• Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland


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  • 7 October 2017

    Military historians and scholars examined in detail every aspect of the role of Polish airmen in the Battle of Britain at a special conference on Saturday, 7th October at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London.


    The conference, organised by the Polish Heritage Society UK (PHS) in co-operation with the Polish Underground Movement Study Trust in London, The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum, and the Polish Embassy, was the next installment in a series of high-profile symposiums, which previously covered topics such as the institutions of the Polish Underground State, operations of the Silent Unseen Cichociemni, and General Maczek’s command during military offensive in Belgium.


    The conference featured distinguished scholars, including Dr Paul Latawski - senior lecturer at the Department of Defence and International Affairs at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and Dr Andrzej Suchcitz, from The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum. Other speakers included Piotr Sikora, from the Polish Air Force (PAF) Memorial Committee at RAF Northolt, Jerzy Ścibor-Kamiński, co-founder and former vice-chairman of Polish Airmen’s Association UK, and Michał Mołga, a PAF researcher.


    Throughout the day, panellists delivered a deep insight into the history and role of the Polish airmen in the Battle of Britain, looking at the organisation and operation of the PAF in the UK, the reasons for the extraordinary combat effectiveness of the Polish pilots, the post-war life of the PAF personnel and the legacy that it left in Britain.


    Piotr Kobza, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy, welcomed the guests, saying: "There is an undisputed interest for the shared history of Poland and Britain in this country, and there is a strong campaign to spread the word of Poland’s contribution to the Second World War. Franciszek Kornicki’s win in RAF Museum’s ‘People’s Spitfire Pilot’ poll is a great example of this. There is also a great programme of Saturday schools, which spread that awareness, but there is still a need for the contribution of Polish pilots, and indeed the history of Poland, to be known more widely in the United Kingdom. This is why conferences such as this one are so important."


    Dr Mark Stella, PHS chairman, introduced the conference. He said: “We have held many important events in London in recent years, but no subject is more worthy of detailed study and recognition than the extraordinary achievements of Polish Air Force personnel during World War Two. It’s a remarkable story that deserves to be told.”


    The military history conference was the fifth such event organised by the PHS, a charity active in recognising and celebrating the role played by Poles in British life and culture.


    Consul General Krzysztof Grzelczyk and Deputy Defence Attaché Lt Col Artur Miśkiewicz were also present at the conference.


    About 1,500 RAF pilots took part in the Battle of Britain, with 151 Poles in the Polish Air Force – the largest contingent, representing about 10% of the total. There were 81 Poles serving in British squadrons, while the remaining 70 manned two Polish squadrons: 302 and 303.


    302 Squadron saw combat for the first time on 15th August and 6 days later it shot down its first Junkers. 303 Squadron became operational on 30th August in a most unorthodox manner: during a training sortie Lt Ludwik Paszkiewicz shot down a Messerschmitt without orders. Despite conflicting reports and post-war re-assessments, it appears that the RAF shot down some 1,733 German aircraft during the period from 10th July to the end of October and damaged a further 643. This figure includes the 203 aircraft shot down by the Poles: 302 Squadron – 16, 303 Squadron – 110, and Poles serving in British squadrons – 77. The British lost 914 Spitfires and Hurricanes, with a further 450 damaged; 481 pilots were lost and 422 wounded. The Poles lost 33: 302 Squadron – 7, 303 Squadron 6 and 13 of those serving in British squadrons; 7 later died of their wounds. In fact, 303 Squadron was credited with being the most successful squadron in RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain and 9 of its 34 pilots qualified as ‘aces’ – pilots with five or more ‘kills’ to their credit.


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