[...] it was hell to listen to the reports, you see, people killed, people killed, people killed, people killed, you see. You found your buddies and so on, being killed and so on. So it wasn’t fun.
Mr. Aleksander Bogdan was born in Poland and was deported in Siberia in 1941 where he spent several months in the gulags. Having been released with thousands of others Polish prisoners, he joined the Polish Forces in Russia in March 1942 and came under British Command in August that same year when the new Polish Army Corps crossed the Russo/Persian border. He served in the Middle East in 1942 and 1943, then in Italy from March 1944 to March 1945 where he saw action at Monte Cassino and Ancona with the 11th Signals Battalion of the Polish II Corps.
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After the collapse of Poland [following the German invasion of September 1st, 1939], my home was under the first German and then Russian occupation [following the Soviet invasion that began on September 17th]. When the Russians reopened schools, I went back to Grajewo [Poland] but not for very long. I was arrested and deported from Poland to Siberia to a place called Khanty-Mansiysk. I stayed there until the amnesty in 1941, when I was released [in the context of a Polish-Russian Military Agreement signed on August 14th, 1941] and sent to a place called Tyummen [Siberia].
[The Middle East and the formation of a Polish Army Corps]
In early 1942, I left Tyumen for a place called Lujavog in Uzbekistan I think, where the Polish army was formed. I was enlisted as a soldier in the Polish signals regiment [Mr. Bogdan served with the 11th Signals Battalion attached to the Polish 2nd Corps Headquarters]. We left Russia in the summer of 1942 for Iraq through Iran, where we were issued with proper equipment and received proper military training. We arrived in Palestine in 1943 and during the summer of that year, the Polish authorities organized a secondary school at a place called […] near […] in Palestine. I was accepted for this school and stayed there until March 1944, where I was successful in passing the lower matriculation examination.
I was sent back to my regiment in Italy, which at the time was moving towards the Monte Cassino [at the beginning of 1944]. My specialization as a radio telegraphist with the Polish 2nd Corps Headquarters was utilized at the Monte Cassino and also in the Adriatic campaign after which I was successful in passing through the military college for signals and received a promotion to the rank of cadet officer. I was next sent back to the regiment where I was an instructor.
Our regiment in Russia was called First Regiment, No. 1 Regiment, and we were planning to have about 2,000 people. But in Iraq, we found that too many people were requested by London for this service in the parachute brigade or the navy or the air force. The numbers were depleting consequently. We didn’t have enough staff to have a full regiment. Consequently, we were called the 11th Battalion, attached to the [Polish 2nd Corps] headquarters, to serve the headquarters with the Third Division [3rd Carpathian Infantry Division], Fifth Division [5th Kresowa Infantry Division], the army brigades and the signals and the engineering battalions and so on. So you see, in the headquarters, we had the 11 radio stations, each one was assigned a number of units in which to provide radio operations in case the telephones lines were broken. So in our battalion, we had people trained to serve as radio operator or telephone operators and provided let’s say repair of equipment, because the radio stations very often didn’t work.
[The Battle of Monte Cassino, Spring 1944]
So we moved towards Monte Cassino at the request of Lord Alexander [Field Marshal Harold Alexander, 1st Earl Alexander of Tunis, commander of the 15th Army Group in Italy]. There were three battles for Monte Cassino before us, which were not successful. You see, for the last battle, when we got to Monte Cassino, the road to Rome was opened. Because the Monte Cassino controlled the Liri Valley and the road to Rome from south to north or from north to south. And the Germans were about over six months, they were extremely, extremely accurate at shooting everything which moved. So on the 11th of May , about 2,000 guns were firing. Not only the Polish but of course, we were part of the British 8th Army.
Before the attack, we couldn’t do anything, we kept quiet. We didn’t want the Germans to find out where we are. Telephone weren’t working because you see, with telephones, let’s say if you have the wires up the hill or wherever, you need them to be installed where the bosses wanted to have them. But with that, it wasn’t that easy. Especially let’s say the operator […] operated, it was number nine, it was […]. And we had in a Chevrolet, I think it was made, Chevrolet was of Canadian origin, it was heavy equipment, it was the batteries and whatnot, you know. So you just couldn’t take on the bag. But now the units in various regiments and so on, they had the number 12 radio station, which was […] by […] the handles to carry the telephone lines up the hills and so on, was a hell. And the mines in the area were so plentiful, it’s unbelievable. And let’s say we have the engineers, three battalions. From one battalion, there was hardly anyone but 18 people were left. And in the mountain area like that the tanks won’t go anywhere. But going back to my operation, it was hell to listen to the reports, you see, people killed, people killed, people killed, people killed, you see. You found your buddies and so on, being killed and so on. So it wasn’t fun.