Zbigniew Mieczkowski, a former soldier of General Maczek’s 1st Army, died at age 100

The Polish community of Britain lost an active member of the Polish diaspora in the UK  just before Christmas. Major Zbigniew Mieczkowski, a former soldier of General Maczek’s 1st Armoured Division, died peacefully at home at the age of 100, on 19 December 2022.

Mr Mieczkowski originated from his estate in Dzierżanowo in Poland. After the outbreak of WWII, he joined the Polish army. He left the country and got to France through Romania. In November 1939, he joined the Polish Army in France and was assigned to the Armoured Weapons Cadet School.

1st Polish Armoured Division, commanded by Gen. Stanisław Maczek, made the history of WW2 with a series of victories. On its war route, including France, Belgium and Germany, it also freed many places in the Netherlands.

After Germany struck France, he moved to the UK, where he served under General Stanisław Maczek’s 1st Armoured Division. In 1944, while the allied troops were heading toward Normandy, Mr Mieczkowski was part of the armoured division that played a crucial role in closing what became later known as the Falaise Gap.

 After landing in Normandy, he and his fellow Poles contributed to the containment of the German army. In a 2014 interview with the Henley Standard, Capitan Mieczkowski recalled the fierce fights. “

For three days we were attacked by 70,000 Germans who were trying to move away from the gap of Falaise while we were only 3,000 men” – he explained. 

A year ago Major Zbigniew Mieczkowski received the Medal of the Centenary of Regained Independence from Consul General Mateusz Stąsiek on behalf of President Andrzej Duda

Major Mieczkowski, after the war returned to the UK, where he married Caroline Grenfell, the elder child of the 2nd Baron Grenfell of Kilvey, with whom he had two children – Stefan and Helena. Zbigniew and his wife never accepted the fact that the Communists had taken over Poland. They believed the Soviets were no less determined than the Germans to wipe out Polish culture and heritage from the face of the earth. 

Zbigniew viewed the Polish gentry as the nation’s spine. “The Polish landowner was viciously destroyed systemically by both the German occupier and the Communists”, – he told Rzeczpospolita in 2008. 

On 3 November 2018, a life-size bronze statue of General Stanisław Maczek was unveiled in the courtyard of the City Chambers in the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. The ceremony was attended by Major Zbigniew Mieczkowski and Lady Fiona Fraser of Carmyllie (her late husband Lord Fraser launched a public appeal for funds to create a permanent memorial of the statue)

He was a successful businessman, a member of the Council of the Polish Institute and the Museum of General Sikorski and a contributor to the development of the Polish Library in London and Polish Hearth Ognisko. He also established a foundation commemorating General Maczek’s 1st Armoured Division in Poland.

His autobiographical book “Horizons. Reflections of a Polish Émigré” gives an exciting insight into the rich life of this remarkable patriot and his efforts as an indefatigable freedom fighter. You can buy the book here.

Images: family Mieczkowski’s archive, Polish Embassy, Facebook: Stowarzyszenie Rodzin 1PDPanc – Association of the Families of the 1PAD

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen

From the editor: the funeral of Major Mieczkowski will take place at the Sacred Heart Church, Henley on Thames at 11.30 am on 9th of January. The memorial service will take place at The London Brompton Oratory at 11.00 am on 21st April 2023.


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