On the 1st of September 1939, 1.8 million German troops invaded Poland on three fronts; East Prussia in the north, Germany in the west and Slovakia in the south. The 17th of September saw Soviet forces invade from the east. Under the German-Soviet pact Poland was divided: the Soviets took the eastern half (Byelorussia and the West Ukraine), and the Germans incorporated Pomerania, Posnania and Silesia into the Reich whilst the rest was designated as the General-Gouvernement (a colony ruled from Krakow by Hitler's friend, Hans Frank). In the Soviet zone 1.5 million Poles - men, women and children, were transported to labour camps in Siberia and other areas.

When the Soviet Union was attacked by Germany in June 1941, Polish POWs were released half-starved from prison camps and set up an army headed by General Anders. Many civilians were taken under the protection of this army which was allowed to make its way to Persia (now Iran) and then on to Egypt. Under the control of the British Eighth Army they developed into what British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan referred to as 'one of the greatest fighting units in World War II'.

The Corps most notable campaign victory was at Monte Cassino - their success opened up the road to Rome and southern Europe for the Allies as a whole.

At Yalta, in February 1945, the Allies put Poland within the Russian zone of influence in a post-war Europe. To most Poles the meaning of this was perfectly clear: Poland had been betrayed. At one stage the undefeated 2nd Corps, exiled from and yet so close to their homeland, were prepared to withdraw from the front lines in protest. These were men who had lost everything, the only thing left for them to fight for was a free Poland, and even that had now been taken away from them.

It is a reflection on their honour that no such withdrawal took place - the consequences would have been disastrous. The 2nd Corps continued to fight alongside their Allied brothers-in-arms.
Antoni Plichta