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


Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (8)
Photo 020 shows a convoy of guns, ammunition, and equipment sliding down a steep incline during a test of the control of the roads. Photo 032 shows battle smoke present on a countryside after invasion rehearsal.
Maneuvers of Polish troops in England (9)
Photo 019 shows Polish gunners being addressed by a British officer before starting their maneuvers. Photo 028 shows gunnery chiefs observing the Polish artillery setting down a barrage. Photo 031 is a group photo of the Polish and British gunnery officers.
Marionette Theater in the Anders' Army in the Soviet Union
Marionette theater in the Anders' Army in the Soviet Union. The marionette dolls are wearing Polish regional costumes.
Mass for the Polish Women's Auxiliary Corps
First Mass for the Polish Women's Auxiliary Corps arrived in England from Russia. A crowd of women is standing outside waiting for the mass.
Meeting on the 1st Anniversary of the Death of General Sikorski
A meeting to commemorate General Sikorski on the first anniversary of his death was held in London at which the Polish President and members of the Polish Government, as well as representatives of the Allies were present. Representatives of the Allied Armed Forces photographed at the meeting.
Meeting with Polish Aviation
Group of listeners at one of the London celebrations during World War II (1939-1945). The first row starting from the left: Zofia Zalewska, member of the National Council, Zamojski, representative of the Ministry of Information and Documentation, /? /, Unknown - / possibly prof. Brzeski ?/, Jan Stańczyk, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare, and Jan Kwapiński, Minister of Government of Poland in London. The second row starting from the left: two unidentified officers of Polish aviation, the third - Major Zygfryd Maciej Piatkowski / aviation, next to him Stanisław Włodarkiewicz, an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, temporary secretary of Minister Stańczyk, Bogdan Józef Kwiecinski, military and aerospace attaché, later aerospace attaché of Polish embassy in London, behind Mr. Włodarkiewicz sits Colonel Zygmunt Chramiec, former military and aerospace attaché of Polish embassy in Washington. Due to the numerous participation of Polish aviation officers, this gathering is thought to discuss the activities of Polish military aviation during World War II.
Members of the Polish Armored Troops Unit in Great Britain
The photo shows soldiers outdoors. A group of men are standing next to a car taking. Another group is standing by a cross. In the foreground there are two Polish armored troops members wearing berets. One man is stretching, and the soldier standing next to him is smoking a cigarette.
Mikołajczyk with airmen of the squadron "Wilno"
Birthday of the "Vilno" Polish Fighter Squadron. The famous "Vilno" Fighter Squadron of the Polish Air Force, which played a prominent part in the Battle of Britain has just celebrated its 3rd birthday when the occasion was marked by a special service and ceremony at the aerodrome. Mass was conducted in a hangar after which some of the pilots were decorated for bravery and devotion to duty by the Chief of the Polish Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Mateusz Iżycki. The Polish Prime Minister chatting to some of the newly decorated pilots after congratulating them.
Military Cinema in Scotland
The cinema unit of the Polish Army. The members of the unit are standing in front of their truck. The following words are written on the driver's door of the truck: "Refugees of England, 511 Fifth Ave, New York."
Military Equipment destroyed by bombardment on the road from Gazela to Derna
Vehicle wrecks on a side of the road from Gazela to Darma. Aftermath of British bombing.
Military Hospital in Scotland (1)
Photo 008 shows a physician measuring a soldier's heartbeat with a stethoscope while a nurse looks on. This seems to be the recovery room for wounded soldiers. Photos 009 and 011 show nurses taking care of recovering soldiers. Photo 012 depicts the soldiers socializing with one another and with people dressed in the regional Polish costumes.
Military Hospital in Scotland (2)
Photo 001 shows four doctors performing surgery on the abdomen of a wounded soldier. Photo 002 depicts surgery being performing on the upper left thigh of a wounded soldier. A nurse is holding the soldier's head in her hands. Photo 003 shows a dental operation. The soldiers are undergoing physical examinations in Photo 005.
Military Hospital in Scotland (3)
Photo 018 shows a group of nurses preparing a meal in the hospital's kitchen. Photo 019 depicts soldiers eating some type of soup.
Military Hospital in Scotland (4)
Photos 006 and 007 show operating rooms. In both photos, an operating table is present in the middle of the room with a large light meant to be illuminated during surgery.
Military Hospital in Scotland (5)
Photos 016 and 017 shows the pharmacy with the military hospital in Scotland. Both photos shows the physicians doing inventory inside the military hospital's pharmacy.
Military Hospital in Scotland (6)
All three photos show the nurses of the military hospital in Scotland taking care of the patients. The nurses are giving the patients medicine, cleaning their wounds, and readjusting the patients.
Military Hospital in Scotland (7)
Recovery in a hospital is not limited to just lying in bed. In addition to recovering, soldiers had to both relax and be physically active. Photo 015 shows the soldiers sitting in a room together reading a newspaper. A recreational room is seen in Photos 020 and 021. There, the soldiers read and play billiards together. Photo 022 shows a group of people running. Soldiers are resting outside while nurses and physicians tend to them in Photo 23.
Military convoys with the participation of the ORP "Błyskawica"
Photo 001: August 31st, 1939, three Polish destroyers "Błyskawica", "Grom" and "Burza" are going full-speed on Baltic Sea to reach Scotland. The photo was taken from the deck of ORP "Lightning." Photo 002: The destroyers "Grom" and "Błyskawica" are seen sailing on the water in 1941. Photo 003: In mid-September ORP "Blyskawica" loaded the first and last shipment of British weapons to Poland. Transport could not come. Photo 004: After a night's watch on the bridge, the commanding officer of the Polish destroyer "Błyskawica" takes a nap.
Minister A. Eden Speaks at the Celebration of the 1st Anniversary of the Death of General Sikorski
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. Standing at the side of a bust of General Sikorski, Mr. Anthony Eden, Britain's Foreign Minister, pays tribute to the Polish leader in an address at the meeting.
Navy Cadet School
Naval cadet training. Photo 001 shows the cadets during rope climbing exercises. In photo 002, the cadets partake in bosman exercises. Two soldiers are learning different knots in photo 003.
Norwegian General Feleischer with the Polish Army in Scotland
Commander in Chief of the Polish Army General Sikorski decorates Norwegian Generals Fleischer and Berg with the "Virtuti Militari," also known as the Polish Military Cross. The generals stand in front of a crowd of Polish troops.
ORP "Burza"
The first photo shows the ORP "Burza," a veteran of Dunkirk, standing by the cutter until help comes although her own fuel supply is perilously low. Non-rated members of the crew of the disabled Coast Guard cutter, USCGC Campbell, bring their supplies with them as they board the ORP "Burza." The second photo depicts Polish seamen on the lookout during patrol in the Channel. The Polish flag is also seen flying in this photo. The third photo shows a full shot of the Polish Destroyer "Burza."
ORP "Dzik"
Photo 001 shows the launch of the Polish submarine "Dzik." Photo 002 depicts two Polish submarine-- the Dzik and the famous Sokol-- have returned to a British port after successful patrols. The Dzik (Wild Boar) has just finished her first commission. For a year she has worked in the Mediterranean, and her Jolly Roger success flag testifies to the number of her victories there. The Sokol (Falcon) was welcomed back by Captain E. Pławski, Polish Navy Chief of Staff. In her last 12 months' operation, she sank 18 enemy ships-- five small vessels in harbor were sunk with one torpedo. The captain stands by the valves in this photo. The Polish rating on the right holds the DSM. He is CERA "S.S" DSM, Cross of Valour and 2 bars.
ORP Garland
The photos display scenes on board the Polish destroyer "Garland" which has fought with successes in several actions and convoys, destroying a number of enemy aircraft etc. During a recent convoy to Russia, the "Garland" played a very gallant part in beating off repeated air attacks for five days and nights, thereby helping to get the merchantmen through with comparatively small losses. The first photo shows a full shot of the ORP "Garland". The second photo shows Poles fighting on the British ships. A Polish torpedo chief offices on board the now-Polish "Garland." The third photo depicts a group of men hoisting a torpedo warhead on board the now-Polish "Garland." The ship was taken over by the Polish navy after the German occupation of Poland. The ship kept her British name at the Poles' request. The fourth photo shows the captain on the bridge of the "Garland.". The fifth picture shows a scene in the engine-room.
ORP Gryf
The photo shows the Polish minelayer ORP "Gryf" leaving Gdynia. ORP "Gryf" along with ORP "Wicher" both sank three days later.
ORP Krakowiak [1]
Photo 015 shows the mascots of the ORP Krakowiak. A soldier is marking one of the victories of the ORP Krakowiak in photo 017. Photo 019 shows the antiaircaft gun of the Polish Navy. The sailors named her "Krakowianka."
ORP Krakowiak [2]
Photo 008 shows a signalman on the ORP Krakowiak. Soldier loads ammunition on a ship in photo 009. Sailors are preparing a naval gun for attack inphoto 014.
ORP Krakowiak [3]
Sailors of the ORP Krakowiak give commands using a boatswain's call.
ORP Krakowiak [4]
The photos show the sailors loading ammunition into naval guns and operating them.
ORP Krakowiak [5]
The sailors are mending their uniforms on the destroyer ORP Krakowiak.
ORP Krakowiak [6]
The crew navigating the ORP Krakowiak.
ORP Krakowiak [7]
Photo 003 shows a sailor polishing the coat of arms of the ORP Krakowiak. The sailors placed a sailor cap on their mascot in photo 005.
ORP Krakowiak [8]
The photos show the ORP Krakowiak during an attack on a German u-boat.
ORP Kujawiak
On board the ORP "Kujawiak." The deck is filled with sailors. In the backgroud a smaller boat is visible.
ORP Orkan
Photo of the ORP Opkan. Soldiers stand on the deck of the ship. Some of the soldiers are loading the destroyer.
ORP Piorun (1)
The photos show the captain of the ORP Piorun as the vessel arrives in France.
ORP Sokół
The first photo depicts the ORP "Sokol" returning to Malta after patrolling the Mediterranean Sea. The second photo shows the Polish submarine "Sokół" i.e. "Falcon" in the Mediterranean after a successful attack of enemy shipping. The third photo shows the bridge of the ORP "Sokol." The fourth photo is a portrait of Borys Karnicki, the captain of the Polish submarine Sokol. The fifth photo depicts the crew of the ORP "Sokol" after returning from a successful patrol. The sixth photo shows the crew standing on the bridge of the ORP "Sokol" in Gibraltarze in 1944. The submarine's Commanding Officer is seen looking through the periscope in the seventh photo.
ORP Wilk
Upon passing Hel, a photo of the submarine "Wilk" was taken from the deck of the "Błyskawica." "Wilk" after many battles and adventures arrived in England on September 20th, 1939.
Oath of Allegiance of the Polish Army in France
Polish soldiers take an oath of allegiance in France. The men stand straight with two of the fingers on their right hand up as they take the oath.
On the Polish Schoolship "Dar Pomorza"
Stockholm. October 1944. Young Polish soldiers trained under the auspices of Polish and Swedish authorities and welfare organisations. Photo 001: "An hour of Polish music" -After having completed their 3-months training the pupils enjoy singing on board the Polish schoolship "Dar Pomorza." Photo 002: A lesson on board the Polish Schoolship "Dar Pomorza"
Opening of a Polish Airman House
The first photo shows Mrs. Duke Biddle at the opening of the Polish Airman House. The second photo is a group photo in front of the Polish Airman House.
Outdoor School Lessons
A class of students having an outdoor lesson. The children pay attention as the teacher is writing on the blackboard. The children are sitting at tables under trees.
Painting Emblems Denoting Destroyed Aircraft (303 Squadron)
Denoting destroyed air crafts. Photos 001 to 003 show a group of Polish airmen painting the door of an airplane to denote that it was destroyed by them. A young airman paints on the body of plane in photos 004 and 005.
Parade for the Polish Navy
The photo shows the Polish Navy during their parade. The sailors are marching with their weapons.
Parade of the Podhale Brigade in France
The photos show the Polish Highland Brigade marching in France. The soldiers are seen walking with bayonets and rifles. They are all wearing long capes.
Parades of the Polish Troops (Scotland) [11]
A parade of Polish soldiers walks the streets of Scotland. The soldiers are dressed in military uniforms with capes. The group of soldiers carries their guns in either their right or left hands. A crowd of people observe the soldiers from the sidelines.
Parades of the Polish Troops (Scotland) [12]
The photo shows a close up of some of the Polish troops during the march. The men are marching in unison while carrying their firearms on their backs. They march on a street while a crowd observes them.
Parades of the Polish Troops (Scotland) [13]
Polish soldiers are marching on a street in Scotland. The photo shows a soldier driving Valentine tank down the street as a general observes him with binoculars.
Parades of the Polish Troops (Scotland) [14]
The photos show soldiers marching down a rural road. Photo 001 shows the soldiers marching in unison while carrying their rifles. Photo 002 shows soldiers on motorcycles driving on a road.


Islandora Bookmark