This year’s Chelsea History Festival will bring the past to life through a series of talks, tours and events, both physical and virtual. The immersive programme will reveal history in all its variety, and demonstrate its ongoing resonance and relevance today.
The Odyssey of the Anders Army, 1941-46
Thursday, 17 September 2020
Join Professor Norman Davies as he explores the untold story of the Polish Second Corps of the Polish Armed Forces during the Second World War.
The Polish Second Corps, which fought under British command in the Italian Campaign of 1943-45, is best remembered for its heroic capture of the Abbey of Monte Cassino. But the details of its formation under General Anders in Russia, from exiles and convicts of the Gulag, and of its amazing feat of making its way to Italy via Iran, Iraq and Palestine, are less known.
Norman Davies recounts the remarkable odyssey of the ‘Anders Army’ and some of its more colourful members including the extraordinary women draiverki, the Jewish soldiers who joined the Zionist underground, and Wojciech the Bear.
Bringing the Polish Cyclometer Back to Life
Saturday, 19 September 2020
Second World War Polish codebreakers invented a way of exponentially speeding up the daily task of breaking the Enigma code. Hear how a team has recently recreated the machine they devised.
After the initial breaking of the Enigma, the Polish codebreakers were faced with the daily task of determining the Enigma settings. This was a formidable challenge, which led directly to the concept of the Cyclometer, an electromechanical device designed by Marian Rejewski that produced a catalogue from which the Enigma initial rotor settings could usually be swiftly found.
Warsaw 1920: Lenin’s Failed Conquest of Europe
Tuesday, 22 September 2020
Join historian Adam Zamoyski as he tells the dramatic and little-known story of how Lenin came within a hair’s breadth of shattering the Treaty of Versailles peace settlement and spreading Bolshevism into western Europe.
At the end of the First World War, after the collapse of the German Eastern Front, Bolshevik Russia extended her power westwards. Her forces soon came up against those of a newly independent Poland.
Poland had only just recovered her independence after more than a century of foreign oppression. But it was economically and militarily weak, and its misguided offensive to liberate Ukraine in the spring of 1920 left it open to attack.
Everything that Great Britain and France had fought for over four years now seemed at risk. By the middle of August, the Russians were only a few kilometres from Warsaw, and Berlin was less than a week’s march away. Then occurred the ‘Miracle of the Vistula’: the Polish army led by Jozef Pilsudski regrouped and achieved one of the most decisive victories in military history.
In this online talk, Adam Zamoyski will explore how the Versailles peace settlement survived and how the battle for Warsaw bought Europe nearly two decades of peace.
Polish Lancers, 1920
This film was made for the 2020 Chelsea History Festival by the Polish Cultural Institute in London and the reenactment group, the Polish Lancers. It marks the centenary of the historic Battle of Warsaw, dubbed by Lord D’Abernon the eighteenth most decisive battle in world history.
Both the 1920 Battle of Warsaw and the 1920 Battle of Komarow (aka the Zamosc Ring) were fought during the 1919-20 Polish-Soviet War and were overwhelming Polish victories. These battles effectively stopped the Red Army from bringing a Europe-wide communist revolution to the West.
The film presents the Polish cavalry tradition and features fragments of the Battle of Komarow, the largest cavalry battle of the Polish-Soviet War. The reenactment features actors in the Second Polish Republic’s 1920 Cavalier uniforms.