"Never was so much owed by so many to so few"

Quote from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on 20 August 1940

Roll of Honour

Wing Commander Piotr Łaguna

October 11, 1905 – June 27, 1941

Born of nobility, having already served with distinction as a senior officer in Poland, prior to the invasion of Poland in 1939 and then on to France, shooting down many German aircraft, Piotr Laguna came to Britain in 1940 to join the RAF. Along with many other Polish and foreign pilots, he continued the fight to defend, push back, defeat and liberate Europe from the grip of Hitler’s tyranny.

The project’s theme is Polish at heart given the history of both its Spitfire P8331 and the Pilots that flew it. However, we predominantly aim to tell the story of the 18,000 Polish Pilots and Crews, as well as the stories of all Pilots who flew during the wartime years. Piotr’s story would be a familiar tale similar to most of the men who endured those terrible years.

Piotr Łaguna (credit: © Peter Sikora Archive)

Image credit: painting by to © Will Jarman

To find out more about Supermarine Spitfire P8331 ‘Sumatra’ – click here

Pilots of Spitfire MKIIB P8331 Sumatra

Sgt Mieczysław Adamek - 303 Squadron

Sgt Mieczysław Adamek was born in 1918; in 1936 he joined PAF NCO School for Minors and upon completion was posted to 113th Fighter Squadron. He fought during Polish Campaign of 1939 when he claimed two shared victories. In France he flew in Groupe de Chasse II/10. In April 1941 he joined Polish No. 303 ‘Tadeusz Kościusz- ko’ Squadron, then in 1943 he was promoted as an officer. The same year he joined Polish No. 317 ‘City of Wilno’ Squadron and he was killed in action on 18 May 1944. Adamek was awarded with the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Valour & 3 Bars and Distinguished Flying Medal & Bar. His total score was: 5 & 9/20-1-0 (confirmed – probable – damaged).

Sgt Marian Bełc - 303 Squadron

Sgt Marian Bełc, called ‘Doctor’, was born in 1914; in 1936 joined PAF NCO School for Mi- nors and upon completion was posted to 143th Fighter Squadron and then to 152nd Fighter Squadron. He fought during Polish Campaign of 1939 when he claimed one victory. In France he flew in Groupe de Chasse I/55. In August 1940 he was posted to Polish No. 303 ‘Tadeusz Kościuszko’ Squadron and flew during the Bat- tle of Britain. In 1942 he was posted to No. 58 Operational Training Unit as an instructor. Bełc was promoted to the officer’s rank in June 1942. He was killed in flying accident on 28 August 1942. He was awarded with the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Valour & 3 Bars and Distinguished Flying Cross. His total score was: 7-0-0

Sgt Stanisław Bełza - 303 Squadron

Sgt Stanisław Bełza was born in 1914; in 1941 posted to Polish No. 303 ‘Tadeusz Kościuszko’ Squadron, then in 1943 promoted as an officer. Served as a flying instructor in 61 Operational Training Unit. In 1944 posted to Polish No. 316 ‘City of Warsaw’ Squadron. He was killed in flying accident on 11 April 1945. Bełza was awarded the Cross of Valour & 2 Bars. His total score was: 0-1/3-0

Plt Off Józef Bondar - 303 Squadron

Plt Off Józef Bondar was born in 1916. In 1937 he joined PAF Cadet Officers’ School, promot- ed to officer’s rank in 1939. Posted to 152nd Fighter Squadron. He fought during Polish Campaign of 1939. After traveling to France, he was posted to Morocco where he flew non-op- erational flights. In June 1941 he was posted to Polish No. 303 ‘Tadeusz Kościuszko’ Squad- ron. Bondar was killed in action on 28 June 1941, one day after Łaguna’s death. His total score was: 0-1-0

Plt Off Władysław Drecki - 303 Squadron

Plt Off Władysław Drecki, called ‘Maciek’ was born in 1915. In 1937 he joined PAF Cadet Officers’ School, promoted to officer’s rank in 1939. Posted to 112th and then to 111th Fighter Squadron. He fought during Polish Campaign of 1939. In 1941 posted to Polish No. 317 ‘City of Wilno’ Squadron then to 303 Squadron. He was shot down on 28 June 1941 (day after Łaguna’s death) but survived. In August 1941 posted to Polish No. 306 ‘City of Toruń’ Squad- ron then again to 317 Squadron. Between March and May 1943 he fought over North Af- rica as a pilot of ‘Polish Fighting Team’ better known as ‘Skalski Circus’. Later posted to No. 601 Squadron and eventually to 152 Squadron RAF, where he took command of a flight. Killed on 13 September 1943 during take-off for op- erational flight. Drecki was awarded the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari and the Cross of Valour & 3 Bars. His total score was: 4-0-1

Plt Off Bolesław Drobiński - 303 Squadron

Plt Off Bolesław Drobiński, called ‘Gandhi’ or ‘Ski’, was born in 1918. In 1938 he joined PAF Cadet Officers’ School, promoted to of- ficer’s rank in 1939. In August 1940 he was posted to No. 65 Squadron RAF and flew during the Battle of Britain. In 1941 post- ed to Polish No. 303 ‘Tadeusz Kościuszko’ Squadron and between June and July 1941 he claimed six kills, becoming the most suc- cessful Polish MkII Spitfire pilot. In 1943 he was posted to Polish No. 317 ‘City of Wilno’ Squadron and took command of B Flight. In September 1944 he took command of No. 303 Squadron. He died in 1995. Drobiński was awarded the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Valour & 3 Bars and Dis- tinguished Flying Cross. His total score was: 7-1 & 1/3-0

Wg Cdr John Kent- RAF CO 1 Polish Fighter Wing

Wg Cdr John Kent, called ‘Kentowski’, was born in 1914 in Canada; initially a civilian pilot, joined RAF in 1933. During the early months of the war he flew with Photographic Develop- ment Unit and with No. 212 Squadron. In August 1940 joined Polish No. 303 ‘Tadeusz Kościusz- ko’ Squadron as A Flight Commander. After the Battle of Britain posted to No. 92 Squadron. In June 1941 he was appointed commander of No. 1 Polish Wing. In July 1941 he took command of Kenley Wing. He spent some time in USA as lecturer, upon return he commanded Church Fenton airfield and served in HQ of Fighter Command. From Autumn 1942 he commanded 17 Sector at Benghazi and in 1943 was posted to HQ of RAF Middle East Command. In 1944 he commanded 3(Pilots) Advanced Flying Unit. He died in 1985. Kent was decorated with Distinguished Flying Cross & Bar, Air Force Cross and the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari. His total score was: 12-3-2.

Plt Off Bronisław Kłosin- 303 Squadron

Plt Off Bronisław Kłosin was born in 1910; pilot of 132nd and 133rd Fighter Squadrons, in 1938 joined PAF Cadet Officers’ School, promoted to officer’s rank in 1939. In France, he flew operationally defending Toulouse. He arrived in Britain on 16 July 1940 and was posted to No. 57 Operational Training Unit. Since April 1941 he flew in Polish No. 303 ‘Tadeusz Kościuszko’ Squadron. He was wounded after combat on 4 June 1941. Since September 1942 he served in 303 Squadron’s Ops Room. Later transferred for similar duties to 316, 306, 307 Polish Squadrons. He also served in HQ of Fighter Command and once more in Ops Room of 303 Squadron. In February 1945 Kłosin started studies. He died in 1981. He was decorated with the Cross of Valour. His total score was 1-0-0

Flg Off Wojciech Kołaczkowski - 303 Squadron

Flg Off Wojciech Kołaczkowski, known as ‘Wojtek’, was born in 1908; initially civilian- sport pilot, well-known racing driver – since 1928 he three times competed in Monte Car- lo. In 1932 joined PAF Cadet Officers’ School, promoted to officer’s rank in 1933. Pilot of 114th Fighter Squadron, then flying instructor. After evacuation to France, posted to Blida, Algeria where he commanded Polish fighter section. On 12 July 1940 he arrived in Britain and in October was posted to No. 5 Operational Training Unit. On 9 December 1940 he joined Polish No. 303 ‘Tadeusz Kościuszko’ Squadron. In July 1941 he took command of A Flight and on 21 November 1941 he took command of the whole squadron. On 25 September 1942 he was appointed commander of No. 2 Polish Wing and on 26 January 1943 he took command of No. 1 Polish Wing. Later he served in No. 11 Group and in HQ of the 2nd Tactical Air Force. Kołaczkowski was also a lecturer of the PAF Staff College and deputy air attaché in London. He died in 2001. He was decorated with the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Valour & 3 Bars, Air Force Medal & 2 Bars and Distinguished Flying Cross. His total score was 3-1-2.

Sqn Ldr Wacław Łapkowski - 303 Squadron

Sqn Ldr Wacław Łapkowski was born in 1913; in 1932 joined PAF Cadet Officers’ School, promoted to officer’s rank in 1934. Initially observer of 212th Night Bomber Squadron, after an advanced flying course he became a fighter pilot of 112th Fighter Squadron. He flew in combat during Polish Campaign 1939. After the collapse of Poland he was evacuated to France where he flew defending Romorantin. After arriving in Britain he was posted to Polish No. 303 ‘Tadeusz Kościusz- ko’ Squadron and participated in Battle of Britain. He was shot down and wounded on 5 September 1940. In January 1941 he returned to No. 303 Squadron and soon after was appointed B Flight commander. On 13 April 1941 he took command of the whole squadron. Łapkowski was shot down and killed on 2 July 1941. He was decorated with the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari and the Cross of Valour & 3 Bars. His total score was 6 & 1/3-0-1.

Sgt Jan Palak - 303 Squadron

Sgt Jan Palak, was born in 1911, initially an aircraft mechanic, also worked for Polish aircraft works. After completing an advanced flying course, since January 1939 he served as flying instructor. In France he was posted to 1/145 ‘Varsovie’ Squadron and flew in combat. On 20 June 1940 he sailed for Britain. On 24 July 1940 he was posted to Polish No. 302 ‘City of Poznań’ Squadron and then on 23 September 1940 to Polish No. 303 ‘Tadeusz Kościuszko’ Squadron. With both he flew during the Battle of Britain. In January 1942 he was appointed instructor of No. 58 Operational Training Unit. In September 1943 he re-joined No. 303 Squadron then from April 1944 he flew with No. 302 (Polish) Squadron. He died in 1987. Palak was decorated with the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari, the Cross of Valour & 2 Bars and Distinguished Flying Cross. His total score was 1 & 1/3-1-2.

Flg Off Wiktor Strzembosz - 303 Squadron

Flg Off Wiktor Strzembosz, born in 1914, in 1935 joined PAF Cadet Officers’ School, promoted to officer’s rank in 1937. Pilot of 112th Fighter Squad ron, flew operationally during the Polish Campaign 1939. In France, in May 1940 posted to GC II/7 where he flew with the Polish fighter section. In June 1940 arrived in Britain and was posted to No. 55 Operational Training Unit. In December 1940 he joined Polish No. 303 ‘Tadeusz Kościuszko’ Squadron. He was shot down and killed on 8 July 1941. Strzembosz was decorated with the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari and the Cross of Valour & 2 Bars. His total score was 2-1-0. He was the pilot who flew Spitfire P8331 the most.

Sqn Ldr Mieczysław Wiórkiewicz - Polish Liaison Officer

Sqn Ldr Mieczysław Wiórkiewicz, was born in 1907, in 1926 joined PAF Cadet Officers’ School, promoted to officer’s rank in 1928. Initially observ- er of 62nd Light Bomber Squadron, after training, in 1932 as fighter pilot he flew with 123rd Fighter Squadron. Since May 1937 he commanded 122nd Fighter Squadron and fought during the Polish Campaign of 1939. In France he flew operationally defending Lyon. In September 1940 posted to Polish No. 308 ‘City of Cracow’ Squadron in Britain as its flight commander. Later he was appointed Polish Liaison Officer with No. 11 Group, he also served in HQ of Fighter Command. In May 1942 appoint- ed commander of Polish No. 315 ‘City of Dęblin’ Squadron, then deputy commander of No. 1 Polish Wing. In June 1944 appointed Chief of Training of Polish Flying Personnel. Wiórkiewicz died in 1987. He was decorated with the Cross of Valour & Bar. His total score was 0-0-1.

Wt Off Mirosław Wojciechowski - 303 Squadron

Wt Off Mirosław Wojciechowski, was born in 1917, in 1934 he joined Polish Air Force NCO School for Minors. In 1938 completed flying course and was posted to 142nd Fighter Squadron. He fought during the Polish Campaign of 1939. After a short stay in France, in February 1940 he arrived in Britain. Since August 1940 he flew with Polish No. 303 ‘Tadeusz Kościuszko’ Squadron participating in the Battle of Britain. He was wounded in combat on 2 July 1941. In April 1943 he was posted for flying instructor duty to No. 25 (Polish) Elementary Flying Training School. After the war he joined RAF. He was killed in flying accident on 22 October 1956. Wojciechowski was decorated with the Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari and the Cross of Valour & 2 Bars. His total score was 4 & 1⁄2-0-0.