Sunday, September 3, 2017

Repeat Please...

Hawker Hurricane at RAF Uxbridge
Painted as Witold Urbanowicz's aircraft of 303 Squadron

Labor Day weekend, the summer is winding down, I'm playing the "carefree" bachelor as The Missus Herself is forward deployed to California to mind the bairns while Big Time and The WSO head off to Tailhook '17.

As I'm also on this 303 Squadron kick to commemorate the start of WWII 78 years ago, I thought I would share this old Friday Flyby from three years ago. Yes, it's about the Poles and yes, I was rather happy with the way that particular Friday Flyby turned out. The Battle of Britain was an important milestone in the war, it deflected Hitler and his thugs to the East, where the Russians tore them apart. The West survived and survives still. If only barely.

When you see a Pole, thank them. They may save us again someday. I believe that the spiritual descendants of King Jan would love to pitch into the heathens again.

Jan III Sobieski
King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania
Guess where I got the title of this Sunday re-run from?

Hurricanes of No. 303 ("Kościuszko") Polish Fighter Squadron
303 Dywizjon Myśliwski "Warszawski im. Tadeusza Kościuszki"
It seems that yesterday's post has left me in a Polish frame of mind. So to speak. Besides which, the fame of No. 303 Squadron lends itself naturally to my "series within a series" of Famous Aviation Units (as part of the Friday Flyby).

The Royal Air Force (RAF) Museum's website has this to say about No. 303 Squadron:

The Poles were keen to fight but the RAF would not at first let them fly operationally. This was because few of the exiles spoke English and there was concern about their morale. What the British did not yet realise was that many of the Poles were excellent pilots. Having come through the Polish and French Campaigns, they had more combat experience than most of their British comrades and they employed superior tactics.

As the Battle of Britain wore on, and the shortage of trained pilots became critical, the exiles were accepted into RAF squadrons and two Polish fighter units, Nos. 302 and 303 Squadrons, were formed. Once committed to action, the Poles flew and fought superbly, shooting down 203 enemy aircraft for the loss of 29 pilots killed. No. 303 Squadron became the most successful Fighter Command unit in the Battle, shooting down 126 German machines in only 42 days. Czech Sergeant Josef Frantisek, also of '303', was the top scoring pilot with 17 confirmed victories.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, who led Fighter Command, would later write:

"Had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of the Battle would have been the same."
Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding
Commander of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain

In the same vein, RAF Uxbridge, which was the headquarters for No. 11 Group of Fighter Command which was responsible for the aerial defence of London and the south-east of England during the Battle of Britain has this as one of it's static displays -

Hurricane of No. 303 Squadron

You can tell this is a Polish aircraft by the Szachownica z kirem (chessboard with a pall) insignia on the nose of the aircraft just under the exhaust stacks.

Szachownica z kirem

Of course, there is this wonderful scene from the film Battle of Britain...

I think I have seen this movie 20 times and that is one of my favorite scenes!

Undaunted by Odds
by Robert Taylor

RAF fighter squadrons all had a distinctive 2-letter code painted on the side of the aircraft, No. 303 Squadron's code was "RF". The third letter on the side was the letter code for the individual aircraft within the squadron.

Squadron Leader Witold Urbanowicz's Hurricane MkI of 303 Sqn during a combat over Beachy Head in the summer of 1940 -

by Piotr Górka
No. 303 Squadron Spitfire Mk.Vb RF D of S/Ldr Jan Zumbach with Donald Duck nose art.

No. 303 Squadron was one of 16 Polish squadrons in the RAF, No. 303 was the highest scoring RAF squadron during the Battle of Britain. Here are some squadron statistics for WWII.

No. 303 Squadron downed 126 German aircraft ("Adolf's") during the Battle of Britain.

No. 303 squadron pilots in 1940. From left: P/O Ferić, F/Lt Kent, F/O Grzeszczak, P/O Radomski,
P/O Zumbach, P/O Łukuciewski, F/O Henneberg, Sgt. Rogowski, Sgt. Szaposznikow.
F/O Bronisław Kłosin holding an aerial gunnery contest award, on the left side of him, Flt Lt Bieńkowski, on the right side Flt Lt Zumbach.
Some of the high scorers of No. 303 Squadron were:
  • Squadron Leader R G Kellett DSO DFC, Original CO of 303 Sqn during the Battle of Britain, (five claims)
  • Flight Lieutenant John A. Kent, Canadian Flight commander during the Battle, (11 claims)
  • Sgt Josef František, Czech pilot flying with 303 Polish Squadron, was one of the top fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain, with 17 confirmed kills.
  • Flying Officer Witold Urbanowicz, Polish commander of 303 Squadron from 5 September 1940, scored 15 kills during the Battle of Britain (17 or 19 + 1 + 0 total)
  • Pilot Officer Jan Zumbach, commander of 303 Squadron from 19 May 1942, scored 8 kills during the Battle of Britain (12 1/3 + 5 + 1 total)
Sgt Josef František
Flying Officer Witold Urbanowicz

Pilot Officer Jan Zumbach
P/O Zumbach's Spitfire
The last thing you'd want to see on your Six, if you were German in 1940!

King George VI visited the unit during the Battle of Britain on September 26.

In that photo above, just to the left of the King, partly visible is S/Ldr Urbanowicz, who took over after S/Ldr Krasnodebski was wounded. Presenting pilots is S/Ldr Kellet. The King shakes hand with P/O Januszewicz, on who's his right has P/O Henneberg, F/O Cebrzynski and F/O Paszkiewicz. To the left of Januszewicz are: P/O Grzeszczak, P/O Zumbach and P/O Feric. (Source)

That source linked above is an excellent website dedicated to No. 303 Squadron during the Battle of Britain. They start with this -
It must be said, that before the two Polish squadrons and one Czech entered the battle, the British Command regarded their Slavic allies as inferior pilots to their own, with broken morale, hindered by language incapability. Except for the language they were completely wrong.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you No. 303 Squadron of the Royal Air Force - 303 Dywizjon Myśliwski "Warszawski im. Tadeusza Kościuszki".
Dobra robota!

Repeat please...
Proszę powtórzyć


  1. That was a great movie and, like you, that was one of my favorite scenes in the film. Nice write-up on the gallantry and exploits of 303 squadron.

    1. Thanks Aaron, and congrats on your getting your pilot's license, well done!

  2. This post is new to me, and covers a part of the Battle of Britain that I didn't know much about.
    I still have my DVD copy of The Battle Of Britain and I will schedule a rewatch.
    Great post.

    1. Thanks John.

      I plan on recycling some of the older posts as a lot of new readers haven't seen them.

      Glad you liked it!

  3. First saw that movie in the theater when I was in high school and still catch repeats on the tube now. Good postings these last few days Sarge!

  4. I'm gonna go with "The quality of the box matters little. Success depends upon the man who sits in it."

    Followed with a dose of "The duty of the fighter pilot is to patrol his area of the sky, and shoot down any enemy fighters in that area. Anything else is rubbish."

    Manfred von Richtofen

    1. Well said Juvat.

      Quoting the Baron works for me.

  5. My comment of yesterday stands, reinforced. I shall have to watch that movie.

    Juvat's Richtofen quote is good for that war, but does not work for subsequent air warfare IMO.

    Paul L. Quandt

    1. That may be so. But, having appeared as the star in a few air-to-air movies myself while flying a vastly superior aircraft, I'm not convinced that what you say is an absolute.
      Applicable ROE in effect might have a profound dampening effect on the ability to use new technology. The requirement to visually ID the target comes to mind.

    2. Paul - One thing which might blur the relevancy of the Baron's quote today is the blurred lines between what is a fighter and what is not. With the advent of the multi-role fighter, sometimes you're flying a fighter, sometimes you're flying a bomber. Sometimes both depending on what stage of the mission you're in.

      That being said, the North Vietnamese patrolled their area of the sky and they failed miserably in their duty to sweep us from the sky.

      They got swept. In modern times, warheads on foreheads is the goal, crudely stated yes, but that is the bottom line. When your bombs are gone, shoot the other guy's machines down.

      And what Juvat said, the politicians control what you can and cannot do via the ROE. Thus, having a missile that can reach out and (theoretically) touch someone 50 miles out is useless when the politicos force you into knife fight range. ROE is all.

    3. Juvat - the visual ID requirement is understandable in some areas. (Over the Gulf perhaps?) Over Route Packs 5 and 6, it was effing nonsense.

      But that's an old maintainer's opinion, what do I know?

    4. Quite a lot actually.

      VID IS frequently applied and required in some situations, and we practiced it regularly. Cope Thunders, we would use BVR rules on the ingress, but as soon as we turned round for home, those rules were out the window and VID was the name of the game. Since the strikers (flying Lawn Darts) had radars and were looking for Bandits on their own, the RHAW gear would light up spectacularly. Eyes out was much better. I'd tend to put the radar in one of the automatic search modes while I did a bit of looking round, at least until I was clear of the target area.
      However, VID evened the odds quite a bit. Which was the case most of the times I got to be the star of the movie.

    5. Ah, Cope Thunder. I went on one of those, work hard, play hard.

    6. What I intended to mean ( without being overly verbose ) was that in WWI, bombers were not a significant threat, so enemy fighters were the main target ( although I should think that enemy observation aircraft would also be a prime target ). During the inter-war period, bombers became much more capable and thus a higher priority target ( although one might need to dispose of the escorting fighters to get to them [ although the Polish pilots didn't seem to in the video ] ).

      The point that modern aircraft ( fighter-bombers ) muddy up this is something I overlooked. Perhaps my idea only applied to WWII.

      I guess that I hoped that you would intuit that thought, silly me.


    7. Observation aircraft were the primary threat in WWI. Neither side wanted the other to see what they were up to.

      Without the observation aircraft there wouldn't have been much of an air war.

      Strategic bombing in WWII was overrated as to the damage caused. The real effect was causing thousands of men to be occupied in the defense of the Reich. Anti-aircraft batteries and fighters which could have made a difference at the front. Strategic bombing gave the Western Allies air supremacy in the West and to a certain extent in the East.

      One thing is safe to say, as regards airpower, I don't think any war since 1914-1918 has been the same in the air.

    8. If you destroy the enemy fighter and, unfortunately preferably its pilot, you have done considerable damage to the enemy. Perhaps, more so than destroying the bomber, as the more you do that, the more vulnerable the bomber becomes. The bomber takes time to destroy its target, unless carrying the rescheduled sunrise. If so, the answer is a bit more somber. Kill the fighters, then ram the bomber.

  6. Private Polish Chit-chat! I guess they didn't have "squadron common." Amazing how far we've come on that tactical plot. Good stuff. I may have to watch that movie again.

    1. Heh, it's one of my favorites.

      "Silence! In Polish!"

  7. Another favorite is Ned Beach's description of the Polish Submariners taking possession of their lend-lease boat "Blinks-a-wink" (Błyskawica, Lightning), nee S-16, in "Run Silent, Run Deep." As described by Beach, they were some crazy barstids too. A fictional account to be sure, but you get the feeling that Ned had been there when real Poles were learning to operate a real S-boat.

    1. The Poles bring a certain joie de vivre to all their endeavors.

  8. Repeat indeed, only in color. My youngest sent me this. I'm sure you'll see a couple of familiar images.


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