Once they had crossed the Soviet/Iranian border, the Polish soldiers came under British command. It was renamed from PSZ (Polskie Sily Zbrojne) in the USSR, to Polish Army in the East „Armia Polska na Srodkowym Wschodzie” (APSW). It was incorporated into the 8th British Army and in October 1942 was organised in the British fashion. It consisted of two infantry divisions, the 3rd Carpathian and the 5th Kresowa, three tank regiments, three cavalry regiments and several regiments of artillery of various calibres, sappers and services, such as signals, sanitary units, MP, including the Polish Women’s Auxiliary Service. Equipment was provided by both the British and Americans.
From Iran the troops travelled through the mountains to Iraq.
Throughout 1942 and 1943 the Polish Army in the Middle East prepared for the upcoming battles. After two years of starvation in Siberia, the soldiers were in bad shape, so their health problems and physical condition had to be improved first. Then followed intensive military training and manoeuvres.
In June 1943, this force was redesignated "2nd Polish Corps".
After a short recoup in Pahlevi, the evacuees were taken to Tehran, where they were very well looked after by the kind Iranian people.
It was in these mountains that the orphaned bear cub, later known as Wojtek the soldier bear, was found. He spent three months in a civilian camp near Tehran and was given to the soldiers of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company in August 1942.
There were five transit camps in Tehran, one army and four civilian, a Polish hospital, and various homes for the elderly and for sick children, as well as orphanages. The Red Cross organised nursing courses for the girls in the PSK, Women's Auxiliary.
After the evacuation over the Caspian Sea in 1942, over 2,000 tents (provided by the Iranian army) were hastily erected along the coastline of Pahlavi to accommodate the refugees, including bathhouses, latrines, disinfection booths, laundries, sleeping quarters, bakeries and a hospital.
2,000 airmen and sailors were shipped to Great Britain to reinforce Polish units in the UK. In Iran, the Polish Army was united with the Carpathian Brigade which consisted of Polish citizens who, after the debacle in 1939, made their way through Romania to Syria and fought during the campaign in Libya.
The transfer of all the Polish forces from Egypt started in December 1943 and continued until May 1944, troops landing in Italy at Taranto, Bari and Naples.
Danuta Maczka Gradosielska
In July 1943 some units of the 5th Kresowa Infantry Division moved to Mosul-Kirkuq to protect the oil fields of Iraq. Others trained for battle in the mountains of Lebanon near Tripoli.
During July and August, the 2nd Polish Corps moved to Palestine where it participated in the autumn manoeuvres, which were partly held in mountainous areas in order to acquaint the troops with the terrain they would encounter after arriving at their new destination, Italy.