BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

Poland to Wales and Back Again (Eventually)icon for Recommended story

by mark nedza

Contributed by 
mark nedza
People in story: 
Frank Nedza
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
25 January 2004

My father (Frank) is Polish-born, and was brought up in Rzeszow in the south-east of Poland. In 1939 he was already in the Polish Army and he always tells this story:

'The Gypsy

It was our first pass out from camp to Warsaw in March 1939. With two friends Boniek and Banasiuk, I went for a coffee.

While we were there a young gypsy girl came to us to tell our fortune for nothing. As it wasn’t going to cost us anything we went ahead.

First to Boniek: plenty of romance and so on but you will be at home very soon, we were hoping that will be a holiday.

Second Banasiuk: more romance etc, but soon you will be on the move for a long journey but you will never go back home.

Finally, Frank: you will be on the move (what happened to the romance bit?) for a long journey as well, but after a long time you will be at home again.

In September Hitler invades Poland, then our journey starts. We leave Warsaw walking - Boniek took the skin on his feet from walking so hard to get away from the Germans that eventually he couldn't keep up and we left him behind - he somehow managed to get home. Myself and Banasiuk manage to go to Hungary. Soon after Banasiuk goes on to France joins up with the army again and was killed in Tobruk.

As for myself I rejoined the Polish army in France and went through until the end of the war, after 25 years I took my family back home to Poland for a Holiday.” (1963)

After much badgering I managed to get a bit more of his story, which I have documented mainly for myself and the rest of his family. The following is a brief outline of what he told me.

Escape From Poland

He was a radio officer in the army, based in Warsaw. When war broke out he was sent with his friends and some equipment to join up with various Polish units. However, due to the speed of the German advance, he soon found himself on the clogged roads, leaving Warsaw for the south.

His diary, 5-9-1939: 'I have been sent to collect - car with full equipment and join the front line, but instead we have to go back through Siedlce - Biala Podlaska - Helm-Tomaszow Lub. to Hungary.'

Because he had a radio in his car he was able to monitor the position of the German and then the Russian army. He writes ' we managed to reach the Hungarian border by four o’clock in the morning on 18th or 19th September 1939 with some luck as by 6.00 the road was closed by the Russian army.'

Like many others, he was interned in Hungary (Sajoszentkiraly near Putnik) but eventually managed to escape via Budapest to Zagreb across Northern Italy into France, arriving in Modane 1-5-1940.

After a few days he and his comrades were sent by train to a Polish camp in Coetguidan near Rennes. Here he was given a French First World War uniform and rifle, and a makeshift Polish unit was then sent forward to defend Paris. However, before they could get there the Germans had overrun the low countries and were advancing so rapidly on Paris that he found himself once again fleeing from the advancing Germans.

He eventually reached Bordeaux on approximately 11 June 1940, and according to his diary sailed on the 'Royal Scotsman' to Liverpool, arriving 26-6-1940. On arrival they were quickly loaded onto a train and sent to Glasgow. My father remembers spending the first couple of weeks in the UK, living in what he remembers as Celtic’s football ground. (It may have been Rangers?)

For the next three years or so he was part of the Polish 1st Armoured Division based in Scotland - originally to defend the UK from invasion via Norway. He spent many happy days around Dalkeith and Edinburgh with various visits to other training camps around the UK.

In August 1944 he landed in Normandy with the Polish 1st Armoured Division, and was with them at Caen, Falaise and the eventual sweep up the coast of France, via Abbeville, into Belgium liberating Ypres, and into Holland, where the division liberated Breda.

At Breda the Division was taken out of the line for R&R, and many friendships were made with the Dutch population. The division was subsequently honoured with the freedom of the city and many Polish soldiers married Dutch girls and settled in the area after the war (including my father's driver).

In the spring of 1945 the division went into action again and ended the war at Wilhemshaven.

My father spent the next two years in Germany and then faced the difficult decision of where to go. Following receipt of a letter from his father (whom he never saw again) he decided to settle in the UK.

After being demobbed, he worked originally in a radio factory in Rugby, and then moved to South Wales to work in a new radio factory. Here he settled down, married and had six children and now has ten grandchildren.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Forum Archive

This forum is now closed

These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Writing Workshop: A2232884 - Poland to Wales and Back again (eventually).

Posted on: 25 January 2004 by mark nedza

Entry: Poland to Wales and Back again (eventually). - A2232884 Author: mark nedza - U557107


Message 1 - Your father's war story

Posted on: 28 January 2004 by Helen

Dear mark nedza

I really enjoyed this story - starting with an intriguing anecdote then filling in the factual details really works.

I'd say you don't need much help from us in the writing workshop. You might add to your introduction the fact that your father's name is Frank, and I wasn't quite sure about the fact that his friend 'took the skin off his foot' - was this an accident?

Perhaps you can do the odd tweak, then save and go back to your story and submit to the Editorial Desk, so that it can be categorised as part of the archive in the <./>Read</.> section.

Best wishes,

Helen, WW2 Team


Message 2 - Your father's war story

Posted on: 28 January 2004 by mark nedza

Thanks for the feedback. I'll update the story as suggested and add my fathers full name (Frank is the anglisised version). I'm afraid I wrote the story as told my my dad and he still speaks English with a Polish slant to it (and with a Welsh accent) which sometimes as you can imagine loses things in translation.
His friend took the skin off his feet through walking so hard to get away from the advancing Germans. Eventually he couldn't walk anymore so they had to leave him behind. Fortunately he survived and managed to get home.



Message 3 - Your father's war story

Posted on: 29 January 2004 by Helen

Hi Mark

I've put your story on the Ed' Desk now.

I also wondered if you might want to add your father's Polish name as well as the anglicized version - just was intrigued.

To do this you can go to your story, linked from your personal page, click on it, edit it and save and it will remain on the Ed' Desk.


Helen, WW2 Team


Message 4 - Your father's war story

Posted on: 29 January 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Mark

What a superb story! And a very useful and valuable addition to our knowlwdge of WW2.

The Poles fought tenaciously for freedom all over Europe as well as providing some immortal aces in the Battle of Britain.

And at the end, Poland having fought so hard for the freedom of others, lost her freedom, only to be in the very vanguard that brought the totalitarian USSR crashing down.

I look forward to reading more about your brave father, so get cracking Mark!

Kind regards,


Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

Allied and Commonwealth Forces Category
Poland Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy