Friday, 3 May 2019

LEW SZOSZKIES



He was born in Charkow, Russia (now Ukraine) on 17th march 1920, the son of Henryk and Nadzieja (nee Wilner) and grew up in a loving home in Warsaw where he completed his educational studies before leaving to spend a year each in college at Antwerp, Belgium and at the London School of Economics in England.

On his return to Poland, he would normally have been drafted to do his two years military training but he was called up indefinitely for War Service.  He fought through the September Campaign in Poland and was one of the many who were forced to cross the border into Romania where they were disarmed and interned.
 
However, there was considerable sympathy with the Poles at this early stage of the war and relatively small bribes were all that was needed for a guard to look the other way whilst they simply walked out of the camp.  The Polish Government had an excellent network to help these men with money, travel documents and false ID papers to get them out of Romania under the eyes of the many Gestapo agents placed in that country.

There is no clear evidence of which route he used to leave the country but what is certain is that he arrived at Coetquidan and rejoined the Polish military with the Ist Brigade of infantry on 14th November 1939.  This was a short lived arrangement as he was selected for Air Force training and is recorded as having arrived here on 30th June 1940 which means he left France at the very last minute but remained as a corporal with the Polish Infantry until he formally joined the Polish Air Force, Service No 709549, on 8th June 1942 and began his initial training at RAF Squires Gate on the Blackpool complex.  This consisted mainly of Drill, learning the King's Regulations and English language training.  This was relatively easy for him as he was already fluent in English, French, Russian and Hebrew as well as his native Polish.

His initial recommendation was for pilot training but he was re-mustered to train as a navigator and began that training on 1st August 1942 at No 8 Air Observer School at Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec which is now Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport and spent several months in Canada training on Avro Anson aircraft.  He left with a glowing report from the CO of that school and returned to England on 12th January 1943. 

However, his training was not over and he spent two weeks at No 5 Air Observers School at RAF Jurby on the Isle of Man and two months at the No 3 School of General Reconaissance which indicates that he was already destined for 304 Squadron as this school specialised in marine training.

He was then sent to 6 OTU (Operational Training Unit) and briefly to 3 OTU where he learned the fighting tactics used by the British and Polish air forces.  It was also a place where the crews were encouraged to come together and learn the teamwork and trust that their lives might depend on in hostile action.  Finally, his crew were sent to 304 Squadron on 31st December 1943.  The initial crew was F/Lt T.P. Kolanko (first pilot), F/Sgt T. Boba (second pilot), Sgt L. Szoszkies (navigator), Sgt M. Kyczkiewicz (Wireless operator/air gunner), Sgt I. Neumann (air gunner), Sgt S. Slowik (Wireless operator/air gunner).  They were initially based at RAF Predannack in Cornwall.
Group photo at 6 OTU, Silloth Cumberland (now Cumbria)
Several of these men served with him
 
Sgt Szoszkies flew 44 hostile sorties with the squadron always at low level and for many hours over featureless seas and frequently in very bad weather but it was a vital task and kept the U-boats submerged and at slow speed to prevent detection.  For the hunters it was a long boring drag where concentration had to be maintained because of the low level at which they were flying.  For the hunted because it kept them away from their prey and it kept them from recharging their batteries and discharging the foul air and carbon monoxide that was building up inside their submarines.  This was 1943/1944 when the Allies were beginning to take control of the Battle of the Atlantic and U-boat losses were mounting rapidly
 
 
Handwritten note of his reposting to 304 Squadron

 
On 6th January 1945, his long tour of duty expired and he was posted back to the Polish Depot at Blackpool from where he was then posted for an Officer Training Course which he completed and was then returned to the Squadron on 11th May 1945 and the War had been over for 3 days.  He was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 5th May 1944 and Warrant Officer on 13th August 1945.  He remained with304 Squadron until 6th May 1946 when he was transferred back to Polish HQ before being demobilised on 16th July 1946.  His promotion to 2nd Lieutenant came through on the same day as his discharge from the Polish Air Force.  After re-entering civilian life he rejoined his family in the United States of America where he had a successful career in Industry.
 
In recognition of his war service, he had been awarded the Krzyz Walecznych (Cross of Valour) on 27th September 1944.  He was ganted a bar to that award on 7th December 1944 and a second bar on 7th September 1945.  He was also awarded the Polish Air Medal and British Campaign medals.

At the time of his death, in October 1983, at the early age of 63, he had been President of Panasonic in Canada for 16 years transferring there from the US division and virtually starting it from scratch.  He was a success in both military and civil life.  He had changed the spelling, though not the pronunciation of his surname to Shoskes when he rejoined his family in the USA
An Obituary Notice appeared in the National Post in Toronto on 22nd October 1983 - see below


 

 

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

EWALD WAWRZYNIAK


He was born on 7th May 1917 at Kalisz, Poznan, Poland and went through all the normal stages of school and National Service but he was born in difficult times and on 18th December 1938 he was recalled to military service as everyone in Poland knew that war was coming.  He was posted to 3 Pulk Lotniczy in Posnan where he was inducted into the Polish Army aviation branch (there was no separate Air Force at this stage) as an electrician and fitter.
He was involved in all the hurried preparations for what everyone feared would happen and he was directly involved in the fighting from the German Invasion on 1st September until his capture on the 17th of that month.  It is not clear how he was captured by the Russians as the fighting around Posnan and Lodz was with the Germans.  It must be assumed that he was with a retreating group when the Russians attacked from behind.

In any event, he was sent to a Prisoner of War camp at Tockoje in Russia where he was interned until Hitler launched  Operation Barbarossa and treacherously attacked his former allies.  The Russians were forced to release the Polish prisoners under an "amnesty" on condition that they either joined the British or Russian forces to fight the Germans.  The Poles did not like the idea of an amnesty since it implied that they had done something wrong.  However they accepted it because it was their ticket to freedom and the only way they were going  to escape from the Soviet Union. 

He was released as part of the first batch of 30,000 Poles in the week from 24th-31st March 1942 and was marched the five kilometres to the Tockoje railway station which sat astride the main line from Buzuluk to Czkalow (now Orenburg) which was very close to the Kazakhstan border.  At this stage his commanding officer was General Michal Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski who had been the Senior Polish Officer in the camp and was, by this time, second in command to General Anders and the senior recruiter for the newly forming Anders' Army.

The men moved on en masse towards Krasnovodsk in Kazakhstan with the sole intention of getting out of the Soviet Union and into British held territory in the Middle East.  From this port they boarded any and every vessel they could to cross the Caspian Sea to Persia (now Iran) to the port of Pahlevi where they were given the chance of a hot bath, good food and decent clothing (British uniform).  They were separated into two tented encampments on the beach where natural winds circulated and there was at least some chance of controlling the spread of disease.  Most of them, even those not already infected by diseases, were suffering malnutrition brought on by hard work and a totally inadequate diet.

Although a lot of civilians had travelled with the new members of Anders' Army, most of the men were destined to serve in the North African campaign in Libya and Egypt or in the Italian campaign at Monte Cassino where it was finally the Poles who took the hill and won the battle.  However a number were selected to go directly to Great Britain where there was a desperate need for trained air crew and ground crew with aviation skills.  Ewald fell amongst this group and was one of the first of those released by the Russians to reach Britain.  It was to be his destiny to maintain the aircraft of the Polish squadrons in Britain.

His route is unknown but it was one of many tortuous routes to avoid the U-Boats and the concentrations of Luftwaffe fighters.  He actually arrived at the Polish Depot - a group of RAF sites in the Blackpool area - on 8th July 1942.  Within a week he had been attached to 302 Polish fighter squadron but this was really only a paper transaction and he was physically posted to No 14 School of Technical Training at RAF Henlow, Bedfordshire on 6th August 1942 where he remained until 11th March 1943 when he was posted to 304 Squadron servicing Wellington Bombers initially at RAF Dale, Pembrokeshire, Wales moving to RAF Docking, Norfolk on 30th March 1943  and RAF Davidstow Moor, Cornwall on 10th June 1943.

Ewald is 3rd from left with 304 Squadron
Ewald, left, sitting on the tail of a bomb
On 27th October 1943 he was transferred to 302 Fighter Squadron (part of 84 Group, 131 Wing of the 2nd Tactical Air Force (2TAF) at RAF Chailey near Burgess Hill, Sussex which was created as a support airfield for the impending invasion of Continental Europe.  On 1st August 1944 he embarked for the Continent where he would spend most of the rest of the War maintaining the  fighters of 302    Squadron.

Ewald with a 317 Squadron Spitfire on the Continent
 
Two pictures of Ewald's Continental "office"
 
This one is not for repair!
 After his return to England he joined the Polish Resettlement Corps  on 11th March 1947.  This was effectively his termination of service even though he was now technically employed by the Royal Air Force for a period of up to two years.  This arrangement meant that he would have a source of income and a place to live until he had assimilated into civilian society.  However, he soon found a job as a spinner and later as a cloth examiner with Coppull Ring Mill in Coppull near Chorley in Lancashire.

Publication of his British Naturalisation
 
Thereafter he became a Registered Alien and this meant he could only move his location or change his job with the permission of the Ministry of Labour.  This lasted until he became a British Citizen on 21st May 1951 a fact that was recorded in the London Gazette of 20th July 1951.  He did eventually change his job and spent the rest of his working life in electrical trades.  He married Marion Baxendale and had a son and a daughter and lived happily until his death on 7th August 1994.
























Ewald's Polish RAF record
 
As an end note, a charming little story told to me by his daughter: when Ewald was leaving to join the Polish Air Force he went into a little shop near where he lived and asked could he have some cigarettes and could he pay on his first leave, the lady in the shop let him have them but he never went back as he was deported to Siberia. He did not return until 1969 with his wife and children on a holiday to visit his family.  The shop was still there and when he went in to pay for the cigarettes the same lady was behind the counter, she wanted to let him off but he insisted he was paying for them!

A selection of photographs follows, showing Ewald, by now known as Edward, at his wedding on 29th April 1949, with his wife and children and with his wife in later life. 
All pictures are courtesy of his daughter Anne Whittaker

 







Tuesday, 30 October 2018

RETURN TO DUTY

After a significant absence due to ill health and a serious heart condition, I am delighted to say that I have been given the all clear and I am now fit enough to return to my researches.  For those of you who were waiting for me to complete stories - please be patient.  The first of the pending stories will appear soon and the rest will follow as fast as I am able to complete them.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

THIS BLOG'S FIRST EVER AWARD

 
After 10 years of research, I was recently invited to take a trip to Poland to be present at a ceremony in honour of 304 Squadron and it's adoption by the 44th Naval Aviation Base at Siemirowice on the Baltic coast.  This is the military group who now perform the anti-submarine warfare and air sea rescue functions previously performed by 304 Squadron and they have painted one of their aircraft in the livery of 304 Squadron - a nice gesture - in memory of those who died..
 
The nominal purpose was the presentation of a drawing of NZ-E to the base by Alastair Graham whose father was the first Senior British Liaison Officer responsible for the running of the Squadron during WWII.  He did not polish a chair with the seat of his pants and was a fighting Officer who was killed in action when his Wellington Bomber was shot down over Germany early in the War.
 
There is still a strong relationship between the 44th Naval Aviation Base, families of Poles from the Squadron who still live in Britain, the Air Cadets in Hastings who also memorialise 304 Squadron and Polish and British military historians.  This was very evident on the day.
 
The big surprise, for me, was being called up to receive an award from the base commander for my work in keeping alive the memory of the Polish Airmen who fought from Britain after Poland and France had been overwhelmed.  The Islands of Last Hope as the Poles affectionately called us.  They had an equally affectionate name for the Wellington Bomber, which they loved, - they called it the Flying Cow.
 
I was deeply touched to receive this award and to be so royally treated by the many Poles who attended the ceremony.  My special thanks go to Alastair Graham who arranged for me to attend in the first place.
 
I would also especially like to thank Jarek Andrychowski (former base commander), Andrzej Szczotka (current base commander), Eugeniusz Boblinski (former Senior Officer) and the military historians Mariusz Konarski, Wojciech Matusiak and Milosz Rusiecki (with whom I have corresponded and co-operated over the years) and finally Jarek's mother who provided hospitality in her home after the event - she too was a pilot in her day!
 
It was an honour and an experience I will never forget.


Saturday, 8 April 2017

OSWALD WALDEMAR KRYDNER - Part 3


I am sitting in a little grove by the Mediterranean Sea. Michał is making breakfast. Our guns are sitting on racks, the troops are resting. An hour ago... We arrived at a tiny station. There the train was unloaded. Our things went to the port by cars. And we are walking. We are very close to the Spanish border. The Pyrenees rise beautifully over our heads, and the sea hums below. Two Italian planes flew overhead.  A string of cars moves along the road. I think the French will be loading. We are 8 km from the harbour, waiting for further orders. I think it’ll get hot when we get there.

 
I made a tent out of my straw mattress and we were to sleep in the woods. All of a sudden, “Get up! We’re off!” We packed up and were at the station by 10 in the evening. We loaded onto cattle cars and at 1 am left again for the unknown. 30 men to a car and loads of luggage.I sat all night, my legs went numb and I couldn’t move. A new day dawned. A great long train, about 1000 men, was tearing west. We are headed for the Atlantic coast. The transport is very slow, the tracks are jammed. One question – can we get there in time?

 
Wine barrels are lined up, the French have allowed our boys a drink. Imagine, a mob of men with canteens, shoving each other by a wine barrel. Food is our worst problem. All we’ve had since yesterday is some spam – one can for two men – and bread. Chrzanowski is a decent fellow. He’s been feeding his platoon with his own money: today he put in 100 francs for food, and he cares for his men.

 
I had a slice of bread with left over spam for breakfast, and that’s to last me for the rest of the day. The fat reserves I collected in Toussieu have run out and hunger is tormenting me. We are 50 km from the sea. We’ve passed the town of Lourdes.  I saw a chapel by the river near the church. Oh, this France is a lovely place, only the French people are a degenerate nation and worthless. They, unlike the Poles, don’t treasure their country.

 
Today I will tell you much. So where am I? On a large English vessel, I lie on a mattress on the floor. It’s a miracle I got this spot. Just a moment ago I was getting soaked on the upper deck. A terrible storm is raging. I tried to go up to the upper deck and was nearly blown off by the gale. We have sailed out of the harbour at Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Where to? We do not know. Two large carriers have lifted anchor. We are escorted by 4 English destroyers. Our vessel is overloaded, more than 6000 passengers. Air force and infantry, all ours, many women, English and French.
 
Oh God, how awful the boarding was, not from a pier but from boats, and the waves were dreadful. 20 at a time approached and up the ladder, without our things, as there was no way. We pulled up the stuff by ropes. Our Arandora Star is a true colossus. One can wander about for hours. Thankfully, there is a storm. Had the weather been any better, we’d be boarding under German bombs. Oh! I write and the ship rocks so. The vessel is like a little nutshell tossed by waves.

 
And now let me go back a little.  At 4 in the morning we got off the train. And we waited to board the ship until 12. Truly London-like traffic. I felt sorry for the Polish women who had come to France. Here, the poor souls, rove about with their children, exhausted, emaciated. A heart-breaking sight. I must note that many Poles would not leave and decided to stay. French people joined us in their place. True Frenchmen want to fight, but they are few. I learned much about the front today, about how the French fought, or rather how they fled. They are the worst cowards, ugh, repulsive spawn. Now all I ask of God is to lead us safely, without accidents, as it does not take much to bomb a colossus like this.
 
Good morning, Ha! You would not recognize me now. I am on the upper deck, our company is on duty. With guns. We have an HMG and hand rifles. Two are at the stern. Destroyers on either side.  A carrier and a destroyer in front of us. Though a submarine or aircraft could approach us and do their job.  But I say: it is God’s will, not Hitler’s. France signed peace yesterday and surrendered her fleet to Germany. Oh, she will pay dearly for this.  Ah! I am ashamed to say, I couldn’t take yesterday’s waves and tossed my cookies. I wasn’t alone – there was a queue at the shipside. But the ship did sway – water was up to the third deck, it’s no joke. Today it’s died down a bit. We have loads of food, though they do not cook.  Only we cannot eat.  Cans, coffee, chocolate, fruit. Oh. The English are not like the French. I had a dream that I was in Africa, and where we are going – no-one knows.  We are headed north-west.
 
The convoy is going in a zigzag. The weather has improved. Binoculars are scanning the sky. A magnificent convoy.
 
Everyone sleeps with a life vest for a pillow. It’s good to have friends. I’m in cabin no. 212. It’s crowded, but warm and merry. Plenty of marmalade and jam. One of the chaps nicked 16 one-kilo cans from the French. We have enough to eat. The preserves made me sick.  France had much to offer, but not to us. Many of our boys went hungry on the French soil. It will not be forgotten.
 
 
Good morning, It’s a lovely day, though the ship sways a little. We can see land on the starboard side and three sail boats, it must be Ireland or England – who knows, it’s still a far off. I’ve been sitting on the upper deck all day, to stay out of my cabin.
 
At 4 in the afternoon we had a concert on the upper deck. It was lovely. Sweet violin music drifted through the hum of the wind, the creak of ropes and the rush of waves. “Aircraft overhead!” – and yes, a sea-plane appeared on the horizon. Guns clicked. A moment of anticipation. It’s ours, British. The plane flew low over the chimney, banked and disappeared in the distance.

 
I had a pleasant encounter. I was standing in the crowd, when I heard someone call, “Wal!” – that’s what they called me in Słonim. I turn around, and there they are, two officers. Włodek Jakimowicz and another one, whose name I can’t remember. My classmates and childhood friends. We had a great few hours. So many memories... and of all places – we meet on the ocean. All the time, wherever I go, I run into people. Tadek Hagenbart – he’s shot down a Heinkel.

 
Oh, many, but many more France has buried forever. God, so much Polish blood has been shed – for whom? From the armoured brigade, 200 men came back. Of the tank company of 180 men, only four. I am just writing these numbers to give you an idea. Where the Poles were, there was the hardest fight, there Germans were getting beat, and where the English were. But where the French manned a section, there the Fritzes pushed forward without trouble. They threw down their arms and fled. They have thousands of planes, but they did nothing and would not let our boys fly, either.
 
We are reaching the English coast. We disembark tomorrow, and then?

 
I was up early to see land ahead. England. A great many ships going to and fro. We’ve been told sensational news. We are all dead, for our vessel, the Arandora Star has been sunk on the Atlantic. Only two Poles survived. The announcement from the German staff was greeted with cascades of laughter.

 
The Arandora Star reached the port of Liverpool at 8:00 in the morning on 27th June. It’s a beautiful harbour. We are berthed in England. The ship is unloaded. Our company was the last to disembark, at 1600 hours. We marched out of the port in threes, to the train station, which wasn’t far, 1 km. As we went through the city, we were greeted by cheering crowds. And our troops moved through rows of people who had gathered to see us. The soldiers’ tired faces were beaming with joy. We were so kindly received. Oh, this is not France. When we reached the station, a train was already waiting for our group. After going south-west for an hour, we got off to form ranks of three and march for 10 km. Cheerfully and with song on our lips, we started down a pleasant road.

 
Here I can see the famous English order, here I can see culture, but not in France.  It’s heaven and earth. Clean and pleasant homes, lovely little gardens, flowers.  Kind, smiling faces. We pass by a school for girls. Oh, what enthusiasm!  The song stopped, the company did an “eyes left”. I thought the girls would fall out of the windows.  We have gone on quite a distance, but we can still hear their squeals.  Private buses have come to fetch us.  A little moment more and we get off and enter an old mansion. This place feels like camp, hundreds of tents are lined up, smells from the mess tease the palate. Evening is falling. We will spend this night on English soil, literally – on a blanket under an oak tree.

 
Oh, what a marvellous night, I slept next to Michał. It was warm. I had a good breakfast, and will now look around for a lake or river.  But wait, first we must set up our tent. Oh, and a few words about our vessel.  It has been attacked from the air 36 times, once damaged, and it has sunk two German submarines.

 
I am in the tent now.  We’ve put up a pretty little tent and I’ve gathered some grass for a bed, eaten some preserves and have nothing to do now. I must wash my things and myself, and I will go to bed early tonight. It’s a lovely place, but I am unhappy.  We won’t stay here long. We, Polish “exiled soldiers”.
 
I have guard commander duty today. The weather is lovely. Everyone’s sunbathing, the place looks like a beach. There’s been a concert, such beautiful music and singing. The professor, “the Legend”, played marvellously. Today our officer cadets rebelled. I thought we were in for a bit of fun. Our company was resting in front of the tents, armed, when General Ujejski clashed with them by the woods. It’s over now. Oh, those cadets made trouble in France and now they’re starting the same here. They’ll get what they’re asking for. I made friends with a few English boys today, fine chaps, I could go to the front with them. They are not like the French, gutless cowards and scoundrels.
 
I am in a new place now, 120 km north of the other camp. We are by the sea. I am sitting on my lovely bed and it’s after lunch. It’s a beautiful and clean place. This is a whole other world. Beds, mattresses.  Oh, it’s been a long time since I’ve slept like this.  What next? I don’t know.  I am soon going for a bath and a medical...

 
The day is filled with administrative affairs.  Checking, records, etc. I am sad today, Not many of us have arrived here in England. I am one of a handful of exiles.  Men who have not lost hope and decided to fight until the end.  Here, work awaits us, but not the kind we had in France. Hitler will strike here any day now. We will go from crater to crater, but we will endure. There will be no cowardice, no flight.
 
The main announcement of the day, dated 2nd July: Our vessel which brought us here, the Arandora Star, sank on July 2 off of the west coast of Ireland. She carried German and Italian POWs, 1700 men, besides the crew. Of those, 700 were rescued – the others rest at the bottom of the ocean, including the captain. That torpedo was aimed at us. Hitler wanted to sink the Poles – but he sank his own. The ship was headed for Canada. What happened aboard, only he can imagine who has been there and knew that 26,000-ton colossus.  And what would have happened to us, had a torpedo hit us? There were almost 6000 of us. And all would have gone down.


Important news.The French fleet has been disbanded. Part of the French fleet did not yield to the government in France and came to England, submitting to her command. The rest rejected the conditions offered by Britain to the French fleet – and they were as follows: either the fleet joins that of the Royal Navy or her vessels will be held in Britain and returned to France after the war, or the French will destroy or sink them immediately. France has rejected those conditions. So it’s done. The English have attacked the French fleet from air and sea, sinking almost all of their vessels. One battleship escaped. The French fleet moored in Alexandria and England has been disarmed and taken over by British crews. Beautifully done, England, bravo.

 
We are proud of the English, and the English – of us. There aren’t any here that will betray and flee; those who remain are ready to fight, and fight until the end. Our town is called Kirkham.  I have been appointed a squad leader. Yesterday we were given 10 shillings each from the King. We are being photographed, listed, etc. So for now we haven’t got much to do. We are resting, eating well, fruit preserves, eggs and other delicious titbits. This isn’t France – each room has a bathroom and lavatories – this is real culture and order.  We here on this little island, God with us, will hold fast and win.
 
We are slowly turning into Englishmen. Oh, those beautiful things we’ve been given. We had a bit of a drill today. We showed the English what we’ve got. They were thrilled. I like those English awfully. So kind, polite, oh, in a word, this is anything but France. We’ve forgotten all about the war. We don’t hear the scream of bombs or see enemy planes. But this will not be much longer. This silence is foreboding.

 
A lot of our English chaps came yesterday, who have been here for a long time. Many have already been deployed, other live 18 km away, in a seaside resort, in guest houses. They say they’ve never lived so well. We are in barracks, but even our huts are like palaces. England – here is culture, wealth. In France we were always questioned about why we weren’t fighting, but here no one mocks us for having crossed the Romanian border. With these men I would walk through fire.
 
A great celebration took place in Bergen today. Germans decorated their soldiers for valour in battle. The English took advantage of it. And the RAF very efficiently decorated them with wooden crosses. More than 100 were killed on the spot. The British offensive in Libya. On the first day they advanced 60 km. The Italian fleet on the Red Sea has been destroyed, and on the Mediterranean they’ve hid on the Adriatic. Roosevelt has agreed to run for president. This is the news of the day. Oh, but the most important: every night German cities and factories are set on fire by RAF bombs.

 
I think I will go to Blackpool today, there’s a camp of ours, our English friends. A whole gang of us are going. I am worried about Piotrek. I haven’t had any news of him. I do hope he gets here safely. I must have caught a cold, but where? When? A bit of a headache and pain in the chest.  Just like I had after the journey from Romania.
 
I went with Michał in a double-decker bus to Blackpool. We spent no more than 3 ½ hoursthere. 3 ½ hours, but filled with excitement, thrill and wonder. First of all, I met Heniek Niemiro and a whole group of friends. French and English soldiers came together. They live by the seaside, in beautiful guest houses, like civilians, only wearing uniforms. The King takes care of their bills. They live beautifully, as if on holiday. I did not speak with them long.

 
The whole town is packed with airmen, and almost everyone with a girl. Officers lay on beach chairs in front of villas, the sea murmurs and laps at the shore. We went to the funfair. Woo-hoo, all that is there! I tell you, one of the world’s wonders. This is a great big chest that gobbles up pounds. I did not take part in any of the diversions, but I bought 4 postcards. I ordered an English textbook – I will study, I like this language.  I have seen many things, but something like this – never. Blackpool is one of the largest sea resorts in Europe and in England. What gardens, flowers, simply a fairy tale. My camera is in Blackpool, at a repair shop. I will go there on Thursday, I think. We had 2 plates each of fish and chips and I was back by 10:00. Today I’m studying English. It’s a busy day, with lectures, briefings, etc.

 
The weather here is disgusting. England is beautiful, but the weather beastly.  Mutual bombardment goes on incessantly. Germany is preparing an offensive against us. We are waiting, day after day, hour after hour. Here is where they will strike the hardest. Churchill said, London will sooner be turned to rubble and the people lost than Britain will surrender to Germany.  Here they will have a hard job to do – England is not France.
 
And here, we cannot get through the street without being swarmed by children with their autograph books and notebooks, begging us to write something for them. It makes me sad. They treat us like heroes. No orders, no badges, just a French air force uniform, the uniform of a disgraced army – no more.

 
It looks like I might leave here soon. The 4th Air Regiment is organising units. Oh, to get into a unit. Halinka, how terrible this waiting is. But we will have our turn. Hundreds of planes fight in the air every day. Today Hitler was to hold a parade in London. It’s not happening somehow.  Well, yesterday was fun enough. 1000 German planes made a sortie over Great Britain. They accomplished nothing, lost 147 machines. We wait, the war dance will begin any day now. I’m on duty today.

 
I leave for Blackpool in half an hour. I have been detailed. I will be deployed in the first wave. Where and how I am still to find out. I am the only one from photo to go, from this camp. I will be doing something at last. What it will be – is of no consequence to me. Whether I fly in photo missions or work in the lab.

 
I am in Blackpool now. I am staying on St. Helen St., in a beautiful guest house. Piotruś lives 50 m away. I am so glad. I am with the first bomb squadron. I am glad to be the first to go and to be deployed with the first unit. We leave on Wednesday. Maj Wojda, my chief from Flight 41, is the squadron’s deputy commander, under L/Cpl Biały. Many of our officers are there. Daab, who came with us in a sailboat.  Kuszczyński, Cap tStenczuk, Lewandowski. I am in the technical group, under Lt Pianowski, also from Toruń. And most importantly, Piotruś is with me. We were sent out from Kirkham in a ceremony, by the bishop. The bishop said a personal farewell to each one. Then we had a parade and went to the train station.

 
I have 15 minutes. I’ve had a delicious breakfast, eggs and ham and tea, and we are soon off to be transformed from Frenchmen to Englishmen. We are going to pick up our uniforms. And the day after tomorrow – we go on... Soon our planes will begin carrying pills for the Fritz.  We have plenty to talk to them about. Our time is coming. Our fighters have long since joined the British. We are about to start pounding. The English bomb Germany day and night, without stopping.
 
Well, well, I hardly recognise myself, 100% an Englishman. I wonder if you’d recognize me. We’ve been given first-class equipment. Undergarments, boots, oh, what have we not been given. A whole bagful, I could hardly carry it all. Tomorrow we go for a medical and that’s it.
 
We leave today. We’ve had roll call, now I wait for 12:00. We are to be at the train station at 2. I had an awful night, kept dreaming of raids and bombings. Well, that is something we will not be short of at the airfield. For that I am ready.


Well, we might be leaving at last. We are to report to roll call at 9:30 to find out. I wish I could run away from people, forget the way they live here. You never see a worried or sad face on an Englishman. The war, the air raids, the bombings are in full swing, but none of it frightens the English. They believe in their ultimate victory and pay no mind to the cost. Yes, this nation can win more than one war. By their common sense, healthy government and lumps of gold. We, on the other hand, came short of all those things.

 
I am now at the Bramcote airfield near the town of Nuneaton. Last night after dinner we got comfortable and ready to sleep. 11 pm – alarm... Sirens scream – awfully. I ask Piotr, ‘Piotr, do you hear it?’ Some English chaps popped in and told us to go down into the shelter. I dressed slowly and we went down to the cellar, where there is a special shelter. I snuggled up in a corner and dozed off. I don’t know how long I was asleep. The alarm was called off. Cursing Hitler for interrupting our sleep, I got back into bed. Maybe an hour, maybe two hours passed. Same story. But this time we didn’t go to the shelter. I wrapped myself up tightly in blankets so as not to hear the howling of the sirens, and tried to sleep. A German machine began roaring overhead. Searchlights were groping about in the sky. Some of the men ran down to the shelter. I could not sleep. I strained my ears for the familiar scream of bomb. I heard artillery fire twice and that was all. But our night was not over. The same story happened before the break of dawn. Those beasts would not let us sleep.
 
Last night provided some excitement. The fun started at about 10. Fantastic – with a thrill... Somewhere high overhead, German planes passed over the clear background of the sky. Hundreds of searchlights groped about with their tentacles, painting a lovely web of lights. The artillery roared, and the hollow burst of shells came from somewhere above. It was a beautiful show, Piotr and I stood and admired it. There were quite a few planes. It was late when I went to bed. But the fun was not over. I had just dropped off when a volley hit someplace nearby. One of the bombs burst with a hollow bang, must have been a stray.

 
Last night brought us new shows. There were a few small clouds. We waited for the alarm, as usual. But it didn’t come. We went to bed. Suddenly, it’s light outside. Hop to the windows. Rockets (tracer bombs).The bastards came over at high altitude, trying to illuminate us. It looked lovely and it was quite bright. Then we waited for explosions. But they didn’t come. Even artillery was silent. We heard a few volleys at 1 am – bombs. You could see the afterglow.

 
Today I spent the day on preparing the equipment. It is difficult work. I don’t know the equipment, there is an Englishman who teaches me, but he speaks English and I still have a hard time. I must read and write in English and that is very difficult.
 
Last night was, I believe, the worst so far.  It was impossible to sleep and few managed it, I fell asleep after midnight.  Once the fun started with nightfall, it went on until morning.  A lot of planes played a part. They came at high altitude. They illuminated the area and scattered bombs. Not on us, for now.  We waited all night for the bombs to plough our airfield.  But they spared us. They only passed over us on their way to pound some industrial towns. They are menacing to look at. This war is terrible.  We – I understand, but what have those women and children done to deserve it?  ? But this is nothing compared to what happened in Poland. Though night raids are very unpleasant. It seems that we won’t have one quiet night here. We’ll just have to get used to the noise and racket and sleep calmly.
 
I have guard duty this afternoon. I’ll spend the whole night with the planes in the airfield. I like this sort of thing, as long as it doesn’t rain, but tonight the sky is strewn with clouds.
 
Oh, but it is the first of September. I forgot... The first anniversary of this dreadful war. Today is a year since we began without arms, without preparation, an uneven fight. Knowing we would lose... The September campaign speaks for itself. Romania – camp, escape. Then vast seas, scorching sands – France.  Our time in France, full of hope in a swift victory – desire to fight, dreams of Poland.  The fall of France. That was a terrible blow for us. The journey to the sea. That was interesting, too. Boarding the ship – 64 hours on the sea – Britain, Kirkham – Blackpool – Bramcote. This is our vagrant life. Often hungry – cold, barefoot, ah, we have been up and down. But all that can be described, can be told.
Many thanks to Barbara Poulter for access to her father's documents and photos
Special thanks also to Kresy-Siberia who originally translated the documents

OSWALD WALDEMAR KRYDNER - Part 2


He came. It was dark – we left the room. Sneaking through the gardens, wading in the mud, we made our way to the Russian’s (Romanian’s) hut. Luckily, no one saw us. The Russian knew why we’d come. I gave him 200 lei, we talked over the plan and sat waiting for a train. I wanted to get into the little cab at the cistern car, but he talked me out of it. The locomotive would be a better bet.

 
Time dragged on slowly, lazily. Long after clocks had stricken midnight, still there was no train in sight... It might not come... The tracks might be damaged or something else happened. Another hour passed. It was no use waiting any longer. We must try again tomorrow. We sneaked out of the hut and went back to my quarters the same way we had come. I was asleep in no time.

 
We woke up at 1:00 the next afternoon, famished. I fried some eggs and so strengthened, we waited for dusk. Night came quickly. We were on our way and soon arrived at the Russian’s hut. I have got to get out of here tonight, no matter how. The first train has to take us.

 
Again, the wait. The silence was broken by a faint distant whistle. I held my breath, listening. Again, the same but clearer sound.“Train,” I thought and woke the old man. He got up lazily, we walked outside. The night was dark; to the right, the rumble of the train now came clearly out of the black abyss of the night. We were not happy; it was going in the wrong direction. Never mind. I’m out of here! We put on our coats and went out, taking the luggage. Something drove me on – we are over the fence.

 
‘Go,’ said the Russian.

 
We ran across the street. In a flash, I was over a pretty high fence, my companion followed. The old man was having a hard time, stuck at the top he couldn’t get down. Then – voices. Several men talking, the flash of a torch, and five figures turned the corner. They walked straight toward us, lighting their way with torches. I saw them... gendarmes. I pulled the Russian off the fence. Hush! Silently, I pointed through cracks in the fence. The gendarmes must have heard the thump when the old man hit the ground, for they stopped, listening, and looking round. Three men lay like corpses, glued to the fence. I was clutching my stick. Three on five is a fair fight. Seconds turned to eternity. The group of soldiers moved and started on, passing right by us. A sigh of relief escaped my chest. Silently, we got up and crossed the garden. Another fence and then the platform. By then, you could see the engine. The station is full of light and on the platform those five gendarmes were standing, about 50 metres from us. How do we climb over the fence now and get on the train? But we were in luck. A second later, the engine rolled into the station shrouded in thick steam and stopped right in front of us. Billows of steam covered us like smoke screen – over the fence, across the tracks and we were crouching next to the engine. The Russian went in for a little chat.

 
The driver was a good chap. Offered us bread and cheese, we washed it down with some water. We were on our way again. I noticed a few sentries by the tracks and on station platforms, but wasn’t afraid.

 
It began to dawn. We were nearing Ploesti at 8:00am. Before we reached the town, I paid the driver, he slowed down the engine and signalled for us to jump. One hop and my friend was off the train, I was right behind him, my luggage got in the way and I was on the ground before I knew it. We waved to the driver and walked to town. After lunch and a visit to the barber, we headed for the train station.

 
We’re on the train, going to Bucharest.

 
It was warm at Bucharest train station. Some suspicious blokes were going between the compartments, watching us closely, but soon they were gone.  At 7:00 pm, we got off in Constanta and headed for the Consulate. Here we were given a slip of paper for the hotel: The Cochino.

 
We are in Constanta at last, the place of our departure.  Long days of waiting began. We had to be on guard always, at any time, ready to leave. Time was dragging on. We were expecting our real passports to arrive at any moment – the ones we had were false. We had 40 lei a day to live on, hotel charges were covered. Still, it was hard to make it last. Dinner was 20 lei. We ate twice a day until we found a Polish place ran by an engineer.  For security reasons, the Consul told us not to go to town at night. The Gestapo was everywhere.

 
Our time in Romania was coming to an end. Let me describe Romania in a few words. Romania is a country of prostitution and corruption.

 
The date 31st November came at last and the Consul told us to make ready. By evening, we had blended in with the crowd at the sea port. One more test. A moment of uncertainty – search and passport inspection.  All went well - the customs officers had been bribed. Soon the dock –gangplank – and we are aboard. At 9:00 I took my place in the A cabin, third class, on the steamer Carol. A few suspicious-looking blokes nosed about in the hallways, but they, too, disappeared with the bell that signalled our departure. Anchor chains rattled, the ship rolled gently and the tug boat grunted as it hauled to turn us around.

 
Last night I barely had two hours of sleep. We entered the Bosporus at dawn. Sights of wonder opened to our eyes as land emerged out of the morning fog – Turkey. Mysterious, hidden from Europeans, cities of mosques – Turkey. We progressed through the strait – quite broad, 2-3 kilometres in places. Charming Turkish towns on either side, with slender minaret towers bursting upward; a fortress, too, stands guard of the country.  After a while, a great port city came up out of the fog: Istanbul.

 
We reached harbour at 10:00 am on 1st December. Evening came. At 11:00 pm we left the harbour and sailed out to the Marmara Sea. Time passed, the Dardanelles disappeared. The Carol cut through the Aegean Sea. At 10:00, a tiny wisp of smoke appeared on the horizon. All binoculars turned toward it. It glided gently across the water on the clear background of the sky. An English destroyer. As we came closer, she motioned us to stop. The Carol slowed down, stopped. A boat peeled off that other ship and approached us. The ladder was lowered, English officers came aboard. After an inspection, the two vessels each went its own way.

 
Night fell. We passed a largish island on the port side and I saw land on the starboard – it was Greece. We entered the Greek port of Piraeus near Athens, at 11 pm.

 
The Carol cast anchor at 7 am in the port of Alexandria. Egypt. Two pretty motorboats approached us and the Egyptian princess went ashore. This is Africa – she speaks for herself: the air is as hot as it is back home in the summer.

 
I see land ahead. Yes, yes. This is Palestine. There is no harbour, just a dock. Two cities lie by the coast. This is Tel Aviv, a thoroughly Jewish town and that – Jaffa, thoroughly Arabic. The two cities are joined; today Arabs and Jews live in peace, and all live under the British mandate.


After five hours we arrived in Beirut – Syria. A French colony. Docked in the harbour are French navy ships and an enormous two-chimney ship, full of people – I can tell they are Polish, waving their handkerchiefs and shouting. We pass it and enter a second basin. Chains grind, anchor’s down.


I’m no longer aboard the ship, I had lunch in the barracks of the Foreign Legion and now I’m sitting in the courtyard. We came ashore at 6:45 this morning and were brought in cars into the barracks. They received us very kindly. I can finally boldly say I am a Pole – it is allowed here. This isn’t back-stabbing Romania, this is our true ally – France. We will stay here a few days, the Polish consul told us.

 
We are coming into Alexandria. I know this port. The anchors are down – the Patria has moored at the pier. Again the shouting, the merchandise, the loud black crowd dressed in white shirts. I was awakened by noise and rattle coming from the upper deck. Cranes roared and hundreds of people bustled about the Patria. At 12:00 the anchor was raised. The Patria peacefully sailed in a north-western direction.

 
A grey, gloomy day. Heavy clouds plod across the sky over a slightly rippled sea. I’m going up on deck. We should see land. Yes, we’re passing the island of Crete now. It’s terribly mountainous; there is even snow on top of the ridge. It will soon disappear and we’ll be back to nothing but sky and sea.

 
It’s five o’clock, and the lines of a distant land have come into sight. We can see Italy and Sicily. We will cross the strait between the island and Italy.

 
I lost, it got me. How the Patria is dancing in every direction. The stormy sea roars furiously. I’ve been on deck – it is terrifying to see this colossal vessel be tossed about like a nutshell. The bow dives down seven, eight metres and we are tossed now to one side now to the other. You have to cling to the walls. My Halinka would never guess that her Waldy is now out on a stormy sea, aboard a great ship, in danger from enemy submarines and magnetic mines.


The sea has calmed down, and a cheerful sun rose today. The waves are deep, but without foaming crests. The Patria has not yet settled from her dance and shivers a little. We are approaching the coast of France. Her rocky shores have appeared on the horizon; Toulon looms in a distance, combat ships glide across the sea. Oh! And there is Marseilles. Beautiful: the largest harbour of southern shores. It looks lovely, the railway meanders just by the sea, tunnels, bridges, what a charming place. We have entered the harbour. The anchors are lowered. We have arrived. We are to disembark at 4pm. In a few minutes our passports will be checked and soon we will leave the vessel.

 
On the same day, large buses took us in an unknown direction. We pass Marseilles, a great and lovely city, and enter a road that climbs in a wonderful serpentine up into mountains. We pass a small town of miniature houses. French women wave their handkerchiefs. We pass anti-aircraft batteries. We have reached the top. On one side is the sea and a sliver of the setting sun – oh, it’s gone – and on the other mountains and mountains, bare, rocky, without vegetation.

 
The cars turned and entered a small valley surrounded by rocks. Buildings, barracks, huts, we get off. Carpiagne Camp.  After dinner we found our bunks in one of the huts and went to sleep. The night was cold, my ears and feet were cold. It passed. I was appointed team commander and deputy chief of an air force group.  The living conditions are poor, 800 men packed into summer huts. This used to be a prisoner of war camp for Germans. We have no water, no place to wash. But all this is nothing, we are happy to know we will soon be deployed.

 
Today, on 21st December we received General Sikorski’s first orders to the air force. We are lying around, idling away our time in boredom and apathy. My boots fell apart after the hike today. I tied them together with a wire.

Today is a better day. Kazik Skowroński, Mielczarek and Gumowski are here. Kazik told me how my little hero lay in a trench in the airfield during a raid. And how bravely she did. I was proud of you, my Halutka.

 
A new page in my journal, a new set on the stage of my life.  Only a few days ago, we were among hills, enjoying warm sunshine. Today things are different. The air is frosty, snow, cold I am sitting in the dark mess hall at the Lyon-Bron airfield, 8 kilometres from Lyon.  But let me go back a few hours. From Carpiani (Carpiagne) we marched over the mountains to Cassis. At two o’clock after midnight, a steam-shrouded train with frozen windows raced into Lyon station. Here buses waited for us. They took us to the airfield.

 
I go to the next hut... I stop – and look: All of our boys, all my friends but Tadek. Our officers, commanders, heads of units. Joy lit up my face. The sight of friends, of the flight, fills one with hope. Who knows where we’ll be deployed – England, Finland or Syria. Every front leads to Poland.

 
I was dreadfully cold today. It’s freezing outside.  We sleep on straw pallets on the floor. Blankets and pillows froze to the walls, which are damp and the dampness freezes on them. I have no warm clothing and wear borrowed rubber shoes. We are still in the distribution unit. Some of the boys are going to England today, 400 men. Who knows if I won’t go there, too?

 
Ah, what is happening to our hall: they’ve hauled in enormous logs and are hacking them with stones, as we have no axes.  It seems stones are superb for chopping wood, and I didn’t know. One more thing, we have no water – so instead of washing, we wipe our plates and spoons with bread. It’s horrible. The French are a shiftless people, unintelligent and creatures as lazy as mules. And on top of all that, terrible slobs.

 
A new transport arrived yesterday. 300 men.  Many friends.  There is Lemański, who lives upstairs from us. A lucky man, he’s got a letter from his wife. She is alive and well, and lives at home. And I?  I suffer, I’ve got nothing.

 
I was very busy yesterday, and ran a high fever last night, I don’t know what from. Well, it should be expected, in these living conditions everyone has a cold. We are freezing cold 24 hours a day. 80 men sleep in the same room, one straw pallet next to another, dirt, dust and bad air. I’m afraid to get chinch, some already have them. Suddenly, a blanket starts walking or a shirt put down on a bed travels to the other end of the room.

 
I got pretty shoes and a uniform yesterday. I am dressed up all soldierly now. They want to detail us to Lyon.

 
I went to the Base in the morning to nose around a little. So Capt. Wojda told me not to apply anywhere, that I had a place in France, in a line squadron. The English recruit a lot. They have their pick.

 
We have a visitation from General Zając today. The camp is abuzz. Cleaning and tidying. At last the French have started tidying up. Oh, how I wish I could knock their heads together, those lazy mules.


Here in the barracks water is hard to come by – even just to brush teeth. Oh, the Frenchies – the Frenchies. No Frenchman holds a candle to a Pole. The weather is nasty, it’s raining incessantly. Terrible muddy. Our sleeping quarters are dirty, messy, filled with smoke. When 80 gobs spew the shag, who can bear it? I will soon be smoker without taking a puff.


And now I will tell you where I am. Not at the airfield any more. Last night, after bath and disinfection, we were transferred to the city of Lyon.  Food was better at Bron. Here the French serve raw meat. I cut it into small pieces and swallow like a turkey.

 
A big group left for Bron – the airfield – yesterday. I am leaving, too, tomorrow or the day after, I have been detailed to No. 1 Line Squadron. Almost the entire flight 41 is together. Almost everyone’s been transferred to Bron by now.

 
Today is Sunday. Our flight is on duty. I don’t think I’ve ever worked as much. After mass the British commission came – it’s recruitment again. But no, the English are not in a hurry. They have bombed a German base. Maybe now it will begin.

 
I was in Bron today to fetch a prisoner. It is a cold day. The weather keeps changing. A little sunshine, a little snow.I am so sad today. Many went to England last night. Few of us are still here. I will move to stay with our squadron at Bron, but not for another couple of weeks.

 
10th May 1940. This is a date to be remembered. This morning we shot out of our beds, awakened by the rumble of cannons. It was dawn, 4 o’clock. Quick as lightning, I dressed and leaped behind the hut.  Against the sky, still grey, three Dorniers moved, low – no more than 1000 metres, maybe lower. The artillery boomed, filling the sky with tiny black clouds. Machine guns flashed and we were showered with a storm of bullets. Into the trenches!!! I jumped into a trench 50 metres from the hut. It was filled with water up to our ankles. Splash in – I felt nothing. The boys heaped up on top of each other. We watched. A Bloch came at them – but a far off. Nothing happened. Our artillery kept on firing – nothing still. The shriek of shrapnels and shells, smoke – din. A volley... – and another... we clung to the water. The three were coming our way now. “It’s over” – someone shouted. A volley... at us. God! Jesus! Mother! Bam-bam-bam-bam. A storm of stones, sand fell on our heads and backs. Smoke covered the trenches; silence – long, an eternity. ...Knee!... a quiet groan... I leaped out of the trench, over the fence – and into the fields. Dropping to the ground when the shriek of bullets broke the silence, up and on again. I got out of the airfield and stood against a wall. The artillery was at it still. Zing! Something wheezed at my feet. A shrapnel of an AA round. The raid lasted over an hour. Siren... All clear. The aftermath is sad. Bombs were dropped on trenches and living quarters. About 20 killed, French and Poles fallen together. One bomb hit a pit – 6 men down. A few huts were turned to debris. This is just the beginning. What’s next? God only knows. They probably attacked Belgium and Holland. We are here with no masks and no helmets. Ready – to die. Our pilots have no aircraft, we have no weapons. Some training. 30 pilots to 1 banged-up Potez. The Finnish squadron is ready – but without aircraft.

 
Lunch passed quietly. I went back to my hut, packed my things into a sack and a case. Our hut looks pretty good – not a pane left in the windows, walls peppered with shrapnel and shells. I am writing a request for a sergeant. Alarm!!! Sirens. I dropped everything and took off. Over trenches, fences, the field, to the city. Everyone bolted, none stayedin the airfield. Ah-hah! Here comes one. AA pounds at him... he’s gone into the clouds. Wheez – bam bam, burst. He’s gone... well-well, I think, this isn’t a good place, time to go. I went to the cinema – it’s got thick walls. A pretty big group of the polonaise was there already. We stayed a while until “all clear” was sounded. I walked slowly back to the airfield. Ambulances carried away the wounded. There were 6. One died. The poor fellows had been out in the field and there they were hit.

 
14th June 1940 - The Germans have reached the outskirts of Paris.

 
17th June 1940 - The situation changes from one hour to the next. The Germans have broken through the front and are pushing south, towards Lyon, they are 180 km north of us. A new government in France.  Marshal Pétain has become the dictator and Weygand his deputy. Everyone has received orders: to stay where they are and defend themselves. Our training group is in a jam. We are just a handful, 280 men. We’ve been organised into companies, platoons, teams.

 
In the afternoon we prepare arms and ammunition and are to take positions by the river. Capt Chrzanowski is my platoon commander and I have a team of 12 men. Good men. We are ready for anything. To stop tanks without cannons is a difficult task. One disaster is followed by another. At 1400 hours we heard: France asks Hitler for peace. At 1600 we received orders to get ready to leave. I am ready. Where to? In what direction?  Time will tell. This morning, we were in splendid spirits, when we knew we would finally take up arms and stand up to fight. And now? we are in despair. I hate the French for this.

 
Oh, last night was awful. I went to sleep early, since we were to be up at three. Then there was a change. We were at the train station at ten.  We waited until midnight. Then we were allowed to sleep, wherever everyone could, since we might have to pick up and go any time.

 
Now, when I write this, I am on the train. It’s pouring cats and dogs and the train is stopped in St. Etienne. Where are they taking us? We know nothing. Last night there was talk that the Germans had taken Lyon.  We’ve been given guns. The French are not fighting. Hitler ordered for France to be disarmed. I have a feeling that France will wake up from her sleep and start acting. She will die if she does not wake up. We passed a few trainloads of French troops. They have no guns, but barrels of wine are everywhere. The more wealthy ones load their things onto cars and flee.

 
The train is moving now, I am terribly sad. What’s next? God knows. Our train is speeding along full steam. We are going blindfolded, as Michał says. For now, we are headed for Lyon. We are 25 km from Lyon. Trains filled with the French, women, children, soldiers and nuns, pass by going south, and we are going north. The French wave to us enthusiastically. We have turned south.

 
It is now 5 in the afternoon. We are stopped at a crossroads. A black cloud over Lyon, there must be a fire. When will we move? No-one knows. 3 Junkers bombers have just flown overhead, but did not engage us.

 
I slept quite well last night – on the floor in the hallway. We are now going west, having left behind mountains and tunnels and entered a land of beautiful vineyards stretching as far as the eye can see. War is absent from this part of France. People work in the fields as if nothing has happened. A funny sight – women dressed in trousers, carrying some apparatus on their backs and walking between the vines and ridding them of pest. I am well today, only terribly hungry. It is 12:00 and I’ve had nothing to eat since this morning. We are now stopped in Montpellier, maybe we’ll get something to eat here. We have passed through a great number of towns, travelled alongside the sea shore, and now our train is pushing west, with the Pyrenees passing us on the left. People wave to us, girls blow kisses. And the landscape is beautiful. Little old towns buried in the midst of vineyards. I bought a card at the station in Béziers, where we were served broth by nurses of the Red Cross.

 
I am sitting under one of the train cars, it’s so hot. Oh, ours is the fate of true exiles. Last night we arrived here – this is a mountain town, a small town in the mountains. We spent the night on the train. Reveille at 4 am. A chunk of bread with meat paste and a blind wait.

 
They’ve begun unloading the train and billeting. A colonel came at 11 and says, “The situation is bad. If we don’t get a train, boys, we’ll have to take to the road.” On that account, Michał talked me into a glass of wine. Five of us went, all from Vilnius, out for a glass of wine. The situation is bad, but the main thing is to keep our sense of humour. We’ve come up with a plan. We are 80km from the sea in a straight line. I have a map. We will be given guns and then it’s up on our feet again. We must stick together. Oh, here comes the colonel. Let me hear what he’s got to say. All right, we’re leaving at 1400 hrs. But he says to pack for a march.

 
The Germans are already where we were yesterday, they are there already. In St. Etienne. But there’s no wonder. Since the French give them way. They lay mines on bridges, but don’t detonate, and their roads are excellent, so the Germans can speed along. No one has stopped them yet. The main thing for them is to have food and wine. They have not a worry in the world. Well, we’ll see what happens. They won’t give us weapons. We wanted to be armed and go as infantry. But they won’t have that, either. Well, never mind. We keep waiting... it’s 1:30 in the afternoon, we leave in half an hour.

 
We are on the train again. I have a gun and 150 rounds... Colonel Iwaszkiewicz of central command and a French colonel have arrived. There was a brief farewell. The French colonel wanted to come with us, but could not. He bid us a warm farewell and wept, the poor fellow. I’ve packed some food, I’ve got ammunition, we wait. We will move on soon, we’re to get to the sea shore somewhere and board ships. Such are our orders. To leave France, since France has failed and surrendered to Germany.

 
We might encounter some surprises on land and on sea. Hitler is sure to try and hunt us down. Will France care at all if a few thousand Poles are killed? Not in the least. We could have boarded yesterday. Now it’ll be difficult, indeed, difficult!

Many thanks to Barbara Poulter for access to her father's documents and photos
Special thanks also to Kresy-Siberia who originally translated the documents