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General Władysław Sikorski

In commemoration of the Polish military presence in St Andrews during the early 1940s, the Polish community in Scotland erected a bust of General Władysław Sikorski in Kinburn Park. Sikorski was the Prime Minister of the Polish Government-in-Exile and Commander-in-Chief of Polish forces in Britain during the Second World War. The Polish inscription at the base of the memorial translates: “For freedom”.

Bust of General Sikorski

Sikorski arrived in Britain in command of Polish forces evacuated from France in 1940, having himself escaped from Poland at the outbreak of the war. The Polish army units, consisting of about 17,000 men, were moved to Scotland and established their headquarters at Moncreiffe House near Perth. Later that year, Sikorski came to St Andrews and, together with the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, visited the West Sands beach to inspect Polish troops responsible for the coastal defence of the surrounding area.

Sikorski and Churchill at the West Sands in 1940

The Polish leader was killed in an air crash in 1943. Returning from a visit to Polish forces stationed in the Middle East, his aircraft plunged into the sea shortly after take-off from the airport in Gibraltar. The cause of the crash remains controversial.

Ironclad French vessel deployed in Battle of Kinburn

Kinburn Park itself has a further European connection. Kinburn House within the park – built as a private mansion in 1856 and today housing the St Andrews Museum – is named after a Russian fort captured during the Crimean War. Although the land-sea Battle of Kinburn, fought in October 1855, lacked immediate strategic significance, it proved the value of the allied French experimental ironclad vessels involved, and contributed significantly to subsequent warship development. The Kinburn peninsula, on which the fort was located, is situated some distance from Crimea, at the mouth of the river Dnipro (Dnieper), in a part of Ukraine currently under Russian control.

(Admission to the St Andrews Museum is free.) Exit Kinburn Park through a gateway in the northern wall, turn right along a footpath towards a car park in a former railway cutting. Cross the car par and turn right in the direction of the bus station. Descend a flight of steps into Windmill Road, then cross the main road into Granny Clarke’s Wynd and turn right into The Links towards Golf Place. [The steps may be avoided by taking a more circuitous route through the bus station, turning left onto City Road, then left into Links Crescent and right into Granny Clarke’s Wynd.]


Sikorski memorial image © Paul Vyšný, CC BY-SA 4.0
Sikorski and Churchill image (cropped) © University of St Andrews, CC BY-NC 4.0, courtesy University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums, ID: GMC-FI-166-29
French ironclad Lave image, public domain, via Wikipedia Commons