303 Squadron in the Battle of Britain
It must be said, that before the two Polish squadrons and one Czech entered the battle, the British Command regarded their Slavic allies as inferior pilots to their own, with broken morale, hindered by language incapability. Except for the language they were completely wrong. Air Chief Marshall Dowding later wrote:
“I must confess that I had been a little doubtful of the effect which their experience in their own countries and in France might have had upon the Polish and Czech pilots, but my doubts were laid to rest, because all three squadrons swung into the fight with a dash and enthusiasm which is beyond praise. They were inspired by a burning hatred for the Germans which made them very deadly opponents. The first Polish squadron (No. 303), in No. 11 Group, during the course of the month shot down more Germans than any British unit in the same period. Other Poles and Czechs were used in small numbers in British squadrons, and fought very gallantly, but the language was a difficulty, and they were probably most efficiently employed in their own national units ...” (London Gazettte 11 Sep 1946)
30. At 4:35 p.m. F/O Paszkiewicz (Hurricane
no. R4217) left the training formation near ST. Albans, and went after
twin-engine plane, which he recognized as a Dornier. He shot it down
diving from 14,000 to 9,000 feet. His victim was in fact a Me110. See
also the 303 Squadron scores.
Paszskiewicz’s action received very ambivalent reaction from the
British: rather agitated voices complaining about the lack of discipline
displayed by the Pole were countered by the praise of its boldness and
the result. After all, many argued, the objective was to shot down
Luftwaffe planes, which physically represented strangling arms of the
German military might.
Led by S/Ldr Kellet one unit’s flight took part in a big scrap with
German formation of 60 plus aircraft. This took place at 6:25 p.m.
14,000 feet over Biggin Hill. After one dashing pass at Dornier bombers,
pilots were engaged in a general mêlée. The 303 claimed six kills, all
Bf109s: S/Ldr Kellet (flying Hurricane #: R4178); F/O Henneberg
(V729C); P/O Feric (P3974); Sgt Karubin (R2688); Sgt Szaposznikow
(V7242) and Sgt Wünsche (V7244). Szaposznikow’s claim later reduced
Sep 2. In full strength of twelve a/c, the 303 fought with a group of Bf109s: 5:50 p.m. at 22,000 feet over Dover and the channel. Two Bf109s downed by sergeants Frantisek (P3975) and Rogowski (R4217) were confirmed as destroyed; P/O Feric (R4178) had one Bf109 probable; F/O Henneberg (V7246) one damaged.
Sep 3. At 10:20 a.m. six Hurricanes took off and were surprised by two Bf109s, which damaged Sgt Wojtowicz’s a/c (R2688). Pilot forced landed near Terfenden and safe. Some damaged received also Hurricane (V7246) piloted by F/O Henneberg. Soon after that, pilots of Flight “B” led by F/O Paszkiewicz were attacked by a section of Spitfires from unknown unit. After leaving a formation of nine 303 a/c during afternoon sortie, Sgt Frantisek (P3975) hunted a lone returning German a/c (claimed He113, but probably a Bf109), at 3:40 p.m. at 8,000 feet over the drink.
Sep 4. Two patrols flown without incidents: nine a/c at 9:20 a.m. and twelve at 1:25 p.m.
Sep 5. In mid-morning one-hour sorties, Flight “A” patrolled over the coast while Flight “B” patrolled over the airfield. At 3:05 p.m. over Thameshaven, nine 303 Hurricanes attacked a mixed formation (50+) of Ju88s escorted by Bf109s flying at 22,000 feet. Nine German a/c were claimed destroyed: S/Ldr Kellet (V7284) 1 Bf109 + 1 probable; F/Lt A. Forbes (R4217) 1 Ju88; F/O Lapkowski (P2985) 1 Ju-88; Sgt Frantisek (R4175) 1 Ju-88 and 1 Bf109; Sgt Karubin (P3975) 2 Bf109s; Sgt Wünsche (V7289) 1 Bf109. F/O Lapkowski (P2985) was shot down and bailed out. He suffered a broken arm.
6. Nine a/c strong, the 303 joined
a big fracas over Sevenoaks (22,000) at 9 a.m. A huge formation of
nearly 400 German planes was intercepted. Before only two pilots (Kellet
and Karubin) reached the bomber formation, the 303 was bounced by
escorting Bf109s, and the pilots were involved in a series of individual
fights. These fights brought more scores for the 303 with 7 e/a
destroyed and 2 probables: S/Ldr Kellet (V7284) 1 Ju88; F/Lt Forbes
(R4179) 1 Bf109 + 1 probable; F/O Urbanowicz (V7242) 1 Bf109; P/O Feric
(P3700) 1 Bf109 + 1 probable; Sgt Frantisek (R4175) 1 Bf109; Sgt Karubin
(V7290) 1 He111; Sgt Wünsche (V7289) 1 Bf109 + 1 probable. However,
there were losses: S/Ldr Kransodebski (P3974) was shot down, bailed out
and was seriously burned; Kellet was brought down by a German rear
gunners and force landed near Biggin Hill being slightly banged up; F/Lt
Forbes a/c was damaged and he emergency landed suffering slight wounds;
also Frantisek’s Hurricane was shot up and out of action for three
7. Eleven 303 pilots engaged 90+
German formation over Essex at 20,000 and at 5 p.m. The Poles luckily
got to the bombers unmolested, since a Canadian squadron that attacked
first already tied up the German escort. Altogether seventeen e/a were
claimed: F/Lt Forbes (R42l7) 1 Do17 destroyed; F/O Henneberg (V6605)
1Bf109; F/O Paszkiewicz (V7235) 2 Do17s; P/O Zumbach (V7242) 2 Do17s;
P/O Daszewski (P3890) 1 Do17; P/O Lokuciewski (P3975) 2 Do17s (1
probable); F/O Pisarek (84173) 1 Bf109; F/O Urbanowicz (R2685) 1 Do17 +
1 Bf109 probable; Sgt Wojtowicz (P3939) 2 Do17s; Sgt Szaposznikow
(V7244) 1 Do17 + 1 Bf109. P/O Daszewski was hit and had to bail out;
F/Lt Forbes lost his Hurricane as well, himself. F/O Hadwin (IO)
reported only 16 scores, and own losses as two Hurricanes destroyed, and
three damaged. The unit suffered no pilot losses: F/O Pisarek and P/O
Daszewski both bailed out, the former moments after downing his Bf109. Read F/Lt Forbes combat
Sep 8. At 12:30 p.m. eight 303 aircraft made patrol sortie without incidents.
Sep 9. Eleven 303 a/c (Sgt Szaposznikow did not keep up with the formation) engaged 40+ German mixed formation over Beachy Head at 20,000 feet and 6 p.m. Scored: F/Lt Kent (V6665) 1 Bf109 + 1 Ju88 probable; P/O Zumbach (R 2685) 1 Bf109 + 1 probable; Sgt Frantisek (P3975) 1 Bf109 + 1 He111. Sgt Wünsche (P3700) was shot down and seriously wounded. Sgt Frantisek force landed his damaged Hurricane near Brighton.
Sep 10. Only one flight was made by a section from the Flight “B”, which during a one-hour patrol spotted a lone Ju88 to far away to be chased.
Sep 11. In full strength, the 303 joined the fight with 150+ German mixed formation over Horsham, at 18,000 and at 4 p.m. Flying with the 303 was the 229 Squadron, which joined the fracas first. Only few Poles managed to get to the bombers as the escorting Messerschmidts bounced their formation. The 303 pilots downed 16 e/a: F/Lt Forbes (V7465) 2 D017s; F/O Henneberg (V7290) 1 Bf109 + 1 He111; P/O Lokuciewski (L2099) 1Bf109 + 1 Do17; Sgt Frantisek (V7289) 2 Bf109s + 1 He111; Sgt Brzozowski (V6667) 2 He111s; P/O J. Zumbach (R2685) 1 Bf109; F/O Paszkiewicz (V7235) 1 Me110; Sgt Wojtowicz (V7242) 1 Bf109; Sgt Szapasznikow (V7244) 2 Me110s. This success was occupied with losses: Sgt Wojtowicz was killed in action; F/O Cebrzynski (V6667) bailed out but suffered serious burns and consequently died in hospital; slightly wounded, F/Lt Forbes (V7465) force landed on a damaged Hurricane.
Sep 12. Two morning over-airfield patrols were flown.
Sep 13. Two Polish pilots flew one morning patrol.
Sep 14. Three afternoon sorties, every one in strength of a full Flight.
Over London’s Hastings area, at 16,000 feet at noon, 12 Polish
Hurricanes helped to stop a German raid of 80+ a/c. At 2:45 p.m.
scrambled was Flight B and engaged the enemy at 18,000 feet in the same
Sep 16. Morning patrol was flown in strength of eleven Hurricanes. No incidents.
Sep 17. Ten 303 a/c patrolled with No. 1 RCAF Squadron over Biggin Hill. At 4 p.m. and 23,000 feet over Thames Estuary, Sgt Wojciechowski (P3975) left the squadron’s formation and hunted a Bf109 which he claimed as destroyed.
Sep 18. Busy day for the unit, as four full-strength sorties were flown. During the second the 303 Hurricanes encountered two lone German planes over West Mailing at 1:15 p.m. Poles engaged the e/a at 17,000 feet and quickly shot them down. A Bf109 was credited to Sgt Frantisek (V7465), while 8 different pilots shared a scouting Do215. During the passes at the Dornier, P/O Feric’s a/c (V7244) suffered Cat2 damage buy a return fire from the bomber. The ORB also records two Polish Hurricanes being damaged by Spitfires from unidentified unit.
Sep 19. Day off.
Sep 20. One mid-day, full-strength patrol.
Sep 21. Between 6:00 and 7:10 p.m. the unit flew 12 a/c patrol.
Sep 22. Day off.
Sep 23. At 9:20 a.m. Flight “A” took off for a patrol, followed by the Flight “B” 5 min later. At 10 a.m. and 23,000 feet over Thames Estuary-Calais, Flight “A” encountered a formation of 30 Bf109s. In the ensuing fight victory were scored by: F/Lt Kent (V668l) 1 Bf109 + 1 FW58 and Sgt Szaposznikow (V7244) 1 Bf109 (later downgraded to damaged). While returning to base, F/Lt Kent attacked a lone, gray FW58 without results.
Sep 24. Three times the squadron was airborne that day. As usually, the Flights took off with few minute intervals. No incidents were recorded.
Sep 25. Each Flight flew two morning patrols without incidents.
Sep 26. In full strength of twelve a/c, the 303 took part in a fight with 80+ planes German raid. This happened at 4:30 p.m. and 16,000 feet over Portsmouth. This was another big day for the unit, which claimed: S/Ldr Kellet (V6681) 1 Bf109; F/Lt Forbes (V7465) 1 He111; P/O Grzeszczak (P3120) 1 He111; F/O Paszkiewicz (V7235) 1 He111; F/O Zak (V7289) 1He111; F/O Urbanowicz (P3901) 1 He111; F/O Zumbach (V6684) 1 Bf109 + 1 He111; Sgt Frantsek (R4175) 2 He111s; Sgt Kowalski (P3089) 1 Bf109; Sgt Belc (V6673) 1 Bf109; Sgt Andruszkow (V6665) 1 He111. Three Hurricanes were damaged: two Cat2 and one Cat3, which later was written off. Before the attack, S/Ldr Kellet received R/T to abort the mission (German diversion), but although the proper call sign was used he decide to press on.
Eleven 303 a/c plowed up through a German 70+ raid over Horsham at 9:20
a.m. and 15,000 feet. Claims: F/Lt Forbes (L2099) 1 He111; P/O Feric
(V6681) 1 Bf109 + 1 He111; F/O Henneberg (V7246) 1 Bf109: F/O Urbanowicz
(P3901) 1 Me110+ 1 Bf109; F/O Zumbach (V6684) 1 Bf109; F/O Zak (V7289) 1
Bf109; P/O Grzeszczak (V7244) 1 Bf109; Sgt Frantisek (R4l75) 1 He111 + 1
Me110; Sgt Kowalski (P3089) 1 He111 damaged. These victories came with
the cost of losses: F/Lt Paszkiewicz (L1696) and Sgt Andruszkow (V6665)
were shot down and killed, while F/O Zak bailed out and was
Sep 28. Both Flights made uneventful, late morning sorties. Also few individual flights were made.
Sep 29. The same activities as on previous day.
30. Busy day. Several sorties were
made in the morning.
Oct 1. In his solo fight (after leaving a formation) near North Foreland F/Lt Kent (V6681) claimed 1 Bf109 destroyed at 2:00 p.m. and at 20,000. At 4:00 p.m., the squadron made full strength, uneventful patrol.
Oct 2. Both Flights flew together three patrol sorties, all uneventful.
Oct 3. Few single take offs for patrol or a/c testing.
Oct 4. S/Ldr Kellet solo afternoon flight.
Oct 5. In a full strength the 303 engaged enemy at 11:40 a.m. over Rochester Channel. Highflying German formation consisted of 150+ Messerschmidts, both 109s and 110s.The squadron’s adjutant recorded twelve claims: S/Ldr Kellet (V7504) 1 Bf109 damaged; F/O Feric (V6681) 1 Me110; F/O Henneberg (V6684) 1 Me110; F/O Pisarek (V7503) 1 Me110 + 1 Me110 damaged; Sgt Belc (V7235) 1 Me110; Sgt Karubin (P3901) 1 Bf109; Sgt Palak (P3217) 1 Bf109 + 1 Me110 damaged; Sgt Siudak (N2460) 2 Bf109s + 1 Me110 shared destroyed. F/O Januszewicz (V7465) was lost crashing near Hawkinge. Later that day, the squadron was scrambled two more times. No enemy was encountered.
Oct 6. No flying was done. At 10:30 a.m., the Luftwaffe bombed the airfield. Unfortunately, one bombed destroyed a 303 Hurricane, which was having its guns synchronized. Pilot, Sgt Siudak who present at the scene, was killed in the blast.
Oct 7. Twelve 303 Hurricanes joined No. 1 RCAF Sqn to fend off a German raid by engaging in a battle with 50+ Bf109s over southern London at 30 the altitude of 30,000 feet. The fight took place at 1:50 p.m. and scores wise, it was the last successful sortie of the unit during the Battle of Britain. Recognized claims: F/O Pisarek (V7503) 1 Bf109; Sgt Szaposznikow (V7244) 1 Bf109 + 1 damaged; and Sgt Belc (L2099). Hurricane flown by P/O Mierzwa (R3089) received light damage. The unit flew two more sorties that day.
Oct 8. Two full-strength morning patrols were flown. For the first one, pilots took off at 9:50 a.m., during which Sgt Frantisek (R4175) was lost. He crashed near Sutton.
Oct 9. Eleven 303 Hurricanes made an early-afternoon patrol, with incidents.
Oct 10. Three full-strength patrols were flown. The Battle of Britain was becoming a closed chapter in the annals of aviation.
Oct 11. At 11:55 a.m., the No 303 (Polish) Squadron flew its last patrol during the Battle of Britain. Twelve a/c patrolled near the channel and did not encounter the enemy. At 3:40 p.m. eighteen Hurricanes flew over to RAF Leconfield and the squadron was rested.
During the Battle of Britain, between August 30th and October 11th, No. 303 Squadron tallied 126 enemy aircraft destroyed, 13 probably destroyed and 9 damaged. RAF officers assigned to lead the unit, S/Ldr Kellet, F/Lt Kent and F/Lt Forbes, together with Czech Sgt Frantisek contributed good 30% of this record. Polish pilots accounted for 93-8-6, and their individual scores were: F/O Urbanowicz 13-1-0; F/O Henneberg 8-1-1; F/O Zumbach 8-1-0; Sgt Szaposznikow 8-0-1; P/O Feric 7-1-0; Sgt Karubin 6-0-0; F/O Paszkiewicz 6-0-0; F/O Lokuciewski 4-1-0; F/O Pisarek 4-0-1; Sgt Wojciechowski 3 1/2-0-0; Sgt Wojtowicz 3-1-0; Sgt Wünsche 3-1-0; Sgt Belc 3-0-0; Sgt Siudak 2 1/2-0-0; F/O Zak 2-0-1; Sgt Brzozowski 2-0-0; P/O Grzeszczak 2-0-0; Sgt Andruszkow 1 1/2-0-0; P/O Daszewski 1-1-0; Sgt Kowalski 1-0-1; Sgt Palak 1-0-1; Sgt Rogowski 1-0-0; P/O J. Radomski 1/2 0-0. One kill was credited to the whole squadron. The squadron’s Intelligence Officer, F/O Hadwin had a lot of work with reports, and discrepancies in documents were often. This record, no matter how precise, is outstanding, even more so as the 303 had the best kills to losses ratio among all the units, which took part in the battle.
These are dry numbers however, which do not tell excitement of everyday fighting, frantic preparation for combat sorties, tensions on every level of command spilling down to the low aircraftman performing simplest but vital tasks needed to keep squadron operational. Seems like Poles of the 303 Squadron did their duty with extraordinary exuberance as they finally had a chance to fight the enemy on equal terms. Armed with planes matching the performance of those of the enemy and supported by excellent ground organization, they brought to him defeat after defeat, repaying him for a short September 1939 campaign with a handsome interest. Considering all this, it becomes understandable that the unit’s Operational Record Book (ORB) and pilots’ combat reports include only short laconic notes accompanied by the bunch of number, which do not reflect the monumental drama that went on under the British skies, outcome of which had a tremendous significance for the free world. But they provide evidence that Poles played a major role in it.
This page is heavily based on research done by Jacek Kutzner from Poland, and his article published by "Skrzydlata Polska".