39 Comments

  1. I wonder if the Poles here were crazy enough to have a literal bear on the team… History shows that the Polish forces in exile were often the “best of the bunch” once in combat as they had the most experience fighting the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe.

    Nice moustache! I assume he has the right to wear it after having mowed down [censored numbers] of DAK troops.

    Happy Independence Day, guys!

    Cherndog

    • Yup, we had the most (or just the longest – since 1939) experience against the Jerry – and sometimes amongst him, as well, because large traits of Poland (those German-occupied until 1918) were incorporated into the Reich in 1939 and young Polish men got conscripted along with Germans into the Wehrmacht. Some of them succeeded in defecting to the Allies and proved the largest pool of replacements for the Polish 2nd Corps in Italy during 1944-1945, fighting their hardest battles during the campaign, including Monte Cassino, Volturno, Ancona and Bologna. These were given bogus ID to protect themselves and their families in case of being taken prisoner, as they were risking court martial for high treason to the Reich.

      • My company First Sgt in Germany (’71 – ’73, Frank M Partyka) was a Polish Refugee…his story (and he was given to telling tall tales) was that he was captured by the Russians on the first day of the war – he was a young lad of about 15 or so, dragooned/impressed into Soviet service, escaped to serve with the Germans and at the first opportunity, surrendered to the Americans…the man was a living John Wayne…tough old Polish Bear..he used toi tell the troops in formation that if they screwed up “This old bear will wring your neck”. We all loved Top Partyka AND his stories…RIP, Top!!!

        • Just remember….might not have been a tall tale. There are millions of untold, absolutely incredible stories that are out there, from the folks that were involved in WW2.

      • These were given bogus ID to protect themselves and their families in case of being taken prisoner, as they were risking court martial for high treason to the Reich.
        Thanks Leszek, that is interesting.
        A friend’s grandfather had defected, pretty late in the war, and changed name from a mixed Polish-German name – he was from Gdansk/Danzig – to a British one (he also avoided any contact with other Poles).

        My friend and their parents had assumed the worst about him (friend’s mother disliked her father intensely, and left home aged 19 to go zero contact), that he’d seen which way the war was going and had switched sides on that basis, and didn’t want contact with Poles incase someone who knew whatever he’d done for the NSDAP, recognized him.

        The reason for false identity which you give, at least leaves open the possibility that he may not have been the bad guy that my friend’s family suspected.

        • Back in the mid 70s I met a French Graduate Student ( Cornell U ), son of a Polish solder with an convoluted but not uncommon history. His father was In the Polish Army in 1939. He made it to France after the defeat then to Britain, he became a tank driver with the Free Poles. His two brothers were considered Ethnic German enough to be drafted into the Wehrmacht. One ended up in the Luftwaffe & was killed on operations. The other ended up as batman to a German PAK company commander. Father was seriously wounded at Falise when his tank was shot from under him. After the war he & his surviving brother eventually reunited and settled in France. When they compared notes they discovered his tank had been shot up by the PAK company his brother was serving in.

    • “The long sobs of the violins of autumn”

      “Wounds my heart with a monotonous languor”

      The best part was that the German intel pukes knew what it all meant and they couldn’t convince their high command (Herr Schickelgruber) that (A) it was Normandy, not Pas de Calais and (B) it was “GAME ON” Right Bleeping NOW until it was too late.

      I’ve often wondered if the Free French intel guys were feeling a bid of schadenfreude over that, considering that their own high command gave them the same sort of brushoff in May 1940.

      cheers

      eon

  2. Yes, the Poles famously had Wojtek the bear as their mascot in Italy, where he made himself useful by carrying ammunition crates.

    • Didn’t Wojtek actually catch a German spy in the shower and drag him by the collar to the Polish commander after slapping the spy silly with his paws?

  3. From historical prospective, it amazes me that Poles found motivation to fight on side of Allies – and die for them, after being so dishonorably betrayed (both France and England were obliged by standing treaties to aid them). I have great respect for them, as fighters to be sure.

    • If I remember correctly the Poles also handed over their research into the Enigma code to the British, giving the Brits a head start on breaking the code. That was important in reducing the U-boat menace. That did end the war earlier and no doubt there are more than a few of us Americans whose grandfathers would have died at sea while crossing the Atlantic 70 years ago had the U-boats prevailed, and we are alive today to celebrate the 4th because of that. Same for our neighbors to the North who celebrated their holiday on the 1st.

      Of all the countries that Germany occupied, it seems like Poland was the only one not set up with a puppet government. That must have given them more clarity, if that was possible, to the Poles in regards to how bad their situation was. The fellow in the picture above was fighting for a country that, technically, did not exist anymore. Looks like he was looking forward to doing something about it.

      • Just off hand; regarding Enigma – the knowledge of code-setter was revealed from more than one source; one was directly by British naval commando operation. As to what I read so far, the actual code-breaking importance may be debatable. Some source say that Bletchley Park office knew well what’s up, but pretended not to know; that by itself throws monkey-wrench into any consideration.

        Poles suffered immensely thru the war. From witnesses testimonies it is known that they (civilians) were shot randomly on street by Germans. I do not recall knowledge of a “puppet government” in Poland or what it was reduced to (after CCCP did receive their cut). From German point it was called Generalgouvernement; amounting to something like ‘trophy territory’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Government

        • One of the reasons Enigma fell so fast wasn’t so much intel as its technology. Enigma was a ‘rotor’ cipher device, using mechanically-turned rotors with complex electrical wiring inside to create a progressive-alphabet cipher. The problem fr the Germans was (and they didn’t realize it until it was too late) that the system was based on a commercial patent that was used worldwide. An American patent, at that (Edward Hebern, U.S. patent 1683702);

          http://jproc.ca/crypto/hebern_2.html

          Granted, it’s a decent system, but one of the first rules of cryptography is that you assume everybody knows your basic system so your security must be in your keys. The Germans assumed that their system was so “unique” as to be unbreakable.

          Wrong.

          cheers

          eon

          • I may have heard/read about it. In any case, thanks for reminder. I also believe the technology is what carries the task of the day, although skills and courage are irreplaceable.

          • The Enigma story is a bit more complex than that.First off, the Germans were fully aware of the commercial Enigma before building their assorted military and government models. They believed the Enigma was unbreakable due to the complexity of the multiple encipherments and multiple rotor sets. The flaws that brought down Enigma were the design that never enciphered a letter as itself (plaintext A will be any letter in ciphertext except A), poor signals practice by the Germans which provided lots of known plaintext “cribs” and a foundational breakthrough by the Polish Mathematician Marian Rejewski, who provided the means to work out the wiring of a given Enigma. This led to the Bombe, which was an automated brute force attack on the Enigma daily setting using a known plaintext “crib” as a starting point. This was the thing the Germans never expected because they believed that there was no way to do that in a reasonable amount of time.
            Getting back on topic, is that a truck bed? The combination of a truck, a machine gun and a Boys rifle is very typical of the LRDG.

        • I forget what form the “administration” took (they’re all gangs anyway).

          The part I do remember was that the occupying forces forced use of a paper money which they printed,

          partly so that they could do what all governments do – exchange bits of paper printed at negligible cost to themselves for real goods and services.

          and also, it only had “value” in occupied Poland – in the hope that they could print as many of them as they wanted, without it inflating the money supply back in Germany -as the German Population were still very conscious of having had their savings invisibly stolen by the Weimar regime’s inflation of the money supply.

          As it was, the NSDAP regime stole any new savings, with its own hyperinflation of the money supply (not that the “allies” and post war Europe have been much better in terms of invisibly taxing through printing ever more paper money.

          • Yeah, I was gonna say something to that effect…. but was lazy.

            Actually, Reichsmark was backed solid thru the war; forget Nazi no-sense – they were partners in game. Golden bricks were shuffled from dock to dock all the way thru the war. For clue take a look here:https://www.bis.org/

            Now you understand why Switzerland was not occupied. Yeah right, they hade better rifles, I know.

      • without trying to turn “man with whiskers handling Browning” into history lesson, it may be of general interest that Polish and German governments have negotiated and signed “Non-aggression treaty” in January of 1934 with validity for 10 years.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German%E2%80%93Polish_Non-Aggression_Pact

        Apparently later on, the Polish leadership, being couched by Western governments (including that of United States) have set course to more adventurous line. Result proved to be disaster.

        • 1. One thing is that the world (Germany definitely had) had changed a lot between 1934 and 1939.
          Still, it was in 1939 that Hitler offered to Poles to join his Anti-Comintern Pact, and march against Russia. Until today do Polish historians (and journalists) argue over “Should we have? or “should we not have?”. By March 1939 (having captured all of what was left of former Czechoslovakia) much fewer observers would still consider Hitler a man of his word. I think that the main reason of this proposition was to introduce some confusion into the Franco-Polish and Anglo-Polish alliance. All sides must have realised this, because in August 1939 Chamberlain formulated British guarantees to Poland should it be attacked. Given such guarantees, Poles broke off negotiations. For Chamberlain (as for Churchill in the time to come, as well as for British governments over past centuries) what was the most important consideration was that Britain should not be left without any allies. How these allies were faring with this, witness the cases of Greece and Yugoslavia (in both these countries – as in Poland – the German occupation was the cruellest. Some think the reason may have been rejection of Hitler’s offer).
          Regards, Andrzej

    • Same with the Czechs…betrayed, but then again…what are you going to do? Allies were about the only choice.

    • Man-oh-man, this is what I like: professional soldier. And of course, with irreplaceable handlebars, not to mention wrapped-up beer can posing as optical sight:-))))

      To compare them, the fighter in picture is likely volunteer, therefore “un-professional”. Guess who’s got more aptitude to do the actual job.

      • Denny,
        They WERE volunteers – many of them had to cross unlawfully a number of frontiers (Reich-Slovakia, Slovakia-Hungary, Soviet Union-Romania, Romania-Yugoslavia) to continue fighting after their country wasnominally nonexistent. They were trying to make it to France, and then (those who survived the French defeat and disastrous Norway campaign) to Britain.
        The one in the photo must be (judging by the dates) the soldier of Brygada Karpacka (Carpathian Brigade), which later was fighting within the Polish Second Corps in Italy, alongside the Brygada Kresowa (I cannot think of good English equivalent for that word – generally the name was referring to the Eastern part of Poland (although inhabited msotly by Byelorussians and Ukraninians). Kresowa was formed after the Barbaraossa, when Stalin agreed to release Polish soldiers taken prisoner during the Soviet invasion of Poland starting on September 17, 1939. By agreeemntbetween British Government and Soviets, they crossed over to Iran, later Irak, where for some time they were protecting oil installations – and recuperating (Gulags were not exactly summer camps). It is this Brigada Kresowa that had this bear-mascot – coming from Russia, as they were, it does not look as crazy as it might at teh first sight. Incidentally, the Polish Armed Forces did not have the tradition of British regiments – of an animal mascot. I think, the mustache may also have been copied from the Brits. Incidentally, with the daily water allowance they were getting in the desert, keeping clean ANY part of the body was an ordeal.
        Regards, Andrzej

        • Close(but cripple) translation would be “Frontier Brigade”.
          Their bear-mascot came from Iran IIRC, and(unlike russian species) was rather small animal(but still larger than Canadian WWI Winniepeg).

  4. The Poles are held in high regard by those generations in the UK who remember, or know of, their courage and determination.
    I note a Boyes antitank rife in the background.

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