WA = General Władyslaw Anders' book, An Army in Exile
Hansard extracts are specified separately.
March 14, 1946
Anders received the text of an agreement between the British Government and the pro-Soviet Polish Provisional Government of National Unity regarding the return of Polish troops to Poland.
- The first part of the Memorandum of Agreement laid down the way repatriated Polish soldiers would
be treated, and “contained a list of reprisals and punishments which would be inflicted on certain categories of
- The second part “gave vague promises that they would be treated the same way as all the other soldiers of the resurrected Polish army.” (WA)
Out of 112,000 men in the II Polish Army Corps, seven officers and 14,200 men applied for repatriation to Poland, 8,700 of them having joined the Corps after the end of the war. Of those who had come through Russia, only 310 applied for repatriation. (WA)
March 15, 1946
Anders had a conference with British Prime Minister Clement Atlee and Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin.
March 20, 1946
An extract from a speech given by Ernest Bevin, British Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons to all members of the Polish forces under British command:
His Majesty’s Government have many times made it clear that it is their policy to assist the greatest possible number of members of the Polish Armed Forces under British Command to return to Poland of their own free will and in conditions worthy of their great services to the Allied cause. In accordance with this policy they have in recent months been in negotiation with the Polish Provisional Government of National Unity, which the British Government, like other Governments, regard as the only authority entitled to speak on behalf of Poland, regarding the conditions upon which returning Polish soldiers, sailors and air men will be received back in their own country. As a result of these negotiations the Provisional Government has furnished His Majesty’s Government with a statement setting forth its policy on this question. The text of this statement is annexed. The British Government regard this statement as satisfactory. In the light of these assurances they have reviewed the position of the Polish Armed Forces under British Command. They consider it to be the duty of all members of those Forces who possibly can do so to return to their home country without further delay under the conditions now offered them in order that they may make their contribution to the restoration of the prosperity of liberated Poland. Only thus can they serve their country in a manner worthy of her great traditions.
Those who nevertheless feel compelled to remain abroad in full knowledge of the present situation will be treated as far as our resources permit with due recognition of their gallant service. In execution of the policy announced by Mr. Winston Churchill, the British Government will give, in collaboration with other Governments, such assistance as is in their power to enable those who fought with us throughout the war to start a new life outside Poland with their families and dependents. But the British Government, after the most careful examination of the whole problem, are bound to make it plain that they can promise no more than this. There is no question of the Polish Army, Navy or Air Forces at present under British Command being preserved by the British Government as in dependent armed forces abroad, and it is the intention of the British Government to disband as soon as practicable those men who decide not to return to Poland. Nor can the British Government offer to the members of the Polish Armed Forces under British command any guarantee that they will all be enabled to settle in British territory at home or overseas.
I appeal on behalf of the British Government to every individual member of the Polish Armed Forces to consider carefully the alternatives which are here set before him. I earnestly trust that the overwhelming majority will decide to avail themselves of this opportunity, especially as I am not in a position to guarantee that there will be a further opportunity for them to return to Poland.
Speaking on behalf of the British Government, I declare that it is in the best interests of Poland that you should return to her now, when she requires the help of all her sons in the arduous task of reconstructing the country and making good the devastation caused by the war.
(The full speech is available through Hansard.)
“The words were hardly out of Bevin’s mouth” when… a broadcast from Warsaw stated that:
In order to avoid any misunderstanding, a statement has been made, in circles connected with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that no official [pro-Soviet Polish] Government declaration has been made regarding the Government’s attitude towards Polish soldiers who return to Poland or the conditions awaiting them on their return… Bevin takes it upon himself to protect Poles in Poland. (WA)
May 10, 1946
Anders received a telegram from Polish Chief of Staff in London, Kopanski, saying he was “alarmed by a new attitude of the British, who were aiming at the earliest possible demobilisation of the II Polish Army Corps and its transfer to Great Britain.” (WA)
May 12, 1946
General Morgan and the British Ambassador in Rome told Anders that they had instructions to transfer the II Polish Army Corps to Great Britain for demobilisation.
May 21, 1946
At a conference with Bevin in London, Anders was told of the British Government’s plans for the formation of a Polish Resettlement Corps.
© Barbara Scrivens, 2014
Updated October 2016