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Jozef Kazimierz Skwirzynski

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 3 years, 5 months ago


Research staff



Obituary by Bernard de Neumann


Jozef Kazimierz Skwirzynski, MBE

Jozef was born in Budzanow, Poland on 21st December 1921. He began his education there, but it was interrupted by the invasions of Poland by both Germany and then the USSR in 1939. He was arrested by the Russians in 1939, and deported to the Ukraine where he spent two years in prison/work camps. He felt that it would be to his advantage to volunteer for skilful tasks whilst being detained, and so, when people with driving skills were called for, he put himself forward.  This resulted in his ploughing a lonely furrow in the Ukraine, where he drove a caterpillar tractor towing a plough. Later, in 1941, after Germany invaded the USSR, and after most Russian-held Polish prisoners had been released to form an army in the USSR, which was not armed through fear of insurrection, volunteers were called for who could fly.  Naturally Jozef volunteered. This resulted in Jozef being released from the Polish army and his being posted to Britain, via Tehran, Bombay and Cape Town. A somewhat tortuous journey not without incident, which included a night in jail in Cape Town. Upon his arrival in Britain he was sent to Blackpool, Lancashire, where he met his wife-to-be, Yvonne. The cultural shock must have been immense, and the Polish contingent found itself wondering what to do with some of the items which they were presented with upon arrival, such as small jars of Marmite, Cherry Blossom Polish, etc. Jozef had many tales connected with his arrival in the UK, and his friends will, no doubt, recall them with pleasure. It was soon discovered that Jozef had no flying abilities, and so he became, after training, a navigator in the Polish Section of the Royal Air Force. The rapidity of his uptake of the art of aircraft navigation did not go unnoticed, particularly as he had to cope with the disadvantage of learning English simultaneously, and quickly he became a Navigation Instructor to other Poles.

After the war Jozef took a double First in Mathematics and Physics from Imperial College, and afterwards spent two years there as a lecturer. He joined Marconi Research Laboratories, Great Baddow, in 1951. Here he became Chief of the Mathematical Physics and Circuitry Group in 1969, and Manager of Theoretical Support Services in 1977. During his time at Baddow he became an authority on the design of electrical filters, an area which is replete with Poles and poles, and he had a book published on the subject in 1968. He also authored many papers and articles upon theoretical aspects of electronic engineering, many of which were published. At the time of his retirement he was Consultant to Marconi Research Centre.

He represented Marconi and GEC on various national and international bodies, and served on the University Grants Committee mathematics sub-committee for several years.  He organised and ran a large number of NATO Advanced Study Institutes - probably more than any other person.  


In his spare time he, with his wife, until she died, ran a small but widely known antiques business; indeed he was to become an acknowledged expert on oriental antiques

In the United Kingdom's New Year's Honours List of 1987 he became an additional Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services. He died 29th October, 1989.

Jozef became very excited when the Polish Pope John-Paul was elected in 1978.  Jozef knew him well when they were children.  Jozef, who was only 17 in 1939, volunteered for the Polish Army, and was a very junior officer.  Ultimately he was captured and imprisoned by the Soviets, but when the USSR became our ally, Jozef came to England and joined the Polish Squadron of the Royal Air Force.  After the war Jozef stayed in this country and became a British citizen.  Then when the Pope was elected, the Poles from the old army formed an honour guard for the Pope for his entrance into Vatican City.  Jozef being so junior was put in the rear rank, with all the high-ranking officers and dignitaries well to the fore.  When the Pope inspected them, walking along the front rank, he suddenly spotted Jozef at the back, and said “Skwirzynski, what are you doing here?”, much to the surprise of the others.  The Pope and Jozef hadn't met since before the war when they were quite young!  Jozef recounted this story many times.

Many people, including myself, have benefited from Jozef s interest, influence and training, and owe much to the opportunities which he gave them. Life was never dull with Jozef around especially with his "Jozefisms" - such as hunchback" cars! I acknowledge with pride that I worked with him for twenty-three years. He sometimes joked that I would take over his job, and whilst the editing of this volume has been a sad task, I am proud to have been called upon to complete this part of his work.

Bernard de Neumann
September, 1990.



Research staff

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