Irving David - Accident The Death of General Sikorski

Author : Irving David
Title : Accident The Death of General Sikorski
Year : 1967

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Eight-thirty A.M. in Gibraltar. The silent crowds of early workers line both pavements of the narrow streets leading from the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Mary the Crowned to the entrance to the naval dockyard. Spaniards and Britons alike shuffle in the rising heat and crane their necks to see past the troops lining the streets. The sun is rising above the Mediterranean, and high up in the tunnels of the Rock the British sentries stamp to and fro. In the distance the crowds hear the muffled tramp of marching feet, and the clatter of hard wheels on ancient cobble stones. In a simple pine coffin packed round with all the ice that the British messes can supply, its sides cracking and blistering in the heat of the sun’s rays filtering through the Polish colours, lies the body of Poland’s greatest son, General Wladyslaw Sikorski, roughly wrapped in a Royal Navy blanket. A six-wheeled tractor pulls the gun-carriage on which the coffin rests. Up in the Fortress, a gun booms out in a seventeen-gun salute, punctuating every minute of the procession’s journey to the docks. The British Government has promised that the Polish premier’s body shall be brought to Poland when once the war is won; but this is not to be fulfilled. A company of Somerset Light Infantry march behind the coffin, and at their head the Allied officers who only five days before had welcomed the General to the Rock. Immediately behind the gun-carriage walks the Catholic bishop in white mitre and full funeral robes. In the cortège are a hundred Polish soldiers in British battledress, their grim faces visible to all the watching crowds. The deep bell of the Catholic cathedral is tolling, and the warship’s crew in the dockyard know that the procession is on its way. A mile away in the military hospital lies the pilot who alone survived his aircraft’s crash. The newspapers say that he has suffered terrible injuries and that nobody can speak to him. Now the procession is leaving Convent Square and passing through streets of closed shops and shuttered windows, against a setting of Moorish scrolls and whitewashed walls. The gun-carriage passes through Southport Gates and is drawn up alongside the Polish destroyer that has come to carry Sikorski’s body away. Stalwart sailors push the flag-draped coffin of their dead Commander-in-Chief up onto their shoulders and carry it up the gangway onto the deck. A boatswain’s pipe wails and a British military band strikes up the Polish national anthem on the quay. Four Polish sailors mount guard on the coffin and Orkan heads out to sea. “Soldiers must die, but by their death they nourish the nation which gave them birth.” That is what Mr Churchill says to Poland in its hour of grief. Well, Sikorski is dead; and where stands his nation now ? ...

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