Among the first into the fight

Supermarine Spitfire P8331 'Sumatra'

Supermarine Spitfire P8331 ‘Sumatra’ (presentation aircraft) was among the first batch of ten Mk lIB aircraft that were delivered to No.303 Tadeusz Kościuszko City of Warsaw’ Squadron at Northolt during the first half of May 1941. P8331 arrived on 13 May.

Image credit: © Peter Sikora Archive

This mount was built at the Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory and on 14 April 1941 was transported to No. 12 Maintenance Unit to be prepared for operations.

For the first time this Spitfire that was adorned with 303’s code letters ‘RF and individual letter M was flown by Flg Off Wojciech Kołaczkowski on 21 May 1941 (this was this pilot’s only flight in this mount). P8331 became a usual aircraft of Flg Off Wiktor Strzembosz who flew it at least 20 times and claimed one enemy aircraft destroyed on 23 June 1941 and another destroyed probably on 17 June 1941 (these were both Messerschmitt Bf 109s)

Image credit: painting by to © Will Jarman

Sqn Ldr Waclaw Łapkowski flew this plane no less than four times and on 4 June 1941 he damaged one Bf 109. This Spitfire was also flown by other 303 Squadron pilots such as: Sgt Marian Belc, Sgt Stanisław Belza, Plt Off Józef Bondar, Plt Off Wladyslaw Drecki, Plt Off Bolesław Drobiński, Plt Off Bronislaw Klosin, Sgt Jan Palak and WO Miroslaw Wojciechowski.

Occasionally this Spitfire was used by other,non-303 Sqn pilots, such as Sqn Ldr Mieczysław Wiórkiewicz (by then deputy Polish Liaison Officer with Fighter Command, who flew it 1 time) and Laguna’s counterpart Wg Cdr John Kent (RAF CO – Commander of No.1 Polish Wing and ex-303 pilot; he flew this mount 2 times).

Eight of these men did not survive the war, some of them lost their lives within few days of Laguna’s death. Some others had impressive careers within the Polish Air Force (Drobiński, Kołaczkowski and Wiórkiewicz) or RAF (Kent during and after the war and Wojciechowski after the war).