Key Facts about the Polish Air Force

 

  • In 1932 the Polish designed and built PZL P.7 became the first all metal monoplane fighter in operational service in the world.

 

  • In 1932 Polish cryptanalysts broke the German military enigma code, reverse-engineered their own copy of the military enigma machine, and responded to encryption developments right up to the war. In July 1939 they delivered all the fruits of their work to (astonished) British and French intelligence.

 

  • In the September 1939 campaign the Luftwaffe used 1,941 aircraft, 2/3rds of its power, against 392 Polish aircraft, including 158 out-dated single seat fighters, 114 light bombers, 36 bombers and 83 reconnaissance aircraft. Nonetheless Polish pilots were officially credited with 126 German aircraft destroyed in 1939 to 333 PAF losses.

 

  • The Military Aviation division of the Polish Armed Forces, as it was then known, was not entirely destroyed on the ground, as German propaganda claimed: all effective operational aircraft had been moved to dispersed camouflaged temporary airfields.

 

  • On 17 September 1940 Russia invaded from the East and by early October further Polish military resistance was impossible.

 

  • Poland was the only occupied country that never surrendered: its Government moved first to France then to England; the underground Home Army was the largest resistance force of any occupied country; all civil institutions, including trades unions, universities, seminaries and political parties continued underground with regular contact with the Government in Exile.

 

  • Polish airmen evacuated through Rumania, Hungary and the Baltic states and some 8,500 personnel of  all ranks and trades reached France mainly via the Black Sea and Marseilles.

  • In France the Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces General Władysław Sikorski, made the historic decision to make the Military Aviation division a completely independent member of the Polish Armed Forces. This became the Polskie Siły Powietrzne (PSP) the Polish Air Force (PAF) in England.

  • The French capitulated after five weeks, including terms to prevent allied combatants from leaving. Nonetheless some 6,000 Polish airmen made it to England.

 

  • The PAF in England was a sovereign allied air force, answerable to the Polish Government in Exile, while under the operational control of the Royal Air Force.

 

  • In the Battle of Britain 145 Polish fighter pilots were engaged, the largest number of any non-British nation. 303 (Polish) Kościuszko Squadron, flying  Hurricanes from RAF Northolt, was the top-scoring squadron in the Battle with 126 confirmed victories, achieved in less than half the Battle period, and at a lower rate of casualties.

 

  • The highest scoring pilot in the Battle of Britain with 17 victories was Sgt Josef Frantiŝek, a Czechoslovakian member of 303 (Polish) Kościuszko Squadron.

 

  • On the 15th September, Battle of Britain Day, 20% of the pilots flying were Polish.

 

  • Air Officer Commanding RAF Fighter Command Hugh Dowding said: “Had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish Squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say the outcome of the Battle would have been the same”.

 

  • Secretary of State for Air Sir Archibald Sinclair said: “Our shortage of trained pilots would have made it impossible to man the squadrons which were required to defeat the German air force and so win the Battle of Britain if the gallant airmen of Poland had not leaped into the breach”.

 

  • When Russia was itself attacked in 1941 and released Poles it had deported to Siberia, a further number found their way to England, bringing the total of the PAF up to around 17,150, plus 1,325 WAAFs. They constituted 10 fighter squadrons, 4 bomber squadrons, and other less formal units.

 

  • The cost:

 

          Polish Air Force        -            2,400 killed

 

          Warsaw                      -           700,000 killed   

          (i.e. more than combined UK and US killed)

 

          Poland                        -           6,000,000

          (i.e. 1 in 5 of the population, a higher proportion than any other combatant nation)

 

          Poland’s war dead would fill the Moat of the Tower of London with poppies seven times over.

 

 

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