Past Talks : February 2022

307 Squadron Project” by Michael Parrott

Our speaker, who lives in Exeter, discovered a plaque in the cathedral chapel naming a Polish airman named Jaworski.

In researching the story of the plaque, Michael discovered that the Polish-manned 307 Squadron had a close connection with Exeter. When Poland was invaded by Germany in 1940, Polish airmen left and subsequently made their way to Britain. Eventually, there were 16 Polish-manned squadrons, of which 307 was the only night fighter unit.

The squadron was transferred to Exeter in 1941, billeted in local accommodation. They developed close relationships with the citizens of Exeter, so close that several marriages ensued. The squadron was initially equipped with the Boulton-Paul Defiant, which was soon replaced by the radar-equipped Beaufighter. The Beaufighter suffered from frequent engine failures and in the bombing attack on Exeter on 4 May 1942, only four aircraft were available, but these engaged the bombers and shot down four. In November 1942, the squadron presented a Polish flag to the City of Exeter. The squadron was re-equipped with the Mosquito and moved to Predannack in the air defence role but was not forgotten in Exeter. As the war ended, some of the airmen returned home, to be treated as traitors and executed by the Russian government. 21 aircrew from 307 died during the war and are buried at Exeter, only two of whom were killed by enemy action.

Our speaker later visited the cathedral to discover that the Polish flag had been removed. He encouraged the City to celebrate by raising the flag every year and he produced a small exhibition. By November 2013, this had grown to a five-day event. On the 75th anniversary a plaque was placed in the chapel to commemorate the Polish contribution to protecting the city. The role of the squadron, known as the “Lwow Eagle Owls” is now promoted by a British-Polish charitable organisation, the 307 Squadron Project.

Summarised by Robert Heath