Polish Cadets and local dignitaries attended a Remembrance Service at the Polish War Graves in Perth on 21 July.
18 Polish Cadets and two Adult Volunteers from LO CN-B High School Cichociemnych w Olsztynie in Bydgoska, Olsztyn visited the UK from 16-22 July. During Exercise Sobieska, The Black Watch Battalion Army Cadet Force (ACF) hosted the group at their Garelochhead Camp in Helensburgh.
They attended the Polish War Graves to take part in a Remembrance Service for the Polish war heroes buried at Wellshill Cemetery. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission cares for 570 war graves in Perth, including those of over 350 Polish military personnel of the Second World War. Wellshill is the largest Polish war grave site in the UK. There remain strong local links to Poland.
The Senior Chaplain in Scotland commenced the Remembrance Service. Principal Roman Catholic Chaplain (Army) and Deputy Assistant Chaplain-General of 51st Infantry Brigade and HQ Scotland, Reverend Father Ian Stevenson CF, said: “On this day, we commemorate the Polish heroes buried here in Perth, elsewhere in the United Kingdom and those who have no known grave. We give thanks for their part in achieving victory in the Second World War. We remember with sorrow all those who were killed and those whose lives were changed forever.”
Then the Last Post was sounded, followed by a two-minute silence during which a piper played a lament to the fallen. After the Reveille was sounded, Reverend Father Stevenson CF read the Kohima Epitaph: “When you go home tell them of us and say, ‘For your tomorrow, we gave our today'”.
Civic and military representatives as well as the Polish delegation laid wreaths at the memorial, led by Deputy Lieutenant of Perth and Kinross, Charles Gallagher Esquire DL.
The Chaplain’s final blessing was followed by the National Anthems of the UK and the Republic of Poland. The Polish Cadets stood to attention, saluted and sang along to their National Anthem, which concluded the ceremony.
51st Infantry Brigade and HQ Scotland’s Cadet Music Adviser Second Lieutenant Callum Mellis, and The Black Watch Battalion ACF provided the music. The six talented musicians who played during the ceremony included a bugler and a piper.
After the ceremony, the Polish Cadets laid 20 Poppy Crosses on individual graves of the Polish war heroes.
In attendance were the Army Cadets Head of Wellbeing, Colonel Pat O’Meara; Head of Cultural Affairs for the Polish Consulate in Edinburgh, Mrs Sylwia Spooner; Deputy Lieutenant of Perth and Kinross, Charles Gallagher Esquire DL; President of Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland, Vice Admiral Mark Beverstock; Armed Forces Champion for Perth and Kinross Council as well as HRFCA Eastern Area Committee Representative Member, Councillor Chris Ahern; Highland RFCA Chief Executive, Brigadier (Retired) Mark Dodson; Colonel Cadets of 51st Infantry Brigade and HQ Scotland as well as Army Cadet Charitable Trust (ACCT) Scotland Vice Chair and HRFCA Southern Area Committee member, Colonel Alex McNamee; HRFCA’s Community, Engagement and Outreach Committee Chair, Lieutenant Colonel Gillian Moncur; Chair of the Friends of Bydgoszcz (Perth’s Polish sister city), Vice Chair of the Friends of Aschaffenburg (Perth’s German twin town) and former Councillor for Perth and Kinross Council, Major Douglas Pover; the principal of the Polish school, Martyna Geszczyńska; Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s UK and Northern Area Regional Manager, Iain Anderson; ACCT Scotland Secretary and Treasurer as well as Deputy Colonel Cadets and HRFCA Eastern Area Committee Associate Member, Lieutenant Colonel Martin Passmore; and The Black Watch Battalion’s Public Relations Officer, Major Michael McCluskey.
During Exercise Sobieska, the Polish Cadets trained with 3 and 4 Star Cadets from The Black Watch Battalion. The programme included navigation, Communications and Information Systems (CIS) and fieldcraft. They also spent a day canoeing and gorge walking during Adventurous Training.
Brigadier Dodson met with the Battalion’s Commandant, Lieutenant Colonel Alasdair Halford-MacLeod, as well as his senior team and Permanent Support Staff at the Garelochhead Camp on 19 July. HRFCA Deputy Chief Executive Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Andrew Macnaughton also visited the Camp on 21 July.
On the poignant Remembrance Service and the Polish War Graves, Cadet Mikołaj Mendalka said: “It’s unbelievable how many people died away from their country in unknown land to them. It has been a shocking experience to see all the graves we did not know about, even though we had heard about Polish graves around the UK.”
On Exercise Sobieska and the overall visit to Scotland, he said: “The Scottish Cadets have been really friendly, welcoming us with open arms. It has been a truly amazing experience. I’m hoping to come back again next year.”
Seeing as it was their last day before their departure, the Polish Cadets had the opportunity to visit Edinburgh Castle. They spent a few hours exploring the Scottish National War Memorial and the Royal Regiment of Scotland Museum.