Air ForceFurther information: Polish Air Force order of battle in 1939 and Polish Air Forces in France and Great Britain
The Polish Air Force first fought in 1939 Invasion of Poland. Significantly outnumbered and with its fighters outmatched by more advanced German fighters, remained active up to the second week of the campaign, inflicting significant damage on the Luftwaffe. The Luftwaffe lost, to all operational causes, 285 aircraft, with 279 more damaged, while the Poles lost 333 aircraft.
After the fall of Poland many Polish pilots escaped via Hungary to France. The Polish Air Force fought in the Battle of France as one fighter squadron GC 1/145, several small units detached to French squadrons, and numerous flights of industry defence (in total, 133 pilots, who achieved 53-57 victories for a loss of 8 men in combat, what was 7.93% of allied victories).
Later, Polish pilots fought in the Battle of Britain, where the Polish 303 Fighter Squadron claimed the highest number of kills of any Allied squadron. From the very beginning of the war, the Royal Air Force (RAF) had welcomed foreign pilots to supplement the dwindling pool of British pilots. On 11 June 1940, the Polish Government in Exile signed an agreement with the British Government to form a Polish Army and Polish Air Force in the United Kingdom. The first two (of an eventual ten) Polish fighter squadrons went into action in August 1940. Four Polish squadrons eventually took part in the Battle of Britain (300 and 301 Bomber Squadrons; 302 and 303 Fighter Squadrons), with 89 Polish pilots. Together with more than 50 Poles fighting in British squadrons, a total of 145 Polish pilots defended British skies. Polish pilots were among the most experienced in the battle, most of them having already fought in the 1939 September Campaign in Poland and the 1940 Battle of France. Additionally, prewar Poland had set a very high standard of pilot training. The 303 Squadron, named after the Polish-American hero, General Tadeusz Kościuszko, claimed the highest number of kills (126) of all fighter squadrons engaged in the Battle of Britain, even though it only joined the combat on August 30, 1940 These Polish pilots, constituting 5% of the pilots active during the Battle of Britain, were responsible for 12% of total victories in the Battle.
The Polish Air Force also fought in 1943 in Tunisia - the Polish Fighting Team (nicknamed "Skalski's Circus") - and in raids on Germany (1940–45). In the second half of 1941 and early 1942, Polish bomber squadrons formed a sixth of the forces available to RAF Bomber Command but later they suffered heavy losses, with little replenishment possibilities. Polish aircrew losses serving with Bomber Command from 1940-45 were 929 killed. Ultimately eight Polish fighter squadrons were formed within the RAF and had claimed 629 Axis aircraft destroyed by May 1945. By the end of the war, around 19,400 Poles were serving in the RAF.
Polish squadrons in the United Kingdom:
- No. 300 "Masovia" Polish Bomber Squadron (Ziemi Mazowieckiej)
- No. 301 "Pomerania" Polish Bomber Squadron (Ziemi Pomorskiej)
- No. 302 "City of Poznań" Polish Fighter Squadron (Poznański)
- No. 303 "Kościuszko" Polish Fighter Squadron (Warszawski imienia Tadeusza Kościuszki)
- No. 304 "Silesia" Polish Bomber Squadron (Ziemi Śląskiej imienia Ksiecia Józefa Poniatowskiego)
- No. 305 "Greater Poland" Polish Bomber Squadron (Ziemi Wielkopolskiej imienia Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego)
- No. 306 "City of Toruń" Polish Fighter Squadron (Toruński)
- No. 307 "City of Lwów" Polish Fighter Squadron (Lwowskich Puchaczy)
- No. 308 "City of Kraków" Polish Fighter Squadron (Krakowski)
- No. 309 "Czerwien" Polish Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron (Ziemi Czerwieńskiej)
- No. 315 "City of Dęblin" Polish Fighter Squadron (Dębliński)
- No. 316 "City of Warsaw" Polish Fighter Squadron (Warszawski)
- No. 317 "City of Wilno" Polish Fighter Squadron (Wileński)
- No. 318 "City of Gdansk" Polish Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron (Gdański)
- No. 663 Polish Artillery Observation Squadron - flying in support of Polish artillery units
- Polish Fighting Team (Skalski's Circus) - attached to No. 145 Squadron RAF
- No. 138 Special Duty Squadron Polish Flight "C"
- No. 1586 Polish Special Duty Flight
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