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Seventy years after WW2, memorial, book to memorialize contribution of 500,000 Poles

With the publication of ‘First to Fight’, and unveiling of Polish WarMemorial, the struggles of veterans and their departed comrades to beremembered in Britain for generations to come

Tags: Nazi Germany, Baroness Thatcher, General The Lord Guthrie

3rd September 2009: For keeping Poland’s contribution to Britain’s freedom fresh in the memory of the youngsters, a new book “First to Fight” has been released, just ahead of dedication of first national memorial to Polish forces in the UK later this month.
With the publication of ‘First to Fight’ and the unveiling of the Polish War Memorial this September, the last remaining veterans now know that their struggles, and those of their departed comrades, will be duly remembered in Britain for generations to come.
Seventy years after the invasion of Poland, leading British statesmen and military leaders from Baroness Thatcher to Lord Guthrie have got together to remind through the book: “We must never forget Poland’s unique contribution to Britain’s freedom and the defeat of Nazi Germany.”
‘First to Fight’ recounts Poland’s epic six-year struggle – with some historically significant texts being published for the first time, such as the English translation of Stalin’s signed order to execute 14,736 of the Polish officer corps at Katyń Forest in 1940.
The book comes at a time when Polish veterans are profoundly shocked to find young people in the UK asking whether Poland fought alongside Nazi Germany in the World War II.
A press statement issued here said: The Polish veterans ‘last campaign’ is being vigorously supported by Britain’s senior political and military establishment, including Baroness Thatcher, patron of Conservative Friends of Poland, who said in a statement: “Today, as we mark the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Poland and the subsequent outbreak of World War II, we remember the unique contribution of the Polish armed forces towards the freedom of Britain, of Europe and indeed of the world.
“Poland fought alongside us from the first day of the war to the last. Her people showed extraordinary bravery: many giving their lives as the ultimate sacrifice. But the freedoms for which they fought were to be cruelly denied them in the post-war world.
“Those who remained in exile could only look on as a new wave of oppression engulfed their country.
Some would never achieve their heart-felt goal of returning to their homeland. But, finally, after more than four decades under communist tyranny, the people of Poland were able to set their own destiny.
“In Britain, we remember the steadfastness of the Polish people; we treasure the bond of history which ties our peoples together; and we look forward to a flourishing friendship which will serve our nations well into the future.”
General The Lord Guthrie, former Chief of the Defence Staff, writes in the book: “We owe much to the Poles who came to join us in our struggle. There was a time when the only allies the British Commonwealth had were Polish and large numbers died in battle many miles from their country.
“We are right to remember those gallant men and women, who at a very difficult time in both our countries’ histories were our firm friends and allies.”
The other contributors to the book and supporters of the campaign include:
HRH The Duke of Kent, KG; HRH The Duke of Gloucester, KG GVCO; Major General The Duke of Westminster, KG CB OBE TD CD DL; General the Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, GCB LVO OBE DL;
General Sir Mike Jackson GCB CBE DSO; Winston S. Churchill MP, who is grandson of the wartime Premier;
Sir Martin Gilbert, who is Churchill’s official biographer and Frederick Forsyth MBE.
In ‘First to Fight’, the story is brought to life with moving personal stories from Poles who fought in
the air, on land and at sea, on many fronts.
The myth of Polish cavalry charging German Panzers is put to bed: They did charge, but to good effect as recounted by Lieutenant Andrzej Żylinski. Leading the 4th Squadron of the Polish 11th Uhlan Regiment, they charged with sabers drawn, breaching the German defences of Kaluszyn.
After fierce fighting the town was captured with the almost complete destruction of the German 44th Regiment, whose commander committed suicide.
The press statement adds the dedication of the first official war memorial in the UK for the 500,000 members of the Polish forces who fought in WW2 under British command will take place at the National Memorial Arboretum on 19th September in the presence of the Duke of Kent.

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