Emotion and remembrance for the 78th anniversary of the battle of Falaise-Chambois

This weekend of 20-21 August 2022, the commemorative ceremonies of the Battle of Falaise-Chambois took place. The year is remarkable, as it also marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of the ANS 1re DB, an association that has been cultivating the tradition of General Maczek’s Polish armour in France ever since.

This 78th edition began on Friday 19 August, when a tribute was paid to the soldiers of the Podhale brigade who felt for France in June 1940 while defending the “Breton Redoubt”. More than a hundred inhabitants of Val-Couesnon joined the soldiers of the 21st Podhale Brigade, the vice-consul Anna Majda, the mayor of Val-Couesnon Emmanuel Houdus and the departmental councillor Aymar de Gouvion Saint Cyr for the remembrance of this battle, one of the last confrontations of the Battle of France.

The commemorations of the closing of the Falaise-Chambois gap then began on Saturday 20 August in Chambois with a mass for peace, followed by the solemn tribute in Montormel. This time of remembrance was an opportunity for Christophe de Balorre, president of the Orne departmental council, to salute the bravery of the Poles who had to confront the terrifying SS “Das Reich” armoured division.

The speeches of the various speakers had a very special significance even though the war is still raging in Ukraine. The Ukrainian embassy had sent its first secretary especially for the occasion. The ceremonies on the heights overlooking the Dives ended with a more intimate tribute at the church of Coudehard, where the Podhale battalion of the 1st Polish armoured division fought intensely on 19 and 20 August 1944.

They continued in the department of Calvados, where the communes of Soignolles and Saint Sylvain are organising commemorations on an increasing scale. This year, the presence of several children should be noted, who, as Patricia Fieffé, mayor of Soignolles, pointed out, will one day be called upon to take on the role of transmitters of memory.

The commemorations continued on Sunday at the Polish military cemetery of Urville-Langannerie, where the grave of Corporal Szymanski, who felt on 8 August 1944, was identified. In his speech, the head of the Polish Office for Veterans and Persecuted Persons, Jan Jozef Kasprzyk, also stressed the importance of the Battle of Falaise-Chambois, which was a real revenge for the Poles, whose country had been handed over to the most barbaric of occupations.

The three days of remembrance ended in Potigny, with a shorter but equally solemn ceremony, anchored in the tradition of Franco-Polish friendship. Many thanks to all the organisers – military, civil and religious authorities, flag bearers, and participants, who gave their time to contribute to the success of these commemorations.

Text: Jacques Wiacek

Photos: ©CD61