POLISH MAP OF SCOTLAND RESTORATION
the campaign to
MAP OF SCOTLAND
held its 3rd
Annual General Meeting at Barony Castle
Hotel, Eddleston EH45 8QW
on Sunday 28 April 2013
POLISH IN SCOTLAND IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR
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.
Polish Army, Navy and Air Force symbols
2. OUTBREAK OF WAR AND
ARRIVAL IN SCOTLAND
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.
! THIS IS YOUR DOING !
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.
(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
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 UK. Scotland 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
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
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
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
3. POLISH ARMED FORCES IN SCOTLAND
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
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).
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
Polish I Corps was made up
The Polish 1st Armoured Division
The Polish Independent Parachute Brigade
The Polish 4th Infantry Division
The Polish 16th Independent Armoured Brigade.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Liberation of Breda. Honorary
Citizenship bestowed on General Maczek’s Division, Monday 30 October 1944
MACZEK & THE POLISH ROAD TO BREDA 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
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).
4. POLISH NAVY
(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,
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
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
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),
(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
5. POLISH AIR FORCE
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
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
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 http://www.diggerhistory.info/pages-uniforms/poland.htm
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)
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
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
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.
6. MEDICAL SERVICES &
POLISH AMBULANCE UNIT
acknowledgement to the fuller information at http://www.1st-mac.com/ )
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 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.
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.
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
7. POLISH WARTIME STAMPS IN
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
8. YALTA AND THE AFTERMATH OF WAR
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
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
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
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 Republics –Estonia, 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
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
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.
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
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
war graves at the Jeanfield Road entrance to Wellshill Cemetery, Perth.
© Copyright Duncan
David McColl and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons
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
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
after the liberation of Breda
General Maczek stands among the graves of his fellow-countrymen in Breda’s Polish War Cemetery October 29 1964.
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
THE GREAT POLISH MAP OF SCOTLAND
Polish Map of Scotland main History page
More about the Campaign to restore
Penicuik’s Maczek exhibition of
in the life and times of the Great Polish Map
The building of the Great Polish Map: –in Polish
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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