Plaque to Be Unveiled at Chiswick Home of War Hero
Stanisław Sosabowski led Polish troops at Battle of Arnhem
A new commemorative plaque honouring the heroic Polish paratroop commander at the battle of Arnhem Major-General Stanisław Sosabowski is to be unveiled in Chiswick.
It will be mounted on the front wall of a house at 2 St Georges Road, W4 1AU at 5pm on Wednesday 26th September where General Sosabowski lived with his wife Maria in the years 1950 to 1960.
The plaque, coloured grey and white, but otherwise resembling the traditional blue plaques issued by National Heritage, was organised by the Polish Embassy, the Polish Heritage Society (UK) and by the Federation of Poles in Great Britain. The ceremony will be attended by the Polish Ambassador, by members of the Polish Armed Forces and by the general’s family, including his grandson.
General Sosabowski is a familiar figure to many movie buffs because in the epic film about the battle of Arnhem “A Bridge too Far”, he was played by US actor Gene Hackman.
The general was a controversial figure, beloved by his soldiers in the First Polish Independent Parachute Brigade, which he set up in 1941 on the orders of the Polish government in exile, but he came into conflict with the British over his criticisms of Operation Market Garden which he regarded as ill-advised.
He predicted that the phased landings over several days would not overwhelm the Germans and that the long distance between the landing sites and the military objective, namely the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem, would allow the Germans to surround and isolate the Allied forces. Nevertheless, he threw himself and his forces into battle despite being ambushed by Germans on a seemingly safe landing site and being required to cross the Rhine to relieve the British forces on a ferry that no longer existed and using unwieldy boats with no oars delivered after a 3 day delay.
Of the 1067 Polish parachutists who landed near Arnhem, 49 were reported killed, 173 were declared missing, mostly as a result of their bodies being carried down river in the swollen current of the Rhine and 159 were wounded.
Despite initial praise from General Montgomery, Sosabowski and his Polish troops were eventually made scapegoats by Sosabowski's superior, General Browning, for the planning and logistics failures at Arnhem. It is claimed that on the basis of a falsified account by Browning, Montgomery's report to General HQ was critical of Sosabowski and the Polish troops.
Sosabowski was removed from the command of the Airborne Brigade he had set up and prepared for battle. He was then deprived of his Polish citizenship by the Communist government and refused his British pension in disgust. Unable to return to his native Poland under Communist rule he worked as a factory hand and storekeeper at an aeroplane components factory in Acton, until he died, aged 75, in 1967.
Posthumously he received the Polonia Restituta from the new democratic Polish government and the Order of the Bronze Lion from Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands (in 2006) but he has not been honoured by the British government for his military endeavours although he was awarded the CBE earlier in his career.
In March 2002 the Polish senate announced that September 2002 (120th anniversary of his birth) was to be dedicated to the memory of General Sosabowski and First Polish Independent Parachute Brigade and on the day of the unveiling of the plaque the Polish Embassy is also holding a reception to honour his memory,
September 23, 2012