Polish Spitfire Aces

Posted: August 6, 2015 in Aerial, Books, World War II

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Of all Allied airmen, Polish pilots had had the most experience of fighting the Luftwaffe by the time the war came to Britain. As the Battle of Britain raged, they quickly proved themselves as highly aggressive and skilful interceptors, especially when flying the famous Spitfire.

The Polish Air Force eventually became the largest non-Commonwealth Spitfire operator, using some 1,500 Mks I, II, V, IX and XVI to devastating effect. Top scoring USAAF ace of the ETO, Francis “Gabby” Gabreski and a whole host of other Allied and Commonwealth aces flew with Polish squadrons, adding even more to their fighting quality. Conversely, several Polish pilots were attached to other Allied squadrons throughout the war, demonstrating their prowess alongside airmen from a whole host of nations.

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A slightly off the wall topic, but one that Wojtek Matusiak’s new book tackles very entertainingly, and very informatively.  The set-up is handled very clearly, and it needs to be said that Matusiak’s descriptive writing is superb.  As we all know, history books can sometimes (perhaps frequently) be accused of being a little dry – but the descriptions of the dogfights in Polish Spitfire Aces are amongst the best I have ever read.  It would be selling the subject matter short to describe them as “cinematic”, but they are certainly immersive.

Furthermore, the anecdotes and post-combat reports from the pilots themselves are highly entertaining and engaging, on several levels.  The adventure of the pilot who had to find shelter with the aid of some locals and resistance fighters was a particular highlight.

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All in all, a great book on a niche subject.  Recommended to all those with an interest in the Battle of Britain, or Spitfire pilots.

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