Polish Exiles in Surrey – Tweedsmuir Military Camp, Thursley

Surrey History Centre has supported a Heritage Lottery Fund project to celebrate the history of Tweedsmuir Military Camp, near Thursley.

The camp was originally built by the Royal Canadian Engineers in 1941 and during the Second World War it acted as a base for returning Canada and American troops. The camp was named after Lord Tweedsmuir of Elsfield, 15th Governor General of Canada (1935-1940), better known as John Buchan, author of The Thirty-nine Steps. However, between 1947 and 1960, the camp was used as temporary accommodation for personnel of the Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC). It is the camp’s Polish history that has been collated and preserved by project administrators, Wies and Zen Rogalski, who both grew up in the camp.

Click on the image below to see a larger version

The project

A permanent exhibition housed in a reconstructed barrack hut has been created at the Rural Life Centre, Tilford, which itself is close to the former site of camp. The project involved those who lived at the camp and their descendants, and commissioned interviews with them and the family members of PRC personnel.

Their history is told in a vivid presentation which includes original artefacts, photographs, specially commissioned models, a booklet and a DVD. A large number of English and Polish volunteers, including local school children, also contributed to the project.

The camp exhibit at the Rural Life Centre was opened in August 2012. Click here to read (pdf PDF document) more about the event.

For further details see the Tweedsmuir Military Camp project website at http://www.tweedsmuirmilitarycamp.co.uk which includes details of the Tweedsmuir Camp exhibition charting the history of the project and the permanent exhibition

More about the Tweedsmuir Camp exhibit at the Rural Life Centre can be found at http://www.rural-life.org.uk/html/Exhibits/Tweedsmuir.html

Read about the hidden history of Surrey’s Polish military exiles.

Project archives

The project collated documents procured from The National Archives, The Canadian Archives, The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum, Secrett’s Farm and private collections. The project papers have now been deposited with Surrey History Centre (SHC ref 9196), so that future generations can learn about the post-war development of the Polish community in the county. Wies Rogalski comments “I’m really excited that we are able to establish an archive of documents, which can be used by visitors to the History Centre”.

Travelling exhibition

Wies and Zen Rogalski with the travelling exhibition at Surrey History Centre,<br/>April 2013

Wies and Zen Rogalski with the travelling exhibition at Surrey History Centre,
April 2013

In March 2013, the project’s travelling exhibition came to Surrey History Centre and received unprecedented feedback from visitors, some of who were tracing their Polish roots.

Click here to read an article (in Polish) by Greg Bozcar for the online Polish community magazine Moja Wyspa, http://www.mojawyspa.co.uk/artykuly/30149/O-polskich-zolnierzach-osiadlych-w-UK or download a pdf (PDF) copy of the English translation .

Click here to read the exhibition text.

Can you help?

If you have any information about Tweedsmuir Military camp, the residents there, or any documents or photographs relating to Tweedsmuir, Surrey History Centre and the Tweedsmuir Military Camp project would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact Di Stiff on [email protected] or 01483 518737.

Other online sources and useful contacts

Zosia and Jurek Biegus, authors of Polish Resettlement Camps in England and Wales, 1946-1969 run a website http://www.polishresettlementcampsintheuk.co.uk/index.htm. This site is the main online resource for Polish resettlement camps in the UK and includes personal stories and links to sources.

The Kresy-Siberia Virtual Museum is a useful online guide to Polish exiles following the Second World War http://kresy-siberia.org/muzeum/?lang=en. It features a vast amount of information for tracing archive material and reminiscences of survivors of the conflict. The ‘Research Sources’ section contains links and advice for tracing Polish family history around the world.

Aquila Polonica is a publisher specialising in the Polish Second World War experience. Their website is http://www.polandww2.com/. The website also has guides to further Polish reading material, maps and photographic archives.

Agata Blaszczyk-Sawyer, from the School of Slavonic & East European Studies, University College London, has spent many years researching Polish resettlement camps and the post-war Polish community in the UK for her PhD thesis. She is happy to answer queries about them and point people in the direction of sources. Agata can be emailed at [email protected]

Janusz Jarzembowsk, Armoured Hussars (Helion, 2013). Features a history of the Polish First Armoured Division, from the First World War onwards, in particular the role of his father Alexander-Leon ‘Manka’ Jarzembowski, RSM, 1939-47, who was at Tweedsmuir Resettlement Camp http://www.helion.co.uk/armoured-hussars-images-of-the-polish-1st-armoured-division-1939-47.html. Janusz welcomes any information regarding the subject and can be emailed at [email protected]

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