During a meeting at the Polish embassy, the Minister for Reserves, Julian Brazier, presented Robert Kupiecki, the Under Secretary of State in the Polish Ministry of National Defence, with a sample of the records. This gift is symbolic of the United Kingdom’s strong and growing relationship with Poland, and recognises the enormous contribution and sacrifice of the Poles during the Second World War.
Minister for Reserves Julian Brazier said:
It’s an honour to be able to present Minister Kupiecki with these records today. Poland is a close ally of the United Kingdom, with a proud tradition of the British and Polish militaries working side by side. We will always be grateful for the contribution that the Polish people made to fighting against Nazism during the Second World War, and hold dear our strong relationship now.
We have worked together throughout 2014, including Exercise BLACKEAGLE, our biggest in Europe for many years. We want to build on this excellent co-operation in Exercise DRAGON in September 2015.
Mr Robert Kupiecki, the Under Secretary of State in the Polish Ministry of National Defence said:
I wish to thank Her Majesty’s Government for handing over these precious archives to Poland. Seventy years after the end of World War II the shadows of Polish soldiers fighting alongside their British brothers-in-arms return where they belong - their home in Poland.
Around 180,000 Polish service personnel escaped Poland during the Second World War and served with the Polish Free Forces and Royal Air Force fighting the Axis powers. At the end of the war the communist government in Warsaw refused to acknowledge responsibility for these fighters along with Polish displaced persons in British-held areas of Western Europe. In light of this, the UK government arranged for both groups to become British citizens, accepting the liability for pay and pensions for Polish Free Forces and forming the Polish Resettlement Corps, into which many of the Polish Free Forces transferred along with displaced Poles.
As a result, the MOD holds the service records of Free Polish personnel, around 119,000 Polish Resettlement Corps personnel and small collections of medical cards and correspondence about personnel effects of deceased servicemen. In many cases the next of kin of these personnel live in the UK.
As awareness of Polish forces fighting in the West has grown since 1989, there has been an increasing desire from the Polish authorities to have access to these service records. They have a heritage value for the Polish people beyond their content as they symbolise a significant episode of Polish sacrifice.
As these service personnel records will not be made available to the public until the mid-2020s, the MOD will transfer around 10,000 records covering correspondence initiated by the service ministries after the war, telling of their efforts to repatriate the personal effects of Polish personnel killed during the war.
The records will be held at the Central Military Archive in Rembertów (near Warsaw).