Ceremony to honour Polish troops who helped defend Scotland

© DC Thomson
The annual commemoration of Polish war dead from WW2 took place at Wellshill cemetery,

A poignant ceremony has been held in Perth to honour hundreds of Polish troops who lost their lives protecting Scotland from Nazi invaders.

Veterans, politicians and representatives of the Royal Hospital Chelsea were among those who gathered at Wellshill Cemetery on Sunday afternoon.

The event saw ex-service associations lay wreaths at a special section of the graveyard which marks the remains of more than 380 members of the Polish Armed Forces.

In the early months of the Second World War, local authorities agreed to set aside part of the Feus Road cemetery for Commonwealth and allied war graves.

Later, the site was selected for use as a Polish cemetery when Scotland became a base for the country’s army.

The majority of Polish fighters came to Scotland after the fall of France in 1940, although the country’s navy arrived a year earlier.

On the day Germany invaded Poland – September 1, 1939 – four Polish destroyers sailed into the Forth and were escorted into Leith.

Leith was the first of a series of Scottish ports, which later included Rosyth, Port Glasgow, Greenock and Dundee, which welcomed Polish ships throughout the conflict.

There were also Polish flight squadrons based in Scotland and many aircrews received their training here.

Troops were reformed into the 1st Polish Corps and given the task of defending the east coast against the threat of German invaders.

A large memorial beside the Wellshill Cemetery graves is dedicated to those Polish forces who gave their lives in the struggle.

It is inscribed with the words: “Eternal glory to the Polish soldiers who died in 1939-1945 for our freedom and yours.”

The headstones for the Polish war graves all have a pointed tip and display the national emblem, a crowned eagle.

It is understood the cemetery contains about 50% of all Polish war graves in Scotland.

The Polish war graves are looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which maintains the resting places of over 2,100 members of the Polish Armed Forces in the UK, located across 244 different places.

There is now a thriving community of Polish people in Perthshire, many of whom joined dignitaries at Sunday’s ceremony.

The event was part of a series of Remembrance events which got under way on Friday night when landmark Scone Palace was bathed in red light as part of a Poppyscotland campaign.