First to fight
Seventy years after the invasion of Poland, leading British statesmen and military leaders, from The Rt Hon The Baroness Thatcher to General The Lord Guthrie, unite to remind us: "We must never forget Poland's unique contribution to Britain's freedom and the defeat of Nazi Germany."
Polish veterans were profoundly shocked to find young people in the UK asking whether Poland fought with Germany in WW2. To ensure their contribution to Britain's war effort is remembered, a new book 'First to Fight' is being launched today, ahead of the dedication of the first national memorial to Polish forces in the UK later this month.
The Polish veterans' 'last campaign' is being supported vigorously by Britain's senior political and military establishment, including Baroness Thatcher, Patron Conservative Friends of Poland, who said:
"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."
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 (grandson of the wartime Prime Minister)
Sir Martin Gilbert (Churchill's official biographer)
'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 Katyn Forest in 1940. 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.
'First to Fight' launched ahead of 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. The event, in the presence of HRH The Duke of Kent, took place at the National Memorial Arboretum on 19th September.
With the publication of 'First to Fight' and the unveiling of the Polish War Memorial in 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.
Due to unprecedented interest in the book, more material has already come to light, which is being incorporated into a Second Edition. If any readers have anything they can contribute for instance personal stories/recollections of the Poles in the War these will be considered for inclusion in the new edition.