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1st Armoured Division (Poland)

The 1st Armoured Division (Poland) was a tank division under allied command which was formed in Scotland. The division consisted of Polish soldiers who managed to escape to Britain afer Poland fell. The nucleus was a large group of former 10th Mechanized Brigade men commanded by general Stanislaw Maczek. This brigade was formed in Poland and fought fiercely against the German invaders in 1939. Even though they suffered heavy losses it was the only undefeated unit of Poland - the remnants retreated to Hungary from where they relocated to Great Brittain. During this period Stanislaw Maczek was already their commanding officer, nicknamed 'Baca' - which means shepperd. general Maczek was born  in 1892 and was already an officer of the Polish army during the first World War.

 

 

The emblem of the 1st Polish Armoured Division - the large feathered wings resemble the Polish hussars which can be counted among one the best warriors which ever existed. They would use the feathers to bring fear to their enemies in battle. The feathers also made a very distinctive sound when their horses charged with full speed. It were the Polish hussars which defeated the Turks at Vienna in 1683.

In Scotland the division expanded to around 16.000 men and almost 400 tanks, mostly Shermans and Fireflies, supplemented by 4.000+ other vehicles before being transferred to the Normandy battlegrounds. In Scotland the division initially used Crusaders before receiving Shermans and Cromwells. Although it did not participate in the Normandy D-Day beach landings, the 1st Armoured Division was directly put into battle under the 4th Canadian Armoured Division and participated in the fierce battles around Caen before being used as a 'stopgap' of the Falaise pocket around the town of Chambois. During this battle they were surrounded by several fleeing German panzer divisions and almost ran out of ammo. The casualties after two weeks of fighting ranged over the 2.000+ men (KIA/ WIA/ MIA).

 After this extreme baptism of fire the division fought against the retreating Germans liberating many towns in Belgium and Holland. In April 1945 the division occupied Wilhelmshaven harbor and accepted the surrender of the based German fleet and 10 German Infantry Divisions. After the surrender of Germany it performed occupational duties until it was disbanded in 1947. Many Poles did not return to Poland because it was occupied by Russian forces.

Around the Dutch city of Breda, Southern Holland, the 1st Armoured Division fought many battles. Since this is my hometown I visited many of their battlefields, searching for (battlefield) markings and relics with my metaldetector. The division was the only allied division which fought here, using British equipment and weaponry. Their left flank was covered by the Canadians and their right by the Americans. Breda always had a special place for their Polish liberators, and the Dutch people care a lot about their Polish friends. Polish heroes who died in battle have their own memorial burial grounds in Breda: it is called the General Maczek memorial.

To the left a well known photo of two Dutch girls in Breda writing messages on the Polish Shermans for their friends/ relatives in other towns waiting next to be liberated.

General Maczek memorial Breda (The Netherlands)

General Stanislaw Maczek was born in Poland 1892 and died in Scotland 1994. During his life he fought 1st World War battles, against the German invasion of Poland as commanding officer of the 10th Mechanized Brigade and afterwards as the commander of the Polish 1st Armoured Division - following a path of fierce battles all the way from Normandy, through Belgium and Holland well into Germany. After his death it was his will to be buried alongside his fellow battlefield comrades in Breda. Even after this life he keeps leading his soldiers! 

The memorial itself has a small but very interesting and complete museum with original artifacts and battlefield findings. It is run by enthiusastic volunteers who are willing to explain every detail of general Maczek and his division.

 

Since I live in the Breda area of the Polish 1st Armoured Division battlefield I made several visits to specific places. I will post my findings and photographs in the link below ASAP ! (UNDER CONSTRUCTION)