Statistical summary, Week 10:
- Total Fighter Command Establishment: 1662 planes
- Strength: 1492 planes
- Balance: understrength 170 planes
- Losses: 59 Hurricanes (+ 20 damaged), 28 Spitfires (+15 damaged)
- Aircraft Production: 6 Beaufighters, 10 Defiants, 56 Hurricanes, 38 Spitfires
It could be said that in the Battle of Britain the Poles played the part which Blucher had done for Wellington at Waterloo. Some might argue that this is an exaggeration but, the fact is, that when the Poles came into the Battle, Fighter Command’s effectiveness was being worn down by the loss of really experienced pilots. What the Poles represented was an infusion of exactly what was lacking, namely really experienced pilots. Not only were they fully trained, they also had a tremendously personal urge to get to grips with the enemy. The British pilots had the incentive of preventing the enemy winning because this would have delivered their country into Hitler’s hands. They could imagine what this might mean. But the Poles actually knew what this meant. They had experienced the Nazi takeover of their country. They wanted revenge.
What the Poles also had was an élan peculiar to them. They were proud to be Polish. In fact, they loved being Polish and they didn’t mind showing it. Moreover, they fitted into the RAF perfectly. There were no problems converting them to Spitfires and Hurricanes. They took to these new planes like a ballerina to her shoes. It was as if these two aircraft had been waiting for them to fly them. There was only one problem. The language. The Poles liked expressing themselves. In battle there was no holding them. The radio transmitters, the RT became crowded with what an RAF pilot called “Polish chatter”. Furthermore, they had to learn RAF procedure. But finally they got it. At the beginning of September pressure on Fighter Command was such that Dowding when pressed on the subject again quietly gave in. “Yes make them operational”.
303 Squadron became operational at Northolt just to the west of London. It’s where the Polish air force memorial stands, commemorating their participation in the Battle. 303 achieved an exceptional record in the Battle of Britain. It won the greatest success in the number of kills of any squadron in the whole Command. The number of kills was only exceeded by the number of hearts broken in the West End by those good looking guys.
But having praised the Poles, we must mention the Czechs. While the Poles fielded some 140 pilots in the RAF during the war, the Czechs put some 30 pilots at the RAF’s disposal. They too had a record similar to that of the Poles. They also were extremely successful and for fundamentally the same reasons. They were very professional and very well trained and had the experience.
After them came the French and Belgians. Small in number but eager in spirit.
It was an honour to have them all and we shall not forget them.