My grandparents' life in England
A memorable winter and a wonderful spring: 


After the Second World War, a large number of Polish soldiers and their families made their way to England. They were housed in army camps built during the war to house allied forces (American, Canadian, French etc.) that returned to their home countries when war ended. The camps stood empty until the Polish forces arrived from Italy and other war time deployments.

Document showing the admission date to Monkmead Camp on 1946.

My grandparents departed from Italy to England after the end of the war and these camps were their home for several years. They found a peaceful and pleasant place to live after many years of suffering and uncertainty. Today, there is little sign of the existence of these camps at all, except in the memories of those who lived and grew up there.
Alba and Józef Chorągiewicz met in Italy after the end of hostilities in Europe in December of 1945. Alba was born in Montelupone, Italy. She was eighteen years old, a pretty and enthusiastic Italian lady. Józef, was born in Kozłowice, Upper Silesia, Poland. He was twenty-one years old, a brave and handsome man in the Polish Underground Forces. He escaped from southern Poland in 1942 and enlisted as a soldier in the Polish Second Corps under General W³adys³aw Anders. Due to the antagonism towards the Communist Regime, Józef decided not to return to his homeland and enlisted in the Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC). This was a Corps of the British Army into which Polish soldiers could enlist and whose task was to prepare the soldiers for independent civilian life in England. 
Alba and Józef were dating for five months and were married on a sunny morning on April 25th of 1946 in the ancient medieval village of Montelupone, near the east coast of the Adriatic Sea. Three months later they departed for England. Alba had a mix of feelings in her heart. She was excited and happy to find new opportunities in a new country but at the same time, she felt sad to leave her friends, family and even the small town where she grew up.  She was a strong woman and knew that better living conditions will wait for both of them. It was time to say goodbye.
They departed by train from the Montelupone station and stayed in a Transit Camp (probably the transit camp of the Second Polish Corps in Trani and Barletta) waiting to continue their travel.
They were ready to cross the sea and look for new horizons. The train was ready to leave the continent and departed from the coast of France to England.  Alba and Józef travelled together with many Polish soldiers and their families.
They crossed the English Channel by ferry and arrived in Folkestone Harbour railway station on July 24th of 1946. Alba and Józef arrived on the Island in the summer with exceptional weather, frequent and heavy thunderstorms occurred in Eastern England that year. At Folkestone, they went through the immigration formalities and were transported by military trucks to the Monkmead Camp at West Chiltington, Pulborough, where they were registered on July 25th .  Accommodation was assigned to them and they received their identity cards, medical books, and clothing.

The first days of Alba in England with some friends, wearing the black Polish beret, 1946.

The winter of 1946-1947 was remembered as one of the harshest and coldest in the history of England during the 20th century. The snow began to fall in December 1946, but the heaviest storm occurred at the end of January. At that time, snow fell heavily in the south-east of England covering the fields and the barracks. The temperature began to drop drastically and the snow accumulated in an exceptional way.  There were electricity cuts and livestock died due to the persistent cold days.  Alba and Józef remembered that extraordinary cold winter in the camp that made it difficult to go out and get food.  Everything outside the hut was frozen, and they burnt some wood for heating their place.  Despite the weather conditions, they were happy to enjoy the winter season together and safe.
The cold and white days of an unforgettable winter passed and the spring came full of great things.  The morning of April 3rd of 1947, Alba was admitted to the 6th Polish General Hospital at Diddington Park, the former 49th American Army Station Hospital, located near Buckden Village, Saint Neots. Józef stayed in a different camp until childbirth.
  On 25th April 1947, Alba delivered a healthy baby boy, Franciszek Albert. The labour was hard because the nurses only spoke Polish and even though they were kind to her, she could not figure out what they tried to say. Franciszek was baptized in May 1947 in the Saint John Evangelist church in Horsham. His godmother was Irena Cybulska and his godfather was Antoni Stasiewicz, both also lived in the Camp.

Alba pregnant together with their Italian friends

Alba and Józef together with the new born baby boy

With some friends in the Barracks

 in the winter of 1946-1947.

 Franciszek in Possingworth Camp, Pulborough, 1947

 of Possingworth Camp, 1947.


Most of the camps for Polish soldiers in exile and their families were located in extensive rural areas and distributed throughout the Island. At that time, Alba was pregnant and the conditions at the Monkmead Camp were not good enough to spend the winter there.  Alba and Józef stayed there only four months and they were later relocated to a new site.  During the autumn of 1946, they moved to Possingworth Camp, North Uckfield, Pulborough, and were transferred once again to Menhro (difficult to read handwriting) Common Camp, Lower Beeding, near the town of Horsham in January 1947.   After moving to a better place, they were ready to spend their first winter in England.
 In February of 1948, the family was transferred to another site in the same area and moved to the Five Oaks Camp, Billinghurst in the County of West Sussex. In this place, they stayed longer and really enjoyed the time there. The huts were modest constructions that were built on huge plots of rural lands. They were small, rounded, or semi-cylindrical in shape, all were very similar. Alba and Józef lived in a nissen hut roofed over with rusted galvanised sheets and covered in the front with timber. They were cosy enough to establish a new home not only for them but also for many people in a country with a different language and customs. The hut had a central wooden door and two small windows one on each side of the door, a small window above the door, and a couple of windows on the sides. It was a simple and humble home. In a single space, there was a dining room, a bedroom, and a bathroom. Surrounding the hut, they made a garden where they planted some wildflowers and vegetables to contribute to their daily food. Their lifestyle was very modest and even though the food was rationed as a consequence of the war, they always had a meal at their table. 
 Five Oaks was always in the memories of Alba and Józef. The place was quiet, nice, and peaceful. A humid climate with abundant vegetation and a lot of trees, mainly oaks and pines made a good time for relaxing. Józef worked for a short time on a farm and later worked as a full time mechanic with administration duties in the main office of the camp. Alba used to spend time taking care of the baby, cooking, and having long talks with her Italian friends. They enjoyed social meetings, picnics, and walks in the countryside. Making a great effort to save some money, they bought an oak wood crib for Franciszek. Alba had some difficulties with the language. She never learned to speak either English or Polish. She used to buy some pasta from a salesman holding in her hands a noodle as a sample because she did not know how to talk with him.
The barracks were the home for Alba and Józef for three years, where dreams and illusions little by little returned to them. Life there remained engraved in their memories as pleasant and joyful moments. The Polish community, settled in many camps throughout the Island, finally found some of that longed-for peace. Undoubtedly, they did their best to adapt to life in the new country even when they were not welcomed by some local residents. The opportunity to stay in the refugee camps gave them some stability, shelter and well-being after so many years of gloom. There, a large number of Poles settled down, maintained their traditions, and celebrated traditional festivities dancing the Polka in their traditional costumes. Everyday life was pleasant for the families and soldiers and the Five Oaks camp was a very quiet place where they could enjoy peaceful days.
Not everyone found satisfying work in England. Trade unions insisted that skilled work is offered first to English people limiting job opportunities to unskilled work. Many of the soldiers decided to seek better opportunities in other countries and decided to emigrate with their families.

Possingworth Camp, 1947.


Five Oaks Camp, West Sussex, 1948.

  Józef and Franciszek Five Oaks Camp, West Sussex, 1948.

 It was time for Alba and Józef to leave the camp and said goodbye to their partners and friends who were like their family during their years in England. They would always remember the huts, the smell of wet grass after the rain, the snowy days, the walks, and the social gatherings. It was the moment to take a new step in their lives. They left their home at Five Oaks Camp and made their way to Argentina. They departed from Southampton harbour on February 25th 1949 carrying two big suitcases, a couple of things, and the oak wood crib which was later used by all the new babies in the family.
By Barbara Vento Chorągiewic (From the book: “Memorias de Tierras Lejanas”




Life in a typical Polish DP Camp Northwick Park

in Gloucestershire

List and Information

on other family CAMPS


Polish Boarding Schools

Ships' Names and passenger lists

of  Polish DPs from Africa and Europe.

List of Polish Resettlement Corps Camps


Messageboard and  

Guest book