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The Polish 1st Parachute Brigade was formed in Leven, Fife, on 23rd September 1941, with its headquarters at Largo House, a stately home which had been requisitioned by the army.

All members of the Brigade were volunteers, and comprised of Free Polish Army officers and men, who had escaped when the Germans invaded Poland, or from France which had now fallen to the Nazis. Others came from units in Russia and were evacuated via the Middle East.  The Brigade wore standard British Army uniform, including the distinctive rimless beret, which they had stencilled on the Golden Eagle insignia. The only difference being the Brigade wore grey berets as opposed to the British Maroon. The Brigade was under the command of Colonel ( later General ) Stanislaw Sosabowski. Training was carried out in the grounds of Largo House where an assault course was erected and the Brigade played a big part in the training of other Allied Forces, including the Free French. Further training was carried out at Ringway Aerodrome, Manchester. ( now Manchester Airport )

The initial purpose of the Brigade was to reinforce the eventual, hoped for uprising of the Polish Underground Army against the Germans.  It was made up not only of Paratroopers, but of infantry, gunners, engineers and military police, and was equipped eventually with equipment matching that of the British army. However agreement reached between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin prevented the Brigade from being employed for the purpose which the Polish members had volunteered for, the Freedom of Poland.

In June/July 1944 command of the 1st Polish Parachute Brigade was taken over by the U.S. led 1st Allied Airborne Army. This was later proved to be in readiness for Operation Market Garden. The Brigade left Scotland, and the many friends it had made and moved to Cambridgeshire to prepare for action. They were placed under the direct command of General R.E.Urquhart, Commander of the 1st British Airborne Division. Operation Market Garden was the codename for what was to become the Battle of Arnhem - the taking of the bridge over the Ruhr in the Netherlands, which was vital to the Allied advance into Germany.

The initial plan was thus:-
D Day- 17th September. British Paratroops would land and seize the Bridge at Arnhem.

D Day + 2 19th September. Polish Paras would land at drop zone south of the bridge, which they would then cross, to link up with British paras. General Sosabowski voiced his concerns about the plan, but he was assured the British would be holding the Bridge. The North end of the Bridge was secured by British forces, but attempts to secure the south end of the Bridge failed, and the intended drop zone for the Polish Paras was held by SS Panzer troops and armoured vehicles. The new drop zone was further west at Driel.
To complicate matters, the Polish Paras were unable to take off as planned on 19th September because of heavy fog, and it wasn't until the 21st September the weather had lifted enough for take off. By this time the North end of the Bridge had been retaken by the Germans. Over 950 Polish Paras landed within an hour to receive the crushing news that the river crossing they had been expecting no longer existed. General Sosabowski’s main concern was in getting his Paras across the river in order to support 1st British Airborne Division, who were by this time holed up in Oosterbeek. The Germans were ordered to destroy the paras in Driel, and in fighting of German attacks the paras were running dangerously low on ammunition.
In the early hours of 24th September, some boats were provided, but not enough, and though by 4 a.m. most of the Polish 3rd Battalion was safely across, as dawn broke the crossing had to be abandoned. 100 men of the 3rd Brigade managed the crossing but were alarmingly short of arms. General Sosabowski met with General Brian Horrocks, commander of British XXX Corps. and at a subsequent meeting it was decided that one British battalion and the remainder of the Polish Brigade would cross the river in the early hours of 25th September. Late in the evening of 24th September the Polish crossing was cancelled. General Sosabowski had made clear his concerns for the plan, and felt that a much larger contingent was needed for the plan to succeed. The subsequent crossing was a dismal failure resulting in heavy loss of life, and Operation Market Garden was deemed a failure. The British 1st Airborne Division was evacuated on 26th September. The Polish Brigade had lost almost 400 men, and the remainder of the Brigade were back in Barracks by 15th October.