On Thursday, 6 June 2019, memorabilia of General Alfons Maćkowiak, aka Alan Mack, a Polish Second World War veteran of Operation Market Garden, a legendary instructor of the Silent Unseen at Station 43 in Audley End House and Gardens, and a long-time coach at the Oxford University Athletics Club (OUAC), was bequeathed to the Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism.
During a ceremony at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London, Kristina Havard, a family member of a Silent Unseen Tadeusz Kobyliński, and Maćkowiak’s niece Adriana Middleton handed the memorabilia, including trophies, medals, awards, decorations, certificates, sportswear, and photographs, to the museum’s director, Tomasz Jagodziński.
Among the guests at the event were family and friends of General Maćkowiak, members of the Oxford University Athletics Club (OUAC) and Achilles Club (formed of past and present members of the OUAC and Cambridge University Athletics Club), teachers and students from the Polish School in Oxford as well as representatives of war veterans’ organisations.
Speaking at the ceremony, Ambassador of Poland Arkady Rzegocki said: “I believe that the memorabilia belonging to such an outstanding individual and an important figure in the history of Poland as well as the city of Oxford will find a good home at the Museum of Sport and Tourism in Warsaw. I am convinced that General Maćkowiak’s memory will be well preserved for generations to come.”
Alfons Maćkowiak was born on 29 March 1916. After serving in the artillery in September 1939 following the German invasion of Poland, he escaped from Soviet capture and was reunited with Polish forces in the French campaign in June 1940. After the fall of France, he again escaped from captivity, reaching the UK via Vichy France and Spain, and being recruited into the Special Operations Executive, latterly as an instructor to the Cichociemni (“The Silent Unseen”). In September 1944, Maćkowiak took part in Operation Market Garden as part of the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade.
After the war, Maćkowiak settled in the United Kingdom. He taught physical education at Bishop’s Stortford College, and then, from 1964 to 1989, he was a coach at the OUAC, where he trained generations of athletes, leading them to numerous victories in varsity matches against Cambridge University Athletics Club. He was also actively involved in social work at the Polish Social and Cultural Centre (POSK) in London.
Alfons Maćkowiak died on 31 January 2017. He was posthumously promoted to the brigadier general rank by President of Poland Andrzej Duda. In June 2018, a special plaque was unveiled at the Oxford University Sports Centre to honour the general’s army career and his contribution to British athletics, while last December the Polish School in Oxford was named after him.