DAGLINGWORTH CAMP Gloucestershire 1947-1962

 

Not far from the pretty little village of Daglingworth in Gloucestershire   stood a drab WW2 army camp.  The row upon row of  black corrugated metal nissen huts served to house American soldiers. At the end of WW2 the empty camp was purchased by the Ministry of Works and turned into a Polish resettlement camp administered by the National Assistance Board. 

 
 

At one end of the camp were clusters of huts built on  concrete bases with walls of timber with metal sheeting  and corrugated asbestos roofs. The huts were very basic with no running water inside. The brick built huts with chimneys seen in the photos below were shared ablution blocks with hot and cold running water, toilets, baths and shower cubicles.

 
People did their best to make their huts homely, net curtains in the windows with flowers and vegetable gardens around the huts.
 

Originally the camp was to serve as a transit camp to which, the dependants of the Polish army which was already stationed in the UK,  arrived from Displaced Persons camps in Africa and Europe, here they where  reunited with their loved ones and  then dispersed to other camps throughout the UK.

 

The camp was not deemed to become a family camp because of it's isolation from  areas of development and work opportunity, never the less  it became home to hundreds of Polish families and for  nearly 15 years  the Polish way of life culture and religious traditions flourished. A church, an entertainments hall  a nursery and junior school.   

 
 

DAGLINGWORTH SCHOOL register shows that over the life time of the camp around 300 children went through the school.

 

Click for a full list

 
 
 

The camp’s Primary School was run by Mr. Gilson as Head Teacher and children were taught Polish language and history as well as the usual range of subjects.  The school register shows that some 300 pupils went through the school before it closed.  The camp nursery made it possible for mothers to go out to work in the knowledge that the little ones were being cared for.  An entertainments hall provided the infrastructure for the development of very active theatre and folk dance troupes as well as regular dances at weekends. 

 

The camp’s general store was run by Mr. Szymiślnik and a number of mobile shops regularly visited the camp.  In the early years there was a central communal kitchen and dinning room.  Communal catering was phased out as cooking ranges were installed in the huts so that people could cater for themselves.  As in all Polish communities of that period the Church was a focus for traditional and cultural activities.  The Polish way of life and culture flourished in the camp.

 

Most people in the camp attended  church services and took part in religious ceremonies like First Communion and Corpus Christi Processions  The four altars were built  and decorated by the parishioners on the backs of  Nissen huts and most people and children played an active part in the celebrations.

 

Corpus Christi Processions 

 
 

 
 
 

First Communion

Another big day in the church calendar was children's First communion

 

First Communion children on their way to church 1962

Edek's Stoka -Małyszko First Holy Communing with Fr. Stanisław Śmieja Teresa is standing far right.

 

Teresa Stoka - Małyszko came to England with her mother and father from Tengeru camp in  Africa. They sailed on the ''Dundalk Bay'' from Mombasa to Hull arriving on 1st. September 1950.  The family were sent to Springhill Lodges Camp were her brother Edek was born and Teresa attended the camp's school. In 1959 when Springhill camp closed the family were moved to Daglingworth camp also in Gloucestershire.

 

In 1962 many Polish families still lived in corrugated metal Nissen huts.

 Edek Małyszko-Sroka and Stefen Surma, in the back ground are the black Nissen huts.

 

Whilst in Daglingworth Teresa met her  husband, an American G.I. of Italian descent stationed at a base near Swindon, and at nineteen she left her family with lots of tears to go to America and marry the good looking G.I.. She was married two months later.  They came back to England every year until Teresa's father died, then her mother and brother Edek came to live with them in the States. Edek met and married a polish girl.  Teresa  lives twenty miles from New York City. She loves the country where she has lived now for over forty years, and yet so many times over the years she find herself missing and longing to be in those camps again. 

 

Most camps had some sort of a playing field within the camp, usually in the centre surrounded by the huts, so it was not only a safe area for children to play but very popular as a venue for football matches played between various camps

 
 

Culture and life in the camp

 

Józef Winiarski came to live in Daglingworth in July 1947.  He arrived in the UK with gen. Anders’ 2nd Corps from Italy in 1946 and spent a few months in Fairford transit camp.  In Daglingworth he was allocated a room in a Nissen hut (beczka) furnished with two single beds and an ex-army wardrobe. 

 

This was to be his home until he left the camp in 1956 to live in Swindon.  Józef was very active in the social and cultural life of the camp.  He was a member of the folk dance troupe and the amateur dramatics group as well as singing in the choir conducted by Mr. Bajorek and a separate male vocal quartet (rewelersi) run by Mr. Franciszek Kowalski. 

 

These groups performed not only in Dagligworth camp but were invited to perform in many of the other Polish D.P. camps in Gloucestershire.

 

Middle:-Dancing Troop.

 

Left:- Józef .Winiarski  with his dancing partner.

 

 Right:-  Józef dressed in a Polish Lancer's uniform

 

Polish Army uniforms through the centuries.

 

The choir with their conducted Mr. Bajorek

Dancing Troupe

 

Carnival day in Dursley with a Polish float - 1952

 

Some of the young people in the camp

Jurek Stawarz, Kania, Wacław Materski, Michałowicz and by the water tower Zygmunt Żarczyński and Jurek Stawarz

 

Wedding reception in the officers mess1948

Janina Bogdaniec and  Roman Rawłuszkiewicz cutting the cake after their marrige with mother Katarzyna Bogdaniec looking on.

Marysia with her brother Antoni Bogdaniec

 

A visit to the camp by General Władysław Anders

 

DAGLINGWORTH POLISH CIVIL DEFENCE TEAM

 

While much of life in Daglingworth was very similar to life in other camps there was at least one unique feature.  Ex-paratrooper and camp Warden Cpt. Pierścianowski set up and trained the only all Polish Civil Defence team in England. 

 

Józef Kowalski, Jerzy Stawarz, Ryszard Rejek, Maziasz, Bolesław Lender, J. Pierścianowski, Zygmund Żaki

 

In both 1959 and 1960 the team won the Gloucestershire rescue competition outright.  On the second occasion they scored the maximum of 160 points and then were awarded an additional 10 points for completing their tasks ahead of time and identifying and taking action on other hazards which were not part of the competition, the next best team scored 125 points. 

 
Three members of the team were awarded Gold Stars for exceptional personal skills and two were recognised for outstanding leadership skills and selected for instructor training.  The team was selected to represent Gloucestershire in the South Western Regional competition but unfortunately the regional finals were cancelled when funding was withdrawn so the team lost the opportunity to display their prowess on a larger stage.

 

Piotr Lender

Józef Kowalski

J.  Pierścianowski

J. Myczko

Zygmund Żaki

Bolesław Lender

Jurek Stawarz

Roman Leśniowski

Henryk Frasek

 

 
 
Daglingworth camp  closed in the 60s the huts were pulled down and the land returned to agriculture. Today, looking at the open  fields which lay above the village of Daglingworth,  it is hard to imagine that between 1947 and 1962 there was a camp of nissen huts and barracks which was  home to hundreds of Polish  Displaced Persons.
 
Many thanks to Krystyna Tworek, Teresa Stoka-Małyszko and Józef Kowalski for collecting the information and photos.
 
If you lived in Daglingworth and would like to share  you memories and photos or can name any of the people above please contact me 
 
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