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Polish Resettlement Corps
1946 - 1948

Yalta had sealed the fate of the Poles. Britain formally withdrew the recognition of the legality of the Polish Government in Exile on 6th July 1945. The charade of ‘free elections’ in Poland was to follow with the imposition of Communist Government and the onset of the ‘Cold War’. The final insult was with recognition of the new regime’s sovereignty by the Allies, left the Poles-in-exile in effect a mercenary force. Each of the armed services was responsible for the de-mobilization and transfer of armed combatants into the Resettlement Corps (PRC). An Act of Parliament was passed in February 1946 and in the middle of March Ernest Bevan formally advised all Poles could not be maintained in Britain (Cynk, 1998). Enrolment into the Polish Air Force Resettlement Corps (PARC) started shortly afterwards. Although the British economy had been shattered and faced huge shortages in raw materials and a manpower deficit, an anti-Polish campaign by the TUC and leading unions turned public attitudes towards the Poles from a country desperately needing experienced combatants and acceptance to one shunning the Poles. The campaign orchestrated by left wing activists brought a swift response from leading politicians and papers like the Times and Daily Telegraph.

The Air Ministry published the conditions of service on 14th October 1946 for the PARC and listed the choices:

  • Settle in Britain
  • Emigrate to Commonwealth or other foreign countries
  • Return to Poland
At the beginning of 1947 some 11,000 Poles ‘joined’ the PARC who were based at Hucknall (acted as the HQ), Cammeringham, Castle Combe, East Wretham, Framlingham (Suffolk), Portreath, Skipton-on-Swale, Melton Mowbray and Dunholme Lodge. The Polish Army used numerous centres, for example at Cumnock (No.98) and Tweedsmuir in Scotland and was commanded by General Maczek. Other centres were in Yorkshire like Chapeltown or Blackshaw Moor, near Leek, Staffordshire.

By March 1946 the RAF had the disbandment plans in hand. All PAF fighter squadrons were to relocate to Norfolk for disbandment. RAF Coltishall became the final home for No. 306, 309, 315 while 303 and 316 flew to Hethel. By April all transport squadrons based at Chedburgh (No. 301 and 304) ceased operations with the No. 318 Fighter-Reconnaissance Squadron was grounded in Italy before transferring to RAF Coltishall. The pilots, aircrew and ground crew were in turmoil and agony as they awaited the final order to disband with the role-out orders given over November 1946. Each Squadron marked the occasion with fly-past and marches to bands.

It is estimated that 3,000 Poles from the PAF were repatriated and another 2,400 emigrated to other countries by July 1948. Some 9,000 PAF personnel stayed in Britain with at least 5,000 finding civilian jobs and had a higher priority than the former landforces. A small number (500) were recruited into the RAF leaving approximately 3,500 in the PARC who were in need of long term care, some never to leave until death (Cynk, 1998; Zamoyski, 1995).

The following document gave the disbandment orders.

A Home Office circular dated 4th June 1952 produced an overview of the status of the former PRC since all previous legislation was about to be revoked in June 1952 by the Aliens (Employment) (Polish Forces) (Revocation) Order 1952. The circular up to June 1952 treated many Poles as ‘alien status’ where registration and permission to start businesses was covered by statutes passed in the post war years, these included:
  • Aliens (Employment) Order, 1948
  • Aliens (Employment) Polish Forces Order, 1948
  • Aliens (Restriction) (Polish Resettlement Forces) Direction, 1948
In the circular it estimated there were between 80 90,000 former PRC still covered by the Aliens (Employment) Polish Forces Order, 1948 who were required to obtain permission from the secretary of State before engaging in any business activity, profession or occupation for ‘reward’ other than in the service of an employer. Those who were discharged, but did not enter the PRC, was estimated to be about 2,000 who required permission from the Ministry of Labour and National Service to take up employment for reward. These measures made settlement in the Britain difficult and ‘uncomfortable’ in order to encourage emigration, however, a number of former PRC members were placed on the ‘reservist lists’ which was just as well since the 1950s Suez Crisis gave politicians a shock in their post war strategies. Those on the reservist list still had to report to centres, not engage in business or professional activities without permission and travel outside the UK required them to pass through registered transit centres and had to carry ‘refugee passports’ as there still remained a large number of displaced persons within Europe. Those who wanted to return to Poland and join the new republics army had to give two months notice before exit visas would be arranged. The relationship between the British government and the former Government in Exile became strained with Parliamentary statements being made to the House of Commons by Ernest Bevan on the political intrigue, espionage, warlike agitation against the communist government, and propaganda slandering the scheme to return being funded by units within the PRC based on complaints made by the Polish Government to the British Ambassador in Warsaw. Over 100,000 combatants had returned to the ruined post-war Poland.

It is interesting to note the War Office instruction indicated the contents of the revocation order were not to be discussed with the press with special centres run by the constabulary to deal with the discharge. Here the Police were given instruction to deal also with those who had set up businesses illegally or had been deserters and had no correct documentation to complete the discharge process. These would be automatically ‘struck off’ and issued National Identity cards and National Insurance numbers in order to obtain employment and most important ration cards. Women who had been in the ATS were treated differently as they were seen not to have been in ‘essential jobs’ i.e combat.

Jan Walenty Walis

The following section has been kindly donated by Chris Bell. It forms part of a much larger story some of which we have published under 'Other Stories'. The quality of the narrative provides an insight and contextualizes the feelings of many young Poles as a snapshot at that time of transition of a war torn and weary Britain towards a 'new era'. For many former combatants this period was very uneasy where some emigrated to Australia, Canada, USA, Israel and Argentina. 'Going home' to communist Poland was not an option for many and nor were they allowed to stay on in Britain. We are lucky these records have been kept and are indebted to Chris Bell and her family for allowing us to enter Jan's post-war experiences.

(Pages 143-145 of original document)

It is a big task to organize mobilization of the army in the case of an outbreak of war. It is an even bigger task and more complicated to discharge the army back into civilian life. The majority were young men called into the army who had no professions. Efforts were made to retrain them. It was done in the British Army and the same efforts were encouraged by the British Government to do the same in the Polish Army. Various courses were planned and organized for this purpose.

In my unit an agricultural course was planned and its organization was put into action a few months before my arrival in Crieff. There were quite a lot of private soldiers who had come from farming communities and it was expected that they would go back to their own profession in one or other form after discharge.

I heard about this planned agriculture course one day from my friends. I expressed my interest in it and said that I worked in Poland in the educational department of agriculture and that I had some experience in it. I did not go any further in these comments and in fact I forgot all about them. A few days later I was called to my new commanding officer for further questioning on the matter. I was asked also if I would be willing to offer my help in the project so I did. I had it in my mind to assist the man, an officer who was educated with a University Degree and who was responsible for organizing the course. A few days later I was called again and asked to take over the preparation of the course because the officer responsible for its organisation had asked to be relieved of his duties. He had admitted that he had no experience in agricultural education and he had no idea how to run the course. So I took over his duty. My colonel asked me how much time I would need to be ready to start. I said a fortnight. I did not think that he believed me and I was not sure myself either so I added that this was provided that I had help in preparing rooms ready for classes and teachers able to take over their subjects.

I took responsibility for the preparation of programme skeletons to be finished by the teachers according to the discussions on each subject. I was then shifted to Auchterarder where the school or course was to be run. This happened on the 15th October 1945. My holiday in Crieff had not lasted long. Hard work awaited me. I was surprised how easy it was for me to recollect all the programmes of the school in which I had taught for four years in Poland. I have to admit that thanks had to go to my commanding officer, Colonel Rziedzicki, who very energetically prepared all the conditions needed for the school and his speed in getting teachers so that I could concentrate on preparing the programme itself.

When the teachers arrived I was ready to discuss all the details with them, give them their instructions, and push them to further preparation of material. To everyone's surprise the school started up on the date I had promised! Our programme served not only our school, but it was also accepted by the other schools of the same type and was used as a guide to adjust forest and gardening courses in the same way. It was adjusted to the fundamental knowledge of farming. It was timed to last for a year, and included both theory and practice.

Enthusiasm among the teachers was terrific and the atmosphere among the personnel and their teachers was very amicable. It was very relaxing to work, to return to teach our own profession. There were two classes of soldiers who also showed good interest in learning. The course lasted the year and it was a big success. The attendees at the course were subjected to exams at the end of the year and those who did pass received certificates showing they had completed and passed the course.

Meantime the events after the end of the war were developing quickly. The discharging of the army personnel continued, and the majority of soldiers both privates and non commissioned officers declared their willingness to return home to Poland. It was a different story among the officers. With the threats coming out of Poland they were most reluctant to undertake a favourable decision. As far as I could judge, originally every one of us had believed in, and been determined to return to our home country, a free country. Unfortunately it did not happen. The Yalta agreement had killed all those hopes and brought Great Britain the big task of solving the location problem of all those Poles who now decided not to go back to Poland.

I have to admit also that there was not a sign of pressure made on anyone to return. The choice was openly and freely left to each individual man to make. My decision in that matter had been taken in London before I left for Scotland. I was strongly advised by my superiors against returning to Poland in the case of the deteriorating political situation there. Also, I was the junior officer of the staff working in the office in London. The office itself had been graded as high security and was located opposite the Russian Embassy, so every one of us was expected to be well known and easily recognizable. Later, in 1946 -1947, the situation in Poland deteriorated to the extent that Mikolajczyk had to flee for his own safety. In these circumstances my decision was clearly made(i). To stay in Great Britain meant Scotland where I decided in my heart to stay.

The social conditions of life in Auchterarder were very pleasant and amicable. First I was fortunate to be billeted with a very nice family. I was received with great friendship and introduced to Scottish society. On one occasion I was invited by them to a whist drive in Auchterarder. I often played cards and I was having good luck that evening, winning with a good score till I came to one table where I met a young lady who played against me. She greeted me with a beautiful, very friendly smile, which I never forgot. She spoke to me most kindly and then the game started and she proceeded to beat me! It was the first game that evening that I had lost and so I did not get my whist prize. Instead, as the future showed, I won a much greater reward that evening although I did not realize it at that time. I won a very good friend, the companion of my life who after about four and half years became my wife, who was willing to share our hard life, especially at the beginning and who stood by me in all circumstances. She brought to me a new life(ii).

Meantime we opened the next course the following year. It was different and not to my liking. There were no private soldiers, only officers and their ages and ranges were below schooling level. For me it was not a school. Besides, the pupil element was not so interesting. Personally I lost my interest in pretending and at that time it seemed to be the right time to think about leaving the army and getting out into civilian life.

This did not take place for another year. Meanwhile on the 25th October 1947 our school was moved to Findo Gask and the existing school of the same character was integrated into Strathallan School, where I remained headmaster. In Findo Gask living conditions and work gradually deteriorated. The selection of students was now falling and the result was that teaching was less satisfactory.

Then I began to think more realistically and positively about leaving the army. I got in touch with the other reserve officer who was thinking about going into farming and who was looking for a partner. Eventually I contacted him and after many discussions and plans I decided to go into partnership with him. At that time, just after the war, it was relatively easy to buy a fifty acre farm in Kincardineshire and in April 1948 I left the army and moved to Dunthill near the village of Marykirk, to take possession of the farm we had bought.

With that date my new civilian life began in Scotland. I began to be a farmer again and a hard working life started that lasted till 1971.

(i) Those who had served in Polish forces abroad and returned to offer their services to the new state were mostly shot. (Zamoyski, 1988: 371).

(ii) My parents, Jan Walenty Walis and Margaret Wilkie Ross, were married on February 10th 1950. My brother was born on January 1st 1953, and I was born on 18th April 1957.

References and further reading

Ascherson, N. 1988 The Struggles for Poland. London: Pan Books.

brain candy quotations collection: Traditional Polish Saying [online] Available: (http://www.corsinet.com/braincandy/proverb.htm) [Accessed: 20-11-2003]

Cooper, L. 2000 In the Shadow of the Polish Eagle Hampshire: Palgrave.

Davies, N. (2003) Rising '44. 'The Battle for Warsaw' London: Macmillan.

Falski, Marian. n.d. Elementarz Warsawa: Panstiwe Zaklady Wydawnictw Szkolnych.

Grzebieniowski, Tadeusz. n.d. Pocket Polish Dictionary. Warsaw: Langenscheidt.

Henderson, D.M. (ed) (2001) The Lion and the Eagle Dunfermline: Cualann Press.

Hodorowicw Knab, S. 1996 Polish Customs, traditions & folklore (Rev. ed) New York: Hippocrene Books.

Horn, A. and Pietras, B. (eds) 1999 Insight Guide Poland. APA Publications GmbH & Co: London.

Jakubowski, A.A.J. (1991) Katyn. A Whisper in the Trees California: Kuma Publishing.

Ostrycharz, R. M. 2003 Polonica in Scotland Douglas, Lanarkshire [online] Available: http://www.ostrycharz.free-online.co.uk/PolonicaDouglas.html [Accessed: 30th May 2003]

Polish Facts and Figures in World War ll [online] Available: http://bolekchrobry.tripod.com/polishinformationcenter19391945/id9.html [Accessed 22 June 2003]

Serwis informacyjny Polskiego Stronnictwa Ludowego 1999 The Biography of Stanislaw Mikolajczyk [online] Available: http://www.psl.org.pl/konf/biogrsm.htm [Accessed 20 July 2003]

St. Martin's Day: The Reluctant Bishop Soup and Goose [online] Available: http://www.soupsong.com/znov02.html [Accessed 7th December 2003]

The Avalon Project The Berlin (Potsdam) Conference July 17 August 2 1945 [online] Available: [http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/decade/decade17.htm [Accessed 22 June 2003]

The Avalon Project The Tehran Conference December 1943 [online] Available: http/www.yale.edu/lawweb/Avalon/wwii/tehran.htm [Accessed 22 June 2003]

The Avalon Project Yalta (Crimea) Conference February 1945 [online] Available: http/www.yale.edu/lawweb/Avalon/wwii/yalta.htm [Accessed 22 June 2003]

The Domestic Waterfowl Club of Great Britain [online] Available: http://www.domestic-waterfowl.co.uk/roman.htm#roman [Accessed 8th October 2003]

Zamoyski, A. 1988 The Polish Way. New York: Hippocrene Books.

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