WA = General Władyslaw Anders' book, An Army in Exile

January 16, 1943

Soviet Government hands a ‘Note’ to the Polish Government in London:
All Poles remaining in the Soviet Union and originating from the [Polish] provinces under Soviet occupation would be considered Soviet subjects.

Assistant People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the USSR, Y Vyshinsky, in a statement to representatives of the British and American Press in Moscow on May 6th, 1943:

As I have already pointed out, after the restoration of relations between the Soviet Government and the Polish Government and the conclusion of the Soviet-Polish military agreement of August 14, 1941, the Soviet Government carried out a number of measures to ensure the formation of a Polish Army on the territory of the U.S.S.R. In order to facilitate the formation of this army and ensure cadres for it, the Soviet Government expressed its readiness, by exception from the decree of November 29, 1939, to consider persons of Polish nationality among the residents of the western Ukraine and western Byelorussia to be Polish subjects. Despite this manifestation of goodwill and pliancy on the part of the Soviet Government, the Polish Government adopted a negative attitude towards this act of the Soviet Government and was not satisfied with it, being guided by its unlawful claims to territories of western Ukraine and western Byelorussia.
Meanwhile, as I have already stated, the Polish Government withdrew its army units from the U.S.S.R. as far back as August, 1942, and thus the necessity for further formation of Polish Army units on Soviet territory lapsed. In view of the above mentioned circumstances, there lapsed the need for excepting persons of Polish nationality concerning which the Soviet Government had expressed its readiness in December, 1941.
Therefore, on January 16, 1943, the Soviet Government informed the Polish Government that its previous statement of readiness to permit the exception from the decree of November 29, 1939, of the above-mentioned persons of Polish nationality should be considered as no longer valid and the possibility of their exemption from the provision of Soviet laws on citizenship as no longer existing.

February 2 1943

Russians defeat Germans in Stalingrad. Churchill urges all allies to celebrate.

March 10, 1943

Sikorski writes to President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill:

To Roosevelt:

… My Government and myself wish to make it clear to you in what a terrible position we are placed by the latest Russian pronouncements. They ask us to fight side by side with Russia, while at the same time this very country is raising claims for half of our territory and one-third of our nation, and in her Note of the 16th January reverts to the Ribbentrop-Molotov line.
I venture to propose in connection with the above statement that the Government of the United States and great Britain might either publicly or by Notes to the United Nations confirm the principle of non-recognition of faits accomplis, which took place after the 1st September 1939 on the territories of the occupied countries, members of the United Nations.

To Churchill, Sikorski drew attention to the “alarming reports in the London Press on Polish-Russian affairs” and continued:

I address to you, Mr Prime Minister, the strongest appeal to make a radical change in the attitude of responsible offices in order to show that the British Government, after great and most successful efforts to organise and direct their powerful resources, does not intend to return to the policy of appeasement (as carried out at the time of Munich) which is harmful to the interests of the most loyal friend and ally of Great Britain.” (WA)

March 15 & 17, 1943

Anders received letters with those dates from Sikorski enclosing copies of his letters to Roosevelt and Churchill. Sikorski’s message to Anders included:

In continuing to co-operate with Great Britain and the United States and putting our case in an honest but strong way, we win a constantly improving and widening understanding for our problems on the part of the leading statesmen of those countries and we steadily make the ties of our solidarity stronger, not only with regard to Germany but also in respect of Russia.

… A breach with Russia would be a sentence of death for hundreds of thousands of these people, and amongst them thousands of next of kin of our soldiers who still remain there…

… Too much, however, depends nowadays on the Anglo-Saxon countries and on my personal prestige in those countries to permit me to risk losing it and weakening the position of Poland amongst the peoples of those countries… (WA)

April 13, 1943

Germany broadcasts their discovery of thousands of corpses of Polish officers buried in Katyń:

The Polish government-in-exile’s response:

In view of the abundant and detailed German information on the finding of many thousands of corpses of Polish officers near Smolensk and a categoric statement that they had been murdered by the Soviet authorities in spring 1940, we are faced with the imperative necessity of inspecting the discovered mass graves and verifying the announced facts through an international institution, such as the International Red Cross.

The Polish Government will take steps and approach that institution for a fact-finding commission to be sent to the spot where the massacre of the Polish prisoners of war is alleged to have taken place.” (WA)

April 25, 1943

The Soviet reaction was to send a ‘Note’ accusing the Polish Government of “co-operation with Hitler and his anti-Soviet campaign… All these circumstances compel the Soviet Government to recognise that the present Polish Government by having taken the road of understanding with the Hitler Government has in fact ceased to maintain with the Soviet Union the relations based on Alliance and has taken a hostile attitude towards the Soviet Union.

In view of the above the Soviet Government has decided to break off relations with the Polish Government. (WA)

April 28, 1943

Churchill wrote to British Foreign Secretary Sir Anthony Eden:

“There is no use prowling morbidly round the three year old graves at Smolensk.”


April 1943

Soviet Russia begins to support the Union of Polish Patriots. (WA)

May 9, 1943

Stalin approves the formation of the Polish Kosciuszko Division under the command of Polish deserter Colonel Berling.

May 13, 1943

“Union of Polish Patriots promulgated their declaration in the newspaper Wolna Polska [Free Poland], published in Moscow.” (WA)

Krasnaja Zviezda (Red Star) publishes the first information about the new Polish Kosciuszko Division. (WA)

May 1943

Polish army moved to Kirkuk-Mosul where conditions were more suitable for large-scale exercises. The soldiers guarded the oil wells. (WA)

May 27, 1943

General Sikorski visited the Polish army in Iraq. Anders went to Cairo to meet him.

“… It transpired that he had been warned in London against visiting us, because there was believed to be a plot against his life and because the army was reported to be undisciplined and too prone to meddle in politics…” (WA)

May 1943

Germans expelled from Africa.

June 2, 1943

Telegram from Sikorski to the President of the Polish Republic, Władysław Raczkiewicz:

Kirkuk, June 2nd, 1943.
For the President of the Polish Republic.
After having carried out the first visits of inspection to the army, I wish to inform you that to my great satisfaction I have found a spirit of most ardent Patriotism amongst the soldiers, and also resolution to fight and a devotion to the Polish Cause.
Yours respectfully.
Sikorski, Commander-in Chief. (WA)

June 8, 1943

Congress of the Union of Polish Patriots takes place in Moscow. (WA)

June 10, 1943

Sikorski calls a conference of all senior officers. Discussions revolved around military matters, personnel postings, political situation and the activities of the Polish Government-in-exile.

Sikorski closed the conference with the words:

I want to remind you that in the last most difficult period, from the day on which we received the Soviet Note on citizenship until the day on which the Soviet Government broke off diplomatic relations with Poland, the Polish Government in the course of negotiations did not retract one single step from its position with regard to the problem of our eastern boundaries, which for us are those settled in the Riga Treaty, nor on the problem of citizenship, which we consider to be that of September 1, 1939. In spite of what has happened, in spite of all the difficulties we have to overcome with a view to rescuing our countrymen, and the wives, and children who have lost one parent, have not been discontinued even for one single moment. With the Australian Government acting as formal intermediary undertaking the protection of our interests, this matter has not taken too bad a turn, thanks to the friendly attitude of the British and United States Governments. (WA)

June 17, 1943

Sikorski flew to Beyrouth where he held a conference of all the chiefs of Polish diplomatic missions in the Middle East. He noted that “the Polish Armed Forces still take the fifth place amongst the forces of the Allied Nations.” He later added: “We must be firm also in defending unity amongst the Allies. Within the framework of that unity we can assure the full success of the Polish cause.”

Sikorski spoke of Roosevelt’s concern about Polish-Soviet relations and Churchill’s wish to continue to “co-operate as closely as possible” with the Polish Government.

“As a proof of the Soviet good will, the United States and Great Britain demand from the Soviet Government that the four conditions put forward by the Polish Government be carried out, namely:

1. The evacuation and setting free of the families of Polish servicemen, which includes not only soldiers abroad but also those fighting in Poland or remaining in prisoner-of-war camps.
2. The evacuation of Polish children and orphans.
3. The continuation of care for the Polish population still remaining in Russia.
4. Setting free and evacuation of all men fit for military service.

“At present the initiative is no longer in our hands. We confine ourselves to maintaining an attitude of self-restraint and calmness, in order to avoid anything which could render more difficult the joint intervention of the United States and Great Britain, which at the present moment, as Minister Raczynski informs me, is taking shape… Russia of today depends to a great extent on British, and in particular, on American, supplies. I drew attention to that trump card in my conversation with the British and American statesmen and I stated that the moment was favourable for intervention in Moscow in favour of our demands. This intervention is now in progress…” (WA)

June 28, 1943

Sikorski met Anders in Cairo and told him that he “considered that after the victory over Germany, Poland’s future lay in the hands of her allies, Britain and America, and that these two nations would help her by bringing their influence to bear on Soviet Russia. He stated that Mr Churchill and Mr Eden had given him definite promises that this would be the case.” (WA)

July 4, 1943

General Władysław Sikorski, Prime Minister of Poland, is killed in suspicious circumstances in an air crash shortly after take-off from Gibraltar.

July 14, 1943

A new Polish government-in-exile was appointed under new Prime Minister Stanisław Mikołajczyk.

Anders noted that “the names of Mikołayczyk, Stanczyk, Grosfeld and, above all, Professor Kot did not inspire me with confidence…”

The above was offset by “reassuring news” that General Kazimierz Sosnkowski had been appointed Commander-in-Chief, Tadeusz Romer was appointed Foreign Minister and Henryk Strasburger was appointed Minister of State in the Middle East. (WA)

“… the offensive begun by the British Eighth Army, so victorious at El Alamein in October 1942, had led in May to the complete expulsion of the Germans from Africa and the landing of American and British troops in Sicily.” (WA)

July 22, 1943

Anders received a letter from General Maitland Wilson saying Wilson had “assured the military authorities in England that I consider your Corps will be completely ready for any operation after the 1st January 1944.” (WA)

Polish Corps headquarters moved to Gaza, to the “so-called Kilo 89” and “one of many military camps spread all over the Middle East, nothing but huts, tents and sand.” (WA)

Mid August 1943

Occupation of Sicily by British and American troops.

September 3, 1943

Above troops land in Italy.
Italy capitulated “Soon after.” (WA)

September 1943

Polish manoeuvres under the command of General Holmes, and in the presence of General Maitland Wilson. (WA)

September 30, 1943

American Fifth Army landed at Salerno and occupied Naples.

Anders received news from London of “violent differences” between Prime Minister Mikołajczyk and Commander-in-Chief Sosnkowski, after Mikołajczyk wanted to abolish the post of Commander-in-Chief. (WA)

November 12, 1943

General Sosnkowski arrived at Polish Middle East headquarters by air from Cairo and informed Anders of the conference he had with General Eisenhower and General Sir Harold Alexander in Algiers:

The II Polish Corps was to be re-organised and it was “now proposed that several thousand more men should be transferred to the Polish air force in Great Britain.”

Anders was “firmly opposed… because I was convinced that the Army Corps should come to grips with the Germans as soon as possible, and be as strong as possible, and only thus could a proper answer be given to Soviet propaganda that the Poles did not want to fight the Germans.” (WA)

November 17, 1943

General Sosnkowski agreed with the above and wrote a letter to General Maitland Wilson, which he gave Anders to deliver:

“I flew to Cairo carrying this letter in order to attend a final conference on the subject with General Wilson, who sent a telegram to the War Office and the CIGS [Chief of the Imperial General Staff], stating that the Polish troops were fully prepared for battle, in excellent fighting spirit, and an asset that should not be wasted by delaying their departure to the front. Re-organising the II Polish Army Corps, he said, would be bound to weaken morale.” (WA)

Anders sent an advance party of officers to Italy to acquaint themselves with local conditions.

Troops of II Polish Army Corps begin the transfer to Egypt, with headquarters established at Quassassin.

November 28 to December 2, 1943

Teheran Conference, held between the three allied nations of America, Britain and Russia. Their delegations were led by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.

Anders remained unaware of the meeting until General Sosnkowski informed him after the Battle of Ancona in July 1944.

In a chapter titled The Sin of Teheran, Anders summarises his disapproval at the duplicity of the allies:

… while Russian troops were drawing close to the borders of Poland, Churchill and Roosevelt consented—without consulting their Polish ally—to the annexation of the eastern half of Poland. The rights of the Russians to the spoils given to them under the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement of August and September 1939 were thus confirmed. This was done in flagrant violation of Britain’s and America’s obligations and was quite contrary to the Atlantic Charter.

In agreement with the United States, British policy aimed at obtaining Poland’s consent to this bargain, which meant the committing of political suicide. In exchange Poland was to receive promises of true independence for part of the country, and new territory at Germany’s expense in the north and west. But this was no bargain for Poland, the country which had made the greatest sacrifices in the war and which was certainly entitled to full independence without paying half her territory to Russia for it. She was, in any case, entitled to increase her territory to the north and west for security reasons. What is more, the Polish Government asked Great Britain and the United States what would be the guarantees for the promised true independence of Poland, the replies received from London and Washington were vague and gave no pledges. The Polish Government, who had expressed their readiness to negotiate with Russia, and to accept British and American mediation [rejected by Russia] absolutely refused to give their consent to the annexation by Russia of one-half of Poland in violation of the principles and obligations of the United Nations. Responsibility for the illegal and secret understanding reached at Teheran between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin was wholly and jointly that of Great Britain, the United States and Russia, for Poland had no part in these decisions. (WA)

Mid December 1943

The 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division moved to Italy, some of the troops sailing on board the Polish merchant ship Batory, escorted by Polish destroyers and submarines. (WA)

December 25, 1943

Anders, still in Palestine, attended midnight Mass at Bethlehem with thousands of other Polish soldiers.

Before his departure, Anders visited all the Polish cadet schools (junackie szkoły) established for the “Polish boys and girls who were to remain in the Middle East when the Army Corps moved to the battle zone.” (WA)

© Barbara Scrivens, 2014
Updated October 2016