Unique Polish Air Force exhibition opens in Uxbridge's Battle of Britain Bunker
Friday 21 May: A special exhibition recognising the outstanding contribution the Polish Air Force made during the Second World War was opened today at the Battle of Britain Bunker Exhibition and Visitor Centre in Uxbridge.
The Polish Air Force Exhibition was officially opened by HE Prof. Arkady Rzegocki, the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the Court of St James's and Hillingdon Council's Armed Forces Champion, Cllr Sir Ray Puddifoot MBE in the presence of the Prime Minister and MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the Rt Hon Boris Johnson.
Hillingdon Council worked closely with the Polish Air Force Memorial Committee, using their unique collection, to create the permanent display which includes an array of artefacts never-before-seen by the public, alongside fascinating personal accounts from Polish pilots and historic film.
The variety of objects and documents tell stories of combat missions during the war and highlight the different roles in the Polish Air Force beyond the pilots, including observers, ground crew and the Polish Women's Auxiliary Air Force.
The exhibition tells of the perilous journeys undertaken by Polish Air Force personnel following the invasion of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939. It explores the military preparations in pre-war Poland and how the Polish Government in exile and military were organised in France and Britain during 1940.
The Polish Air Force has a significant historical connection to Hillingdon. During the war, Polish fighter squadrons participated in air campaigns organised by Headquarters No. 11 Group (RAF Fighter Command) based at RAF Uxbridge. Squadrons were coordinated from the Battle of Britain Bunker, which was the Operations Room for No. 11 Group responsible for organising fighter aircraft based at airfields in the south-east of Britain.
Cllr Puddifoot said: "We're delighted to open this fantastic exhibition which shines a spotlight on the invaluable efforts our Polish allies made during one of history's most notable conflicts.
"Their lesser-heard stories of bravery echo those of Britain's pilots, crews and officers whose collective heroism played a vital part in bringing the war to an end."
Polish squadrons were stationed at RAF Northolt throughout the war and a Polish Liaison Officer was appointed at the bunker to liaise directly with Polish Air Force High Command. In addition, South Ruislip (near RAF Northolt) is where the Polish Air Force Memorial was erected to commemorate all who served with the Polish Air Force during the Second World War.
Professor Rzegocki said: "Last year, we marked 80 years since the Battle of Britain, which turned the tide of the Second World War.
"I am glad that to mark this occasion Hillingdon Council has decided to honour the memory of those without whom the war could have ended differently and has prepared, together with the Polish Air Force Memorial Committee, a special Polish Air Force Exhibition at the Battle of Britain Bunker, presenting the bravery and personal stories of the heroes of our skies.
"This, the first permanent, open exhibition in the UK about the role of the Polish Air Force during the war, is a great opportunity to reflect on the Polish-British spirit of camaraderie that binds us thanks to those who in the past shed blood for Poland, the United Kingdom and Europe."
The Battle of Britain Exhibition and Visitor Centre reopened to the public on 17 May. Tickets need to be pre-booked ahead of your visit. To find out more and book, visit: www.battleofbritainbunker.co.uk.