No. 301 Polish Bomber Squadron
|No. 301 (Pomeranian) Squadron RAF|
Emblem of No. 301 (Pomeranian) Squadron
|Active||26 July 1940 - 7 April 1943
7 November 1944 – 10 December 1946
|Allegiance||Polish government in exile|
|Branch||Royal Air Force|
|Type||heavy bomber unit|
|Role||aerial bombardment & special operations|
|Part of||No. 6 Group RAF, No. 1 Group RAF|
|Nickname(s)||Ziemi Pomorskiej - Obrońców Warszawy|
|Patron||Land of Pomerania & Heroes of Warsaw|
|Aircraft||Fairey Battle I, Vickers Wellington IC, IV, Handley Page Halifax II, V, CVIII, B-24 Liberator III, V and VI, Vickers Warwick CI, CIII|
|Engagements||Operation Sea Lion, Operation Millennium, Operation Intonation, Operation Response, Operation Revenge, Warsaw Uprising|
|Squadron Codes||GR (Jul 1940 - Apr 1943, Nov 1944 - Dec 1946)|
No. 301 Polish Bomber Squadron "Land of Pomerania" (Polish: 301 Dywizjon Bombowy "Ziemi Pomorskiej") was a Polish World War II bomber unit. It fought alongside the Royal Air Force and operated from airbases in the United Kingdom and Italy.
Already before the outbreak of World War II, the Polish government had signed an agreement with the Royal Air Force. According to the appendix to the Polish-British Alliance, should war with Germany break out, two Polish bomber squadrons were to be created on British soil, with additional two being created en cadre. However, following the German and Soviet invasion of Poland, most of the Polish airmen who managed to get to the west were incorporated into the Polish Air Forces being recreated in France. It was not until the fall of France that Polish airmen started to arrive in the United Kingdom in large numbers.
Polish evacuees and refugees with experience in aerial warfare were initially stationed in a military camp in Eastchurch. Finally, on 1 July 1940, No. 300 Polish Bomber Squadron was created as the first of such Polish units. Then, as an increasing number of Polish airmen, mostly with combat experience, arrived from Poland and France, an additional Polish bomber squadron was created on 24 July. This second squadron was named No. 301 (Polish) Squadron by the British authorities; the new squadron also received the name Ziemi Pomorskiej (of Land of Pomerania) in accordance with Polish naming traditions.
301 Squadron was initially commanded by Lt.Col. Roman Rudkowski, and was equipped with 16 outdated Fairey Battle bombers. The personnel included 24 entirely Polish air crews, while the technical personnel (some 180 initially) were mostly British. 301 Squadron was then established at RAF Bramcote. On 23 August 1940 it was relocated to RAF Swinderby, along with 300 Squadron. On 14 September 1940, the squadron flew its first combat mission: three crews took part in bombing raids against the German invasion fleet gathered in Boulogne for Operation Sea Lion (the date was later declared the date of the squadron's feast). On 25 September 1940, the squadron lost its first crew: one of the Battles was damaged by German anti-aircraft fire over northern France and crashed before landing.
The early stage of 301 Squadron ended on 20 October 1940, when it was withdrawn from active service and badly needed new aircraft arrived. Training with the Vickers Wellington bombers lasted until December. At the same time, the number of ground crew was expanded to about 400 men. On 22 December, the squadron took off for the first bombing raid with their new bombers. The raid damaged an oil refinery in Antwerp, and was repeated on 28 December, with no friendly losses. On the night of 1 January 1941, three aircraft crashed on landing because of bad weather, while returning from a raid on Bremen. Swinderby airfield proved unsuitable for medium bombers in wet weather, which resulted in the entire squadron being grounded.
After several weeks the weather improved and 301 Squadron joined in a bombing campaign over France and Germany. Among common targets were Bremen, Hamburg, Brest and Essen. 301 Squadron flew on many more missions in following two years. On 18 July 1941 the squadron moved to RAF Hemswell base, along with 300 Squadron. On the night of 31 May 1942, the squadron took part in a large bombing raid on Cologne, and on 6 June it visited Essen, where it lost two crews. On 27 June it bombed Bremen in the last thousand-aircraft raid, losing an additional air crew. On 3 July yet another crew was lost. Over the night of 22 July, another three were lost to enemy AA fire and fighter planes.
Due to big losses suffered in 1942, from a second half of the year, 301 Squadron undertook mainly less dangerous mining sorties against German waters. At that time, the Polish HQ was lacking manpower and with too few experienced airmen, HQ decided to disband 301 squadron on 31 March 1943. Most of the air crews and bomber aircraft were transferred to No. 300 Polish Bomber Squadron.
The remaining volunteer crews were then attached to the RAF Tempsford-based No. 138 Squadron RAF as the newly formed C Flight operating the Handley Page Halifax bomber and still named locally by their ex 301 crews as 301 Squadron Special Duties Flight RAF. On 4 November 1943, C Flight, No. 138 Squadron RAF became No.1586 (Polish Special Duties) Flight RAF at RAF Derna Libya.
On 7 November 1944, their unit reformed at Brindisi, Italy, when No. 1586 Flight was renamed back as 301 Squadron. The squadron operated the Handley Page Halifax and Consolidated Liberator until 1945. In 1945 the squadron returned to RAF Blackbushe, England, to operate the Vickers Warwick. In 1946, the squadron re-equipped with the Handley Page Halifax again until 301 Squadron was disbanded at Chedburgh on 18 December 1946.
Thus, 301 Squadron was in fact two completely different units, with two different roles and different aircraft types; one was bomber, the other was transport / special duties. With the demise of 301 (bomber) Squadron, most crews and aircraft joined another Polish (bomber) squadron (300,) losing their original hexagonal griffin emblem to adopt the 300 Sq. chevron. The remaining 301 crews moved to a completely different (transport) squadron (138). Later, they used a new circular 301 emblem which included their original 301 Pomeranian griffin.
Initially the squadron's insignia featured a Pegasus or griffin "rampant" (occasionally drawn "passant") on a hexagonal shield. The griffin is the symbol of Pomerania. After the re-establishment of the 301 Squadron in 1944, it received a new double name of Land of Pomerania - Defenders of Warsaw. Because of that, the new patch featured a circular shield with the golden crowned White Eagle of Poland, with a griffin "passant" at the lower left and the Maid of Warsaw "syrenka", the Coat of Arms of Warsaw on the lower right.
Notes and references
- Count Edward Raczyński, The British-Polish Alliance; Its Origin and Meaning. The Mellville Press, London, 1948
- Wacław Król (1982). Polskie dywizjony lotnicze w Wielkiej Brytanii (in Polish). Warsaw: Wydawnictwo MON. pp. 104–112. ISBN 83-11-07695-2.
- Lake, Alan. Flying units of the RAF. Shrewsbury: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-84037-086-6. On 22 December 1943, the Polish flight was transferred to Campo Cassale near Brindisi, Italy, from where it flew above the occupied Europe with special duties. A special effort was undertaken to supply Polish insurgents after an outbreak of Warsaw Uprising in August 1944.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to No. 301 (Polish) Squadron RAF.|
- 301 Polish Bomber Squadron - history (in Polish language)
- Photo Gallery of 301 Squadron
- A personal account of a Polish pilot from 301 Sqn
- Personnel of the Polish Air Force in Great Britain 1940-1947