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Land battles 1941-1945

After the defeat of France, the Carpathian Riflemen Brigade left Syria and joined the British forces in Egypt. It was an excellent unit of 5 000 men, mainly experienced soldiers, the 1939 veterans and volunteers. In August 1941 it moved to Libya where it won fame in the heavy fights during the defense of the besieged Tobruk, and in the spring of 1942 in the Libyan Desert.
About 20 00 men managed to withdraw from France to Great Britain. They formed 1st Polish Corps that was supposed to defend the eastern coast of Scotland, and 1st Independent Parachute Brigade that was supposed to be airdropped in Poland once the national uprising began. In 1941 1st Armored Division was created within the frames of the 1st Corps. However, this army could not develop because the Polish immigration on the British Islands was not very numerous. No Poles were arriving from the conquered by Germany and Italy Europe, and the voluntary recruitment in the United States, Canada and Latin America brought only a few thousand men. Situation changed when after the 3rd Reich’s assault on the Soviet Union. The Polish government signed a treaty with the Soviets guaranteeing (among others) releasing the Polish citizens from prisons and camps and creating Polish Army. It was formed under the command of General Władysław Anders. In the spring of 1942 it amounted to more than 70 000 men but it suffered from the lack of officers. The pre-war Polish officers were looked for in vain because it was not known that they were executed two years earlier by the NKVD. The Soviet authorities caused more and more trouble in expanding the army, for example by drastically limiting food rations to 40 000 portions a day. In the same time the situation of the Allies in the Middle East was very difficult, the United States had just begun mobilization, and the Great Britain ran out of reserves. In such conditions it was agreed to evacuate the Polish units to Persia, yet with the army some civilians left as well (mainly children and families of soldiers) – altogether some 114 thousand people.
From the forces moved to the Middle East (first to Persia, then to Iraq and Palestine) the 2nd Polish Corps emerged. In December 1943 and January 1944 it was transported to the Italian front. About 50 000 soldiers fought for almost year and a half, distinguishing themselves with glory, especially during the bloody struggle to break the Gustav Line. The key position there was the hill and monastery of Monte Cassino, captured by the Poles on May 18, 1944. In July the Corps captured the city and port of Ancona, and in August participated in breaking the Gothic Line at the Adriatic Sea. In 1945 it took part in the spring offensive in the North of Italy, in battles of Faenza and Bolonia, which was first entered by the Polish soldiers. During the campaign in Italy some 2600 of them were killed.
The Polish forces stationed on the British Islands, reinforced by the soldiers who came from the Soviet Union, prepared to participate in the invasion of the continent. In June 1944, in the operation “Overlord” in Normandy, the Polish Air Force and  the navy took part. Then the 1st Armored Division (under the command of Gen. Maczek), total of 16 000 men, 380 tanks and 470 guns was moved to France. It formed a part of the Canadian Corps and won fame in the battles of Falaise and Chambois (August 18 to 22, 1944) where it closed the “cauldron”, cutting off the retreating German divisions. Later on it liberated the cities of Abeville, St. Omar and Cassel in France, Ypres and Gent in Belgium and Breda (October 28 to 30, 1944) in the Netherlands, finally capturing the German seaport of Wilhelmshaven. Its combat route amounted to 1800 km, the division destroyed 260 enemy tanks and self-propelled guns, loosing 4600 soldiers, including more than a 1000 of casualties. In September 1944 the 1st Parachute Brigade was airdropped near Arnhem in the Netherlands as a part of the unfortunate “Market-Garden”, suffering great losses.
When the war in Europe was coming to an end, the Polish troops fighting at the side of the Western Allies numbered more than 210 thousand soldiers, 1335 tanks, about 4000 of armored vehicles, 2050 guns and mortars, 32 thousand different mechanical vessels.



 
By: Andrzej Paczkowski
Paweł Sowiński
Dariusz Stola


Basic literature:
• Witold Biegański, Siły Zbrojne na Zachodzie, 1939-1945, Warszawa 1990
• Margaret Brodniewicz-Stawicki, For your freedom and ours: the Polish Armed Forces in the Second World War, St. Catharines, Ont. 1999

Monte Cassino, 1944.
The 2nd Polish Corps - battle of Piedimonte - capturing the town.
The 2nd Polish Corps - battle of Piedimonte - capturing the town.
The 2nd Polish Corps - battle of Monte Cassino - the Polish commanders
The 2nd Polish Corps - battle of Monte Cassino - the base in the Inferno gorge.

The 2nd Polish Corps - the end of the battle of Monte Cassino.
The 2nd Polish Corps - battle of Monte Cassino. Soldiers in the battlefield.
The 2nd Polish Corps - battle of Ancona - capturing the city of Civitanova
The 2nd Polish Corps - battle of Monte Cassino. The combat at Monte Torto.
The 2nd Polish Corps - battle of Ancona - preparing to capture the city.
The 2nd Polish Corps - battle of Ancona - capturing the city, 1944.
The 2nd Polish Corps - battle of Ancona - soldiers in the captured city
The 2nd Polish Corps - battle of Ancona - soldiers in the captured city
Libyan campaign - the captured enemy equipment.
The cementary in Tobruk
Gazala - soldiers in combat positions.
General D.D. Eisenhower visiting the Polish soldiers.
Tobruk, 1941.
Tobruk, 1941.
Dikheila, 1940.
General Charles de Gaulle visiting the Polish soldiers.
Polish soldiers in Tel-Awiw, September 1940.
Alexandria, 1940/41.
1st Armored Division during the battle of Falaise.
1st Armored Division during the battle of Falaise.
1st Armored Division during the battle of Falaise.
1st Armored Division during the battle of Falaise, region of Chambois, August 1944.
1st Armored Division during the offensive in the Netherlands, 1944.
General Dwight D. Eisenhover visiting the 1st Armored Division in the Netherlands, 1944.
Celebrations in Breda with participation of the 1st Armored Division, November 11th, 1944.
The camp in Oberlagen liberated by the 1st Armored Division.
1st Armored Division in Wilhelmshaven in Germany.
A grave of a soldier from the 1st Armored Division in Western Europe. 1945.
The soldiers of the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade before leaving for the Netherlands. September 1944.
"Market-Garden", September 1944.
"Market-Garden", September 1944
"Market-Garden", September 1944
"Market-Garden", September 1944
"Market-Garden", September 1944
"Market-Garden", September 1944
 
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Land battles 1941-1945