WA = General Władyslaw Anders' book, An Army in Exile
Hansard extracts are specified separately.
January 1, 1944
The entire II Polish Army Corps was in Egypt.
With 380,000 members, the Polish underground army (Armia Krajowa or AK) reaches its maximum strength and the became the
largest underground movement of any other European country—almost 40,000 members in Warsaw.
The Polish High Command in London controlled the AK, and immediately tasked it to “carry out continuous resistance, armed or otherwise, against the occupation… the number of attacks increased from 1941 to 1944.”
The AK's main purpose was “to organise an open rising against the Germans at the moment when it could be done most appropriately and effectively.”
“All the movements and activities of this army, its strength and aims, were well known to the highest political and military authorities in Great Britain and the United States, who assisted its activities.”
“… General Sosnkowski was strongly of the opinion that a general rising could not success without help from outside the country, and the only real possibilities of this were from the Soviet Union… Russia had her own plans, and her attitude was hostile towards Polish moves for independence…”
Generals Sosnkowski and Anders agreed that “whatever action was taken against the Germans [by the AK] could only lead to useless bloodshed.” (WA)
Beginning of 1944
Soviet troops enter Polish territory for the second time after being pushed out by the Germans from 22 June 1941.
January and February 1944
Regarding the combined decisions of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at Teheran, the Polish government-in-exile
“absolutely refused to give their consent to the annexation by Russia of one-half of Poland in violation of the
principles and obligations of the United Nations.” (WA)
“Although all attempts at re-establishing diplomatic relations with the Soviet Government had failed,” the Polish Government in London issues instructions to “Home authorities and Armed Forces at Home” to order their representatives to “offer to co-operate with Soviet forces advancing in Polish territory in all military operations against the common enemy.” (WA)
“… as the Soviet troops advanced into Poland… there came reports of the removal, dismissal and arrest of Polish authorities, civil and military, of the disarming of detachments of the Home Army and of hampering the struggle against the Germans, of compulsory enrolment of “underground” Army soldiers into units under Berling’s command or directly into the Red Army, of the conscription of men between 18 and 30 years of age, and of stern reprisals against all Poles who were not submissive to Russian aims and plans.” (WA)
January 1, 1944
The Allies landed near Anzio and Nettuno in Italy.
The control of Supreme Allied Commander, Central Mediterranean Forces, General Maitland Wilson, extended throughout Italy.
General Alexander commanded the 15th Army Group, consisting of the
- American Fifth Army under General Clark and the
- British Eighth Army under General Leese.
General Paget commanded troops in Middle East.
General Gale commanded troops in North Africa. (WA)
In an attempt to open the road to Rome, the Germans who held the major obstruction of Monte Cassino, had to be defeated. The first attempt at holding Monte Cassino was made by the American Fifth Army, which operated with three army corps:
- The Tenth American Army Corps, which had the task of taking the Arunci mountains and entering the
Liri Valley from the south,
- The Second American Army Corps, which was charged with making a frontal attack over the Rapido river and
- The French Expeditionary Corps in the mountains on the right wing, which was to outflank Monte Cassino from the south. (WA)
“… a mountain forming an advanced bastion of the German defence line called the Gustav Line. It rose out of the valley of the rivers Rapido and Liri, and reached 1,700 feet at its highest point. It completely dominated the surrounding country and every approach to it from the west and the south through the valleys of the Liri and Gari, and from the east through the Rapido valley, was under German observation and very effective artillery fire, not only from Monte Cassino itself but also from the neighbouring positions flanking the valleys.” (WA)
January 20 to February 14, 1944 - 1
First stage of first battle for Monte Cassino:
- The Second American Army Corps “succeeded in crossing the Rapido river, but, finding itself
under very strong fire from the Monte Cassino bastion, had to withdraw with heavy casualties.
- “In the Monte Arunci area the [Tenth] American Army Corps was thrown back, after achieving some success, by a counter-attack by four German divisions.
- “The French Corps, attacking on the right wing and aiming at outflanking the monastery, took and held the Castellone Heights after heavy fighting.” (WA)
The “January attack by the [Second] American Army Corps in the Cassino area and the
almost simultaneous operations in the Anzio-Nettuno area, although at first successful, did not achieve the operational
objective, which was to open the road to Rome.” This south-western sector stretched 65 kilometres.
Both operations had “tied up German forces on the western sector of the front.”
Of the 14 larger German formations in direct contact with the Allied troops, only two were defending the line of the front with the Ortona-Alfedena sector (the line of the Sangro river). This eastern sector, where the British Eighth Army was operating, had a spread of 75 kilometres. (WA)
Mid January 1944
News of “very strong resistance met by the American Fifth Army near Cassino” reaches Anders. (WA)
January 20 to February 14, 1944 - 2
Second stage of first battle for Monte Cassino:
- The Second American Army Corps “took advantage of the success achieved by the French,
crossed the Rapido north of Cassino, got to within several hundred yards of Monte Cassino monastery, and part of its forces
entered the town of Cassino from the north.
- “The exhausted French and American units were then withdrawn and replaced by the New Zealand Army Corps.” (WA)
January 30, 1944
Anders flew from Cairo to Algiers to meet General Maitland Wilson prior to the Polish troops arriving in Italy. General
Maitland Wilson asked how the II Polish Army Corps could be reinforced in the event of heavy casualties.
“I answered him, as I did all my colleagues, that reinforcements would join us from the front line. We had no country behind us to get our reserves from, but we knew that at the first news of Poles fighting on the Continent, all Poles, and, above all, those who had been conscripted by force to join the German army, would try to join us.”
The II Polish Army Corps became a component of the British Eighth Army. (WA)
Creation of the National Council of the Soviet-backed Union of Polish Patriots. General Michał Rola-Zymierski was appointed Commander-in-Chief of its Polish formations in Russia. (WA)
Early February 1944
“The Eighth Army held the line from the Adriatic Sea, south of Ortona, over Lanciano, Cassoli [Casoli] and along the
line of the river Sangro to the source of the river Rapido.” (WA)
The front-line was manned:
- In the Adriatic sector by units of the I Canadian Army Corps and
- in the mountain sector on the river Sangro by units of the
- XIII British Army Corps,
- the 78th British Infantry Division and
- the 1st Italian Motorised Group.
The Orsognia-Guardiagrello area became the operational centre of the Eighth Army was in the Adriatic sector. (WA)
The 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division was moved to the front line on the Sangro river (between Vasto and Lanciano, on the east coast).
February 6, 1944
Anders landed at Naples aerodrome, to “cold, rain and snow.” The II Polish Army Corps was “50,000
“We entered the battle zone feeling very depressed at the political situation. As the Germans withdrew westwards from Poland, their terrorism increased, while the Russians as they advanced towards Vilno and Lwów made it clear through their Press and radio that they considered the territories that they had obtained by their alliance with Germany in 1939 to be their own, though they no longer spoke of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Line, but of the Curzon Line, using the definition of 1920.” (WA)
“There was a feeling too that the Teheran meeting in December 1943 between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, had resulted in an understanding being reached at someone else’s expense.” (WA)
Italy was “not unknown to Polish soldiers, and history was repeating itself, for it was from there that General Dombrowski had started his march to Poland at the head of the Polish legions. There, 150 years before, in the time of Napoleon, Polish soldiers had fought for the independence of their country, and the famous song, with the refrain “March, march Dombrowski, from Italy to Poland,” was heard for the first time, the song which was later to become the National Anthem.”(WA)
February 8, 1944
Anders flew to Bari, then by road to Mottola, where the Polish troops from Egypt had disembarked. (WA)
February 11, 1944
Anders went to Vasto to report to General Sir Oliver Leese, who had replaced General Montgommery. Leese had headed the XXX
British Army Corps during the Africa campaign.
“Very bad weather and roads destroyed by military operations and thronged by military traffic made our progress extremely slow.”
Although the meeting involved the II Polish Army Corps’s organisation, location and readiness for battle, “it was not possible to avoid mentioning Polish-Russian political problems.” Anders drew attention “to the tone and attitude of the field newspaper, Eighth Army News, which, no doubt in good faith, based its information on unreliable sources and gave expression to the Soviet point of view, as indeed did most of the Allied newspapers at the time. I emphasised to him that it was not right that on the eve of their going into battle the soldiers of the II Polish Army Corps should have to read slanders against themselves in the newspapers of the army to which they belonged.”
At the time, General Leese “accepted my remarks…” (WA)
Several days later
Telegram from Leese to Anders:
“… In my capacity of Army Commander I have to point out to you how superfluous it is for a Corps Commander to express in public any opinions concerning the political situation, in particular at the present moment.” (WA)
The general situation on the Italian front was that the Allied armies needed to capture Rome. It was clear that the terrain favoured German defence: The few roads wound through mountainous country, especially north of the Sangro river and the only route to Rome was through the Liri river valley, closed by the “strongly fortified bastion” of Monte Cassino. (WA)
Anders made the “long journey by air and car” to Caserta, the headquarters of the 15th Army Group, north of Naples. He met General Sir Harold Alexander, Commander-in-Chief, Allied Armies in Italy and his Chief of Staff, General Harding. The chief subject under discussion was the problem of obtaining reinforcements for the II Polish Army Corps. Anders gave them same answer as he had previously to Leese.
General Alexander agreed that all Polish POWs [captured within the German army] should be transferred to separate camps, “screened” and those found suitable sent to the 7th Reserve Division in the Middle East. (WA)
At Presencano, north of Caserta, Anders visited General Mark Clark, Commander of the American Fifth Army and his Chief of
Staff, General A Gruenthey, involved in a new operation aimed at taking the Cassino area. (WA)
Anders returned via Naples and Mottola “along roads obstructed by snowdrifts” to Vinchiaturo, advance headquarters of the II Polish Army Corps.
The Soviet army continued to make “steady progress” into Polish territory and a “… violent
propaganda campaign to this effort was begun by the Soviet press and radio.”
“Our own efforts to re-establish diplomatic relations with Russia were made impossible by the quite unacceptable demands that changes should be made in the Polish Government and the ‘Curzon Line’ accepted as the eastern boundary of Poland. An offer of mediation by the United States was rejected by the Soviet Union. We also became alarmed by the change in the attitude of our Anglo-Saxon Allies.” (WA)
The so-called “Curzon Line” suddenly found widespread support in Britain and the United States from people who “considered that future Polish-Soviet relations could be based on the acceptance of that line.”
British and American newspapers still rejected the Soviet demand that the Polish government-in-exile in London should be reformed into one “friendly towards Soviet Russia.” (WA)
Mid February 1944
The second battle in the Cassino area began with “heavy fighting.”
Faulty intelligence led to the Allies bombing the Benedictine monastery on top of Monte Cassino. Germans had not been using the buildings—as assumed—but the ruins provided perfect cover for them.
February 15 to March 24, 1944
This second battle had the more specific aim of taking the hill of Monte Cassino and its surroundings. The second attack was made within the framework of the American Fifth Army organisation and the New Zealand Army Corps, composed of the two divisions that had been victorious in Africa:
- the 2nd New Zealand Division and
- the 4th Infantry Division (India).
The first stage of second battle for Monte Cassino:
- After “very intensive bombardment” of the Monte Cassino monastery, the Indian Division temporarily occupied Hill 593. (WA)
The second stage of second battle for Monte Cassino:
- “7th Indian Brigade, reinforced to the strength of five battalions, twice attacked the Hills 593 and 444 in the
‘Valley of Death.’
- “At the same time, the 2nd New Zealand Division established a bridgehead over the river Gari and temporarily occupied the railway station at Cassino.
- “After an intensive bombardment of Cassino, the New Zealanders attacked from the north and on March 15 took nearly the whole town of Cassino and the Castle Mountain.
- “Further operations on the eastern slopes of the monastery mountain were carried out by the 5th Indian Brigade and were crowned with the magnificent exploit of the Ghurkas in taking Hangman’s Hill.
- “It became apparent, however, that even the taking of Cassino and the lower slopes of the monastery mountain could not have decisive importance.” (WA)
At this stage of the Monte Cassino battles, the British Eighth Army took over the sector from
the American Fifth Army.
“The length of time taken by these operations [were] made very precarious the position of the troops in the Anzino beachhead, who were on low ground completely dominated by the Germans and at the mercy of their fire.
“It was therefore clear that Monte Cassino, upon which the blood of five gallant nations—Americans, British, French, New Zealand and Indians—had already been shed, must be captured in spite of the German boast that it was impregnable.” (WA)
February 19, 1944
General Leese, as Commander of the Eighth Army, informed Anders that “the entry of the II Polish Army Corps in to action depended on the result of the operations then in progress, and that a final decision would not be taken for at least two or three weeks.” (WA)
February 22, 1944
Churchill’s statement in the House of Commons gives official confirmation of the concessions that had been made to Soviet Russia at Poland’s expense:
Here I may remind the House that we ourselves have never in the past guaranteed, on behalf of His
Majesty’s Government, any particular frontier line to Poland. We did not approve of the Polish occupation of Vilna in 1920.
The British view in 1919 stands expressed in the so-called Curzon line which attempted to deal, at any rate partially, with
the problem. I have always held the opinion that all questions of territorial settlement and re-adjustment should stand over
until the end of the war and that the victorious Powers should then arrive at formal and final agreements governing the
articulation of Europe as a whole. That is still the wish of His Majesty’s Government. However, the advance of the Russian
armies into Polish regions in which the Polish underground army is active makes it indispensable that some kind of friendly
working agreement should be arrived at to govern the war-time conditions and to enable all anti-Hitlerite forces to work
together with the greatest advantage against the common foe.
During the last few weeks the Foreign Secretary and I together have laboured with the Polish Government in London with the object of establishing a working arrangement upon which the Fighting Forces can act, and upon which, I trust, an increasing structure of good will and comradeship may be built between Russians and Poles. I have an intense sympathy with the Poles, that heroic race whose national spirit centuries of misfortune cannot quench, but I also have sympathy with the Russian standpoint. Twice in our lifetime Russia has been violently assaulted by Germany. Many millions of Russians have been slain and vast tracts of Russian soil devastated as a result of repeated German aggression. Russia has the right of reassurance against future attacks from the West, and we are going all the way with her to see that she gets it, not only by the might of her arms but by the approval and assent of the United Nations. The liberation of Poland may presently be achieved by the Russian armies after these armies have suffered millions of casualties in breaking the German military machine. I cannot feel that the Russian demand for a reassurance about her Western frontiers goes beyond the limits of what is reasonable or just. Marshal Stalin and I also spoke and agreed upon the need for Poland to obtain compensation at the expense of Germany both in the North and in the West.
It may be that I shall have a further statement to make to Parliament about Poland later on. For the present, what I have said, however incomplete, is all that His Majesty’s Government are able to say upon the subject and I hope that we shall not be pressed further in the Debate, because matters are still under discussion…
Anders’ comments regarding the Curzon line:
“… a line which had never been considered as a state boundary, but was only proposed in 1920 as a demarcation line in case of an armistice. There had been no mention of the Curzon Line when Great Britain signed her alliance with us in 1939, nor was the Curzon Line ever mentioned when we fought alone in that year. Our eastern frontiers were not questioned when our soldiers fought in France in 1940, or our airmen over London. Churchill’s speech greatly depressed our soldiers, most of whom had homes and families east of that line.” (WA)
Despite Churchill’s apparent betrayal, Polish senior commanding officers remained clear that although their confidence in Great Britain was “badly shaken,” they must continue to fight, “as without defeating Germany, there could be no Poland.” (WA)
February 25, 1944
Anders' telegram to General Sosnkowski:
“All soldiers of the Polish Army in the east will refuse to consider the possibility of abandoning any scrap of Polish territory to the Bolsheviks… We shall fight the Germans with complete self-sacrifice, but we consider the Bolsheviks to be equally enemies of our country… Should the Bolsheviks remain the true victors and enter Europe, no guarantees would help us. Poland would cease to exist for a long time and our nation would be exterminated.” (WA)
March 3, 1944
Anders’ radio broadcast to his troops:
… Amongst us are soldiers from Tobruk and Gazala, soldiers from Narvik and from the fields
of France, and the great majority have been through prisons and concentration camps in the far north. We went through wild
and deserted spaces and were decimated by frost, epidemics and our enemies.
We now follow the ancient road of the Dombrowski legions. We have experienced much already, and still we have to face much bitterness on our way. We shall fight the Germans without respite because we all know that without defeating Germany there will be no Poland.
We cannot accept even in our thoughts that any of our enemies will be able to take away even a small part of Polish land… (WA)
II Polish Army Corps entered the Battle for Monte Cassino. The units went to the front line
in the order in which their transports arrived.
“As they fought beside their British, American and French comrades, the friendships that grew out of dangers shared did much to allay the bitterness that political developments had caused our officers and men to feel.” (WA)
The tasks of the Polish Army Corps:
- To maintain the continuity of the front line;
- To ensure communications between the Eighth and Fifth Armies;
- To defend the mountain range from Monte Curvale over Monte Caprara to Colle Lettica;
- To take the main responsibility for the defence of both sides of the Isernia-Alfedena road. (WA)
March 13, 1944
Polish deserter Colonel Berling promoted to General of the Red Army by a decree of the Council of People’s Commissars. (WA)
A few days before March 23, 1944
General Leese arrived at Anders’ headquarters at Vinchiarturo and informed Anders that the Germans continual repelling of
their attacks on Monte Cassino placed the Allied troops at the Anzio beachhead in a “difficult position” and it
had been decided to open a large offensive from Monte Cassino to the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The Eighth Army had received orders to break through the
- Gustav Line, of which the main stronghold was Monte Cassino and the
- Hitler Line, which hinged on Piedimonte (Piedimonte San Germano Alta).
General Leese proposed “that the II Polish Army Corps should carry out the most
difficult of the initial tasks, the capturing of Monte Cassino heights and then of Piedimonte.” (WA)
“General Leese made it clear that he understood all that was involved. The stubbornness of the German defence at Cassino and on Monastery Hill was already a byword, for although the Monastery had been bombed, and the town of Cassino was a heap of ruins, the Germans still held firm and blocked the road to Rome.” (WA)
General Sosnkowski arrived in Italy “soon afterwards.” General Alexander agreed to include in the II Polish Army Corps the company of Polish commandos which had “already fought very gallantly on the Italian front.” (WA)
General Sosnkowski visited Polish units at the front.
The II Polish Army Corps headquarters were moved to Monte Cassino, and its own view of the monastery ruins.
March 25, 1944
Polish Prime Minister Mikołajczyk wrote to President Roosevelt asking for an interview.
April 7, 1944
The II Polish Army Corps’ Battle at Monte Cassino begins:
Anders made a “general reconnaissance… flying over Monte Cassino itself and also making ground reconnaissance from many observation points” as well as a “study of topographical maps, air photographs and feature tables [that] gave us some idea of the areas which could not be directly observed.
“Not least, we profited all we could from the experience gained by our predecessors in drawing up our plans, and I paid many visits to the heroic commander of the New Zealanders, General Sir Bernard Freyberg, who had commanded the previous attack on Monte Cassino, and who gave me much useful advice, as did General Keightley, Commander of the 78th British Infantry Division.” (WA)
April 8 to 17, 1944
The sector that had been held by the II Polish Army Corps was taken over by the X British Army Corps. The Italian Motorised Group relieved the Poles, who transferred to the sector from which the attack on Monte Cassino was to be launched.
- The 3rd Division went to Carpinone area;
- The 5th (Kresy) Division went to Venafro. (WA)
“The positions from which we were to launch our attack were on the eastern slope of the
mountain, and could only be reached by crossing the Rapido valley, which was five kilometres wide, under cover of night.”
Germans called Monte Cassino “The Gate of Rome” and considered it “almost impenetrable:”
- Monte Cassino afforded defences between four and six kilometres wide and eight kilometres
- The Germans defended it with “excellent co-ordination of artillery and firearms of all types, which enabled attackers from any quarter to be subjected to a murderous cross-fire.”
- “Though we, the next attackers, were profiting from the experiences of their fore-runners, the Germans, too, had learned valuable lessons from those same attacks, and had further improved their defences.”
- Germans had converted the town of Piedimonte (the ‘hinge’ connecting the Gustav and Hitler Lines) into a stronghold. Built of stone, Piedmonte perched on a rocky elevation, “outflanking the Liri valley and controlling the main road of that valley, the Via Casalina.”
- Germans had fortified nearly every building and constructed a series of concrete shelters for artillery and machine guns. (WA)
German defence forces were “carefully selected crack troops, considered by German Headquarters to be of the highest fighting value by virtue of their morale and special training.” They consisted of:
- The 1st Parachute Rifle Division, reinforced by
- a battalion of the 100th Mountain Regiment and
- the 4th High Mountain Battalion.
The two Polish divisions had two brigades each with strength not “up to
establishment” compared to the Allied corps with three or four brigades to a division. Another factor for Anders to
consider was that any future heavy casualties for the II Polish Army Corps would render it temporarily unfit for battle.
The Polish plan of action:
1. To build up the huge stocks of ammunition and equipment needed:
- Bringing up of said equipment was “very difficult” because there were only two
mountain tracks which could be used for traffic;
- For 10 kilometres, they were under enemy observation and fire.
- Supplies to the front went by lorry on the first stage of the journey, reloaded onto light vehicles, then loaded onto mules, then carried—often under enemy fire—by the soldiers.
- Most of the supply route could only be used at night, without lights.
- Activity became hectic as soon as dusk fell, and quietened down with the dawn.
(The Germans' laying of “systematic barrages on certain spots and along some tracks” contributed to the “considerable” Polish losses.)
2. “The direction of so much traffic made it necessary to organise a special system of control posts connected by
3. Sappers strengthened roads so that they could carry heavy traffic “and even converting winding mountain tracks into roads suitable for all kinds of vehicles, including tanks.” (One lengthened and widened track was called Polish Sappers’ Road)
4. “We filled the Rapido valley with smoke-screens to obscure the moonlight, and we employed every possible trick of camouflage to hide from the enemy our artillery positions, our traffic and our dumps, and we succeeded in keeping him in ignorance of our preparations.”
5. “… to ensure all casualties be kept as low as possible, I ordered all units to hold practice sessions in fighting for strongly fortified mountain positions.”
- “… mountain climbing and mock attacks on concrete strong points were the basis of
- “Squads also had to be taught flame-throwing, as we obtained ten sets of equipment just before the battle.
- “Preparations for the battle were made more difficult by the fact that we could not send out patrols to reconnoitre the enemy positions for fear they would find out that the II Polish Army Corps was in the Monte Cassino sector.” (WA)
The general plan prepared by the Allied Command for the new offensive on the Italian front in spring 1944:
- Allies to attack on the front from Monte Cairo to the Tyrrhenian Sea, with the objective to break
through enemy defensive positions and open the road leading to central Italy.
- D-Day for this offensive was the same as for the whole front.
- The Eighth Army aimed to break through enemy lines in the Liri valley and drive on to Rome.
- The Fifth Army was entrusted with the “task of penetrating into the Liri valley over the Monte Arunci block of mountains and of operating along the road No. 7 towards Minturno.”
- The II Polish Army Corps would take Monte Cassino and operate in the direction of Piedimonte;
- The XIII British Army Corps would cross the Gari and attack in the Liri valley;
- The I Canadian Army Corps would enter the Liri valley, following the XIII British Army Corps;
- The X British Army Corps were entrusted with defensive tasks in the sector north-east of Monte Cassino (on the right of the II Polish Corps);
- In the Fifth Army, the French Corps was to operate against the block of Monte Arunci—then in the upper course of the Liri;
- The II American Army Corps was to operate along the maritime road No. 7.
“After success had been attained… the main attacking forces were to be
strengthened by the VI American Army Corps from the Anzio beachhead.” (WA)
Within the above plans, the initial task assigned to the II Polish Army Corps meant breaking through the Gustav Line and then attacking the Hitler Line through Piedimonte. The Commander of the Eighth Army gave the Polish Corps a free hand in deciding the way it would carry out its task.
- The first objectives were the two main bastions of the German defence system—Hill 593 and
Colle Sant’ Angelo.
- “A simultaneous attack against these two bastions would prevent [the enemy] from effectively co-ordinating their fire and cause [them] to disperse their reserves.”
- “The remaining strongholds, Monte Cassino monastery to the south, Passo Corno to the north, were to be kept under overwhelming fire and blinded by smoke, to prevent them as much as possible from bringing their fire to bear on the area of attack.” (WA)
The 5th (Kresy) Division was to:
- Take the mountain ridge, Colle Sant’ Angelo, Hills 575, 505, 452 and 447;
- Organise strong defences, enabling them to have good observation for covering fire over the Liri valley;
- From the north and west, cover the operations of the 3rd Division against the monastery and
- by holding Monte Castellone, cover the operations of the entire army corps. (WA)
The 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division was to simultaneously:
- Capture Hills 593 and 569 and Massa Albaneta, as an initial position for an attack on Monte
- take the monastery by attacking along the axis Massa Albaneta-Monaster. (WA)
April 23, 1944
Anders was visited by General Wilson, then by General Alexander who was accompanied by Harold Macmillan, British Minister
Resident in the Mediterranean. (WA)
General Devers, of the United States army and deputy to General Alexander, watched the Polish troops carry out exercises in preparation for the coming battle. (WA)
May 4, 1944
Prince Umberto, heir to the Italian throne, visited the Polish troops.
May 6, 1944
In a conference with General Leese, Commander of the Eighth Army “all Polish commanding officers down to battalion
commanders were told in detail of the coming operation, and its place in the whole Allied plan of attack.” (WA)
“… battalions that were to take part in the attack were moved to their starting points on the eastern slopes of the Monte Cassino battle area.” (WA)
Last few nights before the attack
“… soldiers waited in the positions from which they were to attack under conditions of great hardship, hiding in primitive shelters made with corrugated iron sheets and large boulders and under constant searching fire from enemy guns and mortars.” (WA)
May 11, 1944
D-Day for the whole front.
First Polish attack on Monte Cassino: “For 40 minutes Allied artillery pounded the German artillery positions.” (WA)
Polish gunners turned fire on the positions of German infantry. (WA)
May 12, 1944,
Polish infantry moving forward under a barrage of enemy gun and mortar fire were met by “a hail of small-arms fire.”
- The 1st Carpathian Rifle Brigade took Hill 593, came close to the gorge in the direction of Massa
Albaneta and fought for the rocky Hill 569;
- The 5th Vilno Infantry Brigade climbed Phantom Ridge and “engaged the enemy in intense hand-to-hand fighting in the rocky and overgrown terrain.” (WA)
5th Vilno Infantry Brigade remained locked in a “struggle” that lasted until the afternoon. “Small groups
penetrated the slopes to the next objective, but the main mass fought on Phantom Ridge.” (WA)
Conditions under which the soldiers were fighting:
- The darkness of night and smoke prevented anything being seen more than a few steps ahead;
- Soldiers who were “frequently diving to take cover from fire” had great difficulty keeping in contact with each other;
- As officer after officer was killed, his place was taken by the next in seniority;
- “… each minute brought its dreadful experiences, and the sum of them was victory.”
- “… attacking troops were under a constant hail of projectiles from all directions…
- “Enemy reserves would suddenly emerge from concealment in caves to make a series of powerful counter-attacks, which were supported by accurate fire from guns that had been trained on the targets during previous fighting.
- “Our troops… could get little support from our artillery, partly because [the artillery had] suffered heavy losses, partly because of the complex nature of the ground.
- “The lack of direct reconnaissance of the terrain before the battle, due to the need to preserve secrecy, also caused difficulties.” (WA)
Anders noted that it “soon became clear that it was easier to capture some objectives than to hold them.” He came to the conclusion that:
- “… the offensive could neither be continued by the same battalion that had begun it, not could the captured position, for further casualties occurred every hour. Fresh forces could not be brought immediately into action because of the limited capacity of the road and tracks for traffic.”
He issued the order “for the withdrawal of the fighting brigades to their starting line, and for their later replacement by other units who would continue the attack.” (WA)
May 12, 1944
Commander of the Eighth Army, General Leese, arrived at Polish headquarters. “He considered that by its fighting on that day the II Polish Army Corps had kept the enemy forces in the Monte Cassino key position entirely tied up, had drawn the Germans’ artillery fire from other sectors and had prevented them from using their reserves.” (WA)
May 12, 1944
Polish detachments withdrew but some remained in position until May 13.
“One lesson learned was that our artillery fire, intense though it was, was unable effectively to silence the enemy batteries or to destroy the enemy infantry in their battle stations… mostly laid on the opposite hill slopes, in places inaccessible to our supporting fire.” (WA)
At that time
XIII British Army Corps attacked in the Liri valley, crossed the river and established “necessary bridgeheads to bring
up further reinforcements of men and equipment.” (WA)
General Leese ordered that the date of the Polish second attack should depend on the progress made by the XIII British Army Corps in the Liri valley as he did not want the Poles to fight an “isolated battle.” (WA)
May 16, 1944
General Leese ordered: “That the operations of the British and the Poles should be so co-ordinated that the enemy would not be able to make free use of his reserves or his artillery…” (WA)
May 17, 1944
General Leese set the time of the second attack—to be:
- Made by fresh battalions of the two divisions within a general unchanged plan.
- These battalions “went into action immediately behind the line of our own artillery barrage, with a complete disregard for losses from mines and traps. They aimed at passing the zones of enemy barrages as quickly as possible.”
- The II Polish Army Corps succeeded in capturing Phantom Ridge, Sant’ Angelo, Hill 593, except for its northern part, and the Gorge. (WA)
A further attack was prepared:
- Battalions that had already fought on May 12 and whose strength was greatly reduced, had to be
- Use was made of the Polish Commandoes, part of the 15th Poznan Lancers, who were transferred from a defence sector and
- Two small battalions were organised from men of the Anti-Tank Regiment, MT drivers, and workshop personnel. Every Polish soldier available was used.
Anders estimated “that the enemy must be quite as exhausted as we were, or even more so, and that in the next day’s fighting… our attack, even if less powerful than our first effort, would achieve a definite success.” (WA)
May 18, 1944
“… the forces on the sector of the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division renewed their attacks and met with prompt success, for, as I had foreseen, the enemy had withdrawn most of his forces during the night, leaving only covering detachments.” (WA)
The Polish flag flew over the ruins of Monte Cassino monastery. A patrol of the 12th Lancers, first used one of their own pennants in the initial absence of a Polish flag.
General Leese arrived at Anders’ headquarters “and was the first to express his appreciation of the Polish achievement.
With his consent, I ordered the Union Jack to be hoisted next to the Polish flag on the monastery ruins.” (WA)
“When leaving me, [General Leese] noticed a great number of foreign correspondents and said to them: ‘I am glad to see you here today. I want to tell you that the capture of Monte Cassino was entirely an achievement of the Poles. I am glad that you are here on this historic day for Poland, when Monte Cassino has been taken by the soldiers of the II Polish Army Corps.’” (WA)
Polish troops established direct contact with British troops in the Liri valley.
On Hill 575, in the 5th Division’s (Kresy) sector, “stubborn fighting” continued. (WA)
May 19, 1944
Hill 575 was finally “cleared of the enemy” and German troops withdrew to the Hitler Line. (WA)
Anders’ description of the aftermath:
“The battlefield presented a dreary sight. There were enormous dumps of unused ammunition and
here and there heaps of land mines. Corpses of Polish and German soldiers, sometimes entangled in a deathly embrace, lay
everywhere, and the air was full of the stench of rotting bodies. There were overturned tanks with broken caterpillars and
others standing as if ready for an attack, with their guns still pointing towards the monastery. The slopes of the hills,
particularly where the fire had been less intense, were covered with poppies in incredible number, their red flowers weirdly
appropriate to the scene. All that was left of the oak grove of the so-called Valley of Death were splintered tree
stumps. Crater after crater pitted the sides of the hills, and scattered over them were fragments of uniforms and tin
helmets, Tommy guns, Spandaus, Schmeissers and hand-grenades.
“Of the monastery itself there remained only an enormous heap of ruins and rubble, with here and there some broken columns. Only the western wall, over which the two flags flew, was still standing. A cracked church bell lay on the ground next to an unexploded shell of the heaviest calibre, and on shattered walls and ceilings fragments of paintings and frescoes could be seen. Priceless works of art, sculpture and books lay in the dust and broken plaster.” (WA)
(Put Czerwone Maki na Monte Cassino into a search engine to hear the famous and haunting Polish military song, composed during the battles. The music is by Alfred Schütz and the words by Feliks Konarski.)
On the Hitler Line
The XIII British Army Corps and I Canadian Army Corps “made contact with the enemy.”
- XIII British Army Corps, operating on the II Polish Army Corps’s right flank “were forced
to halt their advance owing to flanking fire from Piedimonte.” (The Germans had “converted this little town into
- The Germans still held Pazzo Corno and Monte Cairo, “fortified hills and difficult to reach.”
- The II Polish Army Corps “started an attack on this part of the enemy position, a most difficult task in view of their exhaustion after the battle for Monte Cassino.” (WA)
The Commander of the 6th Infantry Brigade was entrusted the task of taking Passo Corno and
Monte Cairo, the 6th “until then had been holding the defence sector abutting in the north on the slopes of these
The sector was manned by the
- dismounted Reconnaissance Regiments,
- the Carpathians and the
- 15th Poznan Lancers.
The task of taking Passo Corno was assigned to the Carpathian Lancers with the support of the 6th Light Artillery Regiment and the Heavy Corps artillery. (WA)
May 19, 1944
The Carpathian Lancers advanced “under enemy artillery fire, clearing the ground of mines as they went. They were held up at the foot of Pazzo Corno, on Hill 893, by a strong barrage, and an artillery dual had to be fought.” They later linked with and were relieved by the 15th Lancers, who had been on the southern slopes of the hill. (WA)
May 20, 1944
The 15th Lancers renewed the attack on Hill 893.
May 25, 1944
The whole of Passo Corno and the peak of Monte Cairo captured.
Also between May 20 and 25, 1944
The main Polish action against Piedimonte.
The task assigned: “To capture Piedimonte and to protect the right flank of the XIII British Army Corps, Villa St. Lucia-Piedimonte.”
Polish units included:
- The 6th Armoured Regiment,
- The 18th Lwów Rifle Battalion,
- The 5th Carpathian Rifle Battalion,
- The 12th Lancers,
- The Corps Headquarters Defence Company,
- The 9th Artillery Regiment,
- A troop manning self-propelled guns and
- Further fire support from the 10th and 11th Regiments of Heavy Artillery. (WA)
The above units made four consecutive attacks on Piedimonte “during which the tanks
played a bold part, operating over ground quite unsuited to them and succeeding, by following winding tracks, in penetrating
into the town. The Germans were completely taken by surprise, but fighting went on for a few days until Piedimonte was
finally taken on May 25…
“These battles had completely tied up the enemy forces defending the key position of Piedimonte and prevented them from interfering with road No. 6 (via Casalina) and the Liri valley, so that the XIII British Army Corps was able to progress in the valley without any opposition—the main aim from the point of view of the Eighth Army operations as a whole. With the capture of Piedimonte, road No. 6 was open as a main line of communication.” (WA)
The II Polish Army Corps’s casualty count after the Monte Cassino and Piedimonte battles:
Killed: 72 officers and 788 other ranks;
Wounded: 204 officers and 2,618 other ranks;
Missing: 5 officers and 97 other ranks.
Total killed or missing in action: 962
Total wounded: 2,822
May 25, 1944
General Sir Harold Alexander held an investiture in an olive grove near Monte Cassino. Anders was conferred the Companionship of the Order of the Bath. Prince of Piedimonte, Prince Umberto, visited the Polish troops and told Anders of the royal consent (from King Victor Emmanuel of Italy) to a Polish military cemetery being established on Monte Cassino. (WA)
May 27, 1944
Letter from General Leese:
“… As a particular mark of the honourable position the Polish Corps holds in the Eighth Army, I trust that the officers and men of your Corps will henceforth wear the Eighth Army Crusader’s shield on one arm…” (WA)
June 4, 1944
Allied detachments entered Rome and “liberated the Holy See.”
June 5, 1944
Polish Prime Minister-in-exile, Mikołajczyk, goes to Washington.
July 7 and 12, 1944
Mikołajczyk has two “long talks” with President Roosevelt.
Mikołajczyk reported on the state of Polish affairs and gave details of the strength and location of the Polish Underground Army. “as a result… Roosevelt approached Stalin, recommending that he should see Mikołajczyk…” (WA)
June 11, 1944
Edward Stettinius, the United States Secretary of State, informed Polish Ambassador, Jan Ciechanowski, that “Stalin considered an interview to be purposeless.” (WA)
June 17, 1944
The capture of Ancona:
Anders takes command of the Adriatic sector, in the Pescara sector. As well as the Polish units, the following British regiments were under Anders’ command:
- The 17th Med. Regiment,
- The 26th Med. Regiment,
- A British Royal Artillery armoured regiment,
- The 7th Queen’s Hussars,
- Various smaller units of engineers, signals, anti-aircraft defence,
- Italian Corps, “very poorly equipped, particularly with mechanised transport, but their establishment was up to strength,”
- 13 unspecified infantry battalions,
- Two unspecified field artillery regiments,
- One unspecified heavy artillery battery,
- One unspecified sapper battalion and
- One unspecified signals company.
The “pursuit of the enemy” began.
The 3rd Carpathian Division “moving forward as quickly as it could in view of the destruction and mining done by the enemy.”
June 20, 1944
Anders goes to Rome.
Anders receives order to “pursue the enemy at the highest possible speed and capture Ancona harbour,” which was needed as a supply port. (WA)
June 21, 1944
“After crossing several rivers, [the Poles] made contact with the enemy defences on the Chienti river, but an attempt to cross it failed, for the position was found to be strongly manned with considerable reserves, ready to counter-attack, but before the preparations for it could be completed, the enemy began to withdraw. Both Polish divisions immediately went in pursuit and in spite of considerable mining of the roads, which were in a very damaged state, they succeeded in making contact with the enemy’s rear-guard… quickly dislodged from a temporary defensive position on the Potenza river.” (WA)
July 1, 1944
The pursuit continued towards Ancona, “giving the enemy no time to complete his defences at the Musone river, the last river obstacle on the road to Ancona… crossed by our pursing detachments on the evening of July 1, 1944.” (WA)
July 2, 1944
The II Polish Army Corps fights the battle of Loreto.
“This battle, which was named after the place through which our forces made their initial attack, had its object the creation of favourable conditions for the battle of Ancona by taking the dominating heights on the northern bank of the Musone. The fighting was very stubborn and objectives changed hands several times. There were difficulties in bringing up supplies of ammunition, as great quantities were used and the distances from the supply depots were considerable.” (WA)
July 9, 1944
The Loreto battle ended “with our holding suitable positions for carrying out the decisive operation against
Anders adopted the following plan:
- The right wing was to remain passive but simulating attack;
- On the left, the assault group was to break through enemy defences and push towards the sea, west of Ancona, threatening to cut off the enemy in that area;
- The Monte della Crescia-Offanga ridge, dominating the road of the assault group had to be taken.
Plan of attack:
- The 5th Vilno Infantry Brigade was to attack Monte della Crescia.
They were reinforced by:
The 3rd Carpathian Rifle Battalion,
The 4th Armoured Regiment and
strongly supported by artillery.
- The armoured forces operation was to be carried out by the 2nd Armoured Brigade with
the 15th Poznan Lancers and
the British 7th Queen’s Hussars,
the 6th Lwów Rifle Brigade and
- Enemy forces on the right flank to be “tied up by” one brigade of the 3rd Division.
- The left flank was to be protected by the Italian Corps.
- The brigade of the 3rd Division was to be stationed on the right flank of the reserve but would, if needed, support the attacking group. (WA)
July 16, 1944
General Sosnkowski arrived by air on the eve on the battle “and spent many hours at the advanced command post and paying visits to the units at the front.” (WA)
July 16 and 17, 1944
The British Eighth Army broke enemy resistance south of Arezzo “and made steady progress.” (WA)
July 17, 1944
Polish troops began their advance of Ancona. In a subsequent letter to Anders, General Lease described the “notable
feat” of “advancing 75 miles up that harsh Adriatic coast… The enemy immediately put up a barrage in the
shore sector, which meant that they had not noticed the movement of our armoured units.” (WA)
the 5th Vilno infantry Brigade and the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Battalion captured Monte della Crescia “after hard fighting which lasted all day.” The same combination also took Offanga.
The 2nd Armoured Brigade crossed the river at a ford and “after a fierce struggle,” captured Monte Torto, the ridge of Croce di S. Vicenzo, Monte Bogo… “and finally, at 8pm, Polverigi.”
July 18, 1944
The 6th Lwów Infantry Brigade, advancing behind the 2nd Armoured Brigade, reached the seashore of Ancona. They were prevented from getting there earlier thanks to having to cross the Musone river and the difficult terrain north of its banks, which allowed the Germans to withdraw part of their forces from the Ancona area. (WA)
The Carpathian Lancers entered Ancona.
German prisoners: 24 officers and 2,552 other ranks;
German deserters captured: 351 (most wearing civilian clothes);
Polish casualties: 150 officers and 2,000 other ranks;
Polish deaths: 34 officers and 354 other ranks. (WA)
The same day
The Gothic Line:
The American Fifth Army, having taken Leghorn, reached the Arno river “on the whole width of its front.”
The Allied detachments were approaching the Gothic Line, the German defence position running through Pesaro, along Foglia river, over Sasso Corvaro, Bagno Scarperia and Pistoia. It was described as:
- A belt about six kilometres wide and 300 kilometres long;
- Protected by anti-tank obstacles such as ditches and wire emplacements and minefields;
- Its fortifications, made by the Todt organisation, were apparently not completed by the time the Allied armies approached.
The Allied plan for the Gothic Line was that the Eighth Army should attack with two army corps on either side of Florence. The objective was to seize the hills north of Florence.
- The Fifth Army was to take Pistoia.
- In the Adriatic sector, a feint attack was to be made along the shore to conceal the main direction of the offensive. (WA)
The tasks of the II Polish Army Corps were:
- “… to produce by its activities the impression that larger forces had been
concentrated in their sector and that from it the main attack on the Gothic Line would be launched;
- “… to secure the No.76 road from Ancona over Jesi-Fabriano and Foligno to the rear of the Eighth Army, serving as a supply route.”
This ruse succeeded. German positions were pushed back over the Cesano and a bridgehead
established, but lack of reserves and “enemy resistance on the northern bank” prevented the river crossing.
General Headquarters changed the plan of operations against the Gothic Line changes when “… difficulties arose in the middle mountain sector of the Italian front.” The opening of Ancona harbour made movement of supplies easier, and the main effort to break through the Gothic Line was to be made in the Adriatic sector.
The new plan included:
- The II Polish Army Corps driving the enemy over the Metauro river “to the immediate
approaches of the Gothic Line, and to prepare on the Metauro positions for the I Canadian and V British Army Corps in
readiness for an attack” in the area. The Germans still showed “strong resistance” in the mountainous area
between the Cesano and Metauro.
- Anders’ intention to break through a wing and outflanking those defences, after which he would “throw my armoured forces against the enemy’s communications in the rear.”
- The direction for the intended breakthrough was the sector facing the Poles’ right flank on the line Mondolfo-San Costanzo-Il Vincinato. “Capture of these heights would allow us to operate along the ridge St Costanzo-Monte Maggiore, dominating the Metauro valley, and threaten the enemy by cutting off their forces to the west of the breach.”
(This attack began on 19 August 1944.) (WA)
July 21, 1944
In Poland: “As soon as the Soviet units entered that part of Polish territory which Russia did not intend to incorporate into the Soviet Union,” two pro-Soviet entities were set up in Poland:
The Polish Committee of National Liberation and
The Home National Council. (WA)
July 22, 1944
The Polish Committee of National Liberation, acting on behalf of Russia as a temporary Polish Government, issued a manifesto to the Polish people. (WA)
July 23, 1944
General Sosnkowski and Anders received invitations “to take part in the reception of General Collingwood by the Eighth
‘General Collingwood’ turned out to be King George VI, visiting troops on the Italian front. (WA)
July 24, 1944
General Leese of the Eighth Army sends Anders a letter of “thanks and congratulations” regarding the taking of Ancona. (WA)
July 25, 1944
The Polish Committee of National Liberation declares itself the Polish government and Lublin the temporary capital of
Polish Prime Minister-in-exile Mikołajczyk orders a message (without previous agreement with the Government-in-exile in London) to be sent to the Polish Government-in-exile’s plenipotentiary in Poland: “At a sitting of the Cabinet of the Republic a common resolution was taken authorising you to proclaim the rising at a moment to be chosen by you. If possible let us know of it beforehand.” (WA)
July 26, 1944
The Polish Committee of National Liberation signed an agreement with the Soviet Government for co-operation with the Soviet
military headquarters. (WA)
Anders was presented to King George VI at Perugia, Italy, and had a “short talk” with him. (WA)
Russia hands over the administration of the ‘liberated’ Polish territories to the pro-Soviet Committee of National Liberation. (WA)
July 27, 1944
Without knowing the above, Mikołajczyk, Romer and the President of the National Council-in-exile, Professor S Grabski, leave London by air for Moscow. They find out on a stop-over in Cairo about the Soviet moves in Poland.
- Their meeting with Stalin, Molotov and the representative of the Lublin Committee failed to
“yield a solution.”
- Soldiers of the II Polish Army Corps “alarmed” at the trip. (WA)
General Sosnkowski sent a telegram to the President of the Polish Republic, Mr Raczkiewicz in London, outlining his and his troops’ concerns and confusion regarding the above Moscow meeting. He mentioned:
- The arrest of commanders and staff of the Vilno and Novogrodek areas of the Home Army;
- The disarmament of the 27th Infantry Division in Poland;
- New ‘deportations’ from eastern Poland, confirmed by numerous letters received in Teheran and written by Poles deported to Middle Siberia and the Semipalatinsk District. (WA)
July 28, 1944
Pope Pius XII blesses the Polish troops in Italy and afterwards receives General Sosnkowski in “private audience.” (WA)
July 28 and 29, 1944
General Sosnkowski sends two messages to the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Underground Army. In the second, he states that he is “absolutely against a general rising, the political outcome of which would inevitably result in changing one political outcome for another…” (WA)
July 29, 1944
In contrast to these Polish commanders, the Soviets encouraged the rising: Soviet radio announced in Polish: “Appeal to
Warsaw. Fight the Germans: Warsaw undoubtedly already hears the sound of guns in the battle, which will soon bring her
freedom. For Warsaw, which has never surrendered and has never ceased to fight, the hour for action has struck. You must not
forget that in the deluge of Hitlerite perdition everything will be destroyed that is not saved by action, that by your
active fighting in the streets of Warsaw, in the houses, factories and shops, we shall not only bring nearer the hour of
liberation but also save our national assets and the lives of our brothers.”
A similar announcement was made by the pro-Soviet Kosciuszko Station.
Anders believed that the Russian objective was that the rising would be led by Polish communists. Taking advantage of the hatred Poles felt towards the Germans at that time, these communists would create the impression that Warsaw welcomed the Russians as liberators and accepted the pro-Soviet Lublin Committee as their own Government authority.
When the rising broke out, it was immediately clear that the Communists were a “small minority” and “unable to play any considerable part in it.” (WA)
July 31, 1944
General Sosnkowski decorated many who had taken part in the battle for Monte Cassino with the cross of Virtui Militari.
Polish President Raczkiewicz asked him to “return immediately.” (WA)
End July 1944
“Soviet forces held places only a dozen kilometres from Warsaw, and they had crossed the Vistula south of the city.” (WA)
August 1, 1944
Anders was decorated in Rome with the American Legion of Merit by General Devers. The citation from President Roosevelt included the wording “for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the United States and the Allied Nations in Italy from October 1943 to July 1944.” (WA)
August 1, 1944
The Polish Underground Army (Home Army or Armia Krajowa, the AK) starts rising in Warsaw.
August 2, 1944
The Commander of the Polish Underground Army, General Bór-Komorowski made the first of his appeals for help, asking that:
- Arms be dropped at specific points in Warsaw;
- German strongholds be bombed;
- The Polish Parachute Brigade be brought in to the city by air;
- His soldiers be given the rights of combatants;
- An Allied Military Mission sent into Warsaw;
- The Soviet army cease to arrest and disarm Home Army detachments;
- The Soviet army launch an immediate attack on [German positions in] Warsaw. (WA)
Beginning of August 1944
Soviet Russia had three times the capacity of the Germans at the front, therefore could have taken Warsaw if it wanted to.
Soviet troops were camped on the opposite side of the Vistula, in sight of the city centre.
Polish President Raczkiewicz interceded with:
Pope Pius XII and
Polish Commander-in-Chief Sosnkowski interceded with:
Field-Marshal Sir Alan Brooke and
British Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair. (WA)
August 6, 1944
General Sosnkowski returned to London.
August 6, 1944
General Bór-Komorowski telegraphs:
“We begin the sixth day of our battle in Warsaw. The Germans introduce technical means, which means we do not possess, such as armoured vehicles, air force, artillery and flame throwers. This is their asset; we outdo them by our fighting spirit. The Bolshevik attack died out some three days ago at the approaches to the western suburbs of Warsaw and it has no effect on the position inside the city. I state that Warsaw in her struggle receives no assistance from the Allies, just as Poland received none in 1939. The balance-sheet of our alliance with Great Britain so far shows only our assistance in 1940 in the defence of the British Isles, In the Norwegian campaign, in Africa, Italy and on the western front. We demand that you clearly state this fact to the British in your official declaration and leave it for documentary evidence. We do not beg for material assistance; we demand that it be immediately supplied. We also demand that the broadcasts on our deficiencies be immediately discontinued, as this is an action to our disadvantage.”
General Sosnkowski sent the text of the above telegram to Anders and asked Anders to appeal for help for the Underground army in Warsaw to:
- General Wilson, Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theatre and
- Air Marshal Slessor, Air Officer Commanding Air Forces in Italy.
Anders submitted the request through the “usual service channels” to his immediate superior, General Sir Oliver Reese. (WA)
August 7, 1944
The I Polish Armoured Division becomes the last of the Allied divisions to be transported over the English Channel to France. They land at Normandy B in Arromanches Sans Bain.
August 11, 1944
General Leese’s reply to Anders regarding his Warsaw request:
“Commander-in-Chief in Italy has made strong representations to Supreme Allied Commander on Warsaw situation and hopes for decision about aircraft tomorrow. Deeply appreciate the position and trust assistance will be forthcoming.” (WA)
August 12, 1944
The British Committee of Chiefs of Staff decided to:
- Send a telegram to General Wilson and Air Marshal Slessor, stressing the importance of assisting
the Polish Underground Army in Warsaw;
- In this regard, instruct the Air Ministry to reinforce Polish and British troops in Italy. Air Marshal Slessor was to be informed that the Polish Commander-in-Chief wanted Polish crews to make operational flights to Warsaw, regardless of risk;
- Tell the British Chiefs of Staff to apply to the American chiefs of Staff for co-operation from Italian or British bases;
- Ask the British Military Mission in Moscow to intervene to obtain speedy assistance for Warsaw from the Soviet forces already in Warsaw by dropping equipment and by bombing. (WA)
The American Eighth Army Air Force prepared “a great sortie of several scores of Liberator aircraft to drop equipment for Warsaw… proposed that these aircraft land on American bases in Soviet Russia.” (WA)
For three weeks…
“… Soviet Russia refused to reply to requests for permission to [allow the Liberators to land], and when she did
at last reply, refused it.”
Their position on the eastern bank of the Vistula put the Soviets in a position to help the Polish Underground in their battle for Warsaw against the Germans. Their refusal to allow the aircraft, carrying the much-needed supplies, to land and take off on Soviet-controlled airfields meant that those aircraft had to fly long and dangerous missions without refuelling.
August 13, 1944
Anders submitted two memoranda on the Warsaw rising and the fighting of the Polish Underground Army to:
- American Commander, General Devers and
- American Liaison Officer, Colonel H Szymanski. (WA)
General Sosnkowski sent word to Anders from London that “Field-Marshal Sir Alan Brooke refused to use the Polish Parachute Brigade in view of the shortage of transport aircraft.” (WA)
August 14, 1944
General Leese sent Anders a further message: “Am informed all available British and Polish air effort is being put into supplying Polish partisans in Warsaw. Some sorties reached Warsaw on August 8th and 9th. Since these sorties weather has intervened but conditions now are favourable for sustained operations.” (WA)
August 16, 1944
Flights to Warsaw “stopped because of heavy losses.” (WA)
August 17, 1944
Churchill tells Polish President Raczkiewicz that he “would do everything in his power to help Warsaw, but that technical and geographical conditions resulted in too great losses in the air force.” (WA)
August 10 to 18, 1944
Anders learned of the above from General Rayski on 4 September. Rayski, who was stationed at the Brindisi air base, had been on several of the flights. The flights to relieve Warsaw had been made by:
- Poles, who had lost three crews;
- the British squadron from Brindisi, which had lost four aircraft and crash-landed a fifth;
- a special Liberator squadron of 20 aircraft sent from Corsica, which had carried out three operations and lost 14 aircraft. (WA)
August 18, 1944
English crews from Brindisi air base in Italy discontinued flights to Warsaw “because of heavy losses” but had supplied aircraft for Polish crews. (WA)
August 19, 1944
Anders was instructed by General Sosnkowski to submit a memorandum to General Leese on the position of Warsaw and stressing the need for immediate support. (WA)
August 19, 1944
In Italy the Poles opened their attack on the Pre-Gothic Line. “… heavy infantry and tank fighting went on the whole of the day. In order to give themselves time to complete the construction of defences on the Gothic Line, the Germans decided to hold us up, not by ordinary delaying action, but by stubborn fighting.” (WA)
August 20, 1944
Pre-Gothic Line manoeuvres:
– Anders ordered the Commander of the 2nd Armoured Brigade to cross the Cesano river and next
morning begin the out-flanking movements towards Monte Maggiore;
- The 2nd Armoured Brigade (four tank regiments reinforced by infantry) “bore the brunt of the fighting, which went on stubbornly all day long for the height and the road junction of Monte Rosario. The enemy had organised very strong anti-tank defences, using a great number of Hornet guns and his own Panther tanks, and bringing to bear concentrated heavy artillery fire from beyond the Matauro.”
- Monte Rosario taken in the evening “but it was not for many hours after darkness had fallen that the terrain was cleared completely.” (WA)
August 20, 1944
Sir Harold Alexander sent telegram to General Leese to say “everything possible is being done [about Warsaw] at the highest level.”
August 21, 1944
Pre-Gothic Line “… the 2nd Armoured Brigade was engaged in further stubborn fighting with the enemy, who
obstinately defended the approach to the Metauro crossings in order to allow the German 71st Division to withdraw. This was
mainly a fight between our own tanks and the enemy tanks and anti-tank defences, supported by German heavy artillery fire, in
which the crews of the Polish and British tanks showed great initiative, skill and courage. However, that day our own
artillery was able to give effective support to the 2nd Armoured Brigade from their advanced positions. At night the last
heights defending the Metauro crossings were taken.” (WA)
The 5th (Kresy) Division and the group of reconnaissance regiments, including the Household Cavalry “kept in touch with the enemy by patrols and sudden attacks, pursuing him as soon as he began to retire.”
“On the third day of the battle, units of the 5th (Kresy) Division took an active part whilst trying to link up with the 2nd Armoured Brigade. Mopping-up operations took the whole night.” (WA)
August 22, 1944
The Pre-Gothic-Metauro Line reached from the sea to Monte Maggiore. (WA)
August 22, 1944
Pre-Gothic-Metauro Line reached Fossombrone. The battle for Metauro was made tougher by bad weather resulting in the air force giving “little support.” (WA)
August 22, 1944
Pre-Gothic Line: Polish units regrouped to cover preparations of the three corps of the Eighth Army which were to attack the Gothic Line. (WA)
August 23, 1944
Anders “in the presence of Gen Alexander” meets Field-Marshal Sir Alan Brooke at “the airport.” They
had two talks in which Anders emphasised Warsaw’s needs. The Field Marshal promised to assist. (WA)
Pre-Gothic Line: Eighth Army headquarters decided to break through in the Adriatic sector by attacking with three of its army corps:
- II Polish Army Corps next to the sea,
- I Canadian Army Corps in the middle and the
- V British Army Corps on the western flank.
The troops began to move into position under cover of the Polish Corps. (WA)
August 25, 1944
On the Pre-Gothic Line the Italian Corps (CIL) was transferred from the II Polish Army Corps and put under command of the
V British Army Corps. (WA)
Tasks of the II Polish Army Corps in the battle for the Gothic Line:
- To reach the line of the Foglia river in the sector between the Canadian Army Corps and the
- To engage the enemy on the Gothic Line;
- To outflank the defences of Pesaro in the west;
- To take the heights to the north-west of Pesaro.
Anders learned that “the enemy had withdrawn the 278th German Infantry Division”
and that they would be facing their “old adversary of Monte Cassino, the 1st German Parachute Division.”
Pre-Gothic Line: Churchill arrived at the II Polish Army Corps headquarters to find a “winding up post.” The headquarters had been moved north of Mondolfo, ready for battle for the Gothic Line. (WA)
The three allied armies start their attack of the Gothic Line.
August 26, 1944
Churchill arrives at new Polish HQ. He was accompanied by General Alexander. Anders wrote down the recorded conversation between himself and Churchill, from minutes taken by Lieutenant Lubomirski. The following are some of the points discussed:
- Each soldier knew and was perfectly aware that the first task and obligation was the destruction
of Germany but Churchill was “most anxious” about the future destiny of Poland, and about what was happening in
- Churchill stressed that Russians, only 30 kilometres from Warsaw had “no obstacles” in giving assistance to the Poles in Warsaw, whereas British had to fly 780 miles from bases in Italy.
- Churchill mentioned his speech “last winter” and that “he did not think we [the Poles] were satisfied.”
- Anders agreed “We had and still have a grudge against you, Prime Minister.”
- Churchill tried to justify the changes to Poland’s borders.
- Anders was not impressed or convinced.
- Churchill kept saying Britain would “never desert” Poland. “…all your apprehensions are superfluous, especially as you must trust Great Britain and the United States, who will never desert you.” And
“I and my friend President Roosevelt, who will again be elected President, will never abandon Poland. Put your trust in us.”
Anders noted that the conversation reported above took place at the time when the Polish armed effort in this war was at its greatest since September 1939. Polish soldiers were fighting in Warsaw, Normandy and Italy and Polish sailors and airmen were also “playing their part.” (WA)
The same day, in Fano, Italy, Churchill stated that “the problems of Poland and her frontiers would be decided at a peace conference at which Poland would be represented.” (WA)
August 1 to 27, 1944
In Warsaw, according to a report Anders received from London:
- 160 sorties had been made to take supplies to Warsaw with 27 aircraft lost.
- 71 deliveries of supplies were made over Warsaw of which 50 acknowledged as received by the Underground Army. (WA)
August 28 to September 1, 1944
Warsaw: General Rayski told Anders of three more operations carried out over Warsaw:
- Poles lost 12 crews of seven men each, excluding casualties from crash-landings.
- Losses amounted to 30 percent “excluding aircraft which returned without having completed the operation.”
- No more than half the aircraft reached their targets and drop the supplies.
- Supplies had to be dropped with “great precision” because both the Germans and the Home Army occupied the streets.
- Aircraft often had to make several approaches at low speed before they could release the containers of arms and ammunition.
- Aircraft returned “like sieves,” causing many crash-landings.
- General Rayski said fires burning over Warsaw could be seen more than 100 miles away.
- From Blonie onwards aircraft had to fly just above the treetops, “every unevenness of the ground forced them to change height.”
- Warsaw was “a mass of ruins with groups of buildings on fire and huge clouds of smoke covering the greater part of the town.”
- Heavy traffic had apparently been moving west until 10 August. After then, there was “a movement of a larger column eastwards” but General Rayski saw no traffic on the roads.
General Rayski reported that British headquarters “did their best to assist Warsaw, but
that in view of the heavy losses they considered the operation too costly.”
Anders: “These operations were indeed sheer suicide, which the British could not permit. General Rayski, whose own family was in Warsaw, could not see any possible way of helping the capital.” (WA)
August 28, 1944
On returning from Moscow and talks with representatives of the pro-Soviet Lublin Committee, Polish Prime Minister in London
Mikołajczyk wrote a memorandum in which he foresaw “the establishment in Poland of a government in which the communists
participated, close and permanent co-operation with Russia, and the settlement of the frontier problem by a parliament which
would be elected.”
When asked for their opinion of this memorandum, the Council of National Unity in Poland (the underground parliament, opposed to the communist-controlled quasi-parliament, the State National Council) answered on 28 August that they were surprised by Mikołajczyk’s memorandum, “especially since it was written during the desperate struggle in the streets of Warsaw.” (WA)
August 29, 1944
The Council of National Unity in Poland asked that amendments be made to Mikołajczyk’s memorandum. (WA)
August 29, 1944
Anders received data about the Warsaw sorties (above) and a request from General Sosnkowski to ask British headquarters in Italy for assistance. Anders sent a telegram to General Leese saying that “without considerable help, for which Warsaw was continually begging, I feared that a catastrophe would overwhelm not only our Polish troops but also the population of the capital.” (WA)
August 30, 1944
The Council of National Unity in Poland, having received from Mikołajczyk’s political opponents in London additional information to that given by Mikołajczyk himself, “demanded further amendments” to Mikołajczyk’s memorandum of 28 August. The revised memorandum was sent to Moscow, through the British Government. (WA)
August 30, 1944
The British Foreign Office issued a statement that the Polish Underground Army was a combatant force forming an integral part of the Polish armed forces and “solemnly warning all Germans responsible for reprisals and violations of the rules of war that they acted at their peril and would be held answerable for their crimes.” A similar warning issued by United States government. (WA)
August 30, 1944
On the Gothic Line, the 5th Canadian Armoured Division “broke the stubborn resistance of newly arrived enemy units” and took Marone and Hill 204, “deep inside the enemy position.” (WA)
August 31, 1944
The 5th Canadian Armoured Division pierced the Gothic Line. They “continued their advance in the direction of Tomba di
Pesaro and Monte Luro.” The German 71st Division and the 26th Panzer Division could not stop the Canadians. (WA)
The II Polish Army Corps received a visit from British Secretary of State for War, Sir James Grigg, and the Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir Ronald Weeks.
Anders informs them of the development of operations against the Gothic Line as well as demands for assistance for Warsaw. (WA)
September 1, 1944
The fifth anniversary of Germany's attack on Poland:
Polish President Władysław Raczkiewicz made a speech.
Polish Prime Minister Mikołajczyk appealed to “Marshal Stalin, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill, who are the political and military leaders of the Allied Great Powers” to help Warsaw.
Commander-in-Chief, General Sosnkowski, addressed an Order of the Day:
Five years have passed since the day when Poland, encouraged by the British government and having
received its guarantees, took up her lonely struggle against the German might. The September campaign gave the Allies eight
months invaluable time, enabling Great Britain to complete her war preparations to such an extent that the Battle of
Britain—a turning point in history—was won…
For a whole month the soldiers of the Home Army, together with the people of Warsaw, have been shedding their blood alone behind street barricades in a merciless struggle against the enemy’s overwhelming superiority. The loneliness in which the Poles fought the September campaign and the loneliness in which they are now fighting in Warsaw are entirely different one from the other. The people of Warsaw, left to their own devices and abandoned on the common battlefront against the Germans—this is a tragic and ghastly riddle which we Poles are unable to solve, considering the strength behind the Allies on the threshold of the sixth year of war. We are unable to solve it for we have not yet lost faith in the belief that the world is still governed by moral rights… We cannot believe that reasons of expediency in the face of physical might could ever lead to indifference to the agony of the capital of the country whose soldiers have shielded so many other capitals with their own bodies, besides lending aid to their liberation. Experts endeavour to explain to us that the lack of help for Warsaw is due to difficulties of a technical nature. Calculations of loss and profit are put forward. The loss of twenty-seven aircraft over Warsaw in the space of one month means little to Allied Air Forces which possess several score of thousands of planes of all kinds and types at their disposal. If figures have to be mentioned, let us recall that during the Battle of Britain, Polish airmen suffered losses amounting to over 40 percent.
… Your heroic commander [General Bór-Komorowski] is accused of alack of foresight in not having anticipated a sudden halt of the Soviet offensive at the gates of Warsaw… the Poles are reproached for their alleged lack of co-ordination in their fight, with the general operational plans in Eastern Europe. If needed, we will prove how many of our endeavours to achieve such co-ordination were in vain.
For five years the Home Army has been systematically accused of passivity and of feigning combat against the Germans. Today it is being accused of fighting too much and too well… (WA)
Warsaw: Mikołajczyk and Churchill had a conference on the possibility of a large-scale British air operation for the relief of Warsaw.
- British Air Marshal Harris “made objections.”
- Such a rescue was “dependent on agreement being reached between General Eisenhower and the [British] Air Ministry.” (WA)
Through the Gothic Line:
- The 1st Carpathian Rifle Brigade “started operations against enemy
- Anders sent one battalion with tanks through the passage the Canadians had made across the minefields.
- “Our detachments reached the Cattolica area on the sea, where they linked up with units of the 1 Canadian Army Corps.” (WA)
September 2, 1944
The battle for the Gothic Line ended, as did the II Polish Army Corps’ almost three-month campaign on the Adriatic
Killed and wounded: 288 officers and 3,403 other ranks. (WA)
General Sir Oliver Leese wrote a congratulatory letter and gave the II Polish Army Corps three weeks “out of line.” (WA) Anders asked British Deputy Prime Minister Attlee, in conference at the Polish Corps headquarters in Italy, to try to assist Warsaw “in every possible way.” (WA)
September 4, 1944
General Rayski arrived at Polish headquarters from Italian air base at Brindisi to report to Anders on the “problem of assistance” being given to Poland. (WA)
September 5, 1944
British Committee of Chiefs of Staff told Polish Commander-in-Chief General Sosnkowski “that the organisation of a
large-scale air operation over Warsaw was rendered impossible by the refusal of the Russians to allow landing on their
Anders received telegram from Sosnkowski, copying a telegram dated 2 September that he received from General Bór-Komorowski, Commander of the Home Army in Warsaw:
- Loss of Old Town (Stare Miasto);
- Increasing pressure from the enemy;
- Food and bread till 7 September;
- Ammunition almost exhausted;
- Spirit of soldiers good;
- Civilians suffering from lack of food, water, accommodation, bad health;
- General morale down;
“The possibility of persisting does not depend on our power of resistance, but on your help and on the speed of the action on the Soviet front,” General Bór-Komorowski said.
Gen Sosnkowski told Anders to “exert pressure on General Wilson and Air Marshal Slessor
to undertake large-scale operations from Italian bases with the co-operation of British crews.”
Sosnkowski had telegraphed General Wilson and had “taken action through Sir Archd. Sinclair” (British Air Minister, Sir Archie Sinclair). Sosnkowski had “demanded that Bomber Command should undertake a large scale operation from England. Today Churchill answered Mikołajczyk that it was not feasible. Therefore the Italian base is our only hope.” (WA)
Berlin radio broadcast: “The spokesman of the Foreign Ministry declares that Polish insurgents who surrender in Warsaw will be treated as prisoners of war.” Apparently this order took a month to get through. (WA)
September 9 and 11, 1944
Mikołajczyk twice approached Polish President Raczkiewicz, demanding General Sosnkowski’s dismissal. Mikołajczyk also approached the British Ambassador to the Polish Government-in exile, Sir Owen O’Malley, and the British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, who called on Raczkiewicz to “discuss the matter.” (WA)
September 11, 1944
The Soviet Government informed “London” that Mikołajczyk’s (amended) memorandum was “forwarded to the
Lublin Committee for consideration.”
The memorandum produced “no result:”
“… its only effect was to drive Polish policy on to ever more slippery ground and to cause much strain among the Poles themselves.”
“… new friction was created between Mikołajczyk and General Sosnkowski, whose order to the soldiers of the Underground Army of September 1… made it possible for Mikołajczyk to demand his [Sosnkowski’s] resignation…
Russia joined in the demands for General Sosnkowski’s resignation. (WA)
September 15, 1944
“… Soviet troops took Praga, a suburb on the right bank of the Vistula, and Soviet artillery and aircraft began to drop food and ammunition to the insurgents, though far less than had been dropped by aircraft flying all the long way from the west…”
September 10 to 17, 1944
In Italy Anders had conferences with:
- General Maitland Wilson and General Beaumont-Nesbitt at Caserta,
- General Alexander at Sienna,
- General Mark Clark and General Lemnitzer at the American Fifth Army headquarters,
- again with General Alexander
- and with Harold Macmillan, then a member of the British Cabinet and Political Advisor at Allied headquarters.
They discussed the further employment of the II Polish Army Corps. Anders tried to obtain information “about the political situation.” (WA)
September 17, 1944
Anders arrived in London and noted that: Mikołajczyk, “who had little experience in politics, remained under the impression that he was in control of Poland’s affairs, and had the support of Britain and America; but… he adapted his policy to the passing needs of the British and American attitude towards Russia. The only result… was that he served to obscure the drastic change that had been made in their policy.” Anders reached his conculsion after “listening to every side of the case” and talking with Polish President Raczkiewicz, other members of the Polish Government in London, Polish Commander-in-Chief General Sosnkowski, British Deputy Prime Minister Attlee, British diplomat Anthony Eden and British Ambassador to the Polish Government Sir Owen O’Malley. (WA)
September 22, 1944
“Under direct instructions from the President of the Republic,” Anders had a “long talk” with
“I said that as a soldier I had no right to interfere in matters of policy, but… it was my duty to give a warning in order to prevent the integrity of Polish territory and the sovereignty of our State being violated.”
- Anders asked about the meaning of the “provisional demarcation line that had been drawn
between Poland and Russia, which puzzled the soldiers.” Mikolajaczyk explained it was a “tactical move, agreed
upon with the British.”
- Anders asked why Mikołajczyk had met with representatives of the pro-Soviet Lublin Committee. “… that he could have negotiated with Stalin but that he should not have done so with traitors to our country.”
- Anders concluded that “our conversation led to no understanding between us regards Polish-Soviet relations.” (WA)
“The [Polish] Cabinet unanimously carried a motion requesting the President to relieve
General Sosnkowski of his post as Commander-in-Chief.
“The general impression with which I left England was that the Polish Government [in-exile] was under strong British pressure (America remaining passive), with a view to obtaining their surrender to Russia’s demands.” (WA)
September 28, 1944
Three speeches addressed to the British House of Commons on Poland and “territorial changes:” British Prime
Minister Winston Churchill made the first. The latter two are responses from Captain Alan Graham, Conservative Member from
Wirral and Geoffrey Mander, Liberal Member for Wolverhampton, East.
It would be affectation to pretend that the attitude of the British and, I believe, the United
States Governments towards Poland is identical with that of the Soviet Union. Every allowance must be made for the different
conditions of history and geography which govern the relationship of the Western democracies on the one hand and of the
Soviet Government on the other with the Polish nation. Marshal Stalin has repeatedly declared himself in favour of a strong
friendly Poland, sovereign and independent. In this our great Eastern Ally is in the fullest accord with His Majesty’s
Government and also, judging from American public statements, in the fullest accord with the United States. We in this Island
and throughout our Empire who drew the sword against mighty Germany, we who are the only great unconquered nation which
declared war on Germany on account of her aggression against Poland, have sentiments and duties towards Poland which deeply
stir the British race. Everything in our power has been and will be done to achieve, both in the letter and in the spirit,
the declared purposes towards Poland of the three great Allies.
Territorial changes on the frontiers of Poland there will have to be. Russia has a right to our support in this matter, because it is the Russian Armies which alone can deliver Poland from the German talons; and after all the Russian people have suffered at the hands of Germany they are entitled to safe frontiers and to have a friendly neighbour on their Western flank. All the more do I trust that the Soviet Government will make it possible for us to act unitedly with them in the solution of the Polish problem, and that we shall not witness the unhappy spectacle of rival Governments in Poland, one recognised by the Soviet Union and the other firmly adhered to by the Western Powers. I have fervent hopes that M. Mikołajczyk, the worthy successor of General Sikorski, a man firmly desirous of friendly understanding and settlement with Russia, and his colleagues may shortly resume those important conversations at Moscow which were interrupted some months ago.
It is my duty to impress upon the House the embarrassment to our affairs and the possible injury to Polish fortunes which might be caused by intemperate language about Polish and Russian relations in the course of this Debate. It is my firm hope, and also my belief, that a good arrangement will be achieved and that a united Polish Government will be brought into being, which will command the confidence of the three great Powers concerned and will assure for Poland those conditions of strength, sovereignty and independence which we have all three proclaimed as our aim and our resolve. Nothing is easier than to create by violent words a prospect far less hopeful than that which now opens before us. Hon. Members will take upon themselves a very grave responsibility if they embroil themselves precipitately in these controversies and thus mar the hopes we cherish of an honourable and satisfactory solution and settlement. We recognise our special responsibilities towards Poland, and I am confident that I can trust the House not to engage in language which would make our task harder.
We must never lose sight of our prime and overwhelming duty, namely, to bring about the speediest possible destruction of the Nazi power. We owe this to the soldiers, who are shedding their blood and giving their lives in the cause at this moment. They are shedding their blood in the effort to bring this fearful struggle in Europe to a close; and that must be our paramount task. Every problem—and there are many; they are as legion; they crop up in vast array—which now faces the nations of the world will present itself in a far easier and more adaptable form once the cannons have ceased to thunder in Europe and once the victorious Allies gather round the table of armistice or peace. I have every hope that wise and harmonious settlements will be made, in confidence and amity, between the great Powers, thus affording the foundations upon which to raise a lasting structure of European and world peace. I say these words on the Polish situation; and I am sure that our friends on both sides will realise how long and anxious has been the study which the Cabinet have given to this matter, how constantly we see representatives of the Poles, how frequent and intimate our correspondence is with Russia on this subject.
I cannot conceive that it is not possible to make a good solution whereby Russia gets the security which she is entitled to have, and which I have resolved that we shall do our utmost to secure for her, on her Western frontier, and, at the same time, the Polish nation have restored to them that national sovereignty and independence, for which, across centuries of oppression and struggle, they have never ceased to strive.
It is in that spirit that we should approach the Russian-Polish problem. Both these heroic nations
are Allies of ours, and both of them are publicly pledged, as we are, to recognition of the rights of small nations to
independence and genuine self-government. But it all depends on us British. We cannot abdicate from our position as defenders
of European civilisation; it depends on us to see that it is in that spirit of the European community that the Russian-Polish
problem should be solved, since there can be no possible future peace for Europe if genuine Polish independence were to be
crushed, directly or indirectly, by Russia. Russia’s best security against any future aggression from Germany or the West is
a friendly and independent Poland. Marshal Stalin himself has declared that he wishes for such a Poland, and it is devoutly
to be trusted that those who carry out his policy will carry that into effect. Such a friendly Poland Russia can have for the
asking if only she will abstain from interfering in internal Polish politics, and if she will not override the national
feeling of all true Poles by imposing upon them the authority of, and lending Russian power to, the completely
unrepresentative Council of National Liberation sitting in Lublin. Surely the martyred, heroic citizens of Warsaw have earned
the gratitude and respect of all their Allies for their epic struggle in the last few months against the Germans. Have not
such heroes earned the right, above all men, to be masters of their own destiny? What would the world think of Russia if,
after the entry of Russian troops into Warsaw, such heroes as the defenders of that city were placed in concentration camps
or deported to Kaluga or Siberia?
Russia now has the greatest chance she has ever had of solving this Polish question and of assuring herself for all time of Polish friendship by helping the Poles to rid themselves of their only real enemies—the Germans—and also by themselves abstaining from interference in Polish internal politics. Ninety-nine percent of the Poles in this country and in Poland know that Russian friendship is indispensable to their own security, and the Poles are prepared to work for that end. But in return Russia must leave the Poles free to manage their own future. While His Majesty’s Government deserve the thanks of the whole world for their unremitting efforts to try and resolve this problem I think we all must be on our guard against offending the Polish nation in Poland by appearing to pick and choose one Polish politician rather than another. If fate says that Poland is to dig her political grave let her by all means dig it herself, but let it never be said that we put our arm behind the spade. Let her also show her own capacity of achieving agreement with Russia. We cannot, however, escape our duty, as a Western Christian nation, of standing up resolutely for the ideals for which we have fought. Among those ideals is the right of a small nation to continue her own existence, just as in a democracy we stand for the rights of every individual, however humble or however small.
Reply from Geoffrey Mander:
I cannot help thinking that the Prime Minister gave some very wise advice to the House as to the
spirit in which Members should approach some of the difficult questions facing us at the present time. First, I would like to
say a word or two about Poland. I am convinced that the Government are doing everything they possibly can to resolve this
difficult problem and bring the three great Allies into greater unity. The situation has undoubtedly improved, and there
seems to be a real prospect, on the lines the Prime Minister suggested, that agreement may be reached. I think the wisest
course, so far as Poland is concerned, is to trust in the wise, patient, far-seeing and statesmanlike attitude of the Polish
Prime Minister, M. Mikolajczyk, to trust his cooperation with the three great Allies to bring to fruition the efforts that
are being made to solve the Polish problem.
It is not disputed that unconditional surrender is the policy we desire to see imposed on our enemies, but I think there is a feeling that the moment might come when it would be desirable to make a declaration to our enemies in order to counteract Goebbels’ propaganda, and to give some indication as to what the situation might be after the unconditional surrender. It should be made clear that it does not mean massacre or sterilisation, or anything of that kind, and I hope the Government, when the right moment comes, will not fail to take the opportunity of reassuring the German people and counteracting some of the extreme propaganda that is being put forward on that subject. (Hansard 1803-2005)
September 30, 1944
Polish President Raczkiewicz relieved General Sosnkowski of his duties. Sosnkowski’s farewell order included:
Polish soldiers, disregarding the toll in blood and sacrifice, you have given the Government all that the armed forces could give to defend the interests of the Republic. I understand very well that in 1939 our nation was the first to oppose the Germans, if the fjords of Norway, the sands of Africa, the mountains of Italy and the fields of France, the plains of Belgium and Holland witnessed our fighting, if Warsaw still fights amongst the ruins and a sea of flame, it was not to see Poland at the end of the war being presented with a demand to resign the rights of sovereignty she possessed when five years ago she took her stand against aggression beside the allied nations. (WA)
October 1, 1944
General McCreery, former Commander of the X British Army Corps, took command of the British Eighth Army after General Leese transferred to Burma. (WA)
October 2, 1944
In a telegram to President Raczkiewicz, Anders wrote:
… the withdrawal of General Sosnkowski was considered by all the soldiers as a concession to the Soviets… the soldiers reject every thought of a possible organisation of a Polish Government under Russian occupation, with the participation of traitors and Soviet agents… We all trust that you will not allow further concession which would being about complete capitulation. The soldiers also have faith in British and American friendship, but they do not trust the Soviets and reject any idea of penetration by the agents of the Soviet Government whose schemes and final aims are obvious. (WA)
Raczkiewicz appointed prisoner of war, the former Commander-in-Chief of the Underground Army in Warsaw General Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski, as Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Armed Forces. Bor-Komorowski had surrendered to the Germans after the loss of the Warsaw rising and still in captivity at the time.
Otcober 3, 1944
Warsaw, early afternoon
A statement from General Bór-Komorowski was released:
Having exhausted all means of fighting and all resources Warsaw has fallen on the 63rd day of the heroic struggle against the crushing odds of the enemy. At 20.00 hours on the 2nd October the last reports of shots in Warsaw died away. (WA)
The general military situation:
The Allied offensive:
- In the west had led to the occupation of Belgium, Luxembourg and most of France;
- In the east, Russia occupied Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and had approached the frontiers of East Prussia;
- In Poland, Soviet troops had reached the middle reaches of the Vistula, occupied Rumania and entered Yugoslavia, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
The Germans had:
- Retreated from Greece;
- German towns were being systematically bombed to ruins by the Allied air force.
On the Italian front:
- “about ten German divisions still faced the Eighth Army;”
- “… the American Fifth Army, after forcing the passes of the Apennines against heavy opposition, had been brought to a standstill by the German reserves;”
- “The Eighth Army, operating on the shores of the Adriatic with heavy fighting in the region of Rimini, had reached the Rubicon…” (end of September);
- Eighth Army headquarters had put the II Polish Army Corps on the west flank of their sector, “in order to threaten the enemy with an out-flanking movement in the mountains, and thus obtain a decisive success on the shores of the Adriatic.” (The Poles’ new sector was mountainous, deeply ravined with rushing streams and, besides “winding mule tracks,” without roads.);
- The 10th Indian Division (part of the V British Army Corps) was on the Poles’ eastern flank;
- The American Fifth Army was on the Poles’ western flank;
- In front of the II Polish Army Corps were the 365th and 305th German Grenadier Division.
The objective assigned to the 5th (Kresy) Division was to take:
- Monte Grosso, south of the Strada Predappio road and
- Monte Piero north of that road. (WA)
October 17, 1944
The attack was launched in the evening. It “took the Germans by surprise, for they knew nothing of the arrival of the Polish troops in the sector.” (WA)
October 22, 1944
Poles took Monte Grosso and established a bridgehead on the Rabbi river, near Strada Predappio. (To get a feel for the terrain, see http://www.360cities.net/image/rabbi-italy-river#0.00,0.00,70.0)
October 24, 1944
The Germans withdrew to Ronco and General McCreery telegraphed his congratulations to the Polish Corps “on the capture of the Monte Mirabello-Monte Colombo ridge despite such difficult conditions.” (WA)
October 26, 1944
The 5th (Kresy) Division took the heights of Mirabello and Colombo. (WA)
Next 10 days
The 5th (Kresy) Division advanced 20 kilometres “through very difficult mountain country.” (WA)
The next task for the II Polish Army Corps was to:
- Carry out a deep-flanking movement, taking the Caminate hills and opening the way out for the V British Army Corps to cut the road No. 9 between Forli and Faenza.
End October 1944
Five of the 10 German divisions remained facing the Eighth Army.
- “… Germans moved the other formations to the western sector to protect Bologna,
threatened by the American Fifth Army’s attack on Florence.”
- Their reduction in strength made the Germans change their tactics to delaying and counter-attacking, but no more “stubborn defensive actions.” (WA)
The weeks that followed
For the II Polish Army Corps, there were “no spectacular achievements; it was just a case of steady, relentless fighting…” (WA)
November 1, 1944
The 3rd Carpathian Division:
- Took the Caminate heights,
- Concentrated in the area south of Monte Chioda, then
- Took Monte Trebbio and Gattone. (WA)
November 8, 1944
The 12th Lancers:
- Reached Dovadola and
- Met detachments of 5th Division “entering from the other side.”
November 12, 1944
Units of the 5th (Kresy) Division crossed the Salutare at Pieve (Pieve Salutare) and Castrocaro (Castrocaro Terme) and reached Bagnola on the western bank of the river. (WA)
December 16, 1944
The New Zealand Division enters Faenza.
December 17, 1944
Telegram from General McCreery:
My best congratulations to you and your 3rd Carpathian Division on your successful operations in difficult country, which have driven back the enemy to the Senio on a wide front with heavy losses. The mounting of this attack with the great lack of roads in your area was a fine achievement. Engineers and gunners deserve every credit. Well done indeed.(WA)
End December 1944
The Eighth Army reaches the Senio river.
© Barbara Scrivens, 2014
Updated May 2019