First Kills

The Illustrated Biography of Fighter Pilot Władysław Gnyś

Stefan Gnyś

Written by his son Stefan and drawing from his logbooks, this highly illustrated biography of Władek Gnyś, the first Allied pilot to score aerial kills in WWII, is the most in-depth account of the Polish hero's life.
Publication date:
December 2017
Publisher :
Casemate Publishers
Illustration :
highly illustrated
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781612005560

Dimensions : 254 X 178 mm
In Stock

Regular Price: £25.00

Special price £9.95

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• The experience of the first Allied ace of World War II, flying for first the Polish Air Force, then the French Air Force and finally the Royal Air Force is emblematic of the determination of Polish forces to continue the fight even after Poland fell
• The book draws on logbook entries and his written accounts, and illustrated with unique commissioned illustrations and contemporary photography
• A story not only of bravery and determination but also of reconciliation and friendship between former enemies

"A completely wonderful book! seems to be quite out of the ordinary, with illustrations as well as photographs, and the strong narrative running through, revealing the brave-as-a-lion man ...a work of real and loving scholarship." - Joanna Lumley

Polish pilot Władysław (Władek) Gnyś was credited with shooting down the first two German aircraft of World War II on September 1, 1939. On this day, as Gnyś' squadron took off near Kraków to intercept the German invaders, German Stuka pilot Frank Neubert attacked, killing the captain. Władek, who barely survived himself, evaded the pursuing Stukas and went on to make the first Allied kills, while Neubert was credited with the first aerial kill of the war.

An experienced fighter pilot, Gnyś fought in the Battle of Poland with the Polish Air Force, the Battle of France with the French Air Force and the Battle of Britain and beyond with the Royal Air Force. During the latter part of Operation Overlord (D-Day), Władek was shot down over France in August 1944 and crash landed. Wounded, he was taken prisoner but then escaped, his life spared by the enemy on more than one occasion.

Fifty years after the invasion of Poland, in the summer of 1989, Gnyś and Neubert met and shook hands, making news around the world. They reconciled their differences and remained friends until their deaths. This event symbolized the prevailing friendly coexistence between Poland and Germany.

Written by his son Stefan and drawing from his logbooks, this highly illustrated biography of Władek Gnyś is the most in-depth account of the Polish hero's life. It tells Władek's story from his childhood in rural Poland, through his time flying in three Allied air forces during World War II, to his reconciliation with Neubert and his commemoration as a national war hero in Poland.


"The incredible stories in First Kills are too numerous to recall in one short article. Remarkably detailed, it features almost 150 photographs and has been illustrated by renowned artist John D. Bindon… It is a tribute to Władysław Gnyś, the decorated ace pilot, but also to the charming and humble man himself.”
Hamilton Magazine

"…exhaustively-researched and dramatically-narrated… Stefan has written grippingly and tenderly, the story fortified by astounding detail and documentation, photos and wonderful illustrations by John Bindon.”
The Hamilton Spectator

I found this one highly fascinating… Wladyslaw Gnys might not be remembered today outside of the community he came from, but his son has done an admirable job telling the story of his father's life.
Seattle Book Review

Some among us pass through perilous times, beat the odds and live to tell about it, this is the remarkable story of one of those few.
Classic Wings

Of his bravery and skill, there is no doubt, and as with all of the people from that era, their story needs to be told...An excellent read for all, recommended.
Scale Military Modelling International Magazine

The first man to shoot down the Luftwaffe: The hero pilot who recorded the first aerial kills against Hitler's air force, escaped a POW camp and fought in the Battle of Britain.
Daily Mail

It is a compelling story of an extraordinary gentleman, all the more interesting as it's clearly written by those who loved him.
Army Rumour Service

It is a magnificent tribute to the first victorious Allied pilot of WWII. Highly recommended.
Modeling Madness

This is far from a run-of-the-mill wartime story, being more of a touching and revealing look into an extraordinary life, one that fought the good fight and came through more or less intact to face a new challenge in raising a family in the peace he had fought so long and strongly for.
Aircrew Remembered