Sunday, April 10, 2011

Forgotten Ally

by Michael Vovk

It is widely known that the Second World War won the three powers - the USSR, Britain and the United States. It was they who made the most significant contribution to the victory. Nevertheless, apart from them with the troops of the Wehrmacht in the ranks of the Allies fought and hundreds of thousands of other nationalities. The most numerous of them were Poles who had fought not only in the pro-Soviet Polish troops, known to our citizens in the film "Four tanker and a dog", and numerous guerrilla groups operating in occupied Poland, but also in the armed forces of the Western powers. On this last fact in our country for many years, chose not to speak. The reason for this - big-time politics and the Cold War.

Intrusion of German troops into Poland on Sept. 1, 1939 was meteoric. By the end of the second week of fighting, the Polish army is almost completely ceased to exist as a single organism. Disparate units retreated in panic on the east. 17 days after the German attack threat came from this side. The Red Army, almost unopposed, crossed the Polish frontier and rushed towards the German troops. In the current situation of the Polish Army moved into Hungary and Romania. Some managed to break into Latvia and Lithuania. Most of the remaining soldiers were captured by Soviet and German armies. As a result, the camps of Germany and the Soviet Union were more than half a million Polish soldiers.

Meanwhile, avoid capture Poles were not going to give up the fight. Different ways, they decided to wade into a Union Warsaw France. Together with its army Polish military leaders had intended to join the fight against Hitler and, after passing through Germany, to return home. Confidence in such an outcome of the case contributed to both the credibility of French troops, was considered invincible, and a firm conviction: Despite the seizure of territory, Poland still exists and is ready to fight. In September 1939, General Sikorski was able to create a government in exile and to negotiate with the allies on the formation of national armed forces.Staff for them to get into the country were the military, as well as representatives of the local Polish community. Thus, even the new, 1940, in France, attended by more than 40,000 soldiers of the Army 2nd Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. A few months into the new army to take almost 82,000 people. Of them decided to form two wings, as well as a number of smaller compounds. However, due to inadequate supply of Polish regiments looked impressive on paper. Fully equipped, armed and re-training is only half of the army. Yet even in this truncated part of it is still joined in the fight against the enemy. First, someone dropped a similar honor was the 5000th Brigade Podgalskih riflemen under Colonel Sigmund Szyszko-Bogush.

This military unit that has passed an accelerated training course, ought to join the expeditionary force of British and French.According to plans of the Allied strategists, he was supposed to go to the aid of war with the Soviet Union in Finland. But the war ended sooner than expected in Paris and London.But without the participation of Poles in the fighting in northern Europe did not pass.However, instead of Finland Podgalskuyu brigade was sent to Norway, attacked by the spring of 1940 Hitler. In early May, British, Polish and French units had landed in the Bay of Narvik and forced German troops retreat to the mountains. Subsequently, despite this initial success, the Allies were forced to evacuate. Weak Norwegian army at that time virtually ceased to exist, and the Wehrmacht on May 10 launched an attack on Belgium, Holland and France.

Returning to Brest in the last days of the French campaign, Podgalskie arrows took part in the fight against the Germans. After several days of clashes brigade was destroyed. Only a few of the surviving soldiers managed to get to England. Most were captured.

A similar fate befell not only the connection. Almost all of the Polish Army in France were completely routed. Despite the resistance, in German captivity were tens of thousands of people. Nevertheless, almost 30 thousand soldiers of the Polish Army managed to escape.They managed to reach the Albion, where the Poles intend to continue the fight to return home.However, on the continent, they were able to get only four years later. Until that time the war with the Germans in Europe continued to Polish airmen and sailors who have made a contribution to the overall victory.

Lost in the sands

While the broken French of Sikorsky to prepare for new battles in the UK, the Middle East declared itself another Polish connection. It was the Carpathian Riflemen Brigade (about 4,5 thousand people), fated to be in this region. It was formed April 12, 1940 from several groups of military exiles, made his way to the French mandated territory of the Levant from the Greek, Yugoslav and Romanian ports. Her commander was Colonel Stanislav Kopansky.

After news of the surrender of Paris and the subordination of the local French command pro-German government team, despite attempts to disarm it, still managed to withdraw to the British in Palestine, and then - in Egypt. Connection, and not taking part in battles, in May 1941 went to the Italian front. He then held in the African desert, some three miles west of Alexandria.

In late summer, the Poles were taken to the besieged fortress of Tobruk in Libya. Here arrows opposed Italo-German troops of the famous general Erwin Rommel. December 10 the city was released. Poles, frazzled and exhausted by a long siege, and unusual large losses, intolerable heat, did take part in future English attack. To re-form in Palestine, they were taken only in May 1942. Subsequently Carpathian arrows were a part of the 2nd Polish Corps, formed of the Polish units in the USSR.

Poles in Russia

In 1941, after Germany attacked the USSR, the Polish government in exile in London under pressure from the United Kingdom has agreed to sign a peace treaty with Moscow. One of the items provided for the establishment of the Soviet state on the territory of the Polish army. Its soldiers were to be former soldiers of the Polish Army, located in Soviet prison camps, and deported from the western regions of Belarus and Ukraine Poles. Command of military units assigned the former captain of the General Staff of the Russian Imperial Army, and later - the commander of the Polish cavalry brigade Novogrudok Wladyslaw Anders.

Soon after news of the establishment of the Polish troops spread across all camps, prisons and special settlements gulag. Polish citizens who received free after one and a half years in prison, streamed into the city Busuluk Saratov region, where Anders has arranged his headquarters. Many came with their families. As a result, in the autumn of 1941 the number of Poles and Belarusians, Ukrainians, Jews, and far exceeded the planned composition of the troops. Provide them with all the necessary Soviet Union could not. While the Red Army waged a stubborn battle with the Germans on the outskirts of Moscow. Stalin demanded an early entry into the battle of Polish divisions. Anders referred to their unpreparedness and lack of uniforms and ammunition.

As a result, in 1942 after a series of lengthy negotiations Churchill, Stalin, and Sikorsky, it was decided to withdraw Polish troops from the territory of the Soviet Union in Iran and the Middle East. By late summer, evacuated more than 100,000 Polish citizens and their families.However, many Poles have not been able to leave the Soviet Union. At the end of the war were formed several divisions of the Soviet-backed Polish Army. Together with the Red Army, they were involved in bloody battles for the liberation of the motherland and stormed Berlin.

Anders army after the reformation in the 2nd Polish Corps, after a year of training and objection to the security service in the oil fields of Iran and Iraq was sent to Italy, where in May 1944 played a decisive role in breaking the German defensive line.

Monte Cassino

The first Polish soldiers arrived at the Apennines at the end of 1943. A few months later the 2nd Corps was able to take part in hostilities.

In mid-May 1944, the Anglo-American-French forces once again began to assault the Gustav Line - defensive Wehrmacht, located south of Rome. Previous attempts to break it failed. The key point of defending ourselves the German position was a Benedictine monastery located on a steep and forbidding mountain of Monte Cassino.

Order dislodge the enemy and to seize the monastery received a Polish corps. After several days of bloody fighting cost the lives of hundreds of natives of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine, the monastery was taken. The road to Rome is free.

Anders went on the offensive side of along the Adriatic coast of Italy. In July, they released Ancona, and the fighting path ended in April 1945 in Bologna.

In Western Europe

While Andersovtsy fought with the enemy in Italy, thousands of Poles in Great Britain, escaped death in the summer of 1940, several years were intensified training in Scotland. By the summer of 1944, when the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy and began the invasion of Europe in the UK in a full operational capability expected of the order to start fighting the Polish Armoured Division under General Stanislaw Maček and Parachute Brigade Stanislaus Sosabovskogo.

Finally the order to send to the front was obtained. In late July Maček Division landed in France, which came into submission 1st Canadian army, becoming its main strike force. Already a few days later she took part in a tank battle near Caen, and soon - at Falaise, where faced with the elite SS Division "Leibstandarte" and "Hitler." Once in the environment, German forces tried to escape from a boiler, he established the Anglo-American armies. Weakest spot in the defense of allies was a plot in the commune of Mont-Ormeley through which the Nazis and tried to break through. On the way they have stood the Polish side. As a result of a three-day battle sides suffered heavy losses. Germans, dropped out all his armor, managed to escape the encirclement. However, the tankers were able to capture Maček five thousand SS. One of them, and among other prisoners, captured by the Allies in France, was a considerable number of Poles who joined the composition of a depleted division.

Soon after the battle and take part of the parachute brigade. In mid-September, they participated in the operation to seize bridges in the Netherlands. As a result of fighting at Arnhem paratroopers suffered heavy losses and only after several days of continuous fighting in the rear of the enemy were able to connect to the advancing British troops. Later in the war of Polish paratroopers did not participate.

Meanwhile, after a short rest 1st Polish Armoured Division continued its advance along the coast. Along with the Canadians, she participated in the liberation of Belgium and Holland. May 6, 1945 tankers took the surrender of the garrison of the German Kriegsmarine base in Wilhelmshaven. Now, from Poland to separate them only a few hundred kilometers. However, to overcome them was impossible.


In May 1945 the war ended in Europe. By this time the Polish part of the West were already a quarter of a million people. Throughout the six years the men had hoped to return home, but those dreams never came true, since the Yalta Conference, the Allies agreed that Poland will enter the sphere of Soviet influence.

The British and Americans recognized the Polish pro-Moscow government of national unity.Emigre authorities in support were denied. Under these circumstances, many Poles, who were in Soviet prison camps at the beginning of the war, refused to return to their homeland.Accept the fact that Poland was communist, they did not want to. As a result, most of the soldiers decided to stay in the West.

Nevertheless, more than 100,000 Poles, as well as natives of Belarus and Ukraine were repatriated to their homeland voluntarily.

In general, although the Polish troops in the allied armies and played a significant role in achieving victory in the West, their moral contribution to the fight with the Reich is quite large.Deprived citizens of the homeland Commonwealth fought the enemy wherever possible: from Norway to Africa and from Italy to Belgium and Holland.


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