A photographic album of Polish pilots who flew in the Battle of Britain, 1940-1943

By the outbreak of World War II, Poland's military aviation, commonly and incorrectly referred to as the Polish Air Force, was inferior in every aspect.

From being the world's first metal-built and fastest fighter aircraft in the mid-1930s to flying mostly older aircraft in 1939. The Polish pilots, however, lacked determination, coupled with bravery and a willingness to fight to the end. ,

In September 1939, German forces backed by the Luftwaffe and the Navy invaded Poland. Polish defenses, already suffering from a powerful and innovative blitz attack, collapsed shortly after the Soviet Union launched its offensive from the east. The Polish army fought with distinction, but Poland was defeated within five weeks.

After the invasion, those who were able to fight were ordered to evacuate themselves to France in the hope of continuing to fight the enemy in the air. About 8,000 airmen joined 'Sikorsky's tourists' as German propaganda ironically branded the Poles who began their long journey west.

When France, one of the biggest European military players, also went down, much faster than they thought possible, the Poles realized that there was no place other than Great Britain. He called the country he had absolutely no knowledge of 'an island of last hope'.

Yet the distrust was mutual. Underestimating their skill and ability, the RAF regarded the Polish pilots and personnel as traitors. Poles had to first learn English, study the King's Regulations and eventually get a grip on how to fly an aircraft very different from any others that had flown in Poland and France.

In short, they had to adapt to the opposite practice, which was completely different from what was known to continental airmen. Operating a throttle located on the other side of the cockpit, and operating in the opposite direction of any Continental instrument they are known to have, was only the tip of the iceberg.

Converting from meters and kilometers to feet, yards and miles is also quite a headache. His English was slowly improving and yet he managed to charm the local girls by using the first and 'important' words he learned: "Me Polish, I love you." ', so it is difficult to understand initially.)

The British government informed Polish leader General Sikorsky that at the end of the war, Poland would be charged for all costs involved in maintaining Polish forces in Britain.

Initially, they would only be required to join the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, wear British uniforms, fly British flags, and take two oaths, one to the Polish government and the other to George VI; Each officer was required to have a British equivalent, and all Polish pilots were to begin with the rank of "pilot officer", the lowest rank for a commissioned officer in the RAF.

Because of this, most experienced Polish pilots had to wait in training centers to learn English command procedures and the language, while the RAF suffered heavy losses due to a lack of experienced pilots.

On June 11, 1940, a preliminary agreement was signed by the Polish and British governments, and soon the British authorities finally allowed the creation of two bomber squadrons. The first squadrons had 300 and 301 Bomber Squadrons and 302 and 303 Fighter Squadrons.

Fighter squadrons flying the Hawker Hurricane first saw action in the third phase of the Battle of Britain in late August 1940, which quickly became highly effective. Polish flying skills were well developed by the invasion of Poland and the pilots were considered fearless and sometimes bordering on reckless.

By early 1941, the Polish Air Force was operating entirely alongside Britain's Royal Air Force. With 14 squadrons it was larger than any other air force from German-occupied Europe that had joined the Allies.

Over 17,000 men and women passed through the ranks of the Polish Air Force while it was stationed in Great Britain. They shot down 745 enemy aircraft, while 175 were unconfirmed.

They dropped thousands of bombs and laid hundreds of mines, flying 102,486 flights, for a total of 290,895 operational flight hours. He achieved it at the cost of 1,973 killed and 1,388 wounded. He won 342 British Gallantry Awards.

Yet at the end of the war Polish troops were not allowed to participate in the Allied victory parade so as not to provoke Joseph Stalin.

A memorial to Polish pilots who died during RAF service was erected in 1948 in the south-eastern corner of RAF Northolt Airport, where Polish-manned fighter squadrons were based at different times in the war.

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