Factual report on the making of the Polish award, May 2006
|The Polish parachute brigade of General Sosabowski participates in the allied airborne landing near Arnhem. More than 100 Polish soldiers are killed. After the battle, the Polish brigade is blamed by the British army command for not being ready for combat and not being brave enough. Cora Baltussen, then a Red Cross nurse and later chairperson of the Driel-Polen committee, will fight for 60 years for the Dutch government to recognise these Poles.
|Student journalist Geertjan Lassche makes a documentary for Radio 1 (EO) about nurse Cora Baltussen and Polish veteran Korob about their experiences in and with the Sosabowski Brigade during the Battle of Arnhem. During the research, Cora Baltussen informs the reporter that the Poles have never been decorated. The radio documentary concentrates on the battle near Arnhem and Driel. Afterwards, Lassche creates a file about the story of the Poles. His wish is to someday make a television documentary about the ignored part of the Poles in the Battle of Arnhem and to find an answer to the question why the Poles have never been decorated.
|Lassche works as an investigative journalist for the EO at the current affairs programme TweeVandaag and later Netwerk. From the EO he gets permission and budget to make a television documentary about the Polish people. In the months that followed veterans, eyewitnesses and former commanders were interviewed about the issue. Recordings were made in England, America, Poland and Germany. Interviews were also made with relatives of the Polish general Sosabowski. Lassche is helped by numerous people, including Eric van Tilbeurgh (Wojtek Foundation), Andries Hoekstra (Market Garden Foundation), Arno Baltussen (Driel – Poland Foundation) and Mr Barbarski (Sikorski Museum in London).
|The maker gets more and more signals that at some point an attempt has been made to distinguish the Poles. The archives of the Ministry of Defence are searched for, many times, but in vain. On the other hand, the rumour that Queen Wilhelmina actually wanted to be decorated becomes more and more plausible. In the summer of 2004, a document is finally found in the archives of the Ministry of Defence in which Queen Wilhelmina gives her approval to award ten members of the Sosabowski Brigade with a royal bravery medal. Netwerk also found a letter from Cora Baltussen, dated 1961, in which she asks the queen whether the Poles can still be decorated. The queen sends the letter on to Defence, where it is brushed aside because it is a political matter
|Lassche tries, via friends and the RVD, to get in touch with Prince Bernhard. The prince let it be known that he was willing to cooperate with the documentary. He does not yet know of the existence of Wilhelmina’s letter.
|Netwerk sends the documents to the Ministry of Defence, with a request for an interview with Defence Minister Henk Kamp. Mr. Kamp says that he will not be honoured because a ministerial decree from 1952 makes it impossible for him to do so. That decree states that it is no longer possible to be decorated for actions in the Second World War.
|14 September 2004
|Recordings at Soestdijk Palace. Prior to the interview, Lassche lets Prince Bernhard read the letter from Wilhelmina. The prince does not know the document, but immediately remembers that queen Wilhelmina would have loved to have awarded the Poles. Prince Bernhard makes an appeal to the Dutch government to award the Polish veterans and their commander posthumously with the highest royal decoration of bravery, the Military Order of William. Prince Bernhard’s wish will become known to the public as his „last wish”.
|14 September 2004
|In Netwerk, a summary of the documentary God Bless Montgomery – The forgotten Poles in the Battle of Arnhem is broadcast. This was followed by an interview with prince Bernhard. Besides the news that Queen Wilhelmina wanted to award the Poles in 1946, and that Prince Bernhard still wants to do so, there are also new facts about the military role of the Poles in the Battle of Arnhem. The broadcast was followed by questions to the Minister of Defence and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende from Frans Timmermans (PvdA) and Hans van Baalen (VVD).
|16 September 2004
|Netwerk broadcast documentary God Bless Montgomery – The forgotten Poles in the Battle of Arnhem. The broadcast led to many reactions and a digital signature campaign on the site of the Market Garden Foundation.
|16 November 2004
|Minister Kamp replied to the parliamentary questions of Van Baalen (VVD) and Timmermans (PvdA) that he stuck to his decision not to award posthumous honours to the Poles because a ministerial decree made it impossible for him to do so. He cannot reverse that decision.
|25 November 2004
|Parliamentarians Van Baalen and Timmermans submit a motion requesting the government to have the Chapter of the Military Order of William investigate the possibility of awarding posthumous honours.
|30 November 1944
|Prince Bernhard writes two more letters to Netwerk saying that he stands by his words and still hopes for a decoration. The last letter was written one day before his death.
|1 December 2004
|Death of His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard.
|3 December 2004
|The Van Baalen and Timmermans motion is adopted by the entire House. Minister Kamp instructed the Chapter of the Military Order of William to conduct an investigation. Netwerk gives the Chapter access to the documents, refers it to interesting sources and finds a secret and encrypted document from Montgomery in which the British commander says that the Poles fought badly. This statement by Montgomery was the most important proof of the British humiliation of the Poles.
|9 December 2005
|The Dutch government announces, on the basis of the Kapttel investigation, that General Sosabowski’s Polish parachute brigade will be decorated with the Military William Order after all. General Sosabowski posthumously receives the Bronze Lion. The ministerial decree of 1952 can be circumvented by the letter from Queen Wilhelmina that Netwerk found in the archives of the Ministry of Defence. The discovery of the document from 1946 was crucial, says a spokesperson for Kapittel in the broadcast of Radio 1 News that day.
|19 April 2006
|The RVD announces that Queen Beatrix will award the Military Order of William to the Polish Parachute Brigade on 31 May 2006. The family of General Sosabowksi will receive the Bronze Lion in the name of the late Sosabowski.