Coronavirus: Visits to the Museum in 2021 have been cancelled in accordance with Government advice until further notice.
A new Polish Air Force Exhibition
A new permanent exhibition on the Polish Air Force has been created at the Battle of Britain Bunker, Uxbridge. This is the result of collaboration between the London Borough of Hillingdon and the Polish Air Force Memorial Committee, which has loaned the items on display from its growing collection of memorabilia.
The exhibition at the Bunker will provide much greater awareness of the Polish Air Force story and to a far wider public than is possible with the restricted access to our displays at RAF Northolt, where the remainder of our material will continue to be displayed.
The project has had the full support of the Polish Embassy and the Committee would also like to put on record our thanks to the London Borough of Hillingdon for their generosity in meeting the costs of the new display area at the Bunker. The following link provides a foretaste of the exhibition http://battleofbritainbunker.co.uk/polish-air-force
Commonwealth War Graves Commission to replace Polish pilot’s headstone
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has confirmed that the incorrect Royal Air Force style headstone, on the grave of Polish Air Force fighter pilot F/O Franciszek Gruszka in Northwood Cemetery, is to be replaced with the correct Polish style headstone. This may take sometime to complete due to the current Coronavirus situation.
The CWGC commemorates casualties by nationality of service rather than by nationality of casualty. Although F/O Franciszek Gruszka was of Polish nationality, the CWGC believed he was serving with the RAF rather than the PAF at the time of his death during the Battle of Britain. As such he was commemorated as a Commonwealth casualty with an RAF style headstone, rather than an allied casualty with a Polish style headstone.
During the war the PAF in the UK was its own independent sovereign air force operating under the constitutional control of the Polish Government in exile, but under the operational command of the RAF. The initial influx of Polish airmen from France to England in early 1940 had to join the RAF’s Volunteer Reserve. However, they all soon transferred to the PAF in early August 1940 following the Anglo-Polish agreement, signed by both governments on 5 August 1940, to give separate independent status to the PAF.
At the time of his death F/O Franciszek Gruszka was serving with the RAF’s 65 Squadron at Hornchurch and was shot down and killed during the Battle of Britain on 18 August 1940. He was the seventh of the 31 operational PAF pilots killed during the Battle. The location of the crash site remained a mystery for over 33 years. However, from information in the book The Polish ‘Few’ by Peter Sikora, F/O Franciszek Gruszka’s Spitfire I R6713 and his remains were recovered from Grove Marsh, near Preston Village, Kent on the 15 April 1974. F/O Franciszek Gruszka was subsequently buried in grave H202 in Northwood Cemetery on 17 July 1975 with an RAF style headstone.
It is thanks to the PAFMC’s historical adviser Wojtek Matusiak who indicated the incorrect headstone that enabled the PAFMC to submit a request to the CWGC to replace the headstone with the correct one of Polish style.
Tribute to Polish 303 Squadron in US Museum
A group of Poles and Americans in the US state of Connecticut have teamed up to organize an exhibition in the New England Air Museum, one of the largest aviation museums in the US, to create a permanent display and multi-media exhibition paying tribute to the Polish 303 Kościuszko Squadron.
The New England Air Museum and the Polish Studies Program at the Central Connecticut State University, have jointly launched a campaign to raise $125,000 to design and install the exhibition in the Museum, which will present the story of 303 Kościuszko Squadron in a modern, multi-media educational format. The project is scheduled to open in 2021.
The organizing committee, led by historian Professor Mieczysław Biskupski, is collecting memorabilia for the exhibition and needs photographs and memoirs to portray the history of 303 Kościuszko Squadron to a wider American public.
More details are available at this link: https://www.neam.org/shell.php?page=exhibit_kosciuszko
Polish Air Force Memorial photographs
RAF Northolt’s photographic section has kindly shared some photographs of the Polish Air Force Memorial taken in early February. Photos in the slide show below can be viewed and enlarged by double clicking the image then the arrows. All photos are Crown copyright.
Planning is progressing for the annual and 60th Ceremony of Homage to Fallen Polish Airmen during World War II, scheduled to be held at the Polish Air Force Memorial on Saturday 4 September. All are welcome.
This year the event will be subject to changes in format, or even cancellation, if the regulations then in force or the likely course of the Coronavirus make this necessary. If the PAFMC is not confident of being able to hold the Commemoration it will be cancelled no later than Monday 19 July.
RAF Northolt Sector Operations Building Restoration
The historic Grade II listed Z Sector Operations Building at RAF Northolt, known as Building 27 or The Keith Park Building, has been undergoing restoration for over 10 years by a dedicated team of civilian and military volunteers. The usual funding stream from the biannual Night Photoshoots at RAF Northolt has not been possible since March 2019 due to runway repairs and the Coronavirus. There has not been any government funding for this heritage restoration project and the team has now set up a JustGiving appeal to raise £10,000 to help fund the ongoing restoration. Details are available by clicking the following link https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/building-27-renovation.
Building 27 was constructed in 1929 as a standard operations building for an airfield capable of supporting the operation of three fighter squadrons. With war looking likely in Europe, resulting in the expansion of the Royal Air Force, Fighter Command was formed in July 1936 and Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding was appointed its head.
RAF Northolt, a key aerodrome within No.11 Group, commanded by Sir Keith Park, (himself a former Northolt Station commander) was the closest fighter station to Head Quarters Fighter Command at Bentley Priory, Stanmore. Between 1936 and 1939 Dowding decided to run a series of trials and air exercises using Building 27, which resulted in the evolution of the system, the personnel, and the layout of the building. This design became the standard template that was rolled out across Fighter Command. Due to its vulnerability to air attack, Building 27 was closed as an operational asset on 17 June 1940, after which it was used for training Sector Control staff. Post war it was used as offices until 2007 when it was closed and scheduled for demolition. Fortunately it survived long enough for English Heritage to grant it Grade II listed status and its restoration began in 2010.
When complete the renovated and fully working building will run simulations and re-enactments of events from the Battle of Britain for the purposes of training future generations of Aerospace Battlespace Managers. These are the key personnel within the modern RAF Battlespace Management Force and the Air Surveillance and Control System. In addition, the building will be used to facilitate the education of younger generations of Air Training Corps and school children about the heritage and ethos of the Royal Air Force.
Part of the restoration can be viewed in the film made by the Polish Air Force Memorial Committee ‘The Polish Air Force in the Battle of Britain – An 80th Anniversary Tribute’. This film is freely available from a link on the Home page above or YouTube at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lhoytCWsEY.
Battle of Britain Memorial Flight to repaint Hurricane in 303Sqn colours.
The RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight has announced that its MkII Hurricane LF363 will be repainted as 303 Kościuszko squadron’s MkI Hurricane V6665 with the code RF-J. The change of colour scheme will form part of the Hurricane’s major maintenance and servicing programme to be carried out during the winter by The Spitfire Company (Biggin Hill) Ltd.
The BBMF said that it likes to keep LF363 in a Battle of Britain colour scheme to commemorate the massive part played by Hurricanes during the Battle. "After careful deliberation and research, it was decided that the aircraft will be painted to represent MkI Hurricane V6665, ‘RF-J’, of 303 Kościuszko (Polish) Squadron, during September 1940".
Hurricane V6665 was delivered to 303 Tadeusz Kościuszko City of Warsaw Squadron at Northolt on 7 September 1940 and painted in the code of RF-J. Two days later ‘A’ flight commander Flt Lt Johnny Kent, flying this Hurricane, claimed a Messerschmitt Bf 110 destroyed and a Junkers Ju-88 probably destroyed.
This Hurricane was also flown by Sgt Michał Brzezowski on 11 September when he claimed two Heinkel He 111s destroyed about 16.00. Brzezowski was the most successful pilot of V6665. Sadly he was shot down and killed four days later on 15 September. His Hurricane P3577, with the code RF-E, went into the sea and his body was never found. Brzezowski was the youngest Polish airman to participate in the Battle of Britain.
On 26 September Sgt Tadeusz Andruszków flew V6665 and claimed a Dornier Do 17 destroyed. But the following day, flying the same aircraft, he was shot down at 16.30 over Horsham and killed and the Hurricane was destroyed. Sgt Tadeusz Andruszków was 19 years old and is buried in Northwood Cemetery, grave H-208.
The BBMF said that Hurricane LF363 will not appear in the new colour scheme until the summer of 2021, but from then on it will allow the BBMF to tell the story of 303 Squadron during the Battle of Britain, its Polish pilots and its Canadian RAF flight commander Flt Lt Johnny Kent.
Artwork copyright: Chris Sandham-Bailey inkworm.com