in SCOTLAND during the Second World War



Polish Air Force


The airmen of six occupied European nations found refuge in Britain in 1940 and fought their war from British soil. Amongst the Allied Air Forces the Polish Air Force played a most promiment part.


In September 1939, the Polish Air Force although heavily outnumbered by the Luftwaffe fought with distinction.

The Polish Air Force was recreated in France from air crews who had managed to make their way via Rumania and other routes to French soil and by June 1940 it numbered 7,000 personnel and about 90 operational aircraft. In late 1939, the British authorities had already agreed to take over 2,000 airmen and they had been incorporated into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. At this time the British were unwilling to permit the forming of independent Polish units under Polish command.

Following the capitulation of France, the airmen of the Polish Air Force were on the move again and a large majority of them found themselves in England following their evacuation from France and North Africa.

With the signing of the Polish-British Military Agreement in early August 1940 the formation of the Polish Air Force under RAF operational control was permitted.

These airmen-pilots, air crews and ground staffs made important military contributions to the Allied air effort particularly during the Battle of Britain where two Polish fighter squadrons - 302 and 303 and Polish pilots serving in numerous other RAF fighter squadrons particularly distinguished themselves, but also in other air operations.

Polish bomber crews, many operating from bases in Lincolnshire, participated in the bombing offensive on Germany, taking heavy casualties in this long and dangerous battle.

Among other operations the Polish Air Force provided aerial cover in the 1942 Dieppe landings, participated in the Air Defence of Great Britain, took part in operations in North Africa, the Normandy invasion and Northern Europe, Italy and help for the Polish Home Army and the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Polish aircrews were also engaged in anti-submarine patrols and convoy duties.

Polish pilots and crew also served in Ferry Command later abosorbed by Transport Command, the Atlantic Ferry Organization (ATFERO), (Prestwick was a major trans-atlantic ferry base through which thousands of North American built aircraft arrived) and the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) - and technical ground staffs in RAF units.


After the Battle of Britain more Polish squadrons were formed. By the end of 1943, a total of 14 Polish squadrons, imcluding 10 fighter squadrons and a complete infrastructure was in existence, making the Polish Air Force the fourth largest Allied air force, numbering on 1st December 1943 - 11,638 personnel. By May 1945 the manpower strength stood at 19,400 and fourteen Polish squadrons, most of which were based in the UK (Air Defence of Great Britain) or in NW Europe.


In 1943 a Polish WAAF modelled on the lines of the WAAF was formed. These women served in a variety of posts.


In the autumn of 1946 the Polish Air Force started to disband its squadrons. By the beginning of 1947 some 11,000 personnel had joined the Air Resettlement Corps whose camps were located in England. By July 1948 the Polish Forces had been officially disbanded and the Air Resettlememt Corps wound up in October 1948. As a consequence of the Yalta Agreement in February 1945 and political events in Poland most airmen were unable or unwilling to return after the war to a Soviet dominated Poland.


With the return of democracy to Poland, the symbol of the Polish Air Force in the West - the standard of the Polish Air Force was returned in September 1992 to Poland and handed over to the present day Polish Air Force.


During and immediately after the war some of Scotland's airfields were home to the airmen of the Polish Air Force.


The Polish Air Force in Scotland-An Outline

309 "Land of Czerwien" Army Cooperation Squadron

304 "Land of Silesia" Squadron Coastal Command

Other Polish Air Force Squadrons operating from Scotland

Polish Balloon Barrage Unit

Training Establishments and Schools

Polish Air Force Ranks and their RAF Equivalents



Web Links within the content of this page

Web Links and Further Research

Printed Materials



The Polish Air Force in Scotland-An Outline

During the war and and in the immediated post-war period there were a few Polish squadrons located for varying periods of time at airfields in Scotland and numbers of Polish air crews received their training in Scotland. The table below is a summary of the airfields used by the Polish squadrons, location dates and some other information pertaining to each squadron. With the exception of 309 Squadron and the Balloon Flight, Polish squadrons were not stationed in Scotland during the war for any lengthy period. Indeed, their presence in Scotland represented only a small fraction of the total time spent in the UK and service overseas.



Date of Formation

Location in Scotland/Period from:



Sqdn Code


Formed 15th July 1940 as a fighter squadron

(1) Turnhouse,

28th November 1945

(2) Wick,

from 4th January 1946

This squadron flying Mustangs was located at the end of 1945 at Turnhouse before moving to Wick in the early part of January 1946. The squadron remained here for three months and then moved south to England. Moved to Hethel in Norfolk from 15th March 1946

P51 "Mustang" Mk IV

PD after the war


Formed 23rd August 1940 as a bomber squadron

(1) Tiree, 14th May 1942;

(2) Benbecula, 19th November 1944

Left Tiree and moved to Pembrokeshire from 13th June 1942.

Left Benbecula and moved to Cornwall from 5th March 1945.






Formed 23rd August 1940 as a night-fighter squadron


detachment at Sumburgh (Shetland)

9th November 1943

Based at Drem and Sumburgh in Shetland from late 1943 and moved south to Lincolnshire from 2nd March 1944. The Sumburgh detachment had successes in its air operations against enemy aircraft.




Formed 8th October 1940 Renfrew as 309 Polish Army Cooperation Squadron, became a fighter-reconnaissance squadron in 1942.

In January 1944 it becam a fighter-bomber squadron.

(1) Renfrew

(2) Dunino, 15th May 1941;

(3) Crail (one flight), 15th June 1942;

 (4) Findo Gask (two flights), 26th October 1942;

(5) Peterhead,

(one flight), 10th January 1943;

(6) Kirknewton, 8th November 1943;

(7) Drem and Acklington (one flight), 23rd April 1944;

(8) Peterhead, 14th November 1944.

 Gatwick, from 15th November 1942 (one flight);

Snailwell, England from 4th June 1943;

Andrews Field, Essex from 12th December 1944






From October 1940 - "Lysander" Mk II and III;


From April 1942 "Mustang" Mk I (one flight);

















From January 1944 "Hurricane" Mk IV

From April 1944 "Hurricane" Mk IIc;

From October 1944 "Mustang" Mk I;

From 20th October 1944 "Mustang" Mk III



and from 1944




Formed 8th January 1941

Peterhead, 30th October 1944

Left Peterhead and moved to Andrews Field, 16th January 1945

From March 1944 "Mustang" Mk III




Wick, 5th November 1945

The "Mustangs" of this squadron arrived at Wick in November 1945 for intensive training exercises leaving in mid-March 1946. for Hethel.



Polish Balloon Flight

Formed 15th October 1940

(1) Glasgow balloon defences from 20th December 1940 - part of 945 Sqn

(2) North of Firth of Forth and RN base Rosyth from 22nd July 1942 to 27th June 1944, part of 929 Sqn.

At the end of June 1944 moved to defences in London




309 "Land of Czerwien" Army Cooperation Squadron

The only Polish squadron formed in Scotland was created in late November 1940 at Renfrew, later moving after the Clydebank 'blitz' to Dunino in Fife where it co-operated with I Polish Corps whose units were defending the east coast of Scotland against an expected German invasion. The squadron undertook recconaissance, artillery spotting and liaison missions as well as patrolling the mouth of the River Clyde. Flying from Longman airfield near Inverness the squadron participated in army cooperation exercises with the 51st Highland Infantry Division.

During 1942 the squadron started to transition to "Mustangs" where it patrolled the east coast of Scotland, the North Sea and made attacks in coastal waters off Norway.

The squadron with a mixture of Lysanders and Mustangs was based at Kirknewton from March 1943, before heading south to England at the beginning of June. Some elements of the squadron operated from Longside (Peterhead) airfield from January 1943. After returning to Scotland, from March 1944 it was on air defence duties based at Drem and in November it was back at Longside on convoy patrol. It later transferred to 133 Polish Wing and its last mission was the attack on Berchtesgaden in late April 1945.

304 "Land of Silesia" Squadron Coastal Command

In view of the heavy losses suffered by the squadron in the bombing raids over Germany, 304 Squadron transferred in May 1942 from Bomber Command to Coastal Command. After a short training period at Tiree from May 1942 in anti-submarine operations the squadron left Tiree for North Wales for operations in the Bay of Biscay in June 1942. Operations over the seas involved flying very long missions over the Atlantic. With its specially equipped Wellington aircraft it returned to Scotland to face the difficulties of operating from Benbecula in the winter of 1944-1945 and over Atlantic waters. In March 1945 the squadron was transferred to Cornwall. It is worth seeking out

Polish Balloon Barrage Unit

Composed of 155 airmen this unit was formed in December 1940 as part of 945 Balloon Squadron. Some of the men came from pre-war balloon units who had escaped from Poland. From December 1940 to July 1942 it covered the north-west part of Glasgow. From July 1942 to Aug 1944 it was part of 929 Balloon Sqn and protected the north coast of the Firth of Forth including the Forth bridge, Rosyth and the Naval Air Station at Donibristle before moving to London at the time of the V1 offensive on England.

Training Establishments and Schools


Staff College

Air Force studies ran from April 1943 to the beginning of 1944 at the Polish Military Staff College near Peebles.


Operational Training Units

At Grangemouth an operational training unit, 58 OTU was formed for the training of Polish pilots. Another OTU, Number 60 at East Fortune, near North Berwick also trained pilots.


Polish Initial Training Squadron

Part of No 12 Initial Training Wing, the squadron was based at St Andrews, Fife in 1941.


Schools and Training Units

Polish aircrew were also trained at a number of RAF schools around Scotland, e.g. in Air Gunnery, Observor, and Bombing and Gunnery Schools as well as at the Signals School in Prestwick.

Polish Air Force ranks with their equivalent RAF ranks


Polish rank


RAF rank




Aircraftman Class 2


starszy szeregowiec


Aircraftman Class 1




Leading Aircraftman










starszy sierzant


Flight Sergeant




Warrant Officer




Pilot Officer




Flying Officer




Flight Lieutenant




Squadron Leader




Wing Commander




Group Captain


no equivalent rank


Air Commodore


general brygady


Air Vice Marshal


general dywizji


Air Marshal


general broni


Air Chief Marshal




Marshal of the RAF








Officer Cadet


Note-The Polish alphabet was not used in the table above


The principal memorials to the airmen of the Polish Air Force in Britain are to be found in England.


At Newark Cemetery in Nottinghamshire there are several hundred graves of Polish airmen who perished during the war. These graves are under the care of the CWGC. It was from this cemetery that the remains of General Sikorski, Poland's Prime Minister and Commnder-in-Chief until his death in July 1943, were taken back to Poland in April 1997.


There are many other reminders of the Polish Air Force's contribution and sacrifice in the prosecution of the war from British soil.

At Northolt, which durimg the war was a base much associated with Polish airmen, there is an imposing memorial remembering the 1,901 lives lost between 1940 and 1945.


In one of the churches in Renfrew Scotland, 309 Squadron donated a portrait of Our Lady of Czestochowa.

In Scottish cemeteries there are a number of war graves of Polish airmen - many lie near the airfields from which they undertook their duties.

Web Links within the content of this page

(to complete)

Web Links and Further Research

There are a number of web sites which feature the Polish Air Force and its action during the second world war. These include sites which contain technical data about the Polish Air Force and information about specific squadrons and their operations.


A search for web pages referring to the "Polish Air Force" and its actions during the Second World War and to the modern Polish Air Force can easily be found using a search engine such as www.google.com.

In May 2001 about 1,750 web sites were listed using the search terms "Polish Air Force". Off course, not all the sites listed will be relevant to all lines of fact-finding and any search needs to be narrowed or adjusted to locate the specific information sought.

By March 2009 some 66,600 web sites were listed by Google using the same search terms.


Some Polish Air Force web sites have useful links to other relevant sites. Searches could also focus on individual squadrons such as for example, 303 Polish Fighter Squadron.


For researchers who can read Polish there are Polish web sites dedicated to the Polish Air Force.


Web sites that feature the Royal Air Force and Allied Air Forces are worth checking for references to the Polish Air Force during WWII.


In view of this no comprehensive list has been prepared.


Printed Materials

Books in English

The following is a brief guide to some English language text books dealing with the Polish Air Force in the Second World War. Many references to the Polish Air Force can be found in numerous other texts concerned with the history of the Second World War. Some of the texts have useful bibliographies pointing the way to further works in the English (and Polish) languages as well as archival sources. A search within the number of on-line booshops that exist is worthwhile and a general search using the terms 'Polish Air Force' will produce references to printed works.


Arct, Bohdan. Polish Wings in the West. Interpress, Warsaw 1971

Cynk, J. History of the Polish Air Force 1918-1968. Osprey Publishing Ltd. London, 1972

Destiny Can Wait - Polish Air Force in the Second World War. Heinemann, 1949

Koniarek, Dr Jan. Polish Air Force 1939-1945. Squadron/Signal Publications, Texas, USA 1994

Zamoyski, Adam. The Forgotten Few: The Polish Air Force in the Second World War. London, 1995.



Hasinski-Adam, M.J. The Polish Air Force NCO's Training School. (3 vols) Poznan, 1993


Since creating this website 10 years ago a number of studies of the Polish Air Force have appeared in English.

Sources – Archival (to complete web links)

Polish Institute and General Sikorski Museum, London

The National Archives, Kew, England

Imperial War Museum


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© Copyright R M Ostrycharz 2001

Polish AirForce.html

Last modified 11 March 2009

For any comments please email: robert@ostrycharz.free-online.co.uk