Saturday, June 25, 2011

The 178th victory

In a dark hallway of the Sikorski Institute in London, this tail section of a German Junkers bomber sits more or less forgotten. (The engine in front of it doesn't belong to the Ju-88 but to a British Hawker Hurricane fighter.) It is billed as the 178th aircraft shot down by RAF 303 Squadron, known as "Warsaw-Kosciuszko" because it was made up mostly of Polish pilots who'd escaped to France and then to Britain when their own country was invaded and occupied by Germany and Russia. Overall, the Poles were credited with 297 German aircraft destroyed. Their story is most recently told in 303 Squadron: The Legendary Battle of Britain Fighter Squadron, in which the true names of the pilots are given for the first time. (They were previously concealed behind aliases so as to protect their families in occupied Poland.) Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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