"We started with a Spitfire engine, a plan for a coffee table and a heroic story which led us here."
Quote - Scott Booth - LSL Founder
The story begins on June 4th 1940, but for some others it started long before...
Thankfully for us ‘lucky few’ it started as an idea on October 2016, when Scott Booth our group founder (pictured below) was fortunate enough to take a flight in a two-seater spitfire. Whilst waiting in the holding area, Scott spotted a magnificent coffee table made from an old Rolls Royce Griffon engine used in late Mark Spitfires.
Having fulfilled a lifetime ambition and having seen this coffee table, the search began to find one for him self, an almost impossible task. In 2018 however, Scott found an original early Rolls Royce Merlin engine after a chance spot on the famous auction site Ebay.
However, once home and discovering the same Air Ministry Serial numbers all over the engine his curiosity got the better of Scott and he decided to find out more about this engine, the plane, and the men who flew it. This is where the story of Acting Wing Commander Piotr Łaguna (pronounced Pyotr Wagoona) and the brave pilots who flew in P8331 and Polish 303 Squadron (immortalised in the 2018 movie) took off from there.
Creating a lasting legacy
With much research to find out about the aircraft, the man and the men who flew P8331, the concept behind Laguna’s Spitfire Legacy (LSL) was born. The idea is to create a lasting recognition to all of the brave Fighter Pilots of WW2 but with a specific focus on a central figurehead in Acting Wing Commander Piotr Łaguna, and the 18,000 Polish Pilots and ground crews of the Polish Air force. With the help of volunteers including friends, family, historians and enthusiasts the project came to life to what you see today.
Click images to enlarge
Why? To ensure these brave pilots who were so pivotal in the outcome of the Second World War and were coined by Sir Winston Churchill as “The Few”, receive the recognition they deserve.
We think these brave pilots who were there for us at our greatest time of need should get the recognition they deserve and at LSL we want to make this happen, through interaction with the public at organized events such as Polish Heritage days, air shows and other such appropriate wartime events around the country.
This will take place in the form of a full-scale replica of 303 Squadron Spitfire, P8331 RF-M Sumatra. Acting Wing Commander Laguna flew this aircraft for the last time and was lost on 27th June 1941 over Coquelles, France. This will be for the public to see, touch and experience what it was like to sit in a Spitfire. Supporting this will be an exhibition of personal equipment and articles relating to the aircraft and pilots.
The Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain (BoB) was arguably the biggest turning point of WW2. Had the RAF not managed to suppress and hold back the German Luftwaffe, inevitably Great Britain would have fallen and, alas, Europe as a whole. To take this one step further, Britain had a big problem during this time: a lack of pilots and more specifically, experienced pilots.
The Polish were initially held back for language challenges until a break of procedure ended up with the Polish demonstrating their deadly flying skills with successfully shooting down a number of enemy aircraft without loss of pilots. At this point, they were made operational and flew the last 42 days (Half of the period) of the BoB. During this time 303 Squadron became the highest scoring squadron with 126 enemy aircraft destroyed and the loss of 8 pilots. This was a remarkable feat, given their RAF counterparts shot down less and lost more pilots.
Polish Airmen RAF recruitment poster
(Image credit: © Peter Sikora Archive)
Brothers in arms and in peace
This ultimately made them the heroes of the hour. They were seen as ferocious and brave as well as deadly and skilled. They were admired and respected by their counterparts as well as by the enemy.
The Anglo/Polish historical relationship has extended over many hundreds of years and has been positive for both countries with a huge respect held for each other. During WW2 the Polish forces, having been ordered to evacuate Poland, ended up as one of our strongest allies with associations to the most ferocious battles of that time including the aforementioned Battle of Britain and Monte Casino to name but two. These are seen as much Polish Battles as they were British.
Over the last few years, the Polish communities have made great efforts to try to integrate into local communities such as Polish Heritage Days and participation in local groups, councils and schooling. This, for the majority, has been very successful.
There is a large population of Polish people now working and living in the UK est 900,000 the largest number since the end of WW2. Whilst integration has been positive, there have been some challenges to communities with acceptance. This is seen specifically with children and young adults. They find that they have an identity crisis, having been either born in Poland or in the UK but living with Polish parents, and having to integrate into British culture and lifestyle as a mixture of the two countries’ heritage. It can be challenging at times for them.
We would like to encourage people to firstly remember the 80th Anniversary of the BoB and the 75th Anniversary of VE Day. This was not of course just about the Polish pilots, but a representation of many pilots from many countries around the globe which we are keen to promote.
Up and coming diary dates
Wings over Poland Tour