No. 301 Polish Bomber Squadron - History

History

Already before the outbreak of World War II, the Polish government signed an agreement with the Royal Air Force. According to the appendix to the Polish-British Alliance, should the war with Germany break out, two Polish bomber squadrons were to be created on British soil, with additional two being created en cadre. However, following the German and Soviet invasion of Poland, most of Polish airmen who managed to get to the west were incorporated into the Polish Air Forces being recreated in France. It was not until the fall of France that Polish airmen started to arrive to the United Kingdom in large numbers.

Polish evacuees and refugees with experience in aerial warfare were initially kept in a military camp in Eastchurch. Finally on July 1, 1940, the No. 300 Polish Bomber Squadron was created as the first of such Polish units. Then, as the number of Polish airmen arriving from Poland and France, often with experience in aerial combat against the Germans, was by then quite high, it became necessary that on July 24 an additional Polish bomber squadron was created. This second squadron was named No. 301 (Polish) Squadron by the British authorities, the new squadron also received the name of Land of Pomerania, in accordance with Polish naming traditions.

301 Squadron was initially commanded by Lt.Col. Roman Rudkowski, the squadron was equipped with 16 outdated Fairey Battle bombers. The personnel included 24 entirely Polish air crews, while the technical personnel (some 180 people initially) was mostly British. 301 Squadron was then established at RAF Bramcote. On August 23, 1940 it was relocated to RAF Swinderby. On September 14, 1940 the squadron flew its first combat mission: three crews took part in bombing raids against the German invasion fleet gathered in Boulogne for Operation Sea Lion. On September 25, 1940 the squadron lost its first crew: one of the Faireys was damaged by German anti-aircraft artillery over northern France and it crashed on landing.

The early stage of 301 Squadron ended on October 20, 1940 when it was withdrawn from active service and badly needed new aircraft arrived. Training with the Vickers Wellington bombers lasted until December. At the same time the number of ground crew was extended to about 400 men. On December 22 the squadron took off for the first bombing raid with their new bombers. The raid damaged an oil refinery in Antwerp. It was repeated on December 28, with no friendly losses. On the night of January 1, 1941 three aircraft crashed on landing because of bad weather. The Swinderby airfield proved unsuitable for medium bombers, and was further damaged by the crashing planes, which resulted in the entire squadron being grounded.

After several weeks the weather improved and 301 Squadron moved to RAF Ingham, Lincolnshire. Both being based at the same RAF station, 301 joined 300 squadron in a bombing campaign over France and Germany. Among common targets were Bremen, Hamburg, Brest and Essen. Overnight of May 31, 1941 the squadron took part in a large bombing raid on Cologne. Overnight of June 6 it visited Essen, where it lost two crews. On June 27 it bombed Bremen, losing additional air crew. On July 3 yet another crew was lost. Overnight of July 22 another three were lost to enemy AA fire and fighter planes. 301 Squadron flew on many more missions in the two following years.

During early 1943, 301 Squadron lost so many aircraft and crews. At that time, the Polish HQ was lacking manpower and with too few experienced airmen, HQ decided to disband 301 squadron on April 7, 1943. Most of the air crews and bomber aircraft were transferred to No. 300 Polish Bomber Squadron.

The remaining crews were then attached to the RAF Tempsford-based No. 138 Squadron RAF as the newly formed C Flight operating the Handley Page Halifax bomber and still named locally by their ex 301 crews as 301 Squadron Special Duties Flight RAF. C Flight, No. 138 Squadron RAF was later to become No.1586 (Polish Special Duties) Flight RAF at Derna Libya.

On 7 November 1944, their unit reformed at Brindisi, Italy, when No. 1586 Flight was renamed as 301 Squadron. The squadron operated the Handley Page Halifax and Consolidated Liberator until 1945. In 1945 the squadron returned to RAF Blackbushe, England to operate the Vickers Warwick. In 1946, the squadron re-equipped with the Handley Page Halifax again until 301 Squadron was disbanded at Chedburgh on 18 December 1946.

Thus, 301 Squadron was in fact two completely different units, with two different roles and different aircraft types: one was - bomber; the other - transport / special duties. With the demise of the 301 (bomber) Squadron, most crews and aircraft joined another Polish (bomber) squadron (300) and lost their original hexagonal griffin emblem and adopted the 300 chevron. The remaining 301 crews moved to a completely different (transport) squadron (138). Later they used a new circular 301 emblem which included their original 301 Pomeranian griffin.

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