Bravery of Polish airmen during Battle of Britain

A unique anti-racism project is set to be unveiled in Belfast on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain to mark the valiant efforts of Polish airmen, who were stationed in Northern Ireland.

‘Band Of Brothers’ is the brainchild of Ballyhalbert-based journalist and RAF historian Pete Bleakley and is funded by the Housing Executive. It aims to highlight the exploits of Polish airmen in the Battle Of Britain, reminding local communities of their efforts three-quarters of a century ago.

The Belfast mural will be unveiled at the iconic International Wall on Tuesday next, September 15th, led by the Lower Shankill Community Association.

The mural is supported by a shared history event where young people from both communities came together this week to take part in a series of workshops, led by artist Ross Wilson. An anti-racism tool kit will also be produced as part of the project.

Pete Bleakley explained:

 “I’ve had a lifelong interest in RAF history as my grandfather had joined in 1918, having been gassed and invalided out of the infantry. I began researching the history of 303 (Polish) RAF Squadron, which was stationed in Ballyhalbert.

 “I learned that 303 and other Polish and Czech squadrons had an absolutely pivotal role in the Battle Of Britain. Having worked closely with both the Housing Executive and the Loyalist communities during ten years in community television, it occurred to me that perhaps events 75 years ago in the skies over Kent could help positively shape events on the ground in Belfast in 2015.

 “The Battle Of Britain, and our freedom as a nation, was won in no small way by the bravery of those Polish pilots, whose wartime motto was, ‘Love Demands Sacrifice.’ They fought ferociously for their freedom and ours. The Poles were part of us then and they are part of us now.”

Commenting on their involvement in the ground-breaking project, Jennifer Hawthorne, Head of the Housing Executive Neighbourhoods, said:

 “The contribution of the Polish airmen during the Battle of Britain was vital and their efforts are an important part of our shared history. Those Poles and other nationalities who choose to make Northern Ireland their home today are as important in helping to create a shared, diverse and integrated community.

 Ian McLaughlin, of the Lower Shankill Community Association said:

 “We are proud to be leading this project out and to celebrate with our Polish community in Belfast in marking the efforts of the airmen from Squadron 303. Our community should be very proud of their efforts to protect us during the Battle of Britain.

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