Mr Major’s Speech at the Warsaw Uprising Monument – 1 August 1994

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech at the Warsaw Uprising Monument on 1st August 1994.


Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen.

This year and next, in many of the countries in Europe, we commemorate the inspiring but tragic events of 50 years ago.

We honour the bravery and sacrifices of those who fought in a just cause.

And we celebrate half a century of peace and reconciliation.

Your guests from abroad today, Mr President, embody that spirit of reconciliation.

I am proud to represent my country here. Britain stood with Poland in 1939. Your Government then found refuge in London. Through the War, Poles and Britons served side by side in the air, on land and at sea.

It was in a broadcast from London that the world first heard of the 1944 Uprising. Winston Churchill declared that Britain felt itself responsible for the restoration to the Poles of their own country.

He was deeply moved by what he called “the martyrdom of Warsaw”. In his History of the War, he later gave a moving account of the struggle by Warsaw’s people to save their city, of their hardships, and of how they saw it almost totally destroyed.

Britain tried to help, though no country could do enough.

During the fighting 186 sorties were flown from British bases on the other side of Europe, in the south of Italy. One in three of those aircraft did not return: 61 were lost.

Earlier today I laid a wreath at the spot where one of them crashed, in the Skaryszewski Park, just across the river. I met there veterans from Britain and other Commonwealth countries and allies who risked their lives so that Poland might be free. They are a living witness to the values which bind our free nations. So are the thousands of Polish veterans who live in Britain today.

The Uprising was Poland’s decision to assert her sovereignty and independence. But Poland’s tragedy was that the outcome of the war and of the Uprising left her under another occupation. It took 45 years fully to reassert your country’s independence and sovereignty.

After the destruction of Warsaw in 1944, the people of Warsaw and of Poland rebuilt this capital city. The World can see your success and your pride: in the old Town, the Royal Castle, the streets and stones of Warsaw.

Now you grapple with another challenge: to rebuild your economy and society after the devastation of Communism. With your other friends, we are taking part in the rebuilding of Poland: through trade, through investment, through transfer of know-how.

And now a democratic and independent Poland has made the sovereign decision to apply for membership of the European Union. I welcome that. Europe will not be complete without Poland as a full member of our Union. The values of the Union are the values for which your citizens and ours fought and died 50 years ago.

This evening we remember and honour those dead. We honour also all those who lived through that time of pity and terror. Soldiers and civilians. Men and women; and children, symbolised by the statue of the little boy soldier with the helmet. The brave people of Warsaw.

Let the past be an inspiration for the future, for the new challenges of peace and freedom.

Perhaps those who were not there cannot fully understand. But we can stand beside you now, as we stood then; and offer thanks and honour.

In the words of one of the last broadcasts from Warsaw in October 1944:

“Immortal is the nation that can muster such universal heroism. For those who have died have conquered, and those who live on will fight on, will conquer and again bear witness that Poland lives when the Poles live.”