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Historical : RAF Last Updated: Dec 10th, 2019 - 22:52:10

Poland’s Nightfighters
By Wilhelm Ratuszynski
Oct 26, 2016, 09:28

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The article is an excerpt from Classic Warbirds No.9 "Fighter Archive".

Buy Ventura Classic Warbirds No.9 HERE.

Defiant N3437 ‘EW-K’ with Special Night lower surfaces and some areas of the fuselage, April 1941. (Illustration by M J Laird)
In the second half of 1940 the Luftwaffe switched to a night offensive against England and more nightfighter squadrons were needed. At that time large numbers of Polish airmen were waiting to be deployed at the Polish Depot in Blackpool and, from them, the first crews for 307 (Polish) Squadron were drawn. Its first base was RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey and personnel began to arrive on 10 September 1940. S/Ldr Pietraszkiewicz became 307’s first Commander with S/Ldr Tomlinson attached as his British equivalent. From the British high command perspective Tomlinson (like all RAF S/Ldrs posted to Polish fighter squadrons in 1940) was the Officer Commanding, with Pietraszkiewicz only acting as an advisor. Only later, as the Polish Squadrons proved their worth did the RAF accept that the Poles were capable of commanding themselves. This was a less than satisfactory arrangement, from the Polish perspective.
Although enthusiastic at being posted to 307 Squadron, the first pilots were disappointed to learn that they would fly Boulton Paul Defiants, the first of which arrived on 14 September, 1940.
A 307 Squadron armourer working on the turret armament of Defiant N3437. After limited success over Dunkirk, the Defiants were quickly relegated to the night fighter role. This machine wears a scheme of Dark Green and Dark Earth with black applied to its lower surfaces and parts of the upper surfaces. (M. Payne)

A Ground crew member with Defiant N3437 ‘EW-K’. Note the ultra-matt Special Night on parts of the aircraft. N3437 was delivered to 307 Sqn in February 1941. (M. Payne)

Being equipped with Defiants was only part of the problem, with some of the pilots considering night flying too risky, with minimal chances to meet the enemy. There were tense exchanges when gunners felt relegated to bit-part players; many being ex-navigators who had considered themselves aircraft captains in the pre-war Polish Air Force. Most of the disgruntled pilots were experienced fighter pilots and they demanded to be transferred to day-fighter units. Their wish was granted and almost the entire roster was changed overnight with S/Ldr Benz replacing Pietraszkiewicz. Most of this replacement group were instructors from various flying schools, ferry pilots and so on. Furthermore, many were familiar with night flying and the majority were well educated, passionate flyers and Air Force volunteers. These new men helped to heal the rifts in the unit and all personnel quickly melded into a harmonious group.
In October 1941 307 Squadron began operations with new Beaufighter Mk IIs like R2390 ‘EW-U’. Overall colour is matt black Special Night. Dull Red code letters ‘EW-U’ are 28 inches high and the serial and small ‘U’ under the nose 8 inches high. (Illustration by M J Laird)

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