Topics of coins

General Wladyslaw Anders

Władysław Anders was born on August 11, 1892, in Błonie, county of Kutno. When his father got a job as manager of the Taurogi estate, the family moved to Lithuania. In the years 1911-1914, he studied at the Riga Polytechnic and, in the middle of 1914, he was recruited to a military college of the Russian army Cavalry reserve. When leaving the school, he received his first rank as a non-commissioned officer. He was sent to the frontline to fight as a soldier of the 3rd Dragoon Regiment in Eastern Prussia where he first commanded a squadron and later a battalion. Already at that early stage, Anders showed high commanding abilities which was why he was sent to be trained at the Academy of the General Staff in Petersburg. When the training was over, on February 7, 1917 Anders was made Chief of Staff of the 7th Division of Fusiliers. He was wounded three times in battle and his courage earned him one of the highest Russian distinctions - the St. George Officer's Cross.

From 1917 on, Władysław Anders took part in gathering and training the troops of the 1st Polish Corps in the Russian Army, commanded by General Jozef Dowbor-Musnicki. In battle, he commanded a regiment and later on became Chief of Staff of the 1st Division of Fusiliers. After the corps had been disbanded, Anders came to Poland where - after regaining Poland's independence - he started his service for the Wielkopolska Army Staff in Poznan. After this, he took command of the 1st Regiment of Wielkopolska Uhlans, which took part in the Polish-Bolshevik war of 1920. The Regiment became famous after its battles on the Berezina River in which Lieutenant-Colonel Anders was wounded again. His courage was appreciated and Marshal Jozef Pitsudski personally decorated him with the Virtuti Militari Order of the 5th Class. Władysław Anders's rare combat virtues were also confirmed by his being subsequently awarded four times with the Cross of Valour.

After the war, Władysław Anders spent the years 1921-1923 on studying at the Ecole Superieure de Guerre in Paris. Having graduated from this school, he was made Director of the training courses given to senior commanders at the Higher Military School in Warsaw. On August 15, 1925, he was promoted to the colonel's rank. In the period 1925-1926 he served as the first officer at the Staff of the Cavalry Inspectorate-General.

Colonel Anders was also an excellent cavalryman. The unit under his command won a number of individual prizes and the Cup of Nations as a team at the international equestrian competition in Nice in 1925.

During the coup of May 1926, Anders - being true to his soldier oath - took the side of the legal government and Poland's President Stanislaw Wojciechowski. Being the Chief of Staff of the government forces, he commanded defence operations around the Belvedere Palace and then he took part in the march of state officials from Belvedere to the Wilanow Palace. Despite his clearly pro-government attitude, he suffered no reprisal from Marshal Piisudski who appreciated his skills and nominated him as commander of the 2nd Independent Cavalry Brigade in Rowne in 1926.

On January 1, 1934, Władysław Anders was promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General and in 1937 he took command of the Nowogrodzka Cavalry Brigade in Baranowicze. During the German attack on Poland in September 1939, his Brigade was part of the "Modlin" Army and it fought heavy battles in the region of Lidzbark Welski and Ptock. General Anders was wounded during this operation by an aerial shell splinter. But he stayed at the frontline. He had his wounds dressed and continued commanding. As soon as his Brigade was incorporated into the "łodz" Army on September 12, he commanded an operation group storming the town of Minsk Mazowiecki, among other places kept by the Germans at the time. During the army's march to the south, towards the Romanian border, troops commanded by General Anders joined the "Prusy" Army, which was surrounded by a tightening ring of the German troops. On September 22, the remnants of the Nowogrodzka Cavalry Brigade cut their way out through the ring and started moving towards the city of Lwow but on their way they ran across attacking Soviet Red Army. Anders was wounded twice and taken captive by the Soviets at Stary Sambor on September 29. From there, he was taken to Lwow and then to Moscow where he was kept in the NKVD tubianka prison. Suffering extremely hard prison conditions and interrogated hundreds of times, he spent 22 months in Soviet dungeons. He was released on August 4, 1941, when the Soviet-Polish treaty was signed providing for the organisation of a Polish Army in the Soviet Union. He was nominated a Lieutenant-General on August 11, 1941.

The formation of the Polish Army in the Soviet Union was very difficult: arms, uniforms, and food were extremely scarce. General Anders made it his goal not only to get the army organised, but also to save as many as possible of the Poles scattered in the Soviet Union at the time. His efforts saved a large number of Polish civilians, among them, thousands of children. He never agreed to sending single and poorly armed units to fight frontline battles. In 1942, Anders carried out the evacuation of the Polish Army to Iran, the operation being agreed with the Soviets. The troops deployed in Iran were named the Polish Army in the East. After a period of convalescence and enhanced training, Anders's troops became the 2nd Polish Army Corps and they were relocated to the Italian front at the beginning of 1944. There, they received the task to take Monte Cassino. At the time when decision to send the Poles to this battle was being made, Anders was fully aware of its historic importance. He said years after: "However, I was aware that the Corps would have suffered major losses at some other battlefield too. But a success in carrying out this task could have been very important to the Polish cause because of the worldwide fame Monte Cassino had earned by the time (...) It would give great glory to the Polish arms."

The battle started on May 12 and finished with conquering Monte Cassino on May 18,1944. As the General had expected, the news of the victory spread around the world. The victory opened the way towards Rome, the 2nd Corps troops under General Anders captured Ancona, broke the Gothic Line, and took the town of Bologna. Anders's merits as a commander in all the battles fought in Italy were appreciated by Polish authorities as well as by the Allies: General Anders received the highest distinctions of the 3rd Class Virtuti Militari Order, and the British Order of the Bath, awarded to him by King George VI. US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt awarded Anders with the Legion of Merit.

Towards the end of the war, between February and May 1945, General Anders performed the duties of the Commander-in-Chief and from September 24, 1946 to July 4, 1954, he was the Commander-in-Chief and Inspector-General of the Polish Armed Forces in the West. When hostilities were over, he took great care about the welfare and public problems of his soldiers who stayed out of Poland. This work was the reason why he was stripped of his Polish citizenship by the National Unity Government in Warsaw on September 26, 1946. Polish authorities abrogated this decision as late as on March 15,1989.

After the war, General Władysław Anders lived in London. All his life, he was recognised as the political leader of Polish military in-exile. He also organised a new life to Polish emigre schools, theatres, and publishing institutions in Britain. He headed the National Treasury Main Committee and was President of the Polish Culture Foundation. His merits at war were recognised again and General Anders was promoted to the rank of General by the Polish authorities in-exile on May 15,1954.

Władysław Anders published his wartime memories in 1949 in a book titled: "Without The Last Chapter," which was printed abroad a number of times and for the first time in Poland - as an underground independent publication - in 1983.

Polish communist authorities considered Anders one of their biggest enemies because he strongly resisted Moscow's pressure at the time when the Polish Army was built in the Soviet Union, and because he was against Yalta Conference's decisions on Poland and introducing communist rule in this country.

Władysław Anders died in London on May 12,1970. According to his will, he was buried among his soldiers at the Polish Military Cemetery at Monte Cassino.

He was posthumously awarded with the White Eagle Order in 1995.

Witold Głębowicz
Museum of Polish Armed Forces in Warsaw