Vol. XXI, No. 2
In Response to September 2000 Issue
Given our rivalry with England, most Scots would be delighted with Rodi Wout's description of the reception accorded the Polish Forces in 1940 by the English in Fleetwood, Lancashire, England. Nevertheless, I must counter some of the negative impressions his letter might provoke.
Nearly all of the 27,000 Poles who arrived in Britain from France were located in Scotland from 1940 until 1944. They formed the nucleus of the British Army's First Polish Corps, including the Polish Independent Parachute Brigade. Arriving in the wake of Britain's withdrawal from Dunkirk (which was then being portrayed here as a deliverance rather than a defeat), the Polish servicemen undoubtedly benefited from the atmosphere of the day. There developed a strong attachment between the Scottish people and the Polish soldiers, sailors and airmen, one that lasted throughout the war and afterwards.
As to Rodi Wout's observation that 'there is no monument in the United Kingdom to the Polish Air Force, Army, and Navy',' this is not entirely correct. When I started attending school in the small Scottish town of Kirriemuir in 1948, the only visible connection I had with my father's Poland was a plaque on the outside of the town hall. It was placed there by the townspeople four years earlier to commemorate the presence of the Polish soldiers serving in the area. The Kirriemuir Town Council renovated it this year. Also, a Polish military section has been opened in St Andrews museum. St Andrews also has a monument to General Sikorski and the Polish Forces. There are some ninety similar plaques and memorials to the Polish forces in Scotland.
The only non-Scottish uniform currently on view at the new Scottish Military Museum in Edinburgh Castle, is that of a Polish captain who settled in Scotland after 1945. There are memorials to the Polish Air Force at Northholt, West London, and Newark, Lincolnshire, England.
A memorial to the Polish forces in Britain was unveiled on 29th August 1997, at Peebles, a small town on the Scottish border. The Polish Ambassador to Britain was invited, and the Royal Air Force presented a show. In a speech delivered during the placing of a time capsule below the memorial, the Convener of Border Council, Andrew L. Tulley, said: "We are here to commemorate and pay tribute to the part played by the people of the Polish nation in overcoming the forces of fascism during the Second World War. We are also here to remember those who gave their lives in that conflict and to recognize the contribution made to the life of Scotland and the Borderland by those Poles who settled here during and after the war."
The University of Dundee has set up an archive dedicated to the experiences of the 200,000 Polish servicemen who were located in Scotland at various periods during the war and shortly afterwards. I myself am conducting oral history interviews with the surviving members of the 12,000 or so Polish servicemen who settled in Scotland after the war. The archive would be pleased to accept memoirs, testimonials, letters and documents from Polish veterans who served in Scotland during the war. I've written to Rudi Wout inviting him to participate in the project.
I find your journal highly informative and a privilege to read.
Peter Lesniewski, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Dundee, Scotland
A Query from Scotland about bursztyn (amber)
I am seeking information and opinions, surmises even, on something that could best be started in a populist way by talking about the recent film Gladiator, which, despite its being aimed at the supermarket audiences, had its story well rooted in fact.
The film starts with an excellent battle scene as the Emperor Marcus Aurelius attacks the German tribes in his drive towards the Odra and then the Wisla. The film did not make it clear as to whether the Germans deserved such punitive treatment; that is a matter for educated surmise by those qualified to judge.
What is fairly clear is that Marcus Aurelius, having failed to suppress the Sarmatian war and trade machine on the Danube, then tried a 'left hook' through Germany in order to reach the Baltic coasts which he could then control. If he succeeded, the bursztyn [amber] trade and Sarmatian control of it would fall into Roman hands, and the loss of profits from that trade would severely curtail the very expensive Sarmatian armaments inventory. Worthy objectives for any Roman emperor with a Sarmacki problem. . . which he had!
When one considers that bursztyn, if not the US dollar of its day (for that was gold) was at least the Yen or DeutscheMark of that time, then the motives are perfectly understandable. Just as today British troops campaign at the behest of their own and western governments to capture and control the rebel-held diamond fields of Sierra Leone, so did Marcus Aurelius endeavor to control his similar problem in a similar way then.
Sarmatian control of the bursztyn business is well documented and entirely logical. Much mention is made of it. Much less mention is made, if any, of the Phoenician presence in the same trade. That the Phoenicians were every bit as important in the trade of this vital material that essentially underwrote transactions in the equally vital tin or kassiterite trade is very clear. Disputes of this sort (over Spanish silver, kassiterite and maybe bursztyn) seem to have been important causes of the second and third Punic wars. Roman industry disliked being held to ransom by Sarmatians and Phoenicians with their kassiterite and bursztyn as much as we dislike being held to ransom in matters of oil and petrodollars.
That the Phoenicians traded Baltic bursztyn or succinite through west Danish ports seems well proven, and the reason for it supportingly sensible. Despite the distances, the transport cost would have merited the exercise if combined with tin-buying trips subsequently to Cornwall, England and Ireland (which were major tin/kassiterite suppliers and bursztyn/succinite users).
There is interesting anecdotal evidence for a Phoenician presence in the Baltic itself that has to have been related to the bursztyn/succinite business.
In such a case, and given the Sarmatian ascendancy on land in the bursztyn-producing areas, there must have been some type of Phoenician-Sarmatian commercial relationship. Such a relationship, if proven, would shed a new light on the story of Romano-Sarmatian military legacies in Britain and the Arturian legends that spring from that.
My interest however is not with that. It is with Sarmatian and Phoenician trade. If any readers of the Sarmatian Review have an interest or knowledge of such things, I would much enjoy a discussion on it.
As a footnote, though Carthage was "delenda" long before the times under discussion here, the Phoenician trade network continued largely unbroken long after both that date and the times of Marcus Aurelius--as did all Punic efforts to circumvent all possible duties, taxes, liens and, of course, the iron control of Black Sea outlets at the hands of Pontics and Romans.
My email address is email@example.com
Rodi Wout, Pertshire, Scotland