Epping’s war connections:

1940 - The Battle of Britain

In memory of Kpl FELIKS GMUR

(151 Squadron Royal Air Force)

THE SUMMER OF 1940 saw the end of what had become known in Britain as “the Phoney War”.  France had become the latest country to fall before the German Blitzkrieg, and the victorious Germans now turned their attention towards Britain. The British Expeditionary Force had returned from Dunkirk leaving most of their equipment behind. The way now seemed open for what Hitler had designated “Operation Sealion”, the invasion of Britain. To achieve this, the Germans knew that they must have mastery of the skies, particularly over the proposed invasion ports. They began attacking coastal convoys in July, and also military targets on the coast. They were opposed by the Hurricanes and Spitfires of RAF Fighter Command, flying from their airfields situated all around the south-east of England.


The majority of the RAF pilots were British, but there were also many other nationalities, who in many cases had already fought over their own countries against the invading Germans. Among these were former members of the Polish Air Force.
Some of these had fought in Poland, escaped to France and fought there, and had escaped again to fight in Britain. Most of these were later formed into Polish squadrons within the RAF, but some were attached to existing RAF squadrons.


One of these was Feliks Gmur, who joined 151 Squadron. They were based at North Weald, but also used Stapleford Tawney, near Abridge.  In August the Germans began to attack Fighter Command’s airfields, and on the 24th North Weald was badly damaged.  On Friday 30th August the Germans made a number of raids in the south-east. 151 Squadron was scrambled to meet one of these raids over the Thames Estuary. Feliks Gmur, flying Hurricane number R4213, was shot down over the Estuary, eventually crashing at 4pm at Jacks Hatch (near the garage). He died in the crash, and is now buried in Epping Cemetery.
 

There are eighteen war graves in Epping Cemetery, seven of which are Polish.  This year, for the first time, a representative of the Defence Attaché at the Polish Embassy will be attending the Service of Remembrance at the Cemetery.  The service is organised by the Epping & District Branch of the Royal British Legion, and commemorates all the war graves in Epping, and is open to everyone.

 

picture courtesy of the Royal British Legion