Learning the Language and Going to School


On April 1st. 1947 the  Committee for the Education of Poles in Great Britain was born, it's task was the administration of Polish education at all levels in Great Britain. By 1949 there were 16 nursery schools and 34 primary schools with over 2000 children that resided  in National Assistance Board camps/hostels scattered through out the UK. The Committee also concerned itself with adult education teaching English language to all in the camps who wished to learn. In Northwick Park Mr. Lewicki, who was fluent in English, led  classes for adults and although it was difficult for people in their 40s and above to grasp the language most able bodied people attended and in time learned enough to get by.


At the age of five, with a handful of older children, I was sent to the local village school 2 miles away in Blockley. To get to school we had to go through fields of grazing cows on the Northwick Estate and, being youngest, I could not keep up with the other children as we ran across the fields, sometimes followed by the inquisitive cows. The first few weeks at school was not a happy time for a five year old that was suddenly thrown into a strange environment, not speaking or understanding the language, but as children we coped much better than the adults and within a few months we picked up enough English to get by. Within those few months a Polish Junior school was opened in the nearby camp of  Spring Hill Lodges and so we were taken out of Blockley  and sent to the Polish school in Spring Hill.


School in Spring Hill Lodges camp1950

Children, Parents, Teachers and Fr. Serafin Potoczny OFM outside the Polish school in Springhill around 1950. Some of the known  names in no particular order.

Zosia & Krysia Kania, Basia Krasnodemska, Tadek & Janka Strach, Stach Bytnar, Inka Tunikowska, Remizo, Ula Szwabiak, Zosia Hartman, Marzena Brunicka, Kazik Kluk, Stach Rakowski, Uzar brothers, Jurek Biegus, Kazik Żukowski, Krysia Starzyńska,  Romek Górdak, Stach Bałdowski, Marysia Flondra, Janek Szyszkiewicz, Kazik Kapak, Dziunek Kiczma, Mundek  Balawajder,

Back Row. Unknown, Zosia Hartman , Zdzich and Krysia Selwa, Romek Górdak, Kazik Żukowski. Sitting L-R, Unknown, Dziunek Kiczma, Janek Szyszkiewicz, Stach Rakowski, Stach Bytnar, Boguś Poważa. 1950.


With the influx of hundreds of D.Ps. and their children the Polish Junior school was transferred to Northwick Park, and I went back to Blockley Girls and Infants School (Documents can be found in the Gloucestershire Record Office Ref.S52/2). The headmistress of Blockley school was Mrs. D. Yoxall, and I remember her well. She was very strict but fair, and a very good teacher. Over the years I kept in touch with Mrs. Yoxall until her death some years ago. Between the age of five and nine I changed school three times


The Polish School  moved to Northwick Park from Spring Hill  about 1951/ 1952  All the children from Spring Hill Camp were bussed to school  to Northwick by a local bus company  "George Rouse" from Blockley.


Polish Junior School in Northwick Park  1952 -1961

Mrs. Dąbrowska outside the school.



Click for the full list. .



Mrs Tunikowska with her class of infants1960

Mrs. Dąbrowska insid the school.


1954 Polish infant school in Northwick Park around 1956. The teacher's name Mrs.Świdwińska.

Junior School in Northwick Park with the headmaster Mr Karol Kubica, around 1956.

Not all the children went to school in the camp. Some were sent to local English schools, "Blockley  Junior" and "Chipping Camden Catholic School", but most of them attended the school in the camp.

In the mid fifties when I became a teenager our generation was sent to a local secondary school. The clever ones went to the grammar school in Chipping Camden. The rest attended Moreton in the Marsh Secondary Modern school and unlike today when we go to so much trouble to foster a multicultural society, speaking Polish at school was strictly forbidden and punished. As Moreton was about five miles away we had buses taking us there. At one time there were nearly two bus loads of pupils  being picked up outside camp gate 1.


Blockley Girls School trip to Gloucester Cathedral 1954

On the left Mrs. D. Yoxall with some of the children from Blockley school.




Agnes Gibson, Janice Ashcroft, Linda Tailor, Sheila Arosmith, Ann Beats, Margaret Milton Dorothy Hughes, Stella Kay, Jean Cocksall, Zosia Hartman, Hazel? Marian?


Just some of the names if you recognise any one else pleases let me know.

Zosia Hartman and Jean Cocksall 1953


St Catherine's Catholic School Chipping Camden 1956-57

Some Polish children  from  Northwick and Springhill camps attended the school.  Can you see yourself?


World War 2 interrupted higher education for thousands of displaced teenagers and young people. In Britain the Polish Government in Exile set up boarding schools, also run by the  Committee for the Education of Poles in Great Britain, for those that missed out. These were set up in disused camps around the U.K. and all teenagers and young adults were sent away to these schools to learn English and catch up on their education, returning to their families for  Easter, Christmas and summer  holidays.



Andrzej Dąbrowski, Czesław Maryszczak Marysia Leniec,  and  Janek Wania. Home from boarding schools. 1950

As and seven year old I remember seeing bus loads of teenagers arriving at Northwick greeted by their happy parents. The camp bustled with excitement and then, all too soon the holidays were over the buses came and sad parents said goodbye to  their teenage children as they left for their schools in far away places. Boys to Lilford in Northamptonshire,  Diddington and Bottisham in Cambridgeshire and the girls to Stowell Park in Gloucestershire


There was also a Polish boarding school, Shephalbury Mansion nr. Stevenage for children orphaned by the war and those who's parents were unable to look after them through ill health. 


There were also two fee paying boarding schools one for girls in Pitsford Northamptonshire run by the Polish order of the Holy Family of Nazareth and one for boys Fawley Court  Henley on Themes run by the Marian Fathers.


The poles in Great Britain were successful in establishing four Polish  faculties at British universities: medicine at Edinburgh in 1941, architecture at Liverpool in 1942, veterinary studies at Edinburgh in 1943 and law at Balliol College Oxford in1944.


On the 30th of September 1954, having achieved the task for which they were appointed on April 1st 1947 by the Minister of Education under the Polish Resettlement Act of 1947, the Committee for the Education of Poles in Great Britain laid down the responsibilities that had been entrusted to them.



Northwick Park