Walerian Jaworski

POLISH war veteran, Walerian ‘Valek’ Jaworski, has passed away at his home in Melksham on March 10 aged 92.

Valek was well known in Wiltshire for his ‘testimonials’ of his Second World War service fighting with the Polish Armed Forces.

Mr Jaworski, who was born in eastern Poland, was forced from his homeland with his family to become a slave labourer in the Gulag camps in Arctic Russia.

He was later freed to fight the Nazis and with thousands of other Poles fought alongside British troops in the Middle East and Italy.

Mr Jaworski served with the Polish II Corps under the command of Lt Gen Wladyslaw Anders, who was dubbed the ‘Polish Moses’.

Lt-General Anders led Polish people who had been deported to the gulag camps and formed them into an army. The Corps operated from 1943–1947 as a major tactical and operational unit of the Polish Armed Forces in the West.

Mr Jaworski said: “I was only just 17 in January 1944 when I joined the Corps, although I had been a Polish Army Cadet for a year prior to that. We were taught gunnery, how to use telegraph equipment, and how to drive.

“The Regiment insisted on us learning all the trades so that if anyone was killed or wounded, we could cover for each other.”

In February 1944, the 50,000-strong Polish II Corps was transferred from Egypt to Italy where it became an independent part of the British Eighth Army. During 1944–45, the Corps fought with distinction in the Italian Campaign, most notably during the fourth and final Battle of Monte Casino, in May 1944, where it suffered heavy losses.

“It was not a happy time when they sent us to Monte Casino. We had heard about the disasters there when we were in Egypt,” Mr Jaworski said.

“There had been three previous attempts by British, Indian and New Zealand forces to get the Germans out and each one had failed with a terrible loss of life.”

In the final stage of the Battle of Monte Casino, even the Polish support units were mobilised and used in combat, such was the ferocity of the fight.

“We lost 28 men trying to get the Germans out of the hills above the monastery. Virtually everyone who was still alive had suffered shrapnel wounds,” he said.

“I had a piece of shrapnel in my helmet. “When we finally got the Germans out, they had lost of lot of men, dead and wounded, and we took about 30 prisoners.

Mr Jaworski later went on to fight in the Battle of Ancona during Operation Olive, the fighting on the Gothic Line in September 1944, and in the Battle of Bologna during the final offensive in Italy in March 1945.

During the Italian Campaign, the Polish II Corps lost 11,379 men. Among them were 2,301 killed in action, 8,543 wounded in action and 535 missing in action.

After the war, the divisions of the Corps were used as an occupation force in Italy until 1946, when they were transported to Britain and demobilised in Britain.

Mr Jaworski was among those who chose to stay in the UK, and eventually moved to Melksham. He didn’t want to back home to eastern Poland, then part of a new Communist state.

After being demobbed, Mr Jaworkski stayed on to work in Grimsby, before moving to Bath to work for a demolition company. He later relocated to Melksham, where he helped to build pre-fabricated houses and lay water pipes between Warminster and Westbury.

He met his wife, Glynice, now 88, when he was 21 and she only sixteen and a half, and encountered opposition from her father.

He recalled: “Her father didn’t even want us to see each other, let alone marry, and said it would only last six months. We’ve been married now for 64 years.”

Mr Jaworski leaves behind Glynice, two sons, Mark and Christopher, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was buried at Box Cemetery on March 22.