Royal Air Force. He was also known as one of the most colourful personalities of inter-war Poland - and one of its least submissive officers.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Early life[edit | edit source]
Ludomił Rayski was born 29 December 1892 in Czasław near Wieliczka, to Artur Teodor Rayski of Korab Coat of Arms, an impoverished Polish noble who spent most of his life as an officer in the Ottoman Army. Artur Teodor was born a Russian citizen, but was forced into exile following the January Uprising and was accepted as an Ottoman citizen soon afterwards. Hence Ludomił retained his father's citizenship, a fact that proved vital for his later career.
In 1902 Ludomił joined a local gymnasium in Kraków and in 1909 passed his matura exams in a college in Krosno. Soon afterwards he started his studies at the Lwów University of Technology. In 1912 he also joined the Strzelec organization. After the outbreak of the Great War he volunteered for Piłsudski's Polish Legions, where he fought under command of Gen. Józef Kordian-Zamorski. Rayski was wounded in the battle of Łowczówek. After the Ottoman Empire joined the war on the side of Austria-Hungary, he was mobilized into the Ottoman Army. Rayski initially wanted to stay in the Legions, which were commonly seen as a school of cadre of future armed forces of Poland, but was convinced by Gen. Kordian-Zamorski to go to Constantinople and try to obtain experience in air warfare.
The Great War[edit | edit source]
In 1915 Rayski was accepted into the Turkish Air Force and dispatched to the front and promoted to the rank of Observer. He served during the battle of Gallipoli, where he was seriously wounded. Upon his return from the hospital he was transferred to the Ottoman 5th Army based in Smyrna, where he was wounded for the second time. Upon return to service, on his own request he was sent to a fighter pilot training and earned his wings in the ranks of the Turkish Air Force. He served on various fronts of the war until its end. In January 1919 he was demobilized. Immediately afterwards he bought a single LVG C.V plane and flew across the Black Sea to Odessa, where he joined the Polish 4th Rifle Division under Gen. Lucjan Żeligowski. There he was made the commanding officer of that division's improvised air escadrille, equipped with 9 planes (apart from Rayski's LVG these were a single Nieuport 11C1 and eight Anatra Anasal DS). After a brief period of struggles against the Bolsheviks alongside Denikin's Whites, the unit was withdrawn to Poland. At that time the newly reborn Polish army was badly lacking experienced pilots. Although the Polish forces managed to seize dozens of World War I planes from the defeated Central Powers, there were not enough pilots to fly them. Because of that, immediately after Rayski's arrival to Poland in June 1919, he was made the commanding officer of newly formed 10th Reconnaissance Escadrille, composed mostly of the former escadrille of the 4th Division. A skilled pilot and commander, after the escalation of the Polish-Bolshevik War and during the final stages of the Polish-Ukrainian War, in August of that year he became the commanding officer of the most famous Polish air unit of the time, the 7th Kościuszko Air Escadrille. Rayski was chosen as the commander of that unit not only for his skills as a pilot, but also for his language abilities, as the squadron was manned primarily with American volunteers. He served with that unit on the front until January 1920. Three months afterwards he was promoted to the rank of Major and given a new assignment: command of a newly formed 21st Air Escadrille. Although composed mostly of badly trained pilots and insufficiently manned, the unit proved to be one of the most successful air units of the war and during the battle of Warsaw Rayski was given command of the entire 3rd Air Squadron. He held that post until May 1921.
Commander of the Polish Air Force[edit | edit source]
After the war Rayski remained in the military. Promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel, he briefly became the commanding officer of the Higher Pilot's School at Poznań's airfield of Ławica. However, he gave up that post in 1922 and instead returned to Lwów, where he continued his studies halted 8 years before. He also remained an active aviator and gained much fame in Poland after several of his spectacular flights. In 1925 in four days he flew the Paris-Madrid-Casablanca-Tunis-Istanbul-Warsaw trail, a remarkable achievement at that time. In August 1924 he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and sent to a course for high-ranking officers at the Higher War School of Warsaw. At the same time he collaborated with the Aviation Department of the Ministry of Military Affairs, where he became the deputy to Gen. Armand Lévéque. On 18 March 1926, shortly before the May Coup d'État, he was made the chief of the department and a de facto commander of the Polish Air Force.
At that post, Rayski became known as a supporter of the power projection doctrine and a lobbyist for development of a strong bomber force capable of both close air support and bombing raids on enemy territory. However, in the post-war period the Polish air forces were neglected as Marshal Józef Piłsudski and his predecessors underestimated the role of aeroplanes in modern warfare. Because of that, Rayski had to limit his plans to modernization of the fighter force Poland had at that time. Lack of funds, economical crisis and unwillingness to expand the air forces on the side of most of the high-ranking officers forced Rayski to focus on training of air crews instead. In that period he supported the famous Dęblin school of aviation (nicknamed the School of Eaglets in Poland) and creation of a number of permanent air bases, often with municipal rather than ministerial funds. It was Rayski to arrange the construction of a large number of new airfields and their number rose from 12 in 1923 to 39 in 1933, 11 of which were large air bases capable of supporting entire air regiments.
The lack of funds shaped Rayski's policies significantly. Because Poland could not afford to purchase a large number of modern planes abroad, Rayski promoted the development of Polish aviation industry. In 1928 on his insistence all Polish aeroplane factories switched their production to modern all-metal constructions, which allowed the new generation of young and skilled engineers to start their career. Among them were Zygmunt Puławski (designer of a family of modern fighters, starting from PZL P.1), Jerzy Dąbrowski (designer of PZL.37 Łoś bomber), Wsiewołod Jakimiuk (designer of PZL.50 Jastrząb fighter), Stanisław Prauss (author of PZL.23 Karaś and PZL.46 Sum light bombers) and Stanisław Nowkuński (designer of air engines, among them the PZL Foka). The state-owned National Aviation Works (PZL) became the primary supplier of modern aeroplanes to the Polish Army and financed much of the plane production from its own sources, primarily gathered from export of planes to Romania, Spain, Hungary, Greece and Turkey. However, the constant lack of funds allowed the Polish Air Forces only to replace the old planes with more modern ones, but not to expand it to become a fully reliable part of the armed forces. Rayski repeatedly presented state authorities with plans and petitions of significant expansion of the Air Force, but none was accepted.
In 1934 Ludomił Rayski was promoted to the rank of generał brygady, the highest rank held by any officer of the Polish Air Force at that time. Two years later, on 1 August 1936 he became the commander of the Polish Air Force. It was not until 1937 that one of his plans of modernization of the air force was finally accepted. The plan was based on extensive study of the development of the German Luftwaffe and on theories of Italian general Giulio Douhet, who envisioned that the future war would be fought primarily with bomber planes, with fighters playing a secondary role. In four years, by 1 April 1942, the number of Polish escadrilles was to be increased from 33 to 106. The plan was to be financed by the government and the entire reconstruction of the Polish Air Force was to cost approximately 1,537,000,000 złoty, that is almost 300 million US dollars or almost 62 million Pounds (by 1939 exchange rates).