The 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade
(1 Samodzielna Brygada Spadochronowa)
The Middle East
To United Kingdom
Note: Some of the journey details have been gleaned from the journey of a fellow Pole Jan Jaworski, whose details are recorded by his grandson Tobiasz Siotor on this website: https://pod100.pl/
Military Records Overview
Sometime after 8 May 1942 my journey to the UK started with arrival at Auchtertool Distribution Camp being 17 August 1942.
(Factually correct but unsupported as part of Wladyslaws story). The big day arrived and we made way to Ahvaz where the majority of Poles went to as part of their journey out of the Middle East and onward to the UK.
There was a small group of us, maybe 300, that were bound for the UK to training as parachutists or Spadochronowy as we call them in Poland.
To Cape Town, South Africa
The first part of our journey to the UK would be to go from the Middle East To Cape Town. A large convoy was being prepared that included a heavy escort with air cover as well. We were taking no chances against German U-boats.
We boarded a boat (Probably the Queen Mary the same as Jan Jaworski did) at Basra In Iraq (I think) along with a number of other Polish soldiers and set sail for South Africa.
It took us up to a month to reach South Africa (Cape Town I think as that was where Jan Jaworski went), perhaps it was early July 1942 when we arrived there, it was lovely there and we purchased some bananas from local traders who seemed to know exactly when the ships would be arriving so that they could be there, ready with their stalls setup.
The journey there was peaceful and uneventful, the sun shone and the sea was calm. In time Cape Towns Table Mountain became visible on the horizon.
In South Africa we had to wait for our next boat. many Poles stayed at a transit camp called Pietermaritzburg during this time.
We then boarded (likely the 11th of July 1942 when the HMS Andes was in Cape Town port) a transatlantic liner (Probably the HMS Andes as this was the ship Jan Jaworski was on), many more Polish soldiers who had been in camps in South Africa joined us. (More details on HMRC Andes here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Andes_(1939)
We sailed for perhaps 30-40 days from South Africa, all the time zig-zagging to dodge German U-boats that followed us. We whiled the time away on board drinking, sun-bathing, enjoying meals together and generally relaxing.
We made attempts everyday though to keep our fitness and stamina up by exercising on the ship.
As we came up to North Africa we became very afraid of being torpedoed by German U-boats who were patrolling the Channel. Nerves were extremely tense for a day or two.
Our voyage continued and then one morning there was a commotion on deck. I went updecks to see what the noise was about. "Look Wladyslaw, look!" said my friend Bartek. I looked, I could not believe it! Lush green scenery could clearly be seen, we had arrived in Britain!
We sang, danced and Bartek even broke open a secret bottle of Vodka that he had. We celebrated our safe passage to Britain, once again I had survived!
One soldier, Witek, knew some English and in our elated state we laughed and practiced our English. Mostly it consisted of terrible lines to say to Scottish women so that we could introduce ourselves.
Docking In Britain - August 1942
Trouble is I cannot remember which port in the UK I landed at! One day, hopefully I will recall this!
I quickly recounted how many times I had dodged death in the past: There was fighting the Germans in 1939, fighting the Russians later on, being captured by them, deported to the Gulags, the long and painful journey to join Anders army, the trip to Krasnovodsk, the Caspian Sea, the illnesses I managed to avoid in Pahlevi, the twisty dangerous roads into the Middle East and now this trip. Wow, 10 major events and I had survived them all!
Just as in Pahlevi, we docked outside the harbour and a steamer took us to port.
At port our papers were checked and then the Red Cross met us and gave us a warm welcome along with a cup of tea and cake. I was starting to have faith in humanity again!
Train To Kirkcaldy
We were put on a train to a place called Kirkcaldy in Fife Scotland. As the train journeyed, I looked out of the windows remarking how Britain, particularly Scotland was very green and lush just like my beloved Poland.
I saw buildings, factories, trees, bridges, villages and more. It was an awful lot to take in, I felt like a stranger in a foreign land. Well I was I suppose and yet a welcomed stranger.
We pulled into Kirkcaldy where we were met by an old military truck driven by a Polish soldier called, Pawel. We squeezed into the truck, the other soldiers travelling with us likewise got into old army trucks.
To Polish Distribution Camp In Auchtertool, Fife
We drove as a convey along winding country roads, all the time I looked out the window taking it all in. It was hard to believe I was going to train in this far away country in the small country of Fife as a Soldier in an offensive against Hitler in Poland.
It all seemed so distant and far away, this place was peaceful, one could forget the war here, or so it seemed.
Our truck drove into a small town called Auchtertool and as we passed an old brewery I saw a lot of Polish soldiers in uniform hanging about. I asked Pawel if this was where our camp was, he confirmed it was.
We turned off the main street and began to climb uphill every so slightly. Suddenly an oncoming convey faced us, we were forced to pull into the side.
I was told General Sikorski was visiting the camp today with Churchill and General Anders. I as awe struck, this was clearly an important operation I was part of.
Arriving At Auchtertool Camp 17/08/42
We swung into the camp which was a field with tents, just like Pahlevi in some ways. I registered with the Komenda Uzupelnien officer and was then told that the loft at the old brewery was serving as sleeping quarters for many of the Polish soldiers but I would be in a field tent with Bartek.
The tents were near Camilla Loch and every day we would quickly wash and swim in the water, it was cold, bracing, but very refreshing and certainly very warm compared to Siberia.
Bartek took a trip up to the old Brewery and managed to find a few old bottles of whisky which he stole and shared amongst all of us in the tents.
We were at Auchtertool a little while before we were told that Largo House in Upper Largo was now ready to induct us into the Parachute Regiment.