Some five miles or so from where we live is the beautiful Polish War Memorial. It is close to RAF Northolt, the home station for several Polish squadrons during the Second World War.
By the Summer of 1940, some 6,000 members of the Polish Air Force had made their way to the UK and reformed their squadrons. Polish airmen reinforced Fighter Command in the critical weeks of mid-August to mid-September when the Battle of Britain hung in the balance.
On 15 September, 1940 (a date now marked in the UK as Battle of Britain Day), one in five pilots engaged in battle was Polish. 303 Polish Squadron recorded the highest kill rate of all RAF squadrons involved.
Polish airmen were excluded from the Victory Parade in 1946 at the request of the Soviet Union (the Allies had given Poland to the Soviet Union in 1945 … the same country that had invaded Poland in 1939). However, when the other RAF aircrew heard this (and there were many allied airmen flying under the banner of the RAF at this time), they refused to fly unless their Polish brothers flew alongside them. The Government of the day got around this dilemma by agreeing that the Poles could fly and not making the decision public.
The RAF had initially been scornful of the Polish airmen’s perceived lack of discipline and their habit of yelling over the radio transmitters in Polish. The RAF’s scepticism soon turned, however, to admiration for the skills and unstinting dedication of the Polish pilots and ground crew alike.
1900 Polish airmen died while fighting with the Allies in the Second World War. Something to remember and think on.