Father Karol Bik was stationed in the Arbroath area of Scotland with the 14thJazlowiecki Lancers Regiment, making him the chaplain for some of the first Polish troops serving in Scotland to protect it from a potential German invasion.
Shortly after arriving, he was sent inland with reservist troops, settling in Newtyle. Every free moment he got was spent in the woods and hills around the village.
One day, he didn’t come back. Where he went was unknown for several days.
Now, today, you can see a simple wooden cross at the spot where he was found dead at the age of 54. He most likely suffered a heart attack.
The cross is a strong reminder of Father Karol and the presence of the Polish Army in Scotland.
Less than a day after Father Karol was located, Aspirant Ignacy Brak was injured in a motorcycle accident. He later died in an army hospital.
The two men are buried in the Polish war grave section of Wellshill cemetery.
According to the Polish military newspaper, Dziennik Zolnnierza, from October 16, 1941, the regiment held a Holy Mass for the two deceased men then their commander led a pilgrimage to the hill above the village, where they buried the men.
“He had taken a liking to this Scottish Village, it reminded him of his home and family and each free moment he spent roaming these hills, but from one such wandering he never returned,” the newspaper stated.
It went on, “The Regiment left on the hill among the rustling Scottish Firs where Father Karol died a memorial of a simple oak Soldier’s Cross. Last Sunday at the cross, the Lancers said goodbye to their beloved Chaplain, Father Karol Bik.”
When Germany invaded Poland, Father Karol went into hiding in Krakow and the surrounding countryside. He then crossed Romania and Hungary. In Hungary, he ministered in Polish refugee camps.
From there, he went to France and was the chaplain for the General Maczek brigade before he ended up in Scotland in June of 1940 after the French and German Armistice.
An estimated 17,000 Polish soldiers were sent to Scotland and temporarily housed in Crawford, Douglas, and Biggar. They established permanent bases in Angus and Perthshire. They used Barony Castle in Peebles as their main staff officer training facility, The Scotsman newspaper reported.
The Polish troops took over the existing coastal defenses and added anti-tank barriers and pill boxes.
They moved to East Lothian in the spring of 1942 and took control of the country’s armored train.