- Dec 19, 2012
https://saafmuseum.org.za/?s=polandEarlier this month, I was blessed to attend a very special remembrance day – that for the brave young men of the South African Air Force who flew to the aid of Polish citizens in Warsaw during World War II. This article was written to help keep their memory alive. If you have further information on these men, please let me know and I will add it on.
For five years after Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939, Warsaw remained a Nazi-occupied city. Yet the underground Polish Home Army (AK) never stopped preparing for the day when it could rise against the Germans. This day arrived at 5pm on 01 August 1944 and for the next 63 days the men, women and children of the AK fought against the Germans. The AK believed the Russian Army would come to its aid, bit it didn’t. Within the first five days, the AK had re-taken most of the city, but without reinforcements and more arms and ammunition, they could not hold out. The Polish government in exile in Britain appealed to Winston Churchill for help.
The quickest way to help would be to drop supplies in, but the most direct route would take the Royal Air Force (RAF) over the most heavily defended parts of the Third Reich. Avoiding these areas would mean a round trip of 3520km. The only other alternative was over northern Italy but this too would involve avoiding most of the heavily defended German cities and a round trip of 3200km. Churchill was advised by his senior RAF officers that the task would achieve little militarily but cost high in life and equipment.
The 205 Group RAF at Foggia, Italy, was under the command of Major-General James (Jimmy) Thom DURRANT, a South African. The Group consisted of four Wings, three of which were RAF and the fourth was No. 2 Wing SAAF made up of 31 and 34 Squadrons equipped with Liberators.