Repatriation of Poles

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Repatriation of Poles

The Cabinet on 20 November discussed the repatriation of members of the Polish Armed Forces who had expressed a wish to return to Poland and whether there was transport available for them to do so.

The following extracts give a flavour of what was said in Cabinet:

E.B.  

This has become pol. game.  Moscow-sponsored group in P.P.G.
  don't seem to want them back - at any rate in nos.
  W.S.C.'s pledge has made pol. division in Pol. Army.  Propose
  "contracting out" - i.e. those who don't want to go fall out. 
  My evce = o.r. do want to return.
  If they don't go soon, they'll be prejudiced for ever - as land from
  break-up of estates is now being allocated.
  Give me some ships & I can then negotiate with P.P.G. re reception.
G.Strauss. Some expected troop movements delayed - ship available 2/3.000 a
  time from next month to Gdynia  Cd. lift the lot in 3 months.
  Subject to Admy. clearance on safety.

Taken from C.M. 54(45) - Meeting held on 20 November 1945.


The Cabinet discussed on 22 January 1946 the problem of the dispersal of the Polish Armed Forces which were under British Command.  There were large numbers of Poles who were reluctant to return to Poland and the maintenance of such a force was causing increasing political embarrassment in the UK's relations with the Soviet Union and Poland.  On the other hand the Poles had fought gallantly during the war and it was important that the UK should not be ungenerous in its treatment of them.  The aim therefore was to persuade as many as possible to return to Poland and the Foreign Secretary was attempting to get from the Polish Government a statement on how they would be treated when they returned.  General Anders and other Polish leaders were using their influence with their troops to prevent men from returning to Poland.  Also discussed was the possibility that some of the troops could be given British nationality and absorbed into the British Services, civil employment or be sent to parts of the British Commonwealth.

The following extracts give a flavour of what was said in Cabinet:

E.B. 

Situation getting serious. Poles now largest Allied Force in Italy.
 W.S.C.'s pledge - most unfortunate - made without authority.
 Problem of over 200.000 men - when I approach Doms. : Colonies or H.O. I get no help. B. Emp. tho' representg. 1/6th of world's surface can never absorb anything!
 Must bring this business to a head. If it went to Sec. Council or became public scandal I wd. have no defence.
 As repatn,. proceeds, Polish Army becomes mainly officers!
 Big nigger = Anders.
 Want to be fair. If we demobilise I wd. give them same privileges as B. soldiers demobilised. Wd. like Ty. to reconsider ques. of gratuity and paid furlough.
 When we've done our best, we shall be lucky if we get 100.000 back to Poland.
 Remainder of 100.000. Hope R.A.F. and army can absorb some of these.
 Rest - why can't they be assimilated in this period of man power stringency. Wd. also hope D.O. and C.O. wd. play too - on proportionate basis.

C.I.G.S. 

Anders = main stumbling block. Imposs,. to convert him fr. his strong views.
 We do owe him debt of gratitude.
 x/.  Get Cmmrs. together and let P.M. or E.B. address. They won't convert : cd. explain.
 If they turn nasty it will be awkward in Italy because so many of them.
 First step is x/. 

P.M. 

E.B. and I will both see them.

C.G. 

What powers to keep Anders here, as proposed in para. 5 of C.O.S. paper?
 I wd. have no answer to a habeas corpus appln.

R.M. 

Poles are under our command. Can we not control their movements?

C.I.G.S. 

Probably, yes. Wdn't put him under arrest - wd. cause some trouble in Italy.
 Cd. prob.  post him to Scotland.

R.M. 

Agree : control must be military not civil action. H.O. is let out.

C.E. 

What of natn. of remaining Poles? Discuss now or postpone.

E.B. 

Don't want it announced now tht. any facilities will be given to remainder.
 Otherwise, no one will go back to Poland. But I must be assured that when we do get down to the hard core I shall have support from my colleagues in providing reasonable facilities.

C.E. 

Individual natn. cases will have to be sponsored by B. authies. Polish certificates are not reliable, as our experience has shown.

E.B. 

Must face the fact tht. Polish Govt,. will de-nationalise those who eventually decide against return.

A. 

Don't wish to make any further dif. approach to Doms. yet. The only one who has made any gesture of willingness : Australia. All others have declined to take more people. Haven't made formal approach to them.

Taken from C.M. 7(46) - Meeting held on 22 January 1946.