The extraordinary story, heroic, inspiring and tragic, of the Polish pilots who fought for the RAF in the Battle of Britain. A remarkable and moving example of popular history at its best.
The Polish pilots fought through the defeat of their own country in 1939 and then alongside the French until the fall of France the following year. Defying the orders of the French government to surrender to the Germans, they made their varied ways to Britain. There- once the RAF finally allowed them to fly- the Poles, with far more combat experience than most of their British counterparts, were among the Air Force's most successful aces. During the Battle of Britain, the pilots of the all- Polish Kosciuszko Squadron- 303 Squadron to the RAF- downed more German planes than any other squadron. Described by an American bomber pilot as 'the best damn fighter squadron in the world', they become heroes to the British public and idols to young women. According to Sir Archibald Sinclair, Britain's wartime air force minister, without the Poles 'our shortage of trained pilots would have made it impossible to defeat the German air force and so win the Battle'. This gripping book tells the story of the Polish pilots, focussing on a small group of five of them, from defeat in Poland and France to victory in the Battle of Britain, from their idolisation by the public to the harrowing story of their betrayal, and Poland's, by Britain and the USA as the war came to its closing stages. Drawing on the Kosciuszko Squadron's unofficial diary as well as letters and interviews, memoirs, histories, and photographs, the authors bring the men and battles of the squadron vividly to life, following the main characters from before the war until the end of their lives. This is an utterly fascinating story, heroic, inspiring and finally tragic, strikingly well- told.
“An astonishing achievement! Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud give us a fascinating account of the extremely well documented heroic and daring struggle of a group of Polish military pilots and through it they present us a glimpse of the harrowing history of Poland and Europe during the Second World War.”
“A wonderful story, wonderfully told. Heroism and betrayal make for heady reading, and this book is long overdue.”
Norman Davies, The Sunday Times