The 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade

(1 Samodzielna Brygada Spadochronowa)

Boats That Brought Polish Soldiers Out Of
The Middle East & Africa

The boats that brought mainly Polish troops to the UK from 1942 to 1945 barely get a mention on the internet. Here, we are collating these details as each crossing is discovered.

If you know details of any crossings please let us know and we will publish it here.

Basic Route Overview

The boats that left the Middle East bringing the Polish soldiers to the UK typically left from:

  • Suez Canal
  • Other nearby ports

These boats then typically stopped in South Africa with the Polish Solders being transferred to larger Atlantic capable ships. These transfers tended to happen at

  • Capetown
  • Durban
  • Pietermaritzburg

A number of Polish solders settled in Pietermaritzburg at that time (there was a camp there at the time) and descendants continue there to this day.

Although German U-Boats were predominantly in the Mediterranean Sea (and this is why the transfer ships never took this route to the UK), some U-boats operated in the Atlantic and were a constant threat to all shipping. To counter this the ships took the very long route around South Africa to get to the UK.

Rarely did the ships cross alone, at the time it was felt that Convoys were safer and so groups of ships (keyword here is the "Winston Specials", worth a Google!) would sail together alongside large naval vessels for protection. It's likely that once transferred to the large Atlantic crossing ships there was a lot of waiting time (days?) until the convoy was ready to sail together.

En-route, some got warning about German U-boats and so would alter route to South America before re-fuelling and re-provisioning and heading for the United Kingdom. This is likely why some of the Poles ended up in South America.

On reaching Britain the ships docked in these places:

  • Southampton
  • Wales
  • Plymouth
  • Liverpool
  • Greenock (Glasgow)

Records Of Middle East To UK Crossings

I have spent a very large amount of time trying to track down any information at all on the ships, the Polish units on them etc so that we can put together detail of how Polish Soldiers arrived in the UK. The truth is its unlikely this data exists, it was organised "on the fly" and in a time of national secrecy (to stop spies leaking data).

Some survivor accounts exist and name the ships and dates. Always worth Googling!.


Fancy trying a bit of Google research in your research to track your relatives shipping passage?

These Boolean strings will get your started:

{Africa|Britain|Capetown|Durban|Suez|Glasgow|Greenock|Liverpool|Plymouth|Scotland|South Africa|Southampton|England|UK}





{Aug|August} 1942


-{Lancastria|Laconia|Letitia|Queen Elizabeth|Queen Mary}

1942+Polish+{Capetown|Cape Town}+Liverpool

1942+{Glasgow|Greenock|Gourock}+Polish+{Africa|Capetown|Cape Town|Durban|Pietermaritzburg}

Arrival Date
Arrival Port
Departure Port(s)
Departure Date(s)
Days Duration
Data Source
SS Cilicia
SS Tusculum Victory
SS Andes
SS Marine Raven
SS Marine Raven
SS Marine Raven

Known Or Likely Ships

These are some of the ship names that are either known to have been carriers of Polish Troops or whose ship logs are very convincing of the fact:

• Aorangi
• Circassia
• Dominion Monarch
• Lancastria
• Letitia
• Queen Elizabeth
• Queen Mary
• Mauritania
• Orion
• SS Llanstephan Castle