DODDINGTON POLISH CAMP Cheshire1946-1960

 

In the heart of the Cheshire country side on Lord Delves Broughton's estate near to Wybunbury stands Doddington hall. Overlooking the lake this grade 1 mansion  designed by Samuel Wyatt, is set in gardens landscaped by Capability Brown.

 

 Doddington hall

The tower

you can just see the Hall on the right

 

Doddington Park on the A 51 between Nantwich and Woore.

The map shows camp 1 camp 2 and 3 that formed Doddington camp.

 

          In the 1940s the land in front of the mansion was requisitioned by the MOD  and a very large army camp was built. The camp buildings obstructed the view of a historic tower and the remains of a demolished castle.  The tower  still stands at the far end of the field. The camp was built to house the Free French and then the American Army in preparation for the invasion of Europe.

 

Rows of timber framed huts that were home to Polish families.

 

The camps, numbered 1,2 and 3 consisted of over a hundred buildings of various type and size.  The majority were barracks or huts made of timber with the outside walls covered with bitumen felt coated with tar, and a corrugated asbestos roof.  The floors were concrete, with metal framed  windows and a door at each end of the building. A single cast iron coke burning stove in the middle of the hut was the only source of heat. These huts were used as accommodation for the soldiers. There was electricity in the huts but no running water.

Pre-fabricated concrete buildings housed communal washrooms, showers  and toilet blocks which were  strategically placed around the camp.

A number of  large black corrugated metal Nissen huts housed the cookhouse, dinning mess, entertainment and dance hall, a sick bay and a place for worship, a typical WW2 army camp.   

 

 Polish troops in Doddington

 
 

The  first families arriving in 1946 /7 had to make the best of coexisting in the open space of the barracks as two or three families had to share  this area.

A modicum of privacy was achieved by hanging curtains or blankets from the rafters. With no cooking facilities, a communal kitchen and dinning room  served the residents four to five meals a day.  By 1950/51  the  authorities converted the  barracks into two or three bedroom flats  installing cooking ranges so people could fend for themselves.

 

Kitchem staff  outside the Nissen hut  kitchen - 1947

Inside the  dinning room

 

Józef Skora, Mrs. Kotarska, Mrs. Tomczak photographed with a few of the Doddington communal kitchen staff 1950s

Most Poles are devout Roman Catholics and it is their faith that helped them to survive the war, exile and years in the wilderness.  They came to the camps as total strangers from every part of what was Poland before the war and from all walks of life. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, university lectures and aristocrats mixed with farmers, factory workers and simple country folk. This diverse mix of people had to build a new way of life and forge a coherent community in a new country, this did not come easily as every group had its own axe to grind.
 
The camp was administrated by the National Assistance Board (NAB) with an English Warden helped by a handful of English speaking  Polish officials. It was the Education Organiser’s responsibility to liaise with all these groups, forging  them together through education and social activities such as amateur dramatic society, choir, dance group, sewing and handicraft courses. 
 
 
The authorities expected that all able bodied persons had to  find work to pay their rent, electricity, coal for heating and other basic necessities.  Some of the people were employed within the camp as kitchen, nursery, medical and general maintenance staff, but the majority had to find work outside the camp’s environment.
 

Doctors, nurses and staff outside the camp's sick bay 1947

Evening sewing class 1950; Mrs. Tomczak, Malwina Kosarew, Janina Kuś,    Mrs. Niewdach

 
A serious impediment to finding work was the language barrier. Learning a new language in middle age was a struggle so the camp authorities, with the aid of the Educational Organiser, laid on evening English classes for adults.  Work was found in local industries, Crewe  Works being the largest employer. Others worked in coal mines and the pottery industry.  Many educated, professional people with good English skills had to accept low paid menial jobs in coal mines and factories because of objections from trade unions. In time  most picked up the language but the over 60s  never fully mastered the skill. 
 

A National Assistance Board at the entrance to the camp.

Halina Wolan Maria Wirkus
Katarzyna Lupa   Jadwiga Katkiewicz 
Maria Niechciał  Hermina Golas 
Czesława Kamińska Helena Dobrzyńska
Halina Gutman  Anna Auer
Agnieszka Babisz  Helena Chanerley
Janina Sitek  Barbara Auer
Irena Kropielnicka  Janina Wollowicz
Maria Lasota Helena Szpak
Halina Piekarska Wilhelmina Grabowska
Rita Anikin Genowefa Zaczek
Michalina Januchowska Wanda Sogatis
Anna Socha Anna Rogowska
Maria Fiederowicz Anna Budarkiewicz
Maria Ejgird Janina Chrzanowska
Katarzyna Pasławska  Kazimiera Misiuna 
Maria Nykiel   
Jadwiga Dudziak  
   

LIST OF THOSE ENROLLED FOR THE SEWING COURSE IN 1953

 
The winter of 1947 came as a shock to new arrivals from Italy and the African continent with no winter clothing. A number of local charitable organizations provided help and support. One such organisation that supplied gifts of warm clothing and food for the  Polish children in a number of camps, was the National Catholic Welfare Council (NCWC) in the USA.  People were also encouraged to help themselves by mending and altering donated clothes to make them fit their new owners.
 

 Children in receipt of gifts from National Catholic Welfare Council

 
Conditions in the camp were, by no stretch of the imagination, ideal for families to live in but after years in the wilderness, being pushed from pillar to post, Poles were happy to have some stability and a roof over their heads. Life had to go on and in time the camp transformed itself into a vibrant Polish community, observing their faith and traditions.
 

Education

 
During the war the Polish  Government in Exile in London, in the most difficult of circumstances, provided a broad range of educational facilities for exiled Poles. Primary and secondary schools served displaced children in camps in Africa, India, the Middle East and liberated areas of Europe.  When war ended, the British Government withdrew recognition of the Polish Government in Exile.  To ensure that children and young people did not miss out on their education the British Government established an autonomous   Committee for the Education of Poles in Great Britain  chaired by Sir George Gater and working under the auspices of the Polish Resettlement Act 1947. Publicly funded it become responsible for adult, nursery, and primary education in National assistance Board Camps and also a number of grammar and secondary modern boarding schools.
 

Children from the nursery 1947/8

 
Doddington was a large  camp capable of housing over 1000 people and in 1947 a crèche, infant and junior school was opened in the camp catering for  around 300 children age 2 to 15  that arrived  there with their parents.  The crèche staffed by a number of resident mothers and  qualified nursery  nurses enabled women to go out to work. The infant and junior school had qualified Polish teachers and great emphases was placed on teaching children to read and write in Polish, Polish history, traditions and heritage. 
 

Children, staff and parents outside the crèche building1948

Inside the crèche 1948

 
Children that picked up the language quickly were sent to local  English schools St. Ann’s RC in Nantwich, Bridgemere Primary school and Wybunbury  Primary school.  To ensure that the children attending English schools did not forget their mother tongue a Saturday Polish School was set up in the camp. Not all were happy to give up their Saturday mornings.  In the end  it all paid off, as that generation of youngsters  became bi-lingual and  integrated into the British  community with ease but still keeping their Polish identity custom's and traditions to this day.
 

1954 infant  school

1955 junior school

 
Some of the names in the photo above 1955
 
Father Tadeuz  Urbanski, Teacher Mrs. Hepel,
 Halina Pogonowska, Staszek Niedzielski, Kordian Swistek,
Ania Borowska, Rysieak Kuś, Basia Lupa, Zbyszek Zatrupka,
Irena Sobuta, Eląbiets Sikorska, Tadek Zakszaski
 
 

Photo left headmaster Mr Pielucha

Bozena Swistek, Ewa Smolka, Krystyna Kolociew, Zosia Pialucha, Barbara Bialozorska and Krystyna Trembaluk.  Some of the boys are (from right to left) are Wladek Sokol, Rysiu Sobuta, Andrzej Chanerley, Zbysui Glinski, Stefan Urbas, Zbysui Kaplan, Jurek Czaplinski and Heniek Rogulski.

 

 
Doddington was one of a number of camps that housed some of the boys and girls that  were ether orphaned, part orphaned or just separated from their families by the war. In August 1947, as a temporary measure, one of the  huts close to the entrance of the camp, was allocated to house about 60 or so of these children aged between  6 and 17. They were cared for by their house master Mr. Nagórski, and all attended the camp’s school so that they could continue with their education until such time as they could be either reunited with their families or adopted.
 
Most of these young people, completed their education  in the Committee’s  Polish secondary boarding schools. Girls went to Stowell Park camp  in Gloucestershire, boys to Bottisham camp in Cambridgeshire, a co-educational school in Diddington camp Huntingdonshire and a Technical school in Lilford Northamptonshire. The five to eleven year olds were sent to Shephalbury Mansion boarding school near Stevenage.
 

Outside the school 1947

Girl Guides 1947

 
 

Faith and Polish Traditions

 

 One of the huts converted into a church - a view of the altar.

 
 
Finding themselves in a strange country, not speaking the language, poles found strength and solace in their faith and it was important to them to instil that faith in their children. Doddington camp was no exception, a church was soon established in one of the barracks. Sunday masses and daily services were always well attended.
 

Every year a Corpus Christi Procession wound  its way  through the camp, past the Nissen huts and barracks,  bringing  together the whole community in an act of worship and celebration. Young and old, come rain or shine, people in their Sunday best, little girls dressed in white, older girls in  national costume creating almost a carnival atmosphere.

 
 
 

The following photos are of Corpus Christi processions from various years.

 

The four altars where built around the camp and decorated by various organisations active in the camp.

 

It was also a day where children took the centre stage and one which many remember to this day.

 

Corpus Christi Processions

from various years in the 1950s

 

First Holy Communion from various years.

 

Back row, some of the teachers Mr. Grycewicz, Mr. Czapliński, Fr. Mieczysław Stasz, head teacher Mr. Piałuch. Some known names of the children - Helena Szpak, Krysia Rorbach, Andrzej Grycewicz, Jan Czerski, Andrzej Kucharski.

Fr. Władysław  Puchalski,   Zdzisia Zakrzewska,  Andrzej Jackowski Wanda Banas,   Staszek Zakrzewski,   Basia Kosarew, Michalina Gorajewska, Teresa Kołociew.

 

Parents and children against the backdrop of one of the Nissen Huts.

A visit by Prelate Bronisław Michalski celebrating one of many children's First Communion

 

Polish scouts and guides

 

Mr. Hruch with the camp's scout group

The red poppy and sunburst troop.

 

Traditions

 
Polish History is steeped in tradition and culture.  Commemorating  the 3rd. of May  Polish Constitution Day was celebrated every year in all Polish camps, Doddington being  no exception.  The camp's children  dressed in national dress, usually made for them by their mothers, delighted the audience and  parents as they recited Polish poetry and danced traditional Polish dances
 

Basia Auer, Klara Grycewicz, Urszula Łyszczucka, Leonis ?

Wanda and Julek Socha

Wanda Socha

 

Children on stage singing “Witaj  Majowa Jutrzenko” (Welcome this May Dawn) is always sung on the 3rd of May - Constitution day.

 

On the 6th of December St. Nicholas visits all good children bearing gifts.

 

Jurek Sitek reciving a gift from St, Nicholas.

Polish children receive presents not only at Christmas  but also on the 6th of December St. Nicholas day.

 

Father Christmas visiting children in the camp's sick bay.

Carol singers with a Crib and Stars "Szopka and Kolędnicy

 
The post war Polish community in the UK encompassed not only all the social, professional, ethnic and religious groups found in Polish society but also a huge range of war experiences and personal suffering. Most cherished a dream of returning to a free Poland and picking up their lives from where they left them.  Sadly this dream could not be realised.  Few lived to see their homes and families in an independent Poland.
 
Tadusz Wąs was one of them. As a young man he studied fine art at the Institute of fine art in  Kraków, specialising in mural painting and stained glass. He had just graduated with honours when war broke out bringing to a halt  his artistic ambitions.  Tadeusz became a soldier fighting for Poland's freedom in the hope of returning to his country and building a career in his specialised subject. Sadly fate denied him his dream. The end of the war did not bring Poland its freedom. Tadeusz with thousands of other Polish soldiers had to build a new life in a new country. He settled in Doddington Camp where he met and married and brought up a family, earning a living as a painter and decorator for Crewe Council, a sad waste of his artistic talent.  In his spare time he resumed his love of painting and, in 1996 at the age of 79, he achieved his dream of his first one man exhibition. More exhibitions followed in renowned art galleries including those in Manchester and  Glasgow. Mr. Wąs died in 2005 but his legecy lives on, with his paintings becoming increasingly sought after.

Aniela and Tadeusz Wąs walking in the camp.

 
If you lived in the camp and would like to share your memories and photos please contact me.
 
  Page 1    Current
  Page 2    Memories from Jan Czerski and Jurek and Roman  Sitek
  Page 3    Doddington Cemetery
  Page 4    Doddington Photo Exhibition.  
  Page 5    Jasmina Dopierala Memories
  Page 6    Barbara Białozorska's Memories.
  Page 7    Photos from an old album 1946/7
   
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