1943-1945 Polish SOE flight logs to Poland part 5_Final:
Over 600 SOE flights (not all successful) to Poland from Italy 1944... given the perils of the flights a pretty substantial effort in anyone's book!
1943-1945 Polish SOE flight logs to Poland part 5_Final:
Over 600 SOE flights (not all successful) to Poland from Italy 1944... given the perils of the flights a pretty substantial effort in anyone's book!
Anyone interested in SOE and NKVD plans for collaboration in Europe and Far East?
I have a set of declassified SOE documents related to the background to this subject dated April 1945.
Now that again would be most interesting!
An agreement was signed in 1941 between the NKVD and SOE to deliver a number of Russian agents into Occupied Europe.
This file SOE and NKVD has been on my to-do-more-with list for a while so I haven't really followed this up. But the subject of SOE and NKVD collaboration is an intriguing one!
You in Britain may have known about before, but here in The US the new AFTER THE BATTLE came out..... with Audley End, the Cichociemni training center as the cover story
And "Captain Mack," a buddy of a couple of ours gets a mention....
A reference via the Polish Underground Studies group in London.
STUDIUM POLSKI PODZIEMNEJ W LONDYNIE
THE POLISH UNDERGROUND MOVEMENT (1939-1945) STUDY TRUST, LONDON, UK
Studium Polski Podziemnej w Londynie / Polish Underground Movement (1939-1945) Study Trust in London
Copyright © Polish Underground Movement (1939-1945) Study Trust
Copying permitted with reference to source and authors
Operation Freston - The British Military Mission to Poland 1944
Symposium organized by PUMST at the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum in London on 22 Nov
2004 on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the Warsaw Rising 1944.
On 1st February 1944, the Polish Prime Minister, Stanisław Mikołajczyk, wrote to Winston
Churchill asking for liaison missions, consisting of British officers, to be sent to Poland to
ensure more direct and close contact and co-operation between the Western Allies and
the Polish Underground authorities. In reality he also wanted to secure the safety of
members of the Secret Army who were being maltreated by the Soviets. He hoped the
presence of British officers would stop such abuse. A similar appeal was made to
Roosevelt without success.
Both Churchill and Selborne, the Minister for Economic Warfare and responsible for the
Special Operations Executive, were keen on the idea, as were the British Chiefs of Staff.
There was a need to collect intelligence from Poland and they saw advantages in having
men on the spot to witness at first hand the Soviet advance and the German retreat. The
British Foreign Office, by contrast, was not so keen. They foresaw that whatever the
political structure of Eastern and Central Europe would to be at the end of the war, the
Soviets were likely to be a great influence, if not playing a major role. They were also
concerned that opposition to the Soviets could trigger the outbreak of another conflict
between the Western Allies and the Communists following the defeat of the Axis. Britain,
already bankrupted and heavily in debt by the current war, could not consider becoming
involved in another.
The Foreign Office considered it imperative that a good relationship existed between the
Poles and the Soviets. This was perhaps, wishful thinking, nevertheless the opinion of
the FO was important as far as the British Cabinet was concerned and Churchill was
obliged to give their views his consideration. He therefore decided to wait for a reply to a
letter he had written to Stalin before committing himself to an answer to Mikolajczyk. He
did not however, wait for the reply before following the matter up with other departments.
SOE discussed the proposal. General Colin Gubbins, the head of SOE, and Harold Perkins, the
head of the Polish section, thought a mission of this type would be invaluable as it afforded an
opportunity to judge the strength, morale and intentions of the Polish Home Army. Information
gathered could perhaps be used for the attainment of Polish political freedom once the Germans
had been defeated, and used to counter anti Polish propaganda issued from the Kremlin. British
interests would fare better in an independent Poland and SOE considered it necessary to
convince the Poles that, despite the feelings they were getting from the FO, a sell out to the
Russians was not the policy of the British Government. There was also huge potential for action
in Poland in support of Operation OVERLORD, the invasion of Europe, so they immediately
began to plan for the mission.
The first consideration was who would make up a six-man mission lead by someone
acceptable to the British Government, in particular the Foreign Office. Harold Perkins
himself fitted the bill, having all the necessary qualities as well as being able to speak
Polish. He was too valuable in London though, but a Polish speaker was essential, so
the first member of the team selected was its interpreter, Lieutenant Antoni
Pospieszalski, a wireless telegraphy instructor from the Polish Secret Training Station at
Audley End in Essex. He had the added advantage of also being fluent in German. The
other members of the team would eventually be decided. Lt. Col. Duane Hudson, known
as 'Bill', would lead. Major Peter Kemp was to assist Hudson in setting up
communications. Sergeant Major Donald Galbraith would handle signals. Major Peter
Solly-Flood, an Irish intelligence officer formerly of the Foreign Office, with an ex-FO
colleague Major Alun Morgan, would make up the remainder of the team.
By the end of March, Sir Alexander Cadogan, the permanent under-secretary at the FO,
was asked to inform the Polish Ambassador that approval for the mission was unlikely to
be forthcoming but SOE had other ideas, and considered ignoring FO vacillations to
launch the mission off their own bat. Selborne, following conversations with General
Tatar, known as Tabor, renewed his approach to Eden.
Comparisons were then made of the expectations and points of view of both the Poles
and the General Staff and a document produced. This included a list of the Polish GOC
in Warsaw's desires for the mission, which were fourfold.
• To prove to independent observers their immediate need for weapons.
• To obtain recognition of the underground army as an allied force, which could
operate on equal terms with the advancing Soviets.
• To commit the allies to the idea of a general uprising,
• To have independent witnesses of Soviet atrocities.
The mere presence of the mission would resolve sections a and d.
The policy of the Chiefs of Staff was:
• To find out independently the strength of the organisation and the attitudes of the
men on the spot.
• To encourage action on the part of the organisation, which would aid the Soviet
advance, and discourage action, which was merely aimed at taking control of the
country (fighting against the Soviets) after it had been occupied by Soviets.
• To discourage a fantastic gesture of general revolt by pointing out that allied military
support could not be given except from Russia.
• To act as a mild guarantee that Polish partisan detachments overrun by Soviets,
would not be slaughtered wholesale.
Obviously there were differences. The Chiefs of Staff wished to cause maximum
confusion in the German rear area, whereas the GOC Warsaw wanted force for a coup
to take over when Germany collapsed. The document concluded with the statement that
two thirds of material sent to the field was at present buried against the day of a general
uprising. This would have equated to four hundred tons of equipment, but regardless of
the quantity, it was evidently stored and intended for use against any aggressor whether
from the west or the east. This is perhaps, the reason the FO was so keen that the Poles
and the Soviets should come to some sort of friendly agreement.
Eden replied to Selborne on 22nd July. He now considered the mission to be viable but
still felt that it could not go ahead until some degree of co-operation between the Poles
and the Soviets was evident. Perkins pressed on with arrangements and, with both the
FO and the Chiefs of Staff each arguing that they could not proceed without the go-
ahead from the other, enlisted the services of Frank Roberts, the head of Central
Department at the Foreign Office, to break the vicious circle.
During the Warsaw uprising in early September the proposal was again put before
Churchill, whose response was, "This is a good idea, why not." The following day the
British Government announced its recognition of the Polish Home Army as part of the
Allied Force. This was a step in the right direction and settled section b. of the Polish
requirements, but a sudden threat of resignation from Mikolajczyk caused the FO to
revert to their former heel dragging. Following a message from the Commander of the
Radom district in Poland, which told of arrests, disarming of Polish Home Army soldiers
and the killing of Home Army commanders by the Soviets, a meeting was set up
between SOE and the Foreign Office. Little was achieved but a suggestion was put
forward that the mission be despatched provided it was done with the agreement of the
Russians. Within a week the FO gave permission for the mission to go ahead.
The Freston team was joined by Group Captain Roman Rudkowski, the Chief of Polish
Air Intelligence, who would act as liaison with the General Officer Commanding the
Home Army, General Leopold Okulicki. Early in the morning of 13th October a flight
carrying the mission's members took off from England bound for Italy where it landed
later that evening. The following day saw conditions perfect for their continuance to
Poland but the Mission, lacking sufficient equipment, was not yet ready to depart;
Rudkowski, not being in need of extra equipment went ahead.
In London, Selborne lunched with Churchill and Eden, both of whom had recently
returned from Moscow. Churchill had been eager to strike a bargain with Stalin but Eden,
dissatisfied with the lack of Soviet support for the Poles during the Warsaw rising,
warned him off. The Soviets only supported 'communist minded' groups and, as it was
obvious they would be playing an increasingly important role in Eastern Europe, Eden
was worried about the amount of trust that could be placed on them. Churchill took the
hint, ever remaining supportive of the Poles he urged Selborne to put as many liaison
officers and stores into Poland as he could, and three other missions, Operations
Fernham, Folkestone and Flamstead were planned.
Following two further unsuccessful attempts to launch Freston, on 26th a message was
received which read "Hold Freston pending clarification of general situation." Another
followed, "Freston stopped". Mikolajczyk had done as threatened and resigned. His
replacement, Tomasz Arciszewski had strong anti-Soviet feelings and Eden was
concerned that the Russians would think it an unfriendly move if a mission were
launched now rather than earlier. This was rather strange thinking as the Russians had already been informed that the mission was to go ahead and the names of those taking
part had already been passed onto them. Churchill endorsed Eden's recommendation
that the mission be suspended and Perkins informed Hudson of the fact adding, that in
his opinion, the ban was imposed purely as a manifestation of disapproval of the new
Polish Prime Minister.
The party in Italy passed the time as best they could. Pospieszalski, now posing as a
British officer named Tony Currie but known to the others as 'Prof', taught them basic
Polish when they weren't playing cards in their small 'trulli' house in the mountains. It
came as a surprise when, on 13th December, Eden penned a letter to Churchill in favour
of the mission. He now feared that, with an anti-Soviet Polish Government, reports would
be used by them to whip up anti-Soviet feeling in the British parliament, the press and
amongst the public. He now thought the mission should proceed in order to confirm, or
deny, such potential reports. The mission therefore, was to go in at the earliest
This did not occur until 24th December when the mission again set off for the aerodrome.
Despite a message to say that the FO wanted Morgan and therefore he shouldn't go,
Morgan decided that it was too late to find a replacement and went anyway. Again the
weather was against them and the following morning they returned. Morgan was pulled
off the mission and Solly-Flood took his place as second in command, and that night,
Christmas day, the aircraft took off and successfully delivered the agents early the
They were met on landing as had been arranged and taken to a small village where they
stayed until dusk the following day. Always keeping on the move a few days later they
reached a house in Wlynica owned by a Madame Rubachowa, which they found
crowded with refugees from Warsaw. The next day their escort was relieved by a
detachment of the 25th Infantry Regiment and the group moved on to Katarzyna where
they stayed in the house of a widow named Dembowska. Here they saw in the New
Year, their escort firing wildly into the air in celebration. The shots aroused Germans in
the area and on the following morning the alarm was given that German tanks were
approaching. In the ensuing fight Freston was able to reach nearby woodland whilst their
escort covered their escape, loosing one man called Janusz. The Germans searched the
house, set fire to two barns and arrested Madame Dembowska.
During the evening Freston moved on to Dudki where they met a battalion commander
who gave them an insight into his feelings for the future of Poland. Following the burial of
Janusz, the team moved on to Maly Jackow where they met the Colonel commanding
the Czestochowa Inspectorate who gave them a further insight into Polish feelings over
dinner. Still keeping on the move they went next to a house owned by an employee of
the Ministry of Agriculture named Malewski. They were greeted at the door buy a short,
thick-set man dressed in a suit and flanked by two uniformed officers, it was Okulicki.
He apologised for the way that Freston were living, assuring them that he had wanted
them to be with him throughout but had found it impossible to arrange. After tea he
started to talk seriously about the German order of battle and his thoughts on the
Soviets, who he considered were more interested in politics than quickly defeating the
enemy. He said he had no objection to the principle of communism in Poland providing it
was not run by the Russians, whom he did not trust. He was of the opinion that although
the war with Germany would soon be over the British and Americans would be obliged to
forcibly stop further Soviet aggression. The meeting continued well into the night.
The following morning, the team moved first to Redziny, then to a well-furnished estate
mansion. Here Hudson spoke in response to a toast to the British and expressed his
hope for a free and independent Poland. He then proposed a toast to Churchill,
Roosevelt, Mikolajczyk and Stalin. The mention of Stalin's name brought cries of "NO"
and howls of protest. It was obvious that Mikolajczyk was none too popular either.
Hudson was visibly shocked, as were all members of Freston except Currie who, being a
Pole, had no illusions about Stalin.
During the night of 12/13th January a barrage of heavy gunfire was heard giving Freston
their first indication of the Soviet advance. Over the next two days the German airforce
remained active despite a general German withdrawal. Hudson asked again to meet
Okulicki but was to be disappointed. 'Jerzy', a member of the escort, invited the team to a
party at his sister's house in Wlynica. They were surprised to discover that his sister was
none other than Madame Rubachowa who had sheltered them earlier. The house was
again crowded and the party well underway when they arrived. Here Freston learned that
the AK had standing orders to disband but that their escort would remain with them as
long as they could. Here also, it was decided that 'Jerzy', whose real name was Symon
Zaremba, would accompany them back to London as a courier.
During the following day there was much activity and Kemp observed a Russian
armoured column moving westward, some 70% of which had been supplied under lend-
lease from the Americans. Hudson informed the escort that he was happy that the safety
of the team was now assured and that they should follow their orders to disband, but
their commander insisted they stay until the afternoon, by which time the Russians would
be further west. Hudson launched a last minute attempt to contact the GOC, sending
Solly-Flood, Currie and Zaremba off in a cart. Entering the forest they encountered SS
troops hiding from the Russians. It was obvious there was no fight left in them and that
they were anxious not to give away their place of hiding, so the three, two of them still
wearing British uniforms, drove their horse on, freely through the German ranks without
Reaching their destination they encountered Russian troops and were introduced by their
contact Mr. Siemienski, as British Officers working with the Underground. They were then
interrogated by an officer wearing a Lt General's uniform. Currie and Solly-Flood
presented their documents. Zaremba had remained guarding the cart, which proved
fortunate, as he had no documentation at all. Solly-Flood was unconcerned; the Soviets
had been given the names of the team members before their departure from England, so
a quick check would confirm his story. The General politely said he had not been made
aware of their presence in the area so Solly-Flood explained that the other members of
the team were in Katarzyna. Suddenly the General placed them under arrest asking,
"Why have you been spying on the Red Army? Allied soldiers would not be found living
with bandits, collaborators, war criminals and enemies of the Red Army."
Hudson, Kemp and Galbraith in the meantime were having dinner with a recently
released Madame Dembowska when they spotted Russian troops moving in the nearby
forest. Hudson signalled to them and presently a Ukranian Captain entered the house
and invited them to dine with him the following night. Following this, Hudson and the
others were taken by truck to the Russian headquarters in Zytno where a Major General
interviewed them. Hudson offered his identity documents but the General refused to look
at them, saying they could have easily been forged. The General asked Hudson
questions about the organisation he worked for, which Hudson refused to answer, saying
if the General wanted to check their credentials he should ask Moscow. The General insisted the team hand over their weapons, which was done under strong protest,
Hudson sarcastically saying he would order it only because it was obvious the General
feared an attack upon the Red Army by the six members of the Freston team. Following
the interview they were taken to the house of Mr. Siemienski where they were reunited
with the others. It became evident that the interviewer had been the same man in each
case despite his change of uniform. As Morgan's name had been forwarded to Moscow
as being a mission member, between them they decided to say that Zaremba was really
Morgan, and that he was an interpreter.
On 21st they were moved further south and on 26th to Czestochowa where they were
imprisoned in the old Gestapo headquarters. Here they were given a bucket of swill
which passed for food and which Hudson kicked over whilst Kemp asked if he could
exchange his share for vodka. Hudson's demands to see a more senior officer were met
without response so he said he would write to Marshall Koniev. This surprised the Major
in whose charge they were, who apparently had become convinced that Hudson was
someone of great importance. They were soon moved to more comfortable quarters and
given better food.
On 11th February the team were told they were soon to leave Czestchowa by air with
another British soldier. This worried Hudson as he knew another Briton would spot
Zaremba as an impostor immediately, so arrangements were made to shield Zaremba
from him while Hudson established the new man's identity. He turned out to be an
Austrian deserter named Manfred Zenker, who had presumably pretended to be English
in the hope of gaining better treatment. Hudson realised he could also be a plant, so
informed the Russians the man was an impostor, a fact the Russians ignored. They flew
in stages to Moscow arriving on 17th February.
The Russian Major who accompanied them arranged onward transport, a van, which
sped through the Moscow streets before stopping at the Lubianka Prison. Hearts sank until
he returned 15 minutes later and they continued to the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Ushered into a room they slumped into armchairs and the Russian Major bid them goodbye.
Shortly afterwards a British Officer entered and apologised for keeping them waiting. He led
them, including the Austrian, outside to a waiting station wagon, returning their weapons to
them they then departed for the British Military Mission building.
Whilst in Moscow, and avoiding obvious approaches from good looking female NKVD
agents, the team enjoyed themselves with the best wines and food, the costs of which,
they later discovered, would come out of their pay packets. By chance Peter Kemp met a
friend, General Bob Laycock, who was returning from the conference in Yalta. Suddenly
it dawned on him that their being held for so long by the Soviets in Poland was no
accident. The Russians did not want any information that Freston had, getting in the way
of them completing the negotiations to their satisfaction.
One night a dinner was held at the Embassy with a Soviet Intelligence Colonel named
Graur present. An argument soon broke out between Hudson, who had changed his
opinion of the Soviet allies, and Graur, which the Ambassador diplomatically defused
with a joke. The NKVD suspected Zaremba of not being whom he claimed and made
requests for information about him. Instructions were issued from London to the
Embassy telling them not to reveal that he was Polish. With the exception of Zaremba,
visas were eventually arranged for all members of the party who spent the next five days
getting to Cairo. Zaremba remained in Moscow until September when he finally left with
the British Ambassador on a diplomatic flight.
In many ways the mission had been a failure. Only one meeting with Okulicki had been
achieved when it had been intended that many should have taken place. The planned
follow-up missions were not to be launched. There was no point. The areas in which they
were to work had already been over-run by the Red Army. This was all due to the
prevarication of the British Foreign Office in failing to recognise the requirements of a
proven ally in favour of appeasing a future enemy, and by internal squabbles within the
Polish Government in Exile, which had caused Mikolajczyk's resignation. Hudson
reported directly to Churchill. Certainly Freston gave the British Foreign Office a reason
to reassess their relationship with the Soviets. Whether it caused the Home Office to
modify their policies in handling the surge of socialist sympathy in Britain following the
war is more doubtful. For many in Britain, right up until his death, 'Uncle Joe' Stalin could
still do no wrong. Such is the disadvantage of keeping secrets locked away.
The AK unit tasked with looking after the "Freston" mission were from the A.K. 27pp some of whose photos I have posted in the AK thread
Same pictures from Cichociemni and, or Para training.
Ok where are the pictures?