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The Scottish Episode

by gmractiondesk

Contributed by 
gmractiondesk
People in story: 
Marian Kopiec, Lance Corporal, Ministry of Defence, Nr 1925/1157/I-49752
Location of story: 
Scotland
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A4876707
Contributed on: 
08 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War website by Karolina Kopiec from BBC GMR Action Desk on behalf of Mr Marian Kopiec and has been added to the site with his permission.

It was 1944, and I was 19 years old when I volunteered to join the Polish Army in Great Britain. The Polish corps that fought alongside Allies on the Western Front: General’s Stanislaw Maczek 1st Polish Armoured Division and The First Polish Independent Parachute Brigade were losing lots of soldiers in the battles and therefore were constantly recruiting.

However, I was assigned to the communications division — maybe because before the war, back in Poland, I went to the Grammar School, I was a boy scout, and maybe because, for my age, I was quite small and weak.
I was sent to Polmont, a small village in Stirlingshire, Scotland, to take my course in radiotelegraphy. That camp was a quite peculiar one — 20 trainees and a couple of officer instructors, accommodated in old St Margaret’s School. Every participant had a nickname. We were studying basics of electro technology and radiotechnics, and then how to operate the special radio-device used to receive and transmit on short waves and only with the Morse Code. Those who weren’t fast enough were despatched to another division. We didn’t have a lot of typically military training — only a bit of gun and discipline training. And we never went training to a firing range.
What we did practise a lot was a fluency in transmitting coded messages and receiving them using the radio device, placed in a small, black briefcase, of a size of today’s laptop. It was also very important to quickly assemble and dismantle this little radiostation.
Everything during that training was rather mysterious — this little, unnoticeable device, the fast pace that we were supposed to work on it and pass the information, also the non-military, laid back, atmosphere in this small, countryside camp. We didn’t really know what we were being trained for.

It was only much later, when the war was already finished, that I learned from the history books and publications that I was trained to work as a radiotelegraphist in conspiracy, in German-occupied Poland.
Polish ‘Armia Krajowa’ (Home Army) was one of the largest underground resistance movements during the Second World War in Europe. Polish armed forces fighting on land, in air, and on sea along Allies in Africa, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and the Home Army in Poland all were under the Commander-in-chief in London. Under his direct command he had the 6th Division, which was constantly in radio and air contact with the Home Army Commandant in Warsaw, and supported the underground, sending trained soldiers, guns and money. The same 6th Division was managing the training of radiotelegraphists in Polmont, who were then to be despatched to occupied Poland to work in the conspiracy.

When I completed that course, the war was heading towards the end and I wasn’t sent to the camp in Audley End, Scotland, where I would have had undergone the parachute training.
The 6th Division was disbanded, and I started to attend Polish Grammar School in Garelochhead, north of Glasgow, and in 1947 I went back to Poland. But that’s another story.

One more thing: I thank God that I didn’t make it before the end of the war to fly back to Poland — there were just so many of my colleagues — radiotelegraphists that were killed back in Poland by the Germans and the Soviets.

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