October 23, 1941: The British 8th Army clashes with Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps and his Italian Allies at the Second Battle of El Alamein, a decisive Allied victory achieved with the help of a new Polish device.
Winston Churchill later stated “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.” Though no Polish Army units participated in the battle (Polish II Corps had not yet been created and the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade was fighting in Tobruk), Polish forces aided the 8th Army through a new invention: a handheld portable mine detector.
The mine detector was in development before WWII, but was not finished by the 1939 invasion of Poland. However, Lieutenant Jozef Kosacki finished work on the detector in England near the end of 1941. 500 mine detectors were built and rushed to El Alamein just in time for the battle, where they doubled the speed at which British engineers could clear German minefields.
Over the course of the war, several hundred thousand Polish mine detectors were built and deployed with Allied forces. This type of mine detector was still used by the British Army as late as 1995.
Picture: South African engineers clearing a minefield at the Second Battle of El Alamein, using a Polish mine detector.