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Melton Mowbray Polish Resettlement Camp - by Tadeusz K. Stenzel - March 2007


Tadek Stenzel

Where does one start ? I was born in Penley (Polish) Hospital near Wrexham, where I spent the first six weeks of my life, my stay there being extended by a bout of pneumonia after exposure to an excess of fresh air. My parents Leon and Maria met at Foxley Camp near Hereford and were married on the 15th Jan 1948 at the little church in Woebley.


My mother had arrived via Siberia, Iran and Palestine where she finished her graduation (matura) in Ain-Karem. My father had completed his Degrees in Laws in Poznan in 1937 before returning to the family farm in Bałdowo near to Tczew. He was in his second year of training as a judge (aplikantura sędziowska) in Gdańsk when the war broke out and, as an officer of the reserve, was called to arms. He was and taken prisoner after the Battle on the Bzura and spent the remaining years of the war in Oflag Murnau in Germany.


We first moved to Ashby Folville, a village with a small resettlement camp 7 miles from Melton Mowbray, in 1949 before moving to the site 2 camp in Melton Mowbray itself on Sandy Lane in early 1951 where my maternal grandparents and my uncle and his family lived. I was christened at St John the Baptist Church in Thorpe Road, Melton Mowbray.


The buildings in Ashby were substantial of prefabricated concrete with pitched roofs. I remember being transported in a pushchair by my grandfather from Ashby to Melton camp and being shown the wonders of nature: the trees, the flowers and various animals.


We then lived at the top end of Site 2 (the south-eastern corner, roughly at the current junction with Hartopp Road). This site was, to a young child, a very large area and it was quite an adventure walking from our half Nissen hut to my grandparents, who lived at the bottom end of the site (north-eastern corner) at the picket post. Both huts were located close to Sandy Lane.

The reality is that it was probably no more than 500 yards from one to the other. Toilets on the site were in outside brick buildings with four cubicles in each, but, at that young age, "potties" were the order of the day.


When I was slightly older, I used to cycle all over the Camp on my tricycle. There were various people living in the nissen huts, some were fairly old and to me quite frightening. I recall one hut were an elderly gentleman used to cough very loudly; we did not dare to go near to that hut. Scattered about the site were Air Raid shelters, which we used to play in, but people used some for storage and they used to chase us away.


In 1954 we moved to the diagonally opposite bottom (north-western) end of the site when my second sister was born. This Nissen hut had a sink with a tap and "running water" and we had the whole hut to ourselves. A bald-headed man, who was a bit of an inventor and an artist lived near to us. I remember he had a dummy well attached to a small windmill, with a boy that used to crank a handle as if drawing water from the well when the wind blew. It was painted in pretty bright colours and was set in a garden full of flowers.


It was a lovely time of life, not a care in the world; the summers seemed hot and long and the winters had real snow. We used to go sledging down Sandy Lane. There was very little in the way of traffic, as not many people had cars. I remember an adopted "uncle", some family relative, who used drive a big van and bring supplies for sale on the camp.


Together, my father and uncle managed to buy an old green Riley with running boards, which was our pride and joy. I remember several journeys to London in this car - it used to take well over 4 hours to get there (there were no motorways) and all that the parents would do when they got there, was to talk to their friends. However, the trip was still quite exiting for a young boy. Unfortunately, I think it was in the 1955/56 winter that the cooling system was not drained of water one day and frost cracked the engine block


Milkmen delivered milk to the site and I remember that we used to get orange juice at the Polish school which was housed in a large Nissen hut on the aerodrome. Each morning we were collected by a Farrows bus and driven to the school for lessons. This school was closed in 1955 and was moved to another large Nissen hut close to the church, which was on Dalby Road and had previously served as the Officers' Mess. I was there until starting at the "big school" in 1956 - the Brownlow primary school - I was in Newport house.

My parents managed to save enough money to make a deposit on a house on a new estate and we left the Nissen huts for good in August 1956 just before my starting at Brownlow



I still returned regularly to see my friends on the camps. There were four main sites and several smaller areas. One site (roughly where Meynell Close is now), near to the then Polish chapel at the junction of Dalby Road and Hartopp Road, housed the Polish Club with billiard and table-tennis tables, a library and a small theatre, in which we appeared on National Festivals. The camp sites were finally emptied and cleared in about 1964


Site 1 off Dalby Road is under a housing estate (Jelson); site 2 on Sandy Lane is an open field and playing area near The Burmese Cat and sites 3 & 4, about a mile along Sandy Lane to the south, have been returned to agricultural use and are now being "maintained" by sheep. WAAF site 2 buildings on Kirby Lane are still used as horse stables and the Mess 2 area Nissen huts near to sites 3/4 that were used to breed pigs and chickens at various times are now slowly deteriorating.


My father passed on in October 1996. My mother continues to live in our family home since 1956, where she regularly entertains various English and Polish guests with her immense reservoir of life experiences, photographs and assorted stories. I am sure that there are many more memories to come -one memory triggers another … and so on … one day I will record them all - perhaps...


On the left my christening at St. John the Baptist RC church, in Thorpe Road, Melton Mowbray on Easter Monday in 1949, when I was given the Christian names Tadeusz, Kazimierz.


Pictured in the photograph from l to r are my godfather, Zbigniew Romuald Żeglicki, my mother, Maria Janina (nee Żeglicka), my godmother, Mieczysł;awa Gawlak and my father Leon Arkadiusz Stenzel




The 1955 picture on the right shows our closest family all living on site 2 on Sandy Lane in Melton Mowbray.  It shows back row l to r my mother Maria (nee ter were my younger sister Maria Honorata and two more cousins Barbara and Andrzej Zegliccy



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