During the Invasion - Flying behind the German 7th
Army. 6 June 1944 - 5 September 1944.
The D-Day, June 6th, 1944, the
squadron spent patrolling over the western side of the invasion force,
witnessing the biggest military operation in history. That day the 308 made
four, twelve aircraft sorties. Afterwards, the unit's service can be divided
into few phases, noting however, that from time to time, it was recalled to
perform escort duties in big raids.
During the first phase - till
the moment when the squadron moved to Normandy on August 3rd - the unit flew
from ALGs in South England for ops across the channel. In June, for more than
fifty times, the 308 took off in a full force, totaling 641 operational sorties
in 1352 hours. These were mostly patrols over beachheads in Normandy. Often,
pilots took off before dawn to be at the target area at first light, or landed
back in darkness. The job at the airfield was done under constant drone of V1s
flying bombs on their way to London. In
spite of bad weather and great intensity of flights, there were no accidents and
the unit suffered no losses. Everybody, from the CO to a lowest aircraftman
ground crew, did their work cooperating with others very effectively.
Particularly worth mentioning is, the work done by ground crews. Not only did
they always finished their job on time, but also managed to keep all the
aircraft clean, despite ever-present mud on airstrips on both sides of the
In July, due to the bad atmospheric conditions, ops
over the beachhead somewhat subsided, and the 308 took part in several escort
missions in protection to large formations of British and American bombers.
These raids were mostly against V1 and Vermacht depots, sometimes bombed even
through clouds. On July 10th, the squadron was a part of the escort of the big
raid of 1100 Lancasters on Caen, where the Germans offered a stiff resistance.
Eight days later (Ramrod 1102), the 308 flew escort to another 1000 bombers raid
on Caen. A week later, the unit was a part of over 400 Lancasters raid on a
German airfield St Cyr near Paris.
The next phase started on July 30th, when after escorting bombers to Caen,
the 308 landed on B.10 at Normandy. For many pilots it was a first return to the
continent, after they left it four years ago. Many were touched by the moment,
their thoughts escaping to Poland, which seemed so much closer. That day the
unit made two sorties in its new role within tactical air force. The tasks to
which the 308 were now employed - and nearly for the rest of the war - were:
Armed Recce and Army Close Support. The aim of these flights was to observe and
report the movements of the armies, and to seek and destroy the enemy on the
ground by strafing and dive-bombing. This activity proved to be a big impediment
for the movement of German ground forces, and caused terror among them. These
first and second ARs, the 308 conducted near Alecon-Vire and Biouze-Evreux
respectively. The view of motor vehicles burning on roads brought the memory of
the Polish September in 1939. On evening, the squadron returned to its base in
England. For the next four days, the B.10 airstrip became its detachment base
for the ops over Normandy. The 131 Polish Fighter Wing, under the command of G/Cpt
Gabszewicz, was moved there permanently, and on August 4th B.10 became the
squadron's new home.
The airstrip was
located some 7 miles NW of the village Plumetot. It's big plus was excellent,
bitumen runway, but the real nuisance was ever-present dust, coming from earth
scarred by shells and tanks. The ground crew protected the aircraft from it with
meticulous care. Occasionally, a strayed shell exploded nearby or Germans paid
aerial night visits, which other than rain of shrapnel from AA fire caused no
In a short time, the
personnel get used to a new reality, which was a welcomed novelty comparing to a
boring life on England's ALGs. The sleeping quarters were located in trenches,
which gave some protection against shelling. Pilots set-up themselves an
ingenious mess, and officer "Haberbusch" flooded it with beer brought inside
specially adopted aircraft droppable tanks.
From the B.10 till the
Caen breakthrough, the 308 flew daily Armed Recces. Almost all the flights
resulted with enemy's M/T claimed as destroyed or damaged. Anything that moved
on the German side was attacked. The ground crew, and especially armourers who
constantly had to change ammo and bomb-up aircraft, put many hours of hard work
at that time. The German flak was very strong, particularly a light one. Pilots
learned quickly how to avoid it, and the squadron suffered no losses. W/O
Korwel's flying record justified considering him lucky, but when during one of
patrols he shot down two Bf109s, he became an envy of all pilots who never even
saw German aircraft for months. The new task was to bomb river barges on Seine
near Rouen and Elbert, and which Germans utilized in absolute absence of
available bridges. When in a middle of August the Germans retreated form the
Falaise pocket, the Poles got a chance to be very active. Every day, since
August 15th till 31st, the unit made 36-48 sorties. Most of the time, the
Spitfires carried a third 500lbs bomb under fuselage. Toward the end of the
month, the 308 area of operation shifted east past the Seine River. On the 26th,
in four sorties (46 aircraft) the squadron destroyed 37 enemy's M/T. During
the last operation, F/O Wandzilak was shot down, but soon he returned to the
unit. Read more.
The next day was equally busy and the 308 afflicted heavy toll of German
casualties on a Seine crossing near Elbeuv; in bad weather, pilots dive-bombed a
big concentration of enemy's vehicles defended by a very concentrated flak.
Toward the end of August, the Allies pushed the Germans past the Seine,
what started a chaotic German retreat from France. In August 1944, the 308
totaled 719 operational sorties, dropping 82,000 lbs of bombs.