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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Holy Mass on a Warship
The photo shows a group of sailors surrounding a priest. The men that sail the warships are waiting for a sermon on deck.
Homeless Family
September 1939. Polish children rendered homeless and hungry under the German raids.
Horbaczewski's Airplane
The fighter plane piloted by squadron leader Horbaczewski.
Hospital Ships in England
One of the many hospital ships arriving in England from the Western Front carrying Polish Army wounded. One of the photos shows people on the ship crowding to the side to watch it dock. The walking cases were able to disembark, and others were waiting on the quayside to enter the hospital. Two of the photos show the inside of the ship where the wounded soldiers were being treated. Cigarettes and newspapers were distributed by the Red Cross.
Independence Day in the Anders' Army in the Soviet Union
Anders' Army in the Soviet Union. Independence Day 11.11.1941. The soldiers are welcoming General Sikorski.
Infantry Division Marching (USSR)
1941. General Anders' army in the USSR. Soldiers marching during a parade.
Infantry Exercises in Scotland (1)
Photo 006 shows two soldiers in a ready position under a barrage. Photo 007 depicts a soldier putting ammunition into a gun that another soldier is holding. Soldiers are aiming guns in a field are seen in photo 015. Two soldiers are crossing a river in photo 019.
Infantry Exercises in Scotland (2)
Photo 005 shows soldiers practicing maneuvers in England. Smoke is visible as soldiers walk up a hill in photo 009. Photo 013 shows generals analyzing the outcome of target practice. Soldiers are getting onto the truck of a car in photo 024.
Infantry Exercises in Scotland (3)
Soldiers are performing maneuvers in the forest. Photo 001 shows two soldiers hiding behind trees and bushes with their guns in their hands. Photo 011 shows soldiers standing on ruins with their guns prepped. A meeting between the soldier is seen in photo 012. Two soldiers built themselves a hiding place using tree branches in photo 014. Photo 022 depicts soldiers hiding behind a small hill.
Infantry Exercises in Scotland (4)
Photo 002 shows a soldiers crouching in order to camouflage with his surroundings. Photo 003 shows a soldier holding a rifle and walking on rocks with a waterfall in the background.
Infantry Exercises in Scotland (5)
The photos show two soldiers shooting rifles in the prone position. Photo 004 shows the profile of the soldier in prone position. Photo 008 is a front view of a soldier in prone position.
Infantry Exercises in Scotland (6)
Photo 010 shows a group of soldiers sitting on a hill. Photo 016 shows two soldiers assisting another one in shooting a machine gun.
Infantry Exercises in Scotland (7)
Photo 017 shows a group of soldiers walking up a hill. Photo 023 shows the soldiers resting after maneuvers.
Infantry Exercises in Scotland (8)
Photo 018 shows soldiers looking into the distance after firing their rifles. Photo 020 shows a soldier meeting on a hill. Photo 021 shows soldiers running during their maneuvers.
Infirmary Hospital in the Anders' Army Branches
Anders Army in the USSR. Hospital outpatient clinic in Kermina.
Inspection of the ORP Ślązak
A British Flag Officer inspecting the Polish destroyer "Ślązak."
Interior of the Polish Red Cross Offices
The photos show the general office of the Polish Red Cross in London. Photo 001 shows the interior of the office. In photo 002, some of the workers are talking with soldiers.
Iżycki Decorates an Aviator
General Izycki decorates the aviator. The picture shows how gen. Izycki pinning the medal on the aviator's uniform.
J. Krajewski in an Airplane
Polish Wing in Tactical Air Force. Jan Krajewski, Virtuti Militari, Cross of Valour with Bar, who in 1944, although gravely wounded, brought his Spitfire back from Holland to an English airfield, on a visit to a Polish Wing in the Tactical Air Force.
King George VI Visiting the Polish Army in Scotland (1)
King George VI and General Sikorski are inspecting the Polish troops. In some of the photos, the men are seen talking to the soldiers.
King George VI Visiting the Polish Army in Scotland (10)
King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, and General Sikorski visit one of the coast sectors guarded by Polish troops.
King George VI Visiting the Polish Army in Scotland (2)
During their tour in Scotland, the King and Queen paid a visit of inspection to the Polish Forces. They spent the whole day with the Polish forces. They were accompanied by General Sikorski, the Polish Commander in Chief. The royal pair, along with General Sikorski, also inspected the defenses manned by the Polish Forces.
King George VI Visiting the Polish Army in Scotland (3)
In the section occupied by Polish troops, a soldier answers the questions the King and Queen ask him. They stand under the net of camouflage.
King George VI Visiting the Polish Army in Scotland (4)
The photo shows a plaque made to commemorate King George VI and Queen Elizabeth's visit to the Polish troops. The plaque says: "His Majesty King George VI accompanied by Queen Elizabeth and General Sikorski C in C. Polish Forces ~ took here the salute from the Polish Troops on March the 7th, 1941.
King George VI Visiting the Polish Army in Scotland (4)
The photos show the Polish soldiers marching. General Sikorski, the King, and the Queen observe the parade. The Polish coat of arms is seen in the background.
King George VI Visiting the Polish Army in Scotland (5)
The photos show the soldiers standing at guard while King George VI and General Sikorski inspect them. The king and general are seen saluting the soldiers in photos 023 and 003. Photo 021 shows a soldier talking to the two men.
King George VI Visiting the Polish Army in Scotland (7)
The photos show Queen Elizabeth, King George VI, and General Sikorski watching a soldier parade. The three are standing on a platform that is decorated with the Polish emblem and plants.
King George VI Visiting the Polish Army in Scotland (8)
The photos are close-ups of General Sikorski, Queen Elizabeth, and King George VI.
King George VI Visiting the Polish Army in Scotland (9)
The photos show the different modes of transportation that the soldiers in the Polish Army used. Photo 004 shows the soldiers driving down the street on a tank and motorcycles. Photo 011 shows the soldiers driving down the street in truck. A soldier on a horse is talking to General Sikorski and the Royal Pair in photo 002. In Photo 024, General Sikorski and King George VI are saluting. A car and a crowd of people are present in the background.
Laboratory of the Polish Red Cross
Laboratories of the Polish Red Cross. Photo 001 shows two volunteers testing chemicals through titration. In photo 002, a volunteer weighing some substance. Photo 003 shows the setup of an outdoor laboratory. Some chemical equipment is seen in photo 004.
Lessons in a Polish School in Tehran
A class of boys paying attention to a lesson on the chalkboard.
Loading Ammunition and Cleaning the Rifle in a Polish Fighter Plane
Polish Wing in the Tactial Air Force. The photos show machine guns being recharged, ammunition being loaded onto the fighter plane, and rifles being cleaned. The airplane is Mustang of the 315th Polish Squadron.
Loading Bombs to Bombers
Bombs being loaded into a bomber airplanes. First two photos show in the background Vickers Wellington bombers. Three last photos depict Polish Lancaster bomber airplanes.
Loading shells into naval artillery on a Polish warship
Sailors stand around a naval gun. They are preparing to fire it.
M. Skubała - Injured Airman (Scotland)
Scotland. The American Soldier's Medal was presented at a military hospital to a wounded Polish airman who helped rescue an American crew when their plane crashed in the English fields and was in imminent danger of bursting into flames. The Pole, 23-year-old captain Marian Skubała, veteran of some 30 night missions with the Polish Air Force is now temporarily attached to the 9th Air Force. Captain Skubała has fought the Germans from Poland, France, and Britain. This is his fifth crash in this war.
MS Batory firing its cannon
A Polish merchant ship is firing at the submarine. The sailors are testing a cannon.
Machine guns of one of Polish warships
A Polish sailor in charge of a naval gun. He stands by the machine guns prepared to attack.
Major Banaszek visits the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade
Major Banaszek with four soldiers from SBSK, including Colonel Peszek.
Management of the Polish YMCA
The staff of the Polish YMCA in Great Britain. Henryk Majchrzak, the director of the YMCA, is leaning on the mantle.
Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (1)
Photo 016 shows a 25-pounder going into action. The field gun was fired by Polish gunners during invasion rehearsals at a vast gunner's training ground somewhere in Britain. Photo 017 shows Polish gunners standing at ready behind a medium gun before firing during the final invasion maneuvers.
Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (10)
The photos show the women of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service attending to the Polish gunners. Photos 039 and 040 show one of the women pouring hot tea for the gunners. One of the women of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service is sewing the men's socks in photo 041. In the background British artillery gun BL 5.5 inch.
Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (11)
Photo 021 shows the field communications under one of the barrages put up by the Polish gunners. Photo 022 shows the colonel commanding the Polish gunners partaking in the battle rehearsals. Photo 023 depicts the colonel watching the barrage from a vantage point.
Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (12)
Photos 024, 025, and 026 shows Polish gunners cleaning the barrel of a field gun. A group of Polish gunners is seen cleaning their rifles in photo 027. Photo 029 shows the cadet officer of the Polish artillery.
Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (13)
Photo 030 shows a Polish gunner talking with a member of the Royal Artillery. Polish gunners are concealed in long overgrowth on a hillside as they watch a bbagage being laid down by gunners in photos 33 and 34.
Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (2)
The photos show Polish gunners preparing for invasion rehearsals. In Photo 011, a Polish gunner is looking through the eyehole of a field gun. Photos 014 and 018 show gunners taking position on the brow of a hill to prepare for an invasion rehearsal on a training ground somewhere in Britain.
Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (3)
Photo 012 shows the Polish gun crew carrying away used shell cases. Photo 013 shows Polish gunnners loading a field gun as they prepare for invasion rehearsals. Ammunition for the field guns is being prepared in photo 015.
Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (4)
Photo 002 shows a gun crew standing behind a medium caliber gun at a battle station on a training ground somewhere in Britain. Photo 003 shows a team of gunners loading ammunition into one of the field guns.
Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (5)
Photo 004 shows Polish gunners moving the shell guide of a medium caliber gun. Photos 005 and 009 show gunners opening the breach of a medium caliber gun after partaking in invasion practices. A Polish gun crew is concealed under camouflage netting as they prepare for the final invasion maneuvers in photo 010.
Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (6)
Photo 001 shows the barrel of a medium caliber gun being cleaned after being fired during maneuvers. A medium caliber gun is hidden under camouflage netting in photo 006. Photo 008 shows Polish gunners putting up a barrage with one of the field guns under a camouflage net.
Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (7)
Photo 035 shows Tiger, the mascot of the Polish gunners, posing on a gun during battle rehearsals. In photo 036, Tiger is helping the Polish gunner at the breach of the field gun. Pestka, the tiny pet of the Polish gunners, is sitting on the barrel of a gun. In photo 038, Pestka sits inside the barrel of a field gun.

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