The men of the Polish 4th Infantry Division arrived in Plymouth from France on June 21, 1940, exhausted but still unbroken. Their homeland had been defeated in September 1939, while France, which had helped raise a Free Polish army, was now also crushed by the German war machine. The division was led by the iron-willed Colonel Sosabowski. A hero of Warsaw’s defence, he had escaped from occupied Poland to France to be given command of the unit, which was still in training when the Germans invaded.
Ending up at Leven, Fife, the unit was reduced in size when the bulk of its non-commissioned men were transferred to the Polish 1 Rifle Brigade. Sosabowski’s response was to form an elite parachute brigade, which became vital to national interests after the Soviet Union was invaded in June 1941.
Should the Red Army eventually push the Germans back, the Poles knew Stalin would seek to impose Soviet control across their county. But if a Polish unit backed by Britain was landed on the ground, then the underground Home Army could align with it and, working together, help reinstate the government-in-exile. This in turn would help check Stalin’s ambitions – or so the theory went.
Although the use of parachutists in war was still in its relevant infancy, the Poles already had a great deal of practical knowledge to call upon. Several training towers had been built across Poland during the 1930s and a military parachute school established just before the outbreak of war. A number of top Polish instructors had reached Britain and were soon passing on their experience at the British Army’s parachute training centre at Ringway air base, near Manchester.
Sosabowski’s men were soon thrown into an exhaustive training programme to toughen them up. A jump tower was constructed at Leven and the Poles also attended courses at Ringway. Proper training jumps, however, were irregular due to the shortage of aircraft. Despite the difficulties, progress was rapid and the First Polish Independent Parachute Brigade (PIPB) was officially born on 23 September 1941.
One of Sosabowski’s priorities was to foster good relations with the British, particularly with the commander of the 1st Airborne Division, Maj Gen Frederick ‘Boy’ Browning (later Lt General and Deputy Commander of the 1st Allied Airborne Army). Browning had a strong First World War record, but his practical experience of parachuting and modern warfare was minimal to say the least; his skills lay in the subtle and often unforgiving game of army politics. Browning was particularly keen to gain overall command of the PIPB and made no secret of this, leading to several awkward incidents with Sosabowski. But overall, relations between the Poles and the British were first class. ‘At all levels,’ Sosabowski recalled, ‘we made lots of friends, not only with the British Army but also with the Royal Air Force’.
In the meantime, the PIPB was struggling with a manpower shortage. A major boost in numbers occurred when Stalin released thousands of Poles rounded up by the Soviets in eastern Poland from 1939-1941. The Polish ‘amnesty’, as the Russians termed it, was not an altruistic move: reeling under the hammer blows of Operation Barbarossa, the Soviet Union was keen to curry favour with and secure supplies from the British, who still backed the Polish cause. One of those freed was Antoni Fedorowicz.
Antoni came from eastern Poland, which had fallen under Russian control under the terms of the Nazi-Soviet pact. His father had worked for the Polish state as a humble forester, which was excuse enough for the Russians to round the family up and sentence them all to the gulags. Only two sisters who had married and taken different surnames slipped through the net. Along with relatives who had survived the hell of the camps, Antoni was released under the ‘amnesty’. However, his grandmother and uncle had died because of the brutal conditions. Antoni tried twice to enlist with the Polish Air Force but was turned down on each occasion due to an ear condition. Looking for a glamorous alternative, he decided to join the parachute brigade instead. By now the PIPB comprised three infantry battalions with mortars and anti-tank squads. There were other units too, including a medical company and a supply group.
In 1944, Britain was facing its own manpower shortage and the Polish government-in-exile was put under immense pressure to place the PIPB under Browning’s command. On 6 June, with the D-Day landings in full swing, the Poles relented.
Sosabowski’s Poles left Scotland at the start of July for barracks in the English midlands, where the bulk of the Allied airborne army was mustered. Before going, the unit’s battle flag – made at great risk in Warsaw and smuggled out in spring 1944 – was officially presented at parade. The flag was a direct link to the capital of Poland and its people. For Sosabowski it was a double celebration as his promotion to Major General had just come into effect.
At the start of August, news filtered through that the Polish underground army had initiated an uprising against the Germans in Warsaw as the Red Army neared the city. The very moment for which the PIPB was created had finally arrived, but Britain turned Polish requests for action down. The risk of transporting the brigade was deemed too high. The other, unvoiced factor was a British fear of angering Stalin, who had broken off relations with the Free Poles and had his own plans for the future of post war Poland. Famously, no moves were made by the Red Army to relieve Warsaw, allowing the Germans to brutally crush fierce Polish resistance by 2 October. Watching from the sidelines, the pain, despair and frustration of the PIPB ran deep. ‘Can you imagine our bitterness and inner defeat?’ Sosabowski later asked.
Race to the Reich
It would be fair to say that the speed of the Normandy breakout, the liberation of Paris, and the race into the Low Countries almost took the Allies by as much surprise as it did the Germans. But with supply lines stretched, which approach would be taken in attacking the Reich proper? Montgomery secured the backing of Allied High Command with an uncharacteristically daring plan to flank the Germans via the Netherlands. In simple terms, Market – the airborne phase of the operation – called for the American 101 ‘Screaming Eagles’ and the 82nd Airborne to secure bridges at Eindhoven, Grave and Nijmegen. At the same time, the British 1st Airborne Division – led by Maj Gen Robert Urquhart – would clear Arnhem and capture the town’s bridge over the Lower Rhine. D-Day was set for 17 September.
As soon as the paratroopers started to land, British XXX Corps would begin its advance towards the Rhine in the Garden phase. Planners estimated its vanguard would reach Arnhem on D-Day +2. The PIPB was scheduled to drop south of the ArnhemBridge on 19 September, just as XXX Corps began its final approach. They would cross the Rhine and deploy east of Arnhem. The unit’s anti-tank squadron would arrive in two phases via the British landing zones west of Oosterbeek on September 18 and 19. Much depended on the Germans making a half-hearted response. Time and again Sosabowski warned against complacency, but the British generals – convinced they would be facing second-rate opponents manning third-rate positions – gave his arguments short shrift.
The operation at Arnhem ran into trouble almost immediately. German resistance was tougher than expected – many of the so-called second-rate soldiers turned out to be well-equipped veterans from SS Panzer Divisions. Another key failure was the total breakdown in radio and signals. By the morning of D-Day +1, 18 September, very little was known about 1stAirborne’s progress.
On the same day, the first Polish anti-tank contingent – in charge of a handful of six-pounder guns – arrived at the landing zones almost without incident. Accompanying them was a party responsible for working with British headquarters, including Captain Ludwik Zwolanski, a Polish liaison officer to 1stAirborne Division. The team soon had their guns limbered up and moving towards Oosterbeek. The road on which they travelled was dotted with British and German corpses, a reminder – if any was needed – that this was no exercise. Arriving at 1st Airborne Division headquarters, based in the Hotel Hartenstein just off the Utrechtseweg, the Poles were told to prepare their guns in the immediate vicinity. Apart from a battalion led by Lt Col John Frost, which was locked in a heroic struggle to hold the north end of the Rhine Bridge, the drive to Arnhem had faltered and the British perimeter already under pressure.
The rest of the PIPB readied for action on 19 September. The weather, however, was terrible: thick fog blanketed the airfields and refused to clear. The drop was called off. It was to be one of many cancellations and Sosabowski vividly recalled the bitter frustration: ‘Men cursed loudly, repetitively, venomously. Others screwed their faces near to tears with disappointment.’
But a breakthrough in the weather occurred further to the south, allowing the glider lift – including those carrying the Polish anti-tank squadron – to get underway. Unfortunately, several enemy radar stations were still operational in the besieged port towns on the Channel coast and these were able to forward warnings of the lift to German High Command. They then alerted anti-aircraft units in the area and the Luftwaffe, which was still able to launch stinging attacks if delivered at the right time and place.
Nearing the landing zone – the fields of Johannahoeve farm – the Poles realised they were in serious trouble when ground fire and bursts of shrapnel from flak shells ripped into their wooden craft. A flight of Messerschmitt fighters then roared into attack, shredding several gliders with cannon fire. To make matters worse, German ground forces were attacking the landing zones. Casualties were heavy and only three Polish anti-tank guns were brought out of the maelstrom; their teams and the other survivors went on to fight in the desperate battle for the Oosterbeek pocket.
With 1st Airborne unable to punch its way through to Arnhem, the Poles awoke early on 20 September to find their plans completely changed. Sosabowski’s men would now be dropped near the village of Driel, close to the south bank of the Rhine. The Poles would wait for the arrival of the Driel-Heveadorp ferry, which was said to be in British hands. They would then be shuttled into battle to help maintain 1st Airborne’s positions in and around Oosterbeek. But the fog remained in place and led to another cancellation. Those in command were fearful of mid-air collisions, a very real danger and one that the Poles had tragically experienced a few months beforehand when, on a training flight, two Dakotas collided leading to loss of all on board both aircraft.
With more time to consider the plan, nagging doubts understandably arose in Sosabowski's mind: were the British sure the ferry was in 1st Airborne’s possession? The British liaison officer, Stevens, informed Sosabowski early on 21 September that the ferry was secure according to the latest signal from the Hotel Hartenstein (communications, albeit temperamental, had been established). Unfortunately, Urquhart was being economical with the truth: a British reconnaissance patrol had inspected the boat the night before and this was all. By dawn 21 September, the ferry was missing – presumed sunk by the enemy. In fact, the ferry had been allowed to drift downriver by its captain who had feared the Germans would utilise it.
Unaware their mission was compromised, 114 Dakotas finally took off at on 21 September in poor weather carrying the bulk of the PIPB towards Driel. Soon after take-off, and fearing the weather conditions would lead to accidents, controllers decided to issue a recall order. Transporting almost one third of the men, 41 aircraft received this signal and returned to base. Only 950 paratroops would now be dropping at Driel.
The PIPB arrived over the drop zone at under intense flak. In each Dakota the ‘sticks’ of men stood up, ordered themselves and, burdened with equipment, then hooked up their lines and waited. As soon as the jump light turned green, each man would shuffle forward, face the flat rush of air and then leap. As their chutes opened and the men drifted towards the ground, they could hear the angry buzz of rising small arms fire and see the lazy arcs of tracers approaching and then whipping past. Many of the Poles had to grapple with enemy units immediately on landing. However, their superior training and skills enabled them to swiftly neutralise their opponents.
Antoni Fedorowicz’s jump had not gone according to plan. Now a signalman, the radio he carried was his most essential piece of equipment. ‘But I had forgotten my gloves and the rope slipped through my fingers and burnt my hands. I could not keep a grip on the set,’ he recalled. The radio fell to earth and was destroyed on impact. Despite the inauspicious start, Fedorowicz landed well and, along with his close friend, Private Nowak, struck out for their assembly point.
As his brigade formed up, Sosabowski established a command position in a nearby apple orchard. There he was informed about the recall order and also told that Urquhart’s HQ had yet to acknowledge Polish radio calls. In the meantime, Cora Baltussen, a Dutch civilian, had plucked up the courage to meet her newly-arrived liberators. She was soon ushered into the presence of Sosabowski, who promptly asked about the ferry. It had gone, Baltussen replied.
Sosabowski had the PIPB move to Driel as intended. A reconnaissance party was sent on to explore the river bank. It noted that the ferry was indeed missing, while their effort to attract British attention on the north bank was rewarded with an unhealthy dose of German machine gun fire.
Setting up his headquarters at an old farmhouse, Sosabowski began to assess the situation. He was interrupted by the arrival of Captain Zwolanski, the liaison officer to 1st Airborne, who had swum the Rhine naked in order to reach his comrades. Zwolanski reported that Urquhart was having rafts prepared to get the Poles across and then bravely volunteered to swim back across the Rhine that night and deliver Sosabowski’s confirmation. Unfortunately, the rafts were desperate affairs. Lacking material, British engineers tried to convert ammunition trailers into boats, which promptly sank on being placed in the water. Those Poles who had been sent by Sosabowski to await the arrival of these ‘rafts’ returned disappointed to Driel as dawn started to break.
The enemy had not been idle while the PIPB formed up, and an increase in the volume of German artillery and mortar fire throughout the morning of September 22 heralded a future attack. The Poles wisely got on with fortifying their positions.
Antoni Fedorowicz’s unit had taken cover in an orchard when enemy mortars began to fall. One shell fragment tore into Private Nowak’s stomach, leaving him mortally wounded and crying out for morphine. Fedorowicz pressed himself into the earth when ‘something then hit my back; I thought I had been hit by shrapnel and started to pray’. He scrabbled around to see how bad the wound was: nothing. The object that struck him was merely an apple shaken from its tree. Nowak was then brought in, while Fedorowicz – although devastated at his friend’s fate – continued with his duty.
As the shells fell, Sosabowski realised it was high time a link with the advancing XXX Corps was made and so sent out a party to make contact. Meanwhile, the supply company busied themselves gathering containers fallen in the initial landings. Included in their finds were three dinghies for use by aircrews if they were forced to crash land at sea.
Using a lady’s bike, Sosabowski decided to tour his troops and inspect their positions. As the Poles cheered their commander and his unusual mode of transport, a British recon unit from XXX Corps approached. Led by Lieutenant Arthur Young, the unit comprised three armoured cars and had luckily avoided being engaged by the Germans in the nearby village of Elst. The arrival of this troop and its communications equipment allowed Sosabowski to inform Lt-Gen Horrocks, commander of XXX Corps, of the PIPB’s situation.
But with good news came bad: the Germans now started to attack in force, supported by half-tracks and, possibly, PzKw II tanks – although the evidence is sketchy. The Polish general raced over to the British armoured cars and asked for help. Lt Young was hesitant at first. His job, he explained, was to maintain radio contact with the 43rd Wessex Division, which was now spearheading the advance of XXX Corps. Sosabowski stressed the grave danger: now was not the time to hesitate. Young quickly agreed and the Pole hopped onto his bike, shouting that he would lead the way. Historically, it has to be one of the strangest ways a general has entered the fray: riding a lady’s bike, with an aide running beside him, while followed by armoured cars primed for action.
Approaching a nearby orchard one of the vehicles sighted a German half track and fired its two-pounder gun. To emphasise their presence, the British also blasted away with a heavy machine gun. It was enough to persuade the enemy to stay their attack. Sosabowski had gained some breathing space, although the Germans were to make continued probes, each of which had to be vigorously fought off and added to the PIPB’s growing casualty list.
With the perimeter holding, Sosabowski attempted to catch some badly-needed sleep. He was about to drop off when aides woke him: two British officers, Colonel Mackenzie (Urquhart’s chief of staff) and Lt-Col Myers (the chief engineer) had just arrived, having crossed the Rhine by dinghy. The pair informed Sosabowski that the British pocket at Oosterbeek was in danger of collapse and that re-enforcements were desperately needed. They suggested a line be extended between the banks of the river and a ‘shuttle service’ set up using the dinghies in Polish hands and a number that could be supplied by the British. Sosabowski agreed and ordered one of his companies to prepare for the crossing.
River of blood
British Sherman tanks from XXX Corps reached Polish positions as evening approached. They were closely followed by an advance guard of British infantry and two DUKW amphibious vehicles stocked with supplies. Unfortunately, their machines proved too heavy for the soggy terrain and sank deep into the mud when driven down towards the Rhine. The Germans had also beefed up the number of heavy machine guns on either side of the Oosterbeek pocket and were soon ‘firing at anything that was put into the water’, according to Antoni Fedorowicz. By – when the operation was called to a halt – only one boat was left afloat. Just over 50 Poles had made it across.
As night turned to day, enemy fire on Polish positions remained heavy and constant. A British liaison officer from XXX Corps then arrived and informed Sosabowski that the Poles were expected to try another effort at crossing the Rhine. Boats of somewhat dubious quality were eventually supplied, although their arrival was ponderously slow. At around with precious hours already lost, Polish paratroopers lugged these boats over the mudflats and down to the banks of the river. Keeping a close watch on the Rhine, it was not long before the Germans strafed the river again.
And in the hail of lead, more Polish blood was spilt.
Sosabowski watched the unfolding horror from a point near the Driel dyke that was also under heavy fire. It was clear his men were caught in a death trap and, although some boats were managing to cross, too many troops were being struck down to make the operation viable. The Polish general raced down to the river bank and ordered his men retire. Despite fearsome losses, around 200 Poles made it to the Oosterbeek pocket. One area where they were able to make a particular impression was at the crossroads of Utrechtse Weg-Station Weg. Here the street fighting was tough and, at many points, no quarter given or expected.
Following the bitter frustrations of the night before, Sosabowski was pleasantly surprised by the arrival of Lt-General Horrocks, on the morning of September 24. Both men discussed the tenuous situation of 1st Airborne, with Sosabowski suggesting that the 43rd Wessex Division and the Poles attempt to cross the Rhine several miles downriver from Driel, where enemy opposition would be less strident.
Later that day, Sosabowski met Horrocks for a second time at a conference near Valburg, five miles south of Driel. Other top staff present included Maj Gen Thomas, the commander of the 43rd Wessex Division, and Browning (who had arrived near Nijmegen on September 21, transporting his HQ in 38 gliders that would have been far better suited to bringing in fighting units).
Entering a large tent, the British sat on one side of a conference table and motioned for Sosabowski to sit opposite. No chair was made available for Sosabowski’s English interpreter, Jerzy Dyrda. The Polish general was informed one of his battalions was to be seconded to Thomas’ command and would follow the 4th Dorsets Battalion in another attempt to cross at the same site where the Poles had already lost so many men. Justifiably, Sosabowski was far from happy that one of his battalions had been removed from his command without prior discussion. However, he set this point aside and tried to emphasise just how dangerous the plan was. Again he proposed an effort be made to cross the Rhine further downriver.
In response, Maj Gen Thomas simply reiterated the initial orders.
Sosabowski now rose to his feet and, speaking in English, tried one last time to emphasise the futility of the campaign if no efforts were made to seek a sounder course of action. ‘[For] eight days and nights not only Polish soldiers but also the best sons of England are dying there in vain, for no effect,’ he added. The British generals remained stony-faced, while Horrocks called the meeting to a close: ‘The conference is over. The orders given by General Thomas will be carried out.’ Dyrda realised that the British generals had intentionally angered his commander. ‘This strange conference,’ he later wrote, ‘was only intended to provoke him… They could [then] argue that Sosabowski's well-known independence and unyieldingness made it impossible to organise an efficient help for the airborne forces on the northern bank of the Rhine.’
Browning had stayed sombrely quiet at Valburg and the historian Buckingham plausibly argues that both he, Horrocks and Thomas knew that the 1st Airborne was to be evacuated anyway. The decision to send over the Dorsets and Poles was simply a case of ‘going through the motions to avoid being blamed’, Buckingham wrote.
After the 'conference', Browning invited Sosabowski for lunch at his in Nijmegen HQ. Leaving Dyrda at the junior mess, the Polish general returned an hour later in an excited state. Still seething from the ‘conference’, Sosabowski was shocked when Browning admitted the operation that night would probably fail. The Englishman also confessed that the additional boats needed to cross the Rhine were struggling to get through the heavy traffic on the road leading through Nijmegen. For Sosabowski it was the final straw and he voiced his opinion on the matter in the frankest of terms. ‘I fear that my forthrightness hurt Browning’s feelings, for he quickly indicated the end of our conversation,’ he later wrote.
One shred of good fortune for Sosabowski when he returned to Driel was the arrival of those troops affected by the recall order on 19 September. They had landed at Grave a few days later and managed to hitch lifts all the way to Driel (making Browning’s assertion about total gridlock roads somewhat suspect). Comparatively fresh, Sosabowski decided the new arrivals would follow the British over the river.
Later that night, the Dorsets made their attempt to cross. Unsurprisingly, the effort rapidly turned into a bloodbath and the operation was quickly called to a halt. It was now decided to initiate the evacuation of the Oosterbeek pocket – codenamed Operation Berlin. In charge of transportation were newly-arrived Canadian engineers, equipped with boats powered by outboard motors. A heavy downpour began on the evening of 25 September, making the movement of British and Polish troops heading to the north bank of the river for evacuation less susceptible to being detected. The Canadians worked bravely under fire until the first light of dawn and it was largely due to their sterling efforts that Operation Berlin was a success.
The cost of Arnhem had been enormous: out of 12,000 men, 1,485 were killed and 6,500 captured. One third of the latter were wounded. Included in this number were the Poles. As a unit the PIPB had been mauled, with 400 men listed as casualties, 23% of its officers and 22% of its other ranks. In total, 93 men had been killed, while others had been captured during the defence of Oosterbeek. It was only until mid-October that the PIPB was taken out of the line and allowed to return to the UK for a well-earned rest.
The wake of defeat
With failure came recrimination, and several British generals unfairly tarred the PIPB and its commander as a source of defeat. In a letter dated 17 October, Montgomery wrote to the CIGS, Alan Brooke, criticising the PIPB’s performance and demanding Sosabowski be replaced. But how he could have formed this opinion, given that he was nowhere near Driel during the campaign, remains unclear.
Browning’s attempt to smear the Polish general’s name was nothing short of libellous. In a letter dated 20 November to the deputy CIGS, Lt Gen Sir Ronald Weeks, he declared the Polish general unfit for command and also raised doubts over the capability of the PIPB. In one sentence he added: ‘This officer [Sosabowski] proved himself to be quite incapable of appreciating the urgent nature of the operation, and continually showed himself to be argumentative and loathe to play his full part.’
These are words from a man who had disregarded key intelligence and underestimated his enemy; a man who had never been near to Driel during the fighting and had failed, utterly, to push Horrocks into speeding up XXX Corps’ effort to reach and then cross the Rhine. Like Montgomery, Browning requested that Sosabowski be replaced. Desperate to maintain haemorrhaging British support, the Polish government-in-exile acquiesced, with Sosabowski relieved of his command just after Christmas 1944. For the men of the PIPB it was an earth-shattering blow.
The PIPB went on to join the British army in Germany at the close of the war, before being demobilised in 1947. Most of its men settled in the UK, their sacrifices all but forgotten by the British public. Sosabowski also settled in England and was joined by his wife and son once the war ended. However, his fortunes took a turn for the worse after losing the bulk of his savings through poor investment decisions. To make ends meet, he took a manual job at an electrics assembly plant in Acton.
When reunions came around, Sosabowski was more than happy to take part in celebrations. Peter Stainforth, British Arnhem veteran and author of Wings of the Wind, was once invited to a PIPB function and met Sosabowski – ‘a ‘courteous and charming man’. As Polish etiquette dictates, it was not long before the toasts started. ‘As the evening progressed and the drinks flowed, my rank increased from Captain, to Major, then to Colonel!’
Sosabowski’s memoirs were published in English in 1960 as Freely I Served. Later on, with the release of further historical reappraisals, the PIPB slowly took their rightful place in the story of the Arnhem campaign. Sadly, Sosabowski was unable to witness the fruits of this, dying in 1967. In 1969 his remains were interned in his beloved Warsaw.
For the British soldiers who fought at Arnhem and Oosterbeek, the bravery and sacrifice of the Poles and their commander was never in doubt. On a plaque next to the memorial to Sosabowski erected at Driel in 2006 a message from them reads: ‘The British veterans of Arnhem have raised this memorial to record their enduring admiration for an inspiring commander a fearless fighter for freedom and a great Polish hero.’
The Netherlands gave official recognition to the PIPB in the same year, with Queen Beatrix personally awarding the brigade the Militaire Willemsorde and the Bronze Lion to Sosabowski. But more important than the medals, awards and statues is the gratitude of the Dutch people. Each year, without fail, they remember the sacrifice of those who fought and died in Operation Market Garden, including the Poles. And Dutch children, unlike many of their British counterparts, are taught about these men – some of whom, like Antoni Fedorowicz, were not much older than they – and why they had to sacrifice so much. In this respect, the PIPB's defeat at Driel was, in the long run, a victory more precious than martial accolades. Their painful sacrifice on the banks of the River Rhine will inspire new generations not just from Poland but from across the globe.
Buckingham, W, Arnhem 1944, Tempus, 2004
Cholewczynski, George F, Poles apart: the Polish airborne at the Battle of Arnhem, Greenhill, 1993
October 1939: Polish nationals outside the London embassy preparing to register for armed service. Manpower was a perennial problem for Sosabowski, although the PIPB was often a popular choice among the Free Poles. Given its mission, it was seen as the shortest way home.
Deputy Prime Minister (and future Prime Minister) Clement Attlee visits the PIPB and gets kitted out! Sosabowski is on the right.
Finger on the trigger
On exercise in Scotland. Polish parachute training was highly developed before war broke out and Sosabowki naturally gravitated towards an airborne unit given the manpower constraits he faced. Highly-trained, well-motivated the unit was soon considered a vital component in Polish plans for the fight to liberate the motherland.
Time to go
Leslie Illingworth's Punch cartoon for 16 August 1944 (click to enlarge). Following the Normandy breakout, the Germans had been thrown pell-mell back into the Low Countries. Lacking motorised transport, the anti-tank gun in the hay wagon is not that far removed from the truth.
September 21 1944: Polish paratroops board their Dakota aircraft and prepare for the flight into battle.
In the field
Sosabowski at Driel. This tough and tenacious Pole repeatedly warned his British counterparts about the dangerous flaws contained within their plans for Arnhem. He was also concerned at their almost contemptuous attitude towards the enemy. 'The Germans, what about the Germans?' was one of his frequent refrains at planning meetings.
Polish troops dug in at Driel. Preparing defensive positions quickly was vital for the PIPB's survival as the Germans were quick to counter attack.
The PIPB and XXX Corps made a tenuous link up on 22 September with the arrival of British armoured cars commanded by Lt Young. These vehicles helped stave off a concerted German attack, with Sosabowski leading the way riding a lady's bike.
The Oosterbeek and Arnhem CWGC cemetery is also the final resting place of 73 Poles. Pictured here in the immediate post-war years, the cemetery remains in immaculate condition. For the Dutch, it is a place to pay respects and give heartfelt thanks to those who paid the supreme sacrifice for their freedom.