Northwood Cemetery and the Polish Air Force

"Had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry I hesitate to say the outcome of battle would not have been the same."
Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command, 1936-1940

A serviceman inscribes the grave of Ludwik Paszkiewicz at Northwood Cemetery) Photo credit - © The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - London 
In the summer of 1940, 145 Polish airmen flew alongside the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Battle of Britain. These were young men, who had escaped their native country after the Nazi invasion in September 1939, and had travelled across Europe to Britain to continue the fight against Nazi Germany.

According to official Fighter Command sources, the Polish No. 303 (Kościuszko) Squadron, based at RAF Northolt during the Battle of Britain, are credited with the most confirmed kills out of the 66 Royal Air Force squadrons, despite joining the battle almost two months after it commenced in July 1940.

By the end of the Second World War, approximately 19,000 men and women had joined the Polish Air Force (PAF) in Britain, and around 2,408 were killed in action. Poland had supplied the forth largest contingent of forces for the Allied war effort in Western Europe. The Polish Air Force had fought alongside all three RAF commands - Coastal, Bomber and Fighter Command - and made a major contribution to the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Two of the airmen (Ludwik Paszkiewicz and Tadeusz Andruszków) were killed during the same day - on 27 September 1940 - within minutes of one another. This exhibition marks the anniversary of their death.  

The graves of Polish airmen at Northwood Cemetery, shortly after the creation of the Polish Air Force section Photo credit - © The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - London 

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Wotjek Deluga from the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum (London) for his continued support and assistance with this project, Wotjek Matusiak for his research on all 5 pilots, and also Dilip Sarkar for communicating the story of Franciszek Gruszka in his book: Battle of Britain 1940: The Finest Hour's Human Cost (2020).

Page last updated: 27 Sep 2021