To return to Poland or not to return : the dilemma facing the Polish Armed Forces at the end of the Second World War
By the end of the Second World War there were nearly a quarter of a million Poles in the Polish Armed Forces serving under British command. Whereas the other Allied armies eagerly anticipated their demobilisation, the future for the Poles seemed far from certain. On the 20th March, 1946, British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, issued a note to the Polish forces recommending, in the strongest possible terms, that the Poles should return to Poland to help in the country's reconstruction. Indeed some 105,000 took him up on the offer. Some 123,000 did not - a further 21,000 were recruited from Polish communities around the world and they returned home after demobilisation. The key question is why did so many Poles feel unable to return to Poland after the war? Chapter 1 examines the origins of the "Polish Armed Forces Question" and the legacy of bitterness the war has left, even in present day Poland. Chapter 2 looks at the British reactions to the Poles, particularly the important attitude of the Foreign Office. Chapter 3 deals with some of the decisions made by the troops caught in this dilemma. Chapter 4 examines conditions in post-war Poland, and is linked to Chapter 5 which looks at Warsaw's questionably welcoming attitude to the returning troops. Chapter 6 considers British public reaction to the Poles while Chapter 7 deals with the moves of the British Government to support the demobilised Polish forces and the birth of the Polish Resettlement Corps. The aim of this thesis is to establish how the troops of the Polish Armed Forces came to the decisions they did and what were the consequences of returning or not returning to Poland.