They came to fight for freedom and their country, they came to fight Germans. Men of the Polish Air Force, who had escaped first to France and then to Britain, to fly alongside the Royal Air Force just as Fighter Command faced its greatest challenge – the Battle of Britain.
Many of the Polish airmen joined existing RAF squadrons. The Poles also formed their own squadrons, but only four became operational during the Battle of Britain: Nos. 300 and 301, were bomber squadrons, with another two, Nos. 302 and 303, being fighter squadrons. Flying Hawker Hurricanes, both 302 and 303 squadrons were active by the middle of August 1940, just when they were most needed, at the height of the Battle of Britain, with Fighter Command stretched to its limit.
The Polish squadrons, battle-hardened from their encounters with the Luftwaffe during the invasion of Poland and Battle of France, soon made their mark. In particular, 303 Squadron become the highest-scoring unit of Fighter Command.
In total, 145 Polish pilots, the largest non-British contingent in Fighter Command at the time, fought in the Battle of Britain. While Winston Churchill praised the contribution of the ‘Few’, the pilots of many nationalities who had defended Britain, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding was more specific: ‘Had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of the Battle would have been the same.’
About The Author:
Peter Sikora is an aviation researcher, historian and writer who specialises in the history of the Polish Air Force between 1918 and 1946, with the particular interest in the achievements of the Polish airmen during Second World War. Based in Berkshire, England, Peter has already had a number of books published in Poland, including Aces of the Polish Air Force, Battles of the Polish Air Force 1918-1945 and Polish Wings over Ireland. He also writes historical articles for the leading Polish aviation magazines, and is a member of the Polish Air Force Memorial Committee at RAF Northolt. In his private life, he is married to Maggie, and together they run a non for profit organisation that helps to reduce unemployment.