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.Learn More About the Collection
- 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).
- 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.