by: Mecenas [ ]
When the Focke Wulfs 190's appeared on the first line of air war it quickly outclassed British Spitfire Mk.V's. RAF fighter pilots anxiously awaited delivery of new Mk.IX machines. Amongst them were of course Poles gathered in two, later three, fighter groups. First Mk.IX were delivered to Polish units in August 1942 but and by the end of September first squadrons completely converted to new variant.
Stratus book presents the Spitfires Mk.IX used in the 1st Polish Fighter Wing, the only one of Polish fighter wings, which used Mk.IX in the years of 1942-1943. The practice of those days was that the particular squadrons rotated between wings. A squadron leaving the 1st Wing to rest of operations left its Spitfires IX's for its successors and took over their Mk.V's. Another Polish unit which used Spitfire Mk.IX was a „Skalski's Circus” or, more officially, the Polish Combat Team in Africa. This is a good exemplification of how history determines the content of a present publication.
The series of Polish Wings by Stratus is being described as a book but I would rather say it is rather an album with a great number of photographies with very detailed and concise descriptions. On 96 pages in the A4 format we get 208 photographies and colour drawings presenting planes as well as pilots and technicians in the vicinity of their machines.
Content of this publication starts with the brief presentation of one of the first Mk.IX's, the BR601, in the Polish hands and other planes being delivered by a female ferry pilots – Stefania Wojtulanis or Anna Leska. These women had put their hands on new Mk.IX's before the fighter boys did. On the few following pages author focuses on the planes used by 1st Wing HQ, mostly commanders: W/Cdr Stefan Janus, W/Cdr Wojciech Kołaczkowski, W/Cdr Aleksander Gabszewicz.
Consequently on further pages we can find sections dedicated to 306 Sqn, 315 Sqn, 316 Sqn, 303 Sqn, 302 Sqn, 317 Sqn, 308 Sqn and the Polish Combat Team in Africa, in the given order. In three tables (containing details like date, name, rank, unit, serial number if known, code, time and type of aircraft claimed) we can find victories credited to Polish Spitfire IX pilots over Western Europe in 1942-1943 (on two pages), victories credited to Polish Spitfire IX pilots over Mediterranean in 1943 (one page) and losses of Poles suffered on Spitfire IX in 1942-1943 (one page).
Particular planes are presented on as many photographs as possible, presented also on a colour profile or sometimes even on three or four views. Off course all stuff about particular plane in gathered on nearby pages, there's no need for jumping from one page to another to find different photos of the same plane. As usual in this type of book come machines are presented on more photographies, some on less. We can not do anything with that. Special interest of the American wings enthusiast should be paid to the plane BS410 of 315 Squadron. This machine was flown by then Capt. Francis Gabreski during his combat apprentice in the Polish squadron in 1943.. This plane is very carefully described and presented on very good photos.
The book is written in English but publisher have provided an insert of few pages with Polish translation of photography descriptions.
To sum up in few words this book is surely one of my Spitfire “Bibles”. It provides more inspiring stuff and reference for future models than I will ever be able to build in all my life. Concise and detailed descriptions provided by the author are based on very careful study of presented material. This is a very handy book if your want to build a historically accurate Spitfire Mk.IX of the Polish squadron.