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Poland and WWII


10FM68
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I don't want to block the thread about RAF paint by talking about Poland, so I have started this thread, should anyone wish to carry on on this subject.  Regarding the photo again - if it was a national event then I would suggest the day was 15 August 1942 or 43.  15 August is a special day for the Polish military - commemorating the "Miracle on the Vistula" in the Polish-Soviet war of 1920.

 

For Tony:

Polish involvement in Britain during WW2 is quite involved and I would say still part hidden. Including a 'guarded' camp (political prison) on Bute for Polish officers + two other similar for Polish rankers - locations in Scotland, leading to questions in H of P.  Very little is known about Josef Retinger (eminence grise / propagandist for Sikorski / some of London poles).  Due to the complexities - only somebody having strong Polish origins could best put to pen.  I should be able to give the titles of two books by authors of British origins - where this was revealed.   The full situation in general - best I have read is ,  Britain and Poland 1939-1943 : The Betrayed Ally by  Anita J. Prazmowska  (1995)

There is a lot of material from both British and Polish authors which cover the rise of independent Poland after WWI through the desperate years from 1939 to 1988.  Josef Garlinski, Timothy Garten-Ash and others.  I have probably about 10 linear feet of Polish historical stuff - primarily military in both English and Polish should you want to read more.

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Poland after WW1 was run more or less as a military non democratic government , opportunist invading by crossing borders to take other land by conquest.  They were driven off the field by the Germans , granted rights in the UK that no others were given (actually they were kept out of Bletchley Park , but allowed similar  IIRC at The Rubens Hotel , London.  I have more than sufficient reading on the subject , not of any great interest to self.

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I'd be interested in hearing more about Poland in WW2.

Back in the 1990s I provided the wedding Lightweight Land Rover (her idea) to the grand-daughter of a chap that won the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valour and British Military Cross at Cassino. I met him at the wedding, he was full of life.

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John F: I'll put something together - a short summary which will fit the bits into the jigsaw as far as Poles fighting in the West were concerned.

Rootes 75:  Yes, the reason there was such a large Polish diaspora in Britain after the war was because many were unable or unwilling to go back to Poland as it was now under Communist control and those who had fought with the Western Allies were deemed suspect (at best!).  Many, of course, were from the east of the then Poland which was also no longer Poland, but the Ukraine as the borders had shifted westwards.    So many settled in the areas of Britain where they had been based during the war - particularly in Scotland and also in Wales where many bought cheap smallholdings and began a new life.  

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1 hour ago, John F said:

I'd be interested in hearing more about Poland in WW2.

Back in the 1990s I provided the wedding Lightweight Land Rover (her idea) to the grand-daughter of a chap that won the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross, Cross of Valour and British Military Cross at Cassino. I met him at the wedding, he was full of life.

Poland WW2  is in fact all about the international agreed free port of Danzig  ,  + the  "corridoor"   and requests for road/rail 'corridoor' across the "corridoor" to East Prussia.   Hitler did try for a win/win situation .  The Poles had French support (effectively British support) that was a joke.   Beck & others were bragging they would and could march their armies down the Unter den Linden (Berlin) in under 24 hours.  Of course all Germany was willing to give the Poles a bloody nose,  intransigence by the Poles over free port rights and improved German access to East Prussia cost them their country and kicked off WW2.

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1 hour ago, Rootes75 said:

I often wondered if that were why so many Poles took up residence here in the UK, the fact that we were close allies during the war?

Yep, at one point in my life I had Polish post-WW2 "emigré" neighbours, it was informative chatting with them.

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                   It is a big subject, so I can give only a brief summary here and will have to leave much unsaid.  Suffice to say, though, that the Polish contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany was very significant and Polish Service personnel remained fighting from 1st September 1939 until 9 May 1945.  Those who remained in Poland continued their fight against the Communist regime and their Russian masters from the forests and countryside well into the 50s.

                Following the German invasion of 1st September 1939 and the consequent Soviet invasion from the East on the 17th, the Polish forces were squeezed and finally defeated in early October. 

                The Polish Navy had largely been evacuated to the UK earlier in 1939 and were now subordinated to the Royal Navy.  They continued to fight under RN command throughout.

                The ground forces were either captured by the Germans, or the Russians, or they managed to escape across the Baltic or via Romania and Hungary.  Some went to join the French in the Middle East (3rd Carpathian Brigade) coming under British command after the fall of France, and others made their way to France and fought in the Battle of France and in Norway.  With the fall of France many Polish survivors were interned in Switzerland and others, about 20,000, were evacuated to Britain where they took on the defence of the Scottish coast – going on to form the 1st Polish Corps.  This Corps was not fielded as a corps until the occupation of Germany in 1945, but included 1st Polish Armoured Division under Lt Gen Maczek which fought across NW Europe as part of 1st Canadian Army,, and the Independent Polish Parachute Brigade under Brig Sosabowki which fought at Arnhem. 

               All Polish Forces in the West were now loyal to, and under the command of, the Polish Government in Exile in London (President Raczkiewicz and Prime Minister - and CinC - Sikorski).  This was also true for the 50,000 or so Polish Home Army units (the Polish underground)  who continued to fight a guerrilla war in Poland itself – they maintained unbroken communications with their government throughout, regularly sending couriers out of the country to London.  SOE visited them in Dec 44 (Op FRESTON).

                 Of those who fell into Russian hands many, particularly officers and the intelligentsia, were murdered - the Katyn forest - near Smolensk - murders being the best known example.  The rest were placed in concentration (civilian) and POW (military) camps where they remained until after the Germans broke the Molotov-Rbbentrop Pact and invaded Russia (Op BARBAROSSA) in June 1941.  The following month, Gen Sikorski concluded an agreement to release Polish POWs and these were evacuated to the Middle East under General Anders.  Gen Anders formed the 2nd Polish Corps which served under the British 8th Army through North Africa and up through Italy with its crowning glory the seizure of Monte Cassino.

              Some Polish soldiers remained in the USSR and, under Gen Berling, created the Polish 1st Army which advanced into Germany westwards under Soviet command and control, conscripting Poles as they went and which, in 1945, became the recognised Polish People’s Army.   Of those who had fallen into German hands many were forced to serve in the Wehrmacht or as slave labourers and a lot of them re-joined the Polish Army in the West as it liberated Europe from D Day onwards. 

                 Of the Air Force, some survivors re-formed squadrons in France after the fall of Poland, subsequently making their way to Britain where they became famous for their contribution to the Battle of Britain.  Other squadrons were formed in Bomber Command, in Coastal Command and in Transport Command – significantly operating from Ancona in Italy in attempts to re-supply the Home Army fighting in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.  (This uprising is not the same as the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April – May 1943.)  A famous group of fighter pilots were sent to the Middle East under RAF command, becoming known as Skalski’s Flying Circus.  On its disbandment, Skalski and others became squadron and flight commanders in British RAF squadrons.

                   Intelligence.  During WWII about 40% of intelligence from occupied Europe came to London from the Poles and that included information on the V1 flying bombs, concentration camps and much else.  Before the war they had been working to break the German Enigma cypher machine and passed on their knowledge, to France and to the UK, before the fall of Poland.  The three Poles responsible for this feat, Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Rozycki found their way eventually to France and then the UK, where they continued to work on intelligence work for the Polish Government in Exile.  But that is a story of its own.

                   With the end of the war, the western allies recognised the Communist government in Lublin which was under Soviet control and with it the Polish People’s Army.  At a stroke, those fighting in the west became stateless, so were conscripted into the British Army and the Polish Resettlement Corps was formed to enable them to be discharged.  Many went on to serve in BAOR in Mixed Service units supporting the regular army – they also undertook considerable area mine-clearance in the UK.  Some returned to Poland, many more went to Commonwealth countries or stayed in the UK where they were given British status.  That's about it in as brief a tour as I can manage.

Edited by 10FM68
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5 hours ago, john1950 said:

A massive subject given a good concise airing. Don't forget the Bear.     

Ah! Wojtek!  Famous for moving ammunition boxes and carrying 25pdr shells!  Lived to be 21 - settled after the war in Edinburgh zoo, but I bet he was bored after his war service.

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On 9/7/2021 at 10:01 PM, Rootes75 said:

I often wondered if that were why so many Poles took up residence here in the UK, the fact that we were close allies during the war?

The regular answer is that there was a rumour about there being a shortage of poles for holding up the telegraph wires.....

My father was one of the many that were given British citizenship after the war, one of the reasons was that Churchill was embarrassed by the Yalta agreement and the poor treatment handed to the Poles. Prior to WW2 he was a lawyer working for the Polish government and a captain in the 10th Lithuanian Lancers but spent all but 6 weeks of the war as a POW. His family were quite well off and owned a country estate and property in Warsaw, all was lost as a result of the war.

He and many of his friends arrived in the UK thinking that their stay would be temporary and that they would soon be able to return to Poland and carry on as normal so most of them took on menial jobs to tide them over and did not bother to retrain for a new career in the UK. He was sent to a former American camp at Blackshaw Moor on the Leek to Buxton road and soon after met my mother on a Saturday night out in Leek.

Have a read here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_Resettlement_Act_1947  

Edited by radiomike7
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On 9/9/2021 at 10:17 AM, radiomike7 said:

 

Prior to WW2 [my father] was a lawyer working for the Polish government and a captain in the 10th Lithuanian Lancers but spent all but 6 weeks of the war as a POW. His family were quite well off and owned a country estate and property in Warsaw, all was lost as a result of the war.

He and many of his friends arrived in the UK thinking that their stay would be temporary and that they would soon be able to return to Poland and carry on as normal so most of them took on menial jobs to tide them over and did not bother to retrain for a new career in the UK.

Your father's story is very typical of those of so many - I understand that Gen Maczek, GOC 1st PL Armd Div found a job working in a pub or an hotel in Edinburgh.  But, thank you for adding this personal story - we have been the blessed generation - we never had to experience the lives our parents and grandparents did.

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2 hours ago, 10FM68 said:

Your father's story is very typical of those of so many - I understand that Gen Maczek, GOC 1st PL Armd Div found a job working in a pub or an hotel in Edinburgh.  But, thank you for adding this personal story - we have been the blessed generation - we never had to experience the lives our parents and grandparents did.

Probably not of great interest but here is a photo I found on the internet, father is the one in the second row with crossed legs, possibly before he was a captain. They are on maneuvers in Białystok in north eastern Poland, 1937. Check out the character to his right!

 

manewry_1937_t2.jpg

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How history is lost ,  for 5 years I worked alongside a man who was then a machine tool recon. fitter.  His name was  Fred Zak ,  he was only known as Zacky .  I don't know - you never asked , was Fred his real name ?  was his surname  Zak or Zack ,   was either a abbreviated longer Polish surname  ?     He was attributed with 3 tours , I don't know how this was calculated  Polish / RAF I suppose.   I understand he was apprenticed with Polish air force , he did airframe/engine , he was a part trained pilot .  A ex-pit fitter (uncouth , who got by without technical college)  one day tried mirth ,  it started with Zacky's  spelling of  "fibra washers"  & then more or less that he should not have been present.  I tore strips off the pit-fitter as Zaky was officially charge-hand fitter (he had moved north with the firm mid-1960's from Harmondsworth) & he should show more respect to his 'superior' .  Knowing that if he got up from the card table & struck me he would be sacked.    I could have asked Zacky lots , I didn't  - only twice did he mention WW2 , that afterwards he went home to Poland 1p.a. to see his mother and that he had been a Lancaster rear gunner and was most surprised that it was never his turn to be hosed out of the turret and that it was his choice to re-muster as aircrew (this was soon after the incident)..

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22 minutes ago, ruxy said:

How history is lost ,  for 5 years I worked alongside a man who was then a machine tool recon. fitter.  His name was  Fred Zak ,  he was only known as Zacky .  I don't know - you never asked , was Fred his real name ?  was his surname  Zak or Zack ,   was either a abbreviated longer Polish surname  ?  

Most probably Fryderyk with the surname Zakowski or Zakrzewski😎.  We had a Polish lad at college named Jerzykowski, needless to say we all called him Jerseycowski.

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Many Polish surnames end in ki (Sikorski)   - it always sounds more Russian to me ,  but with Russian & Austro/Hungarian  empires & 'pale of stttlement'  - could be all sorts of origins.   The words were always the same if Poland was mentioned ,  Zacky would pull my arm and whisper in an ear  -  Tony , Poland is Catolik  !

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I have just a few books on WW1 & WW2  - on the eastern front , written in English by people of Polish origin ,  I think the only books same but Russia are by Victor Suvorov  -  same problem to me , when you are reading along if these strange names & strange place-names don't register in my brain , then I have great difficulty to absorb the book.

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During my army service I met many with Polish names, whose fathers had served during the war. Pronouncing the names could produce hilarity sometimes. At a sports day in Detmold the tannoy announcer was confronted with Wryzszcz, or something similar and couldn’t even attemp it. My favourite was Antoszewski, who I knew as A to Z ski. Great soldiers and very proud of their heritage.

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5 hours ago, Ex-boy said:

During my army service I met many with Polish names, whose fathers had served during the war. Pronouncing the names could produce hilarity sometimes. At a sports day in Detmold the tannoy announcer was confronted with Wrysysk, or something similar and couldn’t even attemp it. My favourite was Antoszewski, who I knew as A to Z ski. Great soldiers and very proud of their heritage.

This from Wikipedia, "Major General Karol John Drewienkiewicz CB, CMG is a retired British Army officer, generally known as "DZ"."  But, probably the most famous is probably ORP Blyskawica, built at Cowes in 1936, now the Polish Navy's museum ship.  During the war she served with the RN who, struggling with the name, stuck with "Bottle o' whisky"!  Of course, pronouncing crossed out "L"s as a "W" doesn't help! - above example is something like Bweeskaveetsa.  Easier using Cyrillic!

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48 minutes ago, 10FM68 said:

This from Wikipedia, "Major General Karol John Drewienkiewicz CB, CMG is a retired British Army officer, generally known as "DZ"."  But, probably the most famous is probably ORP Błyskawica , built at Cowes in 1936, now the Polish Navy's museum ship.  During the war she served with the RN who, struggling with the name, stuck with "Bottle o' whisky"!  Of course, pronouncing crossed out "L"s as a "W" doesn't help! - above example is something like Bweeskaveetsa.  Easier using Cyrillic!

More like Bwiskaveetsa, translates to lightning and was also the name of a machine gun produced by the Polish resistance.

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10 hours ago, radiomike7 said:

More like Bwiskaveetsa, translates to lightning and was also the name of a machine gun produced by the Polish resistance.

As I said - Brits struggle with her name!  Amazing that you were able to find a photo of your father on the internet.  Do you know any more about it?  Interestingly (for me) the Błyskawica was paired with HMS Greyhound taking troops off the beaches at Dunkirk.  It was the Greyhound which brought my grandfather home.

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