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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A portrait of saluting member of Women's Auxiliary Service
A member of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service helping train the newly arrived colleagues at a training establishment in London.
A sinking convoy ship
The photo taken from a deck of a Polish convoy protecting ship. In the background a sinking ship, probably struck by a torpedo.
A soldier playing the tuba
The photo shows a man holding a tuba and looking at a score.
A soldier with a machine gun scanning the skies
A soldier with a machine gun is hiding behind a vehicle and is scanning the skies in search of enemy airplanes.
Ad hoc anti-aircraft station on the deck of a ship
Provisional anti-aircraft guns on board the convoy. The servicemen were waiting for German air crafts.
Admiral Świrski Decorates the Sailors
Adm. Świrski decorated sailors who distinguished themselves in the Mediterranean Sea.
Aiding the wounded
Warsaw, September 1939. First aid being given after a German air-raid.
Airman's parade (Sikorski, Raczkiewicz, Mikolajczyk, Stroński)
The first photo shows Mikołajczyk, Raczkiewicz, Sikorski, and Stroński on the grand stand. The second photo shows soldiers marching in the parade for the Polish night fighter squadron.
Airmen During Their Free-Time [2]
Two airmen play a game of chess as one observes them.
Airmen During Their Free-Time [3]
The airmen play poker during their free-time.
Airmen During Their Free-Time [4]
Airmen look at rabbits during their free-time.
Airmen During Their Free-Time [5]
Airmen get haircuts during their free-time.
Airmen During Their Free-Time [6]
Distribution of cigarettes for the airmen to smoke during their free-time.
Airmen During Their Free-time [1]
The photo shows airmen racing against one another during their free time.
Airmen During a Meeting
Polish fighter pilots go over the day's operations at their aerodrome prior to taking off for offensive action over enemy territory.
Ambassador Raczyński on a Warship
Polish Ambassador to London Raczyński visits Polish warships at a British port.
American Clothing Distributed Among the Polish Population in Iran
Polish women, rescued from exile in the USSR by the Anders' Army, dressed in American clothes in a Poles camp in Iran, 1942.
An armored vehicles with soldiers and a cannon photographed on a stone desert
The photographs depict Morris-Commercial Quad C8 FAT (Field Artillery Tractor) with 25-pounder field gun of the Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade. All photos are taken on a rocky desert, as evidenced by the signature near Gazali.
An unidentified Polish soldier near Gazala
An unidentified Polish soldier. At the back of the photo penciled location given as Gazala I.
Ander's Army Exercises in Iran
Anders Army Exercises. Soldier in prone position holds his weapon. He is prepared to attack.
Anders Inspecting the Army in the USSR (Tokarzewski)
The first photo shows General Władysław Anders with the soldiers of the Polish Army in the USSR during the winter of 1941; -soldier dispatch. The second photo shows General Władysław Anders during an inspection in one of the Polish Army camps in the USSR (next to him is General Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski).
Anders and Okulicki on the staff (USSR)
Gen. Anders with his staff officer at work. Gen. Anders is signing a document while gen. Okulicki looks over gen. Anders's shoulder and reads the document.
Anders' Army Hospital in the USSR
Polish hospitals in Russia were very congested. The first photo shows a time where the soldiers were forced to rest in the hallways due to the high occupancy. The second photo depicts a nurse treating a wounded soldier.
Anders' Army Soldier Praying with a Rosary (USSR)
Polish Army in Russia. Anders' Army in the USSR. Outdoor mass 1942. A soldier kneels and prays with the rosary.
Anders' Army's First Meal in Iran
Photo 001 shows the Polish soldiers sitting at a table enjoying their first meal in Iran. Photo 002 shows one of the younger soldiers eating bread with his meal.
Armored Corps Exercises in Scotland (1st Armored Division) [1]
Photos 001 and 012 depict British Valentine infantry tank, photos 004 and 008 show American Sherman tanks.
Armored Corps Exercises in Scotland (1st Armored Division) [2]
The photos show soldiers in tanks. Photo 011 shows tanks driving on a road. Photo 016 depicts soldiers standing in front of tanks and guarding them. Photos 018 and 019 show soldiers sitting atop their tanks on patrol.
Armored Corps Exercises in Scotland (1st Armored Division) [3]
The photos show soldiers standing in front of or beside tanks. Photo 010 shows the men of the Polish Tank Regiment. Photo 013 depicts a group of men touching a tank in a swearing ceremony. Photos 014 and 015 show soldiers sitting on a tank while eating and drinking refreshments.
Armored Corps Exercises in Scotland (1st Armored Division) [4]
The photos show soldiers sitting atop their tanks. In Photos 002 and 009 Crusader tanks are depicted. In Photo 017 a tankette is shown.
Armored Corps Exercises in Scotland (1st Armored Division) [5]
The four photos show military tanks in a field. A soldier sitting on a motorcycle is seen behind the Valentine tank in Photo 003. The reminding photos depict American Sherman tanks.
Artillery drills on Polish submarine ORP Wilk
On the deck of ORP Wilk during training exercises. The sailors look through a telescope, while the captain looks through binoculars. The crew is standing by a naval gun.
Artillery on an unidentified Polish warship
Sailors stand by a naval gun. The sailors are prepared to move and aim the gun when an enemy appears.
Aviators Standing in Line
The photos show air pilots standing in a line formation in different locations.
Awarding the Banner of the Aviation Squadron (Gawlina, Kot, Stroński, Mikolajczyk, Biddle, Żeligowski, Ogiński, Budny...)
The ceremony of awarding a banner to one Polish Airborne Division in the UK at Swinderby Airport on July 16th, 1941 by General Sikorski. The banner was embroidered by Polish women. The banner says "God, Honor, Homeland."
Banner from English Paratroopers to Polish Paratroopers
The photo shows the banner that English paratroopers gave to Polish paratroopers. The banner has an eagle, a parachute with wings, and Hercules riding Pegasus on it.
Bohusz-Szyszko with Volunteers in the USSR
General Bohusz-Szyszko accompanied by Auxiliary Service of the Polish women in the Soviet Union.
Branches of the Polish Army in France
The photos show the Polish Army in France. In all of the photos, the soldiers are standing at guard.
British Journalists Interview General Anders
Gen. Anders interviewed by British newspapermen.
Bugle Call
The photo shows an American volunteer who is acting as a signalman. The man is playing on a trumpet in the middle of a forest.
Bugle Call Played by a Polish Soldier
The photo shows the side view of a soldier playing on the trumpet. The soldier is dressed in military gear, and there is a firearm attached to his back.
Cadet Division (USSR)
Detachment of the Polish Cadets in the Soviet Union.
Camp for the Polish and French soldiers
The Polish army in a training camp somewhere in France. The French and Polish flags fly at the entrance of the camp.
Captain Koziołkowski being Congratulated by Captain Fawles
Captain Flawles congratulates Captain Koziołkowski by shaking his hand. Captain Koziołkowski is seen smiling as he receives his congratulations.
Celebration at the Aviation School with general Sikorski
General Sikorski decorates Polish airmen with the Virtuti Militari.
Celebration in the 303rd Squadron
Polish-American celebrations in the 303rd Squadron of the Royal Air Force.
Cemetery of Polish Pilots [2]
Photos of the tombstones of Marian Olszyna, Stefan Eloryanowicz, and the commander-in-chief Wladyslaw Sikorski.
Cemetery of Polish pilots [1]
A soldier places flowers at the grave of a fallen Polish airman in photo 001. In photo 004, soldiers light candles at the graves of Polish aviators. A soldier kneels in front of a tombstone in photo 008.
Cemetery of Polish pilots [3]
Photos 002 and 003 show a mass occurring at the cemetery for Polish airmen. In photo 005, the Polish airmen cemetery is covered with snow. Photo 009 shows some of the graves of fallen soldiers.
Ceremony of the 1st anniversary of the death of General Sikorski (Eden, Raczkiewicz, Sosnkowski)
A meeting to commemorate General Sikorski on the first anniversary of his death was held in London. The Polish President, members of the Polish Government, and representatives of the Allies were present at the meeting. The Polish President is listening to the speeches with Mrs. Sikorska and Mr. Anthony Eden.
Children Under Tents in a Polish camp
Fragments from the life of Polish civilians and Polish children evacuated from Russia to Tehran. "Service." The boys stand outside a tent and talk.


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