(Image credit: © Peter Sikora Archive)
Working side by side to ensure a legacy for 'The Few'.
As a project we have a clear responsibility to ensure we keep the activities and actions of the work we do in the public interest.
We have appointed Patrons whom are experts in their own fields of expertise, as well as family related Honorary Patrons. Our Patrons are as passionate as we are in the success of the project and it’s ethos of Remembrance of the 18,000 Polish Air Force Personnel, Unity through understanding of cultures, Legacy for future and finally Education for youth generations.
Our Patrons are actively involved in the project and contribute through public appearances and consultation in decisions that stand to benefit the growth and success as we move forward.
Peter, an automotive engineer with Aston Martin, General Motors, Aston Martin-Tickford and finally Prodrive retired in 2002 as a Chief Chassis Engineer.
Peter’s interest in the Spitfire started as a schoolboy in the 1950’s, plateaued, and was then reawakened in earnest in 1967 with the gathering of aircraft for the Battle of Britain Film at close by RAF Henlow.
Since then he has steadily built up collated data and an image collection that is now a prime source for the World’s vintage aviation Press. He was the co-author of the much sought after two volume tomes ‘Spitfire Survivors -Then and Now’. Widely travelled he has visited over 120 countries with his job, holidays, and Spitfire recoveries endeavouring to confirm by visual inspection the true RAF serial identity of about 20% of the 230 odd survivors.
Along the way he has gathered a number of Spitfire and Seafire projects, notably his Seafire 46 LA564 and his Spitfire XII EN224 both now in the hands of new owners restoring them to flight. He still has a Mk 22 Spitfire tucked away in his workshop.
Peter Arnold Endorsement:
I was delighted to be invited to be a patron of the Laguna Spitfire Project and I fully support it. I see here a professionalism that over time will have another Spitfire in the air. It will be a fitting and well deserved tribute to those outstanding Polish pilots of WWII.
Air Commodore Simon Richardson - MA BSc CEng FIET RAF
Simon Richardson joined the RAF as a Communication and Electronics Engineer on 28 Aug 1983. After graduating from Salford University with a BSc in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and completing professional training courses, early tours ensued across the full spectrum of RAF Communications systems including satellite communications, short range air defence, strategic high frequency, and telegraphy. On promotion to Squadron Leader, Simon commanded Field Communications Squadron on Tactical Communications Wing, which included a very short notice deployment to Gioia Del Colle where he was responsible for all UK communications in support of the evacuation of UK personnel from Albania.
Simon completed Advanced Staff Training in 2002 during which he presented a thesis on global security threats arising from environmental degradation. Following promotion to Wing Commander, he spent two years advising the Chief of Defence Logistics on Defence CIS investment approval decisions. He was then selected to command the RAF’s No 1 Radio School at RAF Cosford, responsible for the development and delivery of training to communications officers, tradesmen and women from all three Services. A posting as a personnel desk officer followed, career managing c. 400 engineer and supply wing commanders.
Promoted to Group Captain in 2007, Simon was selected to serve as Chief of Staff to Director General Information Systems and Services. Soon after, he was selected for command as the Deputy Commander of the Army’s 11th Signal Brigade (a unique appointment for a Royal Air Force Officer) where he commanded 2500 Army and RAF personnel responsible for deployed communications and electronic warfare systems. This tour concluded with six months commanding the Joint Force CIS (Afghanistan) team during which he was responsible for all UK communications and information systems deployed throughout the Afghan Theatre. Appointment as Deputy Head Strategy in the MOD’s Capability Directorate followed, followed by selection to attend the Royal College of Defence Studies in 2012.
On promotion to Air Commodore in 2012, Simon took command of the RAF’s A6 Force as Air Officer A6, responsible for the RAF’s CIS engineers and tradesmen and women. In 2014 he was posted to the Joint Forces Command as the Head of C4ISR Capability planning. He retired from regular service in 2016; since then Simon has worked in the private sector Defence industry and has also continued serving in the RAF as a Volunteer Ex-Regular Reserve Air Commodore in the RAF’s Service Complaint Team.
Simon is married to Kerry with whom he has two children (Jacob and Abigail). Hobbies include all sports, motorcycling, fishing and cooking. He is a Patron of the Ride To The Wall charity, which raises funds for the upkeep of the National Memorial Arboretum; and, of course with his life-long passion for all things RAF and flying, including his Patron role for Lagunas Spitfire Legacy.
Appointment of Honorary Patron Janek Laguna
The Laguna Spitfire Legacy Project was created by Scott Booth, an ex-military man and Spitfire enthusiast who discovered the Rolls Royce Merlin Spitfire engine and traced this back to Spitfire P8331, the aircraft my father flew for the last time 27th June 1941.
Scott has made my father, the plane he flew when he died and his history the focus of what he hopes to achieve which is to bring back into the light the Polish Air Force’s crucial involvement in the Battle of Britain and war years. It was created to honour all those brave selfless heroes, their families and the Polish nation.
Finding my father’s aircraft was for me momentous. It brought a flood of sorrow and joy. He instantly became more real and it was good to reread all those things written about him many years ago and in this present day. His Zagłoba personality, his leadership skills, his popularity and, in his letters his enormous love for my mother, my sister and for me. My father’s story is very much the story of all those Polish pilots.
The last time we saw my father was when we were being transported east in an Air Force truck. My mother said that at one moment my sister Eva suddenly cried out “tatuś! tatuś!” (daddy! daddy!) and flying low overhead was my father. He made several passes then dipped his wings and flew away.
There were four of us, my mother, my older sister Ewa, myself and my mother’s father Ignacy .Of course Russia invaded and we were taken to prison camps in Siberia for two years. My father managed to communicate with my mother and she received a telegram not long before he died. She did not receive official confirmation of his death until we arrived in India in 1942.
We are all incredibly grateful to Scott for his discovery, his interest and his generosity devoting so much time and energy with such respect to the Laguna Spitfire Legacy. And even, beyond remarkable he has managed to have P8331 registered to be rebuilt and fly again.
We have become friends and Scott for me is channelling my father and none of this is coincidence coming right at the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and not long after the publishing of “The Polish Few” by Polish historian Peter Sikora.
Spitfire P8331 is the symbol and the reality of what the Polish airmen achieved and will be there forever and belongs to all the polish airmen’s families and their descendants and really to all Poles. It is there to make us all proud and grateful of their achievements, patriotism and selflessness.
My father was always very much a part of my life. We were refugees from India in Australia in 1947 where I attended boarding school and did not enjoy playing rugby. I remember always standing on the edge of the football field imagining him flying down, landing and taking me away.
And finally it is important that I offer my family’s thanks and appreciation to the British government for providing my mother with a generous pension until the day she died.
Appointment of Honorary Patron Alexandra Kent
Words from Alexandra Kent, daughter of Group Captain Johnny Kent, DFC & Bar, AFC, Silver Cross of the Virtuti Militari Decoration.
It was with sincere gratitude that I received an invitation from Mr Scott Booth to become an Honorary Patron to this important project – Supporting the restoration of Spitfire P8331, which was flown by my father and ultimately by Wing Commander Piotr Laguna on the day of his tragic death on 27 June 1941. I have therefore penned a few words that I am grateful to share with you in honour of Wing Commander Laguna and his Polish comrades.
My father, a Canadian who led the Polish 303 Squadron during the Battle of Britain, met Wing Commander Laguna when he was posted back to Northolt after the Battle as a Commander of the Polish Wing in 1941. In his memoirs, One of the Few, my father writes (referring to Piotr as “Philip’): “After reporting to the Group Captain, I set off round the Dispersals with the Polish Wing Commander Philip Laguna, who had been the Polish CO of 302 Squadron.
“I knew very few of the pilots I met, but they all seemed to have the same spirit that had been so marked in 303 Squadron and I felt confident that I would be quite at home with them.” He continues: “Late in June we were scheduled to carry out a sweep from Le Touquet over St Omer Philip Laguna, my Polish counterpart, who was to fly as my number two, was in great spirits as he had just received word that his wife had managed to get out of Poland and was on her way to England.
“The weather over France was not very suitable for our purposes there being a lot of broken cloud about and the visibility was poor. Two 109s appeared briefly but dived away to the east when they saw us. We continued on our way losing height gradually and travelling fast when suddenly I saw Calais right in front of us.”
“We were too far to the west; I immediately started a turn to port and at the same time the flak batteries clustered around the town opened up. We were down to about 3,000 feet by this time and made tempting targets; one of the first shells scored a direct hit on Philip Laguna flying alongside me – a sickeningly tragic end to a day that had started with so much promise for him.”
My father’s warmth and admiration for the Polish airmen earned him the affectionate nickname ‘Kentowski’ and he became a staunch supporter of their cause. He adopted as his personal emblem for his Spitfire a Canadian maple leaf enclosing the Polish eagle. And when he posed for the artist Cuthbert Orde (1942), he was the only officer of the 64 portrayed who wore the Polish ‘Gapa’ brevet above his RAF Wings. Towards the end of my father’s life, aviation historian Andy Saunders used to meet my father at the RAF Club. Andy told me that he was always smartly dressed in a charcoal grey suit with only the black and blue ribbon of his Virtuti Militari award on his lapel, an eternal reminder of the unique affection and esteem he had experienced with the Polish fighters in those defining moments of his life. I believe that Poland’s fate at the end of the war affected my father profoundly.
In April 1965, he wrote in the ‘Polish Airmen’s Week Review words that are as resonant now as ever: “I cannot say how proud I am to have been privileged to help form, train and lead No. 303 squadron and later to lead such a magnificent fighting force as the Polish Wing.”
“There formed within me in those days an admiration, respect and genuine affection for these really remarkable men which I have never lost. I formed friendships that are as firm as they were those twenty-five years ago… We who were privileged to fly and fight with them will never forget and Britain must never forget how much she owes to the loyalty, indomitable spirit and sacrifice of those Polish fliers. They were our staunchest Allies in our darkest days, may they always be remembered as such!”