WA = General Władyslaw Anders' book, An Army in Exile
Hansard extracts and other sources are specified separately.
End February 1945
Poland’s deputy Prime Minister, Stanisław Jankowski, the delegate of the Polish government-in-exile in London, and General Leopold Okulicki, the last Commanding Officer of the disbanded Polish Underground Army, received an invitation to a conference with Soviet General Ivanov “to discuss how the Polish political parties could come out into the open, instead of working in secret.” NKVD colonel, Pimienov, delivered the invitation in secret and guaranteed the Poles' safety in writing. (WA)
March 11, 1945
Anders returned to Italy to hand over command of the II Polish Army Corps to his deputy, General Bohusz-Szyszko. A few days later he heard news of the disappearance of Polish military and political leaders who “had been summoned for conferences with the Soviet authorities in Poland.”
March 20, 1945
Soviet authorities agreed to allow 12 Polish politicians “safe passage” to go to London to discuss matters with the Polish government-in-exile.
March 27, 1945
Stanisław Jankowski, General Leopold Okulicki and Kazimierz Puzak, Chariman of the Council of National Unity, make what they
believed to be the first stage of their journey out of Poland to the London conference—via the Polish headquarters of
what turned out to be a fictitious Colonel-General Ivanov (pseudonym for senior NKVD officer Serov).
March 28, 1945
The above three were followed by other members of the Polish Council of Ministers at Home (Krajowa Rada Ministrów),
A Bien, S Jasiukowicz and A Pajdak and nine members of other Polish political parties.
“Since then no news of them has been received.” (WA)
April 9, 1945
Polish troops in Italy came under fire by one of the American bombers. On a clear day it released its bombs too soon on the German line of defence, falling on Polish troops waiting to launch an attack. The “very heavy” Polish losses did not delay their attack. (WA)
9 April, 1945,
Advance units of the 3rd Carpathian Division reached the high ground on the bank of the river Senio. (WA)
10 April, 1945,
After II Polish Army Corps captured both banks of the river Senio, its troops attacked the junction between the 98th German Infantry and the 26th German Panzer Divisions. There was “heavy fighting for the country between the Senio and the Santero, in which we broke through the enemy by attacking at night, searing our way forward by making great use of flame throwers mounted on tanks, which could throw a flood of fire for 120 yards and so render less effective the dangerous German Faustpatrone anti-tank weapons.” (WA)
April 13, 1945
The 3rd Carpathian Division reached the opposite bank of the Santerno. There was more “heavy fighting” on the banks of the Sillaro and neighbouring canals. (WA)
April 16, 1945
“Remnants of the 4th German Parachute Division withdrew from the battlefield during the night.” Polish troops
Anders describes “stiff resistance on the Gaiano river” and the third time in the Italian campaign that the Polish troops encountered the same 1st German Parachute Division they had fought with on Monte Cassino. An “unrelenting and merciless fight followed.” (WA)
April 20, 1945,
The 1st German Parachute Division withdrew, followed by Polish infantry and tanks.
“With great kindness” General Mark Clark tells Anders he “would be very glad if the Poles would take Bologna.”
The leading Polish battalion again came under “friendly” fire, this time by an American “artillery barrage, which was being laid down on Road 9 in the belief that it was being used by the retreating Germans.” The Americans ceased fire when their mistake was pointed out to them. (WA)
April 21, 1945,
The II Polish Army Corps reached Bologna.
The Polish government-in-exile issued a statement in an attempt to come to an agreement with Soviet Russia:
Amongst the problems which must be settled within the framework of peace-time Europe, one of the most important is that of good neighbourly relations between Poland and Russia. The Polish Government, fully aware of the necessity of such relations, once more states its willingness to discuss with the Soviet Government all the matters in dispute, and to sign with the USSR an agreement guaranteeing the security of the two states and close co-operation within the framework of the international security organisation.
Stalin and Edward Osóbka-Morawski, of the Soviet-backed Polish Committee of National Liberation (the Lublin Committee),
signed an agreement for the conclusion of a 20-year treaty of alliance and friendship between Russia and Poland.
Osóbka-Morawski became chairman of the Communist interim government in Poland and later the first Prime Minister of Communist
Anders was concerned that there was still “no news of the 15 who had accepted General Ivanov’s invitation… Moscow was still completely silent, and the Lublin Committee said that they knew nothing, and in any case, they suggested, it did not matter.” (WA)
General Mark Clark took the salute at a march past of American, British and Polish troops in Bologna's market place.
The Allied armies crossed the river Po. (WA)
April 28, 1945
German plenipotentiaries arrive at Allied headquarters at Caserta to sign the surrender of the German troops in Italy. (WA)
May 5, 1945
The Polish government-in-exile put the matter of the missing 15 Poles before British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and
United States Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, “drawing attention to the anxiety of the Polish Army and among
Poles generally over the disappearance of these representatives of the Polish political parties that for over five years had
directed the struggle of the Polish nation against the German occupation forces.” (WA)
A joint British-American declaration published in San Francisco stated:
- That they had been “persistently enquiring from the Soviet Government about a group of
prominent Polish democratic leaders who were reported to have met the Soviet military authorities in Poland for discussions
at the end of March.”
- “They have now been officially informed by M Molotov, on behalf of his Government, that these leaders have been arrested on a charge of diversionary activities against the Red Army…” (WA)
For more see: https://ipn.gov.pl/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/.../Kidnapping-of-Polish-Leaders.pdf
May 5, 1945,
Germany signs unconditional surrender in Rheims.
May 8, 1945
Germany signs unconditional surrender in Berlin.
King George VI’s message to Mr Raczkiewicz, President of Poland:
It will be to Poland’s honour that she resisted, alone, the overwhelming forces of the German
aggressor. For over five tragic years the British and Polish nations have fought together against our brutal foe, years of
terrible suffering for the people of Poland, borne with the courage and endurance which has won my heartfelt sympathy and
admiration. The gallant Polish soldiers, sailors and airmen have fought beside our forces in many parts of the world and
everywhere have won their high regard. In particular, we in this country remember with gratitude the part played by Polish
airmen in the Battle of Britain, which all the world recognises as a decisive moment in the war.
It is my earnest hope that Poland may, in the tasks of peace and international co-operation which now confront the Allied Nations, achieve the reward of all her courage and sacrifice. (WA)
May 13, 1945
Churchill spoke at the BBC in London:
On the continent of Europe we have yet to make sure that the simple and honourable purposes for which we entered the war are not brushed aside or overlooked in the months following our success, and that the words ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and ‘liberation’ are not distorted from their true meaning as we have understood them. There would be little use in punishing the Hitlerites for their crimes if law and justice did not rule, and if totalitarian or police governments were to take the place of the German invaders. We seek nothing for ourselves. But we must make sure that those causes which we fought for find recognition at the peace table in facts as well as words, and above all we must labour that the world organisation which the United Nations are creating at San Francisco does not become an idle name, does not become a shield for the strong and a mockery for the weak. It is the victors who must search their hearts in their glowing hours, and be worthy by their nobility of the immense forces that they wield…
(for the full transcript, see http://www.churchill-society-london.org.uk/13May45.html)
General Bór-Komorowski, released as a German prisoner-of-war, arrived in London to take up his position as Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Forces.
June 13, 1945
Molotov and British and American Ambassadors in Moscow announce they had invited “certain persons” to meet in Moscow to discuss the formation of the Provisional Polish Government of National Unity provided for in the Yalta agreement.
- Representing the Provisional Polish Government in Warsaw were B Bierut,
E Osobka-Morawski, W Kowalski and W Gomulka. (these four “imposed on Poland by Russia”)
- Democratic leaders from Poland invited were Wincenty Witos (“the real political leader… declined the invitation”), Z Zulawski, S Kutrzeba, A Krzyzanowski and H Kolodziejski.
- Democratic leaders from abroad were S Mikołajczyk, J Stanczyk and J Zakowski.
At the same time,
In the same city
The trial of the 16 kidnapped Polish leaders, “the real leaders…” was taking place.
General Okulicki, last commander of the Underground Army:
This trial is a political one. It aims at punishing the Polish Underground Government. You cannot prove that we have not fought against the Germans for five long years, but you wish now, as in similar political trials, to despoil us of all political advantages won by this struggle. The genuine patriots and democrats took part in this struggle. You accuse us of collaboration with Germany, trying to dishonour us. You accuse 300,000 soldiers of the Home Army, the best Polish patriots.
Twelve of the 16 received sentences of between four months’ and 10 years’ imprisonment, three were released. One died “probably” before the ‘trial.’
June 28, 1945
The new Soviet-controlled Provisional Polish Government of National Unity was set up, three-quarters of its members imposed by Russia, many not Polish citizens.
July 6, 1945
In the House of Commons, Sir Graham-Little asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the British Government has “accorded or tends to accord de jure as well as de facto recognition of the Polish Provisional Government, notwithstanding the failure of that Government to fulfil the conditions upon which provisional recognition had been accorded by His Majesty’s Government.”
Christopher Mayhew answered: “His Majesty’s Government recognised the Government of
Poland de jure on 6th July, 1945.”
In doing this, the House discarded the
- Polish President, Mr Raczkiewicz, who in 1940 had been greeted at Paddington Station by King
- The Polish Government-in-exile in London;
- The Polish forces who had fought alongside Britain and America. (WA)
July 17, 1945
Potsdam conference begins.
Its purpose was to implement agreements reached at Yalta, which included forced boundary changes for Poland.
The conference concluded with the statement:
The three Powers are anxious to assist the Polish Provisional Government in facilitating the return to Poland as soon as practicable of all Poles abroad who wish to go, including members of the Polish Armed Forces and the Merchant Navy. They expect that the Poles who return home will be accorded personal and property rights on the same basis as all Polish citizens.
August 8, 1945
Anders leaves Italy for London to participate in a conference, called because “the British Government had told the Polish Ambassador, Raczynski, that it had ceased to consider the Polish President as the supreme head of the Polish Armed Forces and that it would cease to recognise the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish army…” (WA)
August 10, 1945
Unofficial reports of the end of the war with Japan.
August 15, 1945
Polish Soldiers’ Day, commemorating the “Miracle on the Vistula” when in 1920 the Polish Army drove the Red Army from Warsaw. The II Polish Army Corps held its last parade in Italy, watched by Field-Marshal Alexander. (WA)
August 24, 1945
A memorandum, requested of Anders by Field-Marshal Alexander, and described as “true, sound and moderate”… “simply disappeared like a stone thrown into the water.” (WA)
September 1, 1945
At a ceremony at the Polish cemetery at Monte Cassino “colours of six nations that had taken part in the battle of Monte Cassino fluttered proudly in the wind.” At its entrance are engraved:
PASSER BY, TELL POLAND THAT WE FELL FAITHFUL TO HER SERVICE.
On the Memorial on Point 593 overlooking the Monte Cassino Abbey the engraving states:
FOR OUR FREEDOM AND YOURS – WE SOLDIERS OF POLAND – GAVE – OUR SOUL TO GOD – OUR LIFE TO THE SOIL OF ITALY – OUR HEARTS TO POLAND.
Field-Marshal Alexander was introduced to the cemetery architects, W Hryniewicz and T Muszynski.
Memorials to the 3rd and 5th divisions were erected on Hills 593 and 575.
© Barbara Scrivens, 2014
Updated October 2016