Blood on their Wingtips: A Second World War Timeline of the No. 303 Kościuszko Polish Squadron at RAF Northolt
by Nina Britton Boyle
ISBN 978-0-9934924-0-2 (paperback); ISBN 978-0-9934924-1-9 (ebook)
The paperback edition is currently available on Amazon by clicking on the following links or searching on the Amazon store for your region. You can access the ebook using the same links: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com, Amazon.com.au, Amazon.ca.
Have you ever wondered how much the Polish Air Force contributed to Great Britain’s war against Germany? Did you know that Polish pilots played a vital role during the Battle of Britain?
Blood on their Wing Tips is the story of No. 303 Kościuszko Squadron based at RAF Northolt, England in the Second World War, as told through the personal memoirs of the Polish pilots and their families, photographs, combat reports, and war diaries.
After Poland’s defeat against the overwhelming German and Soviet forces during September 1939, many of the Polish airmen and ground crew from the Polish Air Force made their way to England via Romania and France to continue their fight for freedom.
Many would never see their families in Poland again.
The first Polish airmen and their ground crew arrived in England in early 1940. More streamed over the border after the fall of France. Most Polish pilots were not allowed to fly with their RAF colleagues in combat until August 1940, after the Luftwaffe’s punishing bombing of Fighter Command airfields left the RAF struggling to fight.
On 31 August 1940, the second Polish Squadron in Britain, known as ‘No. 303 Kościuszko Squadron’ became combat operational and flew from RAF Northolt. Many of the Polish airmen in No. 303 Kościuszko Squadron were from Warsaw squadrons and had flown in battle for Poland and France. No. 303 went on to claim the highest number of destroyed enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain.
The pilots’ story.
Blood on their Wing Tips is a comprehensive true-life timeline of the Polish No. 303 Kościuszko Squadron. This book brings together 30 plus years of research, including the personal memories and photographs from surviving pilots, the families of those who gave their lives, and official combats records and war diaries.
It is a lasting tribute to the 17,000 Polish airmen and ground crew who fought for Britain, 2,000 of whom gave their life in the Second World War.
During the Second World War, around 6 million Polish men, women, and children perished. Entire villages were destroyed and wiped out, and so many people became displaced that they never found surviving members of their family.
While other Allied countries celebrated freedom and the governments honoured their veterans, many of the 3,000 Polish airmen who returned to Poland were imprisoned, killed, deported within the Soviet Union or kept under surveillance. Over 7,500 of the Polish Air Force remained in Great Britain, reluctant to return to their homeland until she was finally free. They paid the ultimate sacrifice as they never saw or heard from their families again.
The research in this book has helped bring closure for many Polish families. Nina Britton Boyle has helped families discover the fate of loved ones through her ongoing research. She continues to visit the graves of the Polish airmen in Great Britain and lay flowers on behalf of the families. Nina gives talks about the Polish pilots and ground crew in honour of their memory.
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About the author
As a child, Nina Britton Boyle sat and listened to her father recount his experiences during the Second World War. Her family lived less than a mile from RAF Northolt, and her father’s stories filled Nina’s imagination with the roar of the Hurricane and Spitfire aircraft that flew from the base during the war.
Nina played in the fields opposite the Polish War Memorial and would pick wildflowers and lay them at the base of the memorial. She wondered about the strange names engraved in the stone, thinking how sad it was for the families of men who would never return to their loved ones in Poland. Even after the war had ended, Poland was not free, and many of the pilots who survived the war never lived to 1989, when Poland regained its independence from the Soviets. Her father’s stories had a lasting effect on Nina. In the 1980s, during one of her many visits to the Polish War Memorial with her husband and children, Nina made a decision to find out what happened to the Polish airman and write a book as a tribute to their service and sacrifice.
‘I wanted to write the book in a way that the non-expert in aviation could read and understand it. I wanted to write it so that those who knew little of the Polish Air Force would realise the huge contribution and sacrifice made by the Polish airmen and their ground crew serving alongside our RAF. I knew the only way to write an authentic book was to interview some of those who had flown in combat, those who had served as ground crew and trace the families of some of the airmen who lost their lives during the war.‘
Over the next 40 years, Nina carried out meticulous research in the National Archives, Sikorski Institute, and RAF Hendon. Also, with the support of the Polish Air Force; the Ministry of Defence, who forwarded letters to the airmen’s last known address; the Vice Consul of the British Embassy in Poland; and supporters who put adverts in Polish papers, Nina began to trace the veterans of No. 303 Kościuszko Squadron.
‘It was very humbling to interview pilots and ground crew as they spoke about their war experiences sharing often painful memories of their lost friends. It was a great honour to be in their company.’
When the news of search spread, she began to receive letters from the relatives of the airman, desperate for information – no matter how small – of their loved ones. Some families had not heard from their loved ones since 1939. Nina put her book aside and spent many years tracing the airmen. She found the pilot’s graves and records of their medals to send to the relatives.
In 2014, the Polish Air Force Memorial Committee honoured Nina with a Commendation Certificate in recognition of her work to tend the graves of Polish airmen on behalf of the families in Poland and erect small Polish memorial tablets. The Polish Air Force Memorial Committee issue certificates to non-Polish people who have made a significant personal contribution to preserving the memory of Polish airman and their achievements int he west.
‘I treasure my commendation that I received in September 2014 at RAF Northolt, for it states the following words: –“Prawdziwa Przyjaciolka Lotnikow Polskich”, which translated means, “A true friend of Polish Airmen”. I could wish for no finer compliment.’
In June 2016 Nina unveiled a memorial to pilot Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz 303 Polish Kościuszko Squadron along with his great niece Beata Poldolska, then read a moving letter she had received from Sgt Stefan Wójtowicz’s sister Matylda, who lives in Poland.
You can read more about the event and read the letter here and scroll down to June 2016: https://www.polishairforcememorialcommittee.org/news-cavd
The paperback edition is currently available on Amazon by clicking on the following links or searching on the Amazon store for your region. You can access the ebook using the same links: