Document of the Month - March
Scottish-Polish Society, Stirlingshire, 1942-45
Polish troops started coming to Scotland in 1940 to help Britain in World War II. They helped defend Scotland's eastern coast and were responsible for our armoured trains. They also used Scotland as a base for training. In 1941 the Scottish-Polish Society was formed and looking to extend its branches they wrote to the County Clerk at Stirling County Council requesting the opening of a Stirlingshire branch.
The first branch meeting was held at Viewforth, Stirling on 26 August 1942. The opening speaker (most likely Sir George Stirling or Reverend George Turner) stated:
‘I feel sure that you all will wish that our County should not fall behind in extending hospitality, and promoting, consolidating and perpetuating sympathy and understanding between the Polish and Scottish peoples… we must look to the future, when, at the end of the war we shall wish to ensure good trading facilities between our countries and sincere sympathy with them in their efforts to bring about prosperity in their country.’
Records held include reports from the Dunblane, Bridge of Allan and Falkirk sub-branches. The reports provide an insight into the popularity of the society and some of the activities undertaken locally. The Dunblane sub-branch was formed in February 1945 and at one time had 416 Polish members and 180 Scottish members. Film shows, lectures, concerts and dances were planned. Along with other branches, they helped to raise funds for the Scottish Polish Sikorski Memorial Hospital Trust. They planned to build a children’s hospital in Warsaw and funds raised by the Society were intended to help build a Scottish wing.
The Bridge of Allan sub-branch report informs the reader that the Society was holding foreign languages classes to help both the Scots and Polish understand and speak each other’s native tongues. In 1944 a Club Room on Fountain Road was opened for the Polish troops.
‘There are facilities for a variety of games… There is also a piano and gramophone for those whose tastes incline to music. Books and light literature are also available.’
The Falkirk report reveals what knowledge local people had of concentration camps at the time. In 1944 the Society appealed to the government after receiving news that people from Warsaw were being held in a concentration camp at Pruschkov ‘without shelter, without the ordinary amenities of sanitation and left without food and water to endure the hardships of slow starvation.’
Stirling Council Archives holds a small collection of Stirlingshire Constabulary alien registration cards. These cards include a member of the Polish Army who arrived in the UK in 1942 and a Polish cook who left Germany in 1947.
Contact us to come and view the records held relating to the Scottish-Polish Society (PD217).