Hearing all the reminiscences and recollections of VE Day 75 years ago today, made me think about what Józef might have been doing on that day. His diaries didn’t continue to that point, but looking at his military service records I can see that he was in Fordoun, Scotland where he was the doctor in an army camp (part of the Polish Resettlement Corps).
These were the entries in his service record around this time:
19.03.1945 – Reported to the barracks at Bessières, France and enlisted in the Polish Forces under British command with immediate effect.
21.03.1944 – Journey to Great Britain under orders of the army commander
23.03.1945 – Landed in Great Britain at Southampton
24.03.1945 to 09.04.1945 – Transitory camp in Fordoun.
10.04.1945 – Posted to 5 Małopolski Rifle Battalion, 4 Infantry Division, 1 Polish Corps. [Where it seems he remained until the following year.]
01.07.1945 – Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant.
– Military service of Second Lieutenant (medical corps) Józef Czech
I wonder what it was it like at the Polish army camps in Scotland in May 1945. What were the emotions? Were there any celebrations? German occupation was over and vast regions of land were to become Polish again, some for the first time in approximately 700 years. Furthermore these army camps were under British command, so their occupants were much safer now that Europe was no longer under threat from Germany.
However it is fair to say that the British mood we associate with VE differs from that that would have been seen in these army camps. Russian occupation of Poland had already been legitimised by Churchill and Roosevelt in February that year, meaning that people such as Józef were not safe to return to their homeland. We can only imagine that in the camps, as with countries in mainland Europe, any relief would surely have been accompanied by immense uncertainty.