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Polish Flyboys over Britain 1940

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Uploaded on Jul 10, 2011

On a June day, Churchill had risen to declare: 'The battle of France is over. I expect that the battle of Britain is about to begin. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender." The courage and character that Churchill pledged for Britain had already been demonstrated by Poland. It was the first country to experience the terror of the Nazi Blitzkrieg, the first to fight back, the first to say - and mean - "We shall never surrender". Poland fell in October 1939, but its government and military refused then, and refused for the rest of the war, to capitulate. In a remarkable odyssey, scores of thousands of Polish pilots, soldiers, and sailors escaped Poland - some on foot; some in cars, trucks, and buses; some in airplanes; some in ships and submarines. They made their various ways first to France, thence to Britain to continue the fight. For the first full year of the war, Poland, whose government-in-exile operated from London, was Britain's most important declared ally.

Polish pilots were ferocious fighters. With their homeland in enemy hands and news of Nazi and Soviet atrocities in the occupied Poland reaching them on almost daily basis, unsure of the fate of their close ones, they took their hate into the air with them.

The English girls loved the Poles, the newspapers raved about their exploits, and King George VI visited them at their Northolt base and signed his name in the squadron diary. The Polish pilots - who had been groomed in the old school style by their officer corps back home - were very much a hit with the ladies, with their fearless spirit and hand-kissing gallantry. Such was their appeal to the natives that even British airmen pretended to be Poles in order to chat up the girls. As one hoity-toity head mistress admonished in a speech to parting pupils: "And remember, keep away from gin and Polish airmen!"

The Polish daring came naturally to them as did their propensity to disobey orders. However, the latter quality proved to be a distinct advantage in the heat of battle.

By the end of the war, around 19,400 Poles were serving in the RAF. Over 120 of them were decorated. Among those awarded medals were Witold Urbanowicz, who shot down 15 German aircraft. Jan Zumbach, 8 aircraft; Zdzisław Henneberg, 8 aircraft; Mirosław Ferić, 7 aircraft, and Ludwik Paszkiewicz was awarded post-humously for 6 aircraft shot down. The top scoring pilot of any nationality, was Jozef Frantisek, from Czechoslovakia, nicknamed "the Czech". He so admired the Polish pilots that he refused to fly with anyone else. The First Commander of the 303rd Squadron, Major Zdzisław Krasnodębski was decorated for his bravery on September 6, 1940. When his plane was hit and in flames, he continued to fly his mission shooting down enemy aircraft. With his hands on fire, he landed the plane, and never released his grip on the controls.

From 1940 to 1945 the Polish squadrons and the Polish pilots serving in British units achieved 621 confirmed kills, and together with campaigns of 1939 and France - 900 confirmed and 189 probable.

In the first week of the Battle of Britain, the Polish airmen scored an amazing number of hits, but British Command would not believe it, even though it was confirmed by the British squadron leader. Still not convinced, Stanley Vincent, the Station Commander, followed the Kościuszko Squadron on an air raid, and he was amazed by what he saw. The Polish aces attacked the German planes from a vertical trajectory "with near suicidal impetus". German formations quickly scattered making it easy for the Poles to pick them off one by one. After the combat he said: "The air was full of burning aircraft, parachutes and pieces of disintegrating wings. It was also so rapid that is was staggering". Vincent tried to fight, but every time he wanted to attack the Germans, a Polish pilot anticipated him. So he did not manage to fight in this battle. After the landing he said to the Intelligence officer: "My God, they are really doing it!"

One young Polish pilot looked on in silence while the parade passed. Then he turned to walk away. An old woman standing next to him looked at him quizzically. "Why are you crying, young man?" she asked.

Homework:
http://www.polishgreatness.com/kosciu...
http://www.ww2.pl/300,,301,,302,,303,...
http://avstop.com/history/aroundthewo...
http://www.polishsquadronsremembered....
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_V...
http://www.lynneolson.com/question_of...

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