VIII

During the last months - V Day. 15 January 1945 - 8 May 1945

Starting from January 14/15th, for the next two weeks, the squadron conducted its operations from the from the B.60 Grimbergen airfield, located near Brussels. The new base had rather poor airstrip and few buildings. The vicinity of the Belgium capitol somehow compensated these deficiencies. Great annoyance were V-1s flying frequently over the airfield. One of them even fell amidst the base's few buildings in which people were asleep. Fortunately, this one did not explode causing many casualties.
   
From B.60, the 308 continued to operate over Holland, gradually reaching hinterland of the northern part of the Sigfried Line. Pilots drew satisfaction from flights over Germany aware that every bomb and every bullet was now directed against Germans. These flights were done mostly against reinforced German positions before the Allies' offensive, which started on February 8th. Every period of flyable weather was used to attack communications and supply lines. This unit's action was coordinated with the Army's movements.
    Once the German defense lines were broken, the 308 was transferred to Holland to a new airstrip, B.77 Gilze-Rijen. The airfield was located far from whatever city and it was impossible for the Poles to fraternize with the local population. Contrary to the previous location, the B.77 had excellent infrastructure. The V-1s however, continued to be nuisance, flying overhead. Local AA artillery enhanced the din of flying robot, heartily filling its way with shells. The personnel quickly get used to the racket. 
    At this point, all preparations were taking place in order to cross the Rhine River. Germans tried to relocate its forces from Holland to Germany. The unit's action was against these troop movements. Since those happened mostly by night, the new tactic was developed and initialized by G/Cpt Gabszewicz. Small sections of aircraft were taking off before dawn and waited in the area of German troops to swoop down on them with the very first light. Whatever one section started, the next one called by R/T, quickly finished. This tactic proved very successful. The rest of the day, the squadron patrolled over its assigned area, significantly paralyzing German daytime movements.

            During this time, the unit was also directly involved in London's defense. It flew many sorties against V-1 and V-2 launching pads and supplies. Their prime target was London as the most supply harbor for the western fruit. Also, the Poles witnessed the last big Allies' aerial assault against the German defenses at Rhine. The front distance itself form the airfield and another relocation was inevitable.
    This time the squadron moved to Germany itself. On 13 April 1945 it set up its base under tents at B.101 Nordhorn. For two weeks pilots flew armed recces and close support missions in cooperation with the 21 Army Group advancing into Germany.

            On April 28th, the squadron was detailed off to Fairwood Common, Wales, for five-week gunnery course. Thus, the V-Day Poles celebrated long way from the front. This celebration was done without much joy or feast. The mood of melancholy prevailed as pilots were struck by a bitter reality of Poland. After the course, the 308 returned to the Wing (2 June 1945), located at the B.113 Varrelbush-Oldenburg.


Summer 1945. F/O Mikolajczak in his Spitifre MkXVI. Notice the squadron's logo under the windshiled.
(Courtesy of Chrissy Smith)


One of the 309 Spitfires adorned right after the war with the unit's tally. (Courtesy of Chrissy Smith)

 

            During this last five months of the war, pilots flew some 1,500 operational sorties, dropping over half a million (?!!.WR) bombs. They were credited with over 10 enemy aircraft shot down and two damaged. Some 300 motor vehicles were destroyed. The 308 losses during this period were 6 pilots: Sgt Breyner died in hospital following a flying accident; F/O Wardzinski and F/O Dremlewicz were shot down (15 and 20 March) over the enemy held territory, but returned safely to the unit; Sgt Wierzejewski killed in a flying accident (6 December 1944); plus two pilots killed in combat over B.61. F/O Szczerbinski was killed in May (In fact, No. 317 Squadron's pilot. WR).

Epilog