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Group to a local Polish veteran

Article about: In March 2005 Bronislaw Karalus was buried in Cheltenham Borough Cemetery. His death passed unnoticed and unremarked. In 2007 a group of Polish/British medals were put into a local auction.

  1. #1

    Default Group to a local Polish veteran

    In March 2005 Bronislaw Karalus was buried in Cheltenham Borough Cemetery. His death passed unnoticed and unremarked. In 2007 a group of Polish/British medals were put into a local auction. Luckily I was able to buy the medals and contact his son, who supplied more items and information.

    Bronislaw Karalus was born in Zaborowo, in county Poznan on 6th November 1914. In 1935 he joined the Polish Army (National Service) and was posted to the mounted communication platoon of the 14th Wielkopolskie Light Artillery Regiment, based in Poznan. On completing his national service he was employed as a baker. In 1939, facing the threat of invasion, the Polish Army was mobilised. Bronislaw was posted to 20th Light Artillery Regiment of the 20th Infantry Division. This Division defended the Mlawa area, north of Warsaw.

    On 1st September 1939 the German invasion of Poland began. The German 1st Army Corps attacked but failed to break through the Polish units defending Mlawa. But by 3rd September the defenders risked being outflanked and were forced to retire towards Warsaw. On 17th September the Soviet invasion was launched from the East. On 28th September the Polish forces defending Warsaw surrendered and between 230-450,000 Polish prisoners were marched into camps in the Soviet Union; conditions were harsh. Mass executions followed, the most well known being the Katyn Massacre. On Stalin's order almost 22,000 Poles were shot dead, his aim being to remove the Polish officer corps and inteligensia.

    After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, which commenced on 22nd June 1941, the Soviets agreed to release surviving Polish prisoners to form a new Polish Army, known as "Anders Army". Bronislaw joined the 6th Lwowski Artillery Regiment (6th Lwow Division) at Tatiszczewo, as a radio operator. There then followed a journey to Uzbekistan, through Turkmenistan and into Iran. While at Pahlevi the Poles received British uniforms and supplies and he became 30036147 Corporal Bronislaw Karalus. The 6th Division was now renamed the 5th Krasowa Division. The next move was through Kurdistan and by September 1943 the Poles had reached Palestine. By the end of the year they were training in Egypt. In February 1944 the Polish forces boarded ships at Port Said and sailed for Italy, landing at Taranto. The 6th Artillery Regiment saw its first action on the Sangro River, after which it went into reserve. On 22nd April the Regiment went to Monte Castellone to prepare for the Polish attack on Monte Cassino.

    11th May the Polish assault began. In his diary Lieutenant Andrzej Wieslaw Debicki, 6th Artillery Regiment, wrote that his guns were firing for 10 straight hours that day. The assault continued and on 13th May he wrote; "I wake up to a breakfast prepared by Corporal Bronislaw Karalus, the radio operator." Thus making the diary a valuable guide to Bronislaw's daily experiences.

    Bronislaw served through the Italian campaign of 1944 and in July took part in the assault on Ancona. At an important stage in the assault, the communications failed. The German forces massed for a counter-attack that threatened to cut off the Polish assault. Corporal Karalus quickly established radio contact with his regiment's guns and called in artillery fire onto the German positions. The resulting barrage persuaded the German troops to withdraw and opened the way for the final capture of Ancona. For his actions on this day, Corporal Karalus was awarded the Virtuti Militari.

    On 17th April 1945 while fighting at Torre della Gaiana, near Bologna, he was severely wounded while sheltering behind a wall. His account related to his son was that the Germans were firing heavy weapons and suddenly the wall exploded, something hitting him in the back. He rolled into a ditch and a wounded officer fell across him. Unable to get up, he grabbed the map that the officer was holding and tried to eat it, worried that the Germans would capture them. Eventually more Polish troops arrived and he was picked up and ended up in hospital. For the rest of his life he would have an indentation in his back, the size of a fist.

    The Polish II Corps remained in Italy at the end of the war, expecting to return to a free Poland. Unfortunately, the reality of post-war politics meant that Poland would not be free.

    Polish troops were transported to Britain and joined the Polish Resettlement Corps. On 8th May 1947 Corporal Karalus was transferred to Royal Artillery Reserve, Class 'W' and on 7th October 1948 he was finally discharged. He chose to settle in Cheltenham, where he spent the rest of his life.

    His medals were:
    Virtuti Militari
    Cross of Valour
    Monte Cassino Cross
    September 1939 Campaign Cross
    Cross of Merit with swords
    Army Service Medal 1939-45
    National Treasure Medal 1950-1960
    5th Kresowa Division Commemorative Cross
    1939-45 Star
    Italy Star
    Defence Medal
    1939-45 War Medal

    He was active in the local Polish community and would lay the wreath on behalf of the Polish veterans at Cheltenham war memorial every year on Remembrance Sunday. His wife also received the Medal of Merit. When Lech Walesa held a reception for all UK VM holders, he was worried about his original VM having lost some white enamel. His son helped him obtain a replacement, which he had mounted and he kept his original VM with the award document.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Group to a local Polish veteran   Group to a local Polish veteran  

    Group to a local Polish veteran   Group to a local Polish veteran  

    Group to a local Polish veteran   Group to a local Polish veteran  

    Group to a local Polish veteran   Group to a local Polish veteran  

    Group to a local Polish veteran   Group to a local Polish veteran  

    Group to a local Polish veteran   Group to a local Polish veteran  

    Group to a local Polish veteran  

  2. #2

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    His entry in the book
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Group to a local Polish veteran  

  3. #3

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    Fantastic grouping and a great read about Bronislaw. Thanks for sharing!...

  4. #4

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    Agreed with Gunny, thanks for the well researched post and congratulations on acquisition of a fine grouping.

    Regards,
    Tony
    All thoughts and opinions expressed are those of my own and should not be mistaken for medical and/or legal advice.

    "Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday." - John Wayne

  5. #5
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    ehh..this set dreams for me :P

  6. #6
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    Wonderful and interesting read culminating in a lovely set of personnel items. Also a poignant reminder of the service undertaken and the sacrifice of not being able to return to his homeland. Thank you for sharing this. Regards Mark

  7. #7

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    Thanks for the comments. I have had the group for 13 years and not really done anything with it. It was pointed out to me that he is wearing an Italian War Merit Cross in one photo, I had not even spotted that, which makes me feel a bit guilty. I feel that it deserves to have a better home so I will ask his son if he wants to buy it back.
    Steve

  8. #8

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    Quote by OldBraggs View Post
    Thanks for the comments. I have had the group for 13 years and not really done anything with it. It was pointed out to me that he is wearing an Italian War Merit Cross in one photo, I had not even spotted that, which makes me feel a bit guilty. I feel that it deserves to have a better home so I will ask his son if he wants to buy it back.
    Steve
    an excellent gesture,not many collectors think that way!!! hope the son appreciates not just your offer but his dads sacrifice, hat off to you"""

  9. #9

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    OldBraggs,
    I also enjoyed your post and I agree with Anthonyburak1 comment. Thanks for sharing.

  10. #10

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    Very nice and complete group Steve; and your effort to bring it eventually back "home", is only more heartwarming to read.

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