Pilsudski Institute of America, Photographs of Polish Soldiers and Civilians During WWII (1939-1945)

This collection of photographs displays Polish Armed Forces in the West with a focus on the Polish Armed Forces in the United Kingdom (1940-1944), the formation of the Polish Army in the USSR (under the command of General Władysław Anders), and the life of soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade in Africa (1940-1942). The formation of the Polish Armed Forces in the West took place at the outbreak of WWII when, on September 1, 1939, German troops crossed the Polish border. The Polish Army, alone in combat, could not effectively resist Germany's aggression in addition to the Soviet invasion on Eastern Polish territories on September 17, 1939. As a result, Poland was partitioned for the fourth time by Hitler and Stalin, and its government fled into exile to France and later on to Great Britain. At the same time, in the autumn of 1939, the formation of regular troops was ordered by the Polish authorities in exile. This was possible due to prior war agreements with France and Great Britain. Polish Armed Forces in the West were initially formed in France and Syria and later in Great Britain and Palestine. Land army units, the Polish Navy and Polish pilots were organized and sent to function under British forces, and participated in various Allied military operations, including the Battle of Britain, the Norwegian campaign in Narvik, the Siege of Tobruk, and D-Day in France. In February of 1940, Soviets began the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Polish civilians to Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union, where they were imprisoned or put to work in Gulags. Following the outbreak of the Soviet-German War in 1941 and the signing of the Sikorski-Mayski Agreement, Polish citizens were free to join the Polish Army in the USSR under the command of General Władysław Anders. In the Spring and Summer of 1942, after consultation with the Soviet authorities, approximately 78,000 Polish soldiers and about 35,000 civilians were evacuated to Iran. The civilians were then transported to refugee camps in Africa, New Zealand and Mexico, while the Polish soldiers remained in Iraq where they were fed and trained. On September 12, 1942, the Polish Armed Forces in the Middle East were established from the merging of the Polish Army in the Middle East and the Polish Armed Forces in the USSR. In 1943 the Polish Army in the East, renamed the Polish II Corps, participated in the liberation of Italy and the Battle of Monte Cassino. As the war continued, the now 200,000-strong Polish Army in the West fought faithfully for Poland’s legacy and freedom until 1945, when WWII ended.

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Children in Military Uniforms Lying on the Floor
Girls rescued by Anders' Army. The girls are suffering from extreme exhaustion and are resting on the floor.
Children in a Cafeteria Run by Nuns
Children sit at a table in the cafeteria. They are waiting for a meal. A nun pours soup into a bowl to feed the children.
Children in a Carriage During a Trip to Iran
Children leaving Russia. The photo shows a group of boys sitting in a carriage while traveling from Russia to Iran.
Children in the Cafeteria During a Meal
Children sit in the cafeteria during a meal. They eat soup and talk to each other.
Civilian Evacuation
The towns were filled with civilian automobiles that were escaping to the south with everything they owned.
Civilians by a Dead Horse
All that was left of a horse after German bombers had passed over Warsaw. Three people are looking over the remains of the horse.
Collection for Charity at the Polish Soldier Home
Edinburgh 1944. Collection on the "Day of the Academic." The photo shows two students, a male and a female, dressed up as wizards collecting money from the soldiers.
Colonel Karpinski Decorates an Airman
Colonel Karpiński decorates an aviator. The picture shows col. Karpiński pinning a medal to the aviator uniform.
Commander Pławski with the Crew of the ORP Sokol
Captain E. Plawski, chief of Staff, Polish Navy, chatting with members of the ORP Sokół's crew.
Commander of the SBSK along with soldiers at the observation post under Gazala
A group of soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade together with a commanding officer in observational point near Gazala.
Commando Exercises in Great Britain (1)
Commando training on the water. Photo 001 shows the soldiers doing boat training. Photo 002 shows the soldiers embarking on boats.
Commando Exercises in Great Britain (2)
Photo 003 shows a soldier hiding behind a log with his gun drawn. Two soldiers, one in prone position and the other lying down, are hiding behind grass in photo 006. In photo 007, a group of commando troops is hiding behind tall grass.
Commando Exercises in Great Britain (3)
Climbing drills with the commando troops. Photo 004 shows a soldier, held by a rope, hiding under a bridge. A soldier is climbing a mountain in photo 008. In photo 009, soldiers are seen in climbing gear.
Commando Exercises in Great Britain (4)
Photo 005 shows a general talking to the commando troops. In photo 010, the commando troops are marching down a road.
Commando Exercises in Great Britain (5)
Physical training of the commando troops. Photo 011 shows a soldier performing a jumping exercise as other watch him. Photo 012 shows the soldiers partaking in running exercises.
Communication Exercises in Scotland
The photos show soldiers practicing military communications in Scotland. In the photos, the soldiers use radios and telephones to communicate with one another. The Polish soldiers are also working with American volunteers during contact drills.
Corridor filled with patients in a hospital of the 7th Infantry Division
1942. 7th Infantry Division of Anders' Army in the USSR. Kermine Hospital, Uzbekistan. The picture shows sick patients lying in a corridor. Nurses and soldiers take care of patients.
Crew of an armoured vehicle, Universal Carrier T.II.334, with their dog
Three Polish soldiers returning from a patrol in the desert under Gazala. They are accompanied by a "Johnny" their dog mascot.
Czech General Ingr decorates the SBSK soldiers with a cross of bravery
Czech General Ingr decorates soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade. Among honored are General Stanisław Kopański (photo 005 and 006) and General Jozef Zając (photo 010)
De-icing of decks on SS Tobruk
The sailors are clearing decks of ice on SS "Tobruk" on the way to Murmansk.
Decoration of the Aviators in the "Kosciuszko Squadron"
A moment before the decoration of officers with badges of the 303rd squadron known as the "Tadeusz Kosciuszko-Squadron" (after the famous Polish hero). The photo shows General V.H. Strahm, Chief of Staff, Ninth Air Force, Major Thomas J. Cummings, IX Air Force Service Command, and Captain Elliot Chess of the 316th Troop Carrier Group Ninth Air Force.
Decorations of Polish Aviators
The photos show three airmen being decorated for their work in the Polish Air Force.
Decorations of Polish Aviators
The photo show an airman being decorated with awards for his work in the Polish Air Force.
Departure of Polish soldiers from Iran to Palestine
Polish civilians and soldiers from Russia quartering on their way to Teheran and Palestine.
Deportees from Soviet Russia in Winter Clothes
Polish civilians from Russia on their arrival in Tehran.
Destroyed German planes in the Libya desert
Polish soldiers on the German planes in the Libyan desert near Mechili.
Destroyed bridge in Tczew
A bridge on the Vistula, Tczew, Polish Pomerania. The Germans wished to get this bridge undamaged, but things turned out differently thanks to the bravery of the Polish corporal Kiedrowicz.
Digging Trenches
Children are helping dig trenches for the soldiers. One of the children is seen distributing water, while the rest of the children are digging with shovels.
Distributing Meals for the Polish and French Soldiers
Polish and French soldiers during food distributions. The photo shows a cook putting a pot on a windowsill as soldiers wait impatiently.
Dog - Mascot of the Polish Aviators
The mascot of the XX Polish Bombing Squadron. The dog seems to be an adult Lakeland Terrier.
Duch During Inspection (Scotland)
General Duch's military inspection. In photos 001 to 005, general Duch is talking with the soldiers during his inspection. In photo 006, the soldiers observe something that is burning and smoking on the road.
English, Russian, and Polish officer in Iran
Officers of the United Nations-- English, Polish, and Russian officers somewhere in Iran.
Eugeniusz Horbaczewski next to his Mustang
Both photos show squadron leader Horbaczewski who was awarded the Cross of Valour with 3 Bars, Distinguished Service Order, and Distinguished Flying Cross. In the first photo, Horbaczewski stands with his Mustang Mk. III bearing markings indicating the number of shot down Nazi airplanes and V-1 rockets. The second photo shows Horbaczewski talking with the youngest pilot in his squadron.
Evacuation of Anders' Army to Iran
1942. Soldiers of the Anders' Army leaving the USSR. Soldiers are sailing from the USSR on an evacuation vessel.
Examination of the Newborn in a Polish Hospital in Iran
A doctor and a nurse are examining a newborn baby. The doctor is examining the baby using a stethoscope.
Exercises of the Polish Army in France
Photo 001 shows soldiers in tanks driving down a road in the forest. In photo 002, soldiers are riding on motorcycles. Photo 003 shows the soldiers riding a carriage in the forest. The soldiers are at a pit-stop in photo 004. In photos 005 and 006, the soldiers are training with their rifles.
Female Scout Camp in France
The photos show scenes from a female camp in France. Photo 001 shows a group of women carrying an injured person. A woman is hoisting a flag up in photo 002.
Female Soldier After Capitulation
A female soldier of the Polish forces which heroically defended Warsaw photographed after the surrender.
Five Polish Soldiers in Derna
Five Polish soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade in Derna, Libia.
Five Polish Soldiers in military car on the road to Derna.
Five soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade posing in a truck on the road to Darna, Libya.
Five Polish Soldiers on the Road From Tobruk to Derma
Five Polish soldiers with the car in different places on the road from Tobruk to Derma.
Five Polish soldiers at the observation post
Five soldiers from the second battalion at the observation post guarded by bullet-proof bags. They stand near Universal Carrier vehicle.
Flag of 317th Squadron
Polish Wing in the Tactical Air Force. Colors for the Polish Squadrons, embroidered in Wilno, under the Russian and German occupation, by Polish women patriots. The inscriptions are "Wilno 1940" and "Love needs sacrifice."
Fortification Construction on the Scottish Coast
Soldiers build fortifications on the Scottish coast. Photos 001 and 004 show the soldiers carrying wood up a hill. In photo 002, the men are digging a trench for the fortifications. Photo 003 shows the soldiers building parts of the fortification. The soldiers are standing next to the newly built fortifications in photo 005.
Four Polish soldiers in the desert
Four Polish soldiers in the Libyan desert. One of them is General Stanisław Kopański.
Front of an American Red Cross Truck Carrying Children
Excerpts from the life of Polish civilians and Polish children in Tehran. The children are looking at a American Red Cross car. They are preparing for a car ride.
General Anders and Sir Brooke
General Anders talking with Sir Alan Brooke. Generals and soldiers stand near them.
General Anders at a Military Hospital in Iran
General Anders visiting a military hospital in Iran. Anders visits the patients infected with malaria.
General Anders in a Parachuting Brigade in Scotland
General Anders in Scotland with Polish paratroopers in 1944. General Anders is shaking hands with one of the paratroopers.
General Anderson Decorates Captain Skubała
Since the accident, captain Skubała has spent the last three months at a Polish military hospital in Edinburgh, where he had already undergone three operations on his injured arm. He is scheduled to have the fourth one. Meanwhile, in recognition of what the official citation calls the "heroism reflecting the highest credit upon his valiant devotion to duty," General Samuel E. Anderson, Commanding IX. Bomber Command, 9th Air Force, flew especially to Scotland to decorate Skubała with the Soldier's Medal.


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