A CAMPAIGN has been launched to honour a Polish hero who settled in the Capital after the end of the Second World War.
General Stanisław Maczek was the commander of the famous 1st Polish Armoured Division and played a crucial role in the Allied liberation of France, taking part in the D-Day landings and the decisive Battle of the Falaise Pocket.
But after the war, the brave General was stripped of Polish citizenship by his country’s incoming Communist government, compelling him to stay in Scotland.
And as the British government did not consider him to be an Allied soldier, he was also refused a military pension in the UK and even denied combatant rights – forcing him to work as a barman in the Learmonth Hotel until the 1960s in order to scrape a living.
But now Highland MSP Jean Urquhart has called for a permanent memorial to General Maczek to be erected in Scotland in tribute to the snubbed hero, who died in 1994 at the grand age of 102.
At present there is only a small blue plaque outside his old Marchmont family home to mark his life, but memorials to the soldier – who was revered by both Field Marshall Montgomery and Winston Churchill – stand in both Holland and Poland.
Ms Urquhart said: “General Maczek was an exceptional man who lived an extraordinary life, but he was never really recognised here when he was alive.”
And the MSP’s call has received the backing of key figures in Edinburgh, with Marchmont councillor Sandy Howat insisting he was “absolutely, 100 per cent” behind the drive.
He added: “I have always had huge respect for what people did during the Second World War, fighting against the Nazis and liberating Scotland and the rest of the world.”
At the outbreak of war in September 1939, General Maczek was in command of the Polish 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade and led his troops in an intense five-day battle with the invading Nazi forces, slowing the pace of the German advance to a crawl.
And just a few months later, in 1940, he and his men launched a night-time assault on Nazi forces in the French town of Montbard, taking the Germans by surprise and securing a number of prisoners.
But the men were later forced to retreat on foot when supporting French units failed to give them back-up.
In June 1944 General Maczek – by this time the commander of the Polish 1st Armoured Division – took part in the Normandy landings and the Battle of the Falaise Pocket, culminating in the destruction of 14 German Wehrmacht and SS divisions. The war hero was finally recognised by his native Poland in 1989, when Prime Minister Mieczysław Rakowski issued him with a public apology – and in 1994 he was presented with Poland’s highest state decoration, the Order of the White Eagle.
Gold cross of merit for boleslaw
CALLS to honour General Stanisław Maczek come just a week after a member of his division was awarded the highest civilian honour offered by Poland.
Boleslaw Kozub was presented with the Gold Cross of Merit by the Polish consulat in Edinburgh last Monday in recognition of his “extraordinary” services to Poland during the six-year conflict.
The 99-year-old, who will celebrate his centenary in August, fled Poland as a young soldier during the Nazi invasion of 1939 and took part in some of the war’s most dramatic battles – including the second wave of the Normandy landings, the largest seaborne invasion in history.