The first part of my father’s diaries contains some brief entries about his period of training in the army. I was struck by his evident pride in the Polish army which is reiterated in many further sections, but also by the hints of his disenchantment with the leadership. In early October 1938 he wrote the following:
I enjoyed being at the training school. On the third day of my stay there I was elected as chairman of the common room management committee. The committee’s role was to make off-duty life of the trainee soldiers easier. We were expected to provide social activities and cultural entertainment, to be a point of contact and to mediate between the soldiers and their superiors. We were also asked to create a record of our time at military school for the next generation of trainee soldiers. This was to be in the form of photograph albums representing everyday life of the students and commemorative books immortalising the exceptional times in which we were training.
There was some work involved and, as there was relatively little free time in the army, our medical students were not at all eager to sacrifice this for organising these activities. So it was different work, but we eventually completed all the tasks. Upon the release of a fine publication and after the farewell evening, we achieved recognition from those in command. We were highly satisfied with the outcome.
On the first day of February we proudly received our first stripe.
After our exams we were awarded the rank of Corporal and on 19th March 1939 we were formally designated as reserve officers. However, towards the end of my time in the school, my idealised notion of our army had diminished to some extent.
Behind the scenes there was conflict over positions and allocations, fostered by our military’s highest-ranking representatives. There was favouritism, bias and some mutual discord, which considering the ability and aptitude of the individual officers, gave me much to think about.
Personally I had nothing to complain about. I received a very good result. I was placed 4th in the company and was assigned according to my wishes to the District Command Corps V. The Corps had an outstanding reputation, the evidence for which I had seen with my own eyes.
But I saw situations all around me indicating favouritism and unusual interventions. If this occurred in matters of such small concern as the position and allocation of medical reserve officers, then I wondered how matters must look higher up when it related to rank, salary, honour, promotion etc. This hurt me, but my belief in the army was unshaken!