Polish Air Forces in France and Great Britain

Polish Air Forces in France and Great Britain

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 largely contributed to Allied victory in the Battle of Britain and most World War II air operations.


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a week after it was introduced in active service, French minister of war Guy la Chambre ordered all of C.710s to be withdrawn.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 Although the plane was hopelessly outdated compared to the Messerschmitt Me 109E's it faced, the Polish pilots nevertheless scored 12 confirmed and 3 unconfirmed kills in three battles between June 8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 [Bartłomiej Belcarz: "Polskie lotnictwo we Francji", Stratus, Sandomierz 2002, ISBN 83-916327-6-8] .

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 and initially Poles were only admitted to Royal Air Force units. 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.

Initially the Polish airmen were compelled to wear British uniforms, fly British flags and pass two oaths, one to the Polish government and the other to King George VI of the United Kingdom. However, after the evacuation of the BEF from Dunkirk and the arrival of hundreds of Polish airmen from France, the situation changed. On August 5, 1940, the British government finally accepted the Polish Air Force as a sovereign, allied military formation. From then on the airmen were part of the Polish Army, flying their own standards and wearing British uniforms but with Polish rank insignia. Although still subordinate to British command, the Polish units were directly subordinate to a Polish "inspector of the Air Forces", who in turn was responsible to the Polish government.

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.en icon Lynne Olson & Stanley Cloud. 2003. A Question of Honor. The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II. New York: Knopf.] 303 squadron became the most efficient RAF fighter unit at that timeen icon 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.] . 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. 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

{Note:See Polish Wikipedia for COA of }

Polish volunteer wings in Allied Air forces, 1940-45


*Armée de l'Air, May 10, 1940 - Zone d´Operations Aériennes des Alpes
*Groupe de Chasse 1/145 (attached) (Pol) Lyon-Bron (Morane-Saulnier M.S.406, Caudron C.714, Koolhoven F.K.58)

United Kingdom

*Royal Air Force (Home Command), June 6, 1944
**Bomber Command*
***No. 1 Bomber Group
****No. 300 Polish Bomber Squadron "Masovia" RAF Faldingworth (Avro Lancaster Mk. I & III)
****No. 301 Polish Bomber Squadron "Pomerania" RAF Faldingworth (Handley Page Halifax Mk. III)

*Allied Expeditionary Air Force
**Air Defence of Great Britain
***No. 11 (Fighter) Group
***No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron "Kosciuszko" Horne (Supermarine Spitfire Mk VB)
***No. 307 Polish Fighter Squadron "City of Lwow" Church Fenton (De Havilland Mosquito Mk-NF.XIII)

**No. 12 (Fighter) Group
***No. 309 Polish Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron "Czerwien" "B" (Flight) Hutton Cranswick (Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC)
***No. 316 Polish Fighter Squadron "City of Warsaw" RAF Coltishall (North American Mustang III)

**No. 13 Fighter Group
***No. 309 Polish Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron "Czerwien" "A" (Flight) RAF Drem (Hawker Hurricane Mk. IIC)

*2nd Tactical Air Force
**No. 305 Polish Bomber Squadron "Greater Poland" Lasham (de Havilland Mosquito F.B. Mk VI)

*No. 84 Group

**131 Wing
***No. 302 Polish Fighter Squadron "City of Poznan" Chailey (Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX)
***No. 308 Polish Fighter Squadron "City of Krakow" Chailey (Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX)
***No. 317 Polish Fighter Squadron "City of Wilno" Chailey (Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IX)

***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)

**133 Wing
***No. 306 Polish Fighter Squadron "City of Torun" Coolham (North American Mustang III)
***No. 315 Polish Fighter Squadron "City of Deblin" Coolham (North American Mustang III)

*Coastal Command
**No 19 (GR) Group
***No. 304 Polish Bomber Squadron "Silesia" RAF Chivenor (Vickers Wellington Mk. XIV)

*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)

*First Base
**West Kirby (England)

*Bases (in African area)
**Bu Grara
**La Fauconnerie
**Ben Gardane



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...."

Notes and references

* 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.
* Zamoyski, Adam. "The Forgotten Few: The Polish Air Force in The Second World War". UK: Leo Cooper Ltd., 2004. ISBN 1-84415-090-9.

ee also

* Polish Air Forces
* Polish contribution to World War II
* Air Force of the Polish Army

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