It was the most successful RAF unit in the Battle of Britain

The 303 Squadron of the RAF: the Polish airmen who defended the United Kingdom

The British Royal Air Force (RAF) had a heroic performance in defending the United Kingdom against German air raids in World War II.

The decisions that Polish RAF pilots had to make during an aerial combat
The myth of Polish cavalry charges against tanks in September 1939

The most epic moment of that defense took place during the Battle of Britain, between July and October 1940. What few know is that the RAF squadron that achieved the most victories in that battle was made up of Polish pilots strong>. It was the 303 Squadron "Tadeusz Kościuszko", named after the Polish hero who fought in the American War of Independence. That squadron initially had a British commander, R. G. Kellett. The Polish pilots that made it up had managed to reach the United Kingdom after the invasion of their country by the Germans and the Soviets in 1939.

Pilots of the Polish 303 Squadron of the RAF in a photo from October 1940. From left to right: Mirosław Ferić, John A. Kent, Bogdan Grzeszczak, Jerzy Radomski, Witold Łokuciewski, Bogusław Mierzwa, Zdzisław Henneberg, Jan Rogowski and Eugeniusz Szaposznikow. In the background we see one of the Hawker Hurricane fighters with which this unit initially flew (Photo: Picryl/Warsaw Institute).

In the RAF there were 16 Polish squadrons, in which 145 pilots served. Likewise, a total of 19,400 Polish airmen served in the RAF during the Second World War, as crew members of fighters and bombers, being the largest foreign force within British aviation. 303 Squadron had such prominent aces as Josef František, Witold Urbanowicz and Jan Zumbach. The unit was formed on July 19, 1940, being equipped with Hawker Hurricane fighters in August of that year. In January 1941 he began receiving the most modern Supermarine Spitfires, flying North American P-51 Mustangs in the last month of the war. The unit was dissolved in February 1946, having achieved a place of honor in Polish and British history.

The pilot Witold Urbanowicz was one of the main Polish aces during the Battle of Britain in 1940. In 1943 Urbanowicz joined the American Flying Tigers in China, fighting against the Japanese.

In a cession of the British before the communist dictatorship imposed by Stalin in Poland, the Victory Parade held in London in 1946 did not invite the Polish forces that had fought with the Western Allies, something which was considered an affront not only by the Poles, but also by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Following protests, 25 Polish RAF pilots were finally invited to participate in the parade, but they refused as a sign of solidarity with their compatriots. Finally, no Polish military participated in those celebrations, despite the sacrifices that many of them had made to defend the United Kingdom.

A Spitfire of Polish 303 Squadron RAF. Note that on the front it bears the characteristic checkerboard of the Polish Air Force, an emblem worn by many RAF planes flown by Poles during World War II.

Most of these pilots remained in exile, since the Polish communist dictatorship took away their nationality. Many remained in the UK and others settled in the US. Some, after many years, were able to return to their homeland after the fall of communism.

The channel Yarnhub, which always has very interesting content made by computer, he has just published an excellent video about the Polish 303 Squadron of the RAF, in which he recounts the history of this unit, explaining how the response of the Polish Air Force was to the German invasion of 1939 and the vicissitudes that happened Polish pilots who managed to reach the UK:


Main photo: A formation of Hawker Hurricane fighters of the Polish 303 Squadron RAF in 1940.

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