Polish Armed Forces in the West

Polish Armed Forces in the West

Polish Armed Forces in the West refers to the Polish military formations formed to fight along the Western Allies and against Nazi Germany and its allies. The formations, 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. Polish military in the West was composed of army, air and naval forces. Together they comprised one of the most numerous Allied military formations--sometimes referred to as the fourth largest among the Western Allies. The formation was finally disbanded in 1947, with many of its soldiers chosing to remain in exile rather than to return to communist-controlled Poland.

General history

After Poland's defeat, the government in exile quickly organised in France a new fighting force originally of about 80,000 men. Their units were subordinate to the French Army. 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. The Polish Air Force in France comprised 86 aircraft in four squadrons, one and a half of the squadrons being fully operational while the rest were in various stages of training. 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.James F. Dunningan, "Dirty Little Secrets of World War Ii: Military Information No One Told You By", HarperCollins, 1996, ISBN 0688122884, [http://books.google.com/books?vid=ISBN0688122884&id=vF_BXyjdWJIC&pg=PA138&lpg=PA138&dq=Royal+Air+Force+Poland+September+1939&sig=NM9CbV0lG0PbnMiIR45_qNDLAMY#PPA139,M1 Google Print, p.139] ]

Polish Armed Forces in the West
at the height of their power
Mark Ostrowski. "To Return To Poland Or Not To Return" - The Dilemma Facing The Polish Armed Forces At The End Of The Second World War." [http://www.angelfire.com/ok2/polisharmy/chapter1.html Chapter 1] Retrieved on 31 July 2007.]

At the capitulation of France, many Polish personnel having died or been interned in the meantime, General Władysław Sikorski, Polish commander-in-chief (later prime minister) was able to evacuate many Polish troops--probably over 20,000--to the United Kingdom. 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 I Corps was reorganised. Meanwhile Polish fliers had an important role in the Battle of Britain.

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 II Corps).

By March 1944, the Polish armed forces in the west fighting under British command 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 WWII, they were 195,000 strong, and by July 1945 had increased to 228,000, most of the newcomers being released prisoners of war and ex-labor-camp inmates.

Polish Armed Forces in the West fought in most Allied operations against the Nazi Germany in Middle East, Mediterranean, African and European theatres: the North African campaign, the Italian Campaign (with Battle of Monte Cassino being one of the most notable), the Western European Campaign (from Dieppe Raid and D-Day through Battle of Normandy and latter operations, especially Operation Market Garden).

After German Instrument of Surrender, 1945, Polish troops took part in occupation duties in the Wester Allied Occupation Zones in Germany. It is often said that the Polish Armed Forces were not invited to the London Victory Parade of 1946.Rudolf Falkowski, [http://www.geocities.com/skrzydla/Victory_parade.html THE VICTORY PARADE] . Last accessed on 31 March 2007.] Lynne Olson, Stanley Cloud, "A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II ", Knopf, 2003, ISBN 0375411976, [http://www.questionofhonor.com/prologue.htm Excerpt (prologue)] .] Kwan Yuk Pan, [http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0d441dfa-ecf1-11d9-9d20-00000e2511c8.html Polish veterans to take pride of place in victory parade] , Financial Times, July 5 2005. Last accessed on 31 March 2006.] 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 explained, 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 seen by the Polish communists as 'enemies of the state', influenced by the Western ideas, loyal to the Polish government in exile, and thus meeting with persecution and imprisonment (in extreme cases, death). Failure of allied Western governments to keep their promise to Poland, which now fell under the Soviet sphere of influence, became know as the 'Western betrayal.' The number of Polish ex-soldiers unwilling to return to communist Poland was so high that a special organization was formed by the British government to assist settling them in the United Kingdom: the Polish Resettlement Corps (Polski Korpus Przysposobienia i Rozmieszczenia); [http://www.polandinexile.com/resettlement.htm Polish Resettlement Corps 1946 - 1948] ] 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 in United Kingdom after the war, becoming part of the Polish minority in United Kingdom.Diana M. Henderson, "The Lion and the Eagle: Polish Second World War Veterans in Scotland", Cualann Press, 2001, ISBN 095350364X]

History by formation


Polish Army in France, that begun to be organized soon after fall of Poland in 1939, was composed of about 85,000 men.

Four Polish divisions (First Grenadier Division, Second Infantry Fusiliers Division, 3rd and 4th Infantry Division), a Polish motorized brigade (10th Brigade of Armored Cavalry, "10éme Brigade de cavalerie blindée") and infantry brigade (Polish Independent Highland Brigade) were organized in mainland France. Polish Independent Highland Brigade took part in the Battles of Narvik in early 1940; after the German invasion of France, all Polish units were pressed in formation, although due to to French inefficient logistics and policies, all Polish units were missing much equipment and supplies; particularly the 3rd and 4th divisions which were still in the middle of organization. A Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade was formed in French-mandated Syria, to which many Polish troops had escaped from Romania and would later fight in the Middle East.

After the fall of France (during which about 6,000 Polish soldiers died fighting), about 13,000 of Polish personnel had interned in Switzerland. Nevertheless, 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). Polish I Corps was the unit formed from the soldiers evacuated to UK, it comprised the Polish 1st Armoured Division (which later became attached to the First Canadian Army) and the Polish Independent Parachute Brigade and other units.

In 1941, following an agreement between the Polish government in exile and Joseph Stalin, the Soviets released Polish citizens, from whom a 75,000-strong army was formed in the Middle East under General Władysław Anders (Anders' Army, later the Polish II Corps). It was composed of Polish 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division, Polish 5th Kresowa Infantry Division, Polish 2nd Armoured Brigade and other units).

Air Force

The Polish Air Force fought in the Battle of France as one fighter squadron GC 1/145, several small units detached to French squadrons, and numerous flights of industry defence (approximately 130 pilots, who achieved 55 victories at a loss of 15 men).pl icon [http://www.wspolnota-polska.org.pl/index.php?id=pb05 Wojsko Polskie we Francji] . Świat Polonii. Please note that various sources give estimates that can differ by few percent.]

From the very beginning of the war, the Royal Air Force (RAF) had welcomed foreign pilots to supplement the dwindling pool of British pilots. On 11 June 1940, the Polish Government in Exile signed an agreement with the British Government to form a Polish Army and Polish Air Force in the United Kingdom. The first two (of an eventual ten) Polish fighter squadrons went into action in August 1940. Four Polish squadrons eventually took part in the Battle of Britain (300 and 301 Bomber Squadrons; 302 and 303 Fighter Squadrons), with 89 Polish pilots. Together with more than 50 Poles fighting in British squadrons, about 145 Polish pilots defended British skies. Polish pilots were among the most experienced in the battle, most of them having already fought in the 1939 September Campaign in Poland and the 1940 Battle of France. Additionally, prewar Poland had set a very high standard of pilot training. The 303 Squadron, named after the Polish-American hero, General Tadeusz Kościuszko, achieved the highest number of kills (126) of all fighter squadrons engaged in the Battle of Britain, even though it only joined the combat on August 30, 1940: these Polish pilots, representing about 5% of total Allied pilots in that battle, were responsible for 12% of total victories (203) in the Battle and achieved the highest number of kills of any Allied squadron. [http://www.ww2.pl/Battle,of,Britain,175.html The Poles in the Battle of Britain] ] [http://www.polishembassy.ca/files/Polish%20Armed%20Forces%20in%20WWII%20eng.pdf Polish contribution to the Allied victory in World War 2 (1939-1945)] , PDF at the site of Polish Embassy (Canada)] The Polish Air Force also fought in 1943 in Tunisia (Polish Fighting Team, so called "Skalski's Circus") and in raids on Germany (1940-45). In the second half of 1941 and early 1942, Polish bomber squadrons were the sixth part of forces available to RAF Bomber Command (later they suffered heavy losses, with little replenishment possibilities). Polish aircrew losses serving with Bomber Command 1940-45 were 929 killed; total Polish aircrew losses were 1,803 killed. Ultimately 8 Polish fighter squadrons were formed within the RAF and had claimed 621 Axis aircraft destroyed by May 1945. By war's end, there were 14,000 Polish airmen in 15 RAF squadrons and in the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF).

Polish squadrons in the United Kingdom:
* No. 300 "Masovia" Polish Bomber Squadron ("Ziemi Mazowieckiej")
* No. 301 "Pomerania" Polish Bomber Squadron ("Ziemi Pomorskiej")
* No. 302 "City of Poznań" Polish Fighter Squadron ("Poznański")
* No. 303 "Kościuszko" Polish Fighter Squadron ("Warszawski imienia Tadeusza Kościuszki")
* No. 304 "Silesia" Polish Bomber Squadron ("Ziemi Śląskiej imienia Ksiecia Józefa Poniatowskiego")
* No. 305 "Greater Poland" Polish Bomber Squadron ("Ziemi Wielkopolskiej imienia Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego")
* No. 306 "City of Toruń" Polish Fighter Squadron ("Toruński")
* No. 307 "City of Lwów" Polish Fighter Squadron ("Lwowskich Puchaczy")
* No. 308 "City of Kraków" Polish Fighter Squadron ("Krakowski")
* No. 309 "Czerwień" Polish Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron ("Ziemi Czerwieńskiej")
* No. 315 "City of Dęblin" Polish Fighter Squadron ("Dębliński")
* No. 316 "City of Warsaw" Polish Fighter Squadron ("Warszawski")
* No. 317 "City of Wilno" Polish Fighter Squadron ("Wileński")
* No. 318 "City of Gdańsk" Polish Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron ("Gdański")
* No. 663 Polish Artillery Observation Squadron
* Polish Fighting Team ("Skalski's Circus")


Just on the eve of war, three destroyers - representing most of the major Polish Navy ships - had been sent for safety to the British Isles (Operation Peking). There they fought alongside the Royal Navy. At various stages of the war, the Polish Navy comprised two cruisers and a large number of smaller ships. The Polish Navy fought with great distinction alongside the other Allied navies in many important and successful operations, including those conducted against the German battleship, Bismarck.cite book
last = Peszke
first = Michael Alfred
authorlink = Michael Alfred Peszke
title = Poland's Navy, 1918-1945
publisher = Hippocrene Books
date = February 1999
pages = 37
isbn = 0781806720
] Overall, Polish Navy during the war sailed total twelve hundred thousands nautical miles, escorted 787 convoys, conducted 1162 patrols and combat operations, sunk 12 enemy ships (including 5 submarines) and 41 merchant vessels, damaged 24 more (including 8 submarines) and shot down 20 aircraft; all of that on 26 ships (2 cruisers, 9 destroyers, 5 submarines and 11 torpedo boats). 450 seamen out of over 4,000 lost their lives in action. [http://navy.mw.mil.pl/index.php?akcja=archiwum&years=2004&months=11&id=1626 86 years of the Polish Navy] . Retrieved on 31 July 2007.] [http://www.ww2.pl/The,Battle,of,the,Atlantic,and,the,Polish,navy,139.html The Battle of the Atlantic and the Polish Navy] . Retrieved on 31 July 2007.]
* Cruisers:
** ORP "Dragon" (Danae class)
** ORP "Conrad" (Danae class)
* Destroyers:
** ORP "Wicher" ("Wind") ("Wicher"-class)
** ORP "Burza" ("Storm") ("Wicher"-class)
** ORP "Grom" ("Thunder") (Grom class)
** ORP "Błyskawica" ("Lightning") (Grom class)
** ORP "Garland" (G class)
** ORP "Orkan" (M class)
** ORP "Ouragan" ("Hurricane", also known in some Polish sources as "Huragan") (Bourrasque class)
** ORP "Piorun" ("Thunderbolt") (N class)
* Escort destroyers
** ORP "Krakowiak" ("Cracovian") (Hunt class)
** ORP "Kujawiak" ("Kujawian") (Hunt class)
** ORP "Ślązak" ("Silesian") (Hunt class)
* Submarines:
** ORP "Orzeł" ("Eagle") (Orzel Class)
** ORP "Jastrząb" ("Hawk") (S class)
** ORP "Wilk" ("Wolf") (Wilk class)
** ORP "Dzik" ("Boar") (U class)
** ORP "Sokół" ("Falcon") (U class)

The above list does not include a number of minor ships, transports, merchant-marine auxiliary vessels, and patrol boats.

Intelligence and resistance

The Polish intelligence structure remained mostly intact following the fall of Poland in 1939 and continued to report to the Polish Government in Exile. Known as the 'Second Department', it cooperated with the other Allies in every European country and operated one of the largest intelligence networks in Nazi Germany. Many Poles also served in other Allied intelligence services, including the celebrated Krystyna Skarbek ("Christine Granville") in the United Kingdom's Special Operations Executive. 43 percent of all the reports received by the British secret services from continental Europe in 1939-45 came from Polish sources.Kwan Yuk Pan, [http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0d441dfa-ecf1-11d9-9d20-00000e2511c8.html Polish veterans to take pride of place in victory parade] , Financial Times, July 5 2005. Last accessed on 31 March 2006.]

The majority of Polish resistance (particularly the dominant Armia Krajowa organization) was also loyal to the government in exile with Government Delegate's Office at Home being the highest authority of the Polish Secret State. Although military actions of Polish resistance operating in Poland and Armed Forces operating in the West are not commonly grouped together there existed several important links in addition to the common chain of command. Resistance gathered and passed vital intelligence to the West (for example on German concentration campspl icon [http://wilk.wpk.p.lodz.pl/~whatfor/biog_pilecki.htm Detailed biography of Witold Pilecki on Whatfor] . Last accessed on 21 November 2006.] and on about the V-1 flying bomb and the V-2 rocket [http://web.ku.edu/~eceurope/hist557/lect16.htm Eastern Europe in World War II: October 1939-May 1945] . Lecture notes of prof Anna M. Cienciala. Last accessed on 21 December 2006.] ); while in the West supplies where gathered for the resistance, and elite commandos, the Cichociemni, were trained. The Polish Government also wanted to use the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade in Poland, particularly during the Operation Tempest, but the request was denied by the Allies.

ee also

*Polish Armed Forces in the East
*Polish contribution to World War II


*Polish|Polskie Siły Zbrojne na Zachodzie|29 March 2007

External links

* [http://www.1st-mac.compolish ambulance units in scotland
* [http://wojsko-polskie.pl/wortal/document,,id,2339.html Military contribution of Poland to World War II] , Polish Ministry of Defence official page
* [http://www.polishembassy.ca/files/Polish%20Armed%20Forces%20in%20WWII%20eng.pdf Polish contribution to the Allied victory in World War 2 (1939-1945)] , PDF at the site of Polish Embassy (Canada)
* [http://www.poland.gov.pl/ww2/ The Poles on the Fronts of WW2]
* [http://www.apacouncil.org/ww2/5df.html Polish units in defence of France, 1939-1940]
* [http://www.whiteeagleconsultants.com/images/Polish_Exile_Forces_by_Kubicki.pdf Polish Exile Forces in the West in World War II]
* [http://www.geocities.com/skrzydla/ Polish Squadrons Remembered]
* [http://www.classicbuffalo.com/VeteransMonument.htm Veterans Monument in Buffalo, NY]
* [http://www.kasprzyk.demon.co.uk/www/WW2.html The History Of Poland: The Second World War]
* [http://www.plav.org/veday.htm Gilbert J. Mros: This V-E Day say 'dziekuje' to the Poles]
* Listen to Lynn Olsen & Stanley Cloud, authors of "A Question of Honor," speak about the "Kościuszko" Squadron and Polish contribution to World War II [http://www.engagingtheword.net/lynnolsenstanleycloud.m3u here.]
* [http://www.opusmedia.fr/kazimierzduda/default_gb.asp Captain Kazimierz DUDA - 1st Polish Armoured Division - C.K.M.]

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