On my travels criss-crossing this Small Island of ours, I regularly come across imprints left here by countless men and women from my Old Country, and I am always surprised how many of these stamps of time past are out there, scattered in most unlikely of places. Last weekend, whilst picking up a map of Audley End House and Gardens, I noticed a ‘Polish War Memorial’ listed at number 7 on the map of attractions. For reasons best left unexplored and allowing a sleeping dog lie, I do not feel particularly patriotic towards my country of origin, but a mention of Polish memorabilia still stirs my interest, so I set off to find the said monument in the grounds of the stately home.
The war memorial turned out to be a distinctly modest size stone vase with fading lettering, the engraving clearly losing out to a lichen invasion. The sight filled me with sadness which was totally disproportionate, I am sure, to the significance of the memorial, the passage of time since the events it commemorates, and especially to my own, mostly dispassionate attitude towards Polish WWII war effort. Am I getting soft in my old age? Please judge for yourselves.
The inscription reads:
Between 1942 and 1944 Polish members of the Special Operations Executive trained in this house for missions in their homeland. This memorial commemorates the achievements of those who parachuted into enemy occupied Poland and gave their lives for the freedom of this and their own country.
P.S. Since I wrote the above, more to myself than for any other reason, I was educated by my much more clued-up friend, that Audley End was a training ground for the Polish Special Operations group, called Cichociemni, which is a beautiful word, officially translated as Silent Unseen. What is lost in this translation is the sense of their elusive nocturnal presence, as well as the onomatopeic effect of the original. Hush and Shadowy is my personal choice of words for them.