Vehicles of the Polish 1st Armoured Division
by Thomasz Basarabowicz
Reviewed by Peter Brown
Many Polish service personnel were able to escape when their country was overrun in 1939 while others were abroad at the time. They made their way to countries fighting the Germans and formed units along the lines of their host nations. Among these was the 1st Armoured Division, formed in Scotland in early 1942.
By the time of the invasion of France in 1944 it was organised and equipped along British lines, that is, with an Armoured Brigade consisting of three regiments using Sherman tanks and a motorised infantry regiment, an Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment with mostly Cromwells plus an Infantry Brigade, artillery regiments and supporting arms and services.
The Division moved to France in July 1944 as part of 1st Canadian Army. They fought in Normandy, Belgium, the Netherlands and finally Germany. Notable actions included the Falaise Pocket which saw the Germans suffer massive losses. Their tanks were fitted with extra armour in the form of spare track links in typical Canadian fashion. They were also unique in 21 Army Group in using the Sherman IIA or M4A1(76) version of this tank.
As its title states, this book focusses on the Division’s vehicles of all types although its artillery and even field kitchen trailers are also covered. This is done using period black and white photos from a range of sources. Colours are explained in the captions with several colour plates from Slawomir Zajaczkowski showing side and front views. Markings are also described in detail including some ways of painting them unique to the Poles. This includes coloured pennants flown from radio aerials.
Some oddities appear such as a Sherman with additional camouflage using captured paint, unique markings including a cartoon cow and a captured semi-track troop carrier. A lot of graffiti was chalked onto their tanks by those grateful for liberation. Crews also appear in many photos, as well as a few knocked-out enemy AFVs. Detailed listings of the type of armoured vehicles in use taken from original records will also be useful.
The Poles fighting on the Allied side were not treated well at the war’s end. Many were unable to return home and remained in the UK for the rest of their lives. At least this book can be used by modellers to recreate their vehicles as a tribute in some form.
Text and Images by Peter Brown