Pilot Officer Jan Zumbach, 303 (Polish) Hurricane Sqn


Pilot Officer Jan Zumbach, 303 (Polish) Hurricane Sqn

"On the 15th of September in the year of 1940, a few minutes after 11:00 hours we were scrambled for a randez-vous with some Adolfs. I was No 2 in Dzidek's [Zdzislaw Henneberg's] section, No 3 was Lt. Grzeszczak, who in terms of combat was still a virgin. Today he had his first intercourse with a Me-110, but to no avail. What happened, I will tell you. We noticed Me-109s ahead. We started chasing them. After a while, we noticed a formation of Do-215s [Do 17s] escorted by Me-110s and Me-109s. Dzidek climbed and, a song on his mouth, dived to attack. I followed him. At this moment I looked back, just in case. Of course, the bastards were already diving. The first one seemed a bit uncertain of who we were. I moved to the side a little. He started making a climbing turn, so I anticipated his path and gave him an honest burst. He went through it and belched some smoke, then went into a spin. I followed him and thus our little polka began. Something must have been wrong with his brains, for he started doing some outlandish aerobatics, probably thinking that I would leave him alone. To stop him from dreaming and to augment his courage, I fired short bursts time after time. In this way I wasted a lot of ammunition, and he was still only smoking, so I decided to wait till he gets tired of all this fun and flies in a straight line. The idea finally occurred to him, and what he thought - he did. Being a little to the side, I turned and fired at point-blank range. Only the splinters flew around and he burst into flames. I spent a whole four minutes on him.

I then climbed and started looking for another one. A formation of about dozen Do-215s appeared, being attacked by Spitfires. A hopeless sight, straight from a fighter school. I approached the last bomber and at the distance of about 100 yards pressed the firing button but, alas, only a few bullets fired. I was out of ammo, so I went back home."

Pilot Officer Witold Lokuciewski, 303 (Polish) Hurricane Sqn.

"12:00 hours, take off. Our squadron is second. I was in the third section with Paszka [Ludwik Paszkiewicz]. After about 25 minutes I noticed several waves of enemy planes. Our squadron went after the bombers, escorted by Me-109s and Me-110s. At this moment, our section, and me in particular, were bounced by Messerschmitts. Therefore I made a right turn and, to my astonishment, saw another raid at 700 yards, with a strong escort of Me-109s and Me-110s, flying towards London. I also noticed a squadron of Hurricanes which very anemically attacked it. I wanted to join them, but a 109 passed in front of me, with the obvious intention of attacking me. A few hops, a quick look back and to the sides, and I'm after the Hun. I had the feeling it must be some kind of a trick - and it was. I fire one burst - he's trailing smoke, I fire another - I see black smoke and flames. I thought to myself: time to finish him off, but at this moment I heard a loud thump. I flew into a cloud. When I got out, I noticed a large hole from a cannon shell in the wing, and my both legs were wounded by the splinters, which had penetrated the skin of my boots. The plane of course lost its aerodynamics, and to make things even worse, the glycol started leaking, but I made it to the airfield, where I landed without flaps, as they were also damaged."

[After landing, Lokuciewski lost consciousness because of blood loss. Over 30 splinters of a German explosive cannon shell were found in his legs.]

S/Ldr Witold Urbanowicz, 303 (Polish) Hurricane Sqn.

[This is the account of the squadron's second mission that day. Earlier the squadron's two flights had separated, and Urbanowicz was left with only four planes under his command.]

"I could see at the first glance, that there were a few dozen Messerschmitts above us. Behind one of the 'mountain ridges' [clouds] I noticed about 60 German bombers. They were heading for London. Our situation was uncomfortable, the German fighters could attack us any second now. The German raid was only a few minutes from London. If they managed to drop their entire load on London, it would be a massacre down there.

I decided to attack anyway (...). My goal was to break their formation before they reach the target. Turn them back from London, make them run. It seemed beyond our capability. We had 40 machine guns between the five of us, but not every bullet hits the target. (...)

As the commander, I felt the full weight of responsibility at that moment. The attack would be grave, we could all be killed. We were faced with all the machine guns of the bomber formation and several dozen German fighters were circling above us.

I signaled with my wings that we would be entering the fight. We had a little height advantage over the bombers. I could see the silver streaks of German bullets piercing the air between our planes. Instinctively, I glanced at the parachute handle and the lever which jettisoned the canopy. If I catch fire, I will jump of course, hopefully the Germans don't shoot me up afterwards.

The bombers grow in my gunsight. We open fire at 300 yards. Momentarily, a few bombers start smoking, they're hit. We're attacking head-on, at about 30 degrees. Their formation breaks into separate sections, some pilots lose their nerve, confusion creeps in. We cannot hold the formation after the attack, everybody breaks in different directions to scatter the bombers' defensive fire. The German fighters are still circling. (...)

Some bombers are still heading for London. They are the ones we attack. One three plane section of Do-215s is approaching a big gap in the clouds. They're flying in the line-astern formation. I attack the leader. I start shooting at about 100 yards, from behind, in short bursts. His right engine catches fire. Making sure that no German fighters are attacking me, I come in even closer. I aim at the glazed cockpit. I have to hurry, there are so many Germans around. The crew bales out, without pilot the plane loses balance and dives into the clouds. Through a gap in the clouds I see Thames. I attack another bomber from less than 100 yards just as it emerges from a cloud. The pilot, badly shaken by my sudden appearance turns so abruptly, that he loses control over the plane. After my first attack the rear gunner stops firing, leaning on his machine gun, wounded, or maybe killed? After the second attack the bomber tumbles towards the clouds. The crew bales out again, more white umbrellas over the desert of clouds. Suddenly I see that the fighters are diving towards us. A bit too late. Alas, one of my flight is mortally hit, he never bales out, his plane bursts into flames. One more is trailing black smoke, something separates from the plane, a parachute opens up. Thank God, at least the pilot is safe! There are only three of us left, we keep on chasing the bombers.


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