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Joined the Polish 1st Armoured Division in the UK and trained as a radio telegraphist with the goal of eventually joining the Home Army in Poland.


It was 1944, and I was 19 years old when I volunteered to join the Polish Army in Great Britain - the Polish Corps that fought alongside Allies on the Western Front.  General’s Stanislaw Maczek’s 1st Polish Armoured Division and The First Polish Independent Parachute Brigade were losing many soldiers in the battles and therefore were constantly recruiting.

I was assigned to the communications division — perhaps because of my age, and the fact that I was quite small and weak.

I was sent to Polmont, a small village in Stirlingshire, Scotland, to take a course in radio-telegraphy. That camp was a peculiar one — 20 trainees and a couple of officer instructors, accommodated in old St Margaret’s School. Every participant had a nickname. We studied the basics of electro technology and radio technics, and how to operate the special radio device used to receive and transmit on short waves, with Morse Code. Those who were not fast enough were dispatched to another division.

We didn’t have a lot of typical military training — only a bit of gun and discipline training. We never went to a firing range to train.  What we did practice a lot was a fluency in transmitting coded messages and receiving them using a radio device, placed in a small, black briefcase, the size of today’s laptop. It was also very important to quickly assemble and dismantle this little radio station.

Everything during that training was rather mysterious — this little, unnoticeable device, the fast pace that we were supposed to work on it and pass the information, also the non-military, laid back, atmosphere in this small, countryside camp. We did not really know what we were being trained for.

It was only much later, when the war was already over, that I learned that I was actually trained to work as a radio telegraphist in the underground, in German-occupied Poland.

The Polish Home Army was the largest underground resistance movement in Europoe during the Second World War.  Polish armed forces fighting on land, air, and sea in Africa, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and the Home Army in Poland, were all under the Commander-in-chief in London. Under his direct command was the 6th Division, which was constantly in radio and air contact with the Home Army Commandant in Warsaw, and supported the underground by sending trained soldiers, guns and money. The same 6th Division was managing the training of radio telegraphists in Polmont, who were then to be dispatched to occupied Poland to work in the underground.

When I completed that course, the war was ending and I was not sent to the camp in Audley End, Scotland, where I would have undergone parachute training. The 6th Division was disbanded, I started to attend Polish Grammar School in Garelochhead, north of Glasgow, and in 1947 I went back to Poland. But that’s another story.

One more thing: I thank God that I did not fly back to Poland before the end of the war, as many of my fellow radio telegraphists were killed back in Poland by the Germans and the Soviets.

Source:  Maian Kopiec at BBC website:

Copyright: Kopiec family

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