No. 301 Polish Bomber Squadron

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No. 301 (Land of Pomerania) Squadron RAF
PSP Dywizjon 301.jpg
Emblem of No. 301 Squadron
Active 26 July 1940 - 7 April 1943
7 November 1944 – 10 December 1946
Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Allegiance Poland Polish government in exile
Branch Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg Royal Air Force
Type heavy bomber unit
Role aerial bombardment & special operations
Size ca. 500
Part of No. 1 Group RAF
Nickname(s) Ziemi Pomorskiej - Obrońców Warszawy
Patron Land of Pomerania & Heroes of Warsaw
Anniversaries 14 September
Engagements Operation Sea Lion, Operation Millennium, Operation Intonation, Operation Response, Operation Revenge, Warsaw Uprising
Insignia
Squadron Codes GR (Jul 1940 - Apr 1943, Nov 1944 - Dec 1946)
Aircraft flown
Bomber Fairey Battle
Vickers Wellington
Transport Handley Page Halifax
Consolidated Liberator
Vickers Warwick

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.

History[edit]

No. 301 Squadron (Bomber Command)[edit]

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.[1] 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.[2] 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).[2] 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.[2]

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.[2] 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.[2] Most of the air crews and bomber aircraft were transferred to No. 300 Polish Bomber Squadron. In Bomber Command the squadron completed 1204 missions in 6782 hours, dropping some 1700 ton bombs, losing 31 aircraft, 156 airmen KIA, 5 MIA and 25 POW.[2]

C Flight No. 138 Squadron / No. 1586 Flight[edit]

The remaining volunteer crews were attached to the RAF Tempsford-based No. 138 Squadron RAF as the newly formed C Flight, on 1 April 1943. It had seven crews and operated three Handley Page Halifax and three Consolidated Liberator special transport bombers.[2] On 4 November 1943, C Flight, No. 138 Squadron RAF became No.1586 (Polish Special Duties) Flight RAF at RAF Derna Libya.[3] (according to Polish sources, at Sidi Amor, Tunisia[2]). It was still named locally by their ex 301 crews and Polish authorities as No. 301 Squadron Land of Pomerania.[2] 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.[2] Flights to central Poland were especially difficult, lasting up to eleven hours.

No. 301 Squadron (special duties / Transport Command)[edit]

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 February 1945, flying special duties supply missions to occupied Europe. Last flight to Poland was accomplished on 28 December 1944.[2] On 28 February 1945 the squadron was subordinated to RAF Transport Command, and on 15 March 1945 returned to RAF Blackbushe, England, to operate the Vickers Warwick.[2] In 1946, the squadron re-equipped with the Handley Page Halifax again until 301 Squadron was disbanded at Chedburgh on 18 December 1946.

Crews of C Flight No. 138 Squadron, No. 1586 Flight and No. 301 Squadron accomplished 1335 special duties missions in 9933 hours (including 423 missions in 3892 hours to Poland), dropping 1577 tons of supplies and 693 men.[2] Losses were 167 KIA, 18 MIA and 49 POW (33.5 crews), mostly in flights to Poland (24 crews).[2]

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.

Patch[edit]

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 Mermaid of Warsaw syrenka, the Coat of Arms of Warsaw on the lower right.

Aircraft operated[edit]

Aircraft operated by 301 Squadron[2]
From To Aircraft Version
24 July 1940 Fairey Battle Mk I
20 October 1940 Vickers Wellington Mk I
5 November 1941 Vickers Wellington Mk IV
15 November 1942 Vickers Wellington Mk III
1 April 1943 Handley Page Halifax
Consolidated Liberator
Mk II, Mk V
Mk V, Mk VI
15 March 1945 Vickers Warwick C Mk III

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Count Edward Raczyński, The British-Polish Alliance; Its Origin and Meaning. The Mellville Press, London, 1948
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Wacław Król (1982). Polskie dywizjony lotnicze w Wielkiej Brytanii (in Polish). Warsaw: Wydawnictwo MON. pp. 104–112. ISBN 83-11-07695-2. 
  3. ^ Lake, Alan. Flying units of the RAF. Shrewsbury: Airlife Publishing. ISBN 1-84037-086-6. 

External links[edit]