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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Road signs and a milestone on the road from Derma to Tobruk
Three photos of road signs on the road from Derma to Tobruk. The signs are in German and Italian. The photo number 001 shows road signs to Martuba in Libya. The photo 002 depicts a Tobruk sign as well as several signs to various German military installations. The sign on the photo 003 reads "Tobruch". The photo number 004 depicts a milestone "Confine Egiziano K.M. 222" (Egyptian border)
SMS Schleswig-Holstein shooting at Westerplatte
SMS Schlewsig-Holstein shelling Westerplatte in September 1939. Smoke is visible in the background after the shelling.
SS Kordecki
Polish Merchant Navy's Part in Invasion of Europe. The first and third photos show ammunition being unloaded from the SS "Kordecki." The second photo shows the American airborne troops heading for France on board the SS "Kordecki." The fourth photo depicts the mascots of the SS "Kordecki" as they take up a point of vantage on an Oerlikon gun on board.
SS Modlin
Polish Merchant Navy's part in invasion of Europe. The SS "Modlin," an old Polish merchantman, is now doing service as part of the new great breakwater.
SS Narocz
Polish Merchant Navy's part in the invasion of Europe. The SS "Narocz" towing an invasion barge along the coast of Normandy.
Sailors and seagulls
Sailors stand on the deck of s ship. Three of them are having a conversation, while the fourth one is carrying a box. Sea and flying seagulls are seen in the background.
Sailors loading ammunition
Sailors loading ammunition for anti-aircraft guns on a Polish destroyer. The men are pulling the rounds up on the deck.
Sailors on a rowboat
Troops leaving a ship. They sail away on a small boat to reach safety.
Sapper Training in Scotland (1)
The photo show soldiers in holding rifles in the prone position. The men are on a field. A barbed wire fence is behind them.
Sapper Training in Scotland (2)
The soldiers seem to be assembling a bridge in the photos. The soldiers are unloading pieces of the bridge from a truck in photo 007. In photo 008, they are carrying the item up a hill. Photo 009 shows the soldiers putting it together.
Sapper Training in Scotland (3)
Soldiers are searching for land mines. In photo 002, a sapper is clearing mines laid by the enemy during the previous night. Photo 003 shows a soldier walking around with a metal detector in order to find land mines. In photo 004, a soldier is digging out a land mine.
Sapper Training in Scotland (4)
The photo shows an explosion happening on a field. The explosion destroyed a wooden structure. Soldiers are seen watching from a distance.
Sapper Training in Scotland (5)
The photo shows a group of soldiers walking. Some of the soldiers are carrying beams, while others are carrying rope.
Sapper Training in Scotland (6)
The photos show military engineers practicing construction of bridges.
Sapper Training in Scotland (7)
The photos show the soldiers prepping the canoes for exercises. The canoes are being untied from the dock and pushed into the water by the soldiers.
School Photos Taken in a Polish Camp in Tehran
Photo taken at a Polish camp in Tehran. Students during the lesson.
Scottish Celebration (General Sikorski, President Raczkiewicz)
The mayor of one of the Scottish cities is holding a military banner for President Raczkiewicz. General Sikorski is standing beside the President. Polish and British soldiers are present in the crowd.
Ship's Kitchen
In photo 001, two chefs are preparing chicken for cooking. Photo 002 shows food being distributed among the members of the Polish Navy.
Sikorski Among Aviators (Scotland)
Photo 001: General Sikorski converses with one of the Polish raiders on Rostock. Photo 002: General Sikorski is looking to the right and standing with two soldiers under a Polish flag and a United Kingdom variant flag. Photo 003: General Sikorski walks among the aviators.
Sikorski Decorates the Aviators
General Sikorski decorating Polish airmen with the Military Cross.
Sikorski Inspecting Troops in Scotland (1)
The photos show General Sikorski's return from the USA and his arrival to Scotland. General Sikorski greets the Polish Motorized Units in Scotland.
Sikorski Inspecting Troops in Scotland (2)
The photos show General Sikorski among the Polish soldiers in Scotland. Sikorski salutes the soldiers and talks with them.
Sikorski Inspecting Troops in Scotland (3)
General Sikorski addresses the soldiers in Scotland. He delivers his speech on a stage decorated with pine tree branches.
Sikorski Inspecting Troops in Scotland (4)
General Sikorski is welcomed by both the Polish and Scottish soldiers during his visit. The Scottish soldiers are dressed in kilts and play on the bagpipes.
Sikorski Inspecting Troops in Scotland (5)
General Sikorski talks with the soldiers during his visit in Scotland.
Sikorski Inspecting Troops in Scotland (6)
Photo 015 shows the commander-in-chief during an inspection of the training camp. Photo 020 shows General Sikorski standing with other generals.
Sikorski Inspecting Troops in Scotland (7)
General Sikorski addresses the Polish troops in Scotland. The photos show the size of the crowd of soldiers.
Sikorski and Sinclair Among Airmen (England)
British Secretary of State for Air A. Sinclair and Chief Commander General W. Sikorski at the inspection of Polish aviation in England. Sinclair and Sikorski stand among Polish pilots.
Sikorski, Świrski, and Thorne (Scotland)
From left to right: Admiral Świrski, General Thorne, Commander of the British forces in Scotland, and General Sikorski. The three men are laughing and having a conversation with each other.
Skalski Among Airmen (Great Britain)
Polish Wing in the Tactial Air Force. The commanding officer Skalski among airmen. The airmen are unloading luggage off of a truck.
Skalski and Marshal Coningham
Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham (left) congratulates Polish Wing Commander Stanisław Skalski, who has just been awarded the Gold Cross of the Virtuti Militari. Aged 26, Skalski has won his country's highest decoration for his leadership of the Polish Unit in the Battle of Tunisia, when the squadron set up an Allied record by shooting down the highest number of German aeroplanes, 27. He was decorated by the Polish commander-in-chief gen. Kazimierz Sosnkowski during an inspection tour of Polish units with the TAF.
Skalski at the Airport (Great Britain)
Polish Wing in the Tactical Air Force. Photo 001 shows wing commander Skalski talking with a Polish mechanic in charge of airfield mechanics. Photo 002 depicts Skalski exhausted after a flight.
Skalski in North Africa
The "Skalski Circus." Photo 001 shows the Polish flying ace, wing commander Stanisław Skalski. He commanded the Polish fighter unit in North Africa and later in Italy. His squadron was nicknamed "Skalski Circus." Photo 002 shows Skalski resting. Skalski is accompanied by s British fellow officer in Photo 003. Photo 004 depicts the Polish commanding officer visiting the "Skalski Circus." From left ot right: Wing Commander Skalski, Air Vice Marshal Iżycki, and a "Daily Telegraph" war correspondent. Skalski visiting Gurkhas is seen in Photo 005.
Skalski's Airplane
Polish Wing in the Tactical Air Force. The Wing Commander's plane - The Polish Royal Air Force ace wing commander Skalski.
Skalski, Sosnkowski, Coningham
The Polish commander in chief with air marshal Coningham and wing commander Skalski after the latter had been presented with the Victoria Cross.
Smiling Polish Infantryman
The photo shows a soldier standing in the middle of a field. He is holding his firearm. A bayonet is also attached to his belt.
Smiling and Smoking Soldier
The photo shows a soldier posing for a photo. He is standing in front of a building. The soldier is smoking a cigarette.
Soldier With a Rabbit
The photo shows a soldier dressed up in military gear. The soldier is crouching in the middle of the forest while petting a rabbit.
Soldier of the Parachute Brigade
A Polish paratrooper holding a gun and looking in the distance while standing in a field.
Soldiers Awarded for Narvik
Polish officers and soldiers honored by King Haakon VII for their participation in the Norwegian Company.
Soldiers Playing on Their Instruments
The photo shows soldiers laying outside relaxing. One of the soldiers is holding a banjo, while the other is holding an accordion.
Soldiers Playing on their Instruments
The photo shows a band formed by the Polish soldiers. They holding their instruments and posing for a photo.
Soldiers Reading the Newspaper
1941. Buzuluk, Russia Federation. Anders' Army soldiers reading the press newspapers in the recreation hall.
Soldiers Rolling and Smoking Cigarettes
During their breaks, soldiers would roll cigarettes together and smoke them.
Soldiers are checking their armoured vehicles in the desert terrain
Seven soldiers on Universal Carrier vehicles in the desert.
Soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade in various situations in the desert
Soldiers of the Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade in various situations in the desert. Among them are generals: Stanisław Kopański, Józef Zając (photo 009), colonel Ułanów and Łakiński, and Lieutenant Colonel Zaręba and Major Bobiński.
Soldiers of the Polish Independent Highland Brigade in France
Soldiers of the Polish Highland Brigade stand at the Chateau Brimiac. They are talking to each other and smoking.
Sosnkowski Congratulates the Pilots
The Polish Commander-in-Chief congratulates the Polish fighter pilots. The photo shows General Sosnkowski shaking hands with one of the pilots.
Sosnkowski During Aviation Inspection (UK)
Photo 001 shows the Polish commander-in-chief speaking with a non-commissioned commander who was shot down three times during the war. General Sosnkowski walks with fellow soldiers during his time visiting the Polish Units of the Tactical Air Force in Great Britain in Photo 002.
Stockroom of the Polish Red Cross
Three volunteers of the Polish Red Cross are in a stockroom. They are preparing medicine and doing inventory.

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