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Squadron 303 (Polish language:Dywizjon 303 ) written by Polish author Arkady Fiedler[1] became his most famous and popular book, selling over 1.5 million copies. Written in 1942, the book is about the legendary No. 303 ("Kościuszko") Polish Squadron (Polish: 303 Dywizjon Myśliwski "Warszawski im. Tadeusza Kościuszki") of Polish Air Force fighter pilots who flew with Great Britain's Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) during the Battle of Britain. No. 303 ("Kościuszko") Polish Squadron continued the traditions of the earlier Polish 7th Air Escadrille (Polish language:7. Eskadra Lotnicza ) or "Kościuszko Squadron", as it was better known, which was one of the most active units of the Polish Air Force during the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921. Formed in late 1918, Polish 7th Air Escadrille was re-formed in late 1919 from American volunteers, initially commanded by Cedric Fauntleroy, then by Merian Cooper (who originally recruited the American pilots for this unit).

Author Arkady Fiedler was a bestselling travel writer researching in Tahiti when World War II began. He made his way back to Europe and joined the Polish Army in France after Poland had fallen to the Germans. Fiedler managed to get to England with the other Polish forces after the fall of France, where he saw all the attention that the Polish pilots of 303 Squadron were getting from the British press—they were the highest-scoring Allied fighter squadron in the Battle of Britain. Fiedler recognized that their story would make a great book.[2]

He undertook to chronicle the extraordinary achievements of No. 303 (Polish) Squadron during the Battle of Britain with the blessing of Polish Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief Władysław Sikorski.

Arkady Fiedler began writing 303 Squadron “live” during the Battle of Britain, spending time with the Polish pilots and ground crew of No. 303 Squadron at their base at RAF Northolt, West London, England. He wrote the book in Polish under the title Dywizjon 303. It was translated into English and published in Great Britain in 1942 (where it went through several printings), and in the United States in 1943.[3]

A clandestine edition of Dywizjon 303 was parachuted into German-occupied Poland in 1943. Copies duplicated by the Polish Underground were secretly passed from person to person. The account of the successes of their fighter pilots, fighting in distant lands for freedom, boosted morale in the beleaguered country. The book inspired soldier-poet Czesław ‘Czechura’ Kałkusiński, serving with a forest partisan unit of the AK (Armia Krajowa) in the Częstochowa region, to write a poem entitled “303 Squadron” which was set to music by his fellow soldier Henryk ‘Garda’ Fajt, and soon found its way to London via the Polish Underground where it was played over the BBC and heard by Polish airmen serving in Great Britain.

Dywizjon 303 became a classic in Poland. It is mandatory reading for children in grammar school, and has gone through numerous Polish editions.

In connection with the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain in 2010, a new English translation was commissioned by publisher Aquila Polonica at the request of Fiedler’s son. This is the first new English-language edition of Dywizjon 303 since 1942, and for the first time in English identifies the pilots by their true names. This new edition contains nearly 200 historic photos, maps and other illustrations and supplemental material to set the story in historical context.[4] Winner of the 2011 Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for History and Silver Award for Interior Design (1-2 Colour).

In "Flying" magazine, Lane Wallace noted, "Typically, fighter pilot stories are written either by individual surviving pilots or historians after the fact. But the pilots of 303 Squadron had an advantage when it came to recording their adventures accurately as they unfolded: Like Magellan, they had a professional writer assigned to the squadron and tasked with making sure their story wasn't mistold or forgotten."[5]

Writing in The Atlantic about forgotten pieces of World War II history, such as the story of 303 Squadron, Sanjay Saigal asked, "shouldn't cultural literacy include knowing about Polish heroism in the defense of Britain?"[6]

Publishing HistoryEdit

Great Britain

  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: M.I. Kolin, London, 1942.
  • Squadron 303 : The story of the Polish Fighter Squadron with the R.A.F.
    Publisher: Peter Davies. London, 1942, 1943, 1945.
  • Squadron 303 : The story of the Polish Fighter Squadron with the R.A.F.
    Publisher: Letchworth Printers. Letchworth, 1944, 1945.

United States

  • Squadron 303 : the story of the Polish Fighter Squadron with the R.A.F.
    Publisher: Roy Publishers. New York, 1943.
  • 303 Squadron: The Legendary Battle of Britain Fighter Squadron.
    Publisher: Aquila Polonica. Los Angeles, California, 2010.

Canada

  • Groupe 303
    Publisher: Les Éditions Variétés, Montréal, 1944.
  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: Impr. Saint-Joseph. Montréal, 1945.

Poland

  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: Wydawnictwo Oficyny Polskiej. Warsaw, 1943.
  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: Towarzystwo Wydawnicze Załoga. Warsaw, 1943.
  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: Oficyna Polska. Warsaw, 1943.
  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: Wydawnictwo Ruchu Miecz i Pług. Warsaw, 1943.
  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: Nakł. “Chrobrego szlaku”. Kielce, 1944.
  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: Czytelnik. Kraków, 1946.
  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: ISKRY. Warsaw, 1956, 1957, 1957, 1958, 1960.
  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: Wydawnictwo Poznańskie. Poznań. 1965, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1989, 1990.
  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: Siedmioróg. Wrocław, 1993, 1996.
  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: Wydawnictwo “Bernardinum” Sp. z.o.o. Pelplin, 2009.

Argentina

  • Dywizjon 303
    Publisher: Osadnik. Pasadas, 1945.

Germany

  • Staffel 303: Die polnischen Jagdflieger in der Luftschlacht um England.
    Publisher: Staffel-303-verlag. Bochum, 2010.

Audio Book

Poland

  • Dywizjon 303
    Narrated by Tomasz Marzecki. Publisher: Storybox.

ReferencesEdit

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