General Montgomery’s Lanark Racecourse visit

Welcome sir...General Montgomery being greeted at Lanark Barracks.
Welcome sir...General Montgomery being greeted at Lanark Barracks.

IT’S little wonder few know about an historic visit to Lanark almost exactly 70 years ago by Britain’s most famous soldier of the 20th century.

For a start, it was a secret and, secondly, General Bernard Montgomery didn’t come to the Royal Burgh to meet Lanarkians – but men from far-away Poland.

By March of 1944 folk around here were accustomed to hearing Polish – or heavily accented English – spoken on the streets and in the shops.

After all, by that time the Poles were in their fourth year of ‘occupation’ in Clydesdale, being based at various camps and barracks around our area after making it to Britain after their own country fell to Nazi invasion in 1939.

Just the year after, there were enough of them here to form their own Polish Army Choir and to stage a concert for their new host community at Lanark’s Memorial Hall.

Another Polish-staged entertainment later that year was a variety show at the then Regal Cinema, now the Vogue Bingo Club.

An influx of these ‘refugees’ brought into the Gazette’s pages stories of them which ranged from the tragic to the romantic.

Again, in 1940, we recorded that a Polish soldier was killed by a bus while walking on the road near Coulter; a far happier tale was of a Polish sergeant being wed in Lanark to a girl who was also a refugee from the Nazis here, a Free French girl.

Later on in the war, a Pole appeared at Lanark Sheriff Court for stealing a car.

However, not a word got into the newspaper at the time about perhaps the highlight of the Polish’occupation’ of Clydesdale, the visit by the famous ‘Monty’ in March 1944.