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Shrine built by Polish troops who manned armoured train restored at Hunstanton

PUBLISHED: 09:48 02 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:15 02 November 2018

One of the armoured trains Picture: The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - London

One of the armoured trains Picture: The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - London

Archant

A shrine has been restored in memory of Polish troops who helped defend Norfolk from the threat of invasion.

A painting of the original altar outside the church Picture: The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - LondonA painting of the original altar outside the church Picture: The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - London

Around 80 officers and men manned an armoured train, which patrolled between King’s Lynn and Hunstanton in the Second World War.

They were billeted at High House, on the Station Road at Heacham and in private homes around the village.

Many worshipped at the Catholic church of Our Lady and St Edmund in Hunstanton, where they built an outside altar in the gardens which was dedicated as a shrine to the fallen.

Asia Hutchinson at the restored shrine  Picture: Chris BishopAsia Hutchinson at the restored shrine Picture: Chris Bishop

It was demolished in 1958 when the church, on Sandringham Road, was extended.

But the shrine has now been rebuilt by members of the town’s Polish community, and will be re-dedicated at a special ceremony after 11am mass on Sunday, November 18, in memory of all who fell for their freedom and ours.

Asia Hutchinson, one of a group of parishioners who raised an undisclosed sum to rebuild the memorial, said: “I am so proud that we just started it and did it especially in time for the anniversary of 100 years of armistice and that of 100 years of Polish independence.

Polish soldiers outside the church  Picture: The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - LondonPolish soldiers outside the church Picture: The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - London

“The Gaca family and friends shared the cost of transporting the figure from Poland, by Kuki Transport of King’s Lynn. I’m covering the cost of the statue but many parishioners have done a good chunk of preparation work.

“The parish is paying for the builder Fitt Construction of Wisbech.

“It was all possible by kind guidance of the Very Rev Canon Peter Rollings of King’s Lynn so it is an effort of many contributors to this worthy course.”

A map showing fields of fire from the train against attacking forces  Picture: The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - LondonA map showing fields of fire from the train against attacking forces Picture: The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - London

Fr Peter said: “Asia Hutchinson and her team have been inspirational in their commitment, showing us those qualities which their countrymen brought to the fight for freedom and justice in the Second World War.”

The train’s wagons bristled with artillery and machine guns, ready to repel any Germans who landed on the low-lying north west Norfolk coastline.

Those on board were mainly officers and reservists who had retreated west as their country and its neighbours fell in the Blitzkreig, arriving in England via Dunkirk.

An armoured train Picture: The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - LondonAn armoured train Picture: The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum - London

They mapped out fields of fire from strategic points along the line. The train was usually kept at Heacham station, under armed guard.

It was operational from November 1940 until June 1943, when the invasion threat subsided and its crew moved on to join the fight elsewhere.

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