Personal Views and other facts about Witold Lanowski


As previously mentioned in the 'Pilot opinion' section, Witold was not impressed with the armament of the RAF fighters until they were fitted with 20mm cannon but still suffered from a major lack of rounds to use..! he was greatly impressed with the firepower of the Mustang and Thunderbolts 0.5" caliber machine guns fitted as standard to these fighters, their sheer `punch' and devastation power was just incredible to him after the Spitfire and Hurricane he had been previously flying. Witold was also impressed with the fire power of the Messerschmitt and Focke Wulf fighters with their mixed machine gun and cannon armament, firing through the spinner and also synchronised through the propellor blades which the Polish pilots were used to with the PZL P11c having the machine guns fusalage mounted firing synchronised through the propellor. Most non-German aircraft engineers had always maintained that firing through the propellor was impossible to syncronise accurately enough. well the Poles and Germans certainly disproved that theory..!!

Formations used:

One of his other `gripes' was the formations used by the RAF which was not only his personal opinion but also an opinion shared with the other Polish fighter pilots. The RAF used outdated formations at the start of WW2 including the classic `VIC' formation of three fighters in close proximity to each other flying in a `^' formation. This was the standard formation taught to all fighter pilots but required the pilots to spend more time watching each others aircraft to avoid collisions than actually watching the skies for enemy fighters. The RAF also used line astern and line abreast formations and tended to fly in quite close proximity to the adjacent aircraft. This was similar to the `VIC' formation in terms of time and concentration required to maintain a coherent formation which the Poles regarded as dangerous in a combat environment. the biggest disadvantage with these formations used by the RAF was a lack of manoeuverability whilst trying to maintain formations, especially in larger turns.

The Poles were similar to the Germans in the use of the `finger four' formation which had been originall semi created in the first world war  and then further developed by the Luftwaffe `Condor' legion in Spain during the civil war pre world war 2. The finger four formation consisted of a flight of four mutually supporting aircraft formed from two elements of two aircraft, a leader and a wingman. The German standard formation through all their Jagdgeshwader was the `Schwarm' (flight) and `Rotte' (element) of four and two aircraft in `finger four' formation. This formation allowed all parts of the sky to be within easy view with the added ability of the fighters within the formation to fly at slightly differing heights to alleviate any blind spots caused by adjacent aircraft. It was also an easier formation to use to change direction whilst maintaining a good formation.

The poles refused to use the dated RAF formations which they deemd dangerous and when they became operational other RAF squadron commanders soon saw the advantage of this formation and gradually adopted it, but it took a few years to impliment fully.


Witold felt that training was probably the most important part of being a fighter pilot. He knew that the Polish pilots were already highly trained and ensured that they kept up their in-flight training to hone their already `sharp' skills. But he observed that the RAF pilots were drastically undertrained when joining front line combat squadrons, lacking both flying, formation and gunnery skills. This became more prevalent when air to air gunnery competitions were held by the RAF and the top 3 places were always held by Polish squadrons (refer to the publication `Destiny can wait'). So when he was assigned to be a flight instructor with 55 OTU he was able to instill his vast flying knowledge to British and commonwealth Pilots training to join frontline squadrons.

Other Interesting facts about Witold Lanowski

Witold was unlike a lot of other world war two pilots being non superstitious. Even his greatest flying friend Boleslaw `Mike' Gladych was superstitious, having a ceramic penguin `Pengie' as a mascot. Note, his 56th FG Thunderbolts displayed his personal emblem of `Pengie' 1,2,3 etc.

Witold's personal Emblem displayed on his flying jacket and later his personal mark `M' Thunderbolt was a Polish red and white checkerboard with a Polish medieval knights gauntlet holding and crushing a German Messerschmitt ME 109. This emblem originated in 1941 but due to the fact that Polish pilots were under the command of the RAF were unable to display personal emblems on thier aircaft although some individuals got away with it, namely Jan Zumbach of 303 (Polish) squadron.

The Emblem represented the defeat of the German Teutonic order in 1410 by the combined Polish and Lithuanian forces at the battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg to the Germans) which spelt the end of the Teutonic order's reign in Prussia which was northern Poland. Witold's personal opinion was that the Germans need not have invaded Poland to get to Russia or defend their eastern borders, they could have formulated a pact with Poland as the Polish forces were quite large and well trained, especially the airforce (which gave the Luftwaffe quite a mauling in the September campaign). His opinion is that they invaded Poland as revenge for Grunwald (Tannenberg) as there are photographs of Hitler specifically visiting the memorial after the invasion. He was warned by both Zemke and Gabreski of the 56th FG that `if the Germans see that emblem Lanny, they will shoot you, no question'. Witold being the rebel he was was not put off by this obvious fact!