Who Was There?
A large proportion of the soldiers who had come from the Middle East to train as parachutists with the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade (1 Samodzielna Brygada Spadochronowa) at Largo House in Lower Largo, Fife, Scotland were initially stationed at Auchtertool Distribution Camp.
General Sikorski Inspects Paratroopers At Auchtertool
Another super rare photo, General Sikorski inspecting members of the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade who spent some time at Auchtertool, Fife, Scotland, prior to heading over to Largo House in Upper Largo, Fife, for training.
Ther were many others were there too as you can see from the table below that details all those that passed through:
- 785 - Navy
- 1420 - Airforce
- 3154 - First Armoured Division
- 981 - 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade
- 499 - Misc army units
- 126 - Not accepted into the army
This totals to 6965 Polish military personnel who passed through Auchtertool Distribution Camp.
What is not mentioned in these official figures is the "Cichociemni" (The Silent Killers, a bit like the UK SAS). There is some scant mention of them being at Auchtertool just prior to being located at Largo House, Fife, Scotland.
However, as far as I am aware, the Cichociemni was a concept conceived of by General Sosabowski whilst located in Leven, Fife, Scotland just prior to the announcement about the establishment of the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade (1 Samodzielna Brygada Spadochronowa).
This implies that the term "Cichociemni" would not have been known at the time of the existence of Auchtertool Polish Camp. It is a term that must have been used retrospectively.
Maybe they were at Auchtertool, but at the time they were not known as such, perhaps they were awaiting commencing the first of their training there.
When I was researching Auchtertool Camp I discovered that General Sikorski, for a while, lived in Auchtertool, Fife! You will find mention of this in the Imperial War Museum photos, I still have to go to London to view these but here is the link: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205004024
A last point I wish to add is that some of the locals mentioned to me that their parents referred to Italians and Germans also being at this camp. As yet, I have seen no verification of this, but it is curious that a few people would repeat these same facts.
Units Located Within The Camp
It would appear that there were a couple of units stationed within the distribution camp itself. Detail is very poor here and is gleaned from almost "by the way" comments in various soldier biographies.
We believe the following units to have been stationed and actively training within the camp:
- The "Radio Branch" who were conversant with morse code and underground techniques including sabotage of electrical installations.
- The "Communications" unit. No further detail known.
- The 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade (1 Samodzielna Brygada Spadochronowa) volunteers
Route To Auchtertool
By far, most of the Poles arriving at Auchtertool came from the Middle East. Typically they would take a boat to the South of Africa and change at Durban or Freetown. From there a transatlantic boat (Ille De France, Aorangi, Queen Mary etc) would take them up the East of Africa. Some boats reportedly went via Rio De Janeiro on the way.
As the boats neared North Africa some would drop in to Casablanca to refuel etc. In order to avoid U-boats that were patrolling the British Channel, most boats headed up the west side of Britain. One or two did dock in Southampton, but it was risky. the majority docked at either Plymouth or Glasgow (usually Port Greenock).
At Port Greenock many Polish Soldiers were met by the Red Cross who gave them a cup of tea etc. Then the soldiers would take a train (sometimes from Port Greenock, failing which Queen Street Station in Glasgow) and from there to Kirkcaldy.
They would see many sites starting with the Barrage Balloons that protected Port Greenock,then along the railway track they would see cities, factories and depending on route, even the Forth Rail Bridge. The train would usually arrive at Kirkcaldy where a Polish army truck would pick them up and take them to Auchtertool Polish Camp where there was a "Polish Forces Reception Center" as some knew it.
On arrival at Auchtertool they would normally receive a meal, Polish of course (!) consisting of meat, potatoes, and sauerkraut.