28 October 2020
Battle of Britain 80th Anniversary
Issued on: 2020-10-28
Format: Souvenir Sheet; stamp size 43 x 31.25 mm, block format 90 x 70mm
Printing: Offset lithography on fluorescent paper
Face value: 8.70 zł
Print run: 90,000
Project author: Jarosław Ochendzan
On October 28, 2020, a postage stamp worth PLN 8.70 was put into circulation, i.e. “80. anniversary of the Battle of Britain.”
The stamp shows a reconstruction of the British fighter aircraft Hawker Hurricane Mk1 with the side number P3700, which took part in the Battle of Britain in the 303rd Fighter Squadron of the Polish Air Force in Great Britain.
In the lower right corner of the stamp are the inscriptions: POLAND and 80. ANNIVERSARY OF THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN, and in the lower left corner – a value of PLN 8.70.
Excerpts from “The Polish Pilots Who Flew in the Battle of Britain” page on the Imperial War Museums website:
POLISH PILOTS DURING THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN
A total of 145 experienced and battle-hardened Polish airmen fought in the Battle of Britain – 79 airmen in various RAF squadrons, 32 in No. 302 (Polish) Fighter Squadron and 34 in No. 303 (Polish) Fighter Squadron.
On 13 August Hermann Göring launched the Luftwaffe’s all-out air assault on Britain. This day, called Adlertag (‘Eagle Day’) was the first day of the Germans’ Adlerangriff (‘Attack of the Eagles’) operation. For the next few months, the RAF and the Luftwaffe would engage in a series of intense air battles as the Germans sought to destroy RAF Fighter Command and secure control of the skies over England ahead of their planned invasion.
Polish pilots in RAF squadrons played a substantial part in all operations against the Luftwaffe in increasing numbers. One of the finest examples of their work was a remarkable feat accomplished by Sergeant Antoni Glowacki of No. 501 Squadron RAF, who on 24 August claimed five enemy bombers, which were shot down in three combat sorties over one day. He was one of only three pilots who achieved ‘Ace-in-a-Day’ status during the battle and recalls the day’s actions in his memoirs:
‘Suddenly a Defiant with a Messerschmitt 109 on its tail flashed across my path between me and the Junkers. I am now firing at the Messerschmitt and see my bursts sink into its fuselage and wings. He is hit and goes down closely behind the Defiant, which trails black smoke. Both aircraft crash into the sea below’.
POLISH CASUALTIES IN THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN
In the Battle of Britain, Polish pilots serving in all RAF squadrons achieved a remarkable score of 203.5 destroyed, 35 probables and 36 damaged. Other sources give 131 kills as there is generally variation in figures for claimed ‘kills’ – the entire RAF score was lowered from 2,692 to 1,733 aircraft destroyed due to the discrepancy between British and German official figures.
Such a feat could not be achieved without a price. Twenty-nine Polish pilots, including Ludwik Paszkiewicz and Josef Frantisek, lost their lives in combat against the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain.
Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, who once was so reluctant to allow Polish pilots into battle, summarised their contribution in probably the most telling way:
‘Had it not been for the magnificent work of the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of battle would have been the same’.
AFTER THE BATTLE
Polish fighter pilots became instant celebrities with all classes of British society. International journalists flocked to airfields to write about their exploits, waiters refused to take payments for their meals in restaurants, bar owners paid for their drinks and bus conductors allowed them free journeys. Quentin Reynolds, one of the war’s most well-known American war correspondents, dubbed Polish airmen ‘the real Glamor Boys of England’ in Collier’s Weekly, an apt reflection of the ‘hero worship’ attitude the British had towards them.
After the Battle of Britain the Polish Air Force continued to serve alongside the RAF until the last day of the war. By early 1941 the PAF listed 13 units – eight fighter, four bomber and one reconnaissance squadron. In 1943 and 1944 a further two observation squadrons were formed. Polish airmen in these squadrons participated in practically all RAF operations in the European theatre of the war. Their contribution to the war against Nazi Germany was significant, although achieved at a very heavy price. The 1,903 personnel killed are today commemorated on the Polish War Memorial at RAF Northolt.
After the war, some of the Polish airmen settled in Britain and continued their service in the RAF, mostly as flight instructors. Others decided to return to Poland, by then under Soviet occupation. This often had very serious consequences. The Communist regime, distrustful towards ex-servicemen of the Polish Armed Forces in the West, barred them from flying in the PAF and in numerous cases imprisoned them on trumped up charges of espionage. One of the most drastic cases is that of Wing Commander Stanislaw Skalski, the top Polish scorer of the entire war, who spent eight years in prison after initially being sentenced to death. It was not until Stalin’s death in 1953 that most of the airmen were able to regain their ranks and serve again in the Polish Air Force.