The remains of No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron’s Hurricane were uncovered exactly 75 years after the airplane’s crash on 9th September 1940. Piloted by Sgt Kazimierz Wunsche, Hurricane RF-E 3700 was shot down during the Battle of Britain following air combat with the Luftwaffe over Beachy Head. Sgt Wunsche bailed out of his burning aircraft and was admitted to hospital after suffering serious injuries. This historic dig near Saddlescombe Farm in West Sussex was carried out by a team of archaeologists and historians supported by Polish and British veterans of foreign missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The operation, led by MoD archaeologist Richard Osgood, ended with the successful extraction of the aircraft’s remains, including its reduction gear and propeller hub. Thanks to the efforts of the Polish Embassy and the Polish MoD, foreign missions veterans from Poland were able to join their British brothers-in-arms in this unique undertaking. The aircraft’s remains will go on show at the Polish Museum in RAF Northolt, were the 303 Squadron was stationed during the Battle of Britain.
The dig took place in the presence of Sgt Wunsche’s daughter Grazyna and granddaughter Joanna.
Grazyna Gasiorowska commented: “To be able to see and touch parts of a plane that has been hidden in the ground for the last 75 years is something special. But also to know that the pilot, my father Sgt Kazimierz Wunsche, was the last person to see it intact before he was shot down, is incredibly personal for my whole family. We are so grateful to the whole dig team.”
Thanks to Historic Aircraft Collection Ltd., an historic Hurricane in Sgt Wunsche’s markings RF-E P3700 made a flypast over the dig site. The Polish Embassy co-financed the repainting of the Historic Aircraft Collection’s Hurricane in the legendary 303 Squadron’s paint scheme as part of the #BoBPoles project marking the Polish contribution to the Battle of Britain.
“The flypast by a similar Hurricane bearing my grandfather’s designation was an incredibly emotional experience for us. Happening 75 years to the day that he had to bail out of his own aircraft, it was a wonderful tribute to him, the 303 squadron and all the pilots and crew that served in the Battle of Britain. We hope that the work that was done on the dig and the items that were recovered will help future generations to remember the sacrifices that brave young men and women made to defend Britain,” said Joanna Gasiorowska.
Together with an historic Spitfire flying originally in 315 and 317 Polish Squadrons, Hurricane RF-E P3700 is on permanent display in Hangar 3 at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, and takes part in various air shows happening throughout the summer of 2015, including The Battle of Britain Anniversary Air Show scheduled for 19-20 September at IWM Duxford.
145 Polish fighter pilots served in the Battle of Britain in the 302 and 303 Polish squadrons as well as in British units. No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron was the highest-scoring Allied unit of the Battle. Out of the overall number of fighter pilots from Allied countries, Poles constituted the second largest contingent after the British. By the end of the war, almost 20,000 Polish airmen and airwomen were serving in 16 squadrons of the Polish Air Force in Britain.
Information and photographs provided by a press release from Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London.