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Polish 1st Armoured Division

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Polish 1st Armoured Div Patch
Polish 1st Armoured Div Patch

The Polish 1st Armoured Division (Polish 1 Dywizja Pancerna) was an Allied military unit during World War II, created in February 1942 in Scotland. At its peak it numbered approximately 16,000 soldiers. It was commanded by General Stanisław Maczek.

Contents

History

In the early stages the division was stationed in Scotland and guarded approximately 200 kilometres of British coast.

Normandy

By the end of July 1944 the division has been transferred to Normandy. Last elements arrived on August 1 and the unit was attached to First Canadian Army. It entered combat on August 8 during the Operation Totalize. The division twice suffered serious bombings by Allied aircraft yet it achieved a brilliant victory against the Wehrmacht in the battles for Mont Ormel, 262 Hill and the town of Chambois. This series of offensive and defensive operations came to be known as the Battle of Falaise in which a large number of German Wehrmacht and SS divisions were trapped in a huge Chambois pocket and subsequently destroyed. Maczek's division had the crucial role of closing the pocket at the escape route of those German divisions. Hence the fighting was absolutely
Missing image
Tank_Maczek.jpg
Gen. Stanisław Maczek (top left), the division commander, in a leading tank.

desperate and the 2nd Polish Armoured, 24th Polish Lancers and 10th Dragoons supported by the 8th and 9th Infantry Battalions took the brunt of German attacks trying to break free from the pocket. Surrounded and running out of ammo they withstood all the incessant attacks of multiple fleeing panzer divisions for 48 hours until they were relieved.

Belgium and the Netherlands

After the Allied armies broke out from Normandy, Polish 1st Armoured Division pursued Germans along the coasts of the English Channel. It liberated, among others, the towns of Ypres, Ghent and Passchendale. A successful outflanking manouevre planned and performed by gen. Maczek allowed liberation of the city of Breda without any civilian casualties (October 29, 1944). It spent the winter of ?44-?45 on the south bank of the river Rhine, guarding a sector around Moerdijk in the Netherlands. In early 1945 it was transferred to the province of Overijssel and started to push along with the Allies along the Dutch-German border, liberating the eastern parts of the provinces of Drenthe and Groningen with towns such as Emmen, Coevorden and Stadskanaal.

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Poles_Wilhelmshafen.jpg
The Wilhelmshaven German commander surrenders this main German U-boot base to Colonel A. Grudziński

Germany

In April 1945 1st Armoured entered the Reich in the area of Ems. On May 6 the division seized the Kriegsmarine naval base in Wilhelmshaven, where gen. Maczek accepted the capitulaton of the fortress, naval base, Ostfriesland Fleet and more than 10 infantry divisions. There the Division ended the war and was joined by the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade. It undertook occupation duties until 1947, when the division was disbanded. The majority of its soldiers were not able to return to Poland and stayed in exile.

Organization during 1944-45

Missing image
Polish_Tanks_Caen.jpg
Polish tanks of the 10th Mounted Rifle Regiment near Caen at the beginning of the Falais operation.
10th Polish Armoured Cavalry Brigade (10 Brygada Kawalerii Pancernej) - col. T. Majewski
3rd Polish Infantry Brigade (3 Brygada Strzelców) - col. Marian Wieroński 
The Mayor of  (Van Slobbe), giving a welcome speech to the 1st Armoured Division which liberated Breda.
Enlarge
The Mayor of Breda (Van Slobbe), giving a welcome speech to the 1st Armoured Division which liberated Breda.
Divisional Artillery (Artyleria dywizyjna) - col. B. Noel 


Other Units 
  • 10th Polish Mounted Rifle Regiment (10 pułk strzelców) (recce) - mjr J. Maciejowski
  • HQ, Military Police,
  • engineers (saperzy dywizyjni) - lt.col. J. Dorantt
  • signals (1 batalon łączności) - lt.col. J. Grajkowski
  • administration, military court, church, reserve squadrons, medical service

Numbers

  • 885 - officers and NCO's
  • 15,210 - soldiers
  • 381 - tanks (mostly M4 Sherman)
  • 473 - pieces of artillery (mostly motorized)
  • 4050 - cars, lorries, utility vehicles, artillery carriers

See also

sl:1. (poljska) oklepna divizija

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