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303 Squadron: The Legendary Battle of Britain Fighter Squadron Hardcover – November 16, 2010

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Review

Thrilling action story of the famous squadron of Polish fighter pilots whose superb aerial combat skills helped save Britain during the most desperate days of WWII. Underdog heroes who rose to defend against the deadliest German Luftwaffe attacks, the pilots of 303 Squadron were lionized by the British press, congratulated by the King, and adored by the British public. Wonderful account. (Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud, authors of A Question of Honor)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Aquila Polonica (November 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607720043
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607720041
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Robert Mosher on December 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I often find myself in my reviews having to make and explain distinctions between histories, memoirs, autobiographies, biographies, etc. However, this is the first instance in which the work under review is itself a piece of history. This book's copyright page notes that the ultimate rights on this work date from 1942 and are held by its author Arkady Fiedler on the original Polish language edition "Dywizjon 303" and its 1942 English version "303 Squadron".

This memoir was written by the author during the autumn of 1940 even as the Battle of Britain was ending and the Luftwaffe nightly blitz began, soon appearing in both English and Polish. As the book spread the story of Poles still fighting against Nazi Germany spread around the globe it became available in underground Polish language editions in Poland itself in 1943. "Dywizjon 303" has reportedly remained in print and available in Poland over the years since the war, but this is its first new publication in English since wartime.

Most serious students of the Second World War recognize that while Poland itself surrendered to Nazi Germany in October 1939, Poles continued to make a major contribution to the Allied war effort as many escaped their native land. Among the first to return to combat were the pilots of the Polish Air Force sometimes joined by other Poles who had not had a chance to fight in their own homeland. They fought first in France and then, as recounted here, in England as participants in the crucial Battle of Britain as the RAF defeated the Luftwaffe and turned back the Nazi threat of invasion.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on November 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
If you enjoy books on aerial dogfights, this one is for you! It contains chapter after chapter on the combat exploits of Poles serving in the RAF, and fighting the Luftwaffe planes over southeast England during the Battle of Britain. Many photos are included.

There is also a chapter in this book that flashes back to the origins of WWII. Other chapters tabulate all the claimed kills by the Polish airmen of Squadron 303, give biographical details about each Pole and tabulate all the kills per Pole, etc. Contrary to the statements of another reviewer, nowhere does the book picture all Germans as arrogant and evil. Nor does it picture the Poles as all heroic. To the contrary: It stresses the fact that the Polish airmen were highly skilled, but otherwise quite ordinary, and in no sense supermen. (p. 194).

Now consider the battle itself. It was mid-1940. Nazi Germany seemed invincible. She had rolled across Europe, and England stood alone. If the Luftwaffe could sweep the RAF from the skies, they could terror-bomb England into a truce. Otherwise, with supremacy of the skies, the Luftwaffe could provide the air cover necessary for a German invasion of southeast England. Squadron 303, notably its Polish pilots (and Polish pilots in other squadrons) played a major role in thwarting Hitler's plans.

Initial British suspicions that the Poles were exaggerating their kills were refuted by observation. (p. 50). Then the high number of Polish kills was at first credited to reckless bravado, until this was refuted by the fact of the relatively low rate of Polish losses. (p. 19, 197). Also, the close cooperation of Polish pilots with their British counterparts countered the popular prejudice about the Poles owing their success to their presumed volatile temperament. (p. 197).
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John L. Leland on November 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
Very vivid account of a squadron of Polish fighter pilots fighting for the British during the Battle of Britain. It was written at the time by a Polish writer and is understandably enthusiastic for its subjects -- all the Polish pilots are naturally heroic and the Germans naturally arrogant and evil. It was intended originally for general readers, English and (thanks to the Polish underground) Polish, so it is written in a clear popular style which makes the effectiveness of the Polish method of close attack clear without requiring technical knowledge (which I do not have). It stresses that despite the stereotype of Poles as brave to the point of recklessness, in fact the Polish fliers not only inflicted more losses on the Germans but also suffered fewer losses themselves than the British air force typically did during the battle. Despite this, it is sad to see from the biographical appendixes how many of the fliers did eventually die during the war. Those who lived faced the hard choice of making terms with the Communist government or remaining in exile; some made each decision. A few actually lived long enough to be honored in post-Communist Poland, which provides a bittersweet happy ending (added to this revised version of the original book.) The author's enthusiasm may seem a little excessive at times, but on the whole, I think these men deserved it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John M. Grondelski on February 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
My review from the POLISH AMERICAN JOURNAL (February 2011 issue):

In 1943, the Polish Underground received an Allied parachute drop. In addition to anticipated supplies came a canister with a manuscript, a manuscript subsequently duplicated and circulated throughout Occupied Poland. After the war, the manuscript was printed and became part of the prescribed reading list in Polish schools. That manuscript was Dywizjon 303.

The work had previously appeared in 1942 in English as Squadron 303. Written by a talented Polish travel writer then serving in the Polish Armed Forces in the UK, the book detailed the substantial and heroic contributions a band of Polish fighter pilots made towards winning the Battle of Britain. The story of the Royal Air Force's (RAF) defense of England, which stopped a German invasion of Britain, is legendary. What is not as well known is that, during the height of the Battle of Britain in September 1940, Poles downed one out of every eight German aircraft shot down using RAF planes. Of the 967 German planes brought down that month, the Poles bagged 121.

Unfortunately, like the Polish contribution to breaking the Enigma Code, the Polish legacy in the Battle of Britain has also been largely forgotten in the West. Although the Polish edition has been part of the reading canon in Polish schools, English editions have not appeared since the 1940s. (We Poles have an amazing propensity to talk to ourselves while adopting a false humility when it comes to telling the outside world).

Kudos, then to Aquila Polonica, a new California-based publishing house whose mission is to tell Poland's story in World War II.
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