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Title: Hurricane Battle of Britain
Director: David Blair
Cast: Iwan, Rheon, Mila Gibson, Stefanie Martini a.o.
Released: 2018, on DVD in 2019
Publisher: Three Lines Pictures
Playtime: 102 minutes

According to Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, chief of RAF Fighter Command the outcome of the "Battle of Britain" could have been different without the sixteen Polish squadrons fighting the German Luftwaffe. The Polish 303 Squadron, with 203 enemy aircraft shot down, was even the highest scoring squadron during the Battle of Britain. The Polish-Swiss pilot Jan Zumbach was one of the most successful members in this period with 8 kills to his name. From the Nazi occupied European mainland he was brought over to England to continue fighting on Allied side. His story is central in the feature film "Hurricane" by Director David Blair from 2018.

The role of the Polish aviator is played by actor Iwan Rheon from Wales, who is known to the general public for his role as the sadistic Ramsay Bolton from "Game of Thrones". It is striking that in the film he speaks quite a bit in Polish, whilst the characters speak in their own language. This benefits the authenticity. The film starts when Zumbach joins his fellow airmen in France, when the French have given up the fight against the Germans. He escapes to England with a fighter plane, an actual romanticization of the scriptwriters, because in reality the Pole would arrive here by ship. According to critics, including reviewers on IMDb, there are more historical inaccuracies in the film story, but the average film viewer will not notice it at all if, for example, certain aircraft maneuvers or technical details do not correspond with reality. It remains a feature film and for the layman, the computer-animated scenes in the sky, do not look bad at all.

The scenario focuses more on elements other than the air combats. Prejudices play a more important role. When Zumbach arrives in Great Britain and joins other Polish airmen as a volunteer in the RAF, the British are not waiting for that at all. They consider the Poles a bunch of unhinged barbarians and therefore very different from the civilized British young men from the upper class, who seem to have run away from the university. In the film this contradiction is unduly emphasized: the British are arrogant snobs and the Poles are drunken revelers. Because of the poor results in the battle, the Air Force leadership nonetheless cannot ignore the experienced Polish pilots. The men are sent to a training camp, where they are taught English, among other things. Communication is of vital importance in the air. The problems with language, but also with having to fly on other types of aircraft than the men were used to, would undoubtedly have been indicative of the international squadrons within the RAF, including Dutch ones.

The boisterous Poles - and a Czech - gradually develop into serious soldiers, who play a major part in the Battle of Britain in 1940. Apart from the earned respect of their British leaders, they also attract the attention of female air force assistants, which creates a female component in the film and even a # MeToo moment when one of the women is harassed by a British officer. When 303 Squadron suffers the first losses, all cheerfulness comes to an end. The Poles feel offended that there is now recognition for their merits, while they were first looked at in the RAF with crooked eyes. They particularly resented that after the war their important role was already forgotten. At the end of the film it is pointed out that 56% of the participants in an opinion poll among the British population thought that the Polish soldiers should leave.

For many, their repatriation to Communist Poland meant imprisonment or execution. That was the thankfulness received for their devoted commitment and sacrifices for the Allied cause. This film manages to distinguish itself, for drawing attention to the Polish fortunes within the RAF. Although the cultural differences may be over-emphasized, the undervalued position of the Poles within the Allied army is emphatically reflected. Their share in the struggle was much greater than the credit they finally received for it. This does not only apply to Polish airmen, but also, for example, to the Poles who fought during Operation Market Garden. In addition to a tribute to Jan Zumbach and his mates, "Hurricane" can be viewed as an entertaining film, although the story itself does not offer much to reflect about. Relationships with women on the ground, the sorrow for the loss of comrades and the exciting dog fights have been filmed more often, although they usually did not concern Polish soldiers. However, for those who want to see the war from the perspective of Polish airmen, this feature film is worthwhile, partly thanks to the good acting and painful conclusion.

Rating: (Good)


Translated by:
Fernando Lynch
Article by:
Kevin Prenger
Published on:
Last edit on: