The Polish Community in Surrey

There has been an established Polish presence in Surrey since the early twentieth century, with migrant workers finding their way to the county from London for employment, or setting up their own businesses.

A large number of Poles, however, came to the UK during the Second World War either as servicemen in the Polish Allied Forces, refugees, or members of the Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC). Some 2000 settled in Surrey, a significant proportion of these found their way to Witley, near Godalming, and a resettlement camp at Tweedsmuir Camp, near Tilford.

Modezelan family documents from The Tweedsmuir Project archives (SHC ref 9196/1/2/- ; courtesy of The Tweedsmuir Project)

Modezelan family documents from The Tweedsmuir Project archives (SHC ref 9196/1/2/- ;
courtesy of The Tweedsmuir Project)

Click here to discover more about life at Tweedsmuir and the project celebrating the history of the camp.

Polish pilots at Kenley with their fighter plane, September 1940 (SHC ref 4209/3/115/1).

Polish pilots at Kenley with their fighter plane, September 1940 (SHC ref 4209/3/115/1).

There are many surprising connections with Poland and the Polish community in Surrey in the Surrey History Centre archives. These range from C16th correspondence in the Loseley manuscripts, to photographs of Poland from 1905 in the Vaughan-Williams papers, and the charitable aid programmes for Poland from the 1960s-1980s.

‘The Market Place Cracow’, 1905 (SHC ref 6536/72)

‘The Market Place Cracow’, 1905
(SHC ref 6536/72)

For a guide to Sources at Surrey History Centre for researching Polish history and the Polish community click here.

For a Bibliography for researching Polish history in Surrey click here.

Some notable Poles have made Surrey their home over the years, for example the poet Marian Hemar, who lived in Coldharbour. Others, such as Polish soldier Aleksander Jarzembowski, found themselves in Surrey at the end of the Second World War, unable to return to their homeland. Polish architect and artist Boleslaw ‘Boris’ Fijalkowski (1924-2015), made Guildford his home in 1960 and served on The Guildford Society’s committee for many years. As a teenage boy in 1940, Fijalkowski had been captured in Lvov in Poland by the Russians but escaped from a labour camp in Siberia two years later.

Can you help?

Do you have stories of the Polish community in Surrey? Do you have family documents, or other information, which we can add to the archives? We would very much like to hear from anyone who can help. Please contact Di Stiff, Collections Development Archivist on 01483 518737 or email: [email protected]

3 thoughts on “The Polish Community in Surrey”

  1. MARKIEWICZ says:

    Dear Madam or Sir,
    A brother of my grand father Piotr Markiewicz on my father (Casimir) side, Cezary Markiewicz has lived in the Witney Camp in 1946 in 1948. I would like to know if you will hold any record related to Cezary Markiewicz. I am providing you with some details I know, just following:


    Military file

    British Ministry of Defense


    Born on the 21st of December, 1919 at Kobylnik, District of Miadel, Poland (today Naroc in Belarus)

    Physic : 1,73 height, weight: 72 Kg, eyes and hairs: brown

    Secondary school at Miadel (Poland, today belarus) from 1921 until 1929

    Has knowledges in leather articles

    Occupations before demobilization: Carpenter and knows how reparing eletrical fittings

    1935: commission of military recrutement at Postawy (Poland, today Belarus): category « H »

    In 1936 and 1937: was telefonist n° 64/IW.Br

    Policeman in the State Police from 1938 until the 21st of September 1939, n° 64/IW.Br

    Soldier in France from 17th of February, 1940 until 1942 at Parthenay (Deux-Sèves in France): O.R.2.pip

    Soldier in Great Britain from the 24th of August, 1942 until 1946: oddz. Zbor K.41

    In 1942/43: was a radiotelegrafist, caporal from the 19th of February, 1938

    In 1943/44: was a radiotelegrafist, chief of a platoon from the 1st of April, 1944

    1944/46: detached as a chief of a platoon

    Leg injures on the 10th of 1944 and then evacuated by plane to Great Britain on the 11st of August, 1944

    Lived at Margaret Walsh’s house , 603, Halifax Road, Buttershaw, Bradford

    Married with Margaret Ellen Walsh (born in May, 1923, his father, Malthenwas a farmer and a munitions worker) who was 24 years old, at Saint-Joseph,’s church, Pakington Street, District dog Bradford, County Borough of Bradford, marriage certificate n° 148. The ceremony was celebrated by the priest John A. Craig. Witnesses: Delia Walsh et Malter Walsh

    October 1946: engager in the Regular Army at the Witley Camp in the Polish Settlement Corps

    Naturalized as a British on the 15th of October, 1948. Field of Service: 30026974, last grade: sergeant. Home Office Nationality Division, Princeton House, 271, High Holbores, London, W.C.1. Air Ministry, M16, Adastral House, Kingsway, W.C.2.

    End of military service: 23th of January, 1947, stationed at Inveraray, sergeant, n° 23156/AP/85, affectation: Polish Resettlement Corps. Polish Army and Division Holding Unit Home (Polish Constable). Depot: 19 PRC, 16, WoodRow Dr, Low Moor, Bradford, Yorks. Liberated on the 26th of January, 1948 after a period of military service of 3 years and 312 days. Polski Korpus przysposobikle, Biuro Ewidencyjne Witley Camp, Godalming, SURREY

    Occupation after World War II in Great-Britain: assistant store (groceries).
    Died on the 1st of April, 1964, at Bradford, Yorkshire, United Kingdom of England.

    Thanking you very much by advance,
    Very Truly Yours,
    Patrice MARKIEWICZ
    3, rue Marcelin Berthelot

  2. Ted Bates says:

    My name is Ted Bates and I lived Thursley and went to Mass every Sunday to Tweedsmuir Camp .
    Met some lovely People.
    Ted Bates.

  3. Mrs Sheila Wainwright says:

    I went to work at Little Pond House in Tilford when I was 19 in 1959. The charity was called International Help for Refugees. It had been ? founded by Gilbert Harding.
    I remember most of the children were Polish-some in a terrible condition when they arrived. I remember having to remove nits from the children’s hair-they were infested.
    It was run by a woman whose name I cant remember. She was brutal with the children and us-the helpers. She would be jailed today!!
    I never saw Gilbert Harding but I doubt whther I would have been allowed to!
    I am 80 now and have very clear memories of a woman who I am sure had mental health problems.

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