From January 29 till March 30, 2019 the War Heritage Institute welcomes the Polish travelling exhibition Armoured Wings. Created in Warsaw and presented in Gdansk, it now arrives in Belgium! The visitor will discover the history of General Maczek’s Polish 1starmoured division through both sound bites and images. The exhibition was put together in the framework of the 75thanniversary of the liberation of Belgium upon initiative of the Flemish government, the Polish embassy in Belgium and the non-profit organization “Eerste Poolse Pantserdivisie België”.
In the spring of 2019 the exhibition will tour the Flemish cities liberated by General Maczek’s troops (Poperinge, Tielt, Roeselare, Aalter, Sint-Niklaas, Lommel and Merksplas or Beerse), but the Royal Military Museum, a War Heritage Institute site, has the privilege of first welcoming it in its large Aviation Hall. The presentation is made up of countless items from both Belgian and Polish private collections and from the rich Royal Military Museum collections.
The 1starmoured division, led by Stanislaw Maczek, was created in the United Kingdom on February 25, 1942. By the summer of 1944 it counted 885 officers and 15,210 soldiers, as well as more than 380 combat vehicles (Cromwell, Sexton, Sherman,…) and some 500 guns.
After the landing in France and fights in the Caen-Falaise area the 1starmoured division entered Belgium in Poperinge on September 6. Assisted by resistance fighters it rapidly moved through Flanders and was already able to liberate Roeselare in the night of September 7 to 8.
On September 9 the troops entered Aalter and set course to the Waasland region, where they took a few days off. The division then participated in the fights along the Scheldt estuary and liberated Axel and Terneuze.
The Maczek division would then move through Germany and come to a standstill in Wilhelmshaven on May 5, 1945. Some 1,000 Polish soldiers had by then lost their lives in combat.