‘War history unites Brits, Czechs and Poles’

March 16, 2014

 

Polish-English flag

BETTER TOGETHER: The flags of the UK and Poland are united by the experiences of the joint effort of the RAF and Polish Air Force in the Battle of Britain and cracking the Enigma Machine. It cannot be forgotten.

 

 

RAF310Sq

CZECH MATES: The insignia of the RAF’a 310 Squadron which was composed of pilots from the Czech Republic and  Slovakia. They were led in most of the war by Wing Commander Douglas Blackwood. Josef Frantisek recorded the highest number of confirmed kills of any pilot in the Battle of Britain.

Polish Squadron no 301

BADGE OF HONOUR: The coat of arms of the RAF’s Polish 301 squadron that had the highest number of confirmed German planes shot down in the Battle of Britain in 1940.

 

Daniel Kawcynski

PUBLIC HOLIDAY: Daniel Kawcynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, who in a parliamentary debate in 2008 called for a public holiday in recognition of Poland’s contribution of helping war-time Britain defeat the Nazi regime.

 

RACIALLY-aggravated insults against the Polish and other sections of the Eastern European community appear to be being ignored by some sections of the press.

The claims were made after a delegation from Dorset’s Polish community and others from the rest of the UK, Bulgaria and Romania, came to Downing Street to send a petition to David Cameron on Tuesday 24 February telling him  about the lack of concern expressed by politicians and the media.

As will be explained in the course of this article,  the UK’s Polish community deserves a better standard of treatment in view of the personal sacrifices they have made to defend this country, which is why this is being given attention.

Having scrolled various publications the reasons for making these allegations seem to be well grounded.

The petition was triggered when a motorcyclist was standing outside a pub in Dagenham, Essex, on 10 January of this year. Standing up against a wall minding his own business, fifteen men came out of a pub and savagely beat him. What was the crime he committed? Well, he just happened to wear a helmet that had a small Polish flag on it.

In my area, I was informed that a Polish lady was badly assaulted in Poole High Street by a group of English women but there was no extra information as to whether she had to receive hospital treatment.

Back in June 2009 a 28-year-old woman was badly beaten by four local women on the dance floor of Yates bar in Poole High Street. It was treated as aggravated assault but I couldn’t find any subsequent stories to find out whether any witnesses came forward about that incident.

There have been many incidents of verbal assaults as the editor of a local publication said that this was not uncommon but physical assaults were very rare.

I have been scratching my head in recent days to find an explanation as to why there has been an apparent unwillingness on some parts of the press in making more details of these crimes known.

It is important to remember the contribution Polish immigrants have made to this country since before the 2nd World War.  The Polish Air Forces (Polskie Siły Powietrzne) were formed during that period.

They contributed 145 pilots, the 2nd largest non-British contribution of pilots to fighting the Battle of Britain in 1940. They also fought in the Normandy, North African and Italian campaigns.

They fought for the UK against the forces of fascism, despite the fact their own families were in peril being overrun and invaded in 1939. In total, there were 19,400 personnel who served with both the Polish Air Forces and the RAF.

In addition 90 pilots from the Czech Republic and Slovakia fought in Squadrons 310 and 312. Sgt Josef Frantisek claimed 17 confirmed kills and this made him the highest scoring Allied pilot in the Battle of Britain. Their heroics are recorded in the film Dark Blue World by Jan Sverak. 310 Squadron was under the direction of Old Etonian Douglas Blackwood.

Due to their combat experience in France, Blackwood concluded their experience exceeded the need for formal training and the squadron became fully operational within a month.

Blackwood remained loyal to the Czechoslovakian unit for the rest of the war and ended it as wing commander of the Czech Fighter Wing in the RAF in the 2nd Tactical Air Force on the continent.

Blackwood was awarded the Czech War Cross and Czech Military Medal and presented with the Czech Medal of George in 1993.

Witold Urbanowicz was the top Polish pilot with 15 confirmed kills. He and his colleagues had hundreds of hours of pre-war flying experience, and had taken part in the September campaign and the Battle for France. They were well-trained in formation flying and from their combat experience, had learnt to fire from close range.

Bearing this in fact in mind, it was also worth remembering the all-Polish 303 Squadron was the most efficient fighting unit of its kind  in 1940 and they were said to be the “talk of London” because of their victories. It was also alleged that the press at the time didn’t want to report it and this angered their RAF colleagues.

There is a memorial to the Polish air pilots who died during the 2nd World War on the south-eastern corner of the RAF Northolt aerodrome. As well as 303 Squadron, Squadron nos 300 to 302, 304 to 309 and 315 to 317 were either entirely or partly Polish in their make-up.

Very few of those pilots voluntarily returned to Poland after the country was annexed by the Russian Communists after the 2nd World War ended 1945. Some of those who remained married British women.

Three Polish mathematicians – Jerzy Rozycki, Henryk Zygalski and Marian Rejewski – came up with three methods to break the encrypted codes on the Enigma Machine in 1932 which the Nazi regime thought was unbreakable.

Weeks before war broke out in July 1939, Polish intelligence passed on the secrets of the Enigma codes to the French and British and replicas of the Enigma machines at a rendezvous point outside of Warsaw. This information helped Alan Turing and his team to shorten the war.

Daniel Kawcynski, MP for Atcham and Shrewsbury and a son of Polish immigrants, said these words when speaking to Parliament in 2008, he draughted a bill asking for a public holiday to be called marking the contribution Polish immigration had brought to the UK over the past 70 years.

When I have visited the Czech Republic, Croatia and Slovakia, I noticed the legacies of communism and remembered conversations of those who lived through it. Remember they were told what to wear; how to think; what their entertainment would be; where to live and where to take their holidays.

Martin Erhlich, a student leader of the November revolution in 1989 in Ceske Budejovice, the Czech Republic, said that those who had endured Communism would take 40 years to recover from the brain washing and mental and emotional abuse of this doctrine. The Poles, like the Czechs, will be half way through that recovery period.

It may be worth checking out the media outlet the Polish Connection. On it are featured a variety of short and longer films depicting what these folk had to put up both under the Nazi regime and then under the Iron Curtain.

From my own investigations and conversations I have had from my contacts, Mr Kawcynski’s words are as appropriate now as they were then.

At the time he accused the then head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Sir Trevor Phillips, of failing to stand up for the Polish and other Eastern European communities.

Mr Kawcynski said: “The liberal elite constantly refer to Polish immigration and they are using the Polish community as a cat’s paw to tackle the thorny issue of mass unchecked immigration into our country.

“They don’t refer to controversial immigration from other parts, always referring repeatedly to Polish immigration.

“If this was being done to a black or other ethnic minority group, it would simply not be tolerated and I demand that the Commission also focuses in on white ethnic minorities in this country, so that no one is penalised and no one is made to feel like a scapegoat. I have many cases of an increase in violence towards Poles in this country and I am convinced this is as a result of media coverage.”

When the first wave of economic migrants came in 2003 to 2004, I was not very well at the time and mistakenly and ignorantly thought Czech, Slovak, Hungarian and Polish folks were taking British jobs. In fact they were only filling vacancies that some of the indigenous workforce were not willing to do.

It was put to me by a close friend of mine when I was putting this together why I was making a “special case” for the Polish, well in view of what I have tried to cover in this piece, I hope that I have answered her question.

A few other interesting facts I found out that Poland has one of the highest volumes of female entrepreneurs; they doubled their gross domestic product between 1989 and 2012 and it is projected that £50B in tax will be raised for the UK government by the UK’s Polish community between this year and 2020.

In conclusion relationships between nationalities are a two-way process and if anyone is reading this and wants to strike up friendships with this part of the world, here is some advice.  If you take an interest in somebody else’s culture, language and history it is a game changer and it will be reciprocated very quickly. There is positive material on here to refer to get conversations going so here is a starting point, so do it.

 

 

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