• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

War hero in hunt for lost papers on eve of centenary

A POLISH war hero who battled his way out of a German prison of war (PoW) camp and across numerous borders to make his home in Scotland is on a final push to receive recognition from Britain.

hopeful With his 100th birthday fast approaching, Stefan Arnold, seen here with his care assistant, awaits news of his missing birth certificate.
hopeful With his 100th birthday fast approaching, Stefan Arnold, seen here with his care assistant, awaits news of his missing birth certificate.

Stefan Arnold, 99, hopes to recover a copy of his lost birth certificate so he can receive a telegram from Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of his 100th birthday next month - 70 years after he arrived to help defend the country.

His family, friends and the Polish Consul General in Edinburgh are in a race against time to trace the papers after Mr Arnold earlier lost all of his past documentation.

Mr Arnold, who lives in a nursing home in Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire, joined the Polish Army at the age of 21 and fought on the Western Front before being held as a PoW in Germany.

He escaped from the camp towards the end of the war and made an arduous journey through enemy territory to Sweden and then moved on to Scotland where he eventually married.

Like many of the 20,000 Polish troops who came to the country during the Second World War, Mr Arnold felt he could not return to a Poland that was not free but under communist rule.

Although Scots welcomed Polish heroes on parades in towns and cities across the country, they were banned from victory celebration marches in London for fear of upsetting the Russians.

Mr Arnold said it would be "an honour" to receive recognition from the Queen.

He said: "I arrived in Scotland in 1944 before being sent to London to a special training camp. Just before the war ended I was moved to Dunblane and moved around Scotland."

He married his wife Margaret in 1955 and they settled in Musselburgh, where she died 20 years ago.

Dariusz Adler, Consul General in Edinburgh, said staff took up the difficult trail after receiving the plea and traced a cousin of Mr Arnold in Warsaw.

Mr Arnold is Lutheran and the hope now is that Church records will be the key to officially establishing his past.

During the Second World War 85 per cent of personal records in Warsaw were destroyed.

Mr Adler said: "Many of the files were burned and it can be very difficult to find the files. Maybe, maybe they are with the Church.

"We hope to receive in the next week information from the Lutheran Church in Warsaw."

Elizabeth Mackinnon, of Forth Valley Advocacy Service, has been helping Mr Arnold in the push.

Mrs Mackinnon said: "He would be delighted with that recognition.

"It is so sad that he has lost everything, all of his old pictures and his past."

Polish soldiers were trusted with the protection of the north-east of Scotland during the war under General StanisBaw Maczek's First Polish Armoured Division, and the police college at Tulliallan was the Polish Free Army headquarters.

Mrs Mackinnon said it was only recently realised that Mr Arnold might not get the chance of the special recognition.

She said: "Once I have the birth certificate I can arrange for the telegram and it will be official."

Contextual targeting label: 
The Royals

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.