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Battle of Britain II

2 September 1940.

501 Hurricane Squadron featured probably the largest contingent of Polish pilots of all British squadrons during the Battle. One of them was Stanislaw Skalski, who on September 2 was already an ace with 7.5 confirmed victories.

Pilot Officer Stanislaw Skalski, 501 Hurricane Sqn.

"A black, dense column of He-111s in front of us. We're attacking slightly from the side - several Me-109s are in the area. A few of them break off in our direction. Too late. A few seconds have decided, the sun helped us, their attempt is futile.

The squadron closes on bombers' tails. The Hurricanes' wings light up with fire from eight machine guns. The bullet traces frame the bomber silhouettes. A few mortally wounded Heinkels 111 leave first gaps in the enemy formation. First white umbrellas of parachutes open up under the blue sky.

I am the last one to attack.

The target is in my sights, I close in at high speed. The controls stiffen ... I use the other hand... The Heinkel's wings grow in the lit-up ring. Maybe a second, maybe less - last quick look in the rear-view mirror.

Lord Almighty!

I pull back on the stick as hard as I can to evade the burst from a Me-109.

My eyelids close, heavy as if made of stone - I am flushed with darkness. My stomach comes up, I feel nauseated. Subconsciously, I complete a circle. The darkness subsides.

Behind, on my tail is a Me-109. With horror I realize it's very close to closing the deadly circle. How do I break out of this hell? I cannot do anything to immediately shake him off my tail. I have to fight to the end. The thoughts race through my mind: Decrease altitude in tight circles. The Hurricane is more maneuverable - lower I must be able to break out. Speed, speed....

The Hurricane shudders, white trails pierce the sky. The German is trying his luck. Every now and then there's a flash of fire from the Messerschmitt's cannon. I realize it won't hit me - the deflection's too small. I'm all wet from sweating. The altimeter indicates 15,000 feet. It's taking awfully long. We just lost 10,000.

Down, down - lower still. A few more thousand feet. Gradually, I'm beginning to free up - my head starts turning more to the front. The distance is growing. The German can't shoot any more. But he doesn't give up. He's tough. Terrific fighter. Doesn't allow a smallest mistake. He's in command, I have to follow his will. No trick is possible. He is the master of life and death. The only possibility, the only thing I can do is take him lower and lower. But I succeed. He is following me like shadow, but I'm getting away, he's losing his advantage. Why is he giving up? Why doesn't he change his tactic, when he sees me getting away? He's making a terrible mistake.

The lower we get, the more confident I grow. 10,000, 9,000, 8,000 feet. The altimeter indicator is moving quickly. I tighten the circle to the limit - with all my willpower, exhausted emotionally, I decide that I want to win this duel. I'm already on equal terms with the German. The next thing to do is get on his tail. I already have a tactical advantage - altitude. The Hurricane is shaking, it's hot in the cockpit, sweat all over my face. I pull the stick with both hands - tighter and tighter, 5,000, 4,000 feet. He's just in front of me. Why doesn't he get away? He can still take the fight into vertical.

Suddenly... yes! The gunsight... deflection! A fraction of a second... the thumb frantically presses the firing button. A short burst. The German abruptly breaks into a dive.

I missed! goes through my mind.

I stay on his tail. The ground is approaching quickly, I feel completely exhausted.

He's getting away.

I never let him out of my gunsight.

I'm waiting for him to pull out... then....

Can't be...? Or can it? He should be pulling out already, he's very low, too low.

I can't believe it.

A fireball... I pull out of the dive. I slide back the canopy and circle over the burning debris. I feel bitterness in my mouth. I take off the oxygen mask and breathe in the air. I look out of the cockpit. I feel sorry for the German. He was terrific, why didn't he bale out? (...)

A few minutes later I see two airplanes in dogfight, low over the ground. A Hurricane is in big trouble. My intervention won't be difficult. The Messerschmitt doesn't see me. I still have a lot of ammo. Two long bursts. The Hurricane joins me, I see the 501 squadron's letters on the fuselage. I have just saved a colleague, sergeant Adams.

Two hours later, in the next fight, sergeant Adams was killed."


September 7, 1940

This was a day of great success for 303 Squadron, one of the few squadrons which intercepted German bombers in time to prevent them from reaching London. With 14 confirmed victories, 303 Squadron set Fighter Command's new daily record.

Flying Officer Eugeniusz Szaposznikow, 303 (Polish) Hurricane Sqn.

"We scramble as always, my plane on the left side. The emotions die out only at 20,000 feet, when we see the enemy. There are a lot of them today, they have the nerve to fly in straight rows; like evil ghosts, the Messerschmitts hover above them. The decision is quick, we dive straight into them, ignore the fighters and go for the Dorniers.


I fire a burst and the beggar goes down. The section leader is shooting as well, but the Messerschmitts won't let us finish, we have to withdraw. The swarm of aircraft breaks up in all possible directions after our attack. I turn back. 1,000 feet below, in the sunlight, fly white-nosed Me-109s. There are six of them. I press the firing button, a Messerschmitt flies through the entire burst. The other five attempt to corner me. I withdraw unscathed."

Pilot Officer Witold Lokuciewski, 303 (Polish) Hurricane Sqn.

"I took off with Paszka [Ludwik Paszkiewicz] at 4:20pm. After several circles, we noticed swarms of enemies at 20,000 feet. We attacked the bombers, as the Messerschmitts were being engaged by other squadrons. Before I even started shooting, Paszka's Dornier was already on fire. Mine caught fire too, and soon burst like a soap bubble.

After this success I went for another one. I fired a few bursts. It started to trail smoke, but a Me-109 disrupted my attack, so I moved away to the side and saw two other Me-109s creeping up on me. I therefore went into a courageous dive which concluded at the airfield. Actually, I landed because we had been ordered to do so on the radio. On the ground it turned out that my propeller, tail, and fuselage were damaged - a few bullets had hit very close to the cockpit."


September 15

On this crucial day over 80 Polish pilots took part in the fighting. Again 303 Squadron enjoyed the greatest success, scoring 15 confirmed victories in two missions. Please check out Witold Urbanowicz's unique account of a large, heavily escorted bomber formation being turned back by a well-executed attack of five (!) Hurricanes.

Pilot Officer Jan Zumbach, 303 (Polish) Hurricane Sqn.

"On the 15th of September in the year of 1940, a few minutes after 11:00 hours we were scrambled for a randez-vous with some Germans. I was No 2 in Dzidek's [Zdzislaw Henneberg's] section, No 3 was Lt. Grzeszczak, who in terms of combat was still a virgin. Today he had his first intercourse with a Me-110, but to no avail. What happened, I will tell you.

We noticed Me-109s ahead. We started chasing them. After a while, we noticed a formation of Do-215s [Do 17s] escorted by Me-110s and Me-109s. Dzidek climbed and, a song on his mouth, dived to attack. I followed him. At this moment I looked back, just in case. Of course, the bastards were already diving. The first one seemed a bit uncertain of who we were. I moved to the side a little. He started making a climbing turn, so I anticipated his path and gave him an honest burst. He went through it and belched some smoke, then went into a spin. I followed him and thus our little polka began.

Something must have been wrong with his brains, for he started doing some outlandish aerobatics, probably thinking that I would leave him alone. To stop him from dreaming and to augment his courage, I fired short bursts time after time. In this way I wasted a lot of ammunition, and he was still only smoking, so I decided to wait till he gets tired of all this fun and flies in a straight line. The idea finally occurred to him, and what he thought - he did. Being a little to the side, I turned and fired at point-blank range. Only the splinters flew around and he burst into flames. I spent a whole four minutes on him.

I then climbed and started looking for another one. A formation of about dozen Do-215s appeared, being attacked by Spitfires. A hopeless sight, straight from a fighter school. I approached the last bomber and at the distance of about 100 yards pressed the firing button but, alas, only a few bullets fired. I was out of ammo, so I went back home."

Pilot Officer Witold Lokuciewski, 303 (Polish) Hurricane Sqn.

"12:00 hours, take off. Our squadron is second. I was in the third section with Paszka [Ludwik Paszkiewicz]. After about 25 minutes I noticed several waves of enemy planes. Our squadron went after the bombers, escorted by Me-109s and Me-110s. At this moment, our section, and me in particular, were bounced by Messerschmitts. Therefore I made a right turn and, to my astonishment, saw another raid at 700 yards, with a strong escort of Me-109s and Me-110s, flying towards London.

I also noticed a squadron of Hurricanes which very anemically attacked it. I wanted to join them, but a 109 passed in front of me, with the obvious intention of attacking me. A few hops, a quick look back and to the sides, and I'm after the Hun. I had the feeling it must be some kind of a trick - and it was. I fire one burst - he's trailing smoke, I fire another - I see black smoke and flames. I thought to myself: time to finish him off, but at this moment I heard a loud thump. I flew into a cloud.

When I got out, I noticed a large hole from a cannon shell in the wing, and my both legs were wounded by the splinters, which had penetrated the skin of my boots. The plane of course lost its aerodynamics, and to make things even worse, the glycol started leaking, but I made it to the airfield, where I landed without flaps, as they were also damaged."

[After landing, Lokuciewski lost consciousness because of blood loss. Over 30 splinters of a German explosive cannon shell were found in his legs.]

S/Ldr Witold Urbanowicz, 303 (Polish) Hurricane Sqn.

This is the account of the squadron's second mission that day. Earlier the squadron's two flights had separated, and Urbanowicz was left with only four planes under his command.

"I could see at the first glance, that there were a few dozen Messerschmitts above us. Behind one of the 'mountain ridges' [clouds] I noticed about 60 German bombers. They were heading for London. Our situation was uncomfortable, the German fighters could attack us any second now. The German raid was only a few minutes from London. If they managed to drop their entire load on London, it would be a massacre down there.

I decided to attack anyway (...). My goal was to break their formation before they reach the target. Turn them back from London, make them run. It seemed beyond our capability. We had 40 machine guns between the five of us, but not every bullet hits the target. (...)

As the commander, I felt the full weight of responsibility at that moment. The attack would be grave, we could all be killed. We were faced with all the machine guns of the bomber formation and several dozen German fighters were circling above us.

I signaled with my wings that we would be entering the fight. We had a little height advantage over the bombers. I could see the silver streaks of German bullets piercing the air between our planes. Instinctively, I glanced at the parachute handle and the lever which jettisoned the canopy. If I catch fire, I will jump of course, hopefully the Germans don't shoot me up afterwards.

The bombers grow in my gunsight. We open fire at 300 yards. Momentarily, a few bombers start smoking, they're hit. We're attacking head-on, at about 30 degrees. Their formation breaks into separate sections, some pilots lose their nerve, confusion creeps in. We cannot hold the formation after the attack, everybody breaks in different directions to scatter the bombers' defensive fire. The German fighters are still circling. (...)

Some bombers are still heading for London. They are the ones we attack. One three plane section of Do-215s is approaching a big gap in the clouds. They're flying in the line-astern formation. I attack the leader. I start shooting at about 100 yards, from behind, in short bursts. His right engine catches fire. Making sure that no German fighters are attacking me, I come in even closer. I aim at the glazed cockpit. I have to hurry, there are so many Germans around.

The crew bales out, without pilot the plane loses balance and dives into the clouds. Through a gap in the clouds I see Thames. I attack another bomber from less than 100 yards just as it emerges from a cloud. The pilot, badly shaken by my sudden appearance turns so abruptly, that he loses control over the plane. After my first attack the rear gunner stops firing, leaning on his machine gun, wounded, or maybe killed?

After the second attack the bomber tumbles towards the clouds. The crew bales out again, more white umbrellas over the desert of clouds. Suddenly I see that the fighters are diving towards us. A bit too late. Alas, one of my flight is mortally hit, he never bales out, his plane bursts into flames. One more is trailing black smoke, something separates from the plane, a parachute opens up. Thank God, at least the pilot is safe! There are only three of us left, we keep on chasing the bombers."


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