The Polish soldiers, sailors and airmen who reached England and Scotland following the fall of both Poland and France were an unexpected and exotic presence in wartime Britain.
Few people in Britain had given much thought to Poland before 1939, and a linguistic, religious and cultural chasm existed between the local population and the newly arrived Poles. More significantly in the context of war, there was little overlap between the strategic intentions of the British authorities and those of the Polish Government-in-Exile, and profound differences in military doctrine and training.
Nonetheless, within a year of the outbreak of war, the Polish navy would be participating fully in Allied campaigns and convoys, two Polish fighter squadrons would shoot well above their weight in the Battle of Britain, and the land forces assembled in Scotland had taken on the task of defending Scotland’s east coast.
In this online talk, Jennifer Grant will examine the evolution of British and Polish attitudes towards each other, and the extent to which the exiled Poles were able to integrate into British society and the wider Allied military cause. It will also examine how Operation Barbarossa, and the USSR’s transformation into a valued ally, would presage the decline of British-Polish relations.
Jennifer Grant is a postgraduate researcher at Queen Mary University of London, researching the Polish Armed Forces in the West.