Adam Bardach in Ottawa, Ontario, November 8, 2010.Historica Canada
"We managed to cross the Romanian border and then we were evacuated to the Middle East where, two years later, I joined as soon as I became 18."
I was born in Poland. I lived in Poland until 1939. When the war broke out, I was 16 years old, so my mother and I moved out of the city. We managed to cross the Romanian border and then we were evacuated to the Middle East where, two years later, I joined as soon as I became 18. I served in the Polish forces in the Middle East originally and then through, again Middle East, Iraq, then Egypt and Italy. Also, I was on the way to Tobruk [a port in eastern Libya], but at that time, the boat to Tobruk fell and we didn’t make the trip.
I ended out the war as major. I have quite a few decorations, but I’m lucky to have survived. I took part, initially I was in the [3rd Polish] Anti-Tank Regiment [Polish Artillery]; and after the Battle of Monte Cassino [in Italy], we took over from the Canadians. We went through about the same route as the Canadian troops in Italy. We have been to Ancona [city on Italy’s east coast]. I’ve been to the Battle of Ancona, Sangro River, Monte Cassino and the last one is Bologna. After Bologna, I became sick and ended up in the hospital and then I was transferred up, after the hospital, to the newly formed 3rd [Polish (Silesian)] Lancers Regiment, where I got my commission.
I was in the anti-tank regiment and the interesting part is that we had two [Ordnance Quick Firing] 17-pounder [anti-tank] guns which weighed about 2.5 tonnes each; and we unassembled them, brought them on our backs as volunteers at night and we’d park them on the hill which had a number, 324 [Monastery Hill, near Monte Cassino], less than one kilometer from the monastery. We were banging the monastery for several days; and we made quite a bit of entrance in the walls of the monastery. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds because the Germans always had their guns aimed; and we had a course from the shelter to the guns, so we’d have about five or six shots, run back to the shelter and then we were heavily bombarded by the Germans. So that was about the most difficult part of it because you never knew when Germans would start because they was firing at us at random.
So anyway, that was the toughest part. After Monte Cassino, we proceeded northeast and we were in the Battle of Scapezzano where I got my [Polish] Cross of Valour. We got a few tanks, two German tanks, and that was for what I got the medal.
So after the hospital, when I mentioned previously, in the Battle of Bologna, I was transferred to the armoured cavalry regiment as an anti-tank specialist; and I got my commission entering, coming to the regiment. Then eventually, I became the adjutant [staff officer, assistant to the commanding officer] of the regiment and that was more or less my military career. I will never forget that one day the company sergeant major came running to me and said, the CO [commanding officer] wants to see you instantly. I looked at him, why, what happened? He wouldn’t tell me. I came in, the CO said, have you ever replaced the adjutant? I said, no sir. Do you know what the adjutant does? No, sir. You’ll take over in one hour, congratulations. [laughs] That’s the way it happened. [laughs] So in minutes, from lieutenant, I became the most senior captain in the regiment.