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Great story from Brendan Bannigan

Emil Maximillian Sowa was born in 1924 on Christmas Day in the town of
Pszow, in Silesia in Poland.
In 1939 Poland was invaded by Germany at the start of World War 2.
In 1942 Max was 17 years old and facing conscription into the German army.
Like thousands of young Polish men, Max wanted to get to the South of
France to board ships to England to join the Polish Forces in the British
He left his home without telling any of his family that he was leaving and
he walked through the Czechoslovakia and Hungary and made his way to
Marseille where he boarded a ship that brought him to Southampton. This was
a long and difficult journey with many hungry days.
He joined the 1st Polish Corps in the British Army and did his training in
Edinburgh in Scotland.
He trained as a Morse Code operator and joined a company that that
specialised in reconnaissance.
This meant that they went ahead of their troops to report back on enemy
He was part of the D-Day landings in 1944 and fought in the area around
Caen. See below He was captured when he was forward of his of troops
reporting back on enemy positions.
He recalls the shout of "Hande Hoch" at the moment of his capture.
He spent six weeks in captivity in the most appalling conditions.
It was after this time that met Andre Bourgoin, a French man who sheltered
him in his house at great risk to himself and his family.
His named his first son Andre after this man.
He returned to England after the war and trained as a chef in Switzerland.
While working at the Sandown Hotel in the Isle of Wight he met Sally Boyle
from Shantonagh, and invited her to Sunday Mass.
They later married and emigrated to Philadelphia.
On Friday April 15th 2016 he was decorated with the award of the Legion of
Honour Medal from the French Government for his service in the liberation of
Europe, in the French Embassy in Washington. He was accompanied by his son
Andre and his grandchildren.


D Day Operation Overlord

The Polish 1st Division had been attached to the 1st Canadian Army whose
role was designated to form part of the bridgehead to storm the city of
Caen. The Polish 1st Division’s role was to be in later stages of the
invasion to support the build up sufficient strength in the bridgehead
behind the beaches to allow the breakout and push for the strategic city of
Juno Beach was made up of two sectors: Mike and Nan. Juno was the second
most heavily defended (after Omaha) of the beaches chosen for the landings
with the Canadian 3rd Division (including the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade)
responsible for capturing and securing the beach and headlands between Saint
Aubin-sur-Mer in the East to Courseulles Sur Mer in the West. The German
defenders had caused terrible casualties to the first waves and as the tide
rose, the Allied landing craft had become entangled with the anti-invasion
obstacles and mines. Military planners of Operation Overlord had designed
the invasion for tanks to follow infantry waves and this may have led to
higher levels of casualties than planned, as there was a lack of close
quarter suppression fire. British Royal Marines manned obsolete Centaur
tanks fitted with 95mm howitzers for close artillery support on landing,
however, these proved to be ‘lethally un-seaworthy’ in landing craft with
only about 15% successfully embarking (Hastings, 1999). It took about 3
hours to capture Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer with about a 50% casualty rate.