Brave Polish Fighter Pilot Who Served in the British Royal Air Force

 

polish RAF pilot

Stanisław Skalski in his Hawker Hurricane during the Battle of Britain.

The smaller Iron Crosses* are for “assists.”

(While eclipsed by the glamour of the Spitfire, Hurricanes actually comprised 60% of the front-line strength of RAF Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain.)

Stanisław Skalski DSO, DFC, and two Bars* (27 November 1915 – 12 November 2004) was a Polish fighter ace of the Polish Air Force in World War II, later rising to the rank of Generał. He was either the t]first or the second Polish fighter ace of WW II and the first Allied fighter ace of the war, credited, according to the official list, with 18 11/12 victories and two probable. Some sources, including Skalski himself, give a number of 22+ victories.(Colorised by Tomek Iwanowski from Poland).

(photo and caption courtesy of Carlos L Martinez via David Criser onPinterest)

From his biography on World War Two awards:

“Following the German invasion of Poland on September 1 1939, Skalski and his squadron were in action immediately. He claimed his first victory on the opening day, and by the fifth day he had destroyed four German bombers, to become the only Polish ace of the short campaign. As Polish resistance collapsed, the remnants of his squadron escaped to Romania. He eventually made his way to the Mediterranean, where he boarded a boat for England, arriving in January 1940 and was commissioned in the RAF….he joined No 501 Squadron at the height of the Battle of Britain in August 1940. Flying Hurricanes.”

He shot down 22 Luftwaffe aircraft during World War Two, including the German planes he shot down in Poland, and was the second highest scoring Polish ace. The London Daily Mail says he was the “Poland’s most successful fighter pilot” so sources conflict.

He was decorated for gallantry four times by the British,  three times by the Free French and six times by the Polish government in exile, according to the Daily Mail. Once again sources conflict. The site with his full biography shows he was decorated as many as ten times by the Polish government in exile.

In 1947 he returned to Poland, was arrested in 1949 on trumped up charges of espionage orchestra by the Soviets. He was beaten frequently and sentenced to death. In 1956 he was released, returned to England and resumed his career in the Royal Air Force, rising to the rank of General.

He was decorated for gallantry four times by the British, six times by the Polish government in exile and three times by the Free French.

 

His entire biography with citations is here: World War Two biography of Stanislaw Skalski

 

** two bars means he was twice more awarded the medal

Many Polish Air Force pilots made their way to Great Britain after the German’s overran Poland. In spite of their antiquated aircraft, the Polish Air Force had put up a credible defense. AOC-in-C Dowding of Fighter Command was wary of these pilots at first. Few spoke English and he thought they might be too undisciplined. As it turned out, they learned English quickly and since they had been professional airmen and flying for a number of years they were some of the most experienced fighter pilots the RAF had.

Better, given what the Nazis were doing to their homeland, the Poles had a visceral hatred of the Germans. If they ran out of ammunition and were over England, Polish pilots often rammed German planes then baled out.

Published by

Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/