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Polish Military Mission in Canada during WW2

  1. #1

    Exclamation Polish Military Mission in Canada during WW2

    Recently a post was made about a poster (pardon the pun) http://www.warrelics.eu/forum/milita...i-img_2071.jpg that appealed to Polish emigres in Canada to enlist with the Free Polish Forces.

    I am aware (but just aware) of the history of Polish Americans enlisting for Haller's Blue Army during WW1 and that these recruits trained in Canada before going overseas. However I was unaware that during WW2, the Polish government in exile was recruiting in Canada.



    So to further mine and others' knowledge, please share what you know...
    Last edited by dastier; 02-12-2012 at 04:41 AM. Reason: added link for image

  2. #2

    Default re: Polish Military Mission in Canada during WW2

    Quote by dastier View Post
    . . .I am aware (but just aware) of the history of Polish Americans enlisting for Haller's Blue Army during WW1 and that these recruits trained in Canada before going overseas. However I was unaware that during WW2, the Polish government in exile was recruiting in Canada.

    So to further mine and others' knowledge, please share what you know...
    Mike, here’s a brief overview of the Polish Military Mission in North America.

    The origins of the WW2 recruitment drive can be traced to mid September 1939 while Poland was under assault by both the Germans and Soviets. The Consul General of Poland in Canada wrote a letter to the Canadian External Affairs department incontaining the following: “According to information received from the Embassy of Poland in Paris a large Polish army unit is going to be organized in France. This unit will constitute part of the Polish Army. Volunteers to this army unit will be recruited from abroad and overseas. Owing to the fact that in Canada there are many Polish citizens who would enlist to this voluntary unit, I have the honour to request the Canadian Government for permission to open recruiting offices in Canada for this action, including among these volunteers Polish citizens residing in the United States of America who desire to join the above mentioned Polish Army in France”

    Over the following year, which spanned the collapse of France, negotiations between the Poles and both Canadian and US governments progressed very slowly. There were cross-border logistical, organizational and financial matters that proved to be stubborn hurdles. Then in January 1941 General Władysław Sikorski, the CIC of the Polish Armed Forces, started the recruitment drive in earnest with the objective of bringing over to the U.K. the North American volunteers along with drafted Polish citizens in preparation for the eventual invasion of Europe.

    Sikorski visited Canada several months later in April bringing with him solutions for the financial problems and negotiating the recruitment guidelines which were of concern to the Canadian Government. Poland was required to transfer $2,000,000 in gold and a further $400,000 in cash to cover recruitment and training costs on Canadian soil. Formal recruitment started in May 1941 after the establishment of Windsor Ontario as the base of operations, with a building rented in Owen Sound, Ontario and converted to serve as barracks and a training center.

    General Bronisław Duch was chosen as the CIC of the Polish Forces in Canada. He availed himself well during the campaign in France, developing a reputation as well versed in the tactics of modern warfare, a disciplined and devoted solder with a calm disposition. Fluent in English he was an ideal choice. After arriving in Canada on July 17th he immediately set about organizing a vigorous recruitment drive in both Canada and the US. In the US a society called the “Centers of Friends of the Polish Soldier in Canada” was established in several major cities to promote recruitment. In Canada “Points of Information and Recruitment” were set up in several cities in Ontario and Quebec. Duch travelled extensively and tirelessly, visiting all of the communities where Poles and those of Polish ancestry had settled.

    A major boost to the Polish Military Mission came in September 1941 when the US Government agreed to provide critical supplies under the Lend-Lease Act, along with relaxation of restrictions preventing recruitment of US citizens that would otherwise be subject to service in the US military. This offered a very brief window before the source of volunteers was stopped after the US entry into the war following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

    The training center at Owen sound was closed in May 1942, with the Windsor recruiting center closing in March 1943. Polish airmen continued training in Canada as part of the Polish Air Force Mission. All told just under 1200 volunteers were ultimately recruited and trained.

    Unfortunately most of the records including documents and photographs of the Polish Military Mission were destroyed after the war. Surviving artifacts are rarely encountered. This has quite obviously contributed to the obscurity of this brief and often unknown episode in the early years of the war.

    Although already included in the poster thread, it’s appropriate to include here once again the official proclamation requiring registration of all male Polish citizens between the ages of 17 and 40 residing in Canada for military service as mandated by the Polish “Compulsory Military Service Bill of April 9, 1938”. Also pictured is a plaque located in Windsor commemorating the Polish Military Mission.

    More to come . . .

    Regards,
    Tony
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture -pol-can-proclamation-zaa.jpg   -canadian-recruitmant-ww2-windsor-plaque-e.jpg  

    -obwieszczenie-1941-psznz-kanada-aa.jpg  
    All thoughts and opinions expressed are those of my own and should not be mistaken for medical and/or legal advice.

  3. #3

    Default re: Polish Military Mission in Canada during WW2

    I hope that Piwo doesn't mind his posters also being included here . . .
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture -img_2071.jpg   -img_2082.jpg  

    -img_2077.jpg   -img_2075.jpg  

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

  4. #4

    Default re: Polish Military Mission in Canada during WW2

    Here is a recently acquired period photograph of General Duch. A super image capturing the great general in a casual moment. The original measures 5 x 8, but the posted image is slightly cropped down. It bears a dedication to one of the general’s staff officers accompanying him during the recruitment mission (translated):

    “(to) Lieutenant Witkowski
    as a souvenir
    Bronisław Duch, gen
    Windsor Oct 16 1941”

    The photo is stamped on the reverse Hoffman Photo Studio, 5456 Chene – Detroit, Mich.

    Regards,
    Tony
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture -duch-bronislaw-rev-e.jpg   -duch-bronislaw-gen-1941-e.jpg  

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

  5. #5
    ?

    Default re: Polish Military Mission in Canada during WW2

    -jaburnahm-flag.jpgTony,

    One of those recruits was an Amercan by the name of James Ace Burnham. He was from northeast Ohio. James volunteered to serve in the Polish Army tank corps after being rejected y both the RCAF and Polish Air Force...same recruiting doctors rejected him. So he ended up in the tank corps.

    James had no Polish connection whatsoever. But he was a younf man looking for excitement and adventure. He found a home with the Poles. He trained at OwenSound. and shipped off to England.In Scotland he trained wit 16 tank brigade. He met another American volunteer in Scotland. Richard Tice. They would become fast friends. In fact Jim would be his best man when Dick wed his Scottish bride Elisabeth. Dick also suggested to Jim that they volunteer for the newly formed Polish parachute Brigade that Colonel Sosabowski had formed.

    They both trained and became qualified Polish paratroopers having been issued consecutively numbered para badges #1669 Tice & #1670 Burnham. Richard Tice would go on to become a lieutenent in the brigade and Jim would be dishareged for medical complications developed during his service. Jim Burnham also married a Scottish bride and returned to Northeast Ohio. Sadly, Lt Richard Tice would be killed at Arnhem and lies in the cemetery there. Jim would live an uneventful family life raising his children and sharing a love of racing power boats. Jim lost contact with the Tices after he returned home. After the war ended, Dick Tice's widow, Elizabeth returned to Scranton, Pennsylvania her husbands hometown with their daughter Heather. Elisabeth and heather would move to Canada to be near her brother who had emigrated their after the war. Ironically, they would live less than fifty miles across Lake Erie from the Burnhams.
    Raising a famiy growing old surviving a horrific sped boat accident took up Jim and Margaret's life along with their children and grandchildren. WWII and his Polish service got lost...........until a Polish Para re-enacotr from Ohio named Jim Lobaza, discovered Jim Burnham while participating in a re-enactment near Jim's home. This meeting was going to change a number of lives..all for the better.

    I had pleasure of meeting Jim and Margaret and learning about his service to Poland and how he so missed his closest friend, Dick Tice. Jim shared with me and other -re-enactors who visited their home his story.....a story he never shared with his children. This is not unusual for many WWII veterans.

    Jim carried a guilt.......he told me how guilty he felt for not looking for Elisabeth and Heather........he truly believed he let Dick down.

    Heather grew up in Canada, married and moved west, her mother passed away in the 80's. But her oldest son set out to learn about his grandfather....a Polish war hero form America. Well, through the internet he made contact with our re-enacting unit and he and I exchanged emails. He told me about his mother. I explained that Jim Burnham was alive and well and how I had seen pictures from the wedding with his grandfather and Jim and his grandmother. He wrote back a few days afterwards.
    He said when he called his mom and told her about Jim Burnham she was overcome with emotion. Heather recounted how her mother talked about Jimmy, her dad's best friend always wondering how he was doing. He gave me his mothers phone number and asked that I wait a few days before calling..... early one evening I called her.....it was an emotional phone call.......as I explained about Jim and Margaret and his story and memories and photos he shared with me. Heather told me I had given her father back to her.......a man she never new but knowing that her dad's best friend was alive and well and wanted to share with her.

    Jim and Margaret and Heather Tice did meet. They spent a weekend together in Ohio......sharing stories and photos and timelines. Jim died a few years ago. We were an honor guard at his funeral in a Polish battle dress. At the 60th anniversary of Operation Market Garden. Heather was a guest of the Dutch Government and visited her fathers grave for the first time. A Polish veteran took her to it. Gary J was there and he can fill in the events of that anniversary.

    I have copied lots of Jim Burnhams' wartime papers and articles from Owen Sound newspapers. I need to put their story down for everyone share and appreciate the sacrifices made by so many.

    cheers,
    Piwo

  6. #6

    Default re: Polish Military Mission in Canada during WW2

    Great story, thanks for sharing that Piwo

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

  7. #7

    Default re: Polish Military Mission in Canada during WW2

    Quote by A.J. Zawadzki View Post
    I hope that Piwo doesn't mind his posters also being included here . . .
    I wonder why the graphic artist did not illustrate 'Poland' with the actual contour outline of Poland of the time and drew an amorphous shape instead? Almost a premonition of the country's 'shape' post WWII?
    I collect, therefore I am.

  8. #8

    Default re: Polish Military Mission in Canada during WW2

    Hi Tony,

    A very nice photograph of General Duch, you can make out the ribbon of the British Military Cross 2nd row 2nd from the left quite well.

    Best wishes

    Andrzejku

  9. #9

    Default re: Polish Military Mission in Canada during WW2

    Quote by 4thskorpion View Post
    I wonder why the graphic artist did not illustrate 'Poland' with the actual contour outline of Poland of the time and drew an amorphous shape instead? Almost a premonition of the country's 'shape' post WWII?
    Stefan, my thought exactly. WW2 period posters depicting the map of Poland typically show the pre-war borders, so this one is very unusual in this respect. As you say, maybe an omen of things to come . . .

    Quote by andrzejku98 View Post
    A very nice photograph of General Duch, you can make out the ribbon of the British Military Cross 2nd row 2nd from the left quite well.
    Thanks Andrzej. I was quite stoked with this acquisition, which is special on several levels. Aside from the signed personal dedication and date, it is a larger format with crisp focus, great uniform detail, and an image of the general I had never seen before. This may very well be the first time this image has been given public exposure – my gift to forum viewers

    Despite his very accomplished military career (moved over to command of the 3rd Carpathian Rifles Division immediately after the mission in Canada), Duch remains one of the most under-photographed of the wartime generals.

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

  10. #10

    Default re: Polish Military Mission in Canada during WW2

    The new recruits were outfitted in Canadian made uniforms with black / orange early triangular pattern armoured corps pennons on the collars and corresponding orange band around the rogatywka cap. Poland shoulder titles were applied, and at some point volunteer insignia was sewn below the title on the left arm. An example of this rare version of the insignia is pictured below (note the unusual eagle pattern in comparison to the more common standard national eagle found on most of these).

    Also pictured is a surviving example of a Polish Military Mission rogatywka cap. Made in Toronto Canada by the Muir Cap & Regalia Ltd., a company still in existence. I may have posted this previously elsewhere on the forum, so please excuse the encore. (Muir Cap).

    The hat is made to wz.35 specs with components consisting of khaki green wool uppers stiffened by means of a sprung metal insert, an orange felt hat band, black fiber visor, and leather chin strap held in place by two buttons displaying the crowed national eagle. The interior has a leatherette sweatband (which hasn’t stood the test of time all too well and is being held in place by means of a mylar plastic ring), a black cotton fabric liner, and the maker’s label behind a plastic shield.

    The eagle badge is made by G.J. Garratt of Toronto. An original ‘unissued’ example is pictured.

    On arrival in Scotland in 1943 the soldiers were supplied with regulation equipment for enlisted men including berets and FS Caps, the rogatywka being excluded from these ranks. As such, most of these Canadian rogatywka caps were eventually lost or discarded.

    This particular hat was found in a group of about a half dozen stored in the attic of the Dom Polski (Polish House) located at 1275 Langois Ave., Windsor. The story goes that in 1943 several of the recruits stayed behind for various reasons including illness, etc, and these are possibly the hats that belonged to these fellows.

    Regards,
    Tony
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture -rogatywka-cap-psznz-canada-b.jpg   -rogatywka-cap-psznz-canada-.jpg  

    -canadian-recruitment-volunteer-insignia.jpg   -gj-garratt.jpg  

    -rogatywka-cap-psznz-canada-side.jpg  
    All thoughts and opinions expressed are those of my own and should not be mistaken for medical and/or legal advice.

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