303 Polish Fighter Squadron „Kosciuszko” - Heroes of the Battle of Britain.
No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron „Kościuszko” (in Polish: 303 Dywizjon Myśliwski Warszawski im. Tadeusza Kościuszki) was one of Polish squadrons that fought as part of the RAF during the Second World War. It was the highest scoring squadron during the Battle of Britain and one which had destroyed highest number of enemy aircraft for losing one themselves. It was named after Kosiuszko Squadron, which fought during Polish-Soviet War (with mixed Polish and American personnel) and of course after Tadeusz Kościuszko, hero of Poland and USA. Many pilots of new Squadron 303 were part of previous Kosciuszko Squadron.
It was established on 2 August 1940 and became operational on 31 August, but its first victory came day before it became officially operational. During training flight Ludwik Paszkiewicz (who became the commander of Flight B) saw fire of anti air guns attacking German Messerschmitts. He send information about it to command, but didn’t receive any message back, so he turned his plane to face the enemy. He shot dawn one of the planes. After landing, he was officially reprimanded for leavinf the rest of flight and disobeying orders, but, at the same time, he was unofficially congratulated by his superior officer. This event gave push to give green light to Squadron 303. Before that British officers didn’t knew if having an air force that spoke different language and had different training was good idea.
It quickly proved to be a good idea. It’s hard to tell how many enemy planes were destroyed by Polish pilots. Official number of 126 in it’s first six weeks isn’t probably true, because it counts every time that enemy plane could be shot down. But even estimation of 59 sure successes (and probably more that we can’t reaffirm) used by some historians gives it first place from squadrons that took part in the Battle of Britain. The final sum of sure successes of Polish pilots (from this and other Squadrons) is 203 destroyed enemy planes. During that time, the squadron used older Hawker Hurricane fighters, which still were quite modern and at the same time familiar to Polish pilots.
After the Battle of Britain Squadron 303 fought in numerous fighter sweeps and took part in escort mission over Germany and Netherlands. By the end of the war, it has destroyed 297 enemy aircrafts.
Polish efficiency and role in this fight became quickly forgotten after the Second World War. British commanders didn’t want to acknowledge large role of pilots from now communist Poland. For parade of victory (year after ending of WW II) only pilots of the Squadron 303 were invited from Polish soldiers, and even them at the last possible moment. In solidarity with their countrymen the squadron decided to not participate.
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