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.
on 9 June 2015
Wonderfully written, researched well and providing much new information in a highly readable format. The book also tells the story of many Polish aircrews who would otherwise remain unknown. Covering not just 303 Squadron, but also the many others of 302 Squadron and other units in wartime. The Poles fought a different war to the rest of the pilots and crews in wartime, they had lost many wives, mothers, children and friends to the evil Nazi regime, concentration camps and for many, of those who survived, harsh treatment at the hands of the R They are worthy of us remembering their names. This book does that job in tribute well. A fine book and one that compliments others such as For Your Freedom and Ours. Buy It! Paul Davies
on 31 March 2012
Adam Zamoyski has written a fine account of the Polish contribution "The Forgotten Few" to the air war over Britain and Europe during the Second World War and explains much of the politics that swirled round the Polish contingent. Polish pilots were experianced in war, many having taken part in the Polish and also French campaigns.
The Battle of Britain was perhaps the high point of the Poles time alongside the British and allies. In 1940 Britain alone with "The Few" and other allies faced the might of Nazi Germany. After the deafeat of the Luftwaffe and the entry of the Soviet Union into the war the relationship between the British and Poles was no longer so clear cut.
Long term strategic decisions meant that politically the Poles became a liability rather than an asset since a too close relationship with then could upset "Uncle Joe Stalin". Communist sympathisers in the West undermined the Poles at every turn. Such was their venom that when the Polish 2nd Corps deployed into line in Italy shortly before taking part in the Assault on "Monte Cassino" politicians sympathetic to the Soviet Union mounted a scathing attack on them in parliament.
A painful episode in the PAF history was its attempt to try and resupply the Polish resistance fighting it out in the summer of 1944 in Warsaw against German SS troops while the Soviet "allies" waited on the other side. Heroically British and other Allied aircrew volounteered to fly near-suicidal missions to aid the besieged defenders.
The most shameful finale was the banning of the Poles from taking part in the Allied Victory parade at the wars end again to appease the Soviets.