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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. #51

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    In 1941 the HQ of the Polish Armed Forces in Canada produced various materials intended to stimulate support for the Polish war effort and ultimately entice new recruits. One of their efforts was this bilingual booklet titled The Polish Soldier (Żołnierz Polski). Here’s a look at some of the content. (click on the photographs to enlarge the images)

    The cover has a characteristic Marian Walentynowicz illustration. Examples of his work are contained throughout.

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    Page 1 and 2:

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    Enemy accounts of the September 1939 Campaign:

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    Some photographs. First up is one that pictures three veteran pilots of the Battle of Britain. On the right is fighter ace Witold Urbanowicz, VM, DFC. Urbanowicz, a squadron leader of the famous 303rd Squadron, posted the second highest kill-score among Poles with 17 confirmed wartime kills. He ranked in the top ten Allied aces of the Battle of Britain. At about the time of this photo was taken Urbanowicz was assigned as the 2nd Air Attaché in the Polish Embassy US.

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    The Lt. Witkowski grouping (being discussed elsewhere in this thread) contains a photo album which has this personally dedicated and signed photograph from Urbanowicz to Witkowski:

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    More photos:

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    A call to join . . . “Here are forged the nails for Hitler’s coffin”:

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    And excerpt of a General Duch speech:

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    The back cover:

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    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

  2. #52

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    It’s been a while since the last installment of our look at the Witkowski grouping, so let’s continue with some more photographs from the album, focusing on 1941. A suitable starting place is the arrival on Canadian shores of General Duch in Montreal, Quebec en route to the home base of the recruitment operation in Winsdor, Ontario.

    July 19, 1941. The general is pictured with Colonel Franciszek Arciszewski (standing on far right of photo). In addition to his Polish Military Mission service, since the previous year 1940 Arciszewski was serving as Vice President of the World Union of Poles Abroad. His brother, Colonel Stanisław Rola-Arciszewski, was the commanding officer of the armoured corps of Army Group „Łódź” during the September Campaign, and at this time was imprisoned in a German Oflag. Also pictured is an unidentified Canadian Army officer.

    (click on photos to enlarge)

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    The following day, Toronto Ontario, welcomed by the local Polish community:

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    July 21, 1941, the officer corps representing the three branches of the military were greeted with a sunny day on arrival in Windsor. Lt. Witkowski is visible standing on the far right in the back row.

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    At work, Lieutenant Witkowski with Captain Kazimierz Pluszynski and Sergeant Janka, the quartermaster. Witkowski’s leather belt pictured here was included with the grouping, but was missing the cross strap common to Sam Browne belts. It appears that Witkowski preferred using just the waist belt, which may help explain its absence amongst his uniform items.

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    One of the items that Witkowski along with his Polish colleagues would continue to rely heavily on, the trusty pocket translator. This particular copy was printed after August 1940, so would have been nearly new on its trip across the Atlantic. Witkowski evidently pored over its pages many times:

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    Undated photo of a group of recruits during physical examination. Seated in front of Witkowski are from right to left Fl.Lt. Edward Jaworski VM, Major Bronisław Łożyński VM, and an as of yet unidentified officer. The chap standing next to Witkowski in Canadian battledress is Feliks Ratajski. I do not know his rank here, but he was nicknamed “Babiarz” – roughly translated “womanizer”.

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    August 1941, pictured across the street from the Prince Edward Hotel, located on the northeast corner of Ouellette Avenue and Park Street in Windsor (demolished in 1976). Polish Military Mission functions were held at this hotel. Witkowski is leaning up against the vehicle, opting here again for the strapless belt . . .

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    August 1941 on a trip to Montreal Quebec where Witkowski was accompanied by fighter ace and hero of the Battle of Britain Witold Urbanowicz, VM, DFC. The previous on this thread contains a dedicated and signed photograph from given by Urbanowicz to Witkowski. The group here consists of Lt. Col. Janusz Illinski, Sgt. Zygmunt Grandowski, and deputy-consul Sroka

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    Here the group is joined by a couple of young women dressed in traditional Polish folk dress, one borrowing Witkowski’s rogatywka cap. That same cap sits not three feet away from me as I write this and it comes to mind how in our hobby it's often heard “if only this could speak to tell me where it’s been and what it’s seen”. In a very tangible way these photographs do some of the talking for these surviving artifacts. The hat’s been shown earlier in the thread, so all I’m doing here is some shameless bragging about the new stretcher stand for his cap which I’ve been building for some of my headwear collection.

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    September 7, 1941, Belle Isle Park, Detroit Michigan: Witkowski accompanies General Duch to the memorial honouring the recently deceased Polish pianist and composer, former prime minister of Poland and vocal spokesman for Polish independence, Ignacy Jan Paderewski. Duch is seated in front of three US Army officers. Third row back we see Witkowski peering out on the far left of the picture. On the far right of this row is a Polish veteran in what appears to be a Haller Blue Army uniform.

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    Next up - photos from 1942

    Cheers,
    Tony
    Last edited by A.J. Zawadzki; 04-24-2014 at 06:18 PM. Reason: typo correction
    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

  3. #53

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    Tony,

    I have been looking for a picture of Lt Col Illinski wearing uniform. For a long time..... And here You have these pictures. I posted his VM in the VM thread .cool military
    Last edited by Krakow1; 05-03-2014 at 10:14 PM.
    NIE ZAPOMNIJMY O KRESACH.

  4. #54

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    Hi Tom,

    I'm happy to know that you've found these photographs helpful. Posted below is one more photo from this day showing Lt. Col. Ilinski (spelled "Illinski" in the photo album) in the center of the group. Urbanowicz is to his right, and Witkowski to his left. Unfortunately the photographer did not focus the camera properly or perhaps had an unsteady hand.

    (click on photo to enlarge)

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    I'm hoping to get some free time this weekend to prepare the next batch of photos.

    Cheers,
    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

  5. #55

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    Tony, thanks again. You are correct with the name spelling.
    NIE ZAPOMNIJMY O KRESACH.

  6. #56

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    1942

    General Duch describing the French 1940 campaign where he commanded the 1st Polish Grenadier Division. I have yet to determine exactly where this photograph was taken. The stamp on the reverse of the photo was printed in Toronto Ontario, hinting that the location where this photo was taken was in Canada. As always, click on the photos to enlarge in new window:

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    General Duch once again in the midst of a group identified only with the acronym C.P.Z.P. (Centrum Przyjaciół Żołnierza Polskiego = Center of the Friends of the Polish Soldier), located in Chicago. The photo is undated, but based on placement likely some time in 1942:

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    Visible in the left rear is the "Down with the Enemy" recruitment poster shown earlier in post 3 of this thread (property of member Piwo). The printed text translates to "Become a volunteer in the Polish Army. Register for information at the center or branches of the Friends of the Polish Soldier":

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    Witkowski on a visit to Niagara Falls. Four pages of the album consisting of 32 photographs are devoted to this two day trip June 20 and 21, 1942. The trip was made in the Packard “Woody” Station Wagon staff car:

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    Note the country abbreviation code “PL” and the symbol designating an official Polish Army Vehicle:

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    Seeing the sights. Unfortunately the names of those accompanying Witkowski are not noted:

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    Back in Windsor, Witkowski in front of the “Henkel House” (see post #15) with a group of three friends on Easter Sunday 1942. The Polish caption in the photo album is enclosed within quotation marks suggesting it may be taken from a poem "bylo ich trzech, przyszli i odeszli, zabrali serce - dając w zamian swoje" - which translates to “there were three, who came and left, taking my heart, and giving theirs in return”:

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    May 1942, pictured with Polish Navy Commander Witold Zajączkowski, pre-WW2 commander of the Pinsk Flotilla, and Lt. Col. Zenon Wzacny, a veteran of the Battle of Tomaszów Lubelski (September 17 - 26 1939). This was one of the largest battles of the September Campaign which saw the Poles fighting both the combined assaults of the Germans and Russians:

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    Ending off this post with the formal notice of vacation effective August 1, 1942 “that may at any time be suspended or cancelled”. Although not known yet, 1943 would see the dissolving of the Polish Recruitment Mission and Witkowski would seek extensions of his furlough in order to pursue work in the War Industry. More on this in the next installment:

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    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

  7. #57

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    Quote by Itakdalej View Post
    I have been looking for a picture of Lt Col Illinski wearing uniform. For a long time..... And here You have these pictures. I posted his VM in the VM thread . . .
    For the record, Lt Col Illinski's VM along with its history is pictured in post #77 here:

    http://www.warrelics.eu/forum/polish...hread-23061-8/

    Thanks Tom

    Cheers,
    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

  8. #58

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    1943

    The Polish Military Mission in Canada was effectively ended with the closing of the Winsor recruiting center and the Owen Sound camp in early March 1943. The recruitment tally of 1000 soldiers fell far short of expectations. The hope was that the number of new recruits would be similar to the 22,000+ that volunteered for the Haller “Blue Army” 20 year earlier.

    Witkowski remained on leave and had since relocated to the United States to seek work in the war industry, ideally in a capacity that would allow him to utilize his formal training as a chemical engineer. He graduated from the University of Warsaw in 1927:

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    Remaining on leave required application for extensions. In late 1942 he was granted extension of his leave to January 1st 1943, the document prepared “in the name of the Chief of Staff General T. Klimecki”:

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    A bilingual ‘Certificate’ from the Polish Military Mission in Canada HQ in Windsor extending the furlough through 1943:

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    “Polish Soldiers’ Night” program for the evening of Jan. 20, 1943 “For the Benefit of the Polish Military Prisoners in Germany”. The visiting performer was “Famous Singer of Tobruk” Paweł Prokopieni, who had gained international recognition as a bass baritone singer prior to the war. He escaped Poland to eventually enlist in the Polish Army where he served a soldier in the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade and then Polish 2nd Corps. His celebrity gained him a post as a public relations officer, and throughout the war years he traveled widely performing for soldiers and Polish émigrés from Iran to Palestine to North Africa, Italy and as we see here to North America as well.

    Side bar: The Polish language portion states “Bufet Obficie Zaopatrzony” (Abundantly Stocked Buffet) which is (mis)translated to the decidedly blander “Tasty Polish Sandwiches” on the English language page. I wonder which one proved to be the case:

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    This newpaper clipping from March 6 1943 sees the singer back in the United States (after a March 1 concert at the Prince Edward Hotel in Windsor) “in the company of Lt. Witkowski, manager of concert tours”. Evidently a new pursuit for Witkowski, who had met the singer via the president of the Chicago chapter of the Friends of the Polish Soldier recruitment center. The article’s headline states that Prokopieni will be debuting the new Song of the 303rd Squadron. It mentions Witkowski’s comments that the hall during the singer’s most recent concert in Detroit was “filled to the brim” and that he performed passionately for over two hours to a very enthusiastic audience. Witkowski asks “How are things looking for the concert in Chicago” the next evening and receives the reply that ticket sales are once again very strong:

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    The photo album also contains a large format 8x10 photo of lance sergeant Prokopieni in SD uniform. Visible are the Air Observer wing, wound bar, Gold Cross of Merit with Swords (with ribbon bars for gold, silver and bronze), and on the pocket the badge of the 307th Polish Night Fighter Squadron.

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    Some photos found on the web:

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    October 12, 1943, a letter from Witkowski’s new employer:

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    October 1943 - acknowledgment of the extension of his unpaid furlough by the Polish Embassy in Washington:

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    Another extension from Jan.1, 1944, with the same conditions as earlier “that may at any time be suspended or cancelled”, and this time “in the name of the Commander in Chief, Chief of Staff, (Stanisław) Kopański, gen. bryg.”:

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    And the Polish embassy’s recognition, signed by Captain Stefan Zamoyski, now Assistant Military Attache in Washington. Zamoyski was awarded the Vituti Militari for his battlefield gallantry during the battle of Narvik when as commander of a company of Polish Highland Infantry he led the attack that resulted in the capture of Ankeness:

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    Witkowski would never return to active duty, instead remaining with the Udylite Corporation of Detroit, Michigan for the remainder of the war years and thereafter building a successful career with this firm for the remainder of his life.

    Next up, the post war years.

    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

  9. #59

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    Epilogue – the Post War Years

    In 1946 Witkowski was promoted to the head position of the Electro-Chemical Laboratory at the Udylite Corporation where he would remain for twenty more years. With a white lab coat replacing the familiar British Service Dress uniform seen in the photos thus far, Witkowski is pictured here in some Udylite advertising. Having him featured like this is a likely indication that he played a key role in the development of this new plating process:

    (click on pictures to magnify)

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    Witkowski maintained ties to the Polish veterans fraternity as a member of S.W.A.P, Stowarzyszenie Weteranów Armii Polskiej w Ameryce, the Polish Army Veterans Association in America. Here is his “furażerka” wedge cap. He applied a Canadian Garratt made eagle badge (see post #10). There were upwards of a dozen of these eagle badges amongst his uniform accoutrements consisting of extra buttons, rank stars, shoulder titles, and other bits and pieces.

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    After the war Witkowski actively pursued his dream of reuniting his family in his newly adopted homeland. In 1958 that dream was finally realized with the arrival of his daughter. The family reunion made the news:

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    Sadly, six years later “Louie” passed away suddenly on April 14, 1966 at 63 years of age. The somber news was communicated to fellow employees via a simple memo:

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    A letter from his employer to Mrs. Witkowski:

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    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

  10. #60

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    Here is one more very rare Polish Military Mission rogatywka cap. Made in Toronto Canada by the Muir Cap & Regalia Ltd.
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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