Great Britain declared that a state of
war would exist between Britain and Germany if Hitler wouldn't
restrain his military from violating Poland.
deadline of the ultimatum was 11 am, Sunday, September 3, 1939.
came and went and we were a country at war. In churches we
naively sang, "Onward Christian Soldiers."
Little did we realize the enormity of the cannon fodder and
the destruction that was in
store for the world.
Poland was overrun but many
Polish men managed to escape by hitch-hiking across Europe and
making their way across the Mediterranean Sea to North Africa. From
there they were transported by ship to London where they formed into
an organization called The Polish Liberation Army under the
leadership of General Sikorski.
From there they were dispersed to several different locations in
Britain to train into organized groups for the task that lay ahead.
For some reason Elie was one of the
places chosen as a training place for several hundred of them. The
Golf Hotel was taken over by the military to become the prime place
Elie where they would be billeted.
In Earlsferry, the mansion houses, Earlsknowe on Grange Road on the
golf course, Earlsferry House on the beach and The Marne at the top
of the Ferry Road, were occupied by them. Some also found living
accommodations in the homes of the local people. Additional wooden
buildings were built on the golf course behind the Golf Hotel to
provide extra accommodations for the men.
Their moment of destiny was to be shortly after D Day when the
allied armies stormed ashore onto the beaches of
Elie they trained to become
paratroopers. A wooden practice jumping-off platform was built
behind the hotel on the golf course to simulate the forces exerted
on the body as the result of jumping out of an aircraft while being
loaded down with full gear and weaponry. At
Shell Bay alongside the
Cockie Mill Burn at the Swalley Braes
(so called for the sand martins that nest there) they also built a
simulated parachute drop site. This comprised of a high jumping-off
platform to which was attached an overhead steel cable that extended
to the top of another high pole about a hundred yards away on the
other side of the burn. As they jumped off the platform they hooked
on to the steel cable by a pulley arrangement that carried them the
length of the cable to where it sagged to meet the ground. The
catenary curve of the cable was adjusted
to give them the same forward momentum and impact on landing force
that they would encounter from the actual parachute jump they would
make when their day arrived.
Also on the golf course behind the hotel they had a
Lysander short field take-off and
landing airplane that they used for the practice of landing and
picking up agents under the cover of darkness into and from enemy
occupied France. On the
golf course, for the purpose of training, they also had the fuselage
of an Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley bomber. In addition to its bombing
role Whitleys were specially converted for the carrying of
For ground fire
training exercises they marched to the dune
Shell Bay. As they
marched through the village, they sang their
Polish National Anthem as well as other songs of
their home land. Wearing Polish Eagle uniform
badges that the soldiers gave to us the boys of
the village marched and sang along with
them. During their training exercises Shell Bay
was a very dangerous place to be. Hand grenades
exploded all over the place and their Sten guns
fired live ammunition.
While not doing
training the Polish men took a great interest in
the villagers. In no time we learned to
I'm sure these aren't the spellings but they
are as the words sounded to me.
They taught us their
childrens songs. One
that comes to mind was Za
Charley Goor Alley,
again as it sounded. When Christmas time came
they put on a big party for the children of the
And did the Polish
men ever know how to treat a lady! They
Earlsferry by storm.
These men had customs and courtesies as to how
they treated their women that Scottish men had
never even heard of. They used colognes.
On being introduced to a lady they clicked their
heels, doffed their headgear, bowed and kissed
the backs of the ladies hands. Wow!
Some serious relationships developed and several
As D Day
approached (June 6th 1944) the Poles did full
gear parachute jumps from troop carrying
aircraft on to the Shell Bay and Largo Bay
areas where on landing they engaged in gunfire
as they simulated a war zone battlefield.
Some time after D Day they all left. The village
seemed deserted. About September 17th.
1944 and with the British and other allied
forces for a
total of 35000 men, they were dropped behind the
The mission from the air that was called
Operation Market Garden was to secure the
bridges at Arnhem and Nijmegen in the
Netherlands. Many of the paratroopers were shot
before they hit the ground. Many were
dropped to land too far from the bridges. The
resistance of the enemy was far greater than
anticipated but at great loss they did achieve
It's well known that the British
were forced to retreat in the Arnhem area and that they had to
leave their wounded behind in a hospital. Also known is
that the Germans came and captured the hospital
where they machine gunned the British
troops as they lay in their beds. No doubt there were
also Polish soldiers in that hospital.
(Many years after the war I made my first static
line parachute jump from an old gull wing
Stinson. On a quiet sunny Sunday morning
the take off place was the grass strip Evergreen
airport on the north side of the majestic
Columbia River in the State of Washington and
just across the river from Portland in the State
of Oregon. The pilot throttled back to the
jump speed and I was the first one out. After
the braking jolt of the 'chute opening I looked
up and found the toggles that controlled the forward direction of
the fall. As I swung this way and that towards
friends below I could not help but think of the
day that the Elie Polish paratroopers shed their
blood as they were dropped into the Netherlands
and were met by German sniper fire and
All of what I
relate is what I learned from the few Polish men
returned to Elie
after the war to pick up their lives and call
For about ten days
they were isolated and completely surrounded by
German forces. As they were systematically
mowed down in the fields by heavy machine-gun
fire they were forced to retreat into an ever
smaller area. Finally, on about September 26th
1944 and when they were completely out of ammunition,
they were overrun. Not many from the
original force survived.
They gave their lives for what they thought
would be the liberty and freedom of the Polish
After six years of
war much of
Europe was flattened
and millions of people were dead. Millions more
were maimed for life.
The irony of this declared war, that became World
War ll, was that it was started to ensure the
freedom of the Polish people. When the fighting
war ended and the undeclared cold war began, the
futility of war placed the Polish homeland
behind the iron curtain. How our political
leaders, "The Big Three", carved up
Europe, completely disillusioned the Poles. The Polish people
were out of the frying pan and into the fire.
One brave Polish soldier who survived the war is
Franek Rymaszewski. At war's end after searching
for a place to call "home" Franek now lives his life in
Australia. Franek tells his incredible story on his web
site which is his first hand account of fighting for the
freedom that he believed in. Franek had fought and
struggled for almost six years to free the world from
tyranny and at war's end
he could not return to his
homeland. Franek's web site is a
must read. I often think of Franek who
must now be over 90 years old and lives by himself in
Richmond which is a suburb of the city of Melbourne
where his daughter lives.
(In 2013 Franek's daughter
Celina, her husband and her father Franek
moved to Australia's City of Sydney where they
all reside together.)
Another amazing true story of a Pole's ordeal is
made known in the book, "The Long
Walk," wherein Slavomir Rawicz tells of his
incredible trek to find freedom.
As a symbol of appreciation from the
Polish army contingency for the enthusiastic welcome and
friendship that they had received from the Elie
and Earlsferry villagers
during their years of living amongst us they
cast a commemorative brass
plaque and attached it to the front wall of the
Earlsferry town hall, right next to my home "Viewforth."
I was told that the metal to make the plaque was
obtained from empty shell cases and that several
Polish eagle badges from off their army uniforms
had gone into the melt.