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Thank God for the Poles! Norman Tebbit on the Battle of Britain

Blog | By Norman Tebbit | Sep 15, 2020

No 303 'City of Warsaw' Squadron was the top-scoring RAF unit in September 1940, with nine of its pilots claiming five or more kills. Pilot Officers Jan Zumbach (left) and Mirosław Ferić, two of its aces, play with the Squadron's mascot. Leconfield, October 1940. Credit: Imperial War Museum

Many of us oldies lived through the Battle of Britain, watching the aircraft fighting over our heads.

It was intended by Hitler and Goering to be the battle in which the RAF would be destroyed, giving the Luftwaffe control of the skies as the German landing craft ferried the Wehrmacht invasion army onto the English beaches.

All told, 2,918 Allied airmen flew in the Battle, in which 544 died. Of them, 2,335 were British, 145 Poles, 126 Kiwis, 99 Canadians, 88 Czechs, 33 Aussies, 29 Belgians, 25 South Africans,13 French, 11 from The Republic of Ireland, 3 Rhodesians and 1 Jamaican.

There was no doubt that the Luftwaffe was in the ascendancy as the RAF casualties mounted. The RAF was simply running out, not of aircraft but pilots, as we flung inexperienced men, just out of flying school, into the air against the battle-hardened Germans. Then, only just in time the equally battle-experienced Poles arrived to reinforce the RAF, wanting nothing but revenge upon the Germans who had ravaged and occupied their homeland.

Without the Poles, the battle would have been lost and the German invasion craft would have been able to cross the Channel before the autumn gales, bringing the Wehrmacht to massacre the Allied survivors from the Dunkirk evacuation. And The Second World War would have been won by Hitler's National Socialist regime.