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Polish Military Mission in Canada during WW2

Article about: Posted below are photographs of a young recruit named Zdzisław Gajewski in battledress. The back of the photo is dated April 18, 1942 along with the note “youngest volunteer – 16 years

  1. #21


    I have been googling for information about my late uncle. I was very pleased to find this photograph of him on your site. I remember seeing it on the wall in my grandmother's room. I know he fought with the 1st Polish Armoured Division but little else. I read the book "The Black Devils' March" but I would appreciate any additional info anyone may have on how they were recruited, training in Ontario and Scotland etc. and especially any info regarding Zdzislaw Gajewski. I know one of his close buddies was Aleksander Zych and that Kiersz-Leliwa Wieslaw Kajetan, mjr, was his CO as I visited his grave in Falaise and took pictures at my uncles request years ago.

    Thanks for any help or redirection,


  2. #22


    Ron would you please post the photograph you are referring to here in this thread with a caption. Also have you contacted the British MOD for any war records? There is a sticky on 'Researching a Polish Exile Combatant'.

    Finally welcome to the forum. Did you find this thread by a general web search or were you referred here? I suspect that if you're patient, other forum members will be able to offer more guidance.

  3. #23


    Hi Mike,

    The picture in question of Zdzisław Gajewski is in post #11.

    Hi Ron, and welcome to the forum.

    Your best bet to find information about your uncle as per Mike’s suggestion. Here’s some more information for you:

    I checked all of my records for any mention of your uncle but came up dry. Very few of the Canadian records survived as the majority were destroyed after the war.

    I do have some more Canadian recruitment drive information and will eventually post additional details once translated and as time permits, so keep watching this thread.

    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

  4. #24


    Thanks for the welcome. The photograph is indeed the one in thread number 11. I have not contacted the British MOD. I had not heard of them till your reference to the sticky.

    I did contact the Canadian War Museum Records in Ottawa and have been told to expect a one year's wait for a "packet" of his service records.

    I found this site purely by accident when googling his name! Lots of intersting info here.

    Thanks again for your help.


  5. #25


    Thanks Tony for the info. I would appreciate any recruitment drive information as I have little knowledge of how they were recruited.

    I am hoping the Canadian War museum will help me date my uncle's service because I think he may have either transferred to the Canadian army during WW2 or joined it afterwards to serve in Korea.

    I will head over to "researching a Polish Exile Combatant" .

    Thanks again for taking the time and the info.


  6. #26


    Hi Ron, will post more recruitment details as information is obtained. No doubt you've read posts #2 and #3 earlier in this thread, which contain some basic info and show the official Polish Government Proclamation along with two other posters.

    Best wishes with your efforts for more information about your uncle's service via the Canadian War Museum Records. I wonder what if anything they may have on the Polish Military Mission in Canada. Something to dig into one day.

    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

  7. #27


    To carry on with this thread we’ll examine a recently acquired grouping of items that belonged to Lt. Ludwik N. Witkowski, an officer who served throughout the duration of Polish Military Mission in Canada. Over the next while I’ll post some items from the grouping that will tell the story the military life of this man and hopefully also shed a little more light on the small and little known chapter of the WW2 Polish Armed Forces in the West we are studying here and a long time focal point of interest for me.

    The acquisition of this grouping is the result of meeting ‘Wally’, the son of the veteran, right here on our forum. A couple of years ago he had posted a question about some hat eagle badges contained in his father’s WW2 items that he was planning on selling via internet auction. After identifying them for him as a scarcely seen product of the firm of G.J. Garratt located in Toronto, Canada he was able to describe them accurately which helped result in some very respectable closing prices. And thus a friendship was kindled. Wally’s a great guy and it’s an honour to consider him a friend. We remain in regular contact with each other.

    Wally is himself a decorated WW2 veteran having served as a teenager in the underground resistance as part of the Szare Szeregi (The Gray Ranks). This was the underground Polish Scouting Association which worked alongside the Armia Krajowa (Home Army). The Polish underground scouting movement has a heroic wartime story of fierce determination and courage in the face of the brutally oppressive German and Russian occupiers. In 1948 Wally, just short of his 21st birthday, succeeded in escaping from Stalinist Poland by being smuggled onto a Sweden bound cargo ship ultimately culminating in reunion with his father in the United States. His mother and sister remained in Poland but would eventually would also join them.

    Wally, now in his eighties, has been in the process of thinning out some of his possessions and was checking with family members for an interested candidate to become the new custodian of grandfather’s / great-grandfather’s items. He found no enthusiastic interest, and on mentioning ‘the collector in Canada’ the would be inheritors agreed with Wally’s suggestion that the grouping be made available to me. Needless to say, I gratefully accepted.

    Earlier in this thread I had posted several items from this grouping purchased during Wally’s earlier internet sales alongside the hat eagle badges. (see post 4, volunteer patch and eagle in post 10, posts 15, 16, 17, and 19). Deeming these items expendable he decided to sell them after photographing / photocopying them to preserve images with the remainder of the grouping that was to be passed down in his family. It has since been a pleasure to reunite these items back into the larger grouping.

    The grouping consists of a uniform tunic, rogatywka cap, decorations, documents, personal souvenirs, and a fascinating photo album devoted to his wartime service. All of these will be examined in forthcoming posts.

    A suitable starting point is with a brief biography of Lt. Witkowski. This bio is contained in the Dr. Frank Kmietowicz’s work devoted to the Polish Military Mission in Canada. Published in 1984 this large format soft cover publication was printed in limited quantity. It was an item from the Witkowski grouping listed for internet sale which I was fortunate to win:

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    The bio entry:

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    Among the various documents in the grouping is an interesting letter from the late author to Lt. Witkowski’s widow requesting a verification of the biographical details that would be included in the book. For those that cannot read Polish the author mentions the price of each book ($10) and that he had received one order for 25 copies from a veteran who had volunteered for service via the recruitment mission. The publishing costs were to be obtained from funds received by pre-order sales - “if this proves to be insufficient we will pay the rest out of our own pockets”. Also “we will print only the quantity to fill the paid book orders”, which explains why this book is seldom encountered on the market.

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    Translation of the biography:

    WITKOWSKI Ludwik Nikodem. Decorations: “Cross of Valour” for the September (1939) Campaign and “Croix de Guerre” for the French Campaign in 1940.

    Born on September 29, 1903 in Kielce (Poland). (Elementary) schooling at the Śniadecki Gymnasium (public middle school) and then studied at the University of Warsaw, Faculty of Organic Chemistry. Officer Cadet training completed in 1930 in Biedrusko. 2nd Lieutenant in the reserves from January 1, 1933. From 1935 employed as a chemical engineer in the petroleum industry in Borysław. In August 1939 mobilized as a company commander of a National Defense unit for maneuvers during which the outbreak of war ocurred. Engages in combat during the September Campaign in the area of Nowy Sącz and Turka. One September 20th with arms in hand crosses the border at Sianki into Hungary. Interned at camps in Budapest, Győr, Sárvár and again in Győr until December 23, 1939. Escapes through Jugoslavia, the Adriatic Sea, Italy and on January 21, 1940 enters France. Assigned to the 1st Grenadiers and takes part in this division’s combat. Taken prisoner on June 21, 1940 and escapes July 17 traveling via Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar arriving in England on October 25, 1940. On July 6, 1941 arrives in Canada as an instructor with General Bronisław Duch’s Military Mission. Promoted to rank of Lieutenant March 20, 1941. Employed at the Recruitment Center in Windsor (Ontario, Canada) until March 24, 1943 which is followed by employment in the war industry in the United States. From 1946 he is in charge of the Electro-Chemical Laboratory at the Udylite Corporation in Detroit. Dies on April 14, 1966 in Detroit.

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    Potrait taken at Washington Studio, Chicago in 1943 (8" x 10" print)
    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

  8. #28


    The letter of April 30th 1941 from the HQ 7th Cadre Rifle Brigade formally stating Lt. Witkowski’s assignment to the officer corps accompanying General Duch to Canada.

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    A brief summary translation:

    By order of the Commander in Chief (order number . . .) of the 26th day of this month Reserve Infantry Lieutenant Ludwik Witkowski was appointed to the first echelon of professional officers to Canada under the command of General Bolesław Duch and reassigned to the 5th Cadre Rifle Brigade.

    The sharp ones among you will say Bolesław Duch ?? For some reason the typist chose to use General Duch’s middle name rather than his given Christian name Bronisław.

    The document goes onto list some formalities such as completion of passport application along with providing two photographs and also stipulates uniform requirements to be in accordance with established regulations. It closes by stating that the documents will be forwarded to the Quartermaster.

    Moving along, here is Lt. Witkowski’s Service Dress uniform tunic and rogatywka cap. These are the same ones pictured in the portrait photo taken in 1943 (shown at the bottom of the previous post).

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    The period photographs contained in the album (to be explored later) reveal that this was Witkowki’s second uniform, likely tailored in Canada or the U.S as he did not return to the U.K. after the recruitment mission was terminated in 1943. Unfortunately there is no tailor’s label. Not shown in the picture below is the leather Sam Browne belt that accompanied the grouping.

    The rogatywka cap. According to an entry in Witkowski's pocket "kalendarzyk" (pocket daytimer / notebook), he obtained his uniform in Scotland, which presumably included the garrison cap. Interestingly, the eagle badge in the portrait appears to be a Gaunt product. At some point after this portrait was taken Witkowski swapped eagle badge for a Canadian made G.J. Garratt product.

    As an aside, the wear of the rogatywka was a requirement for officers permanently stationed in the UK centers where the Poles were garrisoned (London, Glasgow and Edinburgh) but was not favoured by many who instead opted for berets or to a lesser degree F.S. caps. This may help explain the relative rarity of these British made rogatywki.

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    There is no maker label nor any other identyfying marks on sweatband or elsewhere. However it bears the classic characteristics of a Lock & Co, London product, a major supplier of hats to the Polish Armed Forces.

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    Inside of sweat band bearing the owner's name and rank "por." (lieutenant):

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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

  9. #29


    Hi Tony,

    Fantastic items, all that I can add is that Ludwik Nikodem Witkowski was a Ppor rez. in the 4 Pulk Piechoty Legjonow, information obtained from 1934 Reserve Officers Yearbook.

    Best wishes


  10. #30


    Thanks Andrzejku. I very much appreciate that additional tidbit of information. Later today after the Saturday chores I'll post the next installment.

    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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