Poland's unsung D-Day triumphs are retold at special event in Southsea

Polish veteran Otton Hulacki chats with Portsmouth hero John Jenkins. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (220619-2)
Polish veteran Otton Hulacki chats with Portsmouth hero John Jenkins. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (220619-2)
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ONE OF THEIR squadrons shot down more enemy aircraft on June 6, 1944 than any other.

Another destroyed 13million litres of Nazi fuel in an act some branded the winning move in the battle for France.

Friends of the Polish veterans association: Bolla Oleszczua, Krystyna Jenvey and Sylwia Kosiec. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (220619-1)

Friends of the Polish veterans association: Bolla Oleszczua, Krystyna Jenvey and Sylwia Kosiec. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (220619-1)

Meanwhile their navy bombarded enemies in Normandy and their Armoured Division helped liberate Belgium and the Netherlands.

Despite all this many remain unaware of Poland’s vital D-Day contribution, but for hundreds in Portsmouth that changed on Saturday as the tale came alive at the D-Day Story.

At an event from the British-Polish 307 Squadron Project, an exhibition and an art installation illustrated the effort.

Trustee Michael Parrott said: 'We remember the British and American involvement very much, but not so much the Polish involvement.

Marek Wierzbicki with Kristina Zatyl at the Polish D-Day Story event at the D-Day Story in Southsea. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (220619-3)

Marek Wierzbicki with Kristina Zatyl at the Polish D-Day Story event at the D-Day Story in Southsea. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (220619-3)

'But it's important that changes not only because it's the 75th anniversary of D-Day this year, but because there are so many Polish people living in this country, integrated into society.'

As 307 Squadron welcomed addresses from Portsmouth’s council leader and lord mayor, two veterans watched on from the front row. 

On one side was Portsmouth’s famed Arromanches hero, Sergeant John Jenkins, with Polish Lieutenant Colonel Otton Hulacki sat on his right – a spritely 97-year-old survivor of battles in Monte Cassino, Antona and Bologna. 

Stories like his opposite number’s, said Mr Jenkins, are critically important in the way we remember D-Day as a nation. 

Guests watching on at the Polish D-Day Story event at the D-Day Story in Southsea. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (220619-6)

Guests watching on at the Polish D-Day Story event at the D-Day Story in Southsea. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (220619-6)

‘It's been a really wonderful day for me to meet the Polish people because they had so much to do with the invasion, with the air force and the armoured division which they had,’ he said. 

‘We've got to be thankful for their part in the war because, let’s face it, it was very important indeed.’ 

The pair also enjoyed songs from British-Polish singer Katy Carr, a performance from the Portsmouth Polish Saturday School and a screening of Sławomir Ciok’s film Forever a Pilot, angled on the Polish 303 Squadron pilot Alex Herbst. 

Felicity Wood, public participation officer of the D-Day Story, said: ‘We try and tell the personal stories of people involved in the conflict and I think, in the past, military museums have focused on the British and the Americans. The story is a lot bigger than that.’