The Newark Cemetery gravestones unveiling ceremony
t 10am on the 19th February the haunting sound of “Śpij kolego” sounded, thanks to Newark Town Band. The Polish equivalent to “The Last Post” was played for possibly the first time since World War II at Newark Cemetery. When two “lost” Polish veterans had their new graves stones dedicated. Piotr Hodyra from Poland along with Marcin Kunicki of London, undertook a review of Polish graves in the Newark cemetery, along with the burials in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission plot and later Ministry of Defence, Polish Air Force Association and private interments. During this audit by Friends of Newark Cemetery, Karen Helliwell of the Town Council and researcher Shaun Noble, two plots in the PAFA section were noted as being occupied but unmarked. After being cross referenced with the Town council records, three sets of interred ashes were identified.
The first belonging to Henryk and June Bolcewicz; Henryk had been a pilot in the Polish Air Force. He was born in 1919 in St Petersburg, Russia; he finished his training as a fighter pilot at Bydgoszcz just before the German invasion of Poland. During this he flew reconnaissance missions, but with the defeat of Polish forces his squadron evacuated into Romania and then onto France. There he trained to fly new types of aircraft, but with the fall of France again his unit evacuated, this time to Britain. From Blackpool he moved to 12 Operational Training Unit at RAF Benson and then to 301 Polish bomber squadron in April 1941. After numerous missions, disaster stuck on the 8th November 1941. Leaving RAF Hemswell on a raid to Mannheim the weather reports had been badly wrong, adverse weather and especially strong winds had scattered the bomber force. On return, his Wellington bomber damaged, lost and running perilously low on fuel made a landing at an airfield they spotted by chance. Returning to Britain in May 1945 he was demobbed and decided to stay instead of returning to Poland. Henryk married June Rosemary Menzies of Lincoln in August 1948, they lived in Nettleham, Henryk worked locally and as well as charity work, he also headed the local Polish Air Force Association. The couple had no children, June passed away in 2008, Henryk passed away in a nursing home in April 2013. Henryk had sorted his and June’s final resting place before his death but with fund exhausted his grave remained unmarked.
The second grave to be identified in the PAFA section was unusual as it contained the ashes of a soldier, Lieutenant Adam Franciszek Marcinkiewicz. This time we could not draw on the Krzystek’s List archive, and there is no Polish Army equivalent. Using Ancestry.com the only entry on there was a date of death at Nottingham, which was nearly a year before the burial date and nothing else. Who was the mystery soldier and why was he at Newark? Shaun Noble ordered the death certificate from the General Register Office, this gave the date, place and cause of death. Adam had died at Sherwood Rise Nursing Home, but his address had been a flat at Hyson Green, Nottingham, his occupation was listed as former soldier. The only other detail on the certificate was the informant who registered the death, being J Jefferson on behalf of Nottingham Social Services. Shaun looked through the contacts for Nottingham Social Services and found an email address from an associated website. A tentative email was sent asking if this was the correct J Jefferson and if she could remember a ex Polish soldier who died in 1994. To be honest we had not expecting a reply, but a few days later a email came back saying, “yes” we had the correct Julia Jefferson, she could remember Adam’s case and why? Shaun then explained why there was an interest in Adam and did she have anymore details. Julia said she had not known Adam when he was alive but had been assigned his case after death. Due to dying destitute with no known family, she had to sort out his estate and try to find a relative. During the clear up of Adam’s council flat she had come across his war medals, these included the Polish Cross of Valour + Bar and British Military Cross. Julia did not know anymore but after no relatives had been found, Adam had been cremated. As an unclaimed person with no assets, Adam was due a Public Health Funeral, more commonly known as a Paupers Funeral in an unmarked communal grave in the nearest cemetery. Julia however felt this was inappropriate for a decorated veteran, after some research on Polish servicemen and with some creative juggling of the Social Service budget, Adam was buried in the PAFA section at Newark nearly a year after his death. Shaun now knowing Adam had been awarded the Military Cross set about checking the London Gazette, as it would have been published. Once the citation was located, Piotr contacted the Sikorski Institute in London and the Ministry of Defence for Adam’s service records and followed up with an appeal in Poland for relatives, with several family members making contact.
Adam had been born in 1914 in the village of Glinnik Mariampolski. He graduated from the State High School in Gorlice and joined a military training school, following in his fathers’ footsteps in 1934. He fought with the Gorlick National Defense Battalion during the German invasion, until the units capture in September 1939, he escaped from captivity in October 1939 and after hiding out for a month crossed the Hungarian boarder. He moved again into France and was stationed at a Polish Army Camp near Marseille. During the Battle for France his unit along with other Polish service personnel moved from Southern France to the small port of St Jean de Luz, being evacuated on the Polish ships MS Sobieski and MS Batory arriving in Plymouth. He served with the reformed Polish 1st Armoured Division in Britain until September 1941, when as an agreement between Gen Sikorski and Winston Churchill 400 Polish Officers joined the British Army and were sent to replace British officers returning from the West African Frontier Force. Adam did two tours with the British 4th Battalion Nigeria Regiment in Sierra Leone and Nigeria. After returning to Britain in November 1943 he was assigned back to the Polish 1st Armoured Division, landing in Normandy in 1944. During the fighting for the city of Tielt, Belgium the Sherman Tanks of the 1st Armoured Division came under heavy anti tank fire and, Lieutenant Marcinkiewicz carried out a raid on German positions, during which a German Panzerfaust blew off his right hand. The German positions were taken and only then did Adam retire to the rear with severer blood loss. For this action he was awarded the Polish Cross of Valour and the British Military Cross. He returned to Britain for treatment and was listed as health category ‘E’ Invalid Adam moved around several holding units, hospitals and the Polish resettlement Corp, relinquishing his commission in 1949. Until 1951 Adam kept in touch with his family in Poland, and then contact was lost. His last entry on his service record gives his address as Iscoyd Park Hospital, Whitchurch, Salop. This hospital treated Polish veterans with TB and mental health conditions, now known as PTSD. On closing in 1956 the patients moved to Penley Hospital, despite the intense searches until 2003 conducted by his brother Józef Marcinkiewicz and the Polish Red Cross, The British Red Cross Society, Polish Institute and their Museum, Adam never got in contact again with his family. How and why, he ended up in a council flat in Nottingham is still unknown. But on the 19th of February these two brave men were recognised, and their final resting places marked with matching grave markers paid for by private donations and produced by the craftsmen at E Gills and Sons, Newark.
The dedication service was held by a Polish Priest with representatives of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London, Konsulat Generalny Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej w Manchester, Polish Military, Polish Veterans Association, Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum, the Krzystek’s List, Polskie Miejsca W Wielkiej Brytanii, LHG First to Fight, Newark Town Band, Friends of Newark Cemetery, Newark Town Council, Mr and Mrs Jefferson and Shaun Noble.
Lieutenant Adam Franciszek Marcinkiewicz, grave marker and order of service printing were paid for by LHG First to Fight. The groups members also organized and conducted the ceremony.
Project realized in cooperation