BURTON ON THE WOLDS Leicestershire 1948

BURTON ON THE WOLDS Leicestershire 1948 - 1959


Wymeswold Airfield was opened in 1942 as an operational training unit for Bomber Command.  Most of the domestic and living accommodation sites lay to the south of the airfield within the parish of Burton on the Wolds.  The majority of the buildings were of light timber-frame construction covered with plaster board and felt with a corrugated asbestos roof.  Interspersed among them were a number of corrugated metal Nissen huts.  None of the buildings were intended for long term use yet, in 1948, they became home to Polish ex-service men and their families. As in all ex-army camps the conditions were somewhat primitive.  The RAF lavatories and washing facilities were brought back into use and several families were lodged in each hut with blanket partitions providing a minimum of privacy.


One of the wartime huts on Site 8 (ul. Słoneczna) that were home to the Polish community for the best part of 10 years

In 1950, with around one hundred families living on eight of the ten aerodrome sites, the huts were converted into family units ranging in size from one to four bedroom dwellings at an average cost of some 200 Pounds paid by the Ministry of Health while the Ministry of Works supplied the cooking ranges which enabled families to live more independent lives and cater for themselves.  In February 1951 Barrow RDC took over the management of the camp and collected rent of between 10  and 16 shillings a week depending on size.


The sites were given Polish names:- "ul. Poleska, ul. Wileńska, ul. Lwowska, ul. Szpitalna, ul. Kościelna, ul. Polna, ul.Słoneczna and ul. Centralna" (the abbreviation ul. Stands for 'ulica' - street).  For the benefit of local tradesmen the site numbers were fixed next to the Polish nameplates.


On the "Centralna" (central) site one of the huts was turned into a  hall where weekly film shows, dances and performances were held.  Others were converted into a shop, canteen, recreation room, reading room and library. The community had its own church with fittings and furnishings made by the congregation, the priest Fr. Stefan Kiwiński lived in an adjacent hut. 

The camp had a surgery and sickbay initially run by doctors Haszkiewicz and Szymkiewicz later joined by dr. Siepracki and nurse Władysława Wiedlińska


Children from the camp attended local English schools during the week and on Saturday mornings they went to the camp's Saturday School where they learned about Polish history, culture and traditions as well as to read and write Polish.  When the Saturday school opened it had 40 pupils, the head teacher was Mr. Kazimierz Pagacz with teachers Franciszek Malik and Zygmunt Żyliński.  Mr. Pagacz also directed productions of the amateur dramatic group. There was a nursery school for the youngest run by Mrs. Zawadzka and Renia Sidorowicz.  The camp's social and cultural activities were run by a camp committee that was elected annually.


Class 2 from 1956

Teacher Stanisława Wiśniewska, with some of her pupils;

Krysia Zielińska, Irena Szostka, Rysio Stabik,

Marjan Kandula, Boguś Stabik

Teaching staff; Wiktoria Dzudzewicz, Fr. Stefan Kiwiński,

Franciszek Malik, Stanisława Wiśniewska, Zygmunt Zieliński with children from the Saturday School 1956

Liaison with English schools and the development of cultural activities was  the responsibility of two Educational Organisers, appointed by the Committee for the Education of Poles, Zbigniew Błażyński and Antoni Fogelfengel.  The latter enjoyed considerable popularity in pre war Poland as "Tońcio" in the very popular humorous radio programme "Lwowska Fala".  The authorities were unstinting in their efforts to teach the adult population English in evening classes. As in other camps there was a sports club with a successful football team "Niemen" as well as volley ball and table tennis teams.

Mr. F. Malik with children from the Saturday School celebrating the 3rd May Constitution - 1958


Saturday School Children in National Dress performing on stage.

The stage sets show views of the Old Town in Kraków and were painted by Julian Schott, a gifted artist from Kraków


Nativity play  (Jasełka) 1957

  Kazia Świątkowska, Lilka Drabant, Krysia Bor,

Elżunia Hónc, Joasia Malik, Halinka Wiśniewska

The assembled cast of the nativity play


Fr. Kiwiński looked after the spiritual needs of this community; preparing children for their First Holy Communion, providing Religious education, officiating at marriages, christenings, funerals, religious festivals and rituals.


First Holy Communion

Krysia Bil, Janusz Sebastian, Basia Waszert, Danusia Ereminowicz, Grażyna Zawadzka,

Elżunia Orzeszek, Józio Daniuk, Kazia Świątkowska, J. Zawadzki.


A significant event in the life of the camp was a visit, in 1948, by Gen. Bór-Komorowski who at that time was Prime Minister of the Polish Government in Exile in London.  The General enjoyed enormous respect in the Polish community as commander of the Underground Home Army (AK) and the heroic 1944 Warsaw Rising. 


Mr. Franciszek Malik, General  BórKomorowski, Fr. Stefan Kiwiński, Mr. Żurawski,   Mr. Sroczyński, Mrs.Sroczyńska, Waldek Sroczyński, Elżunia Orzeszek presenting the flowers.


One of the residents greeting the General was Mr. Franciszek Malik.  In September 1939 he fought, first against the Germans then the Soviets, as a lieutenant in the Polish infantry.  Following defeat in the September campaign he was arrested by the Soviet NKVD and imprisoned in Russia.  After Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 he joined the Polish Army formed under Gen. Anders and left the USSR with the army in 1942 to reinforce British forces in the Middle East.  He volunteered to join the "Cichociemni" (Dark and Silent) special forces unit which was being formed in England with the objective of providing support, supplies and liaison to the Home Army (AK) in Poland which was pursuing a campaign of sabotage and diversion against the German occupation forces.  The Cichociemni unit worked closely with Britain's SOE (Special Operations Executive).  He was enrolled into the AK in the rank of Captain under the pseudonym "Piorun" and parachuted into Warsaw in July 1944, just before the start of The Uprising, and went on to command the Zaremba-Piorun battalion throughout The Rising.  After the Rising fell at the beginning of October he was held as a prisoner of War in Lamsdorf, Sandbostel and Lubec.  Among other decorations Cpt. Malik received Poland's highest order for valour the "Virtuti Militari" as well as Britain's "King's Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom".


In Burton Polish Camp, Franciszek Malik served for many years as a volunteer teacher in the Saturday School and Hon. Chairman of the Camp's Management Committee.


Children in National dress taking part in a fund raising fete in Burton Hall.

Halinka and Mira Wiśniewska

Thank you to Jerzy Kowalski and Joan and Peter Shaw for the information and photos.

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