POLISH MERCHANT NAVY COLLEGE

 

LILFORD TECHNICAL SCHOOL

 
 

The creation of a Polish Merchant Navy College was first mooted in 1942 but it wasn't until March 1945 that the necessary resources were found for the college to be established, under the direction of Cpt. K.O. Borchardt, in a disused camp in Landywood nr. Walsall in Staffordshire.  The camp consisted of the usual assortment of nissen huts which served as classrooms and bedrooms for the boys.  There was a communal kitchen and dining room, doctor's surgery, chapel, workshops and staff accommodation.  The college, as remote from the sea as could be in the U.K., laboured under many disadvantages not the least of which was that the British merchant navy did not recognize its nautical training or qualifications.  In 1947 The Committee for the Education of Poles, under the chairmanship of Sir George Gater, assumed responsibility for the college and took the view that it should be merged with the Lilford Technical School.  The merger was completed by March 1948 and two special classes, in navigation and engineering, were formed for 45 advanced students from Landywood.  The committee also managed to arrange navigational practice for most of the trainees.  These two classes, which were independent of Lilford’s technical curriculum, disappeared in 1949 when the students completed their course

 

Polish Merchant Navy college at Landywood Great Wyrley Staffordshire

 

Lilford school Northamptonshire

 

Of all the Polish schools in the U.K. Lilford was by far the most interesting.  The product of a merger between Landywood Merchant Navy College (December 1947) and Burma Camp Engineering School near Llywyngwril Merionethshire (March 1948) Lilford became a mixed ability Technical School catering for boys in the age range of 13 to 17.  Initially it provided two courses, one of 3 and the other of 4 years, both of which were designed to train boys for the mechanical engineering industry while at the same time providing them with a broad general education.  By the start of the school year 1950/51 the two courses were merged onto a single syllabus delivered through five ability streams catering for varying skills and levels of achievement.  Younger boys would be scheduled to complete the course within four years and be expected to achieve a high academic standard, while older boys would concentrate on workshop practice that would prepare them for entry into the world of work.  This varying emphasis, within a single syllabus, can be seen in the amount of time spent in the workshops.  Boys following the, more academic, 4 year course spent a total of 1,587 hours in the workshops while boys on the, more vocational, 3 year course spent 2,160 hours in the workshops.  It was recognised early on that pressure from boys to acquire practical skills which would provide them with well paid jobs in industry might lead to unacceptable levels of achievement in the humanities. Indeed masters, responsible for delivering subjects of general education, struggled to capture the boys’ interest.  To support them, the former principal of Haydon Park Grammar School, who had already demonstrated high intellectual and administrative gifts, was appointed as headmaster in February 1951.  Under his direction the school, now consisting of well over 400 boys, flourished with its standards of general education considerably enhanced and without detriment to the standard of practical work.

 

Pupils and staff .

Second from the left is Zdzisław Polkowski --  if you can identify any one else please let me know

 

Left:- The chapel
 
 

Number of pupils on the 1st of April each year

1949

473

1950

482

1951

483

1952

363

1953

243

1954

141

 
 
 

Taking advantage of the boarding character of the school, classes were arranged to provide a two hour break at mid day enabling the boys to take part in social and sporting activities, in full day light, throughout the year.  During this period of leisure the boys, of their own initiative, levelled football pitches, built a grandstand, prepared the ground for tennis courts, made basket ball posts and, given the proximity of the river Nene, built six canoes.  Sport thus became highly developed and the school's record of sporting success was indeed impressive.

From 1951 pupils were entered for the East Midlands Education examinations thereby giving them entry to National Certificate courses at British technical colleges.  The results of their efforts, given the language difficulties, were impressive and are summarised below. 

 
 

FIRST YEAR NATIONAL CERTIFICATE .SENIOR 1

 

June 1951

June 1952

June 1953

June 1954

Subjects Entries Passes Entries Passes Entries Passes Entries

Passes

Mathematics 20 20 42 42 64 58 29 29
Engineering Drawing 20 20 45 41 65 60 28 27
Mechanics Engineering 20 17 28 17 12 12 19 19
Science.     17 17 38 35 7 6

PRE-SENIOR TECHNICAL EXAMINATIONS

 

June 1951

June 1952

June 1953

June 1954

Subjects Entries Passes Entries Passes Entries Passes Entries Passes
English 26 14 22 21 22 21 17 14
Mathematics 26 26 22 22 22 22 17 16
Science. 26 23 22 21 22 22 17 15
Drawing 26 26 22 22 22 22 17 17
                 

By 1953 most Polish children had acquired sufficient English to enter directly into the British education system so, in September 1953, all remaining Polish secondary school pupils, both boys and girls, were formed into one school at Lilford.

Lilford School attracted the attention of both the local population, which eagerly attended open days and was greatly impressed by exhibited examples of the pupils’ work, as well as educationalists who wrote highly complementary articles in various educational journals.  The directors of an important local engineering company were sufficiently impressed by the boys’ work to subcontract the manufacture of parts to the school, on normal commercial terms, so giving the course an important quality of reality.

 
 

Mieczysław Gil was one of the many boys who attended Lilford school

 
Mieczyslaw with his mother in Northwick Park.

Mieczysław Gil age 14 and his widowed mother Rozalia age   45, arrived,  in Southampton from Cape Town  on board the R.M.S. Arundel Castle on the 30 May 1948 with 600 Polish displaced women, children and elderly from camps in Rhodesia.

His  father, a polish soldier  was killed  in action in Italy and is buried in the Polish Army cemetery in Loreto. 

On arriving in the UK they were sent to Daglingworth camp in Gloucestershire, which, at that time served as a transit camp for all new arrivals. They were then relocated to  Northwick Park, where his mother lived until 1960, when she moved to Swindon

 

Not  knowing the language Mieczysław, with a group of boys were  sent to Fairford camp on an intense two month English course. They travelled to  Fairford in a truck which was laid on for them. With in a month of finishing the course and returning to his mother in Northwick, Mieczysław was sent to the Polish boarding Technical School for boys in Lilford Northamptonshire, where he spent 3 years studying  mechanical engineering, leaving when he was 19. 

 

All this time his  mother was living  in Northwick Park and saw her son only during half term and  school holidays. To earn some pocket money Mieczyslaw recalls that in the summer holidays he worked on local farms gathering potatoes, fruit and vegetables. He also remembers  dances and social events that were held in Northwick and visiting other camps in the area, like Springhill, Fairford and Daglinworth

 

Mieczyslaw and friend Roman Krzywinski in Northwick Park

His first job after leaving the boarding school was with Dowty’s in Ashchurch, then 8 years at Telehoist in Cheltenham, 1½ years in London and finally, in 1960, he joined Pressed Steel Fisher, now BMW, in Swindon where he worked for 35 years until his retirement in 1997. He married Józefa in 1963 and has a son, daughter and two grandsons.
 

Mieczysław's Leaving Certificate and photo of absolvents and teachers from LILFORD 1952

 

 
Many thanks to Krystyna Tworek for collecting the information and photos.
 
 
.  

 

 
 

Stefan Minkiewicz short Resume.

 

Stefan was born on 29 April 1936 in Bujnowicze in the district Nowogródek,  which was in  Poland before WW2 and now is part of Belarus. On the 10th of February 1940 the whole family were deported with thousands of other Poles to the depths of Siberia. In 1942 the family joined the General Anders army exodus through Uzbekistan to Persia, his father joined the army whilst Stefan and his mother, as civilians, moved from camp to camp; Teheran, Ahwaz and Karachi, ending up in camp Vallivade in India where they lived for four years and where Stefan attended the Polish junior school in the camp.

 
The family left India bound for the UK on the Empire Brent arriving in Southampton on the 26th September 1947. They joined their father in Oulton Park army camp in Cheshire and after demobilisation the family  moved to Delamere Park Polish camp also in Cheshire were they lived until 1963.
 

Stefan now a teenager was sent to Lilford school were he studied  engineering for 4 years. Below are photos of Stefan and friends in their first year at the school.

 

 
Stefan Minkiewicz with friend Stefan Scigała.

Stefan with friend Stasior.

First year of "J" class 1949 first on the right Krzysztof Kozakiewicz, he become a priest, Stefan Minkiewicz, Janusz Stachura, Eugeniusz Krajewski, Zygmunt Smolicz, Edward Obłoj, Holwerger, Kuczyski, Henryk Szostak, Standing:- Bogdaniec, Eugieniusz Imiołek, Łopacki, Jerzy Rusiecki, Skrzypek, Edward Partyka, Henryk Okołotowicz, Profesor of geography and class master Mr. Mycka, Miłosz Powiecki, Julian Moźdzer, Śydor, Zbigniew Narożny, Jan Kurczak, Stefan Scigała, Stasior, Marian Abramczyk.

 

Commemorative photo of teachers and graduates 1953

 
 

Although Stefan graduated with a grade 'A'and received his qualifications in engineering, he was better known for his sporting prowess than academic achievement

playing in the school's football and basketball teams.

 
After graduating Stefan lived in Birmingham for a year and  then moved to Manchester were he lived for 12 years close to his parents who were still living in Delamere camp. While living in Manchester Stefan was closely involved in the Polish community and in particular the sports club Polonia were he continued his sporting passion. In 1966 he emigrated with his wife, 4 year old daughter and 1 year old son to Hamilton Ontario Canada.
 

 Schools basketball team 1952 Kwaśniewski, Zygmund Smolicz, Derecki. Julian Moźdzer, Stefan Minkiewicz, Zbigniew Kardasinski, Dworkowski, Tworogal, Stefan Zyskowski, Chojnowski the two lads in polish costume are Krys Tchorznicki and Jan Kluk.

School team that played against AZS Polish faculty of London University

 

Stefan Minkiewicz, Jan Kurczak and Miłosz Powiecki by the river Nene

Polonia Manchester basketball team; all are alumni from Lilford school. 1955. Names that Stefan recalls;. Szaleniec, Romuald Malczyński, Mieczyslaw Imiotek, Stefan Minkiewicz, Jerzy Kozławski, Bogdan, Maliszewski and Proszański.

 

1955 Football match Polonia Manchester  v  Lilford School, Stefan is in the middle.

Polonia Manchester football team; all are alumni from Lilford school. 1955

On the right the schools director Professor H. Staszewski, next to him is Professor Juliusz Kluk, pre war Polish vice-champion in the pole vault, wearinga the white footwear.

 
Thank you to Stefan Minkiewicz for the photos and information.
 

 

 
If you attended Lilford Polish School and would like to contribute memories and photos please contact me.
 
 

School photo1955

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