Blackpool to honour Polish war hero with Spitfire fly past

Blackpool Airport is to get a flying visit from a Spitfire this month to mark the anniversary of a Battle of Britain hero.

Saturday, 12th June 2021, 12:30 pm

The Mark 2 Spitfire, P8331 “Sumatra”, will fly at the resort on June 27 and a special display will be staged at the Hanger 42 aviation museum there to honour Wing Commander

Piotr Laguna and the other Polish airmen who trained in the resort early in the war then went on to risk their lives fighting with Britain against the Nazis.

Piotr was stationed in Blackpool during the war after escaping from Poland and then France in 1939 as the Nazi forces swept across Europe.

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When the war started he was an experienced Polish Air Force Pilot, aged 34, and led a bomber squadron during the German invasion of Poland.

He was one of many Polish pilots who evacuated to France when their country fell and he assumed command of the Polish 1/145 Squadron there, before evacuation for a second time to England after the capitulation of France.

Piotr, like many Polish airmen, made his way to Blackpool on arrival in the UK, by then the spiritual home of the Polish Air Force.

Before long and with the formation of 302 Squadron, the first Polish fighter squadron, he assumed the role of commander of A flight. Piotr was then appointed Officer Commanding the Squadron in December 1940.

Anyone recognise this hotel? Acting Wing Commander Piotr Laguna and his Polish colleagues staying in Blackpool in 1940 at an unknown B&B. He had escaped both Poland and France where he had fought the Germans, before joining the Polish squadrons in the RAF

A year later he was promoted to Acting Wing Commander and assumed the role Commanding Officer of 1 Polish Fighter Wing (303,306,308 Squadrons) based at RAF Northolt.

Sadly on June 27, 1941, Piotr was lost to anti-aircraft fire in a daring sortie whilst attacking an airfield in Coquelles, just outside of Calais.

Now the group, Laguna’s Spitfire Legacy, is bringing a Spitfire painted in Piotr's colours to Blackpool, where visitors can view the recovered artefacts from the original P8331 as well as see Spitfire BM597 fly in a display, taking off at 11.30am, the time of his fateful last flight.

There will also be living history exhibitions at the hangar, and opportunities to speak to the Pilot and subject matter experts.

Acting Wing Commander Piotr Laguna

Scott Booth, who is behind the project, said: "Mark Vb Spitfire BM597 from the Polish Heritage flight will take up residency at Hangar 42 Blackpool Airport for the first two weeks in June and will give Fylde Coast residents a rare opportunity to see the Spitfire up close and to attend some exciting events that we have scheduled for her during her stay.

"These will be advance ticket sales only and will include photography days, meet the pilot and sit in the cockpit talks as well as the Saturday opening hours.

"We are also encouraging local Businesses to use the Spitfire Visitor Centre and its unique Spitfire Simulator for team building events and to impress their clients."

And Scott has asked if anyone from Blackpool can recognise which hotel Piotr and his friends were staying after arriving in Blackpool in 1940.

He added: "This photograph shows Acting Wing Commander Laguna with his colleagues after arriving having successfully evacuating his men from France on SS Alderpool June 1940. We would love to know if the boarding house still exists."

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