LdSH(RC) Delegation Fosters New Ties with 10 (Polish) Armour Cavalry Brigade
By Captain Mike Gough
20 January 2009
From 29 November to 5 December 2008, a delegation from Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) visited Poland and specifically our newest allied formation: the famous 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade. The Colonel of the Regiment, Colonel John Roderick, Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Derek Macaulay, and Regimental Sergeant Major, Chief Warrant Officer Joe Ramsay, lead the delegation. Major Chris Adams and Master Warrant Officer Tony Batty recently back from Afghanistan as the command team for B Squadron Task Force 1-08, passed on their experiences directly to the Polish Army's Leopard II operators. Also along for the ride, but mainly to carry the mountain of gifts, were Master Warrant Officer Dave Proctor, Captain Rebecca Evans, and Captain Mike Gough.
The group met up in Toronto and after a few libations, set the tone for the rest of the trip. Colonel Roderick passed on his experiences as Defence Attaché in Poland and instructed us on a few key phrases before we embarked on an uneventful flight. Uneventful except for the CO's amazing demonstration of flexibility by laying face-down on an airplane seat; a skill no-doubt acquired during his busy travel schedule. The group was met by Major Tomasz Miko³ajczyk of the Polish Army Visits Office and Lieutenant-Colonel Walter Perchal of the Royal Regiment of Canada who, besides being a fluent speaker of the language, is very well connected.
Upon arrival, the CO fully came to grips with the sheer amount of gifts that had to be distributed. Major Adams was quick to take his pick and was caught acquiring a red over green watchband after being informed that he was not properly dressed for the occasion: The bill is in the mail from the Regimental Second in Command. Some rumours started regarding Captain Gough and some of the gifts that had been placed on his bed, but these are wholly unfounded. The gifting began with Tomasz, who was complaining about both the cold and the amount of time he spent in the office. This earned him a Strathcona toque and a mouse pad. We went on a brisk walking tour of downtown in the evening and stopped by a very fancy pizza joint for dinner.
On Sunday, we met with the Canadian Defence Attaché, Colonel Jim Petrek for a briefing on the Polish Army and a walking tour of the Old City. For those not familiar, Warsaw was completely destroyed during the Second World War and has been rebuilt based on the original plans. The first of many Polish "light lunches" was taken at a pub where SSM Batty ordered a schnitzel the size of a tank tarp. This was only just a sign of things to come. The RSM had the Warrant Officers up at the crack of dawn for a walk through the location of the Jewish Ghettos and were offered an exclusive tour of a Soviet Political Prison that was very moving.
The Strathcona delegation was then honoured to be invited to the Polish Chief of the Land Staff, Lieutenant-General Skrzypczak, who is a strong promoter of our newest affiliation. We were provided a brief on the structure of the Polish Land Forces the General's key staff. The gift exchange was highlighted by the presentation of a PT-91 engraved shell casing to the Strathconas. The CO then presented a Strathcona Cap Badge to the Polish Army Commander which he proudly added to his black beret. After another so-called light lunch (which we were quickly learning comprises a three-course meal) we began the long road move to Kliczków, in southwest Poland.
On 2 December, we met with the Commander of 10 Armour Cavalry Brigade, Brigadier-General Andrzej Reudowicz, at the historic Œwiêtoszów military base. This visit included a very impressive demonstration and display of the Brigade's soldiers armed and with full battle dress and equipment. We saw Leopard IIs, BMPs, engineering equipment, and support vehicles. The delegation visited the small arms trainer and section training simulator as well as the custom-built Leopard II Training Centre which houses their full suite of simulation aides directly on the tank range. We were shuttled to this facility on two brand-new KTO Rosomak infantry fighting vehicles, now in service with the Polish Army in Afghanistan.
That evening saw the presentation of "Ring of Steel" to 10 ACB and no less than 20 toasts during the formal dinner hosted by with the Commanding Officers of each Brigade unit. We learned that the key to surviving a 10 ACB dinner is lots of orange juice and bread. The diners also witnessed an early appearance of Santa Claus who quickly dispensed of everything from frisbees and hats to packing material.
Regrettably, the CO and RSM had to cut the trip short, departing for Edmonton via Dresden in order to attend the Chief of the Defence Staff presentation of the Unit Commendation. The remainder of the delegation was graciously hosted by the Commander of 11 Armour Cavalry Division and tour of a PT-91 medium tank. After another stunning meal, we visited the site of the Stalag VIIIC, the site of the famous Great Escape during the Second World War. We also toured the ¯agañ Palace of Culture, a highlight for Captain Gough.
4 December saw the return voyage to Warsaw by way of Kraków where we visited the Polish historic centre (Wawel Castle), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the home of Pope John Paul II. Upon arrival in Warsaw, we tried our best to rest, much to the chagrin of the Colonel of the Regiment, and spent what time was left touring the city.
The ties formed by this visit laid the foundation for what will be, no doubt, a long tradition of cooperation between nations and brothers-in-arms. From start to finish, the hospitality was outstanding and there was no shortage of goodwill.