The Polish Airmen in Northern Ireland

The Polish Airmen who served with the Royal Air Force during World War Two were some of the most fearless and talented men to take to the skies over Europe.

Polish airmen who once flew in the Polish Air Force found themselves attached to Royal Air Force squadrons during World War Two, particularly during the hard-fought Battle of Britain. Two Polish squadrons, 303 and 315 briefly spent time in Northern Ireland.

During World War Two, 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.

Featured image for RAF 303 Squadron in Northern Ireland

RAF 303 Squadron in Northern Ireland

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12th November 2018

RAF 303 Squadron was an elite unit of Polish fighter pilots, officers, and ground crew who chalked up a record number of victories in the Battle of Britain.

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RAF 315 Squadron in Northern Ireland

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13th November 2018

RAF 315 Squadron was a Polish fighter squadron that operated in offensive and defensive roles throughout World War Two including time in Northern Ireland.

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.

General Sosknowski at RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down

Polish Air Squadrons Remembered Photo: General Sosnkowski in conversation with pilots of RAF 315 Squadron who have just staged a flypast at RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down. This was a highlight of the Squadron Day celebrations on 14th August 1943. Talking to him is Flight Lieutenant Zajac and Squadron Leader Jerszy Poplawski. In the background is Supermarine Spitfire PK-O BM144. Photo used with kind permission of Wilhelm Ratuszynski.

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.

Featured image for Avro Anson N5372 crash in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim

Avro Anson N5372 crash in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim

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18th October 2016

On 18th October 1943, Avro Anson N5372 crashed near Ballycastle, killing 3, after many factors contributed to it striking high ground at Knocklayd Mountain.

Spitfire BL852 crash at RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down

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8th July 2018

On 8th July 1943, Supermarine Spitfire BL852 belly-landed at RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down. The Polish pilot was Sergeant Malczewski of RAF 315 Squadron.

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Spitfire BL922 crash at RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down

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9th September 2017

On 5th October 1943, Spitfire BL922 came down about a mile away from RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down. The Polish pilot had crash landed less than a month before.

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Spitfire BM144 crash near Bangor, Co. Down

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9th October 2017

On 9th October 1943, the well-known Supermarine Spitfire BM144 crash-landed near Bangor, Co. Down. The RAF 315 Squadron Pilot escaped with some injuries.

Spitfire BM531 accident at Belfast, Co. Antrim

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2nd September 2018

On 2nd September 1943, Polish pilot Flight Sergeant Malec escaped uninjured when his Spitfire BM531 sustained damage during transport to Northern Ireland.

Featured image for Spitfire EP280 crash at RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down

Spitfire EP280 crash at RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down

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5th September 2018

On 5th September 1943, the airfield at RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down was the site of the crash of Spitfire EP280. The Polish pilot escaped alive but injured.

Featured image for Spitfire W3937 crash at RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down

Spitfire W3937 crash at RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down

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9th September 2017

On 9th September 1943, RAF Ballyhalbert, Co. Down was the site of the crash of Spitfire W3937. The same Polish pilot would crash again under a month later.

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Vickers Wellington HF208 crash on Mount Brandon, Co. Kerry

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20th December 2017

Vickers Wellington HF208 crashed on the slopes of Mount Brandon, Arraglen, Co. Kerry. All six Polish airmen on board were killed and are buried in Belfast.

Featured image for Westland Lysander P1731 crash at RAF Sydenham, Co. Down

Westland Lysander P1731 crash at RAF Sydenham, Co. Down

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30th April 2016

Polish Airman Sergeant Edward Lewandowski piloted Westland Lysander P1731 on 30th April 1942. The plane came down after take-off from RAF Sydenham, Belfast.

Polish Airmen buried in Belfast, Co. Antrim

Edward Lewandowski

Edward Lewandowski

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3rd January 2018

Sergeant Edward Lewandowski served in the Polish Air Force. He was a member of No. 6 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit operating from RAF Sydenham, Belfast.

Flight Sergeant Jozef Antoni Pudelko

Jozef Antoni Pudelko

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3rd January 2018

Polish Flight Sergeant Jozef Antoni Pudelko (P-781015) served as a pilot with RAF 309 Squadron His grave is in Milltown Cemetery, Belfast, Co. Antrim.

Kazimierz Lugowski

Kazimierz Lugowski

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20th December 2017

Flight Sergeant Kazimierz Lugowski (P-703438) served as a gunner in the Polish Air Force and is buried in Milltown Cemetery, West Belfast.

Flight Sergeant Klemens Adamowicz

Klemens Adamowicz

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20th December 2017

Flight Sergeant Klemens Adamowicz (P-780537) served as a pilot instructor in the Polish Air Force and is buried in Milltown Cemetery, West Belfast.

Pawel Kowalewicz

Pawel Kowalewicz

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20th December 2017

Flight Sergeant Pawel Kowalewicz (P-703968) served as a wireless radio operator in the Polish Air Force and is buried in Milltown Cemetery, West Belfast.

Flight Sergeant Pawel Naftali Hirsz Kuflik

Pawel Naftali Hirsz Kuflik

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20th December 2017

Flight Sergeant Pawel Naftali Hirsz Kuflik (P-794712) served as a navigator in the Polish Air Force and is buried in the Jewish Cemetery at Carnmoney.

Stanislaw Czerniawski

Stanislaw Czerniawski

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20th December 2017

Flight Sergeant Stanislaw Czerniawski (P-794362) served as a pilot in the Polish Air Force and is buried in Milltown Cemetery, West Belfast.

Flight Sergeant Wincenty Pietrzak.

Wincenty Pietrzak

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20th December 2017

Flight Sergeant Wincenty Pietrzak (P-782657) served as a gunner in the Polish Air Force and is buried in Milltown Cemetery, West Belfast.

Polish Airmen buried in Newtownards, Co. Down

Henryk Andrzej Flegier

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5th October 2018

Sergeant Henryk Andrzej Flegier served in the Polish Air Force and was a member of RAF 315 Squadron who flew training exercises from Ballyhalbert, Co. Down.

Henryk Komenda

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9th July 2018

Henryk Komenda served in the Polish Air Force and was based at Newtownards Airfield, Co. Down at the time of his death in Defiant N3402 on 9th July 1942.