The creation of a Polish Merchant Navy College was first mooted in 1942 but it wasn't until March 1945 that the necessary resources were found for the college to be established, under the direction of Cpt. K.O. Borchardt, in a disused camp in Landywood nr. Walsall in Staffordshire.

The camp consisted of the usual assortment of nissen huts which served as classrooms and bedrooms for the boys.  There was a communal kitchen and dining room, doctor's surgery, chapel, workshops and staff accommodation.  The college, as remote from the sea as could be in the U.K., laboured under many disadvantages not the least of which was that the British merchant navy did not recognize its nautical training or qualifications. 


Polish Merchant Navy college at Landywood Great Wyrley Staffordshire


Karol Olgierd Borchardt  Head of department of the Naval College,

 The camp in Landywood, Great Wyrley, Nr Walsall.

At the outbreak of World War II, kpt. Karol Olgierd Borchardt served as a senior officer on the sail training ship “Dar Pomorza” and was interned in Sweden from where he managed to make his way to Britain. He first served on the SS “Piłsudski” and, having survived its sinking, went on to take part in the Narvik campaign on the SS “Chrobry”.  He was wounded during the sinking of the “Chrobry”.  He went on to work in Polish education in England and after the war served on the British ship “Sheridan” serving South American ports.

The students from 4a in their full naval uniforms in  front of their classroom 1947

Some of the names

Romuald Dunajec
Czarnecki Zenon
Radkiewicz Henryk
Sadowski Janusz
Lewszuk Michał
Wrzyszcz Eugeniusz
Peszyński Oskar
Pszybysławski Kazimierz
 Kazik Przybystawski is  in the middle row second from left.
Tamulewicz Edmund
Bernacki Władysław
Gałuszka  Franciszek
Kotlarczyk Zbigniew
Martynowicz Józerf
Bełch Edward
Klecuń Roman
Wądołkowski Zbigniew

 After the last lesson of the day with professor  Stadnik. Class 4a September 1946

Outdoor lesson near the school one lovely afternoon in May 1947 (Holly Lane) Landywood.

 Physics class 3 in one of the Nissen huts Sept. 1945.


Students from the Polish Naval College Landywood on their rest period with the local land girls working during the summer holidays on the farms (Photograph submitted by Barbara McMullen nee Przybysławska).

Photograph submitted by Barbara McMullen nee Przybysławska daughter of Kazik Przybysławski who attended  the collage completing  the course in 1949
In 1947 The Committee for the Education of Poles, under the chairmanship of Sir George Gater, assumed responsibility for the college and took the view that it should be merged with the Lilford Technical School.  The merger was completed by March 1948 and two special classes, in navigation and engineering, were formed for 45 advanced students from Landywood.  The committee also managed to arrange navigational practice for most of the trainees.  These two classes, which were independent of Lilford’s technical curriculum, disappeared in 1949 when the students completed their course.

Lilford school Northamptonshire

Some time in the early 1940s, as part of the war effort a large camp was built on park land around Lilford Hall in Northamptonshire. From 1943 until the end of the war the camp served as an American Air Force 303rd station  hospital. With the end of hostilities the camp stood unused until 1947 when the empty large Nissen huts that once served as hospital wards were transformed in to dormitories and class rooms of the Polish Technical School.
 Of all the Polish schools in the U.K. Lilford was by far the most interesting.  The product of a merger between Landywood Merchant Navy College (December 1947) and Burma Camp Engineering School near Llywyngwril Merionethshire (March 1948) Lilford became a mixed ability Technical School catering for boys in the age range of 13 to 17.
Aleksander Puchnarewicz in front of Lilford Hall 1948


Aleksander came to the UK in 1948 with his mother Anna and older brother Antoni from Koja camp in East Africa  to join their  father Michał who arrived earlier with his army unit from Italy. At the age of 14 Aleksander was sent to Lilford school to complete his education.

Initially the school provided two courses, one of 3 and the other of 4 years, both of which were designed to train boys for the mechanical engineering industry while at the same time providing them with a broad general education. 

By the start of the school year 1950/51 the two courses were merged onto a single syllabus delivered through five ability streams catering for varying skills and levels of achievement.  Younger boys would be scheduled to complete the course within four years and be expected to achieve a high academic standard, while older boys would concentrate on workshop practice that would prepare them for entry into the world of work. 


Students from Lilford with one of their teachers, Aleksander is standing on the right.


This varying emphasis, within a single syllabus, can be seen in the amount of time spent in the workshops.  Boys following the more academic 4 year course spent a total of 1,587 hours in the workshops while boys on the more vocational 3 year course spent 2,160 hours in the workshops.  It was recognised early on that pressure from boys to acquire practical skills which would provide them with well paid jobs in industry might lead to unacceptable levels of achievement in the humanities.


Indeed masters, responsible for delivering subjects of general education, struggled to capture the boys’ interest.  To support them, the former principal of Haydon Park Grammar School, Henryk Staszewski who had already demonstrated high intellectual and administrative gifts, was appointed as headmaster in February 1951.  Under his direction the school, now consisting of well over 400 boys, flourished with its standards of general education considerably enhanced and without detriment to the standard of practical work.


Pupils and staff .

1948-1949 Photo contributed by Stanisław Nowak sitting next to Prof. Chomyszync

Taking advantage of the boarding character of the school, classes were arranged to provide a two hour break at mid day enabling the boys to take part in social and sporting activities, in full day light, throughout the year.  During this period of leisure the boys, of their own initiative, levelled football pitches, built a grandstand, prepared the ground for tennis courts, made basket ball posts and, given the proximity of the river Nene, built six canoes.  Sport thus became highly developed and the school's record of sporting success was indeed impressive.

Sport and Leasure



From 1951 pupils were entered for the East Midlands Education examinations thereby giving them entry to National Certificate courses at British technical colleges.  The results of their efforts, given the language difficulties, were impressive and are summarised below. 




June 1951

June 1952

June 1953

June 1954

Subjects Entries Passes Entries Passes Entries Passes Entries


Mathematics 20 20 42 42 64 58 29 29
Engineering Drawing 20 20 45 41 65 60 28 27
Mechanics Engineering 20 17 28 17 12 12 19 19
Science.     17 17 38 35 7 6



June 1951

June 1952

June 1953

June 1954

Subjects Entries Passes Entries Passes Entries Passes Entries Passes
English 26 14 22 21 22 21 17 14
Mathematics 26 26 22 22 22 22 17 16
Science. 26 23 22 21 22 22 17 15
Drawing 26 26 22 22 22 22 17 17

By 1953 most Polish children had acquired sufficient English to enter directly into the British education system so, in September 1953, all remaining Polish secondary school pupils, both boys and girls, were formed into one school at Lilford.

Lilford School attracted the attention of both the local population, which eagerly attended open days and was greatly impressed by exhibited examples of the pupils’ work, as well as educationalists who wrote highly complementary articles in various educational journals.  The directors of an important local engineering company were sufficiently impressed by the boys’ work to subcontract the manufacture of parts to the school, on normal commercial terms, so giving the course an important quality of reality.



The school chapel in 1949


School chapel refurbished in the 1950s


Mieczysław Gil was one of the many boys who attended Lilford school

Mieczysław Gil age 14 and his widowed mother Rozalia age   45, arrived,  in Southampton from Cape Town  on board the R.M.S. Arundel Castle on the 30 May 1948 with 600 Polish displaced women, children and elderly from camps in Rhodesia. His  father, a polish soldier  was killed in action

Mieczysław with his mother in

Northwick Park.

 in Italy and is buried in the Polish Army cemetery in Loreto. 


On arriving in the UK they were sent to Daglingworth camp in Gloucestershire, which, at that time served as a transit camp for all new arrivals. They were then relocated to  Northwick Park, where his mother lived until 1960, when she moved to Swindon


Not  knowing the language Mieczysław, with a group of boys from different camps was sent to Fairford camp on an intense two month English course. He travelled to  Fairford in a truck which was laid on for them. With in a month of finishing the course and returning to his mother in Northwick, Mieczysław was sent to the Polish boarding Technical School for boys in Lilford Northamptonshire, where he spent 3 years studying  mechanical engineering, leaving when he was 19. 


All this time his  mother was living  in Northwick Park and saw her son only during half term and  school holidays. To earn some pocket money Mieczyslaw recalls that in the summer holidays he worked on local farms gathering potatoes, fruit and vegetables. He also remembers  dances and social events that were held in Northwick and visiting other camps in the area, like Springhill, Fairford and Daglinworth.

Mieczysław and friend Roman Krzywinski in Northwick Park

His first job after leaving the boarding school was with Dowty’s in Ashchurch, then 8 years at Telehoist in Cheltenham, 1½ years in London and finally, in 1960, he joined Pressed Steel Fisher, now BMW, in Swindon where he worked for 35 years until his retirement in 1997. He married Józefa in 1963 and has a son, daughter and two grandsons.


Mieczysław's Leaving Certificate and photo of absolvents and teachers from LILFORD 1952


Many thanks to Krystyna Tworek for collecting the information and photos.

Stefan Minkiewicz short Resume.


Stefan was born on 29 April 1936 in Bujnowicze in the district Nowogródek,  which was in  Poland before WW2 and now is part of Belarus. On the 10th of February 1940 the whole family were deported with thousands of other Poles to the depths of Siberia. In 1942 the family joined the General Anders army exodus through Uzbekistan to Persia, his father joined the army whilst Stefan and his mother, as civilians, moved from camp to camp; Teheran, Ahwaz and Karachi, ending up in camp Vallivade in India where they lived for four years and where Stefan attended the Polish junior school in the camp.

The family left India bound for the UK on the Empire Brent arriving in Southampton on the 26th September 1947. They joined their father in Oulton Park army camp in Cheshire and after demobilisation the family  moved to Delamere Park Polish camp also in Cheshire were they lived until 1963.

Stefan now a teenager was sent to Lilford school were he studied  engineering for 4 years. Below are photos of Stefan and friends in their first year at the school.



Stefan Minkiewicz with friend Stefan Scigała.

Stefan with friend Stasior.

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Commemorative photo of teachers and graduates 1953


Although Stefan graduated with a grade 'A'and received his qualifications in engineering, he was better known for his sporting prowess than academic achievement

playing in the school's football and basketball teams.


After graduating Stefan lived in Birmingham for a year and  then moved to Manchester were he lived for 12 years close to his parents who were still living in Delamere camp. While living in Manchester Stefan was closely involved in the Polish community and in particular the sports club Polonia were he continued his sporting passion. In 1966 he emigrated with his wife, 4 year old daughter and 1 year old son to Hamilton Ontario Canada.


 Schools basketball team 1952 Kwaśniewski, Zygmund Smolicz,  Derecki. Julian Moźdzer, Stefan Minkiewicz,  Zbigniew Kardasinski, Dworkowski, Tworogal, Stefan Zyskowski, Chojnowski.

School team that played against AZS Polish faculty of London University


Stefan Minkiewicz, Jan Kurczak and Miłosz Powiecki by the river Nene

Polonia Manchester basketball team; all are alumni from Lilford school. 1955. Names that Stefan recalls;. Szaleniec, Romuald Malczyński, Mieczyslaw Imiotek, Stefan Minkiewicz, Jerzy Kozławski, Bogdan, Maliszewski and Proszański.


1955 Football match Polonia Manchester  v  Lilford School, Stefan is in the middle.

Football finals between class "J" and "E" 1952.

On the right the schools director Professor H. Staszewski next Professor Juliusz Kluk, pre war Polish vice-champion in the pole vault.

Thank you to Stefan Minkiewicz for the photos and information.
If you attended Lilford Polish School and would like to contribute memories and photos please contact me.

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