Wednesday, 2 September 2009

‘First to Fight’ Book Launch

by Kathryn Hadley

First to Fight was launched yesterday, September 1st 2009, 70 years after the German invasion of Poland. The new book is part of a project to promote the recognition of the role of the Polish armed forces in Britain’s war effort. Contributors to the book and supporters of the campaign include leading British statesmen and military leaders such as Baroness Thatcher, General The Lord Guthrie, former chief of the Defence Staff, HRH The Duke of Kent, Winston S. Churchill MP, grandson of the wartime Prime Minister, and Sir Martin Gilbert, Churchill’s official biographer.

Based on the personal stories of Poles who fought on various fronts, in the air, on the land and at sea, First to Fight recalls Poland’s six-year struggle against the Nazi forces. It also features a number of texts which are published for the first time, including the English translation of Stalin’s signed order to execute 14,736 of the Polish Officer Corps at Katyn Forest in 1940.

Approximately 500,000 Poles fought under British command during the Second World War. More Poles died as a percentage of Poland’s population than any other country and in the aftermath of the war, as Poland was incorporated into the Soviet Union, over 120,000 veterans settled in Britain. However, at present there is no memorial dedicated to the Polish Forces who lost their lives during the Second World War.

As the second part of the memorial project, a new memorial to these Polish Forces will be inaugurated at the National Memorial Arboretum near Litchfield, Staffordshire, on September 19th. The Polish Forces Memorial will be officially unveiled by HRH The Duke of Kent. The National Memorial Arboretum comprises 150 acres of woodland and memorials dedicated to the fallen servicemen and women from both World Wars and other conflicts of the 20th century.

Yesterday, to mark the launch of First to Fight, Baroness Thatcher recalled the contribution of the Polish Forces during the Second World War:

‘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.’

For further information on the new Polish Forces Memorial, visit The Polish Armed Forces Memorial website

For further information on the training, discipline and Blitzkrieg tactics of the German army and the invasion of Poland on September 1st, 1939, read our latest article by Andrew Roberts published in the September issue of our magazine Second World War: The Storm of War


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Daniela said...

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