On this day (01/08/1944) The Warsaw Uprising began. The Polish underground resistance, led by the Polish resistance Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa), attempted to liberate Warsaw from German occupation. The uprising was timed to coincide with the retreat of the German forces from Poland ahead of the Soviet advance. While approaching the eastern suburbs of the city, the Red Army temporarily halted combat operations, enabling the Germans to regroup and defeat the Polish resistance and to destroy the city in retaliation. The Uprising was fought for 63 days (01/08/1944 – 02/10/1944) with little outside support. It was the single largest military effort taken by any European resistance movement during World War II.
Initially, the Poles established control over most of central Warsaw, but the Soviets ignored Polish attempts to make radio contact with them and did not advance beyond the city limits. Intense street fighting between the Germans and Poles continued. By 14 September, the eastern bank of the Vistula River opposite the Polish resistance positions was taken over by the Polish troops fighting under the Soviet command; 1,200 men made it across the river, but they were not reinforced by the Russian forces.
It is hard to know the real number of casualties, but it is estimated that about 16000 members of the Polish resistance were killed with roughly 6000 wounded. Between 150000 and 200000 Polish civilians died while German casualties totalled between 2,000 to 17,000 soldiers killed and missing. Approximately 25% of Warsaw’s buildings were destroyed and after the surrender German troops levelled another 35% of the city block by block. By January 1945 over 85% of the city had been destroyed.
The Katyn Forest Memorial in Johannesburg commemorates the event as well as paying homage to the 14500 Polish POW’s murdered by Stalin’s assassins in 1940 and the members of the South African Air Force who were involved in the Warsaw Airlift in August 1944. The memorial sits on to of a grassy rise in the James and Ethel Gray Park in Melrose, between the Glenhove and Athol-Oaklands turn-offs on the M1 in Johannesburg.
The Allies, realising that the Poles needed support sent over 200 low-level supply drops by the Royal Air Force, the South African Air Force, and the Polish Air Force under British High Command, in an operation known as the Warsaw Airlift.
The Polish Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum was Polish ex-combatants association, the Polish Air Force Association Charitable Trust, the Association of the Polish Knights of the Sovereign Military order of Malta (UK), and by public subscription.
DRW © 2020. Created 02/08/2020