1st Polish Armored Division
1 Dywizja Pancerna
Birth of the first Polish Armored Division
The 1st Armored Division was born with the creation in 1939 of the 10th Polish Armored Brigade.
Despite strong resistance to German forces at the beginning of the Second World War, Polish troops are forced to surrender to the enemy, but some soldiers manage to escape to Britain. Among them is the chief of the armored brigade, General Stanislaw Maczek.
Supported by the British who equip in arms and vehicles the few Polish soldiers who reached England, the brigade gradually reformed and became the 1st armored division, commanded by Maczek. The Poles will train intensively in preparation for the Operation Overlord and the opening of the front to the west of Europe.
Battle of Normandy
The 1st Polish Armored Division is in charge of reinforcing the divisions already present in Normandy during July 1944, while the British are trying to progress towards Falaise and the Americans are heading towards Brittany.
The Poles are under the command of the 2nd Canadian Corps, commanded by General Simonds and operating south of Caen. As the Allied advance progressed in Normandy, the Poles accompanied the Canadians in the Falaise area, while the post general Patton progressed from the south. The Germans find themselves encircled in a pocket that the Allies wish to close. The first Polish armored division participated in the closure of the now famous “Falaise pocket”, in the region of Trun and progressed towards the town of Chambois. The Germans, who tried to leave the pocket, are shelled day and night and the losses are very high.
On August 19, 1944, the junction took place between the Polish troops of the 1st Armored Division and the soldiers belonging to the 3rd Army of General Patton. Overlooking the Chambois region and the Vimoutiers road from Hill 262, the Poles are relentlessly bombarding the German columns, but they are counterattacking towards the fortified positions of the 1st Polish Armored Division.
After heavy fighting, the German divisions abandoned their counter-attacks to Hill 262 in part because of Allied artillery support bombardments.
End of 1944 and 1945
After the Battle of Normandy, the 1st Polish Armored Division is sent to Belgium and Holland to retreat the German armies. Furious fighting takes place in the vicinity of Breda in Holland, but the Polish forces valiantly repel all German counter-attacks and obtain the surrender of many soldiers.
The 1st Armored Division made its last offensive during the Battle of Wilhelmshaven, which resulted in a total Polish victory.
After the Allied victory of May 8, 1945, Polish soldiers who had fought in Western Europe were forbidden to stay in their home country because they had seen the Western way of life. Communist governments set up by the Soviets after the end of the Second World War refused until the fall of the Soviet regime in 1990 the return of Polish soldiers to Poland.