Brief History of No. 300 (Polish) Bomber Squadron.
The personnel of the 300 Squadron consisted of Polish airmen who arrived to England from France in early 1940. It’s training commenced in groups: pilots at Redhill (some 40 miles S of London), while navigators and gunners, first at Eastchurch, then at Hucknall near Nottingham. And that’s where the history of the first Polish squadron on British soil starts.
The order (WAR/B.C.127) dated 14th March 1940 had just been issued at RAF Hucknall, which confirmed the establishment of a Polish training unit as part of No. 18 Operational Training Unit at Bramcote, in No. 6 Bomber Group. Its task was to give conversion training to crews for the Polish bomber squadrons that were being formed.
The first to be formed was No. 300 ("Masovian") Bomber Squadron on 1st July 1940. It was on that date that the Polish Air Force flag was first hoisted in Great Britain. The Squadron had 10 flying crews with 180 maintenance and other personnel. It was equipped with Faiery "Battle" light bombers of the crew of three. The code letters BH were designated to the unit. Its first commander, advised by W/Cdr K. P. Lewis, RAF, was W/Cdr W. Makowski, C.O. of the Polish Training Centre at Hucknall. F/Lt S. Cwynar commanded Flight "A" and F/Lt M. Pronaszko Flight "B". The squadron’s technical officer was F/Lt S. Budzinski. English technical and advisory staff were temporarily attached to the squadron until thePoles became fully conversant with RAF systems and procedures.
On the evening preceding the night of 14th/15th August, an urgent order was issued cancelling all leave passes. All personnel dug trenches and created machine-gun posts with weapons dismantled from aircraft. Everybody expected imminent German invasion. Tragicomical situation happen when Poles entered a local armoury, and found only clubs and some sort of spears. Airmen felt terribly defenceless, especially since there was no manual how to use those weapons. The alert was called off at 03.30 hrs and a two-hour state of readiness was proclaimed. Next day, training flights again, but some of them at a height of 20,000 feet - with oxygen respirators!
On 20th August, just as General Sikorski had conferred a Polish decoration on
G/Capt A. P. Davidson, H.M. the King unexpectedly visited the squadrons. The
Poles had never seen him before, so there was not only much satisfaction but
also great interest. Some demonstration flights were made and the squadrons
flew past His Majesty in review order. He chatted with crews, asking them
about the Polish campaign and their experiences in France. The King signed
the squadron’s logbook and wished everybody well. The general opinion among Poles
was that soon they would find themselves in front line service. See pictures.
On 12th September the squadron was ordered to designate three crew for a
mission to bomb barge concentrations in German-occupied French ports. The
sortie was cancelled just before take-off. Two days later, however, orders
for an attack on Boulogne were received. Three crews from No. 300 Squadron (a/c: L5317, L5427, L5353) and three from No. 301 took off at dusk. It was
the first Polish bomber raid from Britain. Airmen who took part in this
mission were: F/O Sulinski, F/O Bujajski and Sgt Biezunski; F/O Antonowicz,
P/O Dej and Sgt A. Kowalski; P/O Jasinski, F/Sgt Sobieszczuk and Sgt Lopot.
Since then, weather permitting, the squadron flew missions over the continent
every other night. Each time, the targets were German barge concentrations at
Boulogne, Dunkirk, Ostend and Calais.
In 1940, the squadron flew 55 missions to bomb targets in France and Belgium for a total of 212 hours, and suffered the loss of eight airmen.
In the beginning of 1941, the airfield at Swinderby,
which did not have concrete runways, was practically out of use due to heavy
rainfalls and thaw. Very few sortie were made. The unit had
to move to Winthorpe and other nearby bases in order to maintain flying duties. Targets included Bremen, Hamburg and Brest where German battleships
holed up. Also marshalling yards at Mannheim, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt were
The beginning of June was marked with the squadron’s increased activity.
Operational sorties led Polish bombers to Lorient, Osnabrück, Bielefeld,
Nuremberg and many other targets. Proportionally to the number of them grew
also list casualties.
Two days later squadron moved to RAF Hemswell, without
interrupting operational flying; on 17th July took part in an attack on
Cologne and on the 21st against Frankfurt-on-Main. The number of
raids mounted by 300 squadron continued to rise and in July 1941 300 squadron carried out 13 attacks comprising 60 sorties.
The year 1941, the squadron closed with the totalled of 441 operational sorties (2484 hours), and suffered loss of fifty airmen; casualties were much heavier in the second half of the year.
On January 27th, 1942, W/Cdr Sulinski became squadron’s new CO.
With the better weather of the spring the number of sorties by the Polish
squadrons significantly increased: from 177 and 197 sorties in February and
March to 352 sorties in April. Most often visited targets were: Manheim,
Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Aachen, Hamburg and Essen. Poles dropped their bombs
also at Milan, Turin, Stuttgart and Cologne. Allies bomber offensive was
still in its infancy, many effective methods were yet to be invented, and
casualties correspondingly increased. The 300 Squadron had three crews
missing in April: on 12th, 17th and 27th.
In 1942, the unit totalled 872 operational sorties, in 4692 hours, loosing 88 airmen killed, 11 missing and 30 POWs.
The beginning of 1943 was marked by the squadron’s relocation to Hemswell
(January 5th). The unit was seriously undermanned, and only in
April the situation improved with the coming of replacement crews from
reformed 301 Squadron. The number of sorties flown by 300 squadron
reflected this intake of ex-301 crews into the squadron: 23 in January, 43 in
February, 35 in March, 77 in April and 104 in May.
During the so-called Battle of Ruhr, 300 made great effort, often sending out
more aircraft than it was supposed to do. Read more. The ground personnel worked round the
clock. Some of the targets during that stretch were: Duisburg on May 12,
Dortmund on May 23, Düsseldorf on May 25, Essen on 27th and
Wuppertal on 29th. On June 21st two aircraft failed to return from
Krefeld; 15 aircraft engaged. Bombing raids on Ruhr were intermittent with
mining mission of Europe’s coasts. On June 22, the squadron moved back to
Ingham, without interrupting its operational flying. The move was not popular
among the crews mostly because of Ingham's bumpy runways
and widely dispersed
"The Squadron returned to the mining of the entrances of French ports
and coastwise shipping routes used by the enemy. ‘Browned-off’ as the crews
were by these arduous and thankless operations, they never lost hope of doing
something really ‘useful’. On one occasion they received a highly gratifying
commendation. The following signal from H.Q. Bomber Command supplies it:
W/Cdr Kuzian assumed command of No. 300 Squadron on 19th November. Before
long, it was discovered in armoury, that soon no. 2000 mine would be laid.
New CO announced that the lucky crew (Wellington R for Robert) would enjoy an
extra 48-hours pass and the bottle of liquor. On November 30th,
"Masovian" squadron put 2000th mine in enemy’s waters
(BH-R), and was congratulated by Bomber Command C-in-C, Air Marshall
In 1943, the 300 Squadron made 942 operational sorties for a total of 4672 hours. It lost 62 airmen KIA and 10 POW.
The new year of 1944 begun with damp and dreary weather setting in. The life
was confined to quarters and briefing rooms. One flight, on Wellingtons, took
part in mine laying operation near Brest (January 14), directed against
U-boats. Soon after, very popular among crews S/Ldr Kuzian (DFC) left for a
new post. W/Cdr Kowalczyk took over on 18th January.
In May, Bommber Command directed its attention to enemy’s communications as a part of its pre-invasion offensive. Some of the 300’s targets were: Dieppe on May 10 (6 crew), Hasselt on the 12th (8), Orleans on the 19th (6), Duisburg on the 21st (8), Dortmund on the 22nd (7; 2 lost), Amiens on the 27th (6, 1 lost).
On D-Day, the force of 1,119 bombers was ready to bomb the way for the Allies
through the Atlantic Wall – the 300 Polish Squadron aircraft among them.
Drips of white paint could be traced in many parts of the base, as white
strips were painted on aircraft. Now the Poles were to pay back for what
Luftwaffe did to polish troops in September 1939. Operations were flown
"On 13th June
it made the first daylight attack - on the enemy’s fleet of light naval ships
in Le Havre harbour.
Around that time the squadron roster was very short, and several British crew were assigned to the Flight "B". S/Ldr Misselbroock led them. Mission were flown to:
In one of the issues of The London Chronicle, a relation about the 300
Squadron was published:
On 1st August the Warsaw Uprising broke out. Poles became tense, as very few
moments of their free time they spent by the radio, listening to the news.
They were moved and inspired by the events in Poland, but frustrated at the
same time. They had modern, very potent weapons and yet, they could do
nothing to help martyr Warsaw. Many of the 300 personnel still had families
in Warsaw: wives, children and parents. Thus, August proved to be a very busy
month. Six of the most experienced crews were transferred to Italy as replacements
for the Polish Special Duties Squadron. To their deep contentment, they got
to take part in supply missions for the fighting Warsaw. Steady flow of
people through the unit continued. In the span of five days the 300 lost six
crews, four of them British.
In 1944, airmen of the 300 Squadron flew 961 operational sorties for a total of 4536 hours. It dropped 4,181 tons of bombs and laid 145 tons of mines. It was a year of the biggest losses: 110 KIA, 3 MIA and 10 POW.
The beginning of a new year brought many political moves on a world scene, implications of which made the squadron efforts even more strenuous. Poles had to face a brutal reality: Poland was sacrifice to the Soviets in exchange for their supreme effort on the Eastern Front. The morale among the crews was rather low, but they carried out their duty in a honest way.
At RAF Faldingworth, a significant change took place on January 29th. It was taken over by G/Capt Beill thus, the station became fully Polish: from CO down to the lowliest aircraftman. Two days later S/Ldr Jarkowski became the squadron's new CO. W/Cdr Pozyczka was posted to other duties. He was awarded DSO and DFC with bar, becoming one of the most distinguished Polish pilots.
The details of the Yalta Agreement were broadcasted just as the 300 airmen were preparing for a mission to Dresden. They took off in a poignant mood. The typical state of mind of the Polish airmen at that time describes letter of P/O Magierowski. On February 13 he wrote to his friend: “This night we are to attack Dresden, as support for the Red Army. There would be nothing extraordinary in this were it not that we are to carry out such a task just at the moment when our hearts are bleeding after another partition of Poland effected at Yalta.
“It’s just as well that Bogdan is dead - he couldn’t have survived it: Lwów, which was never a Russian city, by an arbitrary decision, is handed over to Russia! Just think, I and so many others knocked about the world fleeing like criminals, starving, hiding in forests - all only in order to fight for . . . what? For this, that we shall not be able to return to our native town, because it has simply ceased to be.
“What more can you want? The Ribbentrop-Molotov line has been called the Curzon line, and the world is well content. Half of Poland had been handed over as a gift. The other half has been condemned to compulsory incorporation within the ‘eastern sphere of influence’ just as if it were some desert island in the Arctic, or a piece of the Sahara. I was once in the Soviet Union and it’s quite enough for the rest of my life.
“The sorties have been ordered, so we’re going to fly—it’s the proper thing to do, they say—although anger and despair are in our hearts. It’s a funny feeling, but sometimes I wonder if all this has any sense. If the Germans get me now, I won’t even know what I’m dying for. For Poland, for Britain, or for Russia?"
Squadron detailed off twelve aircraft for that mission. Due to a mid-air
collision, one crew failed to return. Ironically, the next day and without a
proper rest, Poles flew to attack Chemnitz, in an effort to help advancing
Russian Army. Like many others before him, also P/O Magierowski did not make
it. He was killed in action on February 24 during the mission to Pforzheim. That night, two 300 aircraft were lost to
German night fighters, who rose up in one of the last convulsions of the
dying Luftwaffe. Few days before, F/Lt Reinke dueled with a German night
fighter which he shot down. He was awarded a DFC, but two more Polish crews
The squadron was revitalized when an order arrived to bomb Berchtesgaden - Hitler's favourite retreat. The attack took place on 25th April 1945. Among nearly 400 bombers were fourteen 300's Lancasters with enthusiastic crews. To their disappointment, Hitler was not there and that sortie proved to be the last combat mission flown by the squadron. Many airmen he took part in that flight, remember it very well, since it was the first and the last time as they were escorted by the Polish fighters. The present were no. 303, 306, 309, 315 and 316 Polish squadrons. Read more
Bombed Berchtesgaden. Picyure taken by the crew of F/Lt Pruszyński.
In May several relief missions were flown to flooded Dutch
coastal area, and this is probably the last noticeable event in the 300
Polish Squadron's history of service.
In 1945, the unit totalled 620 operational sorties for 3648 hours. During
four months, 59 airmen were killed in action and 18 were taken prisoner.
Eleven Lancasters were written off.
The squadron's numbers for the whole period of the war are: 3891 operational sorties for 20,244 hours; over 12,000 tons of bombs dropped; nearly 1500 tons of mines laid; 133 targets attacked; 371 KIA; 19 MIA; 68 POW. Even 80 aircraft was lost.
* * *On the V-Day the squadron took a day off to celebrate the end of war. It was not a very happy moment, and as matter of fact, a rather grim one. G/Capt Beill spoke to gathered personnel:
“The British people are to-day celebrating the day of victory. Nearly six years of bloodshed, struggle and effort have been crowned by the unconditional surrender of Germany. This war was begun in defence of Poland’s independence and, summing up our contribution, we can state with pride that it was great, out of all proportion to our means. We gave more to bring about this victory than these means allowed and hence our hearts are heavy that this day is not the day of victory for the cause of Poland." Before being disbanded the 300 flew in peace-time operations:
-"Manna" - food-supply droppings for Holland (152 tons)
-"Exodus" - repatriation of British prisoners-of-war to Great Britain (975 liberated POWs)
-"Dodge" - the transport of British troops from Italy to Great Britain, and the carrying of Red Cross supplies for liberated
Poles in German concentration camps and...
-carrying bombs from the dumps and disposing of them into the sea.
© Polish Squadrons Remembered