Joe Carlebach: Our debt to the Free Polish Armed Forces

Cllr Joe Carlebach is Leader of the Conservative Group on Hammersmith and Fulham Council

September marked the end of ‘Operation Market Garden’ in 1944. This was the brainchild of Field Marshal Montgomery, to drop thousands of Allied troops behind enemy lines in Holland capturing key bridges and providing an opportunity to end the Second World War early in Europe.

The operation itself was a very limited success with a great many brave Allied soldiers losing their lives or ending up with terrible battle wounds. Aside from the sacrifice of British, Commonwealth and American forces which is commonly known there was also a significant presence and sacrifice from the free Polish forces.

These forces had been fighting with the Allies and in particular British forces since fall of France with 303 Squadron fighting with distinction during the Battle of Britain and beyond. During D Day and the ensuing Normandy campaign it is estimated that over 6,000 Polish servicemen lost their lives. These Polish forces also liberated many towns across Belgium (including Ypres where so many of our WW1 war dead are buried). They participated bravely in Operation Market Garden and in the final days of WW2 in Europe fighting across Germany itself.

Many of you may ask what has this to do with us now today in Hammersmith and Fulham? Many of these brave serviceman and women who gave so much for Britain settled in our Borough and went on to positively contribute to our welfare and prosperity.

I have had the honour of knowing some of them and listening to their stories of bravery, sadness and sacrifice.

As gradually they pass on it is critically important that we do not forget their sacrifice. It is also beholden on us in these difficult times where many friends and colleagues have come from Poland more recently to strive to keep their welcome here genuine and warm.

We should always welcome the thriving Polish community in Hammersmith and Fulham. We should acknowledge the positive contribution they have made and continue to make to our borough and our nation. We should never forget the brave service men and women of the Free Polish Armed Forces who gave their tomorrow for our today.