When, in July 1945, the British government withdrew recognition of the Polish Government in London to recognise the Warsaw regime imposed by Russia and refused Polish forces a place in the Victory parade, it found itself with a very tricky problem - what
to do with a large allied army, air force and navy owing its allegiance to, and under the control of, a government no longer recognised by the British and actively hostile to the government now proclaimed by Britain and the USA as the legitimate government of Poland?
One of the options was to repatriate the Polish armed forces and their dependents forcibly to Poland but, as it is succinctly put in a cabinet briefing paper “... it needs to be born in mind that the Polish army is currently the largest fighting force in Italy.” The problem was solved in a pragmatic and very British way. A Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC) was raised in 1946 by the British government, as a corps of the British Army, into which Poles were enlisted for the period of their demobilisation - which would be completed by 1949.
Members of the PRC were enlisted for a period of two years but all were registered with local labour exchanges (job centres) as available for work, to be demobilised in regional PRC Administration and Payroll centres as soon as they found employment. The main centre was in Witley Camp in Surrey and people often wonder why this camp is mentioned even though they never actually lived there. This stamp is their demobilisation stamp.
In practice, there were a number of obstacles to taking up civilian work. Industrial areas short of manpower were often also short of living accommodation. The National Service Hostels Corporation (NSHC) often helped in these cases by setting up hostels for single working men but these were very primitive and quite unsuitable for families. Trade unions were jealously protecting skilled jobs and in many cases would not recognise vocational training provided in the PRC, and so only the most menial work could be offered to the Poles. Many labour exchanges operated a semi-official policy of jobs for British workers first, and so personal contact became a major source of job opportunities. Companies that had employed Poles and found them to be hard-working and reliable would encourage them to spread the word among their Polish friends that there was work to be had and this led to Polish communities being established in these areas.
The PRC completed its mission and was disbanded in 1949.
Read more about the camps at Zosia Biegus's excellent and very informative site, which also includes passenger lists of ships: http://www.polishresettlementcampsintheuk.co.uk/
Downloadable Document: List of all Resettlement Camps in the UK
The PRC was a uniformed but unarmed formation, with the specific task of preparing its members for civilian life in Britain and training them to work in sectors of the British economy that were suffering from a shortage of manpower, such as mining, construction, heavy industry and agriculture. It operated under British law and was subject to King’s Regulations but retained its Polish military organisational structure and was officered by Polish officers.
Some 150,000 chose to remain in Britain and were joined later by their families and dependents from wherever the fortunes of war had left them, swelling the numbers to well over 200,000. The only way such numbers of men and their families could be accommodated was by placing them in camps recently vacated by the Americans and Canadians. Some 265 camps were occupied by the PRC; most were built in the early 1940s in rural areas, often in the grounds of large country estates, as Military Hospitals, Army Bases and Airfields. There were also a small number of short-lived temporary camps under canvas.
Students at Foxley Camp making up for lost school years
Daglingworth Camp, Gloucestershire
At one end of the camp were clusters of huts built on concrete bases with walls of timber with metal sheeting and corrugated asbestos roofs
© Kresy Family
Our material is not to be copied or used in any way without the specific permission of Kresy Family Polish WWII History Group.
For help and advice, please refer to our contact page.
Please note that we have no connection with the Kresy-Siberia Foundation.