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Prominent Poles

Stanisław Franciszek Sosabowski military man, Brigadier General, WWII hero.

Photo of Stanislaw Sosabowski, military man

Born:  May 8, 1892, Stanislawow, Austro-Hungarian partition of Poland(presently Iwano-Frankivsk, Ukraine)

Died:  September 25, 1967, Hillingdon, United Kingdom

Early years. He was born to a railway clerk’s family; graduated from a local “gimnazjum” and in 1910 was accepted as a student of the faculty of economy of the University of Cracow. However, the death of his father and poor economical situation of his family forced him to abandon the studies and return to Stanisławów. There he became a member of Drużyny Strzeleckie, a semi-clandestine Polish national scouting organization. He was soon promoted to the head of all Polish scouting groups in the area.

World War I. In 1913 Sosabowski was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army. After the outbreak of WWI he fought with his unit against the Russians in the battles of Rzeszów, Dukla Pass and Gorlice. For his bravery he was promoted to First Lieutenant. In 1915 he was heavily wounded in action and withdrawn from the front. In November 1918, after Poland regained its independence, Sosabowski became a staff officer in the Ministry of War Affairs in Warsaw.

Inter-war years. After the Polish-Soviet War Sosabowski was promoted to Major and in 1922 he started studies at the Higher Military School in Warsaw. After finishing studies he was assigned to the Polish General Staff. In 1928 he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. The following year he was assigned to the 3rd Podhale Rifles Regiment as its deputy commander. From 1930 he was also a professor of logistics at his Alma Mater. In 1937 Sosabowski was promoted to Colonel. In January 1939 he became the commander of the prestigious Warsaw-based 21st "Children of Warsaw" Infantry Regiment.

World War II. According to the Polish mobilization scheme, Sosabowski's regiment was attached to the 8th Infantry Division. Shortly before the start of WWII his unit was moved from its garrison in the Warsaw Citadel to the area of Ciechanów, where it was planned as a strategic reserve of the Modlin Army. On September 2 the division was moved towards Mława and at the following day it entered combat in the Battle of Mława. Although the 21st Regiment managed to capture Przasnysz, the rest of the division was surrounded by the Wehrmacht and destroyed. After that Sosabowski ordered his troops to retreat towards Warsaw. On September 8 Sosabowski's unit reached the Modlin Fortress and was attached to the corps led by general Zulauf. After several days of defensive fights, the corps was moved to Warsaw and instantly upon arrival, Sosabowski was ordered to man the Grochów defensive area and defend Praga, the eastern borough of Warsaw. His regiment managed to repulse the attacks of the Germans and then successfully counter-attacked and destroyed the enemy unit. After this success, Sosabowski was assigned to command all Polish troops fighting in the area of Grochów. Despite constant bombardment and German attacks repeated every day, Sosabowski managed to hold his objectives at relatively low cost in manpower.

France. Following Poland’s surrender, Sosabowski became a prisoner of war, and was interred at a camp near Żyrardów. However, he escaped and remained in Warsaw under a false name, and joined the Polish resistance. He was ordered to leave Poland and reach France with important reports on the situation in occupied Poland. After a long trip through Hungary and Romania he arrived to Paris, where the Polish government in exile assigned him to the Polish 4th Infantry Division. Initially the French authorities were very reluctant to hand over the badly-needed equipment and armament to the Polish unit. In April 1940 the division was moved to a training camp in Parthenay and was finally handed the weapons, but it was already too late to organize the division. Out of more than 11,000 soldiers only 3,150 were given arms. Knowing this, the commander of the division general Dreszer ordered his unit to withdraw towards the Atlantic coast. On June 19, 1940, Sosabowski with approximately 6 000 Polish soldiers arrived to La Pallice, from where they were evacuated to Great Britain.

Great Britain. Upon his arrival to London, Sosabowski was assigned to 4th Rifles Brigade that was to become a core of the future 4th Infantry Division. The unit was to be composed mainly from Canadian Polonia, but it soon became apparent that there were not enough young Poles in Canada to create a division out of them. Then Sosabowski decided to transform his brigade into a Parachute Brigade, the first such unit in the Polish Army. The volunteers came from all the formations of the Polish Army. In Largo House a training camp was built and the parachute training was started. Sosabowski himself passed the training and, at 49 years of age, made his first parachute jumps. Impulsive and harsh, Sosabowski could not stand any opposition. This made the creation of a Polish parachute brigade possible, but also made contacts with his superiors problematic. In October 1942 the brigade was ready for combat and was named the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade. Since the Polish General Staff planned to use the brigade to aid the all-national uprising in Poland, the soldiers of the 1st Polish Para were to be the first element of the Polish Army in Exile to reach their homeland. Hence the unofficial motto of the unit: the shortest way. In September 1943 Lt. Gen. Browning proposed that Sosabowski reform his unit into a division and fill the remaining posts with Englishmen. Sosabowski himself would be assigned to the newly-formed division and promoted to general. Although Sosabowski refused he was nevertheless promoted to Brigadier General on June 15, 1944.

Warsaw Uprising. In early August 1944, news of the Warsaw Uprising arrived to Great Britain. The brigade was ready to be para dropped into Warsaw to aid their colleagues from the Home Army, who were fighting a desperate battle against overwhelming odds. However, the distance was too great for the transport aircraft to make a round trip and access to Soviet airfields was denied. The morale of the Polish troops suffered badly, and many of the units verged on mutiny. The British staff threatened its Polish counterpart with disarmament of the brigade, but Sosabowski retained control of his unit. Finally, Polish Commander in Chief Kazimierz Sosnkowski put the brigade under British command, and the plans to send it to Warsaw were abandoned.

Battle of Arnhem. The Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade was included in the Allied forces taking part in Operation Market Garden. Due to a critical shortage of transport aircraft, the brigade was split into several parts before entering the battle. A small part of the brigade with Sosabowski was dropped near Driel on September 19, but it was not until September 21 when the rest of the brigade finally arrived in the distant town of Grave, falling directly into the waiting guns of the Germans camped out around the area. The Brigade's artillery was dropped together with the British 1st Airborne Division and the howitzers were to arrive by sea transport. This prevented the Polish forces from being used effectively. Three times Poles under Sosabowski tried to force the Rhine crossing in order to help the surrounded 1st Airborne. However, the ferry they planned to use to reach the British had been sunk and Poles attempted the river crossing in small rubber boats under heavy fire. Nevertheless, at least 200 men succeeded in crossing and reinforcing the embattled British. Despite the difficult situation on the front, during a staff meeting, Sosabowski suggested that the battle could have still been won. He suggested that the combined forces of 30th Corps and the Polish Brigade should start an all-out assault on the German positions and try to break through the Rhine. This plan was not accepted and during the last phase of the battle Sosabowski led his men southwards and shielded the retreat of remnants of the 1st Airborne. The rate of casualties among the Polish units that fought in the battle was high, in some cases as high as 40%. After the battle Sosabowski was unjustly made a scapegoat for the failure of Operation Market Garden, following a critical evaluation by English Lt. Gen. Browning. He was accused of criticizing Field Marshal Montgomery and the Polish General Staff was forced to remove him as the commanding officer of his brigade on 27 December 1944. He was made the commander of guard troops and in July 1948 he was demobilized. He was portrayed by Gene Hackman in the movie A Bridge Too Far

After the war. Shortly after the war Sosabowski managed to bring his son and his wife from Poland. In September 1946 the communist Soviet-backed authorities in Poland deprived Sosabowski of Polish citizenship. Like many other Polish wartime leaders and soldiers exiled from communist Poland he settled down working in West London. He found a job as a factory worker in the CAV Electrics assembly plant in Acton. In 1969 his remains were interred in the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw, Poland.

Awards. 1939 Virtuti Militari Class V; Order of Polonia Restituta Class V; The Independence Cross; 1939 Cross of Valour; The Golden Cross of Merit with Swords 1943 Commander of the Order of the British Empire; The Officer's Medal of the Active Combatants Association; Academic Laurels from The Polish Academy of Science; The Commander's Cross with Star of Polonia Restituta, posthumously; 2006 Bronzen Leeuw(The Netherlands) posthumously

This article uses, among others, material from the Wikipedia article "Stanislaw Sosabowski" licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. :
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Other sources:
Sosabowski family website
Polish Airforce 2000
BOOK Poles Apart: The Polish Airborne at the Battle of Arnhem; Author: George F. Cholewczynski
BOOK Rozdarty narod (in Polish), Author: George F.Cholewczynski
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