Stanislaw Wladyslaw Maczek, born in Lwòw,
Poland, on March 31st, 1892; died in Edinburgh,
Scotland, on December 11th, 1994. Polish
Army generals in Hilversum,
the Netherlands, on May 20th,
1945. Sitting, from left to
right: Stanislaw Maczek, 1st
Polish Armoured Division; Guy
Simonds, II Canadian Corps;
H.D.G. Crerar, 1st Canadian
Army; Charles Foulkes, I Canadian
Corps; B.M. Hoffmeister, 5th
Armoured Division. Standing,
from left to right: R.H. Keefler,
3rd Infantry Division; A.B.
Matthews, 2nd Infantry Division;
H.W. Foster, 1st Infantry Division;
R.W. Moncel, 4th Armoured Brigade;
S.B. Rawlins, 49th British Division
by Ken Bell. Department of National
Defence / National Archives of
Between 1910 and 1914, Stanislaw Maczek
studied literature and philosophy at Lwòw
University. A reserve officer, he was called
up to serve in the Austrian infantry during
WWI. When Poland proclaimed its independence
in 1918, Maczek joined his country's armed
Between the wars, Maczek followed courses
of the Warsaw Superior War School and took
several postings as a commanding officer.
In 1938, he was promoted to Colonel in charge
of Poland's first armoured unit, the 10th
Motorized Cavalry Brigade.
In September 1939, Poland collapsed under
the double pressure of Nazi Germany in the
west and of the USSR in the east. Maczek
and his men, after a desperate show of resistance
against invading German forces, reached
Hungary and then dispersed before regrouping
in France where General Wladyslaw Sikorski
had set up a Polish government-in-exile.
In the spring of 1940, Maczek recreated
the 10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade and,
even before training was over, threw it
into the battle against advancing German
invasion forces. After a few weeks of combat
alongside French troops, Maczek was forced
to order his men to retreat and abandon
their tanks. They decided to regroup in
England and rebuild a free Polish army.
Through Maczek's and Sikorski's efforts,
the 10th Brigade was born again on February
25th, 1942, this time as the 1st Polish
Armoured Division under Maczek's command.
The division landed in Normandy on August
1st, 1944, with 16,000 men and some 400
tanks. On August 5th, Major-General Maczek's
troops were placed under the command of
Simonds' II Canadian Corps, to
crush German resistance and reach Falaise.
The Poles and the Canadians fought together
on Operations Totalize (August 7th-10th)
and Tractable (August 14th-16th). On August
19th, 1944, the 1st Polish Armoured Division
found itself ahead of the 1st Canadian Army
as it was about to attempt its great thrust
forward in order to close the Falaise Gap.
The following day, cut off from the Canadian
troops, several Polish combat units faced
the German Army in bloody combat around
Chambois and on Hill 262 ("Maczuga").
Despite the lack of supplies and heavy casualties,
the Polish troops held fast until August
21st, when they were finally relieved by
After a few days' rest, Maczek and his
men joined the Canadians who were marching
towards the Seine, and later in August and
in September towards the Somme, Antwerp
and the Scheldt. On September 28th, 1944,
the 1st Polish Armoured Division was placed
under British command and redeployed in
the Maas sector.
Under Maczek, the 1st Polish Armoured Division
joined II Canadian Corps on April 8th, 1945,
for its final push towards the North Sea,
through the Netherlands and Germany. The
Poles reached Wilhemshaven, the Kriegsmarine's
stronghold. In May 1945, Maczek was promoted
to Lieutenant-General and placed in charge
of I Polish Corps stationed in Scotland.
The end of World War II brought no happy
ending for Maczek and his Polish troops.
They had been willing to sacrifice their
lives for the freedom of their fatherland,
but it seemed to have escaped Nazi invaders
only to fall under Soviet domination. Once
demobilized, Maczek chose Great Britain
as his country of adoption and settled in
Edinburgh. In 1961, he published his memoirs
under the title of Od podwody do Czolga.
General Maczek died in 1994, at the ripe
age of 102; he is buried in the Polish military
cemetery of Breda in the Netherlands.