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 Second World War
1939 Polish Defensive War
                       click on a photo to enlarge                               

Polish Infantry...

...of the time
Courtesy of L. Paszkowski

One of the cal.100mm guns of the „Cannet” battery installed in the Oksywie near Gdynia. The ORP “Bałtyk” school ship can be seen in the background of the photo.

Polish cannon cal. 152,4 mm – one of the four of that type installed on the Hel Peninsula. The battery played a very important role during the defense of the Hel area in September 1939. 

German armored car CdKfz 232 Fu (Radio) used during the Polish Campaign in September 1939.

German troops on march during the invasion of Poland in September 1939.

Polish Military Transit Depot in Westerplatte after the capitulation.

Ruins of a Polish village during the siege of Warsaw in September 1939.

Ruins of a village in the Lublin district after heavy fights between Polish and German troops. September 1939.

Polish weapons gathered by the Germans in the Brühl’s Palace after the capitulation of Warsaw.

Polish citizens stopped at a German checkpoint on the outskirts of Warsaw in Wola district. Autumn 1939.

German soldier standing next to the Prince Józef Poniatowski monument located in front of the Saski Palace in Warsaw. Autumn 1939.

Demarcation line between the Third Reich, Soviet Union and Lithuania after the invasion of Poland in 1939.

German soldier writing some annotations on the German-Soviet demarcation line in Autumn 1939.

Courtesy of Polish History Museum


Katyń 1940: The Forgotten Genocide of World War II
Dr Waldemar Niemotko

(Excerpts from the transcript of the lecture delivered at University of Western Sydney on 25 June 2010)

Thousands and thousands of Polish people were deported to the Soviet “Gulag”.  Over a million of them lost their lives when in exile.  No precise statistics exists.   Many of their graves are unknown.  The ageing Polish generation witnessed atrocities imposed by both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.  Under communist rule the issue of what happened in Katyń was largely perceived as a taboo.  Even in Australia the word “Katyń” has been allowed only gradually to be included into the list of key occurrences of the atrocities, along with the rape of Nanjing, Nazi Germany’s death camp Auschwitz and the Japanese brutality in the treatment of the Australian POW’s in Burma. 

The Czech Republic was a frontrunner, as a new member of the European Union, to voice concern over the betrayal of the allies, referring to the infamous 1938 Munich conference.  The complacency of the realpolitik towards the Kremlin rulers, unduly prevailed for several decades until the “Solidarity” trade union in Poland initiated a chain reaction that culminated in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  Only in 2005 in a speech in Latvia, the US president George W. Bush admitted that the Tehran and Yalta arrangements were an attempt to sacrifice freedom of small nations of Central and Eastern Europe for the sake of global stability.  Eventually, the Latvian film director Edvins Snore, worked for ten years until 2008, on a powerful documentary “The Soviet Story”.  It fully supports the sequence of events that was presented by Andrzej Wajda’s in the heart sickening Polish screenplay “Katyń”.

The masterminds of the modern genocide, in industrial proportions, conceived their ideas in German.  The barbaric Nibelungenlied and Valhalla beefed up the chauvinism of German lands as united in 1871.  Prior to Friedrich Nietzsche formulating in 1885 his racist theory of supermen (Űbermenschen) in the book ”So spoke Zarathustra(Also sprach Zarathustra), Karl Marx uttered as early as in 1850 that  “The classes and the races that are too weak to master the new conditions of life, must give way. (…) They must perish in the revolutionary holocaust.”  To his kinsman and close friend, the industrialist Friedrich Engels, was attributed composing the principles of the so called historical materialism that expanded the ominous vision of the 1848 “Communist Manifesto(Das Kommunistische Manifest): “The spectre of communism is hovering over Europe. (…) The history of the hitherto society is the history of a struggle between the classes” (Die Geschichte der bisherigen Gesellschaft ist die Geschichte des Klassenkampfes).  

In previous centuries, Poland was praised as a bulwark of Christianity.  This was particularly visible in King Sobieski having come to rescue the German neighbours against the invasion from the Southeast, in the 1683 Vienna Siege.   Subsequently, the victory in the 1920 Warsaw Battle, stopped the spread of the Bolshevik revolution to engulf the frustrated German communists.  The dictator Joseph Stalin was resentful of this defeat and was quick to stab Poland in the back on 17 September 1939, partitioning her territories with the Third Reich.  At the time when the Nazis set up their first concentration camp in Dachau in 1933, the Soviets already boasted a dozen years of experience in committing multimillion genocidal atrocities on their own citizens.  There was put in place a tactical cooperation between Gestapo and NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB.          
Courtesy of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN)    
in Warsaw, Poland    

An entry appeared on the website of the Defense Department of the Russian Federation, earlier in 2010, blaming Poland for contribution to the start of 2WW by refusal to accept Hitler’s “legitimate” claim to link the East Prussia enclave to Germany proper. 


German internment camps
Waldemar Niemotko (compiled from the resources of The Home Army Museum. Kraków, Poland)

The occupation made worse everyday living conditions of people in Poland. Executions, deportations, physical and psychological violence were at common. The self-proclaimed "culture bearers" (Kulturträger), seeking the people’s extermination, forced the people to perform exhausting labour and issued ratio cards for the city dwellers. These cards covered only a small part of real people’s needs. High mortality was the result of those shortages, and diseases spread widely, especially tuberculosis and typhus. The help was found in food smuggled from the countryside to the city, and illegal barter came to being, such as meat from illegal slaughter houses exchanged for pre-war clothing, furniture and jewellery. Theft, fraud, embezzlement were common. The situation was also worsened by the required deliveries – quotas, which both farmers (in the form of cattle, pigs, dairy and agricultural products) and people living in the cities (eg. non-ferrous metals, recyclable materials, furs and skis) had to provide. Popular forms of escape from the grim reality were: gambling (casinos, horse racing, number lotteries and fortune telling, let it be according to Wernyhora) or alcoholism, being a result of a deliberate policy aimed at depravation of the Polish community. Wooden shoes and iron stoves (the so-called “kozy”) where symbols of occupation reality, along with the rickshaws (in some suburbs of Warsaw). Fashion was an example of war resourcefulness. Coats, dresses and jackets were sewn from curtains and blankets. Blouses made from parachute material were popular among women and high boots and breeches among men. People also tried to avoid the occupant regulations, for example, the proscription law on marriages for women under 25 and men under 28 years of age was universally broke. 

Over 420,000 Polish soldiers were placed in German prison camps, including 17,000-19,000 officers as a result of the September 1939 defeat. 120,000 were later released and over 10,000 died of wounds and exhaustion. The remaining were placed in 43 oflags (camps for officers) and 67 stalags (camps for regular soldiers). The name of the camp informed about category of a kept prisoner but also it consisted of: military district number, in which the camp was located (in the Third Reich and the acquired lands there were in total 21 districts) and the capital letters suggested the order of the camp’s creation and the name of town. Due the necessity of accepting a new wave of prisoners, changes were made in 1940: part of the oflags and stalags was liquidated and the Polish prisoners were transferred from smaller camps to larger ones. The changes concerned mainly the officers. In 1941 Romania passed to German authorities nearly 900 officers being interned in its territory, violating by this movement all international conventions. Officers were then placed in oflags. In 1944, over 56,000 Polish prisoners were placed in camps. Officers were grouped in 4 oflags: II C Woldenberg (Dobiegniewo), II D Gross Born (Górne Sulimowo), VI B Dössel and VII A Murnau.

The legal status of war prisoners was defined by the Hague Protocol of Customs or Land Combat (1907) and the Geneva conventions (1929), but German authorities often have violated their own regulations. Physical and mental violence, executions and forced labour were the most common cases of breaking the prisoners rights, and often were aimed at Polish officers and soldiers, less in prisoners from Western Europe. Between 1940-1942, nearly 140,000 Polish privates were released from camps or forced to renounce their war prisoners rights and later designated to slave labour in industry of agriculture. There were cases of passing the Polish prisoners to the Gestapo, moving the insubordinate ones to strict security camps or even to concentration camps. The camp life consisted of long assemblies, crowded shelters, insufficient food ratios, constantly increasing list of orders and prohibitions, countless harassment, censorship of letters and even of sermons, holding back food packages, revisions, forcing to hard physical labour of privates and cadets. Not only escapes (over 520), daily manifestations of patriotism or organising of a secret education were a reply to these circumstances. Notably, there were in the oflags  various courses, teaching studies and camp universities     (at the so called Woldenberg University 80 lecturers undertook teaching around 1500 officers).  There was also a complex structure of a camp life, by German acknowledgement: publishing local press and magazines, own payment units, establishing libraries, literary groups, singing groups, theatres, choirs, organising sporting events (even camp “Olympic games”).


 Courtesy of The Home Army Museum, Kraków, Poland

 The Tobruk Siege 1941 
Waldemar Niemotko
The history of Australia has multiple roots, be it the Aboriginal dreamtime, perseverance of European settlers and toil of "those who’ve come across the seas” from all continents. Every wave of immigrants would gladly respond to the invitation to relate their memoirs, thus enriching the cohesion of multiculturalism, to "make this Commonwealth of ours [r]enowned of all the lands”. All of them have been happy to share the friendly Australian way of life. Some had already proven their readiness to contribute to the welfare of Australia by taking up arms in a fight for the highest ideals of humankind. The Siege of Tobruk in 1941 appears to be the epitome of a close cooperation of soldiers originating from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Poland, Czechoslovakia and (free) France. The theme of the Australian-Polish brotherhood-in-arms seems hardly to have been explored to date. Only after dispersing the nightmare of the ‘cold war’, were historians and archaeologists encouraged to reveal unknown aspects of this Australian-Polish relationship evident in many episodes of WW2, truly hidden treasures of camaraderie, sacrifice and heroism. Here is a series of images to reflect some of this brotherhood connections and these past deeds of which they were a part.  
     click on a photo to enlarge

Australian and Polish soldiers on board...

...heading to Tobruk

Bombardment of the convoy
en route to Tobruk

"Rats of Tobruk" handing over
a position to Polish soldiers

Linking with the defenders of Tobruk

Australians lining up



Australian bren carriers drive across the desert

Hawker Hurricanes take off from a sandy airfield

Jan Stanislaw Ciechanowski,
Acting Head of the Office for War Veterans and Victims of Oppression
of the Republic of Poland

"Tobruk 1941", Bellona,
 Warszawa, 2011

Zbigniew Wawer (author)

Photos courtesy of Zbigniew Wawer and "Bellona", Warsaw (Poland)

Karpatczycy Tassie 1947


Tobruk (Libya), October 1941


Major-General Leslie Morshead, Commander of the 9th Australian Division and Commander
of the Tobruk Fortress until the departure of the Australian troops, with General Stanisław
Kopański, Commander of the Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade of Riflemen


Major-General Leslie Morshead, with high ranking Polish officers shortly  before he left

Major-General Leslie Morshead saying farewell to members of the Polish Brigade

Officers of the Polish Brigade saluting Major-General Leslie Morshead...

... after he had personally said farewell
 to them

Photos courtesy of Australian War Memorial

Cairo (Egypt), 21 November 1941

High ranking officers of the British, Australian and Polish armies saluting during the playing of the Polish national anthem

General Władysław Sikorski, Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Forces, inspecting the Australian guard of honour

General Władysław Sikorski decorating Major-General Leslie Morshead with the Silver Cross of the Polish Order of Virtuti Militari, in recognition of his service as Commander of the Tobruk Fortress

Major-General Leslie Morshead
wearing the Silver Cross of the Polish Order
of Virtuti Militari, pinned on him by General Sikorski

The Silver Cross of the Polish Order of Virtuti Militari, as presented to Major-General Leslie Morshead

The scroll presented to Major-General Leslie Morshead,
on the occasion of the decoration of the Polish Order of the Virtuti Militari for gallantry

Photos courtesy of Australian War Memorial

  Rafa (Palestine), 30 October 1942

 Polish lads, aged from 11 to 15 years,
attached to the 1st Australian Avanced Ordnance Workshops, on the march

Polish lads, aged from 11 to 15 years, giving the salute to Lieutenant-General Sir Leslie Morshead

Polish soldier, aged 15

Photos courtesy of Australian War Memorial

Polish military presence in the West

Photos courtesy of The Home Army Museum, Kraków, Poland

Clive "Killer" Caldwell - Stuka Party
written by George Dragicevic

Caldwell with kill score. Caldwell with kill score.
Portraits of Lieutenant Clive Caldwell, DSO, DFC & Bar, Polish Cross of Valour
Photos courtesy of RAAF Museum and Skrzydlata Polska

Clive Robertson Caldwell was born in Lewisham, Sydney on the 28th of July, 1911. Pre war he trained for his civil pilot's licence whilst a member of the Royal Aero Club. He joined the RAAF at the beginning of the war in 1939 and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in 1940. As he was destined to become an instructor after completing his training, he resigned and re-applied as an air-crew trainee. His commission was reinstated in January 1941, and he was sent to the Middle East where he took up flying duties in Tomahawks with 250 Squadron RAF. Following a short period of operations in Syria and Cyprus, Caldwell and the squadron were relocated to the Western Desert. It was in this theatre that he achieved great success during intensive operations. By mid-1941, Caldwell had flown about 40 operational sorties, but had only one confirmed kill - a Bf 109. He was perplexed by the fact that he had trouble scoring hits on enemy aircraft. Whilst returning to base one day, he noted his squadron's aircraft casting shadows on the desert below. He fired a burst of his guns and noted the fall of shot relative to his shadow. He realised this method allowed for the assessment of required deflection to hit moving targets. Further experimentation lead him to acquire the knowledge to assess deflection needed for a range of speeds. Within a couple of weeks he had attained four further kills and a half share. Caldwell's method of "shadow shooting" became a standard method of gunnery practice in the Middle East. On 29 August 1941 Clive Caldwell was attacked by two Bf 109s North-West of Sidi Barrani. One of his attackers was the Bf 109 E-7 "black 8" of 2./JG 27 piloted by one of Germany's top aces, Lieutenant Werner Schroer who was credited with 114 Allied planes in only 197 combat missions. Caldwell's P-40 "Tomahawk" of 250 Squadron was riddled with more than 100 rounds of 7.9 mm slugs, plus five 20 mm cannon strikes which punctured a tyre and rendered the flaps inoperative. In the first attack Caldwell suffered bullet wounds to the back, left shoulder, and leg. In the next pass one shot slammed through the canopy, causing splinters which wounded him with perspex in the face and shrapnel in the neck. Two cannon shells also punched their way through the rear fuselage just behind him and the starboard wing was badly damaged. Despite damage to both himself and the aircraft, Caldwell, feeling, as he remembers, "quite hostile" turned on his attackers and sent down one of the Bf 109s in flames. The pilot of the second Messerschmitt, the renowned Lieutenant Schroer, shocked by this turn of events, evidently made off in some haste. Caldwell's engine had caught fire, however he managed to extinguish the flames with a violent slip. He then nursed his flying wreck back to base at Sidi Haneish. Caldwell's most successful day was the 5th of December 1941 when he shot down five Ju 87s in a single engagement during operation "Crusader". Here is the combat report of that action:
"I received radio warning that a large enemy formation was approaching ...



Courtesy of Australian War Memorial        
Click on a picture to enlarge                 

Allied Air Force
Waldemar Niemotko

Both Australian and Polish soldiers fought in foreign lands, sometimes against all odds. Warsaw, the capital of Poland, played a pivotal role when German troops retreated from the Soviet onslaught in 1944 and the powerful Red Army was about to show Stalin’s iron fist in forcing his imperial power on freedom-loving nations of central and eastern Europe. In these desperate circumstances, the Warsaw Uprising started in August 1944. Some Allied pilots, realising the overwhelming odds against which the Polish Home Army were fighting, were eager to participate in a daring mission to bring air supplies to the insurgents. As a gesture of gratitude from the present generation, a Polish project is underway, to erect a magnificent monument in Kraków on the banks of the Vistula (Wisła) river, honouring the fallen Allied pilots. There were brave Australians among them. Those lucky ones who survived after parachuting out of damaged planes, managed to find refuge among local guerrillas and the caring hands of Polish nurses. A well documented story tells about one of them who came back from Australia after the war, in order to get married to his war-time nurse and bring her to live under the Southern Cross. This looks like an unending story of a good-will chain reaction.

"Consolidated B-24 Liberator" on delivering military supplies to Polish insurgents in 1944

"Consolidated B-24 Liberator" under German anti-aircraft fire, over Southern Poland in 1944

Commemorative candles in Kraków, Poland

On the 42nd anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising to honour brave Allied airmen who brought relief to the fighting Warsaw.
On 17 August 1944 in Zabłocie the aircraft “Liberator” of the 205 South African Bomber Group was shot down.
Those killed of the 178th Bomber Division of the Royal Air Force, were:
F/Ldr John P. Liversidge RAAF
F/Lt Pilot William D. Wright RAF
F/Sgt A/G John D. Clarke RAF
 Lest we forget
 The Kraków Club of the Aviation Seniors Union of (former) Battlers for Liberty and Democracy, Podgórze Branch
Kraków 1986

Polish Intelligence: Input into the Victory in WWII
Author: dr Jan Stanisław Ciechanowski, Editor: dr Waldemar Niemotko

The research about the input of Polish intelligence into the victory over Nazi Germany in WWII was prompted after 2005, as a result of an Anglo-Polish Historical Committee having been formed, following the talks between the Prime Ministers: Tony Blair and Jerzy Buzek.  It was supplemented by documents which were found, in greater numbers, in the American archives.

Poland, resurrected in 1918 as a nation-state after 123 years of a hostile subjugation, made an immediate effort to build a modern intelligence service. The young Lieutenant Jan Kowalewski proved this with success in the cracking of Soviet ciphers timely to their invasion.  This greatly helped to win the battle of Warsaw on 15 August 1920, thus, arresting the Bolshevik march on Western Europe.

In 1934-39, the operation “Wózek” (“Trolley”) consisted of a clandestine control of correspondence and other shipments carried in transit across Polish territory from Germany proper to their East Prussian enclave.  Major Jan Henryk Żychoń was in charge of the operation with the help of Polish railmen.  The biggest success, though, was cracking the secret of the German encoding machine “Enigma” in 1932-33 by mathematicians from the Poznań University: Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski who were encouraged by the Ciphers Office heads: Lt. Colonel Gwido Karol Langer and Major Maksymilian Ciężki.  Rejewski was successful in reconstructing the machine which he had never seen and to work out a method of breaking the keys to its ciphers which were changed on a daily basis.  However, German cryptographers constantly introduced improvements to the machine’s construction and its method of application. The Poles managed to overcome this hardship too.  Only a week before WWII was started by the German invasion of Poland, notably on 25 and 26 August 1939 during the conference in Pyry, near Warsaw, the heads of the General Staff’s Second Bureau’s Ciphers Office transferred their know-how to the British and French allies. This proved to be the springboard for the subsequent successes of Allied cryptographers.  There is an opinion that cracking the secret of “Enigma” would have helped end the war two or three years earlier, thereby saving countless lives.
Courtesy of Foreign Office, Warsaw, Poland

Following the partition of Poland according to the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement of 23 August 1939...


Community Awareness of Polish History


Australian International Research Institute Incorporated 

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