A Step Back In Time – The Battle of Britain Air Show, Duxford

by Jonathon Ward on September 17, 2021

TRIBUS are very excited to be attending one of the few events in the UK air show calendar in nearly two years. The Battle of Britain Air show will take place at Duxford this weekend, an airfield that made history during a time when the Spitfire ruled the skies and the few brought hope to the British Isles.

We are honoured to be a part of it.

Over the weekend of 18th and 19th September we will be stepping into Duxford’s remarkable past. As the roar of Merlin engines fill the air above, this remarkable RAF fighter station will be transported back to the 1940s, reminding everyone who attends that they are standing on historic ground and of the crucial part the brave men and women of Duxford played during the Second World War.

 

The Ground Crew

Although the action in the skies will dazzle spectators with daring air displays, dogfights and aerobatics, on the ground museums, hangars and airfields will be transformed into living history including re-enactments from the Home Guard and 1940s music and dance. Amongst all this activity is where you will find the TRIBUS team and our wonderful partners the Laguna Spitfire Legacy.

We have been given pride of place adjacent to the hangar used by the Historic Aircraft Collection and with our help, the HAC crew will wheel our Spitfire BM597 out of the hangar, ready to face the crowds. A workspace and view better than any office could ever provide I am sure anyone would agree.

 

This year, Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show is one of the only in-person air shows taking place in the UK, with 30,000 visitors expected to attend over the two days we are very excited to showcase our range to the public in a post-covid world. This July we were very fortunate to have attended the very first air show to take place in almost two years, which was also at Duxford. This gave both TRIBUS and LSL a chance to interact with the public at 50% capacity in preparation for the Battle of Britain event. It gave us a chance to converse with fellow watch and aeronautical fanatics, who were all very enthusiastic and positive about our Limited edition Pilot’s watch and the story it represents. We are proudly involved with Duxford and the Laguna Spitfire Legacy project to help tell the story of Piotr Laguna (a Polish pilot who had travelled to Britain following the invasion of his homeland by the Germans in 1939) and to fund the rebuild of his 303 Squadron Spitfire P8331.

Between the Rolls Royce merlin engine on display, a watch containing a disk of historic metal from the original Spitfire and the lure of BM597 we are confident that the Battle of Britain air show will be a huge success and we look forward to meeting all of our like-minded enthusiasts face to face once again.

The Life of Laguna

Born on 11 October 1905 in Kędziorowo, a village within the Russian-controlled Podlasie region of Poland, Łaguna was accepted to the Air Force Officers’ School in 1925, graduating two years later. He continued to progress through the Officers’ Training Centre at Deblin, subsequently passing an Advanced Flying Course in Cracow. Following graduation from the Air Force College at Warsaw, he joined 216 Bomber Squadron as a navigation officer during the Polish Campaign of 1939.

Following Germany’s invasion of Poland, Łaguna exited the country through Romania, working his way to France. He and other Polish pilots intended to create a new squadron, III Polish Fighter Squadron, however this never came to fruition. He eventually became deputy commander of the all-Polish GC1/145 ‘Warsaw’. On 10 June 1940 Łaguna was appointed its commander, but within 10 days was evacuated to England following the fall of France. Ranked as a Flight Lieutenant, he joined fellow Polish fighter squadron No. 302 at RAF Leconfield.

By December, Laguna had risen to the rank of commander, having made 17 operational and combat flights during the Battle of Britain. In May 1941 he was shot down during combat but bailed out successfully, and on 28 May was appointed as Acting Wing Commander of 1st Polish Fighter Wing. Yet Laguna would enter the cockpit one final time on 27 June 1941. Alongside other members of 1 Polish Fighter Wing, he was instructed to target a steel factory in Lille. Łaguna, flying in Spitfire P8331 RF-M ‘Sumatra’ of 303 Squadron alongside Wing Commander John Kent in Spitfire P8567 RF-D ‘Picture Post’, was hit by German flak. On fire, his Spitfire crashed into the ground southwest of Calais; although he attempted to bail during its descent, Łaguna’s proximity to the ground didn’t allow for enough time to open his canopy, killing him in the process.

A Lasting Legacy

From 1940, squadrons such 303 were established as Polish Air Force units operating within the structure of the Royal Air Force. They soon became renowned for their fearlessness and efficiency. RAF Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding specifically stated, ‘The first Polish Squadron (No. 303) in No. 11 Group, during the course of the first month, shot down more Germans than any British unit in the same period’.

The Polish would do whatever they could to help reclaim their homeland, underscored by the motto “Za naszą i waszą wolność” translated as “For Our Freedom and Yours” – yet come the end of the war, they found themselves barred from attending the 1946 Victory March through the streets of London.

 

For Laguna’s Spitfire Legacy founder Scott Booth, his journey towards creating a legacy for the Polish people during the Second World War all started with an engine, a Rolls Royce Merlin Engine to be precise.

Following a flight in a two-seater Spitfire, he’d noticed one in the waiting room being used as a coffee table. Immediately, he knew he needed to try to locate one for himself. After much persistence he finally located an original early Rolls Royce Merlin engine. Tracing details from its serial number, Scott discovered the engine had belonged to Spitfire P8331, flown by none other than Piotr Laguna on that fateful day in 1941. This journey was now starting to take off.

 

Discovering a tale of heroism and sacrifice that would end in insult with the Polish people banned from the Victory March, Scott wanted to raise awareness for Laguna and his compatriots. He sought to trace as much of P8331 as possible following its excavation in 1986, with the intention of building a full-scale replica to help educate future generations about the bravery of ‘the Few’ and those who had served during the Second World War.

 

 

Ultimately, Scott’s path would align with us at TRIBUS, leading us to this fantastic event in Duxford this coming weekend and a very special limited edition Swiss watch. Our TRI-05 303 Squadron P8331 Limited Edition contains a disc of metal recovered from Spitfire P8331 by Scott and his team. Collectively at Duxford visitors will have the chance to see both P8331’s engine and a piece of its arming panel, housed within a Swiss-Made time piece. As stated, this will be one of the first times we have been able to place the two side by side for the public to see, a privilege that we do not take lightly.

 

While Laguna’s Spitfire Legacy had initially hoped to build a full-size replica of P8331, those plans have only increased in scale since. Proceeds from each TRI-05 sold are being used to help restore P8331 to airworthy condition, making it only one of three Mk II Spitfires left in existence with active service under its belt. So not only is the engine at Duxford a reminder of P8331’s past, but the TRI-05 serves as a direct link to its future.

 

BM597 will serve as the centrepiece of our display this weekend, funded by TRIBUS it had been decorated in P8331’s livery as part of the Polish Heritage Flight. By sending BM597 to Poland in 303 Squadron colours, the Legacy Project seeks to raise awareness of the heroism displayed by the Poles throughout the Second World War, reconnecting younger generations with the bravery of their ancestors.

Covid may have delayed the plan for now – just like it did with Polish veterans joining the 80th the anniversary Allied celebrations for the very first time, however we are thrilled to see that as the world gets back to normal the Polish pilot’s memory still lives on. Last month TRIBUS and the Laguna Spitfire Legacy were invited to attend a tribute to all the Polish pilots that lost their lives during WW2 at Hangar 42 in Blackpool. Wreaths were laid, tears were shed and stories were shared.

But with a story this powerful, and with people like Scott Booth doing all they can to raise awareness of it, this weekend at RAF Duxford leaves us with no doubt: THIS story will never be forgotten.

 

Lest We Forget.

Discover the TRI-05 303 Squadron P8331 Limited Edition

 

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