Monday, 4 September 2017

Flames of War Polish - Something for the road? Like a C7P and some TKD's?

So, whilst I was modelling (and bleeding) my through the Black Brigade for Flames of War there were inevitably a few extra little pieces that slipped through the net with them which I charted the sculpting and making of in previous blogs but then I realised that nobody will have seen the finished articles... and thats because these vehicles were not actually fielded with the Brigade in September '39...

I am of course talking about the C7P Recovery Tractor and the TKD self propelled guns that the Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade took into battle with them.

Anyway these three little pieces are all done and dusted now as well so I thought I would just post some quick shots of them so you guys can have a peruse:

The C7P Recovery Tractor

So a quick word about this one. Other than the track sections which came off of an existing 7TP tank absolutely everything else on this was sculpted by yours truly.

I had to do the roof a couple of times in order to get the right angles on it but ultimately I got it.

I had the same problems casting this up as I did with everything else. There were pinholes all over it but painting over them with Vallejo's Plastic Putty diluted with nail varnish remover removed all of them... and yes I do mean ALL of them! :D

The larger holes all appeared on the wheels and track sections which is why the weathering and mud is heavier than expected here. It enables me to disguise any errors that were there

BUT there we have it: my brand spanking new C7P


The TKD Self Propelled Guns

The second little show piece in this post is of course my two TKD's.

Other than the track sections which were cast copies of Battlefronts TKS' track sections and the guns absolutely everything else on these has been sculpted by yours truly, both inside the vehicle and out.

These were a little more complex than the average so were a royal pain in the ass to get done... but get them done I eventually did...

The crew were provided by Skytrex German Vehicle Crews with the obligatory Peter Pig head swaps...

I don't know about you guys but I'm quite pleased with the results.

So there we have it. A nice short post with some funky photos of some spunky vehicles!

Comments welcome as always guys

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Flames of War: The Black Brigade 8: Modelling the bases

So I thought that to round off the mountainous volumes of modelling blogs covering Stanislaw Maczek and the Black Brigade I thought it would be good to take a closer look at how I did the bases on all of these Black Brigade miniatures to round off this series (The Black Brigade uniforms post is having all of its stuff translated from Polish sources at the moment and is coming up).

I know that by now the majority of you will either have square eyes, will have slipped into a military history related coma or else just have no interest in reading my voluminous posts so this time we are going to deal with the modelling only. The bases. A short post...

So lets crack on...

The Basing of the Brigade...

I've been modelling the Polish for a couple of years now and whilst I may have thought a couple of years ago that my stuff was good, now I am smacked in the face with the faults of the painting and modelling every time I sort through them to have a look.

Fortunately I've had more than enough items to paint in my Polish army that I've been able to adjust what I've done until I've reached a level that I'm genuinely happy with what I'm turning out now. I think I reached that point with my Polish cavalry... I just love looking at them... mostly.

The one thing that has always got my hackles up is my bases.

I've spent years searching around and buying in stupid varieties of static flock to find a shade that I'm happy with, never having succeeded. The flock that I've used on my Poles I am convinced actually glows in the dark! (obviously I've never tested this out :D )

Until this project...

Furniture and fittings to be used to dress the bases to be made

I made the decision early on that because this was going to be my signal project for 2017 that the bases needed to be done with considerably more care and attention than my usual 'just get 'em knocked out' strategy and so because of this I started looking around and as so frequently happens with my modelling I found myself reading some stuff that Ruben (Torregrosa for those of you that don't know who he is) had put out to the community as a whole on how to go about creating bases with a little more zing.

Now his stuff is intensely insane, the amount of hours that he must put into it is a terrifying prospect to some of us out there and I just quite simply am not that patient a person. I need to see things finished if I am to stay interested in them, and so I decided that I would follow him in some areas but not in others!

I knew that I wanted my 10th Mounted Rifles based as if some of them would be fighting in Lancut and so I bought some furniture items off of Peter Pig and then sent abroad for bags of 'n scale' bricks...

These were all duly painted up in a day and made ready to apply to a certain number of bases. I should say now that even though I painted up everything I ordered I had no illusion that all of them would get used because of the extra work that those types of bases would involve.

Instead I just decided to plough on with the basing itself...

Plain old MDF bases with scored tops

So the first thing I should point out is that I immediately bin ALL Battlefront plastic bases. I much prefer working with wood. Materials grip SOOOO much better on wood AND the deeper straighter cut of the sides looks more attractive when presented properly I believe.

So the first thing to do is to take your bases, ensure they are the right way up (because these MDF bases from Tony at East Riding Miniatures generally have a slightly bevelled edge) and then score the top surface prodigiously to help provide some contouring for any of the materials you are intending sticking to the surface.

Magic Sculpt and Garden twigs used to provide some contrast and contouring on the bases

So, once the bases are all cleaned of rogue wood shavings (I just use an old stiff toothbrush to do this) the next thing to do is to provide some contouring to the bases so they don't just look like those sketchy old flat Napoleonic bases that you can see in '70's photographs of the Wargames Research Group and other such dinosaurs.

I used Magic Sculpt (one of my favourite sculptors epoxy resin) to sculpt some banks along the sides of the bases and then pushed a couple of garden twigs that I had prepared into the resin before it was set.

This was all then left to set for a couple of hours...

A layer of Tile Grout is applied.

Whilst waiting for the bases that have topographical contours to set I went to town on all the others.

My weapon of choice for basing is Tile Grout because its as cheap as chips and because of the environment that Tile Grout is designed to work in I have an unexplained belief that it can withstand more punishment than other materials you may use for basing, including being damp resistant, which in my abode is of no mean importance.

A thin layer is spread  across the base being pushed into the scores as you go, once completed the edge of the bases are tidied up by just running a wet finger along each edge to clean any excess off!

These are then left to set for a short period of maybe 10 minutes, maybe less, depending on how quickly your grout sets.

Wet brush strokes are applied to the grout

The next step to complete is the approximation of dirt road surfaces which were so prevalent across Poland in 1939. As I am modelling a Motorised Brigade I decided that these types of bases were an absolute must.

So with that in mind I decided that the best way to create this kind of surface would be to use a large old flat head brush and gently brush in the same general direction across the grouts surface to create an indication of the traffics direction of travel.

It is important to be careful about timing when you do this part. If the grout is freshly layed then the wet brush will lift most of the grout off as it goes across because grout sticks to itself REALLY well. On the other hand if you leave it too long then you may as well throw your wet brush away and dig out your chisels!

If you get it just right however you can continue to work the grout until you have a series of gentle undulations that give a good indication of general direction of travel of vehicles.

Make sure that when you finish this step that there is still some working time left in the grout as there is another step still to do.

The imprints of vehicle tires is added

Now, before we plunge in with preparing these bases there is something that you should do. I took a selection of wheels from the various vehicles that my Polish motorised troops used and put an example wheel of each pushed right into the middle of a cocktail stick.

With the grout still partially soft I was able to press the wheel into the grout and roll it along the base giving the impression of old tracks that have been left.

These bases are then left to totally dry.

Once dry the parts of the base where I want to replicate undisturbed dirt have fine sand applied to them using PVA glue and are then left overnight to dry completely.

A layer of brown is painted across the whole of the bases

The base coat of paint is now added across the whole base. This colour is REALLY important because it sets the tone for the whole base and I haven't found anything better for mass use than Vallejo's German Camo Medium Brown. I use so much of this on bases that I think I'm on bottle number 6 at the moment! :D

Doesn't matter if its really dilute so long as the whole base is covered and the colour is uniform. The more dilute the more washed out the eventual look will be which, if you like the dry and dusty look may be exactly where you want to take it...

A liberal drybrushing brings out the undisturbed dirt

The next step is to start breathing a little bit of life into the bases by working on the contrasts and set the final tone as an addition to the dominant tone (i.e the German Camo Medium Brown). This is done by using a heavy drybrush across the whole base with Vallejo's Green Ochre. Make sure you aren't applying it so heavily that you end up with paint splotches but heavy enough that there is an appreciable lightening of the base overall (although this could very well depend on your personal tastes).

This lightening will enable you to pick out the areas that you want to turn into dried mud and create the textural contrasts across the base itself.

The beginnings of the muddy track ways on the bases.

So now that we are looking at a much improved base this could be a perfect place to stop the painting stages on the base and add the flock BUT as I had a particular vision in my mind for how I wanted these to turn out I decided to go the extra mile for these ones.

The next task is to start building on the impression of dried mud tracks and pathways and this is done by firstly painting a couple of layers of AK Interactive's Dried Mud straight onto the base wherever you want bare earth to show.

This is left to dry completely although there are numerous different ways of applying this dried mud wash and numerous ways to deal with it once it is applied. This is the way that I chose to employ.

After feathering the dried mud effect the bases look much more homogenous

Once the Dried Mud wash is dry I used tradesman White Spirits to feather the dried wash into its surrounding terrain. Why do I leave the wash to dry completely before doing this? and why do I use tradesman White Spirits instead of artists white spirits?

Simple really. I use tradesman White Spirits because its harsher than artists white spirits (and I KNOW there will be plenty who disagree with this but I've had projects damaged that went perfectly when I swapped to my Daler & Rowney odourless white spirits) and when combined with the non uniform effect of the feathering that I was looking for I felt that a harsher solvent applied heavily on some of the dried areas and less heavily on others would provide what I was looking for.

In fact the overall result that I attained was to tone the whole base down and provide an effect that I was actually very satisfied with and thus retained it for all of the bases that I completed.

Anyway, once the feathering was complete the bases were once again left to dry completely before a layer of anti shine varnish is applied to the bases to seal the oil based wash and allow painting over the top.

All of the stones picked out... the devil is clearly in the detail!

Something that I stumbled across when I first started to build my various collections of 15mm armies is that the devil really is in the detail. If you get the details wrong, or omit them completely then it detracts an incredible amount from your miniatures and what they serve to represent.

Where my bases are concerned because I changed the type of sand that I was using a little while ago I noticed that there were, what amounted to, little pebbles included in it. So I decided that it would provide a great opportunity to create more contrast on the overall basing scheme and as such I decided to paint as many of them as I thought I could cope with.

I would first of all paint them in Vallejo's German Grey and then go back and pick them out with Vallejo's Neutral Grey.

The very last stage to make sure you have done to polish your bases off is to make sure that you tidy up the edges of the bases to make them presentable. Paint them in whichever colours you wish, Brown, green , red, yellow, pink or blue!

Me; I use Games Workshops Chaos Black for the simple reasons that its a relatively thick paint that provides good coverage and a lack of transparency and has a somewhat satin feel to it once it is dry.

Another layer of varnish is applied to the bases in order to seal everything before the flock is applied.

The bases after the final stage of flocking

The final stage on my basing is the flocking and I have to admit that flocking has proven quite a problem to me for years.

I have never found a flock that I have been satisfied with, and by now I think I have bought in the region of 30 something different colours. The greens are always just a bit too intense with too much regularity of colour and the sun bleached colours are just tooooooooo bleached... and of course I could never find something in the middle!

Eventually something so unbelievably obvious struck me... why don't I mix my own from the widely varying shades and lengths that I have in my possession?

I mixed about 60% of my 4mm sun bleached fibres with about 40% of my spring 2mm fibres and I essentially just added different volumes until I was satisfied with the colour cast that I had achieved.

Once I had mixed up a batch large enough I found a container to store them in and then turned to the bases.

On each of the bases I applied PVA glue to the 'undisturbed' areas of dirt that I decided I wanted covered with grass and then using my static flock applicator I liberally poured the flock onto the bases.

Once I felt that there was enough on the bases I tapped the excess off and left them to one side to dry

Bosh! Job done.... and not a bayonet in sight!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Stanislaw Maczek - Part 7 - The End of World War 2, Betrayal and Exile (1944-1994)

1st Polish Armoured Division in Normandy
As the resolution of the Normandy campaign began to set in for the Poles they came to realise that they would find it a massive struggle to be able to make good the losses sustained in Normandy, meanwhile geo-politics were to decide the fate of Maczek and his men who would be left behind by events. Even in September '44 their future didnt look as bleak as it was to become. Stalin's European ambitions were starting to become clear to the Polish army in exile in 1944 although many still believed that they would still be able to return to the land of their birth.

A Stuart light tank in Normandy
Maczek's immediate problem was how to maintain an operational division in the field whilst almost 2000 men below establishment. He was worried most of all about the Division being halted at the Somme area and stood down. He mulled over the numbers and considered a number of actions including amalgamating his armoured troops from four troops to three and using them for armoured reconnaissance.  The reconnaissance regiments were to have their US supplied Stuart light tanks replaced with White Scout Cars whilst the anti aircraft platoons throughout the division were to be abolished with the manpower subsequently being moved over to the infantry in light of the Luftwaffe's evaporation.

A British Staff report also took the Polish losses seriously and made recognition of the fact that the Canadians were now having to actively support the Poles in the field. They opted to leave events to play out to see how the Poles coped with the issues before the next phase of operations around the Somme area kicked off which gave the Poles about three weeks breathing space.

Allied soldiers with a liberated Ostruppen
Losses were being made good actually but sadly the replacements were coming in slower than hoped. 350 men came in the week beginning 28th August with a further 700 being made available over the next three weeks. There were also replacements coming from the German Ostruppen POW's who couldnt wait to change uniforms, although Brigadier Lloyd was insistent that these turncoats needed to go through a screening process before being fully integrated into the Polish armed forces.

Of course, a further complication was the training that these men required in order to fall into step with the 1st PAD effectively.

Polish Radio Operator 1944
Maczek raised his concerns with the Polish Army Staff but nothing appeared to be solvable and the lack of experienced recruits available came home to roost in November of '44 when the 1st Armoured Division received an official reprimand from Army Group over the lax security measures that the 1st PAD were seen to be employing in the Divisional Wireless Net. This included messages being transmitted in native Polish as opposed to being broadcast in code. This was unforgiveable because even if the Polish struggled to speak English, there was certainly no shortage of Germans who spoke Polish and even Poles who were still willing to work alongside the Nazi state.

An infantry patrol in France 1944
Maczek was also concerned with the amateur nature of the replacements he was receiving that were supposed to be making good his losses. This was brought home by the results of slack patrolling after the enemy had successfully raided the southern bank of the Maas where the 1st PAD were stationed. It was considered that Polish patrols acted inappropriately when meeting German patrols; they panicked. Patrol reports were incomplete and frequently arrived at unwarranted conclusions instead of using accurate facts to deduce results.

It was resolved that defences needed to be beefed up, patrolling should be intensified and more rigorous checking of patrol reports was to be made mandatory.

Maczek and Crerar
It wasnt all grim however, Crerar (OiC of Canadian 1st Army) wrote of the Poles in Maple Leaf on 1st November 1944 that '...during recent weeks the Poles have been fighting under extremely difficult conditions, and have established an outstanding reputation by their accomplishments... Every demand ever made on these troops has been met. Every task has been complted, no matter how bitter the enemys defences or how unsavoury the natural conditions. With such officers and men military success and final victory can never be in doubt... in all the fighting of the 1st Canadian Army during the last three months the Polish troops have set the finest of military standards'. Truly amazing words considering the hostile attitude towards the Poles that the Canadian military hierarchy harboured a mere three months earlier.

Following the Falaise dust up the Poles claimed that they were ready to fight again within a week. Casualties would have their effect however. Infantry companies were now below 100 men and the tank companies now had three platoons instead of the four... but despite this, by 31st August the Division crossed the River Dives via the 'Warsaw Bridge' and gave chase to the enemy.

The 1st Polish Armoured Divisions liberation route...

Abbeville as it appeared in 1944
One of the most important tasks of the 1st PAD was to locate and secure bridges over water obstacles. Corps had received word of an intact bridge in the Abbeville area although on moving towards the target area Reconnaissance reported that the bridge had been blown. This was 11:30 on 2nd September 1944. By 17:15 hours Polish sappers had built a bridge under fire and 3rd Rifle Brigade had stormed the river and forced a crossing.

They chased the Germans into Belgium where on 12th September they liberated Ghent then turning north clearing the countryside north of Germans to the Scheldt Estuary.

Polish armour with a bit of R&R before crossing into Holland
By the end of September  '44 they were preparing to move into their assembly area prior to the invasion of the Netherlands. After the fighting in the thick and choking environment of Normandy the Division now found itself in totally unfamiliar surroundings. Flat wetlands, frequently flooded and criss-crossed with canals for the most part bereft of bridges and what bridges there were, being bitterly defended by the Germans.

It was during this wet and marshy autumn and winter that the Division started to show absolutely superb cooperation between the Armour, Infantry and Sappers. The heroism of the Polish sappers should be a matter for historical record. They were frequently called upon to cross heavily defended watercourses and required to throw up bridges and construct fords all under furious defensive fire so that the armour and infantry could get across and continue the advance.

Casualties remained high however with Zgorzelski of the 10th Dragoons sending a battle report to Maczek following a crossing of the Axel Canal on 22nd September where he had to report the loss of 106 men in one day including 4 officers. However Maczek also reports that morale remained high amongst the men on account of the level of success that they were achieving despite the losses.

Throughout October 1944 the 1st Polish Armoured Division was engaged in this tooth and nail war of overcoming obastacles. Always well prepared for defense by the Germans, gains were always accompanied with a significant loss of men.

The Poles liberate Breda...

A Polish dispatch rider reaches Breda
30th October saw Maczek achieve one of his proudest triumphs. The capture of the city of Breda and more importantly to the civiilian population; the manner in which he captured it.

As Captain Stanislaw Grabowski oberved 'there were two ways that they had available to them. Monty's way which involved laying on an aerial bombardment of the town and then a blitz assault or shelling it and then blitz it or there was General Maczeks way which was to encircle the town and then there was a chance that street fighting could be avoided, thus he gained reknown amongst the civilian population'.

8th Infantry Brigade being greeted by the Dutch at Breda
Captain Tadeusz Wielgorski of 2nd Armoured Regiment observed something similar saying that when they were capturing Breda all of the regiments and their tanks could have fired and caused complete devastation. They did not, and that was why Breda 'greeted us so warmly'.

After passing Breda they turned north chasing the Germans until they had them trapped against the waters of the Hollandsche Diep. This unfolded into a 10 day battle, including the crossing of the Mark Canal, once again in the teeth of strenuous resistance finally culminating with the capture of Moerdijk on the coast.

In mid November 1944 the 1st Polish Armoured Division was given its first proper chance to rest, with its headquarters situated in Breda. During this period of R&R the Divisional staff had a chance to take stock of where they actually were.

The losses so to speak, and my oh my, were they sobering figures.

Brigadier General Stanislaw Maczek with Breda's Burgemeester Van Slobbe (and some other punkah wallah in uniform!)

Treating a victim of sniper fire on the battlefield
For the period of 8th August to 15th November they had lost 4,478 killed, wounded or missing, including 291 officers. Amazingly only five men had been captured by the Germans since Falaise which would suggest something of the stubborn nature of the Poles, but also may reflect the speed at which the axis forces were moving backwards. The ten week chase across the low countries had cost them 3,038 casualties with the infantry bearing the 63% brunt of the casualties and the armour next on the list with 16.25%. In addition to all of this there was a high percentage of hospitalised cases with 56 officers and a further 1,237 men.

This brought the casualties to a grand total of 5,771 men. There were a further 1,773 officers and men who were sick but who had returned to the regiments, albeit maybe not all to front line duty. It makes you wonder just who was left doing the fighting.

Polish armour moving across wide open spaces
At the beginning of the Low Country Pursuit on 9th September 1944, the strength of the Division was 736 officers and 11,950 men. This was gradually boosted by replacements from the UK  and Maczek, with the agreement of General Kopanski, the Chief of the Polish Staff agreed on setting a target of 15th February to have the Division back up to strength and combat ready. Maczek also agreed to leave the Division available for operations throughout this period of reinforcement. By the end of March 1945 the Division had received 58 officers and 4,496 men as replacements. All material shortages were made good as well which given the size of the small size of the organic permanent training staff was an incredible feat.

It was during this winter break however that many of the Poles eventually found the time again to sit down and consider what was happening in the world around them and their place in it.

Meanwhile at Yalta Roosevelt says:
"Gentlemen, lets share the world..."
It was at this time that Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin all met at Yalta in the Middle East, purposefully excluding Poland from being invited to contribute on the discussion relating to their own future. The Yalta Conference has come to be seen as big a stab in the back for an ally that had fought, bled and died alongside us for our freedoms as that of Munich in 1938 where we left Czechoslovakia to be torn apart by the Nazis giving us 'Peace in our time' (Really?).

Whilst at Yalta, East and Central Europe were to all intents and purposes handed over to the Communists with Churchill aparently being quite ebullient about allowing the communists to expand their area of influence. Once again Anthony Eden, our man of the hour, stepped in to voice his concern about the voraciously aquisitive nature of Stalin and the Communist Regime. He categorically refused to believe that they would behave well to the new populations within their expanded sphere, merely wanting to expand their reach and most definitely at the expense of absolutely anybody who got in their way.

One of the plenary sessions at Yalta 1945
At seven of the eight plenary sessions at Yalta, Poland was the subject. Stalin and his cronies were absolutely adamant that Poland should be made strong again but only under Communist guidance and that she should be well compensated from Germanys eastern territories for her own loss of territory although what Poland gained in no way made up for the massive area of land that she had lost to the Soviet invasion of '39. It was already clear by '43 that Stalin never intended to return any of the Polish territories and had already quite systematically brutalised the population with massive programs of deportations to the east having already been undertaken... and lets not forget the Katyn atrocities.

Anders was not amused!
The Western powers were quite simply outmanoeuvred at Yalta by Stalin, and left desperately trying to make an absolute ass kicking look like some sort of moral victory for the Polish people... that is, until General Anders heard the results. He quite abruptly stated to Chnurchill that 'Yalta is the end of Poland!'

Maczek found himself considering the situation. The new Polish borders were to follow the Curzon Line which was the orignal British ideas for the Polish borders in 1918, but his home, Lwow would no longer  be Polish. He considered the death camps of Oswiecim (Auschwitz-Birkenau) and Dachau and the expulsion of the Nazi abomination from the homeland and was left wondering if the Nazis really were really still the main enemy. He wondered if he could even return home at all?

True to form though, he rejected all personal concerns and opinions and stated that 'a soldier should not speak of his fate or his future, no matter how hard or unfair it might be' Nevertheless it should also be pointed out here that the Foreign Office was acutely aware of how unhappy Maczek was with the high handed attitude that Anders was displaying towards wartime military/politics and in a wholly unusual departure for Maczek was openly critical of him.

The Poles staged at Hengelo prepare to cross the border into Germany...
There was one last episode to be played out before the Divsion's final battle and the war drew to a close and in April '45 the Division was moved 150 miles from Breda to the area of Hengelo in preparation for a new offensive. Once again they had to cross water obstacles under fire and were preparing to do so when an urgent request reached them.

It was revealed that at nearby Niederlangen there was a womans detention camp which contained women of the Armia Krajowe, captured during the Warsaw Uprising of '44. There was a concern that the nazis may try to use the women as some sort of diversionary tactic and so High Command deemed it essential that an armoured platoon be sent to the camp to liberate them.

Maczek with some of the liberated
women of Warsaw's Armia Krajowa
A platoon from 3rd Squadron, 10th Mounted Rifles was sent to the camp. The woman were set to jump over the moon when they realised that what they thought were English soldiers were actually Polish troops. One woman known simply as Mieczyslawa lauded her liberation from Stalag VI C Oberlangen by the 10th Mounted Rifles troops. Once the women heard the soldiers speak they realised that they were Polish; the most important thing for the women was to make sure that the soldiers spoke to them in Polish. It is an interesting note that one woman who was liberated wrote to Baca (this means The Good Shepherd, and its one of Maczeks nicknames that his troops bestowed on him) on his 100th birthday still thanking him for liberating her. The women displayed their military discipline and fortitude when General Maczek later arrived at the camp and the women formally paraded with their commanding officer; Lieutenant 'Jaga' Milewska of the Polish Home Army making her formal report that 1,726 women, soldiers of the Home Army in Stalag VI C Oberlangen were reporting for duty.

The fate of the failed uprising was brought into stark and ugly focus on that day.

Polish armour a bit stuck in the mud!
On the 19th April 1945 the Division breached its final water obstacle, the Kusten Canal and reached its final objective of the war; Wilmhelmshaven. Typically of Maczek he delayed the action for as long as possible in order to bring as much firepower to bear as possible without causing excessive casualties.

On 4th May the 10th Mounted Rifles and 8th Rifle Battalion halted at the outer rings of the Wilmhelmshaven defences and in the evening called in artillery support in order to open up a passage into the town but a signal had been received that an armistice had been arranged for 08:00 the next morning, 5th May 1945.

The artillery opened up and continued without pause until 07:59.

The destroyed Wilmhelmshaven docks after the capitulation in 1945

In their final offensive operations in Germany the Division had lost a further 600 men and officers but had taken 5000 prisoners and an enormous amount of materials.

Mazcek described the end of the war and the taking of the German surrender in Ostfriesland at the HQ of II Canadian Corps at Bad Zwischenahn. He recalled how in a large empty room General Guy Simonds sat behind a long table with his Chief of Staff and Divisional Commanders. No seats for the Germans indicated the hostility of the reception that they were to receive.

General Erich Straube
Six German officers entered the room; General Erich Straube, CO of the 1st Parachute Army between the rivers Ems and Weser. He was accompanied by the commanding officer of the local units of Kriegsmarine (German Navy), his Chief of Staff and three officers in charge of areas in Ostfriesland. They entered and stood to attention. Maczek considered the difference between these men and those that were captured on the field of conflict. Whereas those men were raw and exhibiting all manner of emotions, covered in dirt and dust, these men in front of him were stiff, formal and masked. They could be concealing everything or nothing.

Straube began to speak but Simonds cut him off immediately stating that he had not come here to negotiate but to listen to Simonds and accept an unconditional surrender with absolutely non-negotiable terms. Simonds read the list in a hard edged and clear voice.

The Polish flag is raised
Maczek drifted back to 1939 and considered how General Kutrzeba must have felt surrending Warsaw to the Nazi animals when he was brought back to the room by Simonds busy allocating the German areas to different Canadian organisations. Simonds had allocated the 1st Polish Armoured Division to occupy Wilhelmshaven and disarm the garrison. Hearing that a Polish formation would be the occuping force caused the German officers to grimace and from studiously avoiding looking at him, they finally had to confront Maczek sitting there in his uniform emblazoned with Polish insignia.

In a quaint turn of phrase Maczek recorded in his diary that "surely it wasnt necessary to remind them that they had unleashed this dreadful war with the attack on Poland and in the presence of one of the few Polish units still fighting they were now laying down their arms"

The 1st Polish Armoured Division, fighting in Germany, was to occupy a part of Germany. Maczek was left wondering whether or not this must have been the first time in history that this must have happened?

Surrendered German U-Boats in 1945
The haul in Wilmhelmshaven was incredible. Tens of thousands of prisoners including two Admirals and a General were taken. The quantity of captured equipment was truly astronomical; 3 cruisers, 18 submarines, 205 minor warships and support vessels, 94 fortress guns, 159 field guns, 560 machine guns, 40,000 rifles, 280,000 artillery shells and 64 million rounds of small arms ammunition. In addition to this there were stores of mines, torpedos as well as supplies of food for 50,000 men for a period of 6 months.

Even if the war had ended on a high for General Maczek and his indefatigable Polish warriors, peace was to prove a grave disappointment as wartime alliances were quickly forgotten.

Maczek back in Scotland and surrounded again...
The first signs of things not going the way they were expected to was received by Maczek a mere two weeks after the occupation of Wilmhelmshaven when he was recalled to Scotland in order to take command of the I Polish Corps. Being a smart guy he probably saw the way the wind was blowing.

What he probably couldnt have anticipated however was being stripped of his citizenship on 6th September 1946 by the Polish Communist puppet government along with a list of another 75 senior Polish officers for taking up arms under and accepting orders from another foreign power.

For the rest of his life Maczek would refuse to recognise the Polish Peoples Republic as anything other than a puppet state jiggling on Communist strings.

Polish President Jaruzelski
After years of misdeeds, once the Communist regime in Poland began to falter, the illegal Jaruzelski regime began to try to use Maczeks name and deeds as a part of their damage control utilising the idea of the Polish soldier, no matter where they were or where they served as the saviours of the nation. McGilvray raises the possibility that this was possibly just one old soldier simply reaching out to another but Maczek stoutly refused to respond to these overtures quite rightly seeing them as nothing more than an attempt to link his name and the Second Republic, which he proudly represented to the corrupt and illegal communist controlled regime that dominated Poland between 1944 and 1989.

Without starting up a long text driven debate concerning the Polish place in the UK after the war it can be said with some justification that the UK government were a bunch of gutless weasles with yellow streaks wider than the San Andreas Fault who continued the long English tradition of abandoning our allies when they have needed us the most unless our own pockets were being hit and the actions of the Communists in Poland were for the most part brushed as far under the carpet as could be managed.

It was apparently quite clear to many of the Poles what the situation in Poland would likely be if they were able to return to their homeland after 1945. Maczek did not desire to return to  Poland under those circumstances and it was with some sorrow that he held his final meeting with Colonel Dec and his future, possibly in Poland.

Franciszek Skibinski early and late in life. 
Relationships with Franciszek Skibinski had unfortunately soured remarkably however, as he had apparently embraced the ideas of Communism and had decided to return to Poland. Maczek was of the opinion that Skibinski was being opportunistic seeking to further his career, even if under the Communists. Skibinski would return to Poland, but within a year was arrested and tortured including having all of his teeth knocked out. When a more progressive form of Communism was able to supplant the Stalinist paraoia in 1956 Skibinski was quietly released and made a General.

The decision to deprive Maczek of his citizenship was overturned in 1971 but as it was the government of the Polish Peoples Republic making the decree, and therefore a Communist vassal Maczek ignored the decree. It was not until the fall of Communism in Poland in 1989 that Maczek accepted the gesture.

Lieutenant Jan Suchcitz, one of the veterans of the 10th Mounted Rifles, reflected that in the remaining 50 years of Maczeks life he never sought any accolades, was always a firm believer in an apolitical army and took no part in the political folly that had riven the Polish army for so many years.

The Virtuti Militari
Maczek did occasionally sally forth into the political arena however and was, in 1961 openly critical of the manner in which the highest Polish military accolade, the Virtuti Militari, was awarded for the September Campaign. For a campaign of such monumental failure he was of the opinion that far too many had been subsequently awarded. Again in 1961, in a letter to General Grudzinski he was critical of the mass awarding of the medal.

In contrast to some, such as General Anders, Maczek was to remain employed in humble jobs in order to support his family in Edinburgh. He received no pension from either the british or canadian government (and yes the respective governments deserve no capitalisation in this regard!) and it was only the appreciation and generosity of the Dutch people that facilitated a secure future for the Maczeks disabled daughter.

It was reported in the Polish Press in London in 1995 that Maczek did eventually receive a generous pension from the Dutch government. No doubt this was connected to the Polish liberation of Breda and Maczek being instrumental in its liberation without destruction.

The bar in the Learmont Hotel that Mr Maczek worked in
This was a sadly belated honour however as Mr Stanislaw Maczek, as he preferred to be known after the war, had to find work as a Barman and later on as a shop assistant, right up to the end of the 1960's in order to support his family. Despite these setbacks however, he was never a downhearted person. He was always attentive to his Divisions former members, always attended reunions and commemorations and he always gladly welcomed visits from his former subordinates.

The problem of senior Polish officers gaining employment in the UK after the war was one that was to haunt Maczek for the rest of his days in exile and was ironically, by association, the reason for being stripped of his Polish citizenship.

Following the surrender of Germany a census of Poles serving under Western Command was taken in the wake of the news that Poland was being handed to the tender mercies of the Communists and a total of only 17.2% were happy to return. The underlying problem with this was that the majority of the British public had, given the enormous suffering that the Soviet Union had suffered through the war, a healthy sympathy for the communist people and their politicians. Ever the slaves to public passions, the home government also had a significant distrust of Anders rabidly anti communist rhetoric and that of other members of the Polish II Corps, believing that it would likely result in political complications if left unchecked, much less actually fostered and accepted.

One of the PRC camps
Finally, the British government came up with an idea of how to discharge all of the serving Polish troops. The Polish Armed Forces (Repatriation and Resettlement Scheme), which was a vehicle by which Poles could be moved from the military either into local civilian life or even back to Poland, was established. For those that chose to remain in the U.K the Poles established the Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC). It was established to serve as a sort of halfway house in which discharged Poles could be prepared for life in the West.

An example of a Polish Resettlement Corp registration book
It was the establishment of the PRC that was to prove so problematic for the Poles as it caused tremendous anger within Communist ranks, both in Moscow and its new vassal states. The Soviets decided that any members of the PRC had taken military service under a foreign government which was actually categorically untrue. Despite the uniforms being worn the organisation was a civilian operation.

Commie puppet Marshal Michal Rola-Zymierski
The new Polish puppet Defence Minister, Marshal Zymierski had broadcast the message that anybody enlisting in the PRC would be stripped of their citizenship despite the fact that it was non military, as well as being both a logical and pragmatic step in the transition to civilian life in Great Britain.

Perhaps the most obvious way for Great Britain to provide assistance to Maczek would have been to take the step that they did with so many other senior serving Poles and offer them a comfortable pension. At a time when the average British employee was earning in the region of £24 a month General Anders, the most political of the Polish military hierarchy and certainly the deepest thorn in the side of the allies with regards to his political anti soviet rhetoric was awarded £100 a month with many others receiving between this and £75.

What beggars belief is that Maczek, who commanded I Corps, was apolitical and whose prescience and planning had pulled the allies collective balls out of the fire in Normandy was awarded nothing! Not a penny!

Thankfully not all British are so disgraceful and this decision did indeed raise comments in official circles.

Bernard Law Montgomery in 1948
McGilvray quotes a note that Bernard Law Montgomery had written to the cabinet querying how their cases were to be dealt with and I think its worth quoting in full:"... General Maczek with the 1st Polish Armoured Division played a large part in the closing of the Falaise Gap.
b) These officers at PRC have aided Britain in assisting government policy and resettled their men into the British economy.
c) These men have lost everything they possessed. Kopanski and Maczek have been publicly deprived of their Polish nationality. The majority have spent their spare money in ensuring a good education for their children and as a consequence have saved little or nothing."

Another partisan to Maczeks cause said:

"... General Maczek had most loyally handled the problem of the resettlement of Poles in Scotland and the liquidation of the Polish commitment to Scottish Command. He fought gallantly under Field Marshal Montgomery's command throughout the 1944/45 campaign in France and who, since he has been running the PRC's commitment  in Scottish Command, has absolutely no money of his own, and has a wife and two children to educate, also an idiot child whom he has to maintain. He is most anxious to know whether any provision will be made for him. I cannot help feeling that it would be an injustice, after the service rendered to us, to leave this type of man to sink or swim on his own."

The author of this note, who was writing to the Prime Minister, Clemence Attlee considered that a pension should be provided for a Polish Officer IF:

a) Of the rank of Major General, its equivalent or above
b) Had served in the Polish Armed Forces under British command during the war
c) Had served in the PRC

Minutes recorded by one Barbara Green at the Ministry of Labour and National Service are also in print as agreeing with these perspectives.

1st Polish Armoured Division is demobilised
The end for Maczeks former Division, the Black Devils came on March 1947 when a discussion was held at HQ on BAOR (British Army on the Rhine) to decide when to demobilise the Division and transport those who wanted it back to the UK and into the ranks of PRC. It was finally settled that the 1st Polish Armoured Division would cease to be at 1 minute past midnight on 1st May 1947.

That was the end of the story for one hell of a Division. Resolute in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, stubborn, aggressive and one that had served the allied cause to the highest expectation in both good times and bad, they had fought from the first day of the war right up until the last, suffering a series of catastrophic reverses across Europe before remodelling themselves and striding back the other way across Europe and dishing out emphatic wallopings as they went!

Maczeks immediate fate after demobilisation is that he never received a pension from the British government worth mentioning! At the age of 57, with no skills other than understanding the nature of waging combined arms mobile warfare, he had to go out into the British job market in order to support his family.

The Learmonth Hotel in Edinburgh. Now a Travel lodge.
A former NCO from Maczek's Division gave him a job and as ever, uncomplaining, Maczek rose early  in the morning and took a 30km bus journey to Edinburgh where he worked as a barman at the Learmonth Hotel. Maczek, being a naturally upbeat and optimistic person never let his personal circumstances get him down though and he still managed to find a smile for his patrons.

Life was a series of struggles for the Maczek family but he never complained and they never asked for help. An insignificant pension from the British government was provided but was so inconsequential that it served very little practical purpose within the household so he carried on working in the bar. Every time his veterans stopped by for a pint they would stand to attention in recognition of his rank.

16 Arden Street in Edinburgh. Mr Maczek's family home.
The details of how Maczeks life unfolded after this period now become considerably less dense. Once the PRC was disbanded and Maczek settled into the grim monotony of civilian life, with his resolute refusal to recognise the communist occupiers of his country it would seem that he became somewhat of an icon to the Polish expatriates who had opted to make Great Britain their home. It was certainly a far cry form his 20's when he studied philosophy and fought tooth and nail on the Italian Front.

His memoirs go no further than the end of the Second World War and morally he usually avoided the Polish predilection for meddling in political issues that split the Polish community so frequently. In point of fact, by refusing to involve himself in these areas he was to become quite a thorn in the side of the communist body politik for some time to come.

Mr Maczek in Breda in the '60's
We should all be thankful however that no matter how abhorrently our own government treated a man of Maczeks calibre, other countries of Europe were a lot more graceful in remembering him and his men. As McGilvray tells it Renata, Maczeks daughter, reminiscing on a visit to the Netherlands said that her father was feted wherever he travelled in the late 1940's and again in the 1960's was feted once more as he took the part of honoured guest when he and other veteran guests retraced their steps that they so bloodily took in 1944. In Axel there were 4 days of celebration whilst a street was renamed 'General Maczekstraat', in Ypres a metal tablet commemorating the actions of 1st Polish Armoured Division was also unveiled.

Mr Maczek became the titular head of the Polish expatriate community in Scotland. With his self imposed distance from the Polish Government in Exile (which incidentally was no longer recognised by any state in the world) Maczek was able to retain a dignity that was admirable and he was stalwart in his refusal to recognise the Polish puppet state, even when, under a more moderate form of communism his nationality was offered to be restored in an effort to rehabilitate the government with its people by appropriating past heroes.

He ignored these overtures still!

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo 1972
He remained loyal to 'his boys' who were by now all pensioners. A lifetime of loyalty and service. By the time Maczek was 80 even the British were finally remembering him. It ws announced that he was to be the guest of honour of the Commander of the Army during the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The Dutch, ever loyal to his memory, held a concert orchestra in honour of his 80th birthday.

The turn of a century was a big event for Maczek. Cards and notes from well wishers poured in from around the world with many young people from the Netherlands and Belgium found amongst the congratulatory messages, writing to him to express their gratitude for the freedom that he and his men had bestowed on their countries through the shedding of their blood so selflessly.

Lech Walesa, victorious in his own anti communist uprising
By the time Maczek turned 100 Poland had finally shuffled loose the communist yolk and new Polish President Lech Walesa made Maczek a full General and awarded him a pension.

Sadly Maczek was too frail to return home to Poland by this point in time and in any case his true home was now a part of the Ukraine but he had lived long enough to know that his beloved Poland had been freed from under the communist boot.

General Stanislaw Maczek 1944

Mr Stanislaw Maczek died on 11th December 1994 at the grand old age of 102, rightly mourned by the Poles, Dutch and Scots. His funeral was held in Edinburgh but he was laid to rest at Breda alongside his men at the site of perhaps his most poignant victory.

His legacy to the majority of those who choose to remember him will doubtless be one of military exploits, struggle and victories against the odds but this would be to forget his humanity. He was a man who cared more for the person than the victory. He had iron ethics which he never compromised and he gave a lifetime of service asking nothing in return. His towering sense of duty and responsibility saw him look after a disabled daughter without batting an eyelid for as long as was humanly possible with the same sense of duty that he shepherded his old soldiers. He never once turned his back on an old comrade and he held to his personal creed just long enough to see Poland become a true democracy and a sovereign nation once more.

This old warrior must have finally died in peace.

Men cast in his mould, and finished to his standard are few and far between. One or two in a generation are what makes the world turn and serve as icons that allow the rest of us to aim to be something greater than we are. We should respect their moral legacies and always seek to pay our dues to their memories.

Gone, but never forgotten. R.I.P Mr Stanislaw Maczek

Mr Maczeks grave situated with all of 'his boys' in Breda, Netherlands