Veteran pilot's medal honour, decades after war service
STANLEY "Rocky" Rockminster saw more during six years of war than most people see in a lifetime.
He shot down bombers, protected pilots and taught others everything he learned.
Former Polish Air Force and Royal Air Force pilot Stanley "Rocky" Rockminster, of Mumbles, is presented with his veteran's badge by Brian Davies, welfare officer for the Swansea branch of the Royal Air Force Association.
Rocky earned medals in the RAF and was awarded one of the highest honours in his homeland — the Polish Iron Cross — for his courage and service during World War II.
But he waited decades before he was handed his RAF Association (Rafa) Veterans' Badge, which was this week awarded to him at home in Mayals by Rafa's welfare officer Brian Davies.
Rocky, who had trained as a pilot in Poland, fled the country shortly after war broke out.
He and his station commander were heading south when they were shot down, forcing them to land in a cornfield a mile from the safety of the Romanian border.
They thought those responsible, the Russians, were on their side but the Soviet army had attacked Poland and Rocky and his co-pilot became prisoners of war.
They were put to work on building a railway in North Siberia. Their accommodation was appalling and the food was sparse and abysmal.
He said: "In the winter it was dark all the time. We were using small lights to see what we were working on. It was terrible, but we were alive.
"We had been sentenced to 15 years' hard labour. Then, the Russians released us from prison. We were free. I couldn't believe it.
"We then were taken to Murmansk (Russia) on a train and then we were taken to Glasgow on a British destroyer. We were lousy and our clothes were dirty.
"There was a guard of honour when we arrived in Glasgow on February 2, 1942, and bands playing. I will never forget that day."
Rocky was then taken to Kirkham, near Blackpool. He travelled in his lice-ridden Russian clothes and was fed tea and sandwiches the whole way.
Visit our Looking Back website
He added: "I felt like a prince or a king. It was beautiful, they were feeding me all the time."
But that was not the end of the war for Rocky. After a period of convalescence in Perth, he was signed up to the RAF's Polish Squadron, which meant learning English, fast.
"There was a language problem," he added. "Every spare minute was taken up learning English. Then there were refresher courses in Nottingham, flying Tiger Moths.
"Then I was put to work. I would fly the planes that would look out for the bombers. I would escort them on missions.
"It was frightening every time. Nobody could say it wasn't. But I am proud of my service."
Following the war, Rocky decided to make Britain his home. He applied for citizenship to allow him to continue to serve in the RAF, which he did until 1968, as a flying instructor.
He decided to settle in Swansea after flying over Gower.
"I saw its beauty and I thought, 'I would like to retire here', and I did."
Rocky, now aged 93, lives at his home in Plunch Lane with his wife Marjorie.
Last year, on his 92nd birthday, his family surprised him with the chance to fly again.
"Flying came back naturally." he said.
"It was like it was just yesterday."
Send us details of your fundraising efforts for Help for Heroes. Phone Post reporter Jason Evans on 01792 215605 or email email@example.com