In a special series to mark 80 years since the Battle Of Britain, BFBS Radio has been looking at how the actions of those who served in the Royal Air Force in 1940 are inspiring and motivating service personnel today.
It’s hard not to look on with admiration and gratitude for the brave men who took to the skies over Britain in Spitfires and Hurricanes and gave their young lives to protect the very fabric of what we have today.
However, British pilots did not fight in the air alone. They flew alongside pilots from many other countries who fearlessly soared into the skies in the search for a better future for their loved ones back at home.
Padre Adrian Klos, an RAF Chaplain serving at Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham, remembered the men who crossed the globe to fight alongside British pilots to defend their homeland against Hitler and his Luftwaffe. He said:
“Today I remember those in the Battle Of Britain who fought and sometimes died for a foreign land.”
Below, Padre Klos talks about his Grandfathers. They were men who, like so many, left their own homes far from the British Isles, to come and stand with the British, take to the skies with the British and to often die alongside the British.
They were in the fight for their own ... as well as for ours.
Padre Adrian Klos speaking on BFBS Radio
You may say that serving in the airborne forces runs through my veins as both my Grandfathers served in the skies during World War Two. Not in the Battle Of Britain, but throughout the war.
My maternal Grandfather Sgt. M H "Jim" Levy moved from Jamaica in the 1940s to be part of the commonwealth effort against Germany. He was a navigator in 550 Squadron, flying out of RAF Killingholme.
Imagine swapping the Caribbean for a chilly, East Lincolnshire airfield?
My other Grandfather, Chesrial Klos, traveled from Poland by various routes to arrive in England to train at RAF Ringway to be part of the first Parachute Brigade, operating under Polish control.
Both of my Grandfathers joined in the allied campaign against the Nazis as they felt the fight for freedom, their potential sacrifice was worth the liberty that they wanted their children and grandchildren to grow up in.
Inevitably, because of the way that Poland had been treated by the Nazis, Polish pilots couldn’t wait to get to the skies in the Battle Of Britain. In July 1940, the first Polish fighter pilots joined their British Squadrons.
Flying Officer Antoni Ostowicz scored the first Polish kill in the Battle Of Britain but with his glorious accolade came a very sad one.
He was also the first Polish pilot to die in battle, shot down just days later on August 11, 1940.
The names of those who left their homes to stand shoulder to shoulder with, to live and sometimes die with British aircrew throughout the Battle Of Britain are names that I recognise.
Names that could be my own family, names that sit close to my heart as the grandson of those that left their homes because of what they believed in.
They came from Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Ireland and Israel. From Newfoundland, New Zealand, North and South Rhodesia, the United States, Jamaica and Poland.
Today I remember those in the Battle Of Britain who fought and sometimes died for a foreign land.