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


Stretching Exercises and Recreation in Polish Units
The photo shows the Polish soldiers outdoors. Some of the men are sitting under a tree reading. The leftover men are doing stretching exercises.
Survivors from ORP Grom
ORP "Grom" was sunk in combat by German planes in the Narvik fjord on May 4th, 1940. The photo shows survivors of "Grom" being rescued.
Tents for Polish Children Coming from the USSR
Camps in Tehran for Polish children who arrived from Russia. The photo shows children standing in front of tents.
Testing of armoured vehicles before attack
Two armoured vehicles Universal Carrier of the Independent Polish Carpathian Brigade in the desert.
The Anders' Army Sewing Military Uniforms in the Soviet Union
Tailors working under tents. They are sewing military uniforms.
The Arrival of Polish Troops in England (1)
Polish soldiers from Russia arrive at one of the British ports. Photo 006 shows a collection of soldiers on the English coast. In picture 010, Russian soldiers arrive at the port. Photo 013 shows the landing of soldiers in the UK. Four soldiers stand at the exit of the ship in photo 014.
The Arrival of Polish Troops in England (2)
Polish soldiers arrive in Great Britain. Photos 008 and 011 show Polish soldiers from Russia en route to their quarters in England. Photo 009 shows the youngest "17 year old" relating his impressions of the journey from Russia to England. In photo 012, Polish soldiers from Russia leave their boat in one of England's ports.
The Arrival of Polish Troops in England (3)
The Polish soldiers released from Soviet camps. In photo 002, the Polish soldiers are standing with American soldiers who helped release them. Photos 003 and 004 shows the arrival of the Polish soldiers to Scotland. They are sitting in the middle of a forest with their belongings.
The Arrival of Polish Troops in England (4)
Photos 001 and 007 show a crowd of Polish soldiers arriving in Great Britain. In photo 005, the Polish soldiers from Russia are on their way to their quarters somewhere in England. Soldiers stand with their belongings in photo 15.
The Arrival of Volunteers to the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service (United Kingdom) [1]
Photo 007 shows a women putting the final touches on their uniforms once becoming a soldier in the Polish Women's Army. Photo 009 shows women having their uniforms tailored. The women in their uniforms sip tea after arriving at a British port in photo 011. In photo 013, the female soldiers look at the concentration camp number tattooed by the Nazis on a forearm of one of the Auxiliary Service members.
The Arrival of Volunteers to the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service (United Kingdom) [2]
Polish female recruits arriving at a Polish A.T.S. Training Center in Scotland.
The Arrival of Volunteers to the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service (United Kingdom) [3]
Members of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service eat a meal at the canteen.
The Arrival of Volunteers to the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service (United Kingdom) [4]
Photo 001 shows members of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service arriving and being greeted at a British port. Photo 004 shows soldiers greeting new recruits at a training center in Scotland. In photo 006, the female soldiers admire their uniforms in the mirror.
The Arrival of Volunteers to the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service (United Kingdom) [5]
Both photos show the members of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service picking shoes to complete their uniform.
The Arrival of Volunteers to the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service (United Kingdom) [6]
Photo 003 shows members to the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service walking toward the equipment stores in a Scottish training camp. Photo 005 shows the memebrs of the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service being welcomed at a Scottish training camp.
The Arrival of a Group of Children from Soviet Russia
The arrival of a group of children from the USSR. The group is greeted by a Polish soldier. Everyone is dressed in winter coats.
The Child Salutes at a Camp in Tehran
A soldier and a child are saluting each other in the middle of a field. They are both dressed in uniforms.
The Duke of Kent on a Warship
Prince George, Duke of Kent visiting the Polish Navy at one of the British ports.
The Opening of a Polish Soldier House
The opening of the Polish soldiers' home in Edinburgh. From left to right: Stroński, Gen. Januszajtis-Żegota, Gen. Kukiel, and Miss Washington who is in charge of the Soldier's Home.
The Polish Paderewski Hospital in Edinburgh
Polish Medical School at Edinburgh University. Finding that among the Polish forces in Scotland were many medical officers who had held academic positions in Polish universities and students of medicine whose studies had been interrupted by the war it was decided that facilities for their further studies should be provided at a Polish medical school at Edinburgh University. Medical officers of academic standing were permitted to work there and students to go up for refresher courses from 3 to 6 months, graduate and return to the army as reinforcements for the medical services. Female Polish students also attended. The first photo shows a military ambulance full of sick soldiers arriving at the Paderewski Hospital in Edinburgh. The second photo depicts dental equipment presented by America in the dental clinic attached to the Polish hospital and named after Paderewski. The third photo shows the female ward of the Paderewski Hospital. The fourth shows a corner of the ward for Polish forces named for Mrs. Kellogg of America.
The Signing of Warsaw's Capitulation (Starzyński)
The surrender of the city of Warsaw after a month's defense. Fourth from the left is seen Major Starzynski, Chief of the defense of Warsaw.
The fire of depots and fuel tanks in Machili
Two photographs depicting fires of warehouses and fuel depots in Mechili, Libya.
The funeral of General Sikorski
A delegation of members of the Polish Government and officials with Mrs. Sikorska paid tribute to General Sikorski on the first anniversary of his death. They paid a visit to the grave in the Polish Air Force Cemetery at Newark. The Guard of Honor members of the Polish Air Force stand at the graveside.
Three Crouching Polish Soldiers
The photo shows three soldiers in the middle of a conversation. Two of the men are crouching, and one of the men sitting and leaning on a wall.
Three Girls after their Arrival from Exile
The photo shows three girls after arriving from exile. The girls are happy and smiling since they are free.
Three Polish Soldiers During a Conversation
The photo shows three soldiers interacting with one another. Two of the soldiers are talking while one is reading a book. One of the soldiers is holding signal flags in his hands.
Three Polish Soldiers From Different Services During a Conversations
The photo shows members of the Polish Navy, infantry, and motorized units. The soldiers are having a conversation and smoking cigarettes.
Thumbs up!
The photo shows a soldier giving a thumbs up next to an automobile. The car has a thumbs up design on its mudguard.
Training of the Parachute Brigade (1)
Parachute troop training. Photo 017 show soldiers preparing a parachute. Soldiers are walking toward a plane in photo 018. Photo 019 shows the parachute troops boarding a plane. The soldiers are being spoken to in photo 020.
Training of the Parachute Brigade (2)
The photos show the parachute troops landing on the ground. Their parachutes are still open as they land in a field.
Training of the Parachute Brigade (3)
A demonstration of paratroop training. The first course of training is learning the correct way to land. This is taught by means of pupils jumping from a tower with the chute controlled by a cable. Pupils descending from the tower.
Training of the Parachute Brigade (4)
The photos show parachute troops jumping out of airplanes. The soldiers float through the sky with their parachutes open.
Training of the Parachute Brigade (5)
Land and water training of the parachute troops. Photos 031 and 045 show the soldiers training in a river. A soldier is climbing a cliff in photo 041.
Training of the Parachute Brigade (7)
The photos show explosions that occured during paratroop training sessions.
Training of the Parachute Brigade (8)
Parachute troops training on wooden equipment and obstacles. The photos show the men running, climbing, and crouching as they undergo training.
Training of the Polish Pilots (England)
Poles train to fight with the Royal Air Force in the northwest of England. The photo shows the air pilots paying attention to a lecture.
Trenches in the desert near Gazala
A stone fortified entrenchment built in the desert.
Two Boys Carrying a Bucket of Water in a Polish Camp in Tehran
1943, a Polish camp in Tehran. Two boys are working together to carry a bucket of water.
Two Children After Arriving from the Soviet Union
1941. Polish children in the USSR rescued by Anders' Army sanitary services. The children sit on stools.
Two Motorcycle Riders
The photo shows two soldiers wearing motorcycle attire and helmets. One of the soldiers is raising the other's arm. They seem to be celebrating something. There is a forest behind the men.
Two Polish Infantrymen in Great Britain
The photo shows two soldiers in a field. One of the soldiers is pointing at something in the distance, and the other soldiers looks in that direction.
Two Polish Women Rescued by the Anders' Army
1942. Two older Polish women, rescued from the USSR by Anders' Army, at a Poles camp in Iran.
Two Polish sailors with a naval gun in the background
Two soldiers stand on the deck of an unidentified warship. One of the men is checking the rope. The other one observes him. A naval gun is behind them.
Two ships of a convoy
Two ships sailing in convoy.
Two soldiers on a rocky desert
Two soldiers near a truck on a rocky desert. One is holding the Bren machine gun.
Unidentified Polish destroyer in the sea
A Polish destroyer sailing on rough water.
Universal Carrier vehicle with two soldiers in the desert
A Universal Carrier armored vehicle in the desert with two standing Polish soldiers.
Vice Admiral Świrski at the Swearing in of the Sailors
Admiral Świrski (right foreground) and Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Forbes before ceremony of swearing in of Polish personnel.
Vice Admiral Świrski on the ORP Piorun
The photos show Vice Admiral Świrski commander in chief of the Polish Navy visiting the destroyer "Piorun." Świrski came to inspect the navy.
Vice-Admiral Swirski with Prime Minister Churchill
Commander of the Polish Navy, Vice-Admiral Jerzy Świrski presenting a silver plaque to Prime Minister Churchill in commemoration of the fourth anniversary of comradeship between the Polish and British Navies.


Islandora Bookmark