Polish airmen who once flew in the Polish Air Force found themselves attached to Royal Air Force squadrons during the Second World War, particularly during the hard-fought Battle of Britain. Two Polish squadrons, 303 and 315 briefly spent time in Northern Ireland.
During the Second World War, in particular after Nazi occupation of Poland, many fled their country to escape persecution and to fight with Allied troops in the military and air force. The men of Poland were excellent aerial fighters and by 1940, the Polish Air Force had grown to become the fifth largest Allied Air Force.
After the occupation of their home country, many Poles joined the ranks of the Royal Air Force. Many brave Polish airmen would lose their lives between 1940 and 1945 and there are several graves and memorials in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to remember the fallen.
On 14th August 1943 General Kazimierz Sosnkowski, Inspector General of the Polish Armed Forces from 1943-1944 visited the airfield at RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down to inspect RAF 315 Squadron.
The people of Co. Down later recalled the politeness and manners as well as the grit and determination the Polish Air Force men showed in the battle against Hitler. After the war, many Poles remained in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom as it was a better option for them than returning to the Eastern Bloc now under the rule of Communist dictator Joseph Stalin.
Aviation accidents in Northern Ireland
Pilots from the Polish Air Force were involved in several incidents around the airfields of Ulster. Many young Polish men died on Northern Irish soil as they prepared to go to war.