by Piotr Gorka
Spitfire Mk IXs of Polish Fighting Team in Africa 1943.
L/E 380 Limited Edition signed & numbered prints
Each of these editions are individuall numbered
Overall print size: 25 3/4"wide 20"high 65,5 x 51 cm
Image size: 21"wide 14 3/4"high 53,2 x 37,5 cm
Printed On HQ Acid Free Permanent Paper 250 Gr
L/E 300 Signed and Numbered THREE signatures PRICE 169 € plus postage
signed by the artist and
Group Captain TADEUSZ ROLSKI VMv CV** DSO DFC
Wing Commander STANISLAW SKALSKI VMIV VMV CV*** DSO DFC**
Flight Lieutenant LUDWIK MARTEL VMv CV
A/P 80 Signatures IN PREAPERING
To begin with, I ran through the different Allied Air Forces which were operating in the desert war. Came the turn of the Poles. ‘And what do you think about the Polish airmen?’ I asked. ‘Oh, them’ replied the squadron Leader, ‘they are fantastic - better than any of us. In every way they’ve got us all beat’.”
During the second half of 1940 Polish fighters were credited with over 200 kills. The score for the entire year 1941 was less than 200. In 1942 this dropped to less than 100. Clearly, the Luftwaffe was no longer a powerful opponent over Western Europe. The planned invasion of the continent would involve entirely new tasks of in-field operatoins away from well-prepared bases. War in North Africa alredy gave the RAF plenty of experience in that kind of operations. For these two reasons it was decided that a group of experienced Polish fighters should be sent to the African front. They would learn that type of warfare and subsequently by able to use the knowledge in the Polish Air Force during the imminent war on the continent. The prospect of an exotic trip and of adding to their scores attracted no less than 70 volunteers and 15 were selected. The unit, know officially as the Polish Combat Team, arrived in Africa in March 1943. It was assigned to 244 Wing, led by ace W/Cdr Ian Gleed at that time and attached to No. 145 Squadron for logistics. Polish pilots soon got used to the hight temperatures, harsh living conditions and flying activity comparable to that of the Battle of Britain. Typically for the desert Air Force there was close comradeship, officers and NCOs lived, messed and entertained together. By mid-May Axis troops in Africa surrendered and the team was disbanded. The short lived unit was a great success. In 40 days they scored a total of 25 enemy aircraft confirmed destroyed for the loss of one pilot (PoW). The press coined the term of ‘Skalski’s Circus’ for them after the unit’s leader and refering back to’von Richthofen’s Circus” of WWI fame. In fact, the Polish African unit’s score was highter than that of the top-scorin Polish squadron throughout the entire year 1943!
5 of February -1943 Polish Fighting Team formed in Northolt.
13 of February - Unit members arrived to West Kirby for ”tropicalisation”. ie-injections, uniforms etc. then boarding a convoy, leaving Glasgow on 24th.
13 of March - PFT arrives at Bughara (appr. 250 km west from Tripoli). They became a ‘C’ Flight in 145 Sqn (under command of S/Ldr Lance Wade) 244 Wing of Desert Air Force.
17 of March - Start of active duty flying.
23 - 26 of March - The Team received ten new Spitfire IX's from the first consignment of 24 which had just arrived at Algiers, and became the first unit in North Africa to be fully re-equipped with this superior model.
Pilots of the Polish Fighting Team, the legendary Skalski's Circus, by Spitfire IX EN268 ZX-5 standing, left to right F/O Kazimierz Sporny, F/O Ludwik Martel, F/Lt Karol Pniak, F/O Wladyslaw Drecki, F/Lt Eugeniusz Horbaczewski, W/O Wladyslaw Majchrzyk, F/Sgt Marcin Machowiak, F/Sgt Kazimierz Sztramko, F/Lt Waclaw Krol, S/Ldr Stanislaw Skalski, F/O Mieczyslaw Wyszkowski, sitting on the ground: P/O Jan Kowalski and W/O Bronislaw Malinowski (F/O Bohdan Arct took the photograph).
28 of March - Came the first success: over Sfax Six plane patrol intercepted formation of Ju-88 with a Bf-109 escort. S/Ldr S.Skalski ZX-1(EN459) and F/Lt E.Horbaczewski ZX-5(EN267) shot down a Ju-88 each.
2 of April - Four plane, afternoon patrol, shot down three and damaged two Bf-109’s. F/Sgt M.Machowiak ZX-3(EN361)-1-1-0 S/Ldr S.Skalski ZX-1(EN459) - 1-0-0 F/Lt E.Horbaczewski ZX-6(EN315)- 1-0-0 F/O B.Arct ZX-5(EN267) - 0-0-1
4 of April - Six plane, morning patrol fought Bf-109’s S/Ldr S.Skalski ZX-6(EN315) 1-0-0. F/O L.Martel ZX-3(EN361) 0-0-1 F/Lt W.Krol ZX-4(EN313) 1-0-0.
6 of April - Five plane patrol in the afternoon “mixed” with Bf-109’s F/Lt E.Horbaczewski ZX-1(EN459) 1-0-0 F/O M.Wyszkowski ZX-6(EN315) 0-1-0 W/O W.Majchrzyk ZX-9(EN300) 0-0-1 E.Horbaczewski ZX-1 (EN459) was badly shot, but he managed to gilde damaged plane to Gabes.
Spitfire F.IX EN459 ZX-1 during repair in North Africa. Following his combat on 6 April F/Lt Horbaczewski glided the damaged Spitfire to Gabes, where it was left for repair and photographed.
7 of April - During a morning four plane patrol - two Bf-109’s were shot down. W/O B.Malinowski ZX-9 (EN300) 1-0-0 F/O K.Sporny ZX-5 (EN267) 1-0-0.
8 of April - Midday, four plane patrol - W/O M.Popek ZX-6(EN315) damaged a Bf-109
11 of April - 244 Wing moving to Fouconnerie, then. om 15 of April to Goubrine following 8th Army advance.
18 of April - During a morning flight F/O M.Wyszkowski in ZX-o(EN355) was shot down (PoW). combination of AA fire and Bf-109. In the afternoon B.Arct claimed one Macchi Mc.202 probably shot down.
Spitfire F.IX EN355 ZX-O in which F/O Mieczyslaw Wyszkowski was downed 0n 18 April 1943 as the only loss of the Polish Combat Team. Apparently, the Germans who interrogated him were unaware of the existence of a separate Polish unit attached to No.145 Squadron RAF and assumed his aricraft code was ZX-O rather than ZX-zero. The codes look distintively darker than the roundel, it seems they were applied in black. Not the shadow of the photographer.
20 of April - Flying top cover for kittyhawks, PFT intercepted approxe twenty enemy fighters (mixed formation of Bf-109’s and Mc.202’s) west of Pantalleria island. F/O L.Martel ZX-10(EN261) 1-1-0 Bf-109 F/O W.Drecki ZX-8(EN286) 1-0-1 Bf-109 W/O W.Popek ZX-7(EN268) 1-0-0 Mc.202 F/Lt W.Krol ZX-4(EN313) 1-0-0 Mc.202 W/O W.Majchrzyk ZX-9(EN300) 1-0-0 Mc.202 F/O B.Arct ZX-6 (EN315)1-0-0 Bf-109.
Winners of the combat on April 20. From left to right F/Lt Waclaw Krol, W/O Wladyslaw Majchrzyk, W/O Mieczyslaw Popek, F/O Wladyslaw Drecki, F/O Ludwik Martel, F/O Bohdan Arct.
21 of April - Patrol over Tunis. F/Lt W.Krol ZX-4(EN313) shot down 1-0-0, and F/O B.Arct ZX-6(EN315) 0-01 Bf-109’s in low level chase of five enemy planes.
22 of April - 244 Wing intercepted formation of transport planes Me-323 Gigant with an ecsort comprised of Bf-109’s and Mc.202’s. Six PFT planes were flying top cover for the Wing. F/Lt E.Horbaczewski ZX-6(EN315) 2-0-0 and F/O K.Sporny ZX-10 (EN261) 2-0-0 Bf-109’s F/Sgt K.Sztramko ZX-5(EN267) 1-0-0 Bf-109 and 1-0-0 Mc.202.
28 of April - Six plane patrol over Tunis and Bizertia. W/O M.Popek ZX-6 (EN315) shot down Mc.202.
'Skalski's Circus' is captured on film just at the point of scrambling on a sorties. EN315 ZX-6 was used by both Horbaczewski and Popek to score their respective fifth 'ace-making' kills, this Spitfire actually being more successful than any of its PFT masters by achieving no fewer six kills, two probables and two damaged whilst being flown by five different pilots - with a record like this it is little wonder that the Spitfire was flown by virtually every 'Circus' pilot, and also by No 145 Sqn's 'A' Flight Commander, F/Lt Hesketh. The next Spitfire in line also exhibits swastikas beneath its cockpit, but seems to bear no codes whatsoever. In fact, three kills were scored with EN261 before the Spitfire received the code ZX-10.
30 of April - M.Machowiak ZX-7(EN268) damaged FW-190
6 of May - Last victory for PFT. F/Sgt K.Sztramko ZX-8(EN286) 1-0-0 and S/Ldr S.Skalski ZX-5(EN267) 0-0-1 Bf-109’s 244 Wing moved to Hergla, only 15 km from the frontline.
13 of May - Axis troops in North Africa surranered.
PFT was disbanded. It wasn’t the end though! Desert Air Force Command was so impressed, they asked Poles to stay on in commanding position with RAF units. Three of them did, with the rest going back to England in July. S/Ldr S.Skalski became CO of 601 Sqn RAF, E.Horbaczewski CO of 43 Sqn RAF and W.Drecki a Flight in 152 Sqn RAF (he was killed in take-off accident in September).
Mumorial baget of the Polish Fighting Team
Spitfire F.IX EN459 ZX-1, Polish Fighting Team, Africa, spring 1943
Spitfire F.IX EN315 ZX-6, Polish Fighting Team, Africa, spring 1943