So what do we owe the Polish anyway

What makes the poppies grow so well

Given the latest burst of xenophobia, and an outcry to repatriate everyone not born of these shores, and some that are, a few thoughts.

No Re-writing of History

After all we are proud of our History (or most of it).

Britains debt to Poland for Ultra.

Without the knowledge that ULTRA gave the Allied forces in WW2 there would undoubtably been a different outcome. Millions of tons of shipping, countless allied lives and the very outcome of the conflict hinged upon the ability to know what the enemy were planning to do. On those occasions when the decryption faltered for any reason, losses mounted and survival became more precarious.

The Poles had broken Enigma in 1932, when the encoding machine was undergoing trials with the German Army. But when the Poles broke Enigma, the cipher altered only once every few months. With the advent of war, it changed at least once a day, giving 159 million million million possible settings to choose from. The Poles decided to inform the British in July 1939 once they needed help to break Enigma and with invasion of Poland imminent.

Britains debt for the "Battle of Britain"

Hitlers armies were poised upon the coast of France with a simple requirement. Give us air superiority to hold off the Royal Navy and we will invade Britain, or drive them to an armistice.
Having barely survived Dunkirk, and with our Army in no condition to fight at its best, having lost most of its equipment in northern France, we all agree that the "few" stood between us and a future as a German state.

As the Battle of Britain wore on, and the shortage of trained pilots became critical, the exiles were accepted into RAF squadrons and two Polish fighter units, Nos. 302 and 303 Squadrons, were formed. Once committed to action, the Poles flew and fought superbly, shooting down 203 enemy aircraft for the loss of 29 pilots killed. No. 303 Squadron became the most successful Fighter Command unit in the Battle, shooting down 126 German machines in only 42 days. Czech Sergeant Josef Frantisek, also of '303', was the top scoring pilot with 17 confirmed victories.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, who led Fighter Command, would later write:

"Had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of the Battle would have been the same."

And as the war progressed further

The British now rose to the challenge of integrating the Poles into the RAF. By an agreement of August 1940 the PAF was granted independent status, though it remained under RAF command. Further national units were formed and, by VE Day, the PAF had a strength of 15 fighter, bomber, coastal and special duties squadrons supported by 14,000 airmen and airwomen. Poles continued to serve in the RAF and three Polish officers commanded RAF units. The RAF respected the Poles' culture and traditions and recognised their complete equality with British nationals. To help overcome the language barrier, English lessons were provided and technical manuals were translated into Polish.

The Poles appreciated this open-minded approach and continued to fight exceptionally well. Polish fighter pilots destroyed 957 enemy aircraft with 58 men claiming five or more victories. Polish squadrons in Bomber Command and Coastal Command dropped a total of 14,708 tons of bombs and mines on enemy targets. Sadly, the PAF's No.300 Squadron suffered the highest number of deaths of any Bomber Command unit. Throughout the war, Polish ground crews were known for their dedication and efficiency and aircraft serviceability rates on Polish squadrons were impressively high.

Normandy, Monte Cassino and beyond

And on the ground they fought through Normandy alongside Canadian and British units.
And in Italy, the Polish Cemetery at Monte Cassino holds the graves of over a thousand Poles who died, storming the bombed-out Benedictine abbey atop the mountain in May 1944, during the Battle of Monte Cassino.

So What ...

They gave their lives to save our grandmothers and fathers, and if they had not would you be here, or maybe speaking German?
If your ancestors fought in Italy, they may be alive because someone else stormed the slopes of Monte Cassino, if they fought in France, they may be alive because someone else was in the tank that was hit, or kicked the door open.
And if they were just children collecting shrapnel in the streets of London or the suburbs? Maybe they could be grateful for the bombers and fighters they saw shot down, or the fact that there were less to come back and try again.

Our history would be radically different without our Polish friends

"We shall remember them"

administrator Wednesday 06 July 2016 - 10:05 am | | Default
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