The exhibition became the most popular ever staged as local people reconnected with town’s strong wartime links with the Polish army.
But interest spread much further and one visitor made a very special journey, travelling from France, to see the display that traces the story of the famous Polish armoured division, from their formation in Duns in 1942 to their campaigns in western Europe in 1944-1945, under the command of the esteemed General Stanislaw Maczek.
The brainchild of Sean Szmalc and Margot Corson, ‘For Our Freedom and Yours’ lived up to its billing as an awe inspiring and evocative national touring exhibition.
His fascination with the Second World War began when he was a young boy due to his grandfather, the late Emil Szmalc, serving in the Polish army and later the 1st Polish armoured division during the Second World War.
Sean grew up in the Polish community and attended the Polish Ex-Servicemen’s club in Falkirk where he was good friends with his grandfather’s brothers in arms. “I have been collecting wartime items for a long time and this exhibition is a tribute to the men of the Polish armed services who fought in World War II.
“There are so many strong links between the Polish army and the Scottish Borders. Duns was the at the heart of it all. We believe General Maczek was billeted with a local family and the town is now twinned with Zagan in Poland.
“After the invasion of Poland troops made their way to France and fought there before arriving in Britain. They were landed at Liverpool and then sent up to Scotland where one of their tasks was to guard the eastern coastline,” he said.
The exhibition featured many rare and previously unseen artefacts from soldiers of the 1st Polish armoured division. These include uniforms, equipment and personal belongings of the soldiers. Sean wore his grandfather’s prized campaign medals to the opening.
Exhibition photograph with thanks to Molly Hodges.