Updated: Jan 11
The Battle of Britain was Hitler's first major defeat during World War II. The so far undefeated Luftwaffe had to declare themselves defeated by the Royal Air Force after a three-month sky battle. Polish pilots played a significant role in this success. During the sky battle of Britain, they shot down about 170 German planes, as well as damaged 36 of them.
The Battle of Britain began on July 10th, 1940. The Germans launched a massive air offensive against Great Britain in order to dominate the airspace and intersect the British communication routes in furtherance of preparing the ground for a landing operation on the British Isles.
The climax of the battle The battle took place in several phases, differing in type of intensity of activities. However, the culminating moment was on September 15th, 1940, when a massive raid of 500 Luftwaffe aircraft flew above Great Britain. Marian Duryasz, a Colonel, pilot and later the commander of the famous Polish 302 Squadron, remembers this day very clearly: “A large group of planes appeared suddenly right in front of us, the commander did not have time to maneuver. He directed the planes head to head. All the heads were red, which meant that there was an open fire. The formation was broken.”
Initially, Germany had a significant advantage. The Luftwaffe had 990 fighters and 1,640 bombers at disposal. The Royal Air Force (RAF) could stand up against this power with only 960 fighter planes and 400 bombers. The island's defense was also supported by 80 radar stations and 1,500 barrier balloons.
Polish pilots in the heat of aerial combats In the battle for Britain, at first only in composition, but then alongside the RAF, four Polish squadrons were fighting - two bombers: 300 and 301, two fighter squadrons: 302 and 303, and 81 Polish pilots in British squadrons. A total of 144 Polish pilots.
The well-known Polish actor, Mieczysław Pawlikowski, was a pilot in divisions 300 and 301. In one of the broadcasts of Polish Radio (Polskie Radio), he admitted that his first combat flight was the most dramatic one: "It was like a huge sea of fire, fragments were pounding on the hull - I opened the bomb door in the hull because it was stuck with gunpowder. We pulled to the base. There was a hole in the size of a human head in the rear gunner's turret."
Another Polish airman, Tadeusz Nowierski, was a pilot in the British Squadron 609. He mentioned that sometimes one had to avoid a direct clash with the enemy at all costs. This action was not easy to perform even for the biggest ace of aviation.
"Flames enveloped me all. The rush of air pulled me out of the cabin. When I woke up, I hung over the cabin, I was all burned. I got to the shore." says the famous musketeer and later commander of the most famous Polish 303 Squadron, Witold Łokuciewski, who then had come to Stalag Luft III in Żagań and participated in the preparations for the Great Escape.
"I saw a plane fall into the clouds, we flew through the first layer of clouds and saw it falling vertically to the ground and hitting the grounds of the Canterbury area.", says Stanisław Skalski, an ace among Polish pilots fighting for Great Britain. In total, Poles shot down about 170 German aircraft, damaged 36, which accounted for about 12 percent of the Luftwaffe losses.
On June 8, 1946, a Victory Parade took place in London to celebrate the defeat of the Third Reich and Japan a year earlier. The parade, stretching for miles through the streets of London, was attended by the forces of all countries of the victorious alliance, except for the representation of Poland.
Only 73 years later, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom posted a special recording in which he praised the "dogged and unconquerable resistance" Poland displayed, as well as he paid homage to Poles, defeating the Nazis. The caption of the video reads: “80 years ago Hitler invaded Poland and triggered WWII, but the Polish people never succumbed to tyranny. We shall always remember their magnificent contribution to the struggle for freedom”. At the end of the video, Mr. Johnson assured - "We were with you in times of triumph and tragedy, we will be with you in the next decades." After being asked about advice for future generations, Johnson responded with: "I just hope it never comes to a war like that."
https://web.archive.org/web/20090729181845/http://geocities.com/psp1945/303/303_story.html https://listakrzystka.pl/ https://www.itv.com/news/2019-09-01/pm-praises-polands-unconquerable-resistance-80-years-af ter-nazi-invasion/