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No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron
PSP Dywizjon 303.jpg
303 Squadron badge
Active 2 August 1940 – 11 December 1946
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Allegiance Poland Polish government in exile
Branch Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Role Fighter Squadron
Part of RAF Fighter Command
Nickname "Rafałki"
Scarf colour Scarlet
Anniversaries 1 September Squadron holiday
Battle honours Battle of Britain 1940, Fortress Europe 1941-1944, France and Germany 1944-1945
Zdzisław Krasnodębski
Witold Urbanowicz
Jan Zumbach
Witold Łokuciewski
Squadron Codes RF (Aug 1940 - Apr 1945)
PD (Apr 1945 – Dec 1946)
Aircraft flown
Fighter Hawker Hurricane
Supermarine Spitfire
Mustang IV

No. 303 ("Kościuszko") Polish Fighter Squadron (Polish: 303 Dywizjon Myśliwski "Warszawski im. Tadeusza Kościuszki") was one of 16 Polish squadrons in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. No. 303 was formed in Britain as part of an agreement between the Polish Government in Exile and the United Kingdom.

The squadron was named after the Polish and American Revolution hero General Tadeusz Kościuszko, and the eponymous Polish 7th Air Escadrille founded by Merian C. Cooper, that served Poland in the 1919-1921 Polish-Soviet War. Measured by kill ratio, No. 303 was the best performing RAF unit in the Battle of Britain.[1][2][3 ] After a distinguished combat record, the fighter squadron was disbanded in December 1946.



No. 303 (Polish) Squadron was formed on 2 August 1940, and became operational on 31 August of the same year, its initial cadre being 13 Officer and 8 NCO pilots and 135 Polish ground staff. Initially English-speaking serving RAF officers were appointed to serve as CO and Flight Commanders alongside their Polish compatriates, as the Polish pilots were unfamiliar with RAF Fighter Command language, procedures and training. The name chosen by the squadron was in honour of the famous Polish Kosciuszko Squadron which fought during the Polish-Soviet War in 1920. No. 303 Squadron was also linked to the original Kosciuszko Escadrille through personnel that had served in the squadron. Later, further air force units from the aforementioned unit were renamed the 7th, 121st and 111th Escadrilles of the Polish Air Force.

On 30 August 1940, the squadron scored its first victory while still officially non-operational, against a German Bf 110 (initially incorrectly recorded as a Do-17) fighter shot down by Ludwik Paszkiewicz during a training flight. The wreck was dug out in 1982.[4] No. 303 Squadron claimed the greatest number of aircraft destroyed of the 66 Allied fighter squadrons engaged in the Battle of Britain, even though it joined the fray two months after the battle had begun. Its success in combat can be attributed to the years of extensive and rigorous pre-war training many of the long-serving Polish veterans had received in their homeland and surviving previous encounters with the Luftwaffe in inferior aircraft; far more than many of their younger and inexperienced RAF comrades being thrown into the battle. In its first seven days of combat, the squadron claimed nearly 40 enemy aircraft. Withdrawn from battle for a rest on the 11 October, the squadron had claimed 126 kills in six weeks. However, losses had also been heavy, with 18 Hurricanes lost, seven pilots killed and five badly wounded.[5]

During the Battle of Britain, even though the Hurricane fighters flown by the Polish pilots were considered inferior to the main German fighter (the Messerschmitt Bf 109), they were far superior to the outdated Polish fighter aircraft that defended the country's skies during the German invasion in September 1939. Due to the critical shortage of Allied aircraft and pilots, No. 303 Squadron frequently intercepted and engaged large formations of German bombers and fighters that outnumbered the squadron by as much as 10 to one. On one occasion, a pilot of 303, Sergeant Stanislaw Karubin, resorted to extreme tactics to bring down a German fighter. Following a prolonged air battle, Karubin was chasing a German fighter at treetop level. As he closed in on the tail of the German fighter, Karubin realized that his Hurricane had run out of ammunition. Rather than turning back to base, he closed the distance and climbed right above the German fighter. The German pilot was so shocked to see the underside of the Hurricane within arm's reach of his cockpit that he instinctively reduced his altitude to avoid a collision and crashed into the ground.[6]

Although the number of Battle of Britain claims was overestimated (as with virtually all fighter units), No. 303 Squadron was one of top fighter units in the battle and the best Hurricane-equipped one. According to historian John Alcorn, 44 victories are positively verified, which makes 303 Squadron the fourth best fighter squadron of the battle, after Squadron Nos. 603 (57,8 verified kills), 609 (48 verified kills) and 41 (45,33 verified kills), which all flew Spitfires. [4]. Considering that these victories were scored in only 17 days of combat, it was also the most efficient unit, with high kill-to-loss ratio of 2.8:1. However, J. Alcorn was not able to attribute 30 aircraft shot down to any particular unit, and according to Jerzy Cynk and some other Polish historians, the real number of victories of 303 Squadron was in fact about 55–60.[4] According to Polish historian Jacek Kutzner the verified number of kills of 303 Squadron is around 58,8, which would still place it beyond all other squadrons if it comes to amount of verified kills. This is presented by Kutzner's chart, which shows Polish confirmed kills (left column), confirmed kills of all Allied squadrons, including Polish (central column) and real German losses on each day when 303 Squadron was involved in air combats (right column). /Chart [1]

During 1941–43, No. 303 Squadron flew on Fighter Command's offensive sweeps over North West Europe, flying various marks of the Spitfire. During Operation Jubilee, 303 Squadron claimed the highest number of aircraft shot down of all Allied squadrons participating. On 11 April 1942, when an aerial gunnery contest was staged within No. 11 Group RAF, the three competing Polish squadrons—303, 316 and 315—took the first three places out of all 22 air squadrons, 303 Squadron coming first by a very healthy margin (808 hits, while 316 Squadron scored 432 hits, and the best British squadron 150 hits[4]). After D-Day, the squadron remained with ADGB ("Air Defence Great Britain"), moving to RAF Coltishall for operations over Holland. April 1945 saw the unit equipped with Mustang IVs.

No. 303 Squadron was the most effective Polish RAF squadron of any other RAF units during the Second World War. Some sources state that its pilots were invited to the London Victory Parade of 1946 [7][8][9], one source [10] says that it was the only representatives of the Polish Armed Forces in the West. The invitation was refused because no other Polish units were invited. However, according to other sources No. 303 Squadron was not invited[11][12][13][14] and so could not have refused the invitation. After the end of the war, squadron morale decreased due to the treatment of Poland by the Allies, and the squadron was eventually disbanded in December 1946.

Squadron statistics

126 German aircraft or "Adolfs" were claimed as shot down by 303 Squadron pilots during the Battle of Britain. This is the score of "Adolfs" chalked onto a Hurricane.

(From 19 July 1940 until 8 May 1945)

1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 Overall
Combat sorties 1,049 2,143 1,348 2,075 2,653 632 9,900
Hours of flight time 1,086 2,743 1,967 3,693 5,259 1,118 15,866


Claims during Battle of Britain

destroyed 126
probables 13
damaged 9

(4.7% of all enemy aeroplanes during the battle. In fact some 44-60 victories, this however produces a similar percentage[4].)

Claims from 1 September 1940 until 8 May 1945)

destroyed 297 1/6
probables 35
damaged 25

(include 3-0-3 enemy aircraft on the ground)


The dog "Misia", mascot of the 303 squadron, sitting on a Spitfire.
F/O Bronisław Kłosin holding the aerial gunnery contest award, on the left side of him, Flt Lt Bieńkowski, on the right side Flt Lt Zumbach.


Squadron equipment

Spitfire Mk.Vb EN951 RF D Pilot: S/Ldr Jan Zumbach
303 squadron pilots. L-R: Sgt. Stasik, P/O Socha, P/O Kolecki, F/O Lipiński, F/O Horbaczewski, F/O Schmidt, F/Sgt Giermar (on the wing), Flt Lt Zumbach, Sqn Ldr Kołaczewski, Flt Lt Żak, F/Sgt Popek, F/O Bieńkowski, F/O Kłosin, F/O Kolubiński, F/Sgt Karczmarz, F/Sgt Sochacki, F/Sgt Wojciechowski and on the propeller F/O Głowacki (May 1942, Northolt).
  • 8 August 1940 - Hurricane I
  • 22 January 1941 - Spitfire I
  • 3 March 1941 - Spitfire IIA
  • 20 May 1941 - Spitfire IIB
  • From 25 August 1941 until 6 October 1941 - Spitfire I
  • 7 October 1941 - Spitfire VB
  • 1 June 1943 - Spitfire F IXC.
  • 12 November 1943 - Spitfire VB, Spitfire VC and Spitfire LF VB, Spitfire LF VC
  • 18 July 1944 - Spitfire F IX, Spitfire LF IX and Spitfire HF IX
  • 4 April 1945 - Mustang IV and Mustang IVA.


Commanding officers

303 squadron pilots. L-R: F/O Ferić, F/Lt Lt Kent, F/O Grzeszczak, P/O Radomski, P/O Zumbach, P/O Łukciewski, F/O Henneberg, Sgt Rogowski, Sgt Szaposznikow (in 1940).

(under British command until 1 January 1941. Abbreviations: mjr: major, kpt.: captain, por.: lieutenant)

  • 2 August 1940 - Sqn Ldr (mjr) Zdzisław Krasnodębski
  • 7 September 1940 - F/O (por.) Witold Urbanowicz
  • 22 October 1940 - F/O (por.) Zdzisław Henneberg
  • 7 November 1940 - Sqn Ldr (kpt.) Adam Kowalczyk
  • 20 February 1941 - Sqn Ldr (por.) Zdzisław Henneberg
  • 13 April 1941 - F/Lt (por.) Tadeusz Arentowicz
  • 5 May 1941 - Sqn Ldr (kpt.) Wacław Łapkowski
  • 3 July 1941 - Sqn Ldr (kpt.) Tadeusz Arentowicz
  • 9 July 1941 - Sqn Ldr (kpt.) Jerzy Jankiewicz
  • 21 November 1941 - Sqn Ldr (por.) Wojciech Kołaczkowski
  • 7 May 1942 - Sqn Ldr (kpt.) Walerian Żak
  • 19 May 1942 - Sqn Ldr (por.) Jan Zumbach
  • 1 December 1942 - Sqn Ldr(por.) Zygmunt Witymir Bieńkowski
  • 4 July 1943 - Sqn Ldr (kpt.) Jan Falkowski
  • 21 November 1943 - Sqn Ldr (kpt.) Tadeusz Koc
  • 25 September 1944 - Sqn Ldr (kpt.) Bolesław Drobiński
  • 1 February 1946 - Sqn Ldr (mjr) Witold Łokuciewski


Pilots of 303

  • Sqn Ldr R G Kellett DSO DFC Original CO of 303 Sqn during the Battle of Britain, (five claims)
  • Flt Lt John A. Kent, Canadian Flight commander during the Battle, (11 claims)
  • Sgt Josef František, Czech Sgt. pilot flying with 303 Polish Squadron, was the one of the top fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain, with 17 confirmed kills.
  • Fg Off Witold Urbanowicz, Polish commander of 303 Squadron from 5 September 1940, scored 15 kills during the Battle of Britain (17 total)
  • Plt Off Jan Zumbach, commander of 303 Squadron from 19 May 1942, scored eight kills during the Battle of Britain (13 total)
Pilot list of the No. 303 Polish "Kościuszko" Fighter Squadron
303 Polish Fighter Squadron badge
Ronald Kellett | Zdzisław Krasnodębski | Witold Urbanowicz | Zdzisław Henneberg | Adam Kowalczyk | Zdzisław Henneberg | Tadeusz Arentowicz | Wacław Łapkowski | Tadeusz Arentowicz | Jerzy Jankiewicz | Wojciech Kołaczkowski | Walerian Żak | Jan Zumbach | Zygmunt Witymir Bieńkowski | Jan Falkowski | Tadeusz Koc | Bolesław Drobiński | Witold Łokuciewski
Flight personnel:
Tadeusz Andruszków | Zenon Bartkowiak | Marian Bełc | Michał Brzezowski | Arsen Cebrzyński | Jan Daszewski | Mirosław Ferić | Athol Forbes | Josef František | Paweł Gallus | Bogdan Grzeszczak | Eugeniusz Horbaczewski | Wojciech Januszewicz | Józef Kania | Stanisław Karubin | John Kent | Bronisław Kłosin | Wojciech Kołaczkowski | Tadeusz Kołecki | Jan Kowalski | Karol Krawczyński | Bogusław Mierzawa | Włodzimierz Miksa | Tadeusz Opulski | Jan Palak
Jerzy Palusiński | Ludwik Paszkiewicz | Edward Peterek | Stanisław Pietraszkiewicz | Marian Pisarek | Mieczysław Popek | Jerzy Radomski | Jan Rogowski
Aleksander Rokitnicki | Tadeusz Sawicz | Henryk Skowron | Bronislaw Sikora | Antoni Siudak | Stanisław Socha | Józef Stasik | Eugeniusz Szaposznikow | Mirosław Wojciechowski | Stefan Wojtowicz | Kazimierz Wunsche
Stanisław Zdanowski


Spitfire VB of the 303 squadron in the "left stairs down" formation, on a combat flight during the Jubilee operation.
I cannot say how proud I am to have been privileged to help form and lead No. 303 squadron and later to lead such a magnificent fighting force as the Polish Wing. There formed within me in those days an admiration, respect and genuine affection for these really remarkable men which I have never lost. I formed friendship that are as firm as they were those twenty-five years ago and this I find most gratifying. We who were privileged to fly and fight with them will never forget and Britain must never forget how much she owes to the loyalty indomitable spirit and sacrifice of those Polish fliers. They were our staunchest Allies in our darkest days; may they always be remembered as such!

Popular culture

The squadron was the subject of the 1942 book "Dywizjon 303" (Squadron 303), written by the well-known Polish writer Arkady Fiedler, which is considered the most famous and popular among this writer's many works and has sold over 1.5 million copies.

As part of an advertising campaign designed to highlight their concerns about the numbers of foreign workers (including Polish migrants) in the United Kingdom, the British National Party used the distinctly British icon of a Spitfire to illustrate their idea of a Battle for Britain. Ironically, the Spitfire shown in their advertising was RF-D from 303 (Polish) Squadron.[10] It was Spitfire with painted Donald Duck of Polish ace - Jan Zumbach who during the Battle of Britain scored eight confirmed kills against Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters.

See also


  1. ^ Olson and Cloud 2003
  2. ^ Zaloga and Hook 1982, p. 15.
  3. ^ Gretzyngier and Matusiak 1998, p. 25.
  4. ^ a b c d e Letter of Jerzy Cynk to Skrzydlata Polska 1/2006 magazine, pp. 61–62 (in Polish)
  5. ^ Ratuszynski, Wilhelm. "No. 303 Squadron in the Battle of Britain." Retrieved: 21 October 2009.
  6. ^ Gretzyngier 2001, p. 62.
  7. ^ Anders 1949, p. 299.
  8. ^ Lucas, Edward. "Okiem Brytyjczyka - Szokująca wizja." (in Polish) Wprost. Retrieved: 22 October 2009.
  9. ^ Lucas, Edward. "English translation of Wprost article." Wprost. Retrieved: 22 October 2009.
  10. ^ a b Haines, Lester. "Polish Spitfire shoots down BNP: Anti-immigration poster pic blunder." The Register, 4 March 2009. Retrieved: 21 October 2009.
  11. ^ "Fighting with the Allies: Remembering Polish Fighters." PBS (Behind Closed Doors). Retrieved: 21 October 2009.
  12. ^ Mroz, Ann. "There's no place for home." Times, 9 November 2001. Retrieved: 21 October 2009.
  13. ^ Rudnicki, Marek. "Remembering Poland's Contributions to WWII.", 15 September 2009. Retrieved: 21 October 2009.
  14. ^ "19th of September - Polish Forces War Memorial uncovered." Retrieved: 21 October 2009.
  15. ^ a b c Rawlings 1978, p. 391.
  16. ^ a b Halley 1988, p. 357.
  17. ^ a b Jefford 2001, pp. 86–87.
  • Anders, Władysław. An Army in Exile. London: MacMillan & Co., 1949.
  • Cynk, Jerzy B. The Polish Air Force at War: The Official History, 1939-1943. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0-7643-0559-X.
  • Cynk, Jerzy B. The Polish Air Force at War: The Official History, 1943-1945. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0-7643-0560-3.
  • Fiedler, Arkady. Dywizjon 303 (in Polish). London, Roy, 1942. (Translated as Squadron 303: The Polish Fighter Squadron with the R.A.F.. London: Peter Davies Ltd., 1942/New York: Roy Publishers, 1943. New edition Kessinger Publishing, 2007.)
  • Gretzyngier, Robert. Poles in Defence of Britain: A Day-by-Day Chronology of Polish Day and Night Fighter Operations, July 1940 - June 1941. London: Grub Street, 2001. ISBN 1-902304-54-3.
  • Gretzyngier, Robert. Polskie Skrzydła 4: Hawker Hurricane, część 1 (in Polish). Sandomierz, Poland: Stratus, 2005. ISBN 83-89450-37-2.
  • Gretzyngier, Robert and Wojtek Matusiak. Polish Aces of World War 2. London: Osprey, 1998. ISBN 1-85532-726-0.
  • Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth, 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
  • Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE, BA, RAF (Retd). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
  • Olson, Lynne and Stanley Cloud.A Question of Honor. The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II. New York: Knopf, 2003. ISBN 0-37541-197-6.
  • Rawlings, John D.R. Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Macdonald & Jane's (Publishers) Ltd., 1969 (revised edition 1976, reprinted 1978). ISBN 0-354-01028-X.
  • Zaloga, Steven J. and Richard Hook. The Polish Army 1939-45. London: Osprey Publishing, 1982. ISBN 0-85045-417-4.
  • Zamoyski, Adam. The Forgotten Few: The Polish Air Force in the Second World War. New York: Hippocrene Books Inc., 1995. ISBN 0-718-0421-3.

External links


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