A Second World War 303 (Polish) Squadron Ashtray, 1945
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Diameter: 13.5cm (5.25in)
Alloy ashtray created from the piston of a Rolls Royce 'Merlin' engine as used in Spitfire and Hurricane fighters during the Battle of Britain. The centre engraved with squadron badge, encircled by Churchill's famous lines - 'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few'.
No. 303 Squadron was formed from a pool of highly experienced veterans of Polish and French campaigns with the agreement of the Polish Government in exile in July 1940 in Blackpool and was sent south to Northholt in August. On the 30th the squadron scored its first victory while still officially non-operational, when a German Messerschmitt Bf 110 of 4./ZG 76 was shot down by F/O Ludwik Paszkiewicz during a training flight.
The squadron was declared operational next day by No. 11 Group RAF. On15 September 1940, the height of the battle, the squadron was heavily involved In the massed dogfights over London, with nine Hurricanes intercepting a German raid in mid-morning. Nine kills were claimed: six Bf 109s, one Bf 110 and two Do 17s. In the afternoon, a flight formation led by S/L Kellet claimed four victories, while the five-strong ‘B' Flight led by F/O Urbanowicz, claimed two Do 17s, for two Polish pilots shot down (Sgt. Brzezowski killed, Sgt Andruszkow bailed out while P/O Lokuciewski was wounded in the leg, returning to base safely). During the day, No. 303 Squadron claimed 15 victories. Withdrawn from battle for a rest on 11 October 1940, the squadron became the most successful Hurricane unit in the Battle, shooting down 126 German machines in only 42 days. Czech Sergeant Josef Frantisek, also of '303', was the top scoring pilot with 17 confirmed victories. ‘Had it not been for the magnificent material contributed by the Polish squadrons and their unsurpassed gallantry,’ wrote Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, C-in-C RAF Fighter Command, ‘I hesitate to say that the outcome of the Battle (of Britain) would have been the same.’