Sunday, April 13, 2014
Alan Galinski, a veteran who fought in both armies on opposing sides, though not from choice, died on Wednesday, April 2, following an accident. He was 87 years old.
At the age of 13 he was taken with other young men from his village in Poland, to work in labour camps in Germany at the start of World War Two.
He could relate times of great suffering, cruelty and hunger yet was strong enough to be transferred to the German army at the age of 15 – a move he hated but which probably saved his life.
He had memories of many battles, the famous battle of Monte Casino in Italy being the most memorable. He was never allowed to be armed and worked with donkeys carrying water and supplies up the mountain roads, always under fire from allied forces. He planned and successfully executed his escape whilst the German army were retreating. Shot at by the Americans whilst he was running towards them, along with dozens of other Polish men attempting to escape, he sustained only flesh wounds. He spent three weeks in a field hospital being interrogated before being transferred to the Polish division of the English Eighth Army. He was taught to drive in one day’s intensive course, such was the urgency of the situation, and he drove trucks carrying broken down tanks with a trailer behind similarly loaded and always under constant fire.
He told the story that once he took a corner on a steep bend of the Italian dusty road too quickly, careering right through a cottage, leaving not a stone standing. Luckily it had been vacated and he and his two tanks arrived at the repair depot unscathed.
After the war he was brought to England and whilst still in the army spent 18 months locating, unearthing and defusing live ammunition previously used for live ammunition training around England. Many of the Polish forces were put to this work and he witnessed many fatal casualties.
He was demobbed in 1947 and through the Red Cross traced his family in Poland and learned that his brother, who had a similar escape route, was living and working in Bradford, Yorkshire. Alan joined him and later met his wife Corinne. They were celebrating their 62nd wedding anniversary on the day he died.
His two daughters, Helena and Ella, recall that their father witnessed and experienced many horrors and cruelty of war, yet he held no hatred or bitterness for anyone or any nation. He always said that wherever he went, in any country, there were more good people than bad and those were the ones he remembered.
Having learned the languages fluently in the different war zones, he put that knowledge to good use, being an interpreter for the police and courts.
The family moved to Devon in 1971 when Corinne became headteacher of the new Littleltown Primary School in Honiton. They had recently moved to live in Sidmouth.
His funeral is to be at East Devon Crematorium on April 17, 2.30pm.
As he had witnessed first hand the unstinting work of the Red Cross in all the different countries, his family request any donations to go to the Red Cross.