No. 302 (Poznan) POLISH FIGHTER SQUADRON

  Excerpt from the Waclaw Krol’s book  
“Polskie Dywizjony Lotnicze w Wielkiej Brytanii 1940-1945”

Translated by Wilhelm Ratuszynski
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     The squadron was formed on July 10, 1940, at RAF Leconfield – under W/Cdr L. G. Nixon - in York. Its official RAF name was: 302 Polish Fighter Squadron. Continuing the Polish Air Force prewar tradition, fighter squadrons were given names of the cities they stationed, just as bomber units bore names of Poland’s provinces. The 302 was a continuator in the tradition of the prewar 3 Pulk Lotniczy of  Poznan” Army, and 1/145 Squadron defending France earlier in 1940. The visual sign of these traditions was the squadron’s badge worn by the personnel and painted on sides of aircraft cockpits. The badge consisted of the 132 Eskadra’s emblem, a raven; placed on the three-colors background (blue, white and red); and numbers 1/145 and 302. The squadron’s assigned code letters were WX. The squadron’s pilots wore dark brown silk scarves. Throughout the existence of the 302, its Squadron Day was observed on every July 28th, the date of the first day order issued by the unit in 1940. 

Nearly all the personnel were veterans of the Polish and French campaigns. Those included pilots with combat experience gained there. Vast majority of Poles knew no or very little English, and a number of British officers (11) and NCO’s (33) were posted to the unit. On the beginning, the Polish personnel numbered 163. 

S/Ldr Jack Satchell commanded the squadron, with F/Lt John Farmer and F/Lt James Thomson, commanding the Flight “A” and “B” respectively. Their Polish counterparts were: S/Ldr Mieczyslaw Mumler, CO; F/Lt Piotr Laguna and F/Lt Franciszek Jastrzebski, Flight Cos. F/Lt William Riley and F/O Peter Carter commanded two sections and filled in as flying instructors. Detailed off to the executive positions were: F/O Paul Harding (, the Intelligence Officer; P/O Aldrige, the Technical Officer, P/O Davis, the Adjutant. 

The first unit’s pilots became: Tadeusz Chlopik, Julian Kowalski, Tadeusz Czerwinski, Edward Pilch, Stefan Wapniarek, Czeslaw Glowczynski, Stanislaw Lapka, Wlodzimierz Karwowski, Stanislaw Chalupa, all Pilot Officers (in 1940 when the organization of the Polish Air Force was in its first stadium, all Polish officers had to start with the lowest RAF rank, Pilot Officer), Marian Wedzik, Jan Palak, Edward Paterek, Antoni Mierkiewicz and Antoni Siudak, all in the rank of Sergeant.

  In a matter of days, the unit received 18 Hurricanes Mk I, a modern fighter plane, armed with eight machine guns and capable of speeds over 500 km/hr, altitude of 30,00 feet and nearly two hours of full throttle flying.
  Training of pilots and mechanics on new equipment went very smoothly, and August 15, 1940, the squadron was declared operational. It joined the ranks of the 12 Fighter Group under the command of Air Marshall Trafford Leigh-Mallory.
  The 302 prime task, was to defend the part of eastern coast of England, from Grimsby to Scarborough. The unit flew scrambles to intercept in strength of section, flight or squadron. The coastal and convoy patrols were also flown.

  On August 17, the unit recorded the first accident, as P/O Glowczynski force-landed burning plane. He survived, suffering very serious burns. Around that time, the next group of pilots joined the 302. They were officers: Jan Czerny, Antoni Wczelik, Jerzy Czerniak, Waclaw Krol, Wladyslaw Gnys, Jan Malinski, Zbigniew Wroblewski and Aleksy Zukowski, and Sergeants: Wilhelm Kosarz, Eugeniusz Nowakiewicz, Antoni Beda and Antoni Lysek.

  On August 20, a different kind of the squadron’s “first” was recorded: afternoon fight with a reconnaissance Ju-88. The sky was cloudy that day, and the German plane approached the coast from over the North Sea, leapfrogging from cloud to cloud. The section of three Hurricanes was lead by S/Ldr Satchell. On the altitude of 6,000 feet, the planes exchanged fire. The Junkers dived into clouds, to be later classified as destroyed. Two German airmen baled out. S/Ldr Satchell and P/O Wapniarek shared the score. A day later, a control room directed another section of Riley, Chalupa and Paterek toward two Ju-88s. The Germans circled over Hull looking for the opportunity to drop their bombs. During the pursuing fight F/O Chalupa shot down one German plane, while F/Lt Riley and Sgt Paterek shared the destruction of the other. The Chalupa’s plane was damaged and he force-landed suffering light injuries.

  During the following days and weeks, there were no encounters with German planes. The days were quite but by night, the Germans bombed Hull. At the same time, the great battle with the Luftwaffe raged on over the Southern England. This situation frustrated pilots, since their colleagues from the 303 became famous with their multiple victories, while they had to patrol over convoys of slow ship, to which they referred in derogatory terms of floating junk.

  When the Battle of Britain entered it’s deciding phase, the 302 was moved to RAF Duxford, located north of London, where the squadron operated from September 14 till 25.
  On the 15th, the squadron scrambled once in the morning and once on the afternoon, mixing it with both German fighters and bombers. This resulted in a spectacular success, when pilots bagged 11 enemy planes destroyed and 7 probables. Scored: S/Ldr Satchell 1 destroyed and two probables; F/O Chalupa 2 destroyed; P/O Pilch 2 destroyed; F/O Chlopik 1 destroyed and 1 probable; F/Lt Jastrzebski, F/O Czerwinski and Sgt Wedzik, 1 destroyed each; P/O Lapka and Sgt Siudak shared 1 destroyed; P/O Karwowski and Sgt Palak 1 probably destroyed each. The squadron lost F/O Chlopik and three Hurricanes; P/O Lapka baled out while P/O Karwowski force-landed.
   The 16 and 17 September were days when the unit was not scrambled, since the enemy displayed low activity in the air. On August 18 the squadron took off three times, but only during the third sortie encounter the enemy formation, a bomber formation. That was a big victory without losses. Scored: S/Ldr Satchell 1 enemy aircraft destroyed; F/Lt Riley 2 destroyed; P/O Pilch 1 destroyed and 1 probable; S/Ldr Mumler, F/O Kowalski, P/O Karwowski, P/O Wapniarek and Sgt Paterek 1 destroyed each; F/Lt Jastrzebski and Sgt Wedzik 1 probable each; F/Lt Farmer 1 damaged. In this fight the pilots shot down 2 Ju88s, 2 Do-17, 1 Do-215, probably shot down six Ju88s and 1 Do-17, and damaged 1 Ju88. Sgt Paterek safely force landed damaged Hurricane.
   Although the 19th was a cloudy day, one section was scrambled and directed on a German Ju88 bomber, which was shot down by F/O Kowalski.
   Next few days had non-flying weather. On September 23, new pilots joined the squadron: P/O Bernas, P/O Kleczkowski, Sgt Zaluski and Sgt Kleniewski. 

On September 25, the unit returned to Leconfield. During the regular service there was no enemy encounters. On November 11 the unit replaced in Northolt (west suburbs of London) famous and somewhat decimated No. 303 Squadron, which came to Lencfield to rest. 

Then the weather over the England deteriorated rapidly. Often the days were very cloudy, with rains, strong winds and creeping in fog. The existing balloon barrage over London made flying even more dangerous, demanding from pilots extra attention, especially during landing approaches.

  On October 15, during very low visibility and 100% clouds, the squadron was scrambled to meet waves of some 100 Me109s armed with bombs coming for London. The British 229 Squadron joined the Poles, and both groups started to dogfight without the element of surprise. During the fierce battle F/Lt Riley and P/O Krol scored sure victories. However, there were losses. Sgt Wedzik baled out from the burning Hurricane. P/O Malinski crashed his aircraft during force landing, himself not being injured. On damaged aircraft landed S/Ldr Satchell and Sgt Kosiarz. The latter one clipped his wing with a line of a barrage balloon. Only two pilots landed at Northolt, and six other landed elsewhere. Once the weather cleared they made a return flight home.

  On October 17 two new pilots joined the unit: F/O Goethel and F/O Borowski. The same day, during the operational flight Sgt Zaluski lost his orientation in clouds at low altitude and was forced to land running out of fuel. He died crashing his plane in hilly terrain. The next day the 302 was scrambled to intercept e formation of German fighters. The weather conditions were dreadful, with 100% clouds up to 9,000 feet. First section formed F/Lt Thomson, S/Ldr Mumler and F/O Karwowski, the second F/Lt Wczelik, Sgt Nowakiewicz and F/O Borowski, the third F/Lt Jastrzebski, P/O Wapniarek and F/O Zukowski, the forth F/O Carter, P/O Bernas and F/O Kowalski. On the altitude of over 20,000 feet, formation spotted a lone Me109, which dived into clouds. Soon after, a lone Ju-88 was found and shot down by Sgt Nowakiewicz. Due to the adverse weather, the return to the airfield ended in tragedy. F/O Carter, F/O Borowski and P/O Wapniarek crashed and were killed. P/O Zukowski left the formation earlier and also crashed. F/Lt Wczelik’s section landed at Heston. F/Lt Jastrzebski landed at Cobham. Only three pilots landed at home: F/Lt Thomson, S/Ldr Mumler and F/O Karwowski.
   This was the most tragic event in the unit’s history. This mishap was caused by wrong decision of the operations room to scramble the squadron in weather condition, which no technical services were able to cope with. This caused a controversy, discussed in the 11 Group long after.

  During the next few days the squadron continued its operational flying. Three new pilots fresh from 5 OTU joined the unit: P/O Antolak, P/O Sporny and Sgt Rytka.

  On October 25, F/Lt Jastrzebski failed to return from the operational sortie over the Channel. He left the formation at 24,000 feet and dived sharply toward France. The cause of it remained a mystery. Some speculated that he lost consciousness due to an interruption of the oxygen flow to the pilot’s mask. The next day, during a short skirmish with German fighters, Sgt Mazurkiewicz shot down 1 Me109 probably and S/Ldr Satchell damaged another one.

  On October 29, during the patrol over southern England two Hurricanes collided. F/Lt Thomson baled out, while F/O Czerny force landed being trapped in the cockpit. He was safe, but both planes were lost.

  The Battle of Britain slowly ceased, what mostly resulted from unfavorable flying conditions. On daytime, sporadic German fighters were showing up over southern England, but bombers increased their activity by night. These raids were mostly on London. 

The full list of No. 302 Squadron pilots, who participated in the Battle of Britain, August – October 1940:

British personnel:
S/Ldr Jack Satchell
F/Lt John Farmer
F/Lt James Thomson
F/Lt William Riley
F/O Peter Carter  

Polish personnel:
S/Ldr Mieczyslaw Mumler
F/Lt Piotr Laguna
F/Lt Franciszek Jastrzebski
Sgt Antoni Beda
P/O Bronislaw Bernas
F/O Jan Borowski
P/O Stanislaw Chalupa
F/Lt Tadeusz Chlopik
P/O Jerzy Czerniak
F/Lt Jan Czerny
F/O Tadeusz Czerwinski
P/O Wladyslaw Gnys
P/O Wlodzimierz Karwowski
P/O Stefan Kleczkowski
Sgt Wilhelm Kosarz
F/O Julian Kowalski
P/O Waclaw Krol
P/O Stanislaw Lapka
Sgt Antoni Lysek
P/O Jan Malinski
Sgt Antoni Mierkiewicz
Sgt Eugeniusz Nowakiewicz
P/O Edward Pilch
P/O Stefan Wapniarek
F/Lt Antoni Wczelik
Sgt Marian Wedzik
P/O Zbigniew Wroblewski
Sgt Jerzy Zaluski
P/O Aleksy Zukowski

  In November 1940, the 302 Poznan was still in operational service having pilots in readiness and flying scrambles. On the 8th, Sgt Kosiarz was killed during fight with Messerschmidts. On the 23rd, the squadron relocated to RAF Westhampnett near Chichester south of England. There the unit flew mostly convoy patrols having sections in readiness. Around this time Polish controllers started their service in operation rooms. They were F/O Henryk Szczesny and F/O Marian Duryasz, both veterans of the Battle of Britain in British squadrons, and both could fly operationally when off their main duty.
  In December several changes took place in the squadron roster. S/Ldr Satchell, F/Lt Thomson, and F/Lt Riley left the unit. F/Lt Farmer stayed for two more months, not as a Flight CO but an adviser. Detailed off to flying schools were: S/Ldr Mumler, F/Lt Czerny, F/Lt Wczelik and F/Lt Goethel. S/Ldr Laguna took over the command of the squadron, when F/Lt Kowalski and F/Lt Czerwinski headed the Flights. Also, new pilots arrived: P/O Wladyslaw Kaminski, P/O Marceli Neyder and P/O Aleksander Narucki.   
   Altogether in 1940 the pilots claimed 27 enemy aircraft destroyed, 11 probably destroyed and 2 damaged. Six Polish pilots and one British were lost.   
   The year 1941 started with rather busy schedule of convoy escorts and patrols over Southampton and Portsmouth. On top of that main squadron’s activity, single sections were often scrambled against enemy aircraft trying to sneak in over the English coast. Their pursuing of these raiders was a difficult thing, especially since Ju-88s were fast aircraft and their experienced crews skillfully used clouds as a cover.
   On February 5, for the first time the No. 302 Squadron took part in a day Circus operation, being a part of escort of 24 Blenheims. Their target was St. Omer airfield in northern France. This was only the second Circus undertaken by the RAF, and a part of its offensive carried across the channel.

  On February 10, Sgt Mierkiewicz had a serious accident during a strafing run of a training flight. On the 16th, the section of P/O Pilch and Sgt Wedzik shot down a Ju-88. Four days later, P/O Pilch lost his life when for unknown reasons his aircraft crashed nose-diving from 21,000 feet.
   The next two encounters with German bombers took place on March 13 and 21. In both cases the 302 pilots damaged a single Ju-88, which took cover in clouds. On the 28th, however, P/O Lapka and Sgt Lysek managed to get to a single Junkers, and before it had a chance to escape into clouds, they sent it down destroyed.

  On April 7, the unit moved to RAF Kenley near London. Few days later it was reequipped with a new type of the Hurricane, Mk IIA and IIB. The new aircraft was faster and the latter version was armed with 12 machine guns, 6 in each wing.
  Since the spring came early that year, the unit was very busy accumulating a lot of operational sorties. The most often were scrambles against small groups of German aircraft attacking selected targets from low altitudes. Other type of flying activity included patrols, escorts and ground attack sorties over France.
   On April 14, the Flight B commanded by F/Lt Krol took off for an offensive sortie over France and scuffled with a group of Messerschmidts without any results. On the 26, for unknown reasons the plane piloted by Sgt Nestorowicz fell into the channel. Pilot did not attempt to bale out and was lost. 

   As of May 1, 1941, the 302 pilots roster included: S/Ldr Piotr Laguna CO; Flight A: F/Lt Julian Kowalski CO, F/Lt Wlodzimierz Karwowski, F/O Stanislaw Lapka, F/O Zbigniew Wroblewski, F/O Jan Malinski, F/O Aleksander Narucki, F/O Wladyslaw Kaminski, F/Sgt Nowakiewicz, F/Sgt Domagala and F/Sgt Antoni Lysek; Flight B: F/Lt Tadeusz Czerwinski CO, F/Lt Waclaw Krol, F/O Zygmunt Kinel, F/O Wladyslaw Gnys, F/O Marceli Neyder, F/O Zbigniew Janicki, F/Sgt Antoni Beda, F/Sgt Marian Rytka, F/Sgt Marian Wedzik and Sgt Bronislaw Malinowski. Two more pilots, F/Lt Marian Duryasz and F/O Stanislaw Chalupa were detailed off to the operation room of the Kenley sector.

  On May 8, the Flight B commanded by F/Lt Czerwinski caught five Me-109s at 10,000 feet. During a dogfight that followed, F/Lt Krol and F/O Kinel shot down one Messerschmidt each, and Sgt Rytka was credited with one probable. At the same time, the Flight A fought with another group of German fighters where F/Sgt Nowakiewicz destroyed one more. On the afternoon sortie, the enemy fighters surprised the Flight A. S/Ldr Laguna and F/Sgt Domagala had to bale out. On yet another, this time evening sortie, the Flight B encountered the enemy for the third time. F/O Wroblewski was credited with one Me-109 probably destroyed, but F/O Kinel was lost. 

   On May 11, tragedy struck the unit, when during the German bombers above, the returning from the patrol Polish pilots had to land in darkness. Three of their aircraft collided at the end of the runway, and F/O Narucki lost his life. On the 21st, together with the whole Wing, the squadron took part in the offensive sortie over France escorting British bombers. Over the target Poles faced defending Messerschmidt fighters. In result Sgt Rytka was shot down and had to bale out, while F/O Gnys managed to return on a badly shot up plane. 

   Since the S/Ldr Laguna was nominated to command the 1 Polish Fighter Wing at Northolt on May 27, the squadron was taken over by S/Ldr Witorzens. Also, F/Lt Czerwinski was sent away to rest, and his command went to F/Lt Krol. A day later the unit started to pack for the new location RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man. The unit had to rest and while doing light patrol duties needed to prepare the new pilots for front line service. 

   Once this was achieved, the 302 relocated to Church Stanton on August 7, where it joined the 2 Polish Fighter Wing. From Church Stanton the unit flew escort to bomber mission over Cherbourg and Brest in France, convoy patrols and kept section in a daily readiness.
   The next move came on October 7, this time to Harrowbeer in Cornwall, where the Poles were to defend Plymouth and Davenport. Soon after the squadron was reequipped with Supermarine Spitfire Mk-V….
…. On November 25, S/Ldr Kowalski took over the command, being replaced in Flight A by F/Lt Kosinski.

  On December 30, during the Circus over Brest, the unit’s pilots clashed with German fighters. Credited with one Me-109 destroyed were F/O Glowczynski, F/Sgt Sporny and F/Sgt Rytka. F/Sgt Malinowski had one probably destroyed, while P/O Budrewicz damaged another. 

   In 1942, No. 302 (Poznan) Squadron’s effort was somewhat diminished, due to a Luftwaffe’s increased commitment at the eastern front. That year American air force came to England and started a day operations against German forces on the continent. Polish fighter Wings took part in escorts to those operations. 

   On May 7, 1942, the 302 returned rejoined the 1 Polish Wing when it moved to RAF Heston in London’s suburbs. Under the command of S/Ldr Lapka, the squadron made many offensive sorties over France and Belgium. On May 19, during the Dieppe operation, the unit took off four times in a full strength of twelve aircraft, but recorded no losses nor victories.

  Till the end of the year, the 302 flew mostly bomber escorts either individually or with the Wing. At that time the 1 Polish Fighter Wing consisted of four squadrons (rather than usual three), of which No. 306 and 315 stationed at Northolt, while No. 302 and 308 at Heston. Both these locations were at that time Polish Airfields, W/Cdr Mumler commanding at RAF Northolt and W/Cdr Janus at Heston. 

   December 5th brought a hurting loss to the squadron. F/O Rytka, a distinguished pilot, was lost due to his Spitfire’s engine failure during a take off. He was shot down over France on May 21, 1941, but evaded the capture and after contacting the Resistance movement in France, through Gibraltar returned to England, bringing with him important information. His war service was highly valued. He decorated with a Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, Cross of Valor with 2 bars, Order of the British Empire and Distinguished Flying Cross. 

   The year 1943 was marked by a total domination of the Allies air forces over the German Luftwaffe on the Western front, and Polish fighter squadrons, including the 302 contribution was not small.
   Although the type of flown operations was the same, their character was somewhat changed. Daytime bombers operation were so far directed against targets in France, Belgium and Holland, but with the Americans joining in, theirs four-engine Flying Fortresses started to bomb locations in Germany itself. Those raids consisted of anywhere from 100 to 300 bombers, often escorted by even greater number of fighters, both close and long range.
   The 302 also escorted medium range American bombers in their sorties over the continent, especially those against V1 facilities. Intensity of those flights was high and pilots’ fatigue slowly grew. In numerous encounters with Me109s and FW190s Polish pilots recorded many victories but also suffered unavoidable losses. 

  Since March 10, S/Ldr Baranski commanded the squadron. In a mid of June, the squadron was detailed off to lighter duties at Perranporth in Cornwall, where the pilots mostly flew convoy patrols, but also escorts over the Northern France. The squadron rejoined the Wing at Northolt in the beginning of September. With the move came a change of aircraft, and the new Spitfire Mk-IX’s were taken in….
   On October 18, 1943, S/Ldr Krol took over the command of the unit. At that time, pilots flew mostly B-17s escorts and Wing strength Rodeo operations over France.

  In a preparation toward the planned invasion of the continent, the new air force was created: 2 Tactical Air Force (2 TAF). This caused a major reorganization of the Polish units, which were included in the new organization. Newly created were 131 and 133 Fighter Wings. The first one consisted of No. 302, 308 and 317 Squadrons flying Spitfires, while the second one included No. 306, 315 and 129 (British) Squadrons flying North American Mustangs MkIII. Cooperating with the Allies land forces, the squadrons were to attack ground targets in an immediate vicinity of the frontline. The Spitfire IX was fitted with 500 pounds bomb racks under the belly and 250 pounds racks under winds. Fighter planes were to operate on low attitudes and under a direct threat from enemy’s medium flak, and Polish squadrons begun to train for the new role. A special importance was stress on low altitudes visual coordination and map flying, since no help from operation rooms would be available.

  In 1943, the 302 (Poznan) lead the Polish fighters in scores, with 15 enemy aircraft destroyed, 8 probables and 3 damaged.

  The beginning of the year of 1944 started with a rather intensive training in new types of operations. Some operational flying was done, and as the year progressed, the number of sorties grew. Poles escorted “Flying Fortresses”, dive-bombed the V1 facilities, German artillery sites and communication centers in France.

  On April 1, the 131 Wing left its home at Northolt and relocated to the ALG (Advanced Landing Ground) at Deanland in Sussex. The whole personnel were to adapt to a new conditions as soon as possible. The airstrip was nothing more than a grass field covered with squares of steel wire mesh known as Somerfield track. A life of permanent camping-out started, and a chilly weather was a nuisance for everybody. Since then, the squadron remained with 131 Wing (commanded by W/Cdr Gabszewicz) till the end of the war.

  As of April 1, 1944, the 302 pilots roster included: S/Ldr Waclaw Krol CO; Flight A: F/Lt Jerzy Szymankiewicz CO, F/Lt Jezrzy Schmidt, F/Lt Ryszrad Malczewski, F/O Stefan Andersz, F/O Czeslaw Gierycz, P/O Stanislaw Nawarski, P/O Stanilsaw Dudek, W/O Jan Palak, F/Sgt Stefan Nosowski, F/Sgt Jozef Ziendalski, F/Sgt Stanislaw Sowinski, F/Sgt Michal Muryada, F/Sgt Henryk Dygala, F/Sgt Wladyslaw Pilarek, F/Sgt Jezrzy Krzysztofinski; Flight B: Wladyslaw Kaminski CO, F/Lt Marian Duryasz, F/Lt Tadeusz Powierza, F/O Bogdan Muth, F/O Wladyslaw Sliwinski, F/O Ignacy Czajka, F/O Boleslaw Jedliczko, F/O Antoni Lipkowski, W/O Pawel Gallus, W/O Stefan Wojcik, F/Sgt Mieczyslaw Jaszczak, F/Sgt Zbigniew Czarnecki, F/Sgt Roman Olender and F/Sgt Edward Skupinski.

  On April 24, together with the Wing the unit moved to ALG Chailey, still in Sussex, and some 14 kilometers northwest of Lewes. This was a rehearsal of the quick move, which in the future had to be exercise.

  On D-Day (June 6) the 302 flew four full strength patrols over the Allies landings in Normandy. The next days were very similar. On June 11, after the morning patrol, the 302 landed in France on RRS (Rearming and Refueling Strip) to refuel - the first Polish squadron to land in France after the Invasion – then done more patrolling and returned to England. The Luftwaffe was almost nonexistent over the Normandy, and there were no encounters with the enemy aircraft. On the 26th, the Wing moved to ALG Appledram near Chichester, and then on July 16 to Ford right at the channel. At this time S/Ldr Duryasz took over the command of No. 302 Squadron, while F/Lt Krol was rested after the third round of operational flying. He was detailed off to the HQ of the 11 Fighter Group as the liaison officer. 

The second half of 1944 was a difficult time for everybody in the squadron. Pilots flew two, three times a day. The ground personnel had to work from dawn to dusk and beyond, with flashlights. The aircraft were always ready for the next day.

  On August 3, the Wing moved to France, to Plumetot 6 km north of Cean. On the continent, the landing grounds and strip were coded: B for the RAF, and A for the Americans. Plumetot was B-10. The conditions were very difficult there. The strip was still in a range of the German artillery and the personnel had to stay in ad-hoc prepared shelters. During hot days the dust covered everything and turned to mud after rains. At night the constant din of artillery barrage made sleeping almost impossible. Pilots flew many sorties each day, attacking enemy troops, transport, depots and river crossings.

  The peak of flying activity came on August 17, when the squadron made 5 full strength sorties. Pilots spotted and strafed five German “Neger” torpedoes (apparatus with a human crew of one) off the coast of Normandy. In other flights that day, the 131 Wing supported the offensive of the 1st Canadian Army at Falaise. Part of this army, was Gen. Maczek’s 1st Polish Armored Division. On August 19, the Division took Chambois and northern side of Ormel, which were the main German withdrawal routes. Poles held these positions enough long, while Canadians and Americans closed the pocket with a large German force inside. The 131 Wing and the 302 had its share in this important accomplishment.

  Between September 1 and 16, the 302 pilots were rested from nerve-racking flying at the Gunnery School at Fairwood Common in England. Meantime, on the 5th, the Wing moved to Londiniere (B-15) near Rouen. However, the constant rain render this airstrip unusable, and five days later the unit moved again, this time to Vendeville (B-51) south of Lille. On October 2, the Wing moved to Belgium, where its new location was Duerne (B-70) near Antwerp. The days later, Poles moved to St. Denijs (B-61) near Gent. The intensity of operational flying was still very high; on 29th, the squadron made four 12 Spitfire sorties bombing and strafing German positions.

  On January 1, 1945, German air force raised to its last major effort during the war, when initially the Arden offensive of Wermaht went well, and made a massive, somewhat suicidal attack on Allied airfields. Under the name of “Bodenplatte” scores of German planes attacked 19 airfields in France and Belgium, including Polish airfield near Gent. Over forty Fw190 and Me109 created havoc at St. Denjis, while Polish squadrons were away on theirs missions. The airfield was packed with British and American planes, which landed at St. Denjis and couldn’t take off due to adverse weather conditions. Before German finished their show, two Polish (308 and 317) squadrons returned and caught them red-handed. The 302 was sill far away when the fierce aerial battle erupted around the airfield. Poles lost several aircraft on the ground, and the 302 shared some of its Spitfires with the other two squadrons.

  On January 13, came yet another move, this time to Grimbergen (B-60) near Brussels, where the Wing received new Spitfire Mk XVIs, capable of speeds over 660 km/h. S/Ldr Bienkowski took over the squadron’s command on January 31, when S/Ldr Duryasz went for a well deserved rest. The former one did not enjoy his post for long, as he was shot down and taken prisoner on February 24. He was replaced by S/Ldr Olszewski, who quickly followed Bienkowski in his misfortune, being shot down over Holland on March 14. S/Ldr Kaczmarek filled the vacated post of the CO.

  The main duty of the 131 Wing was to attack to paralyze the enemy transport routes in the frontline area. Pilots bombed railway centers in Holland and Germany, depots, barges, vehicles, locomotives and enemy’s commanding posts. The squadron’s contribution in this deal of destruction was significant, and pilots flew with a great zeal and determination even in unfavorable weather condition, paying up for an invasion of Poland in September 1939.

  On April 13, the Wing found its new location at Nordhorn (B-101) in Germany. From there pilots continued in their ground-attacking role. Their area of operation was established between cities of Wilhelmshaven, Oldenburg, Bremen and Hamburg. Polish Spitfires were taking heavy toll on the remnants of withdrawing German armies. On the 30, the Wing followed the front and moved to Varrelbusch (B-113) near Bremen.

  The end of war did not bring the end of the squadron’s roaming. Being still with the 131 Polish Wing, the squadron moved once again to a permanent Luftwaffe airfield at Ahlhorn on September 10, 1945. As a part of the British Occupying Force it stayed there till the end of 1946. In December that year the Polish Wing was recalled back to England and disbanded on January 3, 1947.

  The war effort of the “Poznan” Squadron:  
-         In Poland, 1939: 32 enemy aircraft destroyed and many damaged in over 400 operational sorties.
-         In France, 1940: 12 enemy aircraft destroyed in over 400 operational sorties.
-         With the Polish Air Force in England, 1940-1945: 47 enemy aircraft destroyed, 25 probables and 18 damaged; over 500 tons of bomb dropped on various targets; 433 mechanical vehicles, 24 locomotives, 174 railway cars, 6 self-propelled guns, 42 barges and tugs, 5 live torpedoes, 2 guns and 44 military buildings destroyed; countless strafing attacks on various installation including those of V-1 and V-2. The squadron totaled 10996 operational sorties in 16 311 hours.

No. 302 Polish Squadron lost 20 pilots killed, 12 missing and 9 taken prisoners, 63 aircraft destroyed and 43 damaged by the enemy’s air defense.