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Pictures: Tears of pride as Polish flag flies over Exeter to honour those who gave their lives for the city

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: November 18, 2013

By Mike Byrne

  • The Lord mayor of Exeter Rachel Lyons raises the Polish flag at Exeter Guildhall, pictured with organiser Michael Parrot and Mace Sergent John Davies. Picture by GRW Photography

  • The Lord mayor of Exeter Rachel Lyons raises the Polish flag at Exeter Guildhall, pictured with organiser Michael Parrot and Mace Sergent John Davies. Picture by GRW Photography

  • Members of 307 squadron at Exeter airport in 1941

Comments (5)

THE raising of the Polish flag over Exeter’s Guildhall on Friday was just too much for Bozena Tucker.

For Mrs Tucker the sight of the proud standard fluttering in the wind brought back too many sad and poignant memories.

The flag was hoisted 71 years to the day that the fliers of a Polish nightfighter squadron handed their original flag to the city.

The flying heroes, based at Exeter Airport, had won the hearts of the city for their brave actions in defending the city from bombers during the Second World War

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Mrs Tucker, who lives in Whipton and whose Polish grandfather was killed in the notorious Katyn Massacre in Poland in 1941, said: “It is of great significance for people in Exeter and I think it is important we remember.”

“It was all too much for me really, too emotional. I just couldn’t watch the flag being raised . I just went to spend five minutes after the ceremony at the Guildhall.

“It brought back a lot of sad memories.

“My grandfather, Wasalw Turkowski, was a senior police officer in Poland and he was one of the thousands of officers who were rounded up by the Russians and murdered in the Katyn Forest in the spring of 1941.

“My mother. Halena, was only 19 when her father was shot and she joined the Polish underground but was caught and sent to a concentration camp.

“She was released in 1942 on condition that she leave Poland.

“I have a book, Lista Katynska, which lists the thousand who were murdered at Katyn.

“To see the Polish flag raised over Exeter makes me so proud - but also brings back sad memories.”

During the Blitz of Exeter the outnumbered Polish crews fought bravely against their enemy and had it not been for their presence the city would have suffered even more devastation and almost certainly more people would have been killed.

Four Luftwaffe Junkers bombers were shot down on the main night of the Blitz. During the two years at Exeter, 21 of the squadron paid the ultimate sacrifice and 19 are buried at Higher Cemetery.

During their stay Exeter became the first British city to be presented with the Polish National Flag as a result of the close links that the squadron and the city had formed.

The Polish flag was blessed by the Bishop of Exeter and then the squadron leader presented the flag to the mayor of Exeter.

A new Polish flag was blessed by the Lord Mayor’s chaplain last year, and then in the presence of the Lord Mayor, the chief executive and the leader of the city council, four relatives of squadron personnel and special guests, the Polish flag was raised over the Guildhall for the day, which in Exeter was named ‘307 Polish Squadron Day’.

November 15 will be 307 Polish Squadron Day in Exeter.

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  • ThomasG  |  November 18 2013, 5:46PM

    I can vouch for the fact that this is a fascinating and inspiring exhibition with great photographs, mementos and moving personal stories, which should remind us what an enormous debt we owe to these incredible heroes. It is particularly poignant that this squadron should have been named the "Lwow Owls" in view of the seizure of that great city by the Soviets and the displacement westwards of the Polish population, leaving surviving squadron members from that area with no home to go to, and both Poland and Ukraine, having been delivered from the evils of Nazism, facing the imminent horrors of Communism. I was pleased to see that the neat group of graves in the Higher Cementery, where lie the fallen of the squadron, is well-tended. I hope that this day will each year be commemorated with pride, both for the descendants of these men to remember them, and for the rest of us to show our gratitude.

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  • carolonly  |  November 18 2013, 4:57PM

    ps ,i truely despair of of people like you!

  • carolonly  |  November 18 2013, 4:54PM

    i did read the whole story and i do wish you people would stop refering to anything thats said about foriegners that isnt 100% for them as racist. so many times we fly our flags and some foriegner decides it offends them and we have to take it down. id say the people that it offends are the racists here. these people should remember they are guests in our country and live under our flag.

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  • ElCatski  |  November 18 2013, 3:12PM

    Seriously carolonly, did you not read the story? How the polish air force pretty much saved our city? (also, its a union flag when on land, if you have to be overtly racist and 'proud to be British' get it right!) I truly despair of 'my fellow brits' sometimes.

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  • carolonly  |  November 18 2013, 2:17PM

    can we fly our union jack without someone from a foriegn country moaning or is it just for foriegners to be able to do this without a big protest against it.

    |   -4