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Polish Air Forces in France and Great Britain
PL air force flag PSP.svg
Founded 18 May 1940
Country United Kingdom, France
Allegiance Polish government-in-exile
Insignia
Identification
symbol
Szachownica-till1993.svg The Low visibility roundel
Fin flash The RAF Fin Flash
Aircraft flown
Attack Caudron C.714, Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire

The Polish Air Forces (Polskie Siły Powietrzne) was a name of Polish Air Forces formed in France and the United Kingdom during World War II. The core of the Polish air units fighting alongside the allies were experienced veterans of Invasion of Poland of 1939 and they contributed to Allied victory in the Battle of Britain and most World War II air operations.

Monument to fallen Polish airmen; Warsaw, Pole Mokotowskie

Contents

History

After the joint Nazi-Soviet victory in the Invasion of Poland of 1939, a large part of both the flying personnel and technicians of the Polish Airforce were evacuated to Romania and Hungary, from where hundreds of them found their way to France. There, in accordance with the Franco-Polish Military Alliance of 1921, and the amendments of 1939, Polish Air units were to be re-created. However, the French headquarters was hesitant in creating large Polish air units and instead most of Polish pilots were attached to small units, so-called keys. Only one large unit was formed, the Groupe de Chasse polonaise I/145 stationed at Mions airfield. However, it was not until May 18, 1940 that it was equipped with planes - and even then these were the completely obsolete Caudron C.714 fighters. After 23 sorties the bad opinion of the plane was confirmed by the front-line pilots. It was seriously underpowered and was no match for the enemy fighters of the epoch. Because of that, on May 25, only a week after it was introduced in active service, French minister of war Guy la Chambre ordered all of C.710s to be withdrawn. However, since the French authorities had no other planes to offer, the Polish pilots ignored the order and continued to use the planes. Although the plane was hopelessly outdated compared to the Messerschmitt Me 109E's it faced, the Polish pilots nevertheless scored 12 confirmed and 3 unconfirmed kills in three battles between June 8 and June 11, losing 9 in the air and 9 more on the ground. Interestingly, among the planes claimed shot down were four Dornier Do 17 bombers, but also three Messerschmitt Bf 109 and five Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters. The rest of the Polish units were using the Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 fighter, slightly more reliable.

Altogether, the Polish pilots flew 714 sorties during the Battle of France. According to Jerzy Cynk, they shot down 51.9 enemy planes (summing fraction kills - or 57 including 16 shared victories), in addition to 3 unconfirmed kills and 6 3/5 damaged. According to Bartłomiej Belcarz they shot down 53 aircraft, including 19 shared with the French. A number of 53 victories makes 7,93% of 693 allied victories in the French campaign. At the same time they lost 44 planes (in combat, accidents and on the ground) and 8 fighter pilots in combat, 1 missing and 4 in accidents[1 ].

After the collapse of France in 1940, a large part of the Polish Air Force contingent was withdrawn to the United Kingdom. However, the RAF Air Staff were not willing to accept the independence and sovereignty of Polish forces. Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding later admitted he had been "a little doubtful" at first about the Polish airmen. British government informed General Sikorski that at the end of the war, Poland would be charged for all costs involved in maintaining Polish forces in Britain. Plans for the airmen greatly disappointed them: they would only be allowed to join the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, wear British uniforms, fly British flags and be required to take two oaths, one to the Polish government and the other to King George VI of the United Kingdom; each officer was required to have a British counterpart, and all Polish pilots were to begin with the rank of "pilot officer", the lowest rank for a commissioned officer in the RAF. Only after posting would anyone be promoted to a higher grade.[2] Because of that, the majority of much more experienced Polish pilots had to wait in training centres, learning English Command procedures and language, while the RAF suffered heavy losses due to 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 for creation of two bomber squadrons and a training centre as part of the Royal Air Force.

The first squadrons were 300 and 301 bomber squadrons and 302 and 303 fighter squadrons. The fighter squadrons, flying the Hawker Hurricane, first saw action in the third phase of the Battle of Britain in late August 1940, quickly becoming highly effective. Polish flying skills were well-developed from the Invasion of Poland and the pilots were regarded as fearless and sometimes bordered on reckless. Their success rates were very high in comparison to the less-experienced British Commonwealth pilots.[3] 303 squadron became the most efficient RAF fighter unit at that time[4]. Many Polish pilots also flew in other RAF squadrons. In the following years, further Polish squadrons were created: 304 (bomber, then Coastal Command), 305 (bomber), 306 (fighter), 307 (night fighter), 308 (fighter), 309 (reconnaissance, then fighter), 315 (fighter), 316 (fighter), 317 (fighter), 318 (fighter-reconnaissance) and 663 (air observation/artillery spotting). The fighter squadrons initially flew Hurricanes, then Supermarine Spitfires, and eventually some were equipped with North American Mustangs. Night fighters used by 307 were the Boulton-Paul Defiant, Bristol Beaufighter and the de Havilland Mosquito. The bomber squadrons were initially equipped with Fairey Battles and Vickers Wellingtons, then Avro Lancasters (300 sqn), Handley Page Halifaxs and Consolidated Liberators (301 sqn) and de Havilland Mosquitos and North American Mitchells (305 sqn). 663 flew Auster AOP Mk Vs.

On April 6, 1944, a further agreement was reached and the Polish Air Forces in Great Britain came under Polish command, without RAF officers. This resulted in the creation of a dedicated Polish Air Force staff college at RAF Weston-super-Mare, which remained open until April 1946.[5]

After the war, in a changed political situation, their equipment was returned to the British. Due to the fact that Poland ended in Soviet occupation, only a small proportion of the pilots returned to Poland, while the rest remained in exile.

A memorial to those Polish pilots killed while on RAF service has been erected at the south-eastern corner of RAF Northolt aerodrome. On the public highway, it is accessible without entering RAF areas. It is adjacent to a junction on the A40 Western Avenue; the official name for this junction is still "Polish War Memorial".

Polish Volunteer Air Force Squadrons Coat of Arms

No.303 Squadron inherited the traditions of previous Squadrons of the PAF such as Polish 7th Air Escadrille & Polish 111th Fighter Escadrille

Polish volunteer wings in Allied Air forces, 1940-45

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France

List of Polish units based on Bartłomiej Belcarz's research and publications [1 ][6].

  • Armée de l'Air, May 10, 1940 - Zone d´Operations Aériennes des Alpes
    • Groupe de Chasse de Varsovie at Lyon-Bron
    • Section no.1 Łaszkiewicz GC III/2
    • Section no.2 Pentz GC II/6
    • Section no.3 Sulerzycki GC III/6
    • Section no.4 Bursztyn GC III/1
    • Section no.5 Brzeziński GC I/2
    • Section no.6 Goettel GC II/7
    • Jasionowski Koolhoven Flight
    • DAT section Krasnodębski GC I/55 based at Châteaudun and Étampes
    • DAT section Skiba GC I/55
    • DAT section Kuzian based at Nantes
    • DAT section Opulski based at Romorantin
    • DAT section Krasnodębski based at Toulouse-Francazal
    • Centre d'Instruction d'Aviation de Chasse at Montpellier
    • Ecole de Pilotage No 1 (Chasse) at Etampes
    • Ecole de Pilotage at Avord
    • Centre d'Instruction at Tours
    • Depot d'Instruction de l'Aviation Polonaise at Lyon-Bron
    • Montpellier Flight

United Kingdom

  • No. 84 Group RAF
      • II Corps (Poland)
      • No. 318 Polish Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron "City of Gdansk" Chailey (Supermarine Spitfire P.R. Mk. IX)
      • No. 663 Polish Artillery Observation Squadron (Italy) (British Taylorcraft Auster III, IV and V)
  • Polish Fighting Team
    • Polski Zespół Myśliwski (Polish Fighting Team) (also known as Skalski's Circus) (Supermarine Spitfire F VB Trop and VC, later Supermarine Spitfire F IXC)
Bases

Stats

1940[7] 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 total
Fighters[8] sorties 4,115 13,032 10,390 13,266 25,399 9,238 73,524
hours 4,533 16,722 15,365 23,264 46,595 18,575 122,816
Bombers[9] sorties 97 1,357 2,999 1,895 3,607 1,751 11,706
hours 367.5 7,451 17,788 11,482.5 18,126 8,889 64,113
Special[10] sorties - 2 104 191 943 95 1,335
hours - 22 835 1,573 6,781 716 9,927
Transport[11] sorties 163 1,475 2,648 3,995 6,747 3,760 18,788
hours 261 14,868 16,914 20,111 30,204 14,709 97,067
1940[7] 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 total
destroyed 266 1/6 202 90 114 3/4 103 38 1/2 769 5/12
probable 38 52 36 42 10 2 177
damaged 43 2/3 + 3/5 60 1/2 43 66 27 18 252 1/6

Trivia

The Polish-American fighter ace Francis S. "Gabby" Gabreski flew his first combat missions attached to a Polish RAF squadron.

King George VI, on visiting a Polish squadron, asked a Polish airman what was the toughest thing he had to deal with in the war. The reply was "King's Regulations...."

References

  1. ^ a b Bartłomiej Belcarz: Polskie lotnictwo we Francji, Stratus, Sandomierz 2002, ISBN 83-916327-6-8
  2. ^ For your freedom and ours, The Kosciuszko squadron, Olson&Cloud, pgs 98,99,100, Arrow books, 2003, ISBN 0-09-942812-1
  3. ^ (English) Lynne Olson & Stanley Cloud. 2003. A Question of Honor. The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II. New York: Knopf.
  4. ^ (English) Jerzy B. Cynk. 1998. The Polish Air Force at War: The Official History, 1943-1945. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 1998, ISBN 0-7643-0560-3.
  5. ^ "RAF Weston-super-Mare". rafweb.org. http://www.rafweb.org/Stations/Stations-W.htm#Weston-super-Mare. Retrieved 2009-07-12.  
  6. ^ Belcarz, Bartłomiej. Morane MS 406C1, Caudron Cyclone CR 714C1, Bloch MB 151/152 (Polskie Skrzydła 2) (in Polish), Sandomierz, Poland: Stratus, 2004. ISBN 83-89450-21-6.
  7. ^ a b Including Polish units both in France and in United Kingdom
  8. ^ Including all Polish air units in France, as well as Polish fighter units of RAF Fighter Command; excluding the pilots of the Polish Fighting Team, as well as Polish pilots fighting in the RAF and USAAF
  9. ^ Including the Polish units of Bomber Command, Coastal Command and Tactical Air Force, but excluding the special units of No. 138 Squadron RAF, No. 1586 Polish Special Duties Flight and No. 301 Polish Bomber Squadron
  10. ^ No. 138 Squadron RAF, No. 1586 Polish Special Duties Flight and No. 301 Polish Bomber Squadron
  11. ^ Including Polish units of the Transport Command and Air Transport Auxiliary

Further reading

  • Belcarz, Bartłomiej. Polskie lotnictwo we Francji (in Polish), Stratus, Sandomierz 2002, ISBN 83-916327-6-8.
  • Belcarz, Bartłomiej. Morane MS 406C1, Caudron Cyclone CR 714C1, Bloch MB 151/152 (Polskie Skrzydła 2) (in Polish), Sandomierz, Poland: Stratus, 2004. ISBN 83-89450-21-6.
  • Cynk, Jerzy Bogdam. History Of The Polish Air Force 1918-1968 (Aircam Special S9). Reading, Berkshire, UK: Osprey Publications, 1972. ISBN 0-85045-039-X.
  • Cynk, Jerzy Bogdam. Polskie lotnictwo myśliwskie w boju wrześniowym (in Polish). Gdańsk, Poland: AJ-Press, 2000.
  • Cynk, Jerzy Bogdam. Polskie Siły Powietrzne w wojnie tom 1: 1939-43 (Polish Air Force in War pt. 1: 1939-43) (in Polish). Gdańsk, Poland: AJ-Press, 2001.
    (Updated and revised edition of The Polish Air Force at War: The Official History, Vol.2 1939-1943. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Books, 1998. ISBN 0-76430-559-X.)
  • Cynk, Jerzy Bogdam. Polskie Siły Powietrzne w wojnie tom 2: 1943-45 (Polish Air Force in War pt. 2: 1943-45) (In Polish). Gdańsk, Poland: AJ-Press, 2002.
    (Updated and revised edition of The Polish Air Force at War: The Official History, Vol.2 1943-1945. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Books, 1998. ISBN 0-76430-560-3.)
  • Gretzyngier, Robert. Poles in Defence of Britain: A Day-by-day Chronology of Polish Day and Night Fighter Pilot Operations - July 1940 - June 1941. London: Grub Street, 2005. ISBN 1-90494-305-5.
  • Koniarek, Dr. Jan. Polish Air Force 1939-1945. Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc.,1994. ISBN 0-89747-324-8.
  • Kornicki, Franciszek. Polish Air Force- Chronicle of Main Events. UK: Polish Air Force Association of Great Britain, 1993.
  • Lisiewicz, Mieczyslaw (Translated from the Polish by Ann Maitland-Chuwen). Destiny can wait - The Polish Air Force in the Second World War. London: Heinemann, 1949.
  • Peszke, Michael Alfred. The Polish Air Force in the United Kingdom, 1939-1946 in the RAF Air Power Review Vol.11 No.3, Winter 2008
  • Zamoyski, Adam. The Forgotten Few: The Polish Air Force in The Second World War. UK: Leo Cooper Ltd., 2004. ISBN 1-84415-090-9.

See also

Internet


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