303 (Polish) Squadron’s first combat patrol

An Me 109 that just made the coast of France.
303 Squadron shot down six in under an hour on their first combat patrol.

Pilots of 303 Squadron pictured during the Battle of Britain

Highly experienced fighter-pilots from the Polish Airforce who had escaped from occupied Europe were being formed into their own Squadrons. 303 Squadron was still training with Hurricanes when they made their first kill on the 30th August. Squadron Leader Kellett decided that further training was unnecessary. As a consequence they were declared operational the next day:


No. 303 (Polish) Squadron, ‘A’ Flight

13 Hurricanes Up: Northolt 18:05
13 Hurricanes Down: Northolt 19:04

1. ‘B’ Flight made no contact with enemy. ‘A’ Flight, at 16,000 ft east of Biggin Hill, saw about 60 Dorniers going east, protected by fighters. The bombers were in tight vics with sections of Me109s circling around them. Some fighters were covering them above. ‘A’ Flight attacked out of the sun and took enemy escorts by surprise. Each of our pilots selected one Me109 and six dogfights took place.

2. Squadron Leader Kellett, Red 1, ordered his section to attack 3 Me109s which were circling in towards the bombers. He fired several bursts totalling six seconds in all. Enemy aircraft swerved from side-to-side and pulled up his nose into a steep climb in his endeavour to escape, but he burst into flames and fell perpendicularly.

3. Red 2, Sgt Karubin, shot down his Me109 in flames – only evasive tactic was a dive – as surprise was complete. Red 3, Sgt Szaposznikow’s, opponent rolled and dived, finally rolling onto his back and falling vertically training a thick cloud of black smoke.

4. Yellow 1, F/O Henneburg, tried to lead his Section up against 4 Me109s which were diving to attack the Hurricane, but they became engaged with other Me109s and he attacked alone. He fought one enemy aircraft to the coast and it fell into the sea about six miles south of Newhaven.

5. Yellow 2, P/O Feric, attacked a Me109 from 70 yards and the engine caught fire. The pilot baled out. Only 20 rounds per gun were fired. Yellow 3, Sgt Wunsche, fired two burst at 150 to 100 yards. The engine caught fire and the enemy aircraft crashed in flames. Sgt Wunsche is also certain that he saw a Me110 crashing with both its engines in flames.

6. All six of our pilots destroyed their enemy fighter, but not one of them was able to make contact with the bombers.

7. This is the first action by a Flight of No 303 (Polish) Squadron.

Enemy casualties – Six Me109s destroyed.
Our casualties – Nil.

All our aircraft serviceable.

Intelligence Officer,
No 303 (Polish) Squadron,
RAF Station, Northolt.

Although they missed the first two months of the battle 303 Squadron were to become the top scoring Squadron during the official period of the Battle of Britain, with 126 kills.

The Luftwaffe bombing attacks were still being directed against military targets – but this made little difference to those civilians living in the vicinity. Florrie Collinge lived close to the A.V. Roe factory in Manchester:

We had a hectic night on Saturday, 31st August. They came over at about 11 o’clock and we could hear them over our house. We watched at the back door, the flashes and the verey lights dropping for half an hour before we got the siren. As soon as we came into the house we heard bombs dropping somewhere behind the house, then we heard a screaming bomb which ended in a dull thud.

I went into the pantry (my aid raid shelter) for a little while, then came out and sat in the big chair, while Harry lay on the couch. We couldn’t go to bed until we got the “all clear”. We were both dozing when a loud knock came at the door; it was the wardens. They told us to get out of the house at once and go into the shelters, as we were in a danger zone which had to be evacuated. Sixteen bombs had dropped nearby without exploding.

The shelters were packed with people, and we stayed there until 2.45 a.m. when we got the “all clear”, but they wouldn’t let us go home as they said bombs had dropped behind our houses. From Mills Hill Bridge to Bay Tree Avenue, and part of Middleton Junction was a prohibited area. Engineers were already on the job looking for the bombs.

Some of the people were in night attire with just a coat round them and carpet slippers on their feet, but they wouldn’t allow them to go home for anything. We were fortunate enough to be fully dressed as we stay up late every night waiting for the bombers. They brought a motor coach for us, right up to the shelter, and took us to Cowhill School.

When we got there the place was full — about 200 of us. They brought us hot tea, Oxo, and two kinds of biscuits. Also, at 8.00 a.m. we were given tea, bread, butter and biscuits. We were in the school all night. At 9.00 a.m. on Sunday, they came to tell us we could go home as they thought the danger was over behind our houses, then they took us all home in motors and ambulances. They didn’t find any bombs in the field behind our house, but three were found a little further away.

They have found more since, buried deep in gardens, back yards and streets. These are roped off and the houses evacuated until the bombs have been removed.

I was worried to death all the Saturday night because I had left Tiny and Joey (the two budgies) in the house, and Tony, the cat, shut up in the kitchen. We were informed that there was no telling when we would be allowed to go home. I never missed my home so much in all my life.

Read the whole of Florrie Collinge’s diary on BBC People’s War.

The August 1940 Operations log for 303 Squadron - who were still in training when they made their first kill on 30th August 1940.

For more on 303 Squadron see Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum.

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