By Pierre Kosmidis
All photos © by Pawel Marchlewski, submitted to www.ww2wrecks.com and used by permission
On October 29, 1944, General Maczek’s Polish 1st Armoured Division liberated Breda. Fortunately, the city and its inhabitants did not suffer many losses. Unfortunately, during the liberation many young Polish soldiers died.
It was a tragic irony that these Polish soldiers could not return to their native country in 1945, as the communist regime imposed on Poland by the Soviet Union did not appreciate Polish soldiers who accepted the Polish government in Great Britian in exile as a legitimate authority.
After the war was over, General Maczek was stripped of Polish citizenship by the Communist government. He could not get back to Poland, the same fate that awaited many of his soldiers.
He left the army on 9 September 1948 and was not granted a general’s pension by the British government.
As a result, Maczek worked as a bartender at an Edinburgh hotel until the 1960s.
General Stanisław Maczek cultivated strong relations with the Netherlands. He was awarded honorary citizenship of the city of Breda.
Recently acquired archive documents show that the Polish general secretly received a yearly allowance from the Dutch government, for the rest of his life.
The Polish general was doing unskilled labour to make ends meet.
He also had to take care of a chronically ill daughter who needed costly treatment.
Lieutenant General Stanisław Maczek died on 11 December 1994, at the age of 102. According to his last wish, he was laid to rest among his soldiers at the Polish military cemetery in Breda.
www.ww2wrecks.com has reached out to Mr. Pawel Marchlewski, of “BREDA1944 historical reconstruction group” to learn more about the reenactors who bring back to life those heroic Polish soldiers. The 1st Historical Re-enactment Group has the task of popularising and bringing the history of the 1st Armoured Division to the people of the Netherlands, actively participating in anniversary celebrations, organising historical events and keeping the memories alive for current and future generations.
The name of our group BREDA1944 refers to the events at the end of October 1944, when the 1st Polish Armoured Division under the command of General Stanislaw Maczek liberated this Dutch city.
Breda was an important transport hub and at the same time a point of German defence.
The units gathered in the city were prepared for an assault from the west.
Gen. Maczek ordered the division to turn almost 90 degrees and the 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade to attack the eastern part of the city.
This took the Germans completely by surprise, as they were not prepared for operations in this area.
As a result, the three infantry divisions were forced to withdraw, and in Breda itself the fighting took place only at selected points.
Moreover, Maczek decided to take the city by storm without artillery preparation, thus protecting the historic buildings.
Years later, the commander recalled that the success of the campaign was based on speed and surprise, and that the division deliberately avoided shelling and bombardment in order to spare the beautiful city.
On 29 October 1944, Breda was liberated.
The encroaching Poles were greeted with an ovation by crowds of Dutchmen, who had prepared white and red flags for the occasion.
Many Polish soldiers were quartered in Breda, where they were daily met with tokens of gratitude from the locals.
Some of the Poles decided to tie themselves down to the beautiful Brabant town for the long term, and dozens of them married female residents of the town and surrounding area.
Many descendants of Polish soldiers still live in Breda today.