Part of our his­tory yes­ter­day and to­day

His­to­rian Don­ald Stan­ley turns the spot­light on the Poles who fought along­side the Bri­tish dur­ing the Sec­ond World War and who de­cided to re­main when the war ended

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - SPORT -


NSEPTEMBER 1939, Bri­tain de­clared war on Ger­many when it in­vaded Poland. Gen­eral Siko­rski and some oth­ers of the Pol­ish armed forces es­caped and were based in Penn Wood and other parts of South Buck­ing­hamshire.

Oth­ers, imprisoned by the Rus­sians who had si­mul­ta­ne­ously in­vaded their coun­try, were freed by their cap­tors fol­low­ing Op­er­a­tion Bar­barossa, the Ger­man in­va­sion of Rus­sia in 1941.

Led by Gen­eral An­ders, sur­vivors of the Pol­ish Army joined the Bri­tish Forces in the Mid­dle East where many of their fam­i­lies joined them.

The Pol­ish War Memo­rial at Northolt tes­ti­fies to those who fought along­side the RAF in Bri­tain. Af­ter the war many chose not to re­turn to their home­land as it had fallen un­der com­mu­nist rule and ac­cepted the in­vi­ta­tion of the Govern­ment to stay in the United King­dom.

Be­cause of the hous­ing short­age, they were ac­com­mo­dated with their fam­i­lies in for­mer mil­i­tary camps. One, which they started to oc­cupy in 1946, was in Hodge­moor Wood near Coleshill. By the 950s, it was home to some 600 Poles, many of the men hav­ing fought in the 3rd Carpathian ri­fle divi­sion which had cap­tured Monte Cassino in Italy.

Although the camp com­prised tem­po­rary pre­fab­ri­cated build­ings and Nis­sen huts, it en­joyed run­ning wa­ter, gas and elec­tric­ity. It took on the char­ac­ter of a Pol­ish vil­lage with its own shop, li­brary of Pol­ish books, in­fant school, post of­fice, bar, vil­lage hall, a cin­ema where both Pol­ish and English lan­guage films were shown, and a Ro­man Catholic church with its own priest.

The camp was in two parts, linked by Bot­trells Lane along which the res­i­dents would march in pro­ces­sion to the church at such re­li­gious fes­ti­vals as Easter, the chil­dren wear­ing their home­land’s tra­di­tional cos­tume.

The fam­i­lies learned English and the adults worked in lo­cal busi­nesses mainly in High Wy­combe and Slough. They pros­pered and sev­eral owned cars. Those on night shift would take the chil­dren to schools in Chal­font St Giles and other nearby towns from which they would col­lect them af­ter catch­ing up on their sleep.

As the post-war hous­ing short­age eased, sev­eral fam­i­lies moved into homes of their own, par­tic­u­larly in Amer­sham, Great Mis­senden and Slough, and the camp closed in 1962.

Nonethe­less, a thriv­ing Pol­ish Club sur­vives in Amer­sham.

The An­nual Cer­e­mony of Homage to Pol­ish Air­men who fell in the Sec­ond World War at the Pol­ish War Memo­rial in Ruis­lip

A Spit­fire per­form­ing a cer­e­mo­nial fly­past at the start of the ser­vice

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