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Squadron Leader Eugeniusz Horbaczewski of No. 315 Polish Fighter Squadron, standing by his new Mustang Mark III at Brenzett, Kent (©Crown Copyright IWM)

Foreign nationals in the UK Armed Forces

Men and women from countries occupied by the Nazis escaped to Britain to serve alongside the RAF, the Royal Navy and the British Army. Poland contributed the largest number of service personnel, and there were also army, navy and air force contingents from Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Holland, Luxembourg and Norway. Danes also served in UK forces, and Greeks and Yugoslavs fought in the Middle East and Mediterranean. It is estimated that 38,544 men from Eire (now the Republic of Ireland) joined the British forces and nearly 200,000 Irish men and women worked in Britain’s war industries.

Four Czechoslovakian squadrons flew with the RAF and took part in the Battle of Britain and the Normandy Landings. One Czech pilot, Vladimir Nedved, joined the RAF Volunteer Reserve in June 1940 and trained as a navigator before joining No. 311 (Czech) Squadron. He was later appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for gallantry after a flight over Germany. A Czech armoured brigade also served in the Normandy campaign in 1944.

The men of the Polish Air Force who had managed to escape to Britain were subordinated to RAF command. Their fighter pilots played an outstanding role in the Battle of Britain and also provided bomber crews for Bomber Command. Squadron Leader Eugeniusz Horbaczewski, Commander of No. 315 (Polish) Squadron, was credited with destroying 16 enemy aircraft before being killed in action on 18th August 1944. He was awarded several decorations including the Distinguished Service Order (posthumously) and Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar (twice).

Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, who led Fighter Command, would later write:

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.

By the end of the war there were 15 operational Polish squadrons. Polish troops also fought with the British army in North Africa and Italy, where they played a pivotal roll at the Battle of Monte Cassino, and in northwest Europe….

No. 310 (Czech) Squadron was formed at RAF Duxford in July 1940 (©Crown Copyright IWM)” Excerpted from: https://history.blog.gov.uk/2015/04/28/the-worlds-war-in-europe/
Open Government Licence v3.0 https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/