Polish Veterans to Participate in London’s VE Day Parade for First Time

31 July 2019, Poland, Warsaw: Veterans and contemporary witnesses salute the monument at the commemoration ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa (Photo by Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)
31 July 2019, Poland, Warsaw: Veterans and contemporary witnesses salute the monument at the commemoration ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa (Photo by Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Polish soldiers were crucial in the Allies victory over the Axis powers in World War II. In spite of this, they have never been allowed to participate in VE Day ceremonies in London.

After the war ended, the Soviet Union annexed Poland. The Soviet government under Joseph Stalin exerted pressure on the British government of the time in order to prevent them from inviting the Polish veterans to the celebrations on June 8, 1946.

That ban remained in effect until 2005 when the British government formally apologized for keeping the Poles from the ceremonies.

Soviet Prime Minister Vyacheslav Molotov signs the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Behind him stand (left) Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop of Germany and (right) Joseph Stalin. The non-aggression pact had a secret protocol attached in which arrangements were made for a partition of Poland’s territory.
Soviet Prime Minister Vyacheslav Molotov signs the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Behind him stand (left) Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop of Germany and (right) Joseph Stalin. The non-aggression pact had a secret protocol attached in which arrangements were made for a partition of Poland’s territory.

The British Commonwealth and Poland were the only two countries to fight from the very beginning of WWII until the very end. Britain declared war with Germany within 48 hours of the Nazi occupation of Poland which began WWII.

200,000 soldiers from Poland were under the British High Command in WWII making them one of the largest national formations to fight against Nazi Germany.

Poles had a significant presence in both the Battle of Britain and the Arnhem offensive.

In fact, the squadron with the highest number of kills against the Nazis during the Battle of Britain was the 303 Kosciuszko Squadron made up of Polish pilots.

It can be argued that the Polish contribution was the key to victory against the Germans in that battle.

The foundation of Alan Turing’s success in breaking the Enigma code was based on six-and-a-half years of work by Polish code breakers Jerzy Rozycki, Henryk Zygalski, and Marian Rejewski.

The ability to read encrypted messages from the Germans was one of the crucial elements in the Allied victory.

Polish volunteers to Anders’ Army, released from a Soviet POW camp
Polish volunteers to Anders’ Army, released from a Soviet POW camp

Between 200,000 and 300,000 Polish soldiers and civilians worked in the Polish Resistance which fought against the Nazis while providing valuable intel to the British.

In August of 1944, the Polish people to rise up against the Nazi occupiers during the famous Warsaw Uprising, as a part of the Operation Tempest.

Stalin then ordered the Red Army to stand back and not assist the Polish resisters. The Polish fighters were slaughtered by the Germans which allowed the Red Army to easily take over Poland after they pushed the Nazis out.

Polish veterans did participate in various Remembrance events during the time they were left out of the VE Day celebrations but were not allowed to participate in the parade at the Cenotaph in London.

Though the holiday is traditionally celebrated on a Monday, this year it will be held on Friday, May 8. This will allow a three-day weekend filled with commemorative events to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of the war.

January 1945 aerial photo of destroyed Warsaw
January 1945 aerial photo of destroyed Warsaw

Over 20,000 pubs will participate in a mass toast to war heroes. Churches are partaking in a Ringing Out for Peace event.

One thing that will not be appearing in the VE Day celebrations are tanks. Authorities are concerned that terrorists would target a “military style event.”

VE Day celebrates the day when German soldiers surrendered which signified the end of hostilities in Europe. One million German soldiers were captured by the Red Army in Prague after they tried to return to Germany and avoid capture by the Soviets.

At the same time, 13,000 British POWs were released and returned to Great Britain.

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One further battle between the Germans and Soviets occurred on May 9th. Therefore, VE Day is celebrated in Russia a day later than in the UK and USA.