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Polish Military Uniform Identification

Article about: Hello, I am trying to identify what branch of the army my grandfather served in during WWII. He always claimed to have fought with the Polish Underground and we recently came across this pho

  1. #1
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    Default Polish Military Uniform Identification

    Hello,

    I am trying to identify what branch of the army my grandfather served in during WWII. He always claimed to have fought with the Polish Underground and we recently came across this photo of him in his uniform. Can anyone help identify it? Does anyone know where official records of his service might be kept? I have heard the Ministry of Defense in the UK has many records on Polish soldiers, but maybe there are others? Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Walter Military Photo.jpg 
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ID:	844233Thanks for the help. -CJH

  2. #2

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    Hello CJH and welcome to the forum. First off, I'll relocate this thread to the pre-war section. Your grandfather was an infantryman, serving in what appears to be the 61st Infantry Regiment, although the photo (taken between 1935 and the outbreak of war) cuts off right at the second numeral on the shoulder strap. Your best bet for information on his pre-WW2 service is to check with the Central Military Archives (Centralne Archiwum Wojskowe, CAW) in Warsaw. The British MOD would have records if he served in the Armed Forces in the West. I don't know what records they may have on those serving in the underground resistance, although if he served in the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), which was subordinate to the London Exiled Government, they may contain some records.

    Best wishes,
    Tony
    All thoughts and opinions expressed are those of my own and should not be mistaken for medical and/or legal advice.

    "Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday." - John Wayne

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    Wow, thank you for this information. So this photo was before the war? We had no idea! Do you have any information on where the 61st was stationed or what battles they fought in during the war? I Googled them and only found the German 61st Infantry Division. Any help would be appreciated. This is all so very interesting in trying to piece together his history during the war.

    Would the 61st have been disbanded after the invasion of Poland to where he would have had to join the Home Army? Thanks again! -CJH

  4. #4

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    Hi again,

    Yes, a pre-WW2 photo. The picture can be dated to 1935-39 by the cap type which was introduced that year.

    Presumably your grandfather served with the 61st Infantry Regiment until the outbreak of WW2. The regiment was stationed in the Bydgoszcz garrison and was part of the 15th Greater Poland (Wielkopolska) Infantry Division. It was thrown into action on the first day of the war as part of the Armia Pomorze. By the second week of the September Campaign it was taking part in the bloody Battle of The Bzura River, which was initially a suprise counter attack that had the Germans on their heels in restreat. Eventually the Germans got the upper hand once reinforcements were redirected and the Luftwaffe started merciless strafing and bombing of the Poles. Remnants of the 61st retreated to Warsaw where they defended the city until its capitulation. The regiment suffered some serious losses, including 35 officers and 900 other ranks killed in action.

    The 61st Infantry Regiment ceased to exist with the end of the September Campaign. Your grandfather was likely one of the many who escaped German imprisonment to join the resistance. His story will certainly be an intersting one, and worthy of further research.

    Regards,
    Tony

    Badge of the regiment:
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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    All thoughts and opinions expressed are those of my own and should not be mistaken for medical and/or legal advice.

    "Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday." - John Wayne

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    Tony, you are a wealth of information. I can't thank you enough. My mom about cried when she read all of this. Her father rarely talked about the war, so this is very exciting for her and all of us. The mention of Bydgoszcz makes a lot of sense, as he did speak of that city often. We have made an inquiry to the Centralne Archiwum Wojskowe, CAW which says they have a 4 week turnaround for certificates.

    If he joined the resistance fighting (which he did say he was in France and saw fighting near Prussia) would he have ended up in a displaced person's camp somewhere at the end of the war? We know he left for the US on a military boat (we think SS Ernie Pyle out of Gdynia, Poland). They left port on December 23, 1947 and arrived in Port of NY on January 6, 1948. Were there any camps near Gdynia or organizations that might have maintained records for the displaced Polish? Perhaps all person's leaving that port came from one camp or city?

    Thanks again Tony!!! -Curtis

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    Hi Curtis,

    You're most welcome. I'm please to be able to assist in this small way. Access to the web and a little Polish to English translation ability definitely helps. It great to hear of your momís excitement to be learning new things about her father. He sounds much like my own father and also the majority of others who lived through those years and chose not to speak much about their experiences. Hopefully your enquiry with the CAW will yield some interesting new information.

    Itís entirely possible that as an underground combatant he might have ended up in a displaced person's camp at the end of the war. Unfortunately I am not aware of any such camps near Gdynia, but for more information a google search came up with the following:

    Displaced Persons (DPs) in Poland, pg.1
    Displaced Persons (DPs) in Poland, page 2

    Also, you mention his resistance activity in France and then combat near Prussia. If this is in chronological order then it sounds unusual, but anything is possible. Best wishes with your research. Please keep us posted.

    Regards,
    Tony
    All thoughts and opinions expressed are those of my own and should not be mistaken for medical and/or legal advice.

    "Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday." - John Wayne

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    This is when it gives you a good feeling when a fellow member gives assistance to an individual searching for information about his family and appreciates it.
    You are a good man Tony.

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    Tony is a great man! It is nice that sites like this are available online. I will let you know what else we find out in our search, so maybe it helps someone else out. Thanks again! -CJH

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