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Immigration and Emigration
The staff barracks at Penley.
The staff barracks at Penley.

© A Bereza / W Wernick
Penley Poles

The beginnings of the Polish hospital

In 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union, which led to the signing of the Polish-Soviet Agreement. Churchill brokered a deal between General Sikorski, the Polish leader, and Stalin, which allowed for the creation of a Polish army in the Soviet Union. The army was made up of the Poles who had been held captive in the Soviet Union. Polish men and women who were freed by the Agreement, travelled from all over the Soviet Union to Buzuluk, south-east of Moscow, to join the ranks.

One of the wards at Penley

The Polish Medical Core, or hospital was formed as part of the Army, and left the Soviet Union with the soldiers and their dependants for the Middle East in August 1942. The army trained in Persia, and then moved on to Iraq, where the hospital came under the command of the British. It then travelled, to Palestine, Africa and Italy, where the Polish Army and hospital spent three years fighting in support of the allies, and treating their wounded.

After the war

The staff barracks at Penley.
The staff barracks at Penley.
© A Bereza / W Wernick
When the war ended, some of the Polish who had come from eastern Poland were ambivalent about returning home. Poland was divided into two halves, and their homeland was under Soviet, and therefore, communist, control.

In 1946, the Polish Army and hospital sailed from Naples to Liverpool, and many of the Poles chose to settle in the area. A home for the hospital was found at Penley, 50 miles to the south west, to continue the treatment of war veterans and their families. The camp, which was by then near derelict, had been occupied by the No. 129th US Army General Hospital but they had abandoned it three years previously when they left for D Day.

On arrival, the conditions that the Poles encountered were in sharp contrast to those of Italy. The climate was dramatically colder, food was rationed, and the Poles met with a cool reception from the British, who were themselves struggling to make ends meet. Despite this, No.3 Polish Hospital set up camp and began to make a home from what little that was available.


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