This page is intended as a collection of various half-truths and misconceptions about the Polish Air Force's role in the Second World War 2. Some of these can be traced directly to the war-time Nazi propaganda, intent on denying any Polish contribution to the Allied war effort (and - apparently even to this day - surprisingly successful in accomplishing this task!), while the roots of some others are clearly much more complex. As usual, your comments and opinions are welcome.
|What do you mean - in World War 2? Wasn't the Polish Air Force destroyed in September 1939?|
|No. While it indeed succumbed to German advantage in 1939, a large proportion of both ground personnel and aircrew were evacuated and interned in Romania and Hungary. With the help of Polish embassies and consulates, which provided false papers and bribe money, most of them were able to make their escape through the Mediterranean to France and England in time to take part in the defence of France and in the Battle of Britain. The Polish Air Force in Great Britain, though organizationally and operationally within the RAF structure, was an independent air force, and many decisions (like sending Polish pilots away from the European theatre) had to be agreed on with the Polish command. Numerically, it was the fourth largest Allied air force, after the Soviet Union, the U.S. and Great Britain (of course, many times smaller than any of the three). Also, the equipment it used was, as that of the entire Polish Army in the west, leased by Great Britain to the Polish government. After the war, a bill for over 68 million pounds sterling, covering the equipment and operating costs of the Polish Air Force in Great Britain, was paid from the Polish gold reserves deposited in Canada. It's ironic that, cynically abandoned by her Western allies in Yalta, after making a contribution of blood to the very survival of the Western democracies, Poland had yet to pay for the privilege. Still, from their standpoint, the Poles were fighting for their own country, hoping to return to a free Poland as her own independent armed forces.|
|The Polish Air Force was destroyed on the ground in the first two days of September 1939.|
|This, of course, is simply untrue. Polish squadrons were deployed to reserve airfields following the mobilization on 30 and 31 August, and played an active role in the campaign till September 17th, when the Red Army invaded Poland from the east and the evacuation order was given.|
|Polish pilots weren't very skilled. They made it up with their aggressiveness and bravado, but suffered heavy losses for the same reason.|
|This one is clearly my favorite :-). In fact, at the outbreak of World
War 2, they were possibly the best trained pilots in the world. Because
of the relatively small size of the pre-war Polish Air Force (for a country
of size comparable to France), only select few of the many candidates made
it through training to the combat units. The training programme at the
Aviation Cadets School in Deblin and the Advanced Flying School in Grudziadz-Ulez
was very demanding, both with regard to flying and shooting skills, with
constant competition among the pilots, each striving to do their best.
Let me describe just one exercise, as recollected by F/Lt Stanislaw Bochniak:
a colored, small parachute was thrown out of the cockpit in flight. The
trainee, always keeping it in sight, had to climb 300-400 meters (1000
ft), stall into a spin, and recover at just the right moment to fire exactly
shot with his camera gun. In most cases, not only did they not lose sight
of the parachute, but "scored" on the shot! In first line units - unlike
in other air forces of that time - dogfight training in various configurations
(one vs. one, one vs. two, section vs. section, or even squadron vs squadron)
was a constant issue, and gunnery competitions were also regularly staged.
It's no wonder then, that these pilots were a in a class of their own,
when compared with the run-of-the-mill RAF or Luftwaffe pilots (which does
not mean that both these airforces did not have their share of outstanding
pilots). The combat record of Polish pilots, with a consistently high victory/loss
ratio, also speaks for itself. On April 11, 1942, when an aerial gunnery
contest was staged within the 11th Fighter Group, the three competing Polish
squadrons - 303, 316 and 315 took the first three places out of 22, 303
Squadron coming first by a healthy margin. These high standards were sustained
throughout the war, with pilots from combat units on rest from operational
duties taking part in the schooling of rookie pilots.