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


Polish Soldiers Play Checkers (Scotland)
Polish soldiers enjoy a game of checkers. Two other soldiers watch the game.
Polish Soldiers Playing Basketball
Sports make the army life easier. A group of soldiers participate in a basketball game. Two soldiers are in the midst of making a shot into the hoop.
Polish Soldiers Playing Volleyball
Polish airmen playing volleyball. The first photo shows a crowd of soldiers watching a volleyball being spiked. The other photo shows a group of soldiers in the middle of a match.
Polish Soldiers Practice Boxing
Soldiers participate in a boxing match. One soldier is seen in both photos. All three of the soldiers are seen in a fighting stance.
Polish Soldiers Visiting London
Allied Olders Like London and London Likes Them. Any day or any evening in London's streets, hotels, or cafes, strange tongues can be heard. The Allies are on leave seeing the town. Sometimes London finds it hard to recognise them in their khaki battle dress or Royal Air Force blue and has to glance at the small distinguishing tabs they wear on each shoulder. Anyway, whether they are in British uniforms or not, London treats them as its own Sons. Yes, London likes these men who fight on even though their homes are in German hands, and they like London. The Victoria Memorial provides a background for Polish soldiers seeing London.
Polish Soldiers in Morris Light Reconnaissance Car
The photo shows two soldiers sitting in the Morris Light Reconnaissance Car. The car and the soldiers are in a forest.
Polish Soldiers in the Morning
Polish soldiers preparing the day. The soldiers created a getting ready station in the forest by their training camp. The soldiers are shaving and washing their faces or bodies.
Polish Soliders' Day in Scotland
A group of soldiers in their gear celebrate Polish Soldiers' day. The soldiers attend an outdoor mass in Scotland to celebrate the Day of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.
Polish Toddlers in Tehran During a Meal
Two toddlers sitting together on the ground. They are eating a meal together with spoons.
Polish Troops Marching (Great Britain) [1]
The photos show soldiers marching in Great Britain. The soldiers are holding their rifles as they march. The soldiers all walk down a road.
Polish Troops Marching (Great Britain) [2]
Soldiers marching in Great Britain. Photos 007 and 008 show the soldiers marching in a field. On the other hand, photos 002 and 006 show the soldiers marching down a street in a city. They are carrying their rifles as they march.
Polish Women's Auxiliary Service -- group photo
Group photo of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service.
Polish Women's Auxiliary Service-- group photo
Group photo of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service. The women are in front of a vacation house for the volunteers.
Polish bomber crews in the navigation room
In the navigation room at this Polish Bomber Station, navigators plot their courses for the night's operation.
Polish infantry in position
The photos show Polish soldiers of the 1939 campaign. Photo 001 shows a soldier aiming his gun in what seems to be a trench. Two soldiers holding bayonets are preparing to attack in Photo 002.
Polish infantry marching
The photos show the Polish infantry marching. In the photos, the soldiers march with firearms or bayonets. The weapons are held over the right shoulder and behind the head.
Polish officers from the Officer's Legion in Egypt
A group of Polish officers at the Officer's Camp in Amrya, Egypt: Michenik, major Królikowski, major Tadeusz Bastgen, colonel J. Emisarz, and one unrecognized liaison officer.
Polish soldier at a German airplane graveyard
Soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade inspect a German airplane graveyard near Darna, Libya.
Polish soldiers among the dead on the battlefield
Polish soldiers on the battlefield among the bodies of the fallen and destroyed military equipment. The dead appear burned.
Polish soldiers during Mass in the desert of Gazala
Polish soldiers during a Mass in the desert near Gazala.
Polish soldiers during an assault on a stone desert under Gazala
Polish soldiers run to the battlefield in the stone desert near Gazala.
Polish soldiers in front of trucks
The photo shows soldiers on a field. The soldiers are returning to their vehicles. The vehicles seen are buses and trucks.
Polish soldiers in various situations in the Libyan desert near Gazala
Pictures presenting individual soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade fighting in Libya and their friends from Indian forces.
Polish soldiers in various situations in the area marked as Gazala I
Picture 001 shows Polish soldiers sitting near the car listening to the radio. Picture 002 - Polish soldiers reading some materials; one of them is typing. Photo 003 - Polish soldiers on open ground. Picture 004 - A group of Polish soldiers at a combat post sheltered with bullet-proof sand bags and marked with a Polish flag.
Polish soldiers on the front line in the Libyan desert
Polish soldiers with ckm rifles on the front line between Tobruk and Gazelle. On photos 001, 002, and 003, Vickers machine gun and Lee-Enfield rifle is visible. On the photo 004 a soldier is firing Bren machine gun from an anti-aircraf tripod.
Polish soldiers on the tanks
Polish soldiers posing for photos on tanks.
Polish-German-Italian cemetery under Gazala, OZI monument at Ascis Road and German memorial at the cemetery
Photo 001: an image of a cemetery with crosses, photo 002: an unidentified soldier with an unidentified monument signed as an ozi, photo 003: a monument with a swastika.
Portrait of a Smiling Soldier
The photo shows a Polish soldier smiling at the camera. He is wearing a hat that is tilted. A forest and tent are present in the background.
Potocki looking at the film of his battle
Polish Wing in the Tactical Air Force. Potocki looks at the film of his last flight in which he shot down a Focke-Wulf Fw 190.
President Raczkiewicz In the Polish Army in England (1)
President Raczkiewicz stands among a crowd of general and soldiers. The crowd listens to Raczkiewicz as he talks and points at something.
President Raczkiewicz In the Polish Army in England (2)
Photo 001 shows President Raczkiewicz, soldiers, and generals sitting in a map room. Photos 002 and 003 show Polish soldiers marching down a street in England.
President Raczkiewicz Visiting the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service [1]
Photo 004 shows the volunteers of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service. Photos 010, 011, and 012 show President Raczkiewicz talking with the female volunteers.
President Raczkiewicz Visiting the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service [2]
President Raczkiewicz eats with the volunteers of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service in photos 001, 002, and 003. Photo 009 is a group photo of all of the female volunteers.
President Raczkiewicz and General Sikorski with the Polish Army in Scotland
General Sikorski and President Raczkiewicz review the motorized cavalry of the Polish Army in Scotland. The first photo shows General Sikorski and President Raczkiewicz inspecting a crowd of soldiers. The second photo depicts the soldiers marching in a street.
President Raczkiewicz and Prime Minister Mikołajczyk Visit a Hospital
President Raczkiewicz and other members of the Polish government inspect the Polish out-patient clinic in London.
President Raczkiewicz at the Polish Red Cross
The Polish Red Cross in London is visited by President Raczkiewicz on December 3rd, 1940.
President Raczkiewicz on a Warship
Polish President Mr. Rackiewicz visiting the Polish Navy. Raczkiewicz is seen addressing the crew on a warship.
Prime Minister Churchill on the ORP Grom and ORP Błyskawica
Prime Minister Churchill on deck of Polish destroyers ORP Grom and ORP Błyskawica.
Prime Minister Mikolajczyk Meeting the 1st Armoured Division
Premier Mikołajczyk having a conversation with the soldiers of the 1st Armoured Division.
Prime Minister Mikolajczyk Visiting the Parachute Brigade
Prime Minister Mikołajczyk visits the parachute brigade. In all of the photos, Mikołajczyk is talking and interacting with the paratroopers.
Prince Kent at the School of Aviators
Late Duke of Kent inspects Polish airmen at Midland training school.
Promotion in the Cadet School in Beit Jirgea
Picture 001 - "Promotion of the Cadet School in Beit Jirgea", photo 002 General Kopański is decorating a Polish soldier.
Providing Meals to the People
Polish children being fed during Polish campaign in 1939. The photo shows the children standing in line waiting for soup to be poured into a bowl. Not everyone has a bowl, so people use pots as food containers.
Raczkiewicz Decorates the Pilots
The first photo shows President Raczkiewicz decorating a Polish Royal Air Force officer. The second photo shows the President talking with the two officers who were decorated.
Raczkiewicz Visiting the Polish Army in England
President visits the Polish Army in England. In this photo, Raczkiewicz is walking among the Polish soldiers.
Raczkiewicz in the 1st Armored Division
President Raczkiewicz visits the Polish 1st Armoured Division. Photos 001 and 002 show Raczkiewicz addressing the Polish soldiers during a meal. President Raczkiewicz watches tank maintenance and talks to soldiers on tanks in photos 003 and 004.
Raising the flag on a Polish warship
Sailors standing on the deck of a ship. Two of them are hoisiting up a Polish flag.
Recording St. Mary's Trumpet Call in Scotland
Broadcasting the St. Mary's bugle call, which was played everyday at noon from the church towar in Cupar.
Recruits of the Polish Army in France
Soldiers are recruiting to be part of the Polish Army in France. The photo shows men providing documentation to serve in the army. Others are filling out paperwork.
Refueling Vickers Wellington bomber
The photos show ground crews getting busy at dusk fueling a Wellington bomber ready for a mine-laying expedition. The plane is being refueled at a Polish Bomber Station somewhere in Britain.


Islandora Bookmark