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English Section

Book on Polish history shortlisted for award in UK

24.01.2020 08:00
Roger Moorhouse’s book "First to Fight. The Polish War 1939" is among seven books shortlisted for the 2020 Duke of Wellington Medal for Military History in Britain.
The book by Roger Moorhouse was launched at the Polish embassy in London last year.
The book by Roger Moorhouse was launched at the Polish embassy in London last year.Image: Polish Embassy UK

The award is given out annually for the best English-language writing on a wide range of military history, including the role of the armed forces, the conduct of wars, and the impact of conflict on nations and societies.

Published by Bodley Head in the UK, as well as in a Polish translation, in 2019, the book has won high critical acclaim.

Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny, described First to Fight as “a deeply researched, very well-written and penetrating book, [which] will be the standard work on the subject for many years to come.”

In his review, Roberts further wrote: “The Second World War began on 1 September 1939, when German tanks, trucks and infantry crossed the Polish border, and the Luftwaffe began bombing Poland's cities.

“The Polish army fought bravely but could not withstand an attacker superior in numbers and technology; and when the Red Army invaded from the east - as agreed in the pact Hitler had concluded with Stalin - the country's fate was sealed.

“Poland was the first to fight the German aggressor; it would be the first to suffer the full murderous force of Nazi persecution. By the end of the Second World War, one in five of its people had perished.

“The Polish campaign is the forgotten story of the Second World War. Despite prefacing many of that conflict's later horrors - the wanton targeting of civilians, indiscriminate bombing and ethnic cleansing - it is little understood, and most of what we think we know about it is Nazi propaganda, such as the myth of Polish cavalry charging German tanks with their lances. In truth, Polish forces put up a spirited defence, in the expectation that they would be assisted by their British and French allies. That assistance never came.

First to Fight is the first history of the Polish war for almost half a century. Drawing on letters, memoirs and diaries by generals and politicians, soldiers and civilians from all sides, Roger Moorhouse's dramatic account of the military events is entwined with a tragic human story of courage and suffering, and a dark tale of diplomatic betrayal.”

First to Fight. The Polish War 1939 is due to be published by Basic Books in the United States in May.

Earlier this week, Roger Moorhouse, whose output includes Pact of Devils. Alliance of Hitler and Stalin, published an article in The Washington Post that lambasted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attacks on Poland and his false World War II narrative.