England as an international refuge shelter in World War Two
After World War Two broke out England became host to six European governments in exile. The Polish, Czechoslovakians, Norwegians, Belgians, French and Dutch turned England into an international refuge shelter.
The continental army forces which came along with their governments were welcomed with open arms by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to form a grand coalition with the British forces.
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty" - Winston Churchill"
However, the integration, training and housing of a vast group of multi lingual and multi cultural personnel within a short period was a huge task. Especially the British air division, the Royal Air Force, was far from combat ready when the war started.
Therefore, having to manage a sudden high demand for trained crew and aircraft was difficult enough. Handling a smooth integration process of all the foreign arrivals at the same time was a 'tour de force’, as Erwin van Loo describes in his study 'Eenige Wakkere Jongens'.
Publicity and communication
It was important for the various European governments in exile to show the people at home that they were not sitting idly but were indeed contributing to the war effort. To make these various national contributions visible, the continental wish for separate national contingencies was met under the, British, condition that they operated to a more or lesser extent under the umbrella of the RAF.
The formation of national sub squadrons was not only for publicity reasons, it was also a solution to overcome the stumbling block of many different languages.
Pilots of Polish 303 fighter squadron leaving their Hawker Hurricane after a sortie
Cultural and lingual differences or not, one thing the foreign squadrons did have in common was the high standard and motivation of their crew. Perhaps not surprisingly, because they all wanted to finish this war as soon as possible so they could return to their own liberated countries.
One such RAF sub squadron was the Dutch 322 squadron which we will tell you more about in our next post on 12 November.
'Eenige wakkere jongens'. Nederlandse oorlogsvliegers in de Britse luchtstrijdkrachten 1940-1945 - Erwin van Loo, 2013
Prime Minister W. Churchill making a Victory sign - Pinterest, for link click on photo
Polish 303 squadron - Pinterest, for link click on photo