BABDOWN CAMP GLOUCESTERSHIRE 1948-1955

 

Located between Beverston and Tetbury in South Gloucestershire and taking its name from the farm which provided most of the land, RAF Babdown Farm Airfield was opened in 1940.  It was first used for night flaying and by 1942 was redeveloped to a full standard three runways with a number of typical airfield buildings around the runways.  The airfield closed down after the 1947/8.

 

Many Polish ex-servicemen found work in coal mines and heavy engineering, these people had to be accommodated in working men's hostels or in empty army camps. With the proximity of a large heavy engineering firm R.A. Listers in Dursley and a shortage of man power the empty buildings on RAF Babdown Farm Airfield were utilised for that purpose. Although there were some families with children living in the camp it was predominantly occupied by single working men and women.

 

Józef Sukiennik was one of the demobilised Polish soldiers,  he arrived in Babdown in February 1948  from a military camp on Salisbury Plain Wiltshire to his first job at  R.A. Listers. The work was hard and dusty and he hated working night shifts.  Luckily  the camp's facilities were good.  There was a church, a hall with a parquet floor where dances were held, a stage for theatre performances and a community room for indoor activities such as table tennis, snooker etc. There was a gymnasium and, to Józef delight, a squash court which he used regularly.  The huts were warm and comfortable adequately  furnished and the showers and toilet blocks were good. All single men and women had their rooms cleaned and bedding changed and laundered for them. This service, plus their food was provided for £1- 60s a week. Food was cooked on a communal bases and served in a canteen.

 

There were a number of organisations, committees and social groups  that were formed in the camp.

 

One such organisation was SPK ( Polish ex-combatants association) another group, called "Bratnia Pomoc" (Brotherly Help), had 600 subscribers each paying one shilling a week into a fund that paid the wages of a member who was unable to work through illness but did not qualify for sick pay.

 

When the  camp closed there was still £600 left in the fund and this money was then donated to the Polish Marian Brothers in Hereford.

 

 

 

Fr. Stanisław Śmieja Celebrating Corpus Christi

 

ST. NICHOLAS DAY Early 50s The little girl in the middle on the step with the big bow is Teresa  Pawlica, the girl in striped jumper is Jadwiga Kocik. Can you name any one else?

Families lived in a different part of the camp than the single men and most of them catered for themselves. Children attended local schools in the area but a Polish school was set up in the camp to teach Polish language, history and culture. One of many traditions loved by all the children was St. Nicholas Day on the 6th of December  when children received gifts from the famous Bishop.

 
Janina  and Marian Drzewiecki with their sons Andrzej and Władek  and friend Roman Skwara
 

Angel

Maria Lenkiewicz,

Girls in National Dress

Józefa Wasiewicz,

Genowefa ,

Maria Wieliczko,

Irena Urban,

 

 

 

 

St. Nicholas Day 1949

 

 

Tadeusz Chiel,

Kuczuk,

Ludwik Wiśniewski,

Roman Skwara,

Leon Szokało,

Hawryluk,

Kozłowski,

Tadeusz Walędziuk,

Little boy

Young Kozłowski,

Feliks Borowski,

 

 
 

Józef Sukiennik and Mr. Gronowski formed the Polish folk dance group which  performed in other camps in the area, participated at the International Eisteddford in Wales and featured on the Pathe News at the Cinemas.  The dance group also  took part in street carnivals in Tetbury.

 

The national costume worn by the men comes from the mountainous Zakopane region of Poland.  The trousers are traditionally hand embroidered by the men themselves with the traditional "parzenica" motifs, each one personalised by the embroiderer. The felt hat is enhanced with an eagle's feather in the hat band.  It is said that Wicek, the man in the bear outfit on the photo, walked 40 miles from Babdown camp to Bristol zoo to obtain the eagle feathers for their hats.  The zoo keepers were most impressed.

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 Józef also played an active role in the camp's amateur dramatic group performing at many of the other camps in the area.

 

Some of the names of  the amateur dramatic group

Some of the names of  the dance group

Godlweski, Gronowski, Orlicz, Tadeusz Walędziuk, Jadwiga Bujas, Józef Sukiennik, Marian Drzewiecki, Roman Skwara, Zbigniew Wiśniewski, Irena Urban, Maria Lynkiewicz.

Józef Sukiennik, Eddie Buhtoar, Roman Skwara, Hawryluk, Gronowski, Wicek

 

Sport was very popular in the camp, specially a good game of football.  The camp’s team "Polonia Badown", formed in 1948/9, become very successful playing against local English teams and wining many trophies, they soon advanced in the local league. In the summer months  "Polonia Badown" played  Polish teams from various camps with the finals being played each year in Cannock Chase.

 

Stanisław Gurgul,  Ludwik Wiśniewski, Lutek Jarodzewicz, Boleslaw Gurgul, Józef Sukiennik, Feliks Dziadulewicz,

Polonia Babdown football team on the way to Cannock

 
 

Łoża

Ludwik Wiśniewski

Stanisław Gurgul

Siender

Ciężarek

Lutek Jaroszewicz

Wasiewicz

 

BABDOWN FIRST

FOOTBALL TEAM

1950

 

 

The team celebrating after winning the cup.

 
 

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