Decline of the camp

Decline of the camp

 

Occasionally Captain Edward Spencer-Churchill held concerts in his magnificent art gallery and, being of a musical family, I attended at least two of the concerts. On one occasion I remember a well known Polish bass singer Marian Nowakowski being a guest artist. I remember one of his songs was about a flea. The Captain was always very kind and was quite happy to show us around his collection of fine paintings. It was not until after his death in 1964 that I realised how privileged we were in seeing this collection, it was sold at Sotheby’s for over 2 million pounds. His butler on the other hand was very stern and we were frightened of him, he often became cross and chased us away.

 

Northwick Park House - 1960

Northwick Park house - 2004

Northwick Park House in the 50s

Northwick Park House Art Gallery

 

In the sixties people were leaving the camp as they became more prosperous and found new homes and work as far away as Nottingham, Leicester and London. Many more moved out of the camp and settled in Redditch, Stratford on Avon, Evesham, Cheltenham and villages in the area. In 1968 only a few families and the old and infirm were left in the camp. Some were given council houses in the area, the rest were transferred to one of two remaining camps, Ilford Park in Devon and Penhros in North Wales. Both these “camps”, now totally rebuilt, continue to this day as residential homes for elderly Poles. Northwick Park camp was closed that year and laid neglected for some years, eventually being transformed into a business park where many of the nissen huts that were our homes have now taken on new life as business premises. The magnificent walled garden and orchards have been replaced with luxury houses and Northwick House and outbuildings as luxury flats.

 

Main road leading to the centre of the camp - 1980.

My nissen hut no. 43

 

One of many nostalgic visits to the camp in 1980. My hut, number 43, looking very sad with the door and windows broken and the garden overgrown with weeds. As I looked around the empty room, to my delight, I found a marble in a corner which I recognised as one from a set I had owned when I lived in the camp. I left the camp in 1963 so it must have been lying there for over 17 years.

 
 

ANNUAL PILGRIMAGE TO BLOCKLEY  CEMETERY

 

Although people moved to different areas of the UK the “children” of the camp now in their 50s and 60s still manage to keep in touch. Once a year, on All Souls day in November, many of us meet up at Blockley and Chipping Camden cemeteries where our nearest and dearest, friends and relatives are buried. We light candles and lay flowers in memory of all who died in the hope of returning to their roots in a FREE Poland, their dreams sadly not fulfilled.

 

All Souls Day Blockley cemetery

Polish section of the cemetery in Chipping Camden as it used to be, but now very neglected and overgrown.

 

As for us, children of the 50’s,we still seem to have some sort of an affinity with the camp. Many of us still visit the camp when in the area although it has changed with some huts knocked down others altered to suit the small businesses. The park, lakes and fields where we once roamed freely are not accessible any more. I wonder if by going there we are chasing ghosts of our youth or searching for our roots buried somewhere in the grounds of Northwick Park.

 

 

Polish graves in Blockley cemetery some years ago. Today many of the gravestones have become dangerous. With no living relatives and through lack of funds the local authority have laid down many of the crosses as a safety precaution but there is a real risk that in time they will disappear altogether and no trace will remain of the Polish community that lived there. It would be nice if funds could be raised for the restoration of the Polish graves. There is also a very neglected Polish plot at the Chipping Camden cemetery some two miles from Blockley. Let us not forget that many of those buried there fought for our freedom. Anybody wishing to help please send donations to:

 

Blockley Parish Council, C/o Park Barn House, Park Road, Blockley, Gloucestershire GL56 9BZ, England.
 
Please mark all cheques as 'Polish Graves'
 

As with all refugees and displaced persons, initially we were not welcomed by the locals. An article in the Evesham Journal dated 8/5/1948, entitled, Houses or Polish army? R.D.C. Discuss future of the camp suggested that it was wrong to house the Poles at Northwick. Reading that article I was quite hurt at the then R.D.C. reaction. I appreciate that times were hard, but at least the local population had stability and a roof over their heads. We through no fault of our own had nothing.

 

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