Being devout Catholics the Poles soon established a chapel in one of the brick barracks where Sunday masses, daily services, christenings, first communion, funerals and all religious festivals were celebrated. The chapel was designed and built by a Polish Franciscan friar Fr. Serafin  Potoczny O.F.M. and  was dedicated to Our Lady of Częstochowa. The large wood carved altar, painted blue with gold columns was dominated by an oil painting of Our Lady of Częstochowa, all the work of Fr. Potoczny. When the camp closed the whole altar was moved to the Polish Church in Kidderminster, it is still there. A wooden bell tower was erected next to the chapel. You could hear the bell peeling throughout the camp calling worshipers to weekly services and Sunday Masses.  Some years  later a stone grotto was  built opposite the chapel with a statue of our Lady of  Lourdes in it. There were  a number of priests based  at the camp at various times. When Fr. Potoczny and Canon Siemaszko moved on I remember Fr. Edward Rytko and  Cannon K. Sufranowicz the last priest at the camp was Fr. Franciszek Winczowski.


Top Row L Basia Arbaszewska, Teacher- Alina Ostoja-Malicka, Canon Zygmunt Siemaszko, Unknown, Antek Lichtar. Bottom Row - Hanka Martynowicz, Danka Borowska,
 Boguś Poważa, Marzena Brunicka, Heniek Bojarski, Zosia Hartman, Władek Lichtar, Stachu Staszewski. 1952

Front R. Unknown, Edmund Balawajder, Dziunek Kiczma, Rysiek Sarul, Unknown, Stachu Rakowski, Kazik Kluk, Unknown, Rysiek  Łapiński. Standing at the back, Mr. Lisowski (organist), Cannon Siemaszko, Mira Bożemska and Leszek Tunikowski. 1953


First  communion was always a big day for the church, the children, their parents and for the whole community living in the camp. Each year excited nine and ten year olds became  the centre of attraction.  Girls dressed in long white dresses, and boys looking very smart in navy or white suits, with commemorative candles and pictures in hand, received their first Holy Communion. Photos show children from different years.



1962  Inside the chapel with Fr. F. Winczowski

The altar in the Chapel in sky blue and gold was dedicated to

 Our lady of Częestochowa.

1958/59 Fr. Sufranowicz


Back :- Krysia Hanuszczak, Mrs. Patras, Mr. &Mrs. Hybiak Mrs. Bojarska, Mrs. Gosiewska, rest unknown. Front:-Jadzia Patras,  Basia Hybiak, Zosia Śliwinska, Teresa Bojarska, Maryla Gosiewska, 1954

Fr. Sufranowicz outside the chapel with children taking their first communion. 1959




Come rain or shine - 1951




Every year the Corpus Christi celebration was a big team effort for everyone in the community. Four altars were built at strategic points around the camp. They were decorated by people from different organisations within the camp such as; the ex-combatants (S.P.K), Catholic Action, Scouts, Youth Organisations etc. each trying to outdo the others in building the most splendid altar. People living in the barracks along the covered walkway through which the procession wound its way round the camp decorated the walkway with green branches, ribbons and flowers. The scouts, guides and the youth movement would carry the banners and flags, some dressed in national costumes. Little girls dressed in white, helped by their mothers, scattered a carpet of flowers for the procession to walk on. Come rain or shine young and old always took part. Photos show various years.


Left:- Leading the procession out of the church are

Mieczysław Gil, Bogdan Hołownia,and Czeslaw Marycszczak. 1952


Procession winding it's way past the barracks.  mid 50s

Zosia Hartman by one of the altars. 1951

Procession winding its way through the covered walkway decorated with greenery


Procession leaving  the chapel, guides and scouts carrying banners, altar boys and little girls with flower baskets -1960 Teacher on the left is Mrs Tunikowska and on the right Mrs. Dąbrowska.


In the 50's there were many  Polish Camps scattered throughout the UK, each was a world in itself, knowing very little, if any,  of each other's existence. Yet Children's First Communion, Corpus Christi Processions, celebrating  national days looked the same in every camp.




The Grotto was built in the early fifties. It was designed  by Fr. Stanisław Serafin Potoczny OFM. Fr. Potoczny belonged to the Order of Friars Minor popularly called Franciscans, but known in Poland as Bernardyni. After he left Northwick Park he ran a Polish parish in Lampeter South Wales, then in  Bradford and finally Stoke-on-Trent. After 40 years of work as a parish priest he retired in 1978 and went back to his monastery in Przeworsk Poland. He died in 1984.


The grotto in all its glory in the 50s and 60s.

Irena Słama (Brzyska )her first Holy Communion with sister Teresa Słama (Rzepa)

The grotto was dedicated to our Lady of Lourdes by Prelate Bronisław Michalski with Cannon Siemaszko on the left and Fr. Potoczny middle right.

This grotto was used daily for private contemplation and prayer by  people in the camp.  It was also used as one of the altars for Corpus Christi, and for the much loved outdoor May services which were always well attended.

Mrs. Zosia Chluska who was a nurse in the Penley hospital and later in Northwick sick bay.  Profesor Jozef Kapica (ex Jagielloński University in Kraków & ex combatant Captain in Karpacka Brygada) who had been OBOZOWY i,e. in charge of the whole camp. He liaised very closely with the local authority, Social Services, schools etc.


Marriages and christenings


Over the life span of the camp,  nearly 20 years, there were marriages, deaths and many new born babies. The chapel did not have a license for marrying people so marriages took place in  St. Catherine's Catholic Church in Chipping Camden, but christenings and funerals were held in the camp's chapel. All were officiated by the Polish Priest. The  receptions were usually held in the nissen huts or barracks were the families lived.


Left. Christening Teresa Czyż with her godparents Regina Jakowicka and Antoni Radczak photographed outside their nissen hut.

Right. Right. Krysia Hanuszczak from Northwick Park and Ryszard Patecki from Springhill Lodges camp on their wedding day standing outside their Nissen hut with their mothers.


Left:-Marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Sowinski

Mietka Bogusławska  Zofia and Jan Sowiński and Danka Borowska

Right;-Christening of Jan Biegus. 1965

Wanda Gródzinska, Kamila Sitkiewicz, Witold and Anna Hartman, Jurek Biegus, Jadwiga Biegus (holding the baby), Zosia Biegus, Julek Gródzinski, Mrs. E. Howel, Mrs. R. Gella, Teresa Derc, Brygida Derc and Andrzejek Gródzinski.


Tadek Strach and Irena Bachryj's wedding



Jurek Danyluk, Tadek Strach, Irena Bachryj, Marysia Bachryj, Janina Strach,  Basia Woźniakiewicz, Renia Operchał, Wanda Oko, Teresa Bojarska, Tadzio Zdanko.

Bridesmaids Marysia and Jasia Borowska at their sister's Danuta's wedding  with Władek Lichtar.

Fr. F, Winczowski and  Zosia Kuriata baby unknown.


Some of the priests who looked after the spiritual needs of Northwick Park residents.


Priest unknown with  Marzena Brunicka, Wanda Skrzypecka and Zosia Hartman

Canon Zygmunt Siemaszko,  Prelate Stanislaw Michalski  Fr. Jozef Gołąb from Springhill camp.

Fr. Stanislaw Potoczny OFM with some of the camp's residents.


Fr. Franciszek Winczowski the last priest in the camp.


With the onset of war in 1939 Fr. Winczowski fled Poland and became chaplain to Polish armed forces first in Hungary then in Jerusalem, Teheran, and Africa.  In Massindi  Uganda he built a beautiful church for the displaced Polish community. In 1947 he  moved on to a large displaced persons camp in Tengeru  Tanganyika. In 1950 he came to England working with the Polish community in Birmingham. He looked after Polish ex soldiers in Long Marston.  In the late 50s  he took over pastoral  duties in Northwick Park camp. He also looked  after Polish people living in nearby Evesham and Aston Magna. He died in 1974 and is buried in Stratford on Avon cemetery.

Fr. F. Winczowski

Fr. E. Rytko

Fr. Potoczny OFM and Fr, Siemaszko



Northwick Park