on 9 March 2008
It tells the story of my father's wartime experiences in Britain with the Polish Airforce. An excellent book, very readable. But it does perpetuate the myth the US forces where the highest paid they were not. Dad discovered the Canadians where the highest paid. Dad was one of the many ground staff in aircraft maintenance, and this is one of the few books to honour those who fought with spanners, hammers, screwdrivers, saws & abrasives keeping a multitude of plane types aloft.
Being born in 1950, though not really aware of it at the time, I was brought up in post-war Britain. That was a time when anyone from Poland attracted a great deal of respect. It was Hitler's invasion of that country which had precipitated WW2 and, the general perception was, any Polish person living in the UK at that time was there because they had made some sort of contribution towards the final victory.
One of the most vital contributions during 1939-1945, was made by Polish pilots who, not only manned a Polish Air Force (PAF), which ran alongside the RAF, but were also integrated into the wider RAF. Before that, however, one of the most remarkable aspects of this compelling story is that the PAF itself had been equipped with a mere 159 A P-11 fighter aircraft (something which resembles an old bi-plane but with the lower wing missing!) with which they attempted to defend Poland from the 2,000 plus German aircraft with pilots fresh from the "training" grounds of the Spanish civil war. It was an impossible task and Poland was quickly overrun. Nevertheless, many trained people managed to escape and were evacuated from France in 1940 after which they continued the fight from the UK.
Fully operational as a separate air force based in the UK by 1941, the PAF had no fewer than 14 operational squadrons through which over 17,000 personnel passed during those war years. As part of Fighter and Bomber Commands they completed 102,486 sorties and over 290,000 flying hours accounting for 745 enemy aircraft shot down and a further 175 unconfirmed. In addition they dropped many thousands of bombs and mines. The cost was 1,973 killed and 1,388 wounded in return for 342 gallantry awards and their country dominated by Communist Russia.
And this is their story. As such it is well researched with the list of sources and bibliography running to 10 pages. A selection of 30 wide-ranging black and white photographs are found between pages 112 and 113. Author Adam Zamoyski has produced a readable account in which the dedication becomes all the more poignant when one considers what became of post-war Poland.
Altogether, this is an excellent product and one which will be regarded as an important addition to the histories of Poland, The Polish Air Force, WW2 and the RAF.