the campaign to restore

General Maczek’s


held its 3rd Annual General Meeting at Barony Castle Hotel, Eddleston EH45 8QW

on Sunday 28 April 2013




Work in progress, source material gratefully acknowledged,  corrections and suggestions gratefully received





During the Second World War Scotland received a big influx of Poles. Most of the Polish soldiers based in the UK during the war were stationed in Scotland, although the majority did not arrive until after the fall of France in 1940.

The Polish Navy came to Scotland first.  On the day Germany invaded Poland, 1 September 1939, four Polish destroyers, the Polish Destroyer Squadron, sailed into the Forth and were escorted into Leith.  Leith was the first of a series of Scottish ports such as Rosyth, Port Glasgow, Greenock and Dundee that were to see Polish ships.  Throughout the war the Polish Navy fought alongside the Royal Navy.  A plaque on a Polish monument in Prestwick, Ayrshire commemorates the Polish sailors who died in the Battle of the Atlantic.

There were also Polish flight squadrons based in Scotland for short periods and many Polish aircrews received their training here. Air force studies were run at the Polish Military Staff College near Peebles and there was an Operational Training Unit for Polish pilots in Grangemouth.

Polish military forces were deployed to fight alongside the Western Allies against Nazi Germany and its allies. The formations, the Polish Armed Forces in the West, loyal to the Polish government in exile, were first formed in France and its Middle East territories following Polish defeat and occupation by Germany in September 1939. After the fall of France, the formations were recreated in Great Britain. Making one of the largest contributions to the war effort, the Polish military in the West was composed of army, air and naval forces. The Poles soon became shock troops (first infantry line of attack) in Allied service.


Wartime Polish Army, Navy and Air Force symbols



In the twelve months leading up to the outbreak of war, British Prime Minister Chamberlain had attempted to work closely with Poland and Italy.  His close associate in parliament, Sir Philip Dawson, chairman of the Anglo-Italian Parliamentary Committee, made a visit to Warsaw for the Inter-Parliamentary Business Congress in September 1938 during the tense prelude to the Munich Agreement. On March 31, 1939, in response to Nazi Germany's defiance of the Munich Agreement and occupation of Czechoslovakia, Britain pledged the support of itself and France to guarantee Polish independence.

On 1 September 1939, a week after entering into a pact with the Soviet Union, Germany invaded Poland by land and air.  Britain and France declared war with Germany two days later.


Seventeen days later, Soviet troops crossed the Polish border from the east ‘to protect their fellow Slavs’.  By 6 October 1939 Germany and the Soviet Union had divided and annexed the whole of Poland.


RENDEZVOUS IN POLAND 1939 British newspaper cartoon by NZ-born artist David Low


Generals Guderian and Krivoshein meet as German and Soviet armies celebrate Poland’s 1939 defeat.


 After a heroic fight on two fronts, the Polish Government crossed the border into Romania on 18 September, and there its members were interned. Already a Franco-Polish Military Agreement on 9 September 1939 had allowed Polish troops to form and train on French soil. 

After Poland's defeat, the government in exile quickly organized in France a new fighting force originally of about 80,000 men. Their units were subordinate to the French Army.  An Anglo-Polish Naval Agreement on 18 November 1939 organised the serving of Polish Naval units alongside the Royal Navy. In early 1940 a Polish Highland Brigade took part in the Battles of Narvik in Norway.

A Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade was formed in French-mandated Syria, to which many Polish troops had escaped from Poland. Two Polish divisions (First Grenadier Division, and Second Infantry Fusiliers Division) took part in the defence of France, while a Polish motorized brigade and two infantry divisions were being formed.

During these dramatic events a number of Poles escaped across the Romanian, Czech and Hungarian borders and eventually joined the Polish Forces in France.  Other Poles were captured by the advancing Soviet Army and taken as forced labour to Siberia and Northern Russia. The Polish Nation was divided: this effectively created the strands of two stories.

Poles in France formed and trained. Some Poles were sent to the defence of Norway and were with the British in the spring of 1940.  The combined British, French and Polish Force saw action against the Germans at Narvik in Norway and was eventually evacuated  from 10 May 1940.

Germany attacked France on 26 May 1940. The Free Polish Forces prepared to defend Paris.  But the Battle for France was over quickly and on 22 June an armistice was signed between Germany and France. After the fall of France (during which about 6,000 Polish soldiers died fighting), the 2nd Polish Rifle Division crossed the border into Switzerland and was interned.  Indeed some 13,000 Polish personnel were interned in Switzerland.

Polish troops in France

The main evacuation of encircled Allied troops had taken place from Dunkirk on 12 June and in the fraught two weeks that followed fortnight large numbers of Polish personnel disembarked from more southerly French ports to Britain.  Many Polish forces had been engaged in north-east France and made their way south. They joined the Polish Government in evacuation as part of Operation Ariel from Brest, St Nazaire, Bordeaux, Bayonne and St Jean de Luz.  Polish merchant ships of the Gydnia Amerika Linie played a large part in Operation Ariel, along with a wide variety of craft from warships to trawlers and ships of the Blue Star and the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.    Poland’s brand new Tyne-built liner MS Sobieski  and 1935 Trieste-built MS Batory were in sustained and heavy use.

MSS Sobieski (top) and Batory (right) were among war-serving liners of the

 Gdynia America Line with its exile HQ at Whitcomb Street near the Admiralty

Early in 1940 Sobieski had carried an expeditionary force from New Zealand to Egypt and had brought British, Polish and French troops back to Scotland from Norway.  The “Lucky Ship” Batory had carried troops to Norway, served at Dunkirk, and after Operation Ariel was to transport Britain’s gold reserves from Greenock to Montreal, children to Australia, reinforcements to Singapore, and Free French forces across the Mediterranean.  Batory and Sobieski sailed in convoy from Greenock at the beginning of June 1940 with French and Polish reinforcements being transferred to the French front from Norway.  But while they were at sea French armistice talks with Germany began in occupied Paris and it became clear that their only possible role was assisting in the further urgent and final evacuations from France.


Polish soldiers were destined for Scotland and there was good reason for this.  Lost in the Battle for France in 1940 was the whole of the cream of the Highland Territorial Army, the 51st Highland Division, which had been forced to surrender at St Valery-en-Caux. This Division was reconstituted overnight by simply renaming the 9th Scottish Division, then stationed at home, as the 51st Highland Division.  But more troops were urgently needed.  Scotland was seen as the prime target for the invasion of German forces which was expected to be launched from Norway at any moment.


The British military mission to Poland at the time of its invasion in 1939, and to the Polish forces in France in 1940 was headed by Brigadier Colin Gubbins who also coordinated aspects of irregular forces (the forerunner of Commandos) in Norway.  After May, Colin Gubbins was attached to General Headquarters, Home Forces, to plan the disposition of special units here for irregular defence of Britain in the face of the expected invasion by German sea and airborne troops.  Polish and other forces in exile would have been part of this irregular defence, and dispositions were very carefully made.  After the invasion failed to materialise, Gubbins began to coordinate Polish French Norwegian Czech and other forces in irregular warfare behind enemy lines. 

Colin Gubbins


The first Polish troops reach Scotland on 5 August 1940 with a concurrent Anglo-Polish Military Agreement regulating the conditions of Polish Military Service in the UKScotland was completely unprotected against invasion and under real threat of German attacks, and the newly-arrived Poles were warmly welcomed. They immediately set to work defending Scotland.  There was, however, no military infrastructure to accommodate them and they were left in our inhospitable climate, largely to their own devices, to live in tents, build their own camps, patrol the coastline and build coastal defences.  These Polish Service men and women made a lasting impression in Scotland during those early years. They could be seen in Cupar, Leven, Milnathort, Auchtermuchty, Crawford, Biggar, Douglas, Duns, Kelso, Forres, Perth, Tayport, Lossiemouth, Arbroath, Forfar, and Carnoustie. There were Polish Schools of Engineering, a Polish Staff College, a Polish Record Office and a Polish Parachute Training School.

It’s worth looking more carefully at the initial dispositions of Polish forces made by GHQ Home Forces at the beginning of August 1940.  The Headquarters of Polish Forces in Scotland was designated as Eastend House, near Thankerton.  The House and its Polish Forces Commemoration Stone can be seen in a series of photographs on the Derelict Places website.

Eastend House Thankerton, and its memorial stone


The rest of the Polish forces were given locations in August 1940 as follows. The Polish Recruitment Bureau was in Carluke, the Ist Chasseurs Brigade was in Biggar, the 10th Cavalry Brigade was in Douglas, the Cadre of the Canadian Polish Brigade was off to the southwest at Eliock.  Polish HQ Troops were based at Crawford, the Polish Hospital was at Symington, the Polish Military Bureau was in Glasgow, the Polish Engineers Battalion and the 2nd Battalion of the 10th Cavalry Brigade were both much further west at Johnstone, and the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Chasseurs Brigade was noth of Glasgow at Killearn.  Non-attached officers were at Broughton.  At this time the Norwegian Forces, incidentally, were disposed with their HQ and main body at Dumfries and a company HQ and 3 platoons at Hawick.

By May 1941 Polish Forces had moved north and east to protect the eastern  seaboard more effectively. The new Headquarters were at Bridge of Earn, the Polish Engineers Battalion at Dundee and the Polish Reconnaissance Battalion at Perth.  Polish Ist 2nd and 3rd Rifle Battalions were at Tentsmuir, Cupar and St Andrews respectively.  The 1st Battery of Field Artillery was at Tentsmuir, 1st Engineers Company at Westmuir, Ist Signal Company at Monkstown, and the Field Ambulance Unit at Cupar.  The Polish 10th Cavalry Brigade was headquartered at Forfar along with the Brigade Reconnaissance Group.  The 10th Mounted Rifle Regiment were also at Forfar, the 24th Polish Lancers at Arbroath and the 14th Lancers at Carnoustie.  The 16th Battery Field Artillery was at Glamis, 10th Polish Engineers Company at Carnoustie, 10th Signals Company at Forfar, and a Field Ambulance Unit at Letham.  Headquarters of the 1st Tank Regiment was at Blairgowrie, the Signals Centre at Alyth, HQ 3rd Brigade Cadre at Cowdenbeath, 4th Brigade Cadre at Leven, 5th Brigade Cadre at Broughty Ferry and 7th Brigade Cadre at Dunfermline.






and in Britain as a whole


After the fall of France, General Władysław Sikorski, Polish Commander-In-Chief and Prime Minister, was able to evacuate many Polish troops to the United Kingdom  Estimates range from 20,000 to 35,000).  The term Polish Army in the United Kingdom refers either to the Polish units stationed in England and Scotland during World War II, or - more generally - to all the Polish units (Polish 1 Corps, Polish 2 Corps, elements of Polish air force and navy) fighting alongside the Allies under British command in that conflict.

Subordinate to the British Army, most of the Polish ground units were stationed in eastern Scotland in the St Andrews area, with the initial assignment of constructing coastal defences while the Polish Ist Corps was reorganized. The opportunity to form another Polish army came in 1941, following an agreement between the Polish government in exile and Joseph Stalin, the Soviets releasing Polish soldiers, civilians and citizens, from whom a 75,000-strong army was formed in the Middle East under General Władysław Anders (Anders' Army, later the Polish 2 Corps).

General Anders


The Polish 1 Corps was a tactical unit. Contrary to its name, in reality it never reached corps strength and was not used as a tactical unit until after the war, when it took part in occupation of Germany as part of the Allied forces stationed around the port of Wilhelmshaven. Prior to that date both of its main units fought separately and were listed together mostly for logistical reasons.  Formed in the United Kingdom, it was commanded by General Stanisław Maczek and Marian Kukiel

The Polish I Corps was made up of:

·              The Polish 1st Armoured Division

·              The Polish Independent Parachute Brigade

·              The Polish 4th Infantry Division

·              The Polish 16th Independent Armoured Brigade.

General Maczek

The Polish 1st Armoured Division (1. Dywizja Pancerna), sometimes known as the Black Devils, was an Allied military unit created in February 1942 at Duns in southern Scotland. At its peak it numbered around 16,000 soldiers. 


Major-General Stanisław Sosabowski

The 1st (Polish) Independent Parachute Brigade was a parachute brigade under command of Maj.Gen. Stanisław Sosabowski, created in Scotland in September 1941, with the exclusive mission to drop into occupied Poland in order to help liberate the country. All Polish units under British command (over 240,000 soldiers) could be sent into action at any part of the Western front. The 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade would fight for Poland on Polish territory. Operation Market Garden eventually saw the unit sent into action supporting the British 1st Airborne Division at the Battle of Arnhem in 1944.  Major General Sosabowski and the experienced British airborne commander of Sicily and Normandy Major General Gale had both warned against some faulty aspects of the plans for Market Garden.  But the plans were carried forward regardless by the US and UK commanders controlling the operation, with needless loss of life.   The Poles were initially landed by glider from the 18 September, whilst due to bad weather over England, the Parachute section of the Brigade was held up, and jumped on the 21 September at Driel on the South bank of the Rhine. The Poles suffered significant casualties during the next few days of fighting, but still were able, by their presence, to cause around 2,500 German troops to be diverted to them for fear of supporting the remnants of 1st Airborne trapped over the lower Rhine in Oosterbeek


The Polish 4th Infantry Division (4. Dywizja Piechoty) had been created following Polish independence after the end of World War I and had taken part in the Polish-Ukrainian War in 1919. During World War II, the division existed as three wholly separate organizations, the original incarnation of the division as part of the pre-war Polish Army, the second incarnation armed and equipped by the western Allies, and the final incarnation armed and equipped by the Soviet Union. The second and third incarnations of this division existed simultaneously from 1944 until 1947.


The Polish Military Geographic Institute (Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny [WIG]) had been established in Warsaw in 1921.  It operated in Edinburgh and produced maps from 1941 onwards, covering the territory of Poland at 1:100,000 and 1:300,000, as well as plans of Polish cities and detailed maps at smaller scale.


As noted, Scotland was exposed to the real threat of invasion after the fall of France.  The first Polish troops arrived on 5 August 1940.  At first, the Polish Army began to re-form south-east of Glasgow. The newly-arrived Poles were warmly welcomed and immediately set to work defending Scotland.


Anti tank obstacles to invasion at Aberlady on the Firth of Forth


The incoming forces were billeted all across Scotland’s central belt, with concentrations in South Lanarkshire, Peeblesshire, Perthshire and the Lothians. Headquartered away from the exposed coast in Peeblesshire, they were focussed in Peebles, Innerleithen and Walkerburn.  With no military infrastructure to accommodate them they were left in the inhospitable climate, largely to their own devices, to live in tents, build their own camps, patrol the coastline and build coastal defences. As their work along the east coast took shape, their presence began to be felt in nearly every part of the country.


Polish forces encamp outside Peebles Hydro in the cold snowy winter of 1940-41


Some buildings in Scotland were requisitioned for military administration. From September 1940 the former Black Barony Hotel at Eddleston near Peebles is believed to have been headquarters for General Stanislaw Maczek of the 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade (later the 1st Polish Armoured Division). The forces became a common sight in their Churchill Mk.1 and Valentine Mk.IV tanks, later replaced by Comets and Shermans. By 1942 General Maczek’s HQ had moved north to Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire but the Black Barony Hotel at Eddleston continued to serve the Polish forces as their Staff Officer training college until 1945.


The former Black Barony Hotel (now Barony Castle) at Eddleston


With the failure of the German air attacks in the Battle of Britain, the fate of Poland, and Polish forces in Scotland, was highlighted as Germany began to turn its attention eastward once more and Hitler’s deputy Hess flew to Scotland on an abortive personal peace mission in May 1941.  

When Germany invaded Russia in June 1941, the Soviets and the Poles became allies overnight. Poles were released from forced labour and a Polish Army was raised in Southern Russia. The Soviet Government, however, was reluctant to arm and equip Polish Forces on Russian soil and by 1942, in a situation of deteriorating Polish-Soviet relations, the Polish Army in the Soviet Union was evacuated to the Middle East and placed under British command. This Army fought with distinction in North Africa and Italy.

 As 1941 turned to 1942, some 18 months after the Polish troops arrived in Scotland, we can clearly see the development and consolidation of the Polish I Corps.  In February 1942 the 1st Polish Armoured Division was created. This division developed into the Polish Army’s most powerful formation to date.   By the beginning of 1943 a new command - HQ Home (Static) Forces- controlled the Army's training centres along with its other units and establishments.

The final breakdown of Polish-Soviet relations was in April 1943, when the Germans announced the discovery of a mass grave in the Forest of Katyn, near Smolensk, containing the bodies of 4,000 Polish Officers murdered by the Soviets.


Polish tanks stationed at Amisfield in East Lothian prepare to be taken move south from Haddington Station at the end of 1943. Training for D Day landings took place in East Anglia


In July 1944, after more tank training in East Anglia, the 1st Polish Armoured Division transferred to Normandy, attached to the First Canadian Army, and contributed decisively to resolving Allied difficulties in the Battle of Falaise. See picture diary at  GENERAL MACZEK & THE POLISH ROAD TO BREDA 1944


Temporary “Warsaw Bridge” built to carry Polish forces north across the Seine at Elbeuf, 29 August 1944

General Maczek's Division continued to spearhead the Allied drive across the battlefields of France, liberating Amiens and St Omer, then in Belgium securing Ypres, Roulers and Terneuzen. Into the Netherlands, in Brabant, Maczek’s forces carefully flanked Breda and entered without damage.  Here the Polish forces were to be hailed as heroes and here many of them were subsequently buried. 

Liberation of Breda. Honorary Citizenship bestowed on General Maczek’s Division, Monday 30 October 1944




1st Polish Armoured Division pushed on to Germany, capturing the port of Wilhelmshaven and accepting surrender of the garrison and 200 navy ships.  After Germany capitulated, General Maczek went on to become commanding officer of all Polish forces in the United Kingdom until demobilization in 1947.


By March 1944, all the Polish armed forces in the west fighting under British command had numbered 195,000, 165,000 at the end of that year, including about 20,000 personnel in the Polish Air Force and 3,000 in the Polish Navy. At the end of the war in Europe they were 195,000 strong, and by July 1945 had jumped to 228,000, most of the newcomers being released prisoners of war and ex-labour camp inmates.

In the west, Polish Forces served with distinction on the sea, on the land and in the air. They fought in most Allied operations against the Nazi Germany in Middle East, Mediterranean, African and European theatres: the North African campaign, the Italian Campaign (with Battle of Monte Cassino being one of the most notable), the Western European Campaign (from Dieppe Raid and D-Day through Battle of Normandy (notably at Falaise) and latter operations, especially Operation Market Garden).

A number of Polish Squadrons were formed as part of the Royal Air Force and they had an outstanding success rate. Polish Infantry and Armoured Forces landed in France shortly after D-day in 1944 and Polish Airborne Forces landed at Arnhem.   Anders Army for example had taken Monte Cassino in Italy on 18 May 1944 with the bugle call of the Polish call-to-arms and the raising of the Polish flag on the ruins of the Abbey was arguably their finest hour. They went on to capture Ancona.

General Anders’ grave at Monte Cassino


In June 1944, the Parachute Brigade figured early in the Army's Order of Battle and while it was located in Scotland for a considerable part of the war, it came under the direct control of the Polish C-in-C. It was intended that the formation be used in Poland but part of it was dropped near Arnhem in September 1944. The brigade was later to be a component of the occupation troops (BLA) in Germany along with the 1st Armoured Division. With the failure of a satisfactory political settlement in their homeland these two formations eventually returned to the United Kingdom.

In 1945 surviving members of the Polish Army which had formerly been based in the Soviet Union, and the Polish Forces which had trained and served in Scotland, were reunited in the United Kingdom. But the February 1945 Yalta Agreement meant that many of these men and women could not return to their homes because of boundary changes and the establishment of a Stalinist sphere of influence over Poland.

In February 1945, more Polish manpower becoming available to the Polish Army in Scotland allowed the build up of the 4th Infantry Division; (a redesignation of the cadre Armoured Grenadier Division), the 16th Independent Tank Brigade and other units. There were also a large number of other units in Scotland under the control of HQ Polish Forces in Great Britain.   By the spring of 1945, besides the 1st Polish Corps, there were based in Scotland a significant number of units/establishments at the disposal of the Polish Ministry of Defence and the British War Office, under the command of Polish GHQ (except for administration) and the Polish Ministry of National Defence (except for administration).





(with grateful acknowledgement to the fuller information at )


The Polish Navy (Polska Marynarka Wojenna) which fought alongside the Royal Navy was one of a number of the Allied Navies - e.g. the Free French Navy, the Dutch Navy and the Norwegian Navy that had connections with Scotland during the Second World War. At the outbreak of war in September 1939 the Polish Navy consisted of 4 destroyers, 5 submarines, 1 mine-layer and 6 modern mine sweepers, as well as several auxiliary and training ships. A number of these ships were lost in the Baltic to enemy air action and 3 submarines were interned in Sweden, unable to reach Britain.

Before the outbreak of war an agreement between Britain and Poland was drawn up in March 1939 for military and naval co-operation. By prior agreement contingents of the Polish Navy were to make their way to Britain. Under this agreement orders were drawn up in August 1939 for 3 Polish destroyers to make their way to Britain (operation Pekin). This decision had been taken to enable the ships to operate in other waters in case the bases were captured by the enemy.

The Polish ships make their way to Scotland in operation Pekin.

On 1st September 1939, after leaving Gdynia on the Baltic on the 30th August, the destroyers OORP (Ships of the Republic of Poland) Blyskawica (Lightning), Grom (Thunder) and Burza (Tempest) sailed into the Firth of Forth and were escorted into Leith. They were to form the Polish Destroyer Squadron. Leith was the first of a number of Scottish ports, such as Rosyth, Greenock, Port Glasgow, Ardrossan, Gourock, Dundee, the naval base at Scapa Flow and others that were to see Polish ships. The Squadron operated initially from Plymouth (clandestine operations off southern Ireland and escort duties) and then moved to Harwich for duties in the North Sea. The Polish Navy for the first time in its history was now fighting in seas beyond the Baltic.


One of the Polish Destroyer Squadron under the Forth Bridge

Two submarines later joined the Polish naval force. The submarine ORP Wilk (Wolf) reached Rosyth on the 20th September 1939, its commander Boguslaw Krawczyk, being the first Polish Navy officer to receive the DSO. The Wilk and Orzel (Eagle) after refitting were assigned to the 2nd Submarine Flotilla based at Rosyth. The Orzel became well known to the British public for its daring escape from the port of Tallin in Estonia, which Churchill described as 'epic'.

Polish submarine Orzel (Eagle)

A new Anglo-Polish Naval Agreement was signed on 18 November 1939. It agreed that the Polish Naval Detachment was to be commanded by Polish officers, its ships manned by Polish crews with Polish uniforms and rank distinctions and subject to Polish regulation, but subordinated to the operational control of the British Admiralty. The ships were sovereign Polish territory.

The period from October 1939 to early April 1940 was seen in Britain as the "phoney war", but for Poles within and outside the occupied homeland this was a time of grim activity and adjustment. The small Polish Naval Detachment fighting at the side of the Royal Navy was very much in action during this time. Indeed the Polish Navy can claim that it fought from the first to the last day of the War.

British plans to secure naval dominance of the Baltic were overtaken. The German invasion of Denmark and Norway in April 1940 involved all the Polish ships operating out of British ports. For the Polish Navy the early summer of 1940 marked a low point when one of its two submarines was lost, one of its three destroyers sunk while two further ships were in for repair. Additionally there were severe losses in its merchant fleet - the liners Pilsudski and Chrobry.

But the Polish Navy was to re-emerge as its losses in ships were made good with British and other vessels.  For example Britain’s G-class destroyer HMS Garland became the ORP Garland (the Poles retaining the tradition of this old Royal Navy name). Other warships came from the French Navy whose crews had abandoned their ships in British waters - two patrol vessels, the Medoc and Pomerol and two submarine chasers ("Ch.11" and "Ch.12"). Twelve ex-Belgian trawlers (numbered "P1" to "P12") based at Dartmouth were also turned over to the Polish Navy for anti-invasion patrols. The French destroyer Ouragan, towed from Brest, was also loaned to the Polish Navy though it spent most of the period under Polish command undergoing repairs.

By October 1940 the Polish destroyers moved to their new Scottish base at Greenock and from there participated in the hard fought Battle of the Atlantic. During this battle the Polish destroyers Piorun (Thunderbolt, formerly HMS Nerissa), Blyskawica, Orkan (Hurricane), Burza and Garland served as escorts for trans-Atlantic convoys. A plaque on a Polish monument at Prestwick in Ayrshire commemorates those who died in the Battle of the Atlantic and they are remembered to this day by former sailors of the Polish Navy.

The Polish Merchant Fleet had been successful in removing itself from Baltic waters in 1939, some 38 vessels having escaped. These ships were integrated into the Allied Merchant Pool. The Polish ships were able to bring young naval trainees to the West who provided a valuable manpower resource throughout the War.  Polish merchant ships carried Allied troops to Norway, evacuated British and Polish troops from France in 1940, took children to the safety of America, brought American and Canadian troops to Britain , carried valuable cargoes to Murmansk and Africa, and participated in large scale landings of the Allies - in North Africa, Salerno, the invasion of Normandy and the south of France.  In all some 54 vessels with a total tonnage of 188,000 tons carried nearly 5 million tons of valuable war supplies.   Many of these ships called in at Scottish ports. 11 merchant ships were lost including 3 liners.

The policy of using British and other naval vessels to replace wartime losses and expand the Polish Navy included a cruiser, the first the Polish Navy ever possessed. A total of 2 cruisers, 6 destroyers, 3 submarines and 8 Motor Torpedo Boats were transferred to the Polish Navy during the War. During the War Polish ships found themselves seconded to RN units, e.g. the submarine ORP Sokol (Falcon) was at one time seconded to the RN's 9th Submarine Flotilla based in Dundee.

The chief of the Polish Navy was Vice-Admiral Jerzy Swirski whose headquarters was in London. In the UK administration of the Polish Navy was divided into two Commands - 'North' and 'South'. The 'North' Command was based in Greenock and 'South' at Plymouth. Also based in Scotland was Holding Station 'Glasgow' which in 1944 moved to Bowling Camp, near Glasgow and Clydebank.  Polish servicewomen in the Navy came under Polish Admiralty control in July 1944. These Polish volunteers (Polish nickname 'seagulls') began to release men for combat assignments.

British light cruiser HMS DANAE underway in 1943. From October 1944 to September 1946 she served with the Polish Navy as ORP Conrad.

The Polish Navy took part in many famous actions during the war and some of her ships were to become well known to the British public. Its naval actions included: Narvik, Dunkirk, the hunt for the Bismarck, Lofoten Islands, Tobruk, Murmansk convoys, Dieppe landings, Anzio landings, landings in the Azores, the Battle of the Atlantic, Dodecanese, landings in North Africa, landings in Normandy, as well as actions in the Mediterranean, North Sea, English Channel and Baltic.   Of Poland's naval service in wartime the British First Sea Lord, Sir Dudley Pound said in 1942 when decorating some Polish submariners: "Last night I asked my Chief of Staff to give me a list of all Polish warships fighting alongside the Royal Navy. I was shocked to learn how few they are because in all despatches of naval operations and major engagements I almost always find a name of a Polish ship that distinguished itself." 

The personnel strength of the Polish ships in British waters in 1939 was less than 1,000, but by the end of the war was over 4,000 strong. Some 404 men were lost in action and 5 warships sunk. The greatest loss of life occurred in the sinking of the ORP Orkan. Four Polish midshipmen were among the casualties of HMS Hood when it blew up.

While operating with the Royal Navy the Polish Navy sailed a total of 1,213,000 nautical miles, escorted 787 convoys, carried out 1,162 combat patrols, sank 39 transports, shot down 20 aircraft, sank 2 U-Boats and probably damaged another 11.

After the war in Europe Polish warships participated in mercy missions, for example, delivering Red Cross packets to the Poles liberated from German labour camps. In August 1945 the ORP Blyskawica, which fought the longest of any Allied ship, was based at Rosyth. At the end of the war she took part in 'Operation Deadlight' - the sinking of captured enemy U-boats before being handed back in May 1946, via the British, to the Communist authorities in Poland. Today, the "Blyskawica" is a ship museum at Gdynia on the Baltic in Poland. Other ships of the Polish Navy were handed back to the British in July and September 1946. On the 24th September 1946 at Rosyth, the flag of the destroyer ORP Garland was hauled down for the last time.

The prevailing political situation at the end of the war was full of bitter disillusionment and tragic disappointment for the Poles.  Vice-Admiral Jerzy Swirski, C-in-C of the Polish Navy addressed all men of the Polish Navy in an Order of the Day of the 28th September 1946 on the occasion of the handing back of the ships of the Polish Navy. "...Thus we come to the end of the glorious pages of the history of our Navy, the armed forces of Poland on the high seas. But we remain, the Navy's personnel deprived of our Motherland and of our Ships. The glorious part played by our Navy and the proud memory of our Ships - which for us constitute a part of our Country and our homes - will for ever remain in our hearts." After reviewing the war record of the Navy's ships he paid tribute to all those who lost their lives in the service of their country and to all those who fulfilled their duties. He ended, "In the war we were the first to stand at the side of our British Allies and it was with complete confidence that we gave all our moral and material help. We fulfilled our duties faithfully, as allies to the very end. The personnel of the British Navy, who were our trusty comrades and on whom we could always rely in all operations and circumstances, are witnesses to this. But the battles and hardships have not given us the results which we expected from this war. Our Country continues to remain in a political situation which prevents the majority of us from returning to Poland.  We shall shortly cease to be a Navy; however, the knowledge of the complete fulfilment of our duties towards Poland as well as towards our Allies brightens the bitterness of our reality. We are not the debtors, as will be seen when the Allies close their accounts.  Continuing to be united by a strong ideological tie - we, the naval family will continue to live and work for Poland, believing that in the end we shall regain our Country and that the majority of us will offer their services to the navy in a free Poland. At present, we are temporarily living through the end of our naval activity. May the good God take care of us all and may He spare us suffering and disillusion and may He lead us back to a free Poland. Long live Poland!"

Unable or unwilling to return to a Soviet dominated Poland numbers of navy personnel settled in Scotland. To this day they keep alive the traditions of the Polish Navy and the Sea.  Polish Navy Day commemorates Poland's symbolic re-unification with the Baltic Sea on 10 February 1920.  Polish independence was restored in December 1990. 






The airmen of six occupied European nations found refuge in Britain in 1940 and fought their war from British soil. Amongst the Allied Air Forces the Polish Air Force (Polskie Sily Powietrzne) played a most prominent part. In September 1939, the Polish Air Force although heavily outnumbered by the Luftwaffe fought with distinction.   The Polish Air Force was recreated in France from air crews who had managed to make their way via Rumania and other routes to French soil and by June 1940 it numbered 7,000 personnel and about 90 operational aircraft. In late 1939, the British authorities had already agreed to take over 2,000 airmen and they had been incorporated into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. And although there had been an Anglo-Polish Agreement on the formation of Polish Air Force units in UK in April 1940, the British had been unwilling to permit the forming of independent Polish units under Polish command.  Following the capitulation of France, the airmen of the Polish Air Force were on the move again and a large majority of them found themselves in England following their evacuation from France and North Africa.  With the signing of the Polish-British Military Agreement in early August 1940 the formation of the Polish Air Force under RAF operational control was permitted.

These airmen-pilots, air crews and ground staffs made important military contributions to the Allied air effort particularly during the Battle of Britain where two Polish fighter squadrons - 302 and 303 and Polish pilots serving in numerous other RAF fighter squadrons particularly distinguished themselves, but also in other air operations.  Polish bomber crews, many operating from bases in Lincolnshire, participated in the bombing offensive on Germany, taking heavy casualties in this long and dangerous battle.

Among other operations the Polish Air Force provided aerial cover in the 1942 Dieppe landings, participated in the Air Defence of Great Britain, took part in operations in North Africa, the Normandy invasion and Northern Europe, Italy and help for the Polish Home Army and the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Polish aircrews were also engaged in anti-submarine patrols and convoy duties.

Polish pilots and crew also served in Ferry Command later absorbed by Transport Command, the Atlantic Ferry Organization (ATFERO), (Prestwick was a major trans-Atlantic ferry base through which thousands of North American built aircraft arrived) and the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) - and technical ground staffs in RAF units.

In 1943 a Polish Women’s Auxiliary Air Force was formed on the lines of the British WAAF and served in a variety of posts.  After the Battle of Britain more Polish squadrons were formed. By the end of 1943, a total of 14 Polish squadrons, imcluding 10 fighter squadrons and a complete infrastructure was in existence, making the Polish Air Force the fourth largest Allied air force, numbering on 1st December 1943 - 11,638 personnel. By May 1945 the manpower strength stood at 19,400 and fourteen Polish squadrons, most of which were based in the UK (Air Defence of Great Britain) or in north west Europe.

In the autumn of 1946 the Polish Air Force started to disband its squadrons. By the beginning of 1947 some 11,000 personnel had joined the Air Resettlement Corps whose camps were located in England. By July 1948 the Polish Forces had been officially disbanded and the Air Resettlememt Corps wound up in October 1948. After the Yalta Agreement in February 1945 and political events in Poland most airmen were unable or unwilling to return after the war to a Soviet dominated Poland.

With the return of democracy to Poland, the symbol of the Polish Air Force in the West - the standard of the Polish Air Force - was returned in September 1992 to Poland and handed over to the present day Polish Air Force.


Units and Locations

In Scotland during the war and in the immediate post-war period there were a few Polish squadrons located for varying periods at Scottish airfields and numbers of Polish air crews received their training here. Below is a summary of the airfields used by the Polish squadrons, location dates and some other information pertaining to each squadron. With the exception of 309 Squadron and the Balloon Flight, Polish squadrons were not stationed in Scotland during the war for long periods, so their presence in Scotland was a very small part of the total time spent in the UK and service overseas.   

Squadron 303 was formed as a fighter squadron during the Battle of Britain at Northolt outside London on 15-22 July 1940 with Polish personnel evacuated from France. Flying Hurricanes, it became operational on August 31, 1940.  303 Squadron achieved the highest number of kills of the 66 Allied fighter squadrons engaged in the Battle of Britain, even though it didn't join the fighting until two months after the battle had begun [read interviews here]. It took part in the Battle of Britain until mid-October, when it was withdrawn to Yorkshire for defensive duties. In January 1941 it returned to Northolt to re-equip with Spitfires and began offensive sweeps over France. In July 1941 it moved to Speke for the defence of Merseyside returning south in October to resume offensive operations. In June 1942, No.303 moved to Lincolnshire and in February 1943, came back to the south for a period of sweeps.  In November 1943, the squadron was transferred to Northern Ireland where it provided protection for shipping arriving in the Clyde and Irish Sea areas. In April 1944, it joined the RAF’s Second Tactical Air Force in readiness for the landings in Normandy but remained in England, moving to East Anglia to provide fighter escort for Bomber Command raids, and carry out armed reconnaissance missions over the Netherlands. In April 1945, No.303 converted to Mustangs but flew only two operations with these before the end of the war. Squadron 303 was in Scotland from late 1945 and flying P51 Mustang Mk IVs, 303 was based first at Edinburgh Turnhouse from 28 November, then in the far north at Wick from 4 January 1946. After 3 months the squadron then moved south to England (Hethel in Norfolk) from 15 March 1946.  On 26 November 1946, all flying ceased and the squadron disbanded on 11 December 1946. Squadron code PD after the war.

Pictures at top from show a Kapitan, Polish 303 Squadron (RAF). As a Kapitan of the exiled Polish Army Air Force flying with the RAF, over his left breast pocket he wears the unique metal wings of a Polish Air Force pilot, displayed in the prescribed way as hanging by their silver chain from his collar. His ribbon bar includes the Polish Cross of Valour and Silver Merit Cross as well as the RAF's Distinguished Flying Cross. The badge of the legendary Polish 303 Squadron of the RAF is on his pocket.  Squadron 303 flew Mustangs during their service in Scotland at the end of the war.

Squadron 304 "Land of Silesia" was formed 23 August 1940 as a bomber squadron. In view of the heavy losses suffered by the squadron in the bombing raids over Germany, 304 Squadron transferred in May 1942 from Bomber Command to Coastal Command. After a short training period in anti-submarine operations off the west coast of Scotland at Tiree from 14 May 1942 the squadron left Tiree on 13 June for Wales (Pembrokeshire) for operations in the Bay of Biscay in June 1942. Operations over the seas involved flying very long missions over the Atlantic. With its specially equipped Wellington aircraft it returned to Scotland on 19 November 1944 to face the difficulties of operating from Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides in the winter of 1944-1945 and over Atlantic waters. On 14 March 1945 the squadron was transferred to Cornwall. Squadron codes NZ (Tiree) QD (Benbecula)

Squadron 307 was formed on 23 August 1940 as a night-fighter squadron. In Scotland only briefly it was based at Drem east of Edinburgh from late 1943 with a detachment at Sumburgh in the Shetland Islands which had many successes in operations against enemy aircraft.. It moved south to Lincolnshire from 2 March 1944

Squadron 309 "Land of Czerwien", the only Polish squadron formed in Scotland, was created as an army cooperation squadron late in 1940 at Renfrew west of Glasgow.  It moved east soon after the devastating March 1941 Clydebank 'blitz' to Dunino in Fife, where it co-operated with I Polish Corps whose units were defending the east coast of Scotland against an expected German invasion. The squadron undertook reconnaissance, artillery spotting and liaison missions as well as patrolling the mouth of the River Clyde. Flying from Longman airfield near Inverness the squadron participated in army cooperation exercises with the 51st Highland Infantry Division. During 1942 the squadron started to transition to "Mustangs" where it patrolled the east coast of Scotland, the North Sea and made attacks in coastal waters off Norway.  The squadron with a mixture of Lysanders and Mustangs was based at Kirknewton west of Edinburgh from March 1943, before heading south to England at the beginning of June. Some elements of the squadron operated from Longside (Peterhead) airfield from January 1943. After returning to Scotland, from March 1944 it was on air defence duties based at Drem east of Edinburgh and in November it was back at Longside on convoy patrol. It later transferred to 133 Polish Wing and its last mission was the attack on Berchtesgaden in late April 1944.  

Squadron 309 "Land of Czerwien" flew Lysanders from 1940 to 1942

Details of this squadron from formation at Renfrew on 8 October 1940 are these. It flew Lysander Mk II and III, moving to Dunino on 15 May 1941. It became a fighter-reconnaissance squadron from April 1942 with Mustang Mk I (one flight), moving to Crail on 15 June, and Findo Gask west of Perth (two flights) on 26 October 1942. Stationed in England at Gatwick south of London from 15 November 1942 (one flight), Snailwell near Cambridge from 4 June 1943.  Deployment continued to Peterhead north of Aberdeen (one flight) 10 January 1943; Kirknewton west of Edinburgh 8 November 1943; with Hurricane Mk IV from January 1944; to Drem east of Edinburgh and Acklington just south of the border in England (one flight) on 23 April 1944; returning to Peterhead again 14 November 1944. From early October 1944 with Mustang Mk I and from 20 October 1944 with Mustang Mk III. Squadron 309 transferred to England at Andrews Field Essex from 12 December 1944. Squadron codes AR and from 1944 WC

Squadron 315 was formed on 8 January 1941, flew Mustang Mk III from March 1944 and came to Scotland stationed at Peterhead from 30 October 1944. It left Peterhead and moved to England at Andrews Field, Essex on 16 January 1945. Squadron code PK

Squadron 316 was briefly stationed at Wick. The Mustangs of this squadron arrived at Wick in November 1945 for intensive training exercises leaving in mid-March 1946 to be stationed at Hethel. Squadron code SZ.

The Polish Balloon Flight was formed on 15 October 1940. In Scotland first as Glasgow balloon defences from 20 December 1940 as part of 945 Squadron. Then north of the Firth of Forth and the Rosyth Naval Base from 22 July 1942 as part of 929 Squadron. On 27 June 1944 the Balloon Flight moved to England for the defence of London when flying bomb attacks began that month.

 Polish Balloon Barrage Unit

Composed of 155 airmen this unit was formed in December 1940 as part of 945 Balloon Squadron. Some of the men came from pre-war balloon units who had escaped from Poland. From December 1940 to July 1942 it covered the north-west part of Glasgow. From July 1942 to Aug 1944 it was part of 929 Balloon Sqn and protected the north coast of the Firth of Forth including the Forth bridge, Rosyth and the Naval Air Station at Donibristle before moving to London at the time of the V1 offensive on England.

 Air Schools and Training Establishments

 Staff College

Air Force studies ran from April 1943 to the beginning of 1944 at the Polish Military Staff College at Eddleston near Peebles.

Operational Training Units

At Grangemouth an operational training unit, 58 OTU was formed for the training of Polish pilots. Another OTU, Number 60 at East Fortune, near North Berwick also trained pilots.

Polish Initial Training Squadron

Part of No 12 Initial Training Wing, the squadron was based at St Andrews, Fife in 1941.

Schools and Training Units

Polish aircrew were also trained at a number of RAF schools around Scotland, e.g. in Air Gunnery, Observer, and Bombing and Gunnery Schools as well as at the Signals School in Prestwick.





(with grateful acknowledgement to the fuller information at )

The story of a Polish ambulance unit stationed in the historic burgh of Linlithgow, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, is not one of front line battle, nor of heroic exploits. Indeed much of Britain’s wartime sacrifice was the battle of the home front. The simple and unrecorded business of “doing one’s bit”. This story is one of demonstrating the some of the special synergy that grew up between the allied nations. It is a story of  Polish soldiers, British women volunteers and American patriotic aid. All were to come together in Linlithgow during the Second World War.


1st MAC

1st Motor Ambulance Convoy (1 Motorowy Ambulans Konwoj), was initially formed as a small unit of around 40 personnel in the town of Newburgh, Fife, as part of the Polish 1st Corps (1 Korpusu Polskiego) of the Polish Army in exile, which was tasked with the defence of the Scottish east coast, during the early years of the second world war following the fall of France and the Dunkirk evacuation.

The unit comprised British uniformed Polish soldiers, exiled from their homeland by German occupation in 1939, and British women ambulance drivers from the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, F.A.N.Y. These were unique circumstances, a uniformed British women’s service operating within the army of a foreign power. But these were testing times. Britain was then under threat of invasion.

Following the huge loss of vehicles and material at Dunkirk in 1940, the British Army was in no condition to also equip their Polish allies, so help was sought from the U.S.A and Canada. 1MAC were issued with 1½ ton Chevrolet field ambulance panel trucks which accommodated a crew of 2, a capacity of ten wounded or four stretcher cases, and were donated by the American committee for the Polish ambulance fund, and the British American Ambulance Corps, a body created to provide U.S. gift aid vehicles permitted by the U.S. constitution only on humanitarian grounds, by the then neutral U.S.A.  The term Konwoj or Convoy is not a regular description for a military body and was presumably used to describe this mixed body of different gender and nationality travelling alongside armed forces.


The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (F.A.N.Y.)

F.A.N.Y. was created in 1907 as an independent all-female first aid link between front-line fighting units and the field hospitals. The yeomanry title was because all the women were originally mounted on horseback. Later, the women became vehicle drivers. During the First World War, FANYs ran field hospitals, drove ambulances and set up soup kitchens and troop canteens, often under highly dangerous conditions. By the Armistice, they had been awarded many decorations for bravery, including 17 Military Medals, 1 Legion d'Honneur and 27 Croix de Guerre.

In 1938 the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry had been absorbed into the A.T.S. but retained its identity and distinctive uniform differences of Sam Browne belt and collar insignia for all ranks. 

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Corps of First Aid Nursing Yeomanry  was called upon to form the nucleus of the Motor Driver Companies of the ATS. Members of FANY came from many nations. Some of them went on to serve with distinction in covert operations with the SOE, Special Operations Executive, with heroines such as Ensign Violette Szabo, Lt Odette Sansom and Assistant Section Officer Noor Inayat-Khan, amongst many others.

Free FANY'S were volunteers who served without pay. A veteran Free FANY, Norah Grajnert was interviewed in 2008. When war broke out, Norah was 19 and already a good driver. She decided to volunteer to drive a mobile canteen serving refreshments to rescue workers in Bristol during the Blitz. But then she wanted to do more, so she decided to ‘do her bit’ by joining the FANY. At her interview, the FANY’s Commandant realised that Norah spoke excellent French. This was important, because there were large numbers of French speakers among the thousands of Polish soldiers who’d been evacuated from France after escaping from Poland.

Easter Moncrieffe, Perthshire

 The Polish forces were encamped at special bases in Scotland, and Norah was asked to join the large FANY unit which had been specially formed for the Poles’ welfare. She was billeted in Easter Moncrieffe and recalls the small rooms they were assigned. Norah described the uniform as regulation issue ATS uniform, but with plain brass buttons, which distinguished the Free FANY from the regular FANY. Also they wore the POLAND shoulder titles and Polish eagle on the breast pocket as a tribute to the unit to which they were attached.  The personnel served in a voluntary capacity, providing their own uniform, claiming no disability allowance or pension, and paying for their own training. It was not until 1942 that the war office reluctantly approved the request of the Polish authorities to pay a modest remuneration. Thenceforth each received eleven shillings and ninepence (about 60p) per week, plus rations and accommodation in military premises.

After her release from the A.T.S, Auxiliary Territorial Service, Staff commander Hope Gamwell was sent from F.A.N.Y. headquarters in London to command a corps unit attached to the Polish forces in France. When France was overrun, FANY abandoned their canteen in France and fled with the Poles to set up a camp in south west Scotland. The British American Ambulance Corps provided them with ten ambulances and subsequently the Poles were moved to the east coast of Scotland. Ambulance and staff car drivers were sought and the drivers were billeted in Easter Moncrieffe to support the headquarters staff in the adjacent Earl of Moncrieffe’s House at Bridge of Earn in Perthshire. The 1st Mac ambulance convoy was stationed in Newburgh, North Fife, just 10 miles away, and temporary hospital accommodation would be made available at Duppin Castle nearby, the former home of whisky magnate John Dewar, and at Taymouth Castle.

In due course F.A.N.Y administration was transferred from London to Balthayock, north of the Tay just east of Perth, then eventually in February 1942 to Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh, when it was decided to form the 1st Armoured Division and generally realign the Polish forces south of the River Forth. The Polish H.Q. moved to Kinnaird House Falkirk, No 4 Liaison mission to Edinburgh and the 1st Motor ambulance to Linlithgow.


Polish Medical School and Paderewski Hospital

This school operated originally to provide doctors for I Polish Army Corps. On 24 February 1942, an agreement was signed to form the Polish Medical School at the University of Edinburgh. This was a formalisation of temporary arrangements made in 1941. At first it had enabled medical students from the Polish Universities, which had all been closed by the German administration, to complete their courses and qualify. Instruction and examination were mostly in Polish. The school was both a faculty of the University of Edinburgh and a University authorised by the Polish government in exile (in London), and the Dean also had the powers of a Polish Rector Magnificus. Of 337 students enrolled in the Polish Medical School, 227 graduated, 38 transferred to British Universities and 71 discontinued their studies. The school awarded both British degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery and a Polish Dyplom Lekarza on the same bilingual Latin-Polish certificate. Nineteen progressed to Doctor of Medicine (MD). It was not feasible to move the school as a unit to Poland after the liberation. The School finally closed in 1949.

As well as the Edinburgh University's facilities, the Paderewski Hospital was set up in one of the buildings of the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.  The building remained on the Western General site until about 2010.   


1 MAC at Linlithgow

With the threat of invasion receding and with a mission to serve ambulance requirements of the Polish Army which had by then moved south of the Forth to form the Polish 1st Armoured Division, 1Mac’s compliment was increased and transferred to Linlithgow.  Barracks were assigned at Lataere (“Rejoice”), Linlithgow, a newly completed youth centre (demolished 2007) in the grounds of St Michael’s RC Church.  The ambulance unit could also serve evacuating anticipated blitz casualties from Edinburgh, the Forth Bridge and the naval ports of Rosyth and Leith, to the nearby war hospital at and burns specialists at Bangour, a threat that thankfully never materialised.  Linlithgow was also well placed to give backup support for any major bombing emergencies across the industrial heartland of West Central Scotland





A set of stamps was produced for use by the Polish Forces Postal Service.  Oral evidence suggests they were supplied along with other printed material from the premises of Oliver & Boyd and their technical and colour publishing associates Gurney & Jackson at Tweeddale Court, 14 High Street in Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.  These examples were being used in 1942.

Thanks to Len Douglas who supplied the image from which the above stamp pictures are taken




In the final stage of the war the Polish troops on all the European fronts, excluding the Home Army, amounted to some 600,000 soldiers  (infantry, armored troops, aircraft and navy). This made the Polish Armed Forces the fourth largest after the Soviet Union, United States and British Armed Forces.  The Polish government in exile was an official ally of the U.S. and Britain, but this did not prevent Roosevelt and, less willingly, Churchill from acquiescing at Yalta in its demise and replacement with a pro-Stalinist regime.

In 1945 surviving members of the Polish Army which had formerly been based in the Soviet Union, and the Polish Forces which had trained and served in Scotland, were reunited in the United Kingdom.  But the February 1945 Yalta Agreement meant that many of these men and women could not return to their homes because of boundary changes and the establishment of a Stalinist sphere of influence over Poland. At the time, over 200,000 troops of the Polish Armed Forces in the West were serving under the high command of the British Army. Many of these men and women were originally from the Kresy region of eastern Poland including cities such as Lwow and Wilno. They had been deported from Kresy to the Russian Gulags when Hitler and Stalin occupied Poland in 1939 in accordance with the Nazi-Soviet Pact. When two years later Churchill and Stalin formed an alliance against Hitler, the Kresy Poles were released from the Gulags in Siberia, formed the Anders Army and marched to Persia to create the II Corps (Poland) under British high command.

These Polish troops were instrumental to the Allied defeat of the Germans in North Africa and Italy, and hoped to return to their homes in Kresy in an independent and democratic Poland at the end of the War. But at Yalta, Churchill agreed that Stalin should keep the Soviet gains Hitler agreed to in the Nazi-Soviet Pact, including Kresy, and carry out Polish population transfers (1944–1946). Consequently, Churchill had agreed that tens of thousands of veteran Polish troops under British command should lose their Kresy homes to the Soviet Union.  In reaction, thirty officers and men from the II Corps (Poland) committed suicide.

The Western Powers had soon realized that Stalin would not honour his promise of free elections in Poland. Receiving much criticism in London after Yalta about atrocities committed in Poland by Soviet troops, Churchill had written Roosevelt a desperate letter about their wholesale deportations and liquidations of opposition Poles. But Roosevelt maintained his confidence in Stalin, reasoning that the Russian leader’s early priesthood training had "entered into his nature of the way in which a Christian gentleman should behave”. On March 1 1945, Roosevelt assured Congress that "I come from the Crimea with a firm belief that we have made a start on the road to a world of peace." By March 21, Roosevelt's Ambassador to the USSR Averell Harriman cabled Roosevelt that "we must come clearly to realize that the Soviet program is the establishment of totalitarianism, ending personal liberty and democracy as we know it."   Roosevelt began to admit that his view of Stalin had been much too optimistic and that "Averell is right."

Four days later, on March 27, the Soviet NKVD arrested 16 Polish opposition political leaders that had been invited to participate in provisional government negotiations. The arrests were part of a trick by the NKVD, which flew the leaders to Moscow for a later show trial followed by sentencing to a gulag. Churchill thereafter argued to Roosevelt that it was "as plain as a pike staff" that Moscow's tactics were to drag out the period for holding free elections "while the Lublin Committee consolidate their power." Fraudulent Polish elections on 16th January, 1947 resulted in Poland's official transformation to communist state by 1949.

In Moscow immediately after Yalta, when Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov expressed worry that the Agreement's wording might impede Stalin's plans, Stalin had responded "Never mind. We'll do it our own way later."  The Soviet Union had already annexed several occupied countries as or within Soviet Socialist RepublicsEstonia, Latvia and Lithuania for example.  Other Soviet-occupied countries in eastern Europe were later converted into satellite states, such as the People's Republic of Poland, the People's Republic of Hungary, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic[], the People's Republic of Romania, the People's Republic of Albania,[ and later East Germany from the Soviet zone of German occupation. Eventually the United States and the United Kingdom made concessions in recognizing all these Communist-dominated regimes, and the Yalta Declaration was seen in hindsight as a sham.

But all this was still in the future when Churchill defended his actions at Yalta in a three-day Parliamentary debate starting 27 February 1945, which ended in a vote of confidence. During the debate, many MPs openly criticised Churchill and passionately voiced loyalty to Britain's Polish allies and expressed deep reservations about Yalta. 25 of these MPs put forward an amendment protesting against Britain's tacit acceptance of Poland's domination by the Soviet Union. Foremost among them were Arthur Greenwood, acting leader of the Labour Party in the House of Commons, and on the Conservative side Neville Chamberlain’s former private secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Lord Dunglass) who later became Prime Minister. , After the failure of the amendment, Henry Strauss, the Member of Parliament for Norwich, resigned his seat in protest at the British treatment of Poland.

Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta. Below: Arthur Greenwood and Lord Dunglass protested the treatment of Poland in the UK parliament.


After the German surrender in May 1945, Polish troops took part in occupation duties in the Western Allied Occupation Zones in Germany. It is often said that the Polish Armed Forces were not invited to the London Victory Parade of 1946. However, originally the British Government invited representatives of the newly recognised regime in Warsaw to march in the parade but the delegation from Poland never arrived.  The reason was never adequately made clear, pressure from Moscow being the most likely explanation. Bowing to press and public pressure, the British eventually invited representatives of the Polish Air Force under British Command to attend in their place. They in turn refused to attend in protest at similar invitations not being extended to the Polish Army and Navy. The only Polish representative at the parade was Colonel Józef Kuropieska – the military attaché of the Communist regime in Warsaw who attended as a diplomatic courtesy.

The formation was finally disbanded in 1947, many of its soldiers choosing to remain in exile rather than to return to communist-controlled Poland, where they were often considered by the regime as 'enemies of the state', influenced by Western ideas, loyal to the Polish government in exile, and thus meeting with persecution, imprisonment, and in in extreme cases, death. The boundary changes, Soviet repressions of Polish citizens (1939–1946), the Trial of the Sixteen and other executions of pro-Western Poles, particularly the former members of the AK (Armia Krajowa), and the failure of Western governments to keep their promises to Poland, led many Poles to see themselves as victims of a second great betrayal by the West.  The first betrayal was seen as the lack of  effective supportive for Poland’s defence in 1939. 

Poland was now firmly under Soviet influence.  The number of Polish ex-soldiers unwilling to return was so high that a special organization was formed by the British government to assist settling them in the United Kingdom: the Polish Resettlement Corps (Polski Korpus Przysposobienia i Rozmieszczenia); 114,000 Polish soldiers went through that organization. Since many Poles had been stationed in United Kingdom and served alongside British units in the war, a large number of them settled here and Scotland was a particular focus. The Polish Resettlement Act 1947 was Britain's first mass immigration law. As the nineteen forties turned to the fifties, the temporary resettlement camps (many of them in Scotland like the Nissen huts around the Duddingston House estate in Edinburgh) gradually began to disappear and the Polish community became another distinctive strand of the Scottish and UK population.


2013 exhibition in Penicuik Town Hall:  Wojtek the Polish Soldier Bear (born Iran, served with Polish forces at MonteCassino, and died at Edinburgh Zoo) is the  subject of a book by Aileen Orr.  See also Voytek,, the Polish Army's Iranian soldier-bear )





In September 1940 the Polish authorities in Scotland had expressed a wish for a special consecrated plot in a cemetery for the burial of members of their forces. As there was a substantial number of Polish troops in Perthshire, Wellshill Cemetery in Perth was chosen and it is the largest of the many burial grounds in Scotland in which Polish soldiers were laid to rest. 

Polish war graves at the Jeanfield Road entrance to Wellshill Cemetery, Perth.

© Copyright Duncan David McColl and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Polish Navy Memorials in Scotland include, at the Polish Cemetery in Dalbeth Road, Glasgow, a memorial to sailors who died after the war. At a number of cemeteries in Scotland the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have erected headstones to Polish Navy casualties who died in service of Poland. Cardonald Cemetery in Glasgow, St Kentigern's in Glasgow, the Western Necropolis in Dundee, Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh and Wellshill Cemetery in Perth contain most of the Navy war graves.  At the Royal Air Force Association club at Stonegarth, Prestwick, is a Polish memorial to the sailors of the Polish Navy.  The origins of the Polish memorial at Prestwick can be traced back to the monument erected by Polish airmen at Monkton in Ayrshire.  Discovered there in a dilapidated and vandalised condition the memorial was moved by the local authority in 1986 to its new site in the garden of the RAFA Club in Prestwick which fittingly overlooks the sea. The memorial was repaired and placed on a new plinth. On the 2nd May 1987 the memorial was unveiled with a commemorative plaque inscribed by the Polish Naval, Air Force and Ex-Combatants' Associations. On the 45th anniversary of the sinking of the ORP Orkan, (Hurricane) on 8 October 1988, another commemorative plaque was fitted in memory of the Polish Navy, Merchant Navy and Coastal Command airmen who died in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Polish memorial at Prestwick


The main memorials to the airmen of the Polish Air Force in Britain are to be found in England. At Newark Cemetery in Nottinghamshire there are several hundred graves of Polish airmen who perished during the war. These graves are under the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It was from this cemetery that the remains of General Sikorski, Poland's Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief until his death in July 1943, were taken back to Poland in April 1997. There are many other reminders of the Polish Air Force's contribution and sacrifice in the prosecution of the war from British soil.  At Northolt, which during the war was a base much associated with Polish airmen, there is an imposing memorial remembering the 1,901 lives lost between 1940 and 1945.

In one of the churches in Renfrew Scotland, 309 Squadron donated a portrait of Our Lady of Czestochowa. In Scottish cemeteries there are a number of war graves of Polish airmen - many lie near the airfields from which they undertook their duties.


After the war, General Stanisław Maczek lived long in Scotland, taking his duty of care for his people as seriously as he had always done.

Plaque at the door of General Maczek’s house in Arden Street, Edinburgh

Twenty years after the liberation of Breda General Maczek stands among the graves of his fellow-countrymen in Breda’s Polish War Cemetery October 29 1964.

General Maczek died in 1994 in Edinburgh aged 102 and is buried with his comrades at Breda in the Netherlands.


But in many ways the symbolic memorial of Poland’s connection with the land and people of Scotland during the 1940s is the Great Polish Map of Scotland.  Commissioned by hotelkeeper Jan Tomasik and incorporating General Maczek’s suggestions, it was created by Kazimierz Trafas and his colleagues at Eddleston in the grounds of the old Polish Staff College in the 1970s.

Campaign volunteers explore the Great Map with Barony Castle hotel staff

A campaign to restore the Great Polish Map of Scotland began in 2008 and was formally constituted as Mapa Scotland in 2010. The Campaign secured Heritage Lottery funding for restoration, and listing by Historic Scotland in September 2012 to recognise the Great Map’s contribution to the nation’s built heritage. The Great Map was the subject of a debate in the Scottish Parliament on 19 September 2012 led by Christine Grahame MSP in which its unique importance was warmly commended as a symbol of Poland’s long-standing connections with Scotland up to the present day and as a focus for remembering the particular role of the Polish community in Scotland’s protection during the second world war.

RCHAMS crown copyright image of the Map accompanied the listing announcement


the campaign to restore



Great Polish Map of Scotland main History page 

More about the Campaign to restore the Map

Penicuik’s Maczek exhibition of 2008

Milestones in the life and times of the Great Polish Map

The building of the Great Polish Map:  –in Polish    –in English

Kazimierz Trafas (1939-2004) Designer of the Map –in Polish

Black Barony Hotel (Barony Castle) Eddleston, just before Polish forces arrived in 1940

The Debate on the Great Polish Map in the Scottish Parliament

Wojtek: Polish Soldier Bear and the proposed Edinburgh memorial


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