The nation's largest, independently-published English-language Polish American Newspaper

GIFTS | BOOKS | COOKBOOKS | POLKA MUSIC | BIRTHDAY CARDS | CANDY & BUTTER MOLDS | SALT LAMPS | EASTER | CHRISTMAS STORE

Do your part to keep your heritage alive. Subscribe today!

Poland’s Brilliant World War II Leader
General Stanislaw Maczek

by Stan Z. Biernacik

General Stanislaw Maczek (born March 31, 1892) was the last Commander of the First Polish Army Corps under Allied Command, and who previously led the famous First Polish Armored Division.

Gen. Maczek’s military career began as an officer of the Austrian Army who fought on the Italian front in 1914. Following the outbreak of World War I, Polish units were organized around the cities of Krakow and Lwow, and the young officer offered his services to the reborn units of the Polish Army.

Soon, his military talents became evident in the battles for the relief of the city of Lwow, under Ukrainian siege in 1918, and later in the struggle of the young Polish Republic to stop the invading armies of the Communist Russia led by Marshal Budienny.

Following the cessation of hostilities, the highly decorated Major Maczek decided to make military service his lifetime career.

When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Colonel Maczek commanded the 10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade, which had fought several battles before. On orders from Commander-in-Chief Marshal Rydz Smigly, the Brigade fighting the encircling Nazi forces crossed the Hungarian border where it was interned.

Learning that Polish forces were being organized on French soil, Col. Maczek escaped from Hungary in October 1939 and reported to Gen. W. Sikorski, commander of the Polish forces in exile, in Paris. As reward for his services, Gen. Sikorski promoted Maczek to the rank of Brigadier General and placed him in charge of Polish units at the Army camp at Coetquiden, Brittany.

When Nazis invaded France in 1940, Gen. Maczek was given charge of the 10th Armored Cavalry Brigade, which fought bloody battles against the invader on June 16 and 17, and scored important victories in the vicinity of Montbard, and on the Burgundy Canal.

The brave efforts of the Polish brigade proved to be in vain when the government of France capitulated.

Under the orders of Gen. Sikorski, the Brigade was dissolved and her men were ordered to seek safety in un-occupied France until they could reach the shores of England, the last bastion of freedom. There Prime Minister Winston Churchill rallied his countrymen, calling on them to continue their struggles against the Nazi menace.

With France’s collapse, thousands of Polish soldiers found their way to friendly British soil and organized military units. Gen. Maczek was one of them.

In February 1942, Gen. Maczek was ordered by Gen. Sikorski to form the First Polish Armored Division. Eager to fight and take revenge on the enemy, the Division proved its worth during the 1944 invasion of Europe. During the Battle of Normandy, Polish troops took part in the encircling move against Nazi troops, and were credited with the closing of the Caen-Fallaise Gap, where fourteen Nazi divisions were trapped and destroyed.

After this decisive battle, Gen. Maczek’s Division continued to spearhead the Allied drive across the battlefields of France, Belgium, Holland, and finally Germany.

The Division’s "moment of glory" came when its forces captured the German port of Wilhelmshaven and accepted the surrender of the entire garrison, which included some 200 vessels of Hitler’s navy.

Gen. Maczek commanded the First Armored until the end of the hostilities in Europe.

In May 1945, he was promoted the rank of Lieutenant General and was given command of the First Polish Army Corps in Scotland. Gen. Klemens Rudnicki, who coincidentally celebrated his 93rd birthday on the 28th of March of this year, succeeded Gen. Maczek as commander of the Division.

All those who knew Gen. Maczek and those who fought under his command have no doubt that the history of armored warfare will include his name as one of the most brilliant commanders who served the Allied cause with the greatest distinction during World War II.

Back to Biographies
Home

You Can Help Restore
Maczek’s World War II Map

EDDLESTON, Scotland — General Maczek’s Great Polish Map of Scotland lies behind Barony Castle Hotel, Eddleston, five miles north of Peebles. In the 2nd World War the house and grounds were used by Maczek's Polish forces, and it appears that an outdoor map of Scotland was built to help to plan the defence of the Scottish coast. General Maczek had seen an outdoor map in Holland showing the waterways which had hindered the Polish advance, and he initiated the idea of constructing a similar map for the defence of Scotland. Little remains of this original map.

After the war the building returned to hotel use, but several years later it came into the hands of Polish ex-soldier who had been billeted there. He was a great friend of the General, and he gave the Maczeks the use of a hotel suite, and set about restoring and enhancing some of the water features.

In the 1970's the idea arose of building a second map as a permanent three-dimensional reminder of Scotland’s hospitality to Maczek's compatriots. A group of Poles, notably Kazimierz Trafas who was a geographer-planner from Krakow, managed to complete the whole structure in only 6/7 weeks. Engineering infrastructure was put in place to surround it by sea, into which water flowed from lochs and rivers. In order to get  an effective representation of the height of the hills, a 5-times vertical exaggeration was incorporated. The outline and relief were based on existing half-inch Bartholomew maps.

General Maczek died in 1994 aged 102 and is buried with comrades at Breda in Holland, another place where he exercised his military talents.

Further historical and technical details are available at www.makers.org.uk/place/Maczek

See also Aerial image of the Great Map from Virtual Earth.

It is difficult to appreciate the scale and visual impact of the Maczek map without visiting the site. It is about 70 metres across, in a pit about one metre deep. It gives  an incredible visual representation of Scotland's topography.

Unfortunately the map has deteriorated over the years and is in urgent need of restoration. Some areas are virtually intact, but many of the islands have suffered badly. A local Trust had been set up to carry out the restoration. We believe this is important work, not only because the map is of major military and historical significance, but also as an educational and recreational attraction, and as a testament to the skills of cartographers.

Further details of the restoration Trust can be obtained fron the Secretary, Keith Burns, at mapascotland@gmail.com.

Dave Peck

Solution Graphics
 

© 2013 POLISH AMERICAN JOURNAL, P.O. BOX 271, NORTH BOSTON, NY 14110-0271 | (716) 312-8088 | Toll Free (800) 422-1275
HOME |SUBSCRIBE | CONTACT US | BOOKSTORE | NEWS | EDITORIAL | ADVERTISE | ON-LINE LIBRARY | STAFF E-MAIL | POLKA NEWS