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Our British & Polish communities unite for WW2 memorial visit

Polish war webThe Union Jack and Polish flags were waved in unison on Saturday 5 September when a group of British and Polish friends from Cheltenham attended a special 75th Anniversary ceremony being held to mark the crucial role Polish pilots played in the Battle of Britain.

The ceremony, held at RAF Northolt, honoured the vital contribution 145 Polish pilots made in the Battle of Britain.

To pay respects to these brave men and to show solidarity and support for the longstanding friendship between Britain and Poland, a special coach trip to attend the service was arranged by Cheltenham Senior Community Voice, in partnership with the CBH Polish Forum, Cheltenham Polish TARA and the Polish Klub 50+.

At the service wreaths were laid by representatives of the Polish and British governments, local authorities, the Polish Air Force and the Royal Air Force. Veterans of individual squadrons or their descendants also laid wreaths for each Polish squadron that flew alongside the Royal Air Force from 1940 to 1945.

In addition to the wreath laying, the replica of the wartime Wilno Standard of the Polish Air Force was paraded and the ceremony featured a spectacular fly-past by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, a detachment of Officer Cadets from the Polish Air Force Academy, trumpeter and drummer from the Central Band of the RAF, and the band of the Middlesex Wing of the Air Training Corps.

The Cheltenham contingent, young and old, thoroughly enjoyed the day and commented:

Irek Nawiezniak waving the Union Jack

Irek Nawiezniak waving the Union Jack

Irek Nawiasniak (aged 12) said “Today has been brilliant! The best thing is the way the Polish and English helped each other in the war and today.”  

Trina Wheable said “It was enlightening to hear about the Battle of Britain from a Polish perspective. I’m ashamed to say that before today, I didn’t realise how big a part they played.”

Edmund Rablewski said “I was overwhelmed at the level of respect paid by the British Air Force and dignitaries to our Polish veterans.”

Urszula Kaweck said “Today was very emotional and made me feel very proud. I would like to thank our English friends for organising this trip.”

Beata Szadkowska said, “One of the veterans told me “Thank you for continuing the interest in what went before. It is wonderful to see both Polish and British people of younger generations showing their appreciation.”

 Bernard McBride (from Cheltenham Senior Community Voice) said “Today has brought our two communities even closer and we will continue to work together to change attitudes and promote our positive and long standing friendship.”

Young people from the various Polish schools in London, as well as the Polish Scouts and Guides, also took part.

After the service, the Cheltenham group visited the RAF Museum at Hendon, where they enjoyed a delicious lunch followed by a guided tour of the museum.

Officer Cadets from the Polish Air Force Academy

Officer Cadets from the Polish Air Force Academy


Additional information:
The contribution made by 145 Polish fighter pilots to the Battle of Britain is a source of immense pride for Poland and the Polish community in the UK. Out of the overall number of fighter pilots from Allied countries they constituted the largest contingent after the British. In terms of enemy aircraft downed during the Battle of Britain, 303 Squardron, which was based at RAF Northolt, was the most successful Squadron, with Polish pilot, Flying Officer Witold Urbanowicz, credited with 15 enemy aircraft destroyed.

Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding, the Commander-in-Chief of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, later said, “Had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry, I hesitate to say that the outcome of the battle would have been the same.”


Notes for editors

Cheltenham Borough Homes:

  • CBH is one of the top rated ALMOs (Arms Length Management Organisations) in the country. ALMOs are not for profit companies that run social housing services for their local council
  • Currently CBH manage and maintain around 5,000 tenant and leasehold properties with high satisfaction and performance levels, when compared nationally with other housing providers
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Press contact: Catherine Best e: t: 01242 775317  


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