One of Józef Piłsudski’s Legionnaires, Aleksander Leon ‘Manka’ Jarzembowski was a Polish professional soldier from 1917 to 1949. He fought in seven campaigns between 1917 and 1945 and was wounded twice in combat. He achieved the rank of Regimental Sergeant-Major, and then Warrant Officer first class, 2nd Armoured Regiment, 1st Polish Armoured Division.
Jarzembowski’s regiment played a decisive role in the Battle of Normandy at the Falaise pocket, blocking the escape route of the retreating German forces. This action led General Montgomery to refer to the Poles as the ‘cork-in-the-bottle’.
Post war, like many veterans, Aleksander was unable to return to a Communist-run Poland and joined the Polish Resettlement Corp (PRC) formed by the British Government to help integrate exiled Poles into civilian life; this included providing English lessons and new skills to enable employment. Eventually demobbed in 1949 at Witley Camp, near Godalming, he moved to London, married and raised a family. Alexsander Jarzembowski died in 1987.
Aleksander’s son Janusz Jarzembowski has a website featuring the history of his father’s service and the Polish forces at http://armouredhussars.com/ and a Facebook page dedicated to the 1st Polish Armoured Division www.facebook.com/armouredhussars. He welcomes any information regarding the subject and can be emailed at [email protected]
Janusz is currently co-authoring Armoured Hussars 2: Normandy August 1944 along with the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum, to be published in December 2015.
For papers relating to Aleksander Jarzembowski, deposited at Surrey History Centre by Janusz, see SHC ref 9449. The papers include original and copy documents relating to his military career and discharge at Witley Camp.
As an alien, Aleksander was not entitled to vote and so does not appear in the local electoral registers. Surrey History Centre holds Surrey Constabulary Alien Registration index cards for Polish foreign nationals residing in the county, 1948-1978 (SHC ref CC654). These cards were issued when a person moved out of Surrey and one for Aleksander, unfortunately, does not exist.
For project papers for the PRC camp at Tweedsmuir, near Tilford, featuring photographs and reminiscences, see 9196. Included is a DVD In their Own Words: The Polish Community in Tweedsmuir Camp, Surrey after WWII (SHC ref 9196/5/1), which describes the role of the Polish forces towards the end of the Second World War and the fate of the exiled Poles.
A recreated PRC barrack block and exhibition can be seen at the Rural Life Centre, Tilford http://www.rurallife.plus.com/rlc/index.html
The Tweedsmuir Military Camp website is http://www.tweedsmuirmilitarycamp.co.uk/
Service records of World War Two allied Polish soldiers, sailors and airmen can be found among the personnel records of the British Ministry of Defence. Further details of how to identify and obtain copies of service records can be found at http://www.veterans-uk.info/service_records/service_records.html
Records relating to Polish resettlement camps in England, 1943-1948, can be found at The National Archives (TNA) under the reference WO315/6. Further details of TNA can be found by contacting The National Archives, Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, TW9 4DU; Tel: 020 8876 3444; email: [email protected]; web: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk
The Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum, London http://www.sikorskimuseum.co.uk/
Brookwood Military Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the UK and contains a section for Polish servicemen cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Names of those buried at Brookwood and indeed at other CWGC cemeteries can be searched for on their website http://www.cwgc.org/
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.
Zen & Wies Rogalski, The Polish Community in Tweedsmuir Camp, Surrey after WWII, (Old Kiln Museum Trust, 2012), (SHC ref 942.2THU).
Janusz Jarzembowski, Armoured Hussars: Images of the Polish 1st Armoured Division 1939-1947 (Helion) 2014.
Janusz Jarzembowski and David T. Bradley, Armoured Hussars: Volume 2 Images of the 1st Polish Armoured Division, Normandy, August 1944.