October 31, 2010


In commemoration of Remembrance Day there will be a special feature on this blog honouring the Allied forces of World War II, in particular the Polish Armed Forces. Beginning on November 1st, daily posts will summarize some of the major battles of World War II and the role of Polish troops in each battle. So little has ever been said about Poland's sacrifices during the War, less still of her contributions to the Allied war effort.  It is a tragedy that Poland, the 4th largest Ally in WW2 has been virtually overlooked by the world.

Each nation honours its own heroes and veterans, and rightly so. But World War Two was fought and won through the collaboration of many Allied nations. Our respect must extend to all our Allies. They are not just a few: Great Britain, United States, Poland, Free France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, The Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, India, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, Brazil, Ethiopia, Union of South Africa,the Philippine Commonwealth and Yugoslavia.

We owe an enormous debt of gratitude and deepest respect to all men and women of the Allied Armed Forces for their Sacrifices.  They fought for our Freedom and that of future generations.



October 25, 2010

Famous Polish PZL 37 Los and P11 and the Polish Aces Who Flew Them

I had wanted to include videos with my previous post entitled "Media and Propaganda: The Polish Air Force in September 1939".  I recently came across this video which I would like to share with all of you.  It is quite exceptional and features the famous PZL 37 Los, and the P.11 which was part of the Pursuit Brigade, the jewels of the Polish fleet. The caption indicates that the film was made in the pre-war years of 1937 and 1938. But according to the keen observation of one of the viewers, who posted a comment, it actually took place during the September Campaign. (In some of the video frames, the planes were on the airfield at Okęcie).  Although the Polish Air Force was devastated by the German Luftwaffe, not enough can be said about the bravery and skill of Polish Aces in downing a phenomenal number of German aircraft.

I spent some time browsing the web and came up with some interesting and little-known facts about the Polish Air Force during September 1939:
  • From September 1 to September 6, 1939 Polish Fighter pilots shot down a total of 47 German aircraft. 
  • During the month of September 1939, Polish pilots shot down a total of 285 German aircraft, comprised of 63 reconnaissance planes, 67 Messerschmidt bf109s, 12 Messerschmidt bf110s, 78 Heinkel and Dornier planes, 31 Stuka (Ju87) dive bombers, 12 transport planes, and 22 of other types of planes. (These figures do not include ground-to-air kills, which totaled 87)
  • In addition there were over 270 German planes that were damaged by Polish fire.
    The following information was obtained from Polish Fighter Aces of World War 2, By the authors own admission the list is not exhaustive.  It also includes Polish Aces from the Battle of Britain and other WW2 battles: I have mentioned only two of them as the focus of this blog is the September Campaign.
    • Jan Falkowski, Ace Pilot made 9 kills. While flying a PWS-26 biplane aerobatics trainer, Falkowski was attacked by several Bf 109s.  He was able to take evasive action, thanks to the ease of  his plane's maneuverability.  It resulted in one of the German planes crashing to the ground, and the others, unable to catch him, gave up.  (Falkowski was shot down over Holland on March 9, 1945, but managed to escape capture.)
    • Stanislaw Brzeski, Ace Pilot made 8.5 kills. On September 3, 1939, Brzeski shot down a German observation balloon.(He was shot down by German flak on May 21, 1944 and spent the rest of the war as a German POW.)
    Another website I think is superb is Polish WW2 Fighter Aces,  which provides a long list of the names of Polish Aces, including their Military rank, followed by Confirmed Victories, Probable Victories, and Damaged Enemy Planes. I have listed only a few of them here: (they refer only to air-to air combat). The definition of an Ace was a pilot who had achieved a minimum of five (5) Confirmed victories in air to air combat. Poland had more than 40 Ace Pilots.
    • Major  Skalski Stanislaw    21 ---- 1 ---- 4 and 1/3 . He made a total of 321 sorties in WW2, fought over Poland in 1939, over England between 1940 and 1945, in Western Europe, Mediterranean, and North Africa.
    • Major - Pisarek M.  12 ---- 1 ---- 2   In September 1939 he downed two German planes and damaged one more. (He was killed in 1942 over France.)
    • Podpulkownik - Gabszewicz A.        9 and 1/2 ---- 1 and 1/3 ---- 3.  In the September Campaign 1939 he downed one of the first German planes. 
    I highly recommend the following websites for interesting information about Polish Aces and the September Campaign in 1939:
    If you would like to do some research on this subject, may I suggest that you first review my blog "Polish Air Force 1939: The Order of Battle"  which provides the complete list of Polish squadrons mobilized during the September Campaign.
    Thank you for visiting!
    Administrator, Polish Greatness.com

    October 19, 2010

    Media and Propaganda: The Polish Air Force in September 1939

    One of the most pervasive myths about Poland is that the entire Polish Air Force was completely destroyed on the ground by German bombers on September 1st, 1939.  Many people still believe this is true despite historical evidence to the contrary.  How these myths got started is not the subject of this blog.  My attention is focused on the media as the main culprit for the spread of these lies, rather propaganda, about Poland.  The mass marketing of misinformation, irresponsible reporting, failure to verify facts and sources and the dissemination of half-truths are the trademarks propagandists. That and a huge dose of anti-Polonism has been at work sullying the minds of many people.

    I have researched the internet for articles about the Polish Air Force and came across the History Channel among many other sources.  I was quite curious to know what such a prestigious network had written on the subject. I expected their articles to be top notch and a source of factual information, but instead they are mired with generalizations, lies, and conjecture.  For example, History Channel wrote that the German Luftwaffe”...quickly established air supremacy by attacking and destroying the Polish air force in the air and on the ground.”  Without question, the Luftwaffe was superior, however, the Polish Air Force was not wiped out as the writers of History Channel would have you believe.

    Incidentally, the same article alleges that “Polish commanders even sent horsed cavalry into battle against the heavy German armor.” (This is another lie propagated by the Germans which I wrote about  in one of my blogs entitled “The Myth About Polish Cavalry in World War II”).  Another article from History Channel claims that the German air force “quickly established air supremacy by attacking and destroying the Polish air force in the air and on the ground.”   http://www.thehistorychannel.co.uk/explore-history/ww2/poland.html   What makes propaganda so credible to many people is that the lies are heavily padded with truthful statements. It is true that the German air force established air supremacy immediately, but it is not true that the entire Polish Air Force was destroyed on the ground.

    PBS is also guilty of passing the buck. While I did not find anything about the Polish Air Force, one of their articles made an incorrect assumption. While I cannot accuse them of "blasphemy" it is nonetheless careless journalistic reporting, which I regard with the same contempt as propaganda.  In one of their articles entitled “Fighting with the Allies –Remembering Polish Fighters”  they wrote, “With only minimal help from Poland’s allies, France and Great Britain, and with most of his forces fighting the Germans, Poland’s commander-in-chief Marshal Edward Smigly-Rydz ordered his soldiers in eastern Poland to withdraw south into Romania.... “. Minimal help? As a matter of fact Poland had no help whatsoever from England and France but only empty promises.

    A brief foray into the website of the BBC was also disappointing and did not restore my trust in the media. Without a doubt the BBC has had an excellent reputation for news reporting but they have not been vigilant in reviewing articles posted on their website.  In their series called World Wars In-Depth: Countdown to World WWII, an article written by Mark Fielder (dated  September 8, 2010) stated the following about the Invasion of Poland on September 1st, 1939:  “However, nothing happened until about 9.00 am when the capital [Warsaw] was attacked with both incendiary and high explosive bombs. Fighters from the Polish Air Force intercepted the German raiders and there were several dog-fights over the city.”  Finally, a statement that clearly acknowledges that Polish pilots were indeed engaged in combat with the Luftwaffe and that the Polish Air Force was not wiped out.

    But surprisingly on the very same website the BBC provides a link to another article, written by Bradley Lightbody, also dated September 8, 2010,  that is almost similar to that of Fielder but with one conspicuous difference. The paragraph reads as follows:  “At 6 am on 1 September Warsaw was struck by the first of a succession of bombing raids, while two major German army groups invaded Poland from Prussia in the north and Slovakia in the south. Air supremacy was achieved on the first day, after most of Poland's air force was caught on the ground....”
    I am baffled how the BBC managed to overlook this glaring contradiction.  But what I find most disturbing is that Bradley Lightbody is the Head of the History Department in a college in the UK. (Dewsbury College, West Yorkshire).  People like Lightbody wield enormous influence over others and are capable doling out their personal biases under the guise of education.

    First and foremost on his suggested reading list is his own book, entitled  The Second World War: Ambitions to Nemesis (Routledge, 2004) He also recommends The Second World War: The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill (Cassell, 1950). This is a six volume treatise which Churchill already planned to write before the war was even over. (I managed to get my hands on one of the volumes when I was doing research for my website Polish Greatness.) I scoured the index for any mention about Poland.  Barely a snippet was found.  I read that after the war, Churchill had declared that, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”  No greater truth had ever been told.

    Many educators, journalists, historians and researchers refer to these volumes under the mistaken notion that they are comprehensive sources for information about World War II.  Rather than go into a tangent suffice it to say that the “Churchillian” method of writing is very biased and stems from his idealized or romanticized notion of Great Britain. Admittedly Churchill was a great statesman and patriot, but not a historian.

    I haven’t read the other books on Lightbody’s list, but I suppose I should just to rule out any of my suspicions.  If you have read any of them and have comments to make either supporting or refuting my assertions, please do not hesitate to make your opinions known. I welcome them all.

    The other books are:

    How the War Came: The Immediate Origins of the Second World War 1938-1939
    by Donald Cameron Watt (Heinemann, 1989)

    The Road to War
    by Richard Overy with Richard Wheatcroft (MacMillan, 1989

    The Second World War
    by Martin Gilbert (Phoenix, 1989)

    Blitzkrieg: From the Rise of Hitler to the Fall of Dunkirk
    by Len Deighton (Jonathan Cape, 1979)

    Even the CBC website did not provide the information I was looking for.  Their online archives consist only of radio broadcasts which reported on major developments during the war.  Another website, Love, Hate and Propaganda (a CBC documentary) printed nothing online about World War II propaganda. However their online video, promoting the 6 part series on the subject, may or may not contain the information I am looking for. I would probably have to purchase the boxed gift set in order to find out.

    I had to dig very deep to find something about the Polish Air Force on the website of CNN.  They deemed Poland worthy of only eight words, that the Germans were "decimating the Polish air force on the ground."  http://www.worldwar-2.net/timelines/war-in-europe/eastern-europe/eastern-europe-index-1939.htm  (This is a segment of "Education with the news" made available by CNN to students.)

    There is no doubt that the Polish Air Force was vastly outnumbered and outclassed by the German Luftwaffe, but it must be emphasized that the Polish fleet was not decimated as the Nazis claimed.  Incidentally, I have also watched a fair number of You Tube videos. One in particular is a German propaganda film which the British media used in their documentary about the invasion of Poland and thought fit to upload on You Tube. The narrator made the usual, though incorrect assumption, that the Polish Air Force was decimated on the first day of attack. Meanwhile, the video shows German bombers destroying Polish planes on the airfield. Most people would believe the lies because they have seen "proof".  What they have seen is only propaganda film. There is more to the story than what can be seen.

    These revelations prompt me to scrutinize more carefully any reports I read or hear about coming from "respected"  news peddlers. Although the media often congratulate themselves for being staunch defenders of the truth, one cannot assume that they are right all of the time.  Whether through neglect or sheer ignorance and stupidity, the media has become a carrier for propaganda.

    I hold fast to one simple premise: propaganda can no more stand the truth, than the darkness the light of day.  The only way to destroy propaganda is to dismantle it piece by piece with historical facts. And with this in mind, I have gathered some information about the Polish Air Force that will shed more than a little light.

    In the months preceding the September invasion, entire fleets of Polish squadrons were deployed throughout the countryside in a mass mobilization from March to August 1939.  Each of the squadrons was assigned to act as support to the Air Force Command of various Polish armies.

    Because of the volume of this blog I have had to split it into more manageable proportions. This blog continues, as follows:

    The Polish Air Force 1939 The Order of Battle

    Polish Aircraft in Active Service September 1939

    Polish Greatness.com

    Polish Air Force 1939 The Order of Battle

    In the months preceding the September invasion, entire fleets of Polish squadrons were deployed throughout the countryside in a mass mobilization from March to August 1939.  Each of the squadrons were assigned to act as support for the Air Force Command of various Polish Armies.

    The Order of Battle of the Polish Air Force represents the pre-war structure of the squadrons. With the exception of two air brigades, the structure is the same.  Without going into detail of each one, I would just like to list them if only to demonstrate the official organization of the Polish Air Force.

    The Polish Air Force was divided according to the following units:  Each escadrille was identified by its name and number according to the tasks it was assigned to do.

    Air Regiment consisting of 4 squadrons or 8 escadrilles.
    Air Squadron (2 escadrilles)
    Air Escadrille ( 8 to 12 planes)
    Bombing escadrille
    Fighter escadrille
    Observation escadrille
    Reconnaissance escadrille
    Staff escadrille

    Though the Polish Squadrons were few in numbers, they were highly organized as can be seen by the following units:


    Communications platoon No. 1 (Pluton łącznikowy nr 1)
    Communications platoon No. 2 (Pluton łącznikowy nr 2)
    Polish 16th Observation Escadrille
    Staff Escadrille


    Polish 1st Fighter Squadron of the 3rd Air Regiment (III/1. Dywizjon Myśliwski)
    Polish 111th Fighter Escadrille (111 Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 112th Fighter Escadrille (112 Eskadra Myśliwska)

    Polish 1st Fighter Squadron of the 4th Air Regiment(IV/1 Dywizjon Myśliwski)
    Polish 113th Fighter Escadrille (113 Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 114th Fighter Escadrille (114 Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 123rd Fighter Escadrille (123 Eskadra Myśliwska)


    Polish 10th Bomber Squadron (X Dywizjon Bombowy
    Polish 211th Bomber Escadrille(211. Eskadra Bombowa
    Polish 212th Bomber Escadrille((212. Eskadra Bombowa)

    Polish 15th Bomber Squadron (XV Dywizjon Bombowy
    Polish 216th Bomber Escadrille (216. Eskadra Bombowa)
    Polish 217th Bomber Escadrille (217. Eskadra Bombowa)

    Polish 2nd Bomber Squadron (II Dywizjon Bombowy)
    Polish 21st Bomber Escadrille (21. Eskadra Bombowa)
    Polish 22nd Bomber Escadrille (22. Eskadra Bombowa)

    Polish 6th Bomber Squadron (VI Dywizjon Bombowy
    Polish 64th Bomber Escadrille (64. Eskadra Bombowa)
    Polish 65th Bomber Escadrille (65. Eskadra Bombowa)

    Polish 55th Independent Bomber Escadrille (55. Samodzielna Eskadra Bombowa)
    Communications platoon No. 4 (Pluton łącznikowy nr 4)
    Communications platoon No. 12 (Pluton łącznikowy nr 12)


    These squadrons provided essential support to army land units. Altogether the Polish Army had 288 planes including 246 fighter aircraft and 42 support planes.


    Communications platoon No. 11 (Pluton łącznikowy nr 11)
    Polish 41st Reconnaissance Escadrille (41. Eskadra Rozpoznawcza)III/5.
    Fighter Squadron (III/5. Dywizjon Myśliwski)
    Polish 152nd Fighter Escadrille  (152. Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 53rd Observation Escadrille (53. Eskadra Obserwacyjna)


    Communication platoon No. 7 (Pluton łącznikowy nr 7)
    Communications platoon No. 8 (Pluton łącznikowy nr 8)
    Polish 42nd Reconnaissance Escadrille (42. Eskadra Rozpoznawcza)
    (III/4. Dywizjon Myśliwski)
    Polish 141st Fighter Escadrille (141. Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 142nd Fighter Escadrille (142. Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 43rd Observation Escadrille  (43. Eskadra Obserwacyjna)
    Polish 46th Observation Escadrille (46. Eskadra Obserwacyjna)


    Communications platoon No. 6 (Pluton łącznikowy nr 6)
    Polish 34th Reconnaissance Escadrille (34. Eskadra Rozpoznawcza)
    (III/3. Dywizjon Myśliwski)
    Polish 131st Fighter Escadrille (131. Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 132nd Fighter Escadrille (132. Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 33rd Observation Escadrille (33. Eskadra Obserwacyjna 
    Polish 36th Observation Escadrille (36. Eskadra Obserwacyjna)


    Communications platoon No.10 (Pluton łącznikowy nr 10)
    Polish 32nd Reconnaissance Escadrille (32. Eskadra Rozpoznawcza)III/6. Dywizjon Myśliwski)
    Polish 161st Fighter Escadrille (161. Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 162nd Fighter Escadrille(162. Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 63rd Observation Escadrille (63. Eskadra Obserwacyjna)
    Polish 66th Observation Escadrille (66. Eskadra Obserwacyjna)


    Communications platoon No.3 (Pluton łącznikowy nr 3)
    Polish 24th Reconnaissance Escadrille (24. Eskadra Rozpoznawcza)(III/2. Dywizjon Myśliwski)
    Polish 121st Fighter Escadrille (121. Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 122nd Fighter Escadrille (122. Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 23rd Observation Escadrille (23. Eskadra Obserwacyjna)
    Polish 26th Observation Escadrille (26. Eskadra Obserwacyjna)


    Communications platoon No.5 (Pluton łącznikowy nr 5)
    Polish 31st Reconnaissance Escadrille (31. Eskadra Rozpoznawcza)
    Polish 56th Observation Escadrille (56. Eskadra Obserwacyjna)


    Communications platoon No.9 (Pluton łącznikowy nr 9)
    Polish 51st Reconnaissance Escadrille (51. Eskadra Rozpoznawcza)
    Polish 151st Fighter Escadrille (151. Eskadra Myśliwska)
    Polish 13th Observation Escadrille (13. Eskadra Obserwacyjna)


    Naval Air Squadron (Morski Dywizjon Lotniczy)
    Long Range Reconnaissance Escadrille (I Eskadra Dalekiego Rozpoznania)
    Short Range Reconnaissance Escadrille (II Eskadra Bliskiego Rozpoznania)
    Communications Platoon of the Command of Coastal Defense
    (Pluton łącznikowy Dowództwa Lądowej Obrony Wybrzeż)

    Recommended:  Polish Aircraft in Active Service September 1939
    Includes Archival Photographs of Aircraft


    Polish Aircraft in Active Service September 1939

    PZL P.7
    PZL P.11
    PZL.23 Karaś A/B
    PZL.37 Łoś A/B.PZL.43
    PZL.46 Sum (PZL.46/I protype) (one example)
    Lublin R-XIIIGLublin R-VIIIbis (for Navy use)
    LWS-3 Mewa (two examples)RWD-8
    RWD-14 Czapla

    PWS-35 Ogar (one example)
    LWS-6 ZubrRWD-5 (one)
    Bartel BM-4
    Lublin R-XVI (air ambulances)

    The most successful squadron of the Polish Air Force was that of the Pursuit Brigade which fought against German planes during the Defensive War.  On September 1st, the Pursuit Brigade shot down 16 German planes, but lost 10 of its own.  After six days, the total number of German planes shot down was 42, and the Poles tallied up losses of about 38 to 54 of its fighters. The Brigade was the main aerial reserve and was assigned to cover the city of Warsaw. After the sixth day however they were transferred to cover Lublin.  

    The Polish Pursuit Brigade
    Even before the first shots were fired at Westerplatte, an escadrille of the Pursuit Brigade spotted and intercepted a large formation of German bombers escorted by Messerschmitt Me110s over the Bugo-Narew. (Incidentally, the name Bugo-Narew refers to the Bug and Narew rivers.) Before retreating the Germans dropped bombs, but on uninhabited areas. In shooting down one enemy plane, and probably damaging another, Polish Lt. Palusinski was wounded by enemy fire. On the same day, the Polish squadrons intercepted an attempted bombing raid over Warsaw.  The commander of the Polish escadrille managed to shoot down one Messerscmitt Me109, but was then shot down and wounded.  On the 3rd of September, the escadrille intercepted a fleet of Me100 fighters over Myszkow and downed two enemy fighters (credited to Lt. Januszewicz and Corporal Karubin).   However another fleet led by Feric was dispersed and returned to base. On September 4 the commanding officer of the escadrille shot down a Junkers Ju87 (near the Zaborow airfield) near Leszno. The next day Strzembosz and Januszewicz shot down an Me110 and Ju87 respectively. On September 6 Januszewicz downed another Ju87. After a week of fighting the escadrille was evacuated to Kierz airfield near Lublin. The last confirmed victories by this squadron was a Henschel Hs 126 reconnaissance plane on September 9 (credited to Ferić) and a Heinkel He 111 on September 11 (shot down byWróblewski).  Throughout the campaign, this squadron alone shot down a total 8 enemy planes, but lost 9 of its own (PZL P.11c fighters)

    The Polish Bomber Brigade
    On September 4, the Polish Bomber Brigade conducted daylight attacks on German armoured columns, which hampered the advance of the German 16th Armoured Corps near Czestochowa and Radomsko. Because of a lack of fighter protection, the Polish fleet suffered heavy losses.  Of the Bomber Brigade, 10 PZL.37s were shot down by fighter planes, 5 were shot down by enemy anti-aircraft artillery, 2 were bombed on the ground, and an additional 10 planes lost in other ways.  Though a few planes were destroyed on the airfields and in the factories, these were planes whose manufacture was not yet completed,  planes used for training purposes, or reserve planes.  There were 18 PZL.37s bombed in the factory of a reserve base at Malaszewicze and at Okecie near Warsaw. 

    The PZL Aircraft

    By 1939, Poland had only about 600 aircraft. Most of them were outdated except for 37 PZL P-37 Los bombers, which was comparable to its German counterparts. The PZL was designed by Jerzy Dabrowski in the mid-1930s and before the war it was considered one of the world’s most modern bombers. Its pay-load capacity was somewhat greater than that of the Vickers Wellington. Compared to other bombers, the PZL was smaller in size but was faster and easier to maneuver.  Its landing gears had double wheels which made it possible to land on rough fields.  But because of the rough terrain, the planes could not take off with a full payload, and carried less than the 800 kg or 8 x 100 kg bombs). In addition, the fact that each plane was lightly armoured (only three machine guns) made it weak and vulnerable to attack by enemy planes.

    The PZL drew huge interest at air exhibitions in Paris and Belgrade in 1938.  Adaptations were made to increase marketability and the PZL.37C with Gnome-Rhone engines gave the planes a maximum speed of 445 km/hour while the PZL 37D had a maximum speed of 460 km/hour.  Orders came in from several countries for the PZL.37C:  20 were ordered by Yugoslavia, and 12 by Bulgaria.  Romania ordered 30 PZL.37D’s and its licence, and Turkey ordered the raw materials and parts for 25, and its licence, Greece ordered 12. Negotiations were underway with Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Iran. Belgium was granted permission for licence production of the aircraft.  But it all came to stop when war broke out.  None of these aircraft had yet been put into production. 

    The PZL factory had also developed a variation for the Polish airforce, the PZL.49 Mis, the production of which was not completed in time before the outbreak of war.  The PZL.49 Mis was slightly larger in size.  Engineers were planning on fitting it with Bristol Hercules II engines giving it a maximum speed of 520 km/hour, and an upper turret.

    Only 70 per cent of Polish aircraft were mobilized. Their bombers were more modern than their fighter planes, the latter which was considerably older than their German counterparts.  The PZL P.11 fighter designed in the early 1930s could reach only a maximum of 365 km/hour (roughly 220 miles per hour), considerably less than German bombers.  In order to compensate for the disparity, Polish pilots depended on the maneuverability and high diving speed of the aircraft.  The Polish Air Force consisted of the following aircraft:

    PZL P.11   - 185 planes
    PZL P.7 fighters 95
    PZL.23 Karas B 175 planes
    PZL.23 Karas A 35 planes
    PZL 37 Los  Over 100 planes were produced but only 36 were deployed.

    The PZL.37Bs were used by the 11th, 12th, 16th and 17th escadres of the Bomber Brigade. (A Group consisted of two escadres with nine aircraft each, in Polish “Dywizjon”.) The Bomber Brigade used the PZL.23 Karas and the remaining 50 PZL.37s were either allotted to the reserve group, the training units or in were in a state of  repair.  

    With only a few months to train the crews and equip the bombers, none of the planes were at full capacity when war broke out.  To make matters worse, the bombers could not reach the maximum range as quoted in the specifications because they lacked the extra internal fuel tanks.

    The last combat flights took place on the 16th of September, 1939.  From Romania the Polish air force and armies escaped to France and served under French Command until Hitler invaded in May 1940.  The Polish units managed to escape and re-assembled on British soil. The collaboration of the Polish pilots during the Battle of Britain is legendary.  But that is a story for another blog.

    Polish Combat Aircraft

    PZL P.7
    Produced 1932-1933
    Quantity 149 + 2
    Maximum Speed:  327 km/hr (203 mph)
    Range: 600 km (373 miles)
    Weapons: P.7a carried two 7.92mm Vickers "E" machine guns

    The PZL P.7 in early 1933 was a modern fighter comparable to other contemporary designs. The Polish Air Force became the first air force equipped with planed constructed entirely with metal. But due to rapid technology, it became obsolete by 1939. By 1935, most were replaced by the PZL P.11 which was only a slight upgrade. 
    On the 1st of September 1939, the Polish Air Force still had 30 PZL P.7a fighters which they deployed in combat units. Another 40 were in training schools, 35 in reserve or repairs.  Altogether there were 106 aircraft of this design.  They were used in three squadrons (with 10 planes each).  The 123rd Squadron was part of the Pursuit Brigade, deployed around Warsaw while  the 151st and the 162nd Squadrons were assigned to the Armies.
    Despite their obsolescence they fought during the Defensive Wars. Not counting the combat units, there were at least 18 P.7a fighters at Deblin and Ulez airbases.
    Although the German aircraft was waster than the P.7a, the latter had better maneuverability and could operate from fields that were short and even rough.
    The greatest disadvantage to Polish aircraft was lack of sufficient weapons, and engine breakdown due to intense service.  Pilots flying the P.7a managed to only shoot down seven German aircraft (two He 111s, two Do 17s, one Hs 126, and two Bf110s) but lost 22 of their own aircraft in the mission.
    Most of the P.7a fighters were destroyed in 1939, either in combat or on the ground, while quite a number of them were evacuated to Romania. Several were captured by the Germans and used for training purposes.

    PZL P.11
    Produced 1934-?   (retired in 1945)
    Quantity 325
    Maximum Speed: 390 km/hr (242 mph)
    Range: 700 km (435 miles)
    Weapons: 2 x 7.7mm machine-guns, bombs

    Note:  At the outbreak of war the Polish Air Force had 109 PZL P.11c`s, 20 P.11a`s and 30 P.7a`s in combat ready mode. An additional 43 aircraft were either in stages of repair or held in reserve.  A third of the fleet were equipped, each with four machine guns, while the remainder had only two, fewer still had a radio.
    The P11 was used in 12 squadrons (each consisting of 10 aircraft)

    Four squadrons were part of the Pursuit Brigade which was deployed around Warsaw. The remainder were assigned to Armies. But they all took part in the defense of Poland during the invasion.  
    The Polish fighter squadrons were not bombed by the Germans on the 1st of September 1939 as they were deployed to remote airfields. The P11 though at a great disadvantage in speed and numbers, fought against the German Messerschmitt Bf109 and Bf110.  There was however one main advantage to Polish planes. They had better manoeuvrability and their design permitted an unobstructed view from the cockpit, unlike that of German planes.  The P11 was solidly built and could operate well on short and even rough fields.  It could dive at a speed of 600 km/hr without risk of the wings falling apart.  The only limitation in such manoeuvres was whether the pilot could sustain the high G forces. 

    Despite German air superiority, the P11’s performance is to be respected as they shot down a considerable number of German planes, and fighters. However, the Poles suffered heavy losses in the process. According to the Luftwaffe records, a total of 285 German aircraft were lost, and about 110 victories are attributable to the P11 while Poles lost about 100.  (The exact statistics are not fully verified.) However, the German aircraft that was shot down was later recovered and put back into service. In this way the Luftwaffe was able to claim smaller losses.

    The first Polish aircraft to be shot down on September 1st  was a PZL P.11c flown by Capt. Mieczyslaw Medwecki. Twenty minutes later Medwecki's wingman, Wladyslaw Gny shot down two Dornier Do17s with his P.11c.   The PZL P.11c has the honour of being the first aircraft to successfully ram enemy aircraft in the Second World War.

    In the first battle of the invasion on September 1st, a group of German bombers, about 70 Heinkel He 11 and Dornier Do 17 were rapidly closing in over the village of Nieporet, situated north of Warsaw, but had to abandon their mission when they were intercepted by about 20 PZL P11 and 10 P.7 fighters. 
    Most the P.11’s were destroyed in 1939, but 36 were evacuated to Romania.

    PZL.23 Karas (third prototype)
    Light Bomber and Reconnaissance Aircraft
    Produced 1936-1938 (retired in 1946)
    Quantity:  250 + 3 prototypes
    Maximum Speed:  320 km/hr (199 mph)
    Range:  1260 km (783 miles)
    Weapons:  3 x 7.7mm machine-guns, 700kg of bombs

    Note:  During the invasion, over 114 planes were deployed in combat units, in 5 bomber squadrons, 7 army reconnaissance squadrons, each with ten aircraft. Other bomber squadrons were equipped with the PZL.37 Los.  In addition there were the two PZL 43A from the Bulgarian order that was incorporated into the Polish fleet.  On 2 September 1939, one PZL.23B of the 21st Squadron bombed a factory on German territory ( in Oblau)  Though their main mission was supposed to be reconnaissance, the PZL.23 bomber squadrons attacked German armoured columns instead. During the campaign, the combined force of the Polish Bomber Brigade delivered about 52-60 tons of bombs while the Army squadrons added about a dozen tons of bombs However this plane suffered high losses because of its low speed, lack of armour and fighter protection. Many were shot down by German fighters, but Polish fighters managed to shoot down a few German planes as well.  Polish pilots often made low level attacks on German columns, despite their lack of armour, to AA fire. About 20 Polish planes crashed, while 120 PZL.23s were destroyed but only 67 were the result of enemy fire.  Only a small number of Polish combat units were destroyed on the airfields. This occurred on September 14, 1939 at Hutniki when the Luftwaffe destroyed the PZL.23Bs of the Bomber Brigade.  Over 21 PZL.23s were evacuated to Romania, most of which were commandeered by the Romanian Air Force against Russia. About 50 PZL.43s and PZL.43As were used in Bulgaria for training.

    PZL.37 Los
    Produced 1938-1939 (retired 1944 Romanian Air Force)
    Quantity: over 120
    Maximum Speed:  445 km/hr (277 mph)
    Range: with max payload 1,500 km (932 miles)
    Weapons:  3 x 7.7mm machine-guns, 2580kg of bombs

    Note:  About twenty-six or twenty-seven PZL.37s were flown to Romania in 1939, 17 of them from the Bomber Brigade and ten training planes. Upon landing, the Polish pilots were arrested and their airplanes confiscated. The Romanians incorporated 23 of the planes in the 4th Romanian Group, upgrading some of them with additional machine guns, but still using the Polish PWU guns).Approximately one third of the Polish fleet was destroyed in crashes due to inexperienced Romanian pilots who were unable to handle its high wing loading. 
    The Romanians manned 15 PZL in battle against the Russians from June 22, 1941, first in Bessarabia, then bombing Kiev and Odessa. A number of planes were shot down by Soviet artillery. The Romanians withdrew the PZL from service because of a lack of spare parts. The planes were returned to combat only temporarily in April 1944 before being withdrawn once again. After Romania joined the Allies on September 1st, 1944, the Luftwaffe destroyed five PZL37s on the ground.
    Very few PZLs fell into German hands. Before the German authorities realized what was happening, the Polish air crew had already dismantled all the remaining planes. (October 1939, at Okencie and Mielec).

    PZL.43 Karas
    Twelve were built for the Bulgarian air force and delivered in 1937.
    This model contained a 694W Gnome-Rhone radial engine, improved crew accomodation.

    Weapons included a second forward-firing machine gun. Performance was rated very good to excellent.
    Note:   When the Germans invaded, there were nine planes crated ready for delivery to Bulgaria. Five others were moved to the airfield at Bielany and taken over by the Polish Air Force 41st Reconnaissance Squadron. But by September 10, 1939, there were only two aircraft remaining. One was shot down by a Bf110 at Michalowek killing the crew.  The second was damaged by two Bf109s.  Two days later it made a crash landing at Bresc.  Another three were left at Okecie but was damaged on September 4 during an air raid by the Germans.  Some planes were captured by the Germans.  Five planes were repaired and delivered to Bulgaria.

    PZL.46 SUMs
    Light Bomber and Reconnaissance Aircraft
    Produced:  1939
    Quantity: 2 prototypes
    Maximum Speed: 425 km/hr (264 mph)
    Range: 1300 km (808 miles)
    Weapons: 6 x 7.7mm machine-guns, 600kg of bombs
    Note: During the invasion the first prototype was stationed in Warsaw, while the second was evacuated to Lwow.  Eventually it was captured by the Romanians and later by confiscated, and tested by the Russians.

    Lublin R-XIIIG
    6 were produced from 1934.

    The Polish Navy purchased several hybrids of this seaplane. The G model was delivered in 1935 and differed from the other designs. It had a metal propeller and the plane could easily be converted to wheeled landing gear.
    These planes fought during the invasion and one of them bombed Danzig on September 7, 1939 while searching for the Schleswig-Holstein. By September 8, they were all destroyed while stationed near the Hel Peninsula.

    Lublin R-VIII
    Bomber and Reconnaissance Aircraft
    Produced: 1928-1930 (retired 1939)
    Quantity: 6
    Maximum Speed:  225 km/hr (138 mph)
    Range: 600-1720 km (370-1061 miles)

    Weapons: one fixed 7.7 mm Vickers machine gun and interrupter gear, the observer had twin 7.7 mm Lewis machine guns. Bomb load: in bomber, varied up to 1000 kg. Bomb load in seaplane varied up to 300 kg.  The planes were fitted with a camera.  They were scheduled for withdrawal from service in 1938.  They survived the invasion in September 1939.

    LWS -3 Mewa (prototype)
    Reconnaissance aircraft
    Produced:  1938-1939 (retired 1939)
    Quantity:  30 (almost in completion)
    Maximum Speed: 360 km/hr (224 mph)
    Range: 700km (436 miles)

    Weapons:  2 fixed, forward-firing 7.92mm PWU wz.36 machine guns, 1 rearward-firing 7.92mm PWU karabin maszynowy obserwatora wz.37 (its a flexible gun based on Browning wz.1928)
    Note: None of the aircraft entered service before the outbreak of WW2 due to problems with the propellers. Two of them were destroyed by German bombs, the fate of another is uncertain. The remainder was camouflaged  in Lublin park and in a nearby forest.

    RWD – 8
    Trainer Aircraft and Reconnaissance
    Produced 1934-1939 (retired in 1948 Israel)
    Quantity:  Over 550
    Maximum Speed: 175 km/hr (109mph)
    Range: 500 km (312 miles)

    Note: many of these aircraft were bombed by the Germans or burned by the Poles before withdrawing. About 57 of the planes were evacuated to Romania, 40 to Latvia and 2 to Hungary. The Germans could only captured about a dozen planes in airworthy condition.

    Reconnaissance and Liaison Aircraft
    Produced:  1938-39
    Quantity:  65
    Maximum Speed:  247 km/hr (153 mph)
    Range:  675 km (421 miles)
    Weapons:  1 × fixed forward-firing 7.92 mm wz.33 machine gun. 1 flexible, rearward-firing 7.7 mm Vickers K machine gun for observer.
    Note: Most were destroyed by the German but 10 managed to evacuate to Romania.

    Polish Support Aircraft

    Trainer Aircraft
    Produced: 1936-1939 (retired 1953)
    Quantity: 320
    Maximum Speed:  201 km/hr
    Range:  460 km
    Weapons: 1 x 7.92mm machinegun, 2 x 12 kg bombs (optional)

    Note:  Some PWS-26s were shot down by the Germans but a large number were either destroyed on the ground by the Germans, or burned by the Poles before withdrawing.   A dozen were evacuated to Romania and at least 33 planes to Latvia.

    Passenger Aircraft
    Produced 1933-1935
    Quantity: 11
    Maximum Speed:  225 km/hr
    Range:  700 km
    Note:  Some of these planes were converted to aerial photography at the outbreak of war.

    PWS-35 Ogar
    Liaison Aircraft (two prototypes) one which was destroyed by Luftwaffe.
    The fate of the other is unclear.
    Production: plans began in July 1939 for production but war broke out.
    Maximum Speed: 200 km/hr
    Range: 550 km

    LWS.6 Zubr
    Medium Bomber
    Produced: 1938 (retired 1940s)
    Quantity:  17
    Maximum Speed: 341 km/hr (212 mph)
    Range:  740-1250 km (466-766 miles)

    Weapons:  2 × 7.7 mm Vickers F machine guns in nose turret; 2 x 7.7mm Vickers F machine guns in upper rear turret, 1 x 7.7 mm Vickers F machine gun in underbelly, and 660 kg (1,450 lb) of bombs.

    Note: from the beginning the Poles considered this plane obsolete and assigned them only to training units.
    It`s counterpart the PZL 37 Los was far superior.  The LWS 6 Zubr was not used in combat.
    The Germans destroyed these planes on the ground, taking a few to use for training purposes in the Luftwaffe.

    Trainer and sport planes
    Produced 1931-1937 (retired 1939)
    Quantity: 20
    Maximum Speed: 202 km/hr (126 mph)
    Range: 1080 km (670miles)

    Note:  Stanislaw Skarzynski flew this plane from Warsaw to Rio de Janeiro from April 27 to June 24, 1933 (11,178 miles). It took 20 hours and 30 minutes. It was the smallest plane to have ever flown across the Atlantic. (without a radio nor safety equipment) It returned to Europe by ship.

    Liaison Aircraft
    Produced: 1935-1939
    Quantity: 100
    Maximum Speed: 210 km/hr (130 mph)
    Range: 900 km (600 miles)
    Note: some aircraft evacuated during the invasion of 1939 while others were destroyed or seized by the Germans.

    Trainer Aircraft
    Produced: 1938-1939
    Quantity: 30
    Maximum Speed: 195 km/hr (121 mph)
    Range: 680 km (422 miles)

    Note: During the invasion most evacuated to Romania and Latvia. 
    One was used as a liaison plane but crashed on September 12, 1939

    Bartel BM-4
    Trainer Aircraft
    Produced 1928-1932
    Quantity: 75
    Maximum Speed:  138 km/hr (86 mph)
    Range: 275 km (170 miles)

    Note:  These planes were used by the Polish Air Force for training pilots at the air force academies at Bydgoszcz and Deblin.

    Lublin R-XVI
    Airplane Ambulance
    Produced: 1935
    Quantity: 7
    Maximum Speed: 187 km/hr (116 mph)
    Range: 480 km (298 miles)
    Note: At least one was captured by the Germans. None survived the war.

    This is not a complete list all the planes in the Polish Air Force. It refers only to those in active service during September 1939.  For those of you who are interested in Polish aeronautics, there is a website that you may find interesting, called the Aircraft Directory: Poland  http://www.aviastar.org/air/poland/  It gives a brief summary of the history of the airplane as well as its specifications.  You can also check Wikipedia for specifications on each aircraft.

    October 14, 2010

    RAF Podcast

    I came across an interesting post on Polish Forums.com that the RAF museum in London honoured the members of the Polish Air Force. This commemoration coincided with the 70th anniversary of the withdrawal of the Polish 303 Squadron from the front line. The phenomenal record of the 303 having shot down 126 enemy aircraft in 42 days was unparalleled by any other squadron during the Battle of Britain.

    I missed the anniversary date by several days. Though it was on October 11th, 2010  I want to share the information with all of you now and hope that you'll pass it along.

    I am a great admirer of the Polish squadrons of World War II whose pilots have become Legends for their great skill in aerial combat.  I wrote all about it in an article for my website, entitled the Kosciuszko Squadron- Battle of Britain.

    But I would like to draw your attention to the news report,and links to two podcasts as well as the website of the RAF museum. It is quite astonishing to hear the British finally acknowledging that the Poles were the best pilots in the RAF - and the world!! Three cheers for the Brits!

    RAF podcast tells tale of Polish pilots (length 2 min 40 sec)      source: www.thenews.pl

    Museum Honours Polish Airmen Who Fought In The Battle Of Britain     source: www.rafmuseum.org.uk/

    RAF Museum Podcast (length: 20 minutes)      source: www.battleofbritainbeacon.org/podcasts/ 


    King George VI  visiting Polish Squadron at Norfolk
    Polish 303 Squadron

    Polish Squadron of Spitfires

    Polish Greatness.com