Item:
ON11072

Original WWII Polish Air Forces RAF Flying Officer Uniform

Regular price $1,395.00

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Item Description

Original Items: One-of-a-kind set. The Polish Air Forces (Polskie Siły Powietrzne) was the name of the Polish Air Forces formed in France and the United Kingdom during World War II. The core of the Polish air units fighting alongside the Allies were experienced veterans of the 1939 invasion of Poland. They contributed to the UK victory in the Battle of Britain and RAF air operations during the war. A total of 145 Polish fighter pilots served in the RAF during the Battle of Britain, making up the largest non-British contribution. By the end of the war, around 19,400 Poles were serving in the Polish Air Force in Great Britain and in the RAF.

This uniform reportedly belonged to Flying Officer Leon "Lonek" Olszamowski consists of the following items:

- English tailor made blue wool RAF tunic with Signaler (Wireless Operator) Wing to right chest, POLAND patches on both shoulders, medal ribbons: Polish Air Force Medal (Medal Lotniczy za Wojne 1939-1945), British Defense Medal, British War Medal 1939–1945. Embroidered star lapel rank insignia, Flying Officer cuff ribbons, English made brass Polish uniform buttons, tailor label on the interior that read BURTON A Tailor of Taste, 118-132 New Oxford St. London. Size is approximately a 38 US. Overall condition is very good.

- Blue wool RAF Officer visor cap with embroidered Polish Air Forces insignia to front mounted on hat band. Size is approximately US 7 (56cm). Overall condition is very good.

- Blue wool RAF Flying Officer overcoat with POLAND patches on each shoulder and Blue wool RAF rank shoulder boards. Size is approximately a 38 US. Tailor label to interior of Austin Reed of Regent Street with handwritten June 25, 1944 date. There is also a handwritten name clearly Polish spelling but difficult to read. Overall condition is very good.

After the collapse of France in 1940, a large part of the Polish Air Force contingent was withdrawn to the United Kingdom. However, the RAF Air Staff were not willing to accept the independence and sovereignty of Polish forces.

Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding later admitted he had been "a little doubtful" at first about the Polish airmen. The British government informed General Sikorski that at the end of the war, Poland would be charged for all costs involved in maintaining Polish forces in Britain. Initial plans for the airmen greatly disappointed them: they would only be allowed to join the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, wear British uniforms, fly British flags and be required to take two oaths, one to the Polish government and the other to George VI; each officer was required to have a British counterpart, and all Polish pilots were to begin with the rank of "pilot officer", the lowest rank for a commissioned officer in the RAF. Only after posting would anyone be promoted to a higher grade. Because of this, the majority of highly experienced Polish pilots had to wait in training centres, learning English Command procedures and language, while the RAF suffered heavy losses due to lack of experienced pilots. On June 11, 1940, a preliminary agreement was signed by the Polish and British governments and soon the British authorities finally allowed for the creation of two bomber squadrons and a training centre as part of the Royal Air Force.

The first squadrons were 300 and 301 bomber squadrons and 302 and 303 fighter squadrons. The fighter squadrons, flying the Hawker Hurricane, first saw action in the third phase of the Battle of Britain in late August 1940, quickly becoming highly effective. Polish flying skills were well-developed from the invasion of Poland and the pilots were regarded as fearless and sometimes bordering on reckless. Their success rates were very high in comparison to the less-experienced British Commonwealth pilots. The 303 squadron became the most efficient RAF fighter unit at that time, and RAF commanders protested when government censors refused to allow this fact to appear in the press. By late 1940 the American visitor Ralph Ingersoll reported that the Poles were "the talk of London" because of their victories. Although at first the Poles memorised basic English sentences to identify themselves if shot down over Britain to avoid being mistaken as Germans, Ingersoll wrote that such pilots returned with "a girl on each arm. They say the girls cannot resist the Poles, nor the Poles the girls". Bomber squadrons Nos. 300 and 301 started operations on 14 August 1940, attacking German invasion barges in French ports, and then attacking targets in Germany as a part of British bombing offensive.[10]

Many Polish pilots flew in other RAF squadrons, usually given nicknames because, as Ingersoll wrote, "the Polish names, of course, are unpronounceable".[9] Later, further Polish squadrons were created: 304 (bomber, then Coastal Command), 305 (bomber), 306 (fighter), 307 (night fighter), 308 (fighter), 309 (reconnaissance, then fighter), 315 (fighter), 316 (fighter), 317 (fighter), 318 (fighter-reconnaissance) and 663 (air observation/artillery spotting). The fighter squadrons initially flew Hurricanes, then Supermarine Spitfires, and eventually some were equipped with North American Mustangs. Night fighters used by 307 were the Boulton-Paul Defiant, Bristol Beaufighter and the de Havilland Mosquito. The bomber squadrons were initially equipped with Fairey Battles and Vickers Wellingtons, then Avro Lancasters (300 sqn), Handley Page Halifaxs and Consolidated Liberators (301 sqn) and de Havilland Mosquitos and North American Mitchells (305 sqn). 663 flew Auster AOP Mk Vs.

On April 6, 1944, a further agreement was reached and the Polish Air Forces in Great Britain came under Polish command, without RAF officers. This resulted in the creation of a dedicated Polish Air Force staff college at RAF Weston-super-Mare, which remained open until April 1946.

After the war, in a changed political situation, their equipment was returned to the British. Due to the fact that Poland ended the war under Soviet occupation, only a small proportion of the pilots returned to Poland where they suffered from harassment, while the rest remained exiled from their native country.

A memorial to those Polish pilots killed while on RAF service was erected in 1948 at the south-eastern corner of RAF Northolt aerodrome. On the public highway, it is accessible without entering RAF areas. It is adjacent to the A4180 junction on the A40 Western Avenue; the official name for this junction is "Polish War Memorial". A large memorial to Polish Air Force squadrons in the war is situated on the floor of the north aisle of the reconstructed Wren church, St Clement Danes, London.

The Polish-American fighter ace Francis S. "Gabby" Gabreski flew his first combat missions attached to a Polish RAF squadron.

King George VI, on visiting a Polish squadron, asked a Polish airman what was the toughest thing he had to deal with in the war. The reply was "King's Regulations...."
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