July 22, 2011

Battle of Britain: Part III - Famous Polish Ace Pilots

Polish Air Force - Battle of Britain
Introduction

When Poland was invaded on September 1st, 1939 by German and Soviet troops thousands of Polish servicemen of the Army, Navy and Air Force evacuated Poland and made a perilous journey through Romania and Hungary to France. Many Polish Squadrons were re-created under the auspices of the French Air Force though in very small groups. However, the largest squadron formed was the Groupe de Chasse Polonaise I/145 stationed at Mions. Nine months later the Polish squadrons were finally equipped with planes, though they were obsolete Caudron C.714 fighters. Reports by Polish pilots indicated that these planes were hopelessly outdated and were no match for the far superior Messerschmitts. A week later French Minister of War M. Guy la Chambre ordered all Caudrons to be removed from service. Irregardless the Poles continued to fly them as there were few replacements available. Other Polish units were flying a somewhat more reliable fighter, the Morane-Saulnier M.S.406.

What is quite remarkable is that despite the limitations of the aircraft Polish pilots were able to chalk up record scores. Between June 8 and June 11, 1940, the Poles scored 12 confirmed kills and 3 unconfirmed kills, with an additional 9 airborne hits and 9 ground hits. Incidentally, the planes shot down were 4 Dornier Do 17 bombers, 3 Messerschmitt Bf 109s, and 5 Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighter planes. During the Battle of France, Polish pilots flew 714 sorties and shot down over 50 enemy aircraft, although they lost 44 planes in either combat or aerial and ground accidents.

Witold Urbanowicz`Hurricane
When France fell to the Germans on May 10, 1940, many of the Polish Squadrons scrambled to evacuate France and made their way to Great Britain to join the RAF. At first Air Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding was "a little doubtful" that the Polish pilots were capable of flying combat. Instead Dowding relegated the Polish airmen to the RAF Volunteer Reserve and obliged them not only to don the British uniforms, fly British flags and take an oath to England's King and Government, but each Polish pilot had to accept a British "counterpart". To add insult to injury these experienced Polish pilots were given the lowest rank for an CO in the RAF, that of "pilot officer". Valuable time was wasted by RAF Command in drilling experienced Polish pilots in the fundamentals of aerial combat, though English language courses were essential prerequisites. In the meantime, the RAF were experiencing particularly heavy losses due to a lack of experienced British pilots.

No 303 Polish Fighter Squadron (00:02:10m);



Finally on June 11, 1940 an agreement was signed by British and Polish governments allowing for the creation of two bomber squadrons and a training centre as part of the RAF. The first Polish squadrons formed were the 300 and 301 bombers, and the 302 and 303 fighters. By August 1940 Polish pilots in the fighter squadrons were the first to see action during the latter phase of the Battle of Britain, and flying their Hawker Hurricanes they proved themselves to be highly skilled and effective combat pilots. (Incidentlaly, the Poles had already demonstrated their expertise in flying skills during the Invasion of Poland. Though their planes were vastly outnumbered and outclassed by those of the Luftwaffe, the Poles flew with such daring as to be considered almost reckless yet they scored many confirmed kills!)

The Polish Squadrons of the RAF were quite superior to the less-experienced British pilots.  In fact, the 303 Squadron, also known by the name of "Kosciuszko Squadron" became the most efficient RAF unit during the Battle of Britain. However many excellent Polish pilots flew in other RAF squadrons as well. Their talent and prestige is evident in the numerous Polish squadrons created by the RAF in subsequent years - the 304 bomber, 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 and artillery spotting.

303 Squadron Polish Air Force Battle of Britain



Initially the Polish fighter squadrons flew Hurricanes, and then Supermarine Spitfires though some airmen flew North American Mustangs.  The 307 used the night fighter Boulton-Paul Defiant, Bristol Beaufighter and the de Havilland Mosquito. Among the first planes flown by No. 300 Polish bomber squadron were the Fairey Battles, Vickers Wellingtons, followed by the Avro Lancasters; No. 301 flew Handley Page Halifaxs and Consolidated Liberators; No. 305 Squadron flew de Havilland Mosquitos and North American Mitchells; and the 663 flew Auster AOP Mk Vs.

Finally an agreement was reached on April 6, 1944 whereby the Polish Air Forces in England came under Polish Command - without RAF officers. As a result a PAF staff college was established at RAF Weston-super-Mare and continued to operate until April 1946 after which equipment was returned to the British. Due to the political circumstances after the war, few of the pilots returned to Poland choosing instead to remain in exile.

During the Battle of Britain the Polish Squadrons shot down 203 enemy aircraft constituting 12% of the Luftwaffe, and also destroyed 193 V-1 and V-2 German Flying Bombs. Among the non-British aircrew, the Polish Squadrons were the largest contingent of the RAF comprising over 150 pilots.  While few in comparison to RAF numbers, the Poles' contribution was immense. Twenty-nine Polish pilots were killed in action, and many more wounded.  They were fearless and fought with deadly accuracy. 

Bienkowski and Zumbach Displaying War Trophy
The British have not forgotten these amazing heroes.  The Polish Memorial was erected at RAF Northolt to commemorate their great contribution during the Battle of Britain. There is also a large memorial on the floor of the north aisle of the reconstructed Wren church St Clement Danes, London. According to Prime Minister Churchill it was " one of the decisive battles of the war". The Battle of Britain would have been lost were it not for the contribution of the Polish airmen.

King George VI meeting Polish Heroes


In Westminster Cathedral there is a commemorative plaque which reads:

IN MEMORY OF ALL RANKS OF THE POLISH ARMY NAVY AND AIR FORCE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR POLAND
AND THIS COUNTRY
IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR 1939-1945



Polish War Memorial at Northolt London

Polish airforce memorial, St Clement Danes, London




FAMOUS POLISH ACE PILOTS IN THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN

Caption reads: "Skalski: He was a great commander and a brilliant leader and we would follow him to hell if necessary"
(Newspaper source unknown)

W/Cdr STANISLAW SKALSKI ("Stan")

Stanisław Skalski was the top Polish fighter ace of WW II and the first Allied fighter ace of the war.
 Officially credited with 18 11/12 victories and two probable kills, 4 damaged planes.
Other sources, including Skalski himself, give a number of 22 11/12 victories.
Stanislaw Skalski was decorated with Virtuti Militari Golden Cross, Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Polonia Restituta Knight's Cross, Cross of Valour(4x), Cross of Grunwald, Distinguished Service Order (UK)Distinguished Flying Cross (UK), 1939-1945 Star, Italy Star




W/Cdr WITOLD URBANOWICZ

17 confirmed kills and 1 probable kill.
Witold Urbanowicz was awarded several decorations, including Virtuti Militari Silver Cross
Cross of Valour (4x), Distinguished Flying Cross (UK).




F/ Sgt JOSEF FRANTISEK

Josef Frantisk was a Czechoslovak pilot who so admired the Poles that he would not fly with any other squadron. He is famous for being the Top Ace Pilot in the Battle of Britain

17 confirmed kills, 1 probable kill
Josef Frantisek was decorated with Virtuti Militari 5th class, Cross of Valor (3x),
Distinguished Flying Medal and Bar (UK) and Croix de Guerre.




S/Ldr EUGENIUSZ HORBACZEWSKI ("Dziubek")

16.5 confirmed kills (16 individual and one shared, 1 probable kill, 1 damaged plane
Eugeniusz Horbaczewski was decorated with several medals including Virtuti Militari IV class (posthumously) and V class, four times Polish Cross of Valour, Distinguished Service Order (posthumously)
and Distinguished Flying Cross (2x)




F/Lt BOLESLAW GLADYCH ("Mike")

17 confirmed kills,  2 probable kills, 1 shared damaged, and 5 ground kills
Boleslaw Gladych was decorated with the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, Cross of Valor - Poland (3x),
Distinguished Flying Cross (UK), Silver Star and two clusters (USA),
Distinguished Flying Cross (USA) 2x, Air Medal and three clusters (USA),
 and Croix de Guerre (France)




W/Cdr JAN EUGENIUSZ ZUMBACH

12 (and 2 shared) confirmed kills, five probable kills, 1 damaged plane.
Jan Zumbach was decorated with Virtuti Militari, Polish Cross of Valour (4x)
and Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar.




W/Cdr MARIAN PISAREK

12 confirmed kills, 1 probable kill, 2 damaged planes
Marian Pisarek was decorated with the Gold Cross of Virtuti Militari (posthumously),
Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, Cross of Valor (4x),  Air Force Medal (1939-1945),
Field Pilot Badge,and Distinguished Flying Cross (UK)




EUGENIUSZ NOWAKIEWICZ

11 confirmed kills
Eugeniusz Nowakiewicz was decorated with Virtuti Militari, Merit Cross of the French Croix de Guerre,
English Cross of Valour,the Medal of the Air Battle of Britain,Aircrew Europe Star,
and Defence and War Medals.




G/Cpt ALEKSANDER GABSZEWICZ

9½ confirmed kills, 1-1/3 probables, 3 damaged planes.

Aleksander Gabszewicz was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Golden Cross, Virtuti Militari Silver Cross,Distinguished Flying Cross, Distinguished Service Order (with bar),Commander's Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta, and Cross of Valour(4x)




P/O MICHAL MACIEJOWSKI
(Michael "Mickey" Manson "Mickey Mouse")

9.5 confirmed kills , 1 probable and 1 damaged plane
No information available regarding Medals





F/Lt MIROSLAW FERIC

9 confirmed kills, 1 probable kill, 1 damaged plane
Miroslaw Feric was decorated with Virtuti Militari - Silver Cross, Cross of Valor (2x)
and Distinguished Flying Cross (UK)




S/Ldr HENRYK SZCZESNY

9-1/2 confirmed kills, 1 probable kill, 2 damaged planes
Henryk Szczesny was decorated with a Silver Cross of the Order of Military Virtuti Military, English Cross of Valor (4x), and the Distinguished Flying Cross




W/O ALEKSANDER CHUDEK

9 confirmed kills, 1 probable kill, 1 damaged plane
Aleksander Chudek was decorated with Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valour
and British Distinguished Flying Medal (4)




W/Cdr JAN P. FALKOWSKI

9 confirmed kills, 1 probable kill
Jan Falkowski was decorated with many medals including Virtuti Militari and Distinguished Flying Cross. In 1973 he was inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame, and in 1996 his profile appeared on a $20 commemorative silver coin struck by the Canadian mint.




F/Lt STANISLAW BRZESKI

8.5 confirmed kills, 2 probable kills, 1 damaged
   Stanislaw Brzeski was decorated with the Virtuti Militari, Cross of Valour (4x)
 and the Distinguished Flying Cross




W/Cdr WACLAW KROL

8.5 confirmed kills,1 probable kill, 1/3 damaged plane
Waclaw Krolwas decorated with Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Polonia Restituta Knights Cross,
Cross of Valour (4x), Croix de Guerre, Distinguished Flying Cross (UK)




S/Ldr ZDZISLAW HENNEBERG

8.5 confirmed kills, 1 probable kill, 1 damaged plane
Zdzislaw Hennenberg was decorated with Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valour English (3x),Distinguished Flying Cross (as one of the first five Poles, 15 December 1940)
and the French Croix de Guerre





S/Ldr ANTONI GLOWACKI

8-1/3 confirmed kills, 3 probable kills, 4 damaged planes.
On August 24,1940 Antoni Glowacki shot down 5 German planes during the Battle of Britain, becoming one of only two pilots who gained "Ace-in-a-day" status during that battle
Antoni Glowacki was decorated with the Virtuti Militari, Cross of Valor, Distinguished Flying Cross,
and Distinguished Flying Medal




F/Lt EUGENIUSZ SZAPOSZNIKOW

8-1/2 confirmed kills, 1 damaged plane

Eugeniusz Szaposznikow was decorated with the Virtuti Militari (5th class), Silver Cross of Merit,
Cross of Valor (4x), and Distinguished Flying Medal




F/Lt ADOLF PIETRASIAK "Archie"

8 confirmed kills, 2 damaged planes
Adolf Pietrasiak was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valor,
and the Distinguished Flying Medal.




S/Ldr WITOLD LOKUCIEWSKI

8 confirmed kills, 3-1/2 probable kills.
Witold Lokuciewski was decorated with Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valour - Poland (3x),
Polonia Restituta Knight's Cross, Polonia Restituta Commander's Cross,
Distinguished Flying Cross (UK), Croix de Guerre (France)




S/Ldr HENRYK J. PIETRZAK

7-1/2 confirmed kills, 1 probable kills, 1 damaged plane, shot 4 V-1 Flying Bombs.
Henryk J. Pietrzak was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valor (4x),
Air Medal for the War 1939-1945, and Distinguished Flying Cross *UK)




S/Ldr JOZEF JEKA

7.5 confirmed kills, 3 damaged planes, and shot down 1 V-1 Flying Bomb.
Jozef Jeka was decorated with many medal including Virtuti Militari Silver Cross,
Silver Cross of Merit (with swords), Cross of Valor (4x), Distinguished Flying Medal, 1939-1945 Star,
Defence Medal,  France and Germany Star, and War Medal 1939-1945




S/Ldr BOLESLAW H. DROBINSKI "Ghandi"

7 confirmed kills, 1-1/3 probable kills
Boleslaw Drobinski was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross,Cross of Valourm, Air Force Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, and many others




P/O MARIAN BELC

7 confirmed kills
Marian Belc was decorated with Virtuti Militari (5th class), Cross of Valour (4x),
Distinguished Flying Cross, and Distinguished Flying Medal Ribbon




Sgt STANISLAW KARUBIN

7 confirmed kills
Stanislaw Karubin was decorated with Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valor (3x),
Field Pilot Bade, and Distinguished Flying Medal




S/Ldr Karol Pniak
 
6-3/4 confirmed kills, 2 probable kills, and 2 damaged planes
Karol Pniak was decorated with Flying Cross (The Netherlands)
 



S/Ldr WACLAW LAPKOWSKI

6-1/3 confirmed kills, and 1 damaged plane
Waclaw Lapkowski was decorated with the Virtuti Militari (V class).
 KW (total of 3 bars) KW = Kryz Walecznych, and Cross of Valor




W/Cdr STEFAN JANUS

6 confirmed kills, 1 damaged plane
Stefan Janus was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valor (I), Cross of Valor (II),
Cross of Valor (III), Cross of Valor (IV), Air Medal (4), Distinguishe Flying Cross (UK)




F/O LUDWIK WITOLD PASZKIEWICZ
6 confirmed kills
Ludwik Paszkiewicz was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross,
Cross of Valor, and Distinguished Flying Cross




W/Cdr KAZIMIERZ RUTKOWSKI

5-1/2 confirmed kills, 2 probable kills, 1 damaged plane
Kazimierz Rutkowski was decorated with the Virtuti Militari (5th class) and
Distinguished Flying Cross





F/Lt CZESLAW GLOWCZYNSKI

5-1/2 confirmed kills, 2 probable kills, 1 damaged plane.
Czeslaw Glowczynski was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valour (4),
and the French Croix de Guerre




F/Lt MICHAL CWYNAR

5-1/2 confirmd kills, 1 probable kill and shot down 1 V-1 flying bomb (and 4 shared)
Michal Cwynar was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valor (4x),
 the Silver Cross of Merit with Swords, and the British Distinguished Flying Cross.




G/Cpt STEFAN WITORZENC

5-1/2 confirmed kills, 2 damaged planes
Stefan Witorzenc was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross,
 Polonia Restituta Commanders Cross with Star, Cross of Valour, and
Distinguished Flying Cross




W/Cdr MUMLER MIECZYSLAW

5-1/2 confirmed kills, and 1-1/2 damaged planes
Mieczslaw Mumler was decorated with the Virtuti Militari and Double Cross of Valor




F/O BOLESLAW ANDRZEJ WLASNOWOLSKI

5-1/2 confirmed kills
Boleslaw Wlasnowolski was decorated with the Virtuti Militari (5th class), and the
KW (KW = 'Kryz Walecznych) posthumously in Oct 1947




F/O ADAMEK MIECZYSLAW

5 confirmed kills, 1 probable kill
Adamek Mieczyslaw was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valor (4x)
and the Distinguished Flying Medal (2x)




F/O FRANCISZEK SURMA

5 confirmed kills, 3-1/3 probable kills, 1 damaged plane
Franciszek Surma was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valour (3x)
and the Field Pilot Badge.




F/Lt STANISLAW BLOK

5 confirmed kills, 1 probable kill, 3 damaged planes
Stanislaw Blok was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valor (3x) and
Distinguished Flying Cross (UK)




F/Lt  KAZIMIERZ SPORNY

5 confirmed kills, 1 probable kill, 1 damaged plane
Kazimierz Sporny was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valor (III),
 and Distinguished Flying Cross

 


F/Lt GRZEGORZ SOLOGUB

5 confirmed kills, 1 probable kill
No Information available regarding Medals




W/O JAKUB BARGIELOWSKI "Kuba"

5 confirmed kills, 3 damaged planes
Jakub Bargielowski was decorated with the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Virtuti Militari (V class),
Cross of Valor (3x), Bronze Cross of Merit with Swords, and the Distinguished Flying Medal.




S/Ldr JERZY POPLAWSKI

5 confirmed kills, 2 damaged planes
No information available regarding Medals







NEXT

BATTLE OF BRITAIN: PART IV
LEGEND OF THE SPITFIRE



NB. Sources and Suggested Links will be provided at the end of this series.

5 comments:

Rodney Byles said...

The photo you indicate as F/Lt MIROSLAW FERIC 9-1/2 confirmed kills, 1 probable kills, 1 damaged plane Miroslaw Feric was decorated with Virtuti Militari - Silver Cross, Cross of Valor (2x)
and Distinguished Flying Cross (UK) is incorrect and is in fact Jan Zumbach.

Polish Greatness said...

Thank you Rodney for alerting me about the photo. I have checked my files and uploaded the correct one. Best Regards.

BABYMALAI said...

I love this! My first born son is the GREAT GRANDSON OF JAN PAWEL FALKOWSKI ( he is Jan Falkowski IV )
WE ARE 'EXTREMELY PROUD' to be' Falkowski's and extremely proud of their GREAT GRANDFATHER'
I was wondering if anyone knows how I could possibly get my hand on one of the Canadian Mint coins? GREAT!!!!

Polish Greatness said...

Thank you very much for your interest in my blog, and for sharing your great heritage with my readers! Unfortunately, the coins are no longer in circulation. But here is the link to the website of the Royal Canadian Mint. Perhaps they might refer you to a few possible sources. The name of the coin is, $20 Aviation Commemorative Sterling Silver Coin Avro Canada CF-100 Canuck 1996.
http://www.mint.ca/store/search/searchResults.jsp?_dyncharset=UTF-8&_dynSessConf=4246060488448248492&search=1996&_D%3Asearch=+&sort=relevance&_D%3Asort=+&tabIndex=3&_D%3AtabIndex=+&perPage=20&_D%3AperPage=+&pageNum=1&_D%3ApageNum=+&showSoldOut=true&_D%3AshowSoldOut=+&go=true&_D%3Ago=+&_DARGS=%2Fstore%2Fsearch%2FsearchResults.jsp.refreshForm

Polish Greatness said...

You might want to contact the 94 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron. Jan P.Falkowski was the first Commanding Officer of the squadron, then known as 94 Stouffville Squadron. http://www.94aircadets.ca/index.php/about-94-sqn

Post a Comment