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Malpi Gaj (Monkey Grove)

At Largo House, Upper Largo, Fife

"If You Are Looking For Death, You Have Come To The Right Place - Please Stop Here For A While".

This was a motto recruits cheekily painted on a sign at the gates to Largo House, Upper Largo, Fife where this "Malpi Gaj" (Malpiego Gaju in Polish) or "Monkey Grove" existed. Intense physical training in preparation for an air drop back over Poland to win their country back was the inspiration for recruits to train here.

The Purpose Of Malpy Gaj At Largo House

The purpose of "Malpi Gaj" at Largo House in Upper Largo, Fife, was to train the would-be parachutists of the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade (1 Samodzielna Brygada Spadochronowa) into an acute state of fitness and agility.

They were in poor shape from starvation, disease, malnutrition and extensive travelling from the USSR to the UK.

So a Captain Barberry was appointed as a fitness instructor there. His regime was intense to the point that few could stand by the end of the day. Anyone who trained at Largo House would have been super fit and super agile.

A lot of the equipment at Malpi Gaj was devoted to fitness, but there was other equipment there also. This other equipment would simulate skydiving and would help recruits to develop the necessary condition to withstand that.

Why The Name?

Largo House was known locally as “Małpi Gaj” or “Monkey Grove” because of the strange items there that were built by the 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade (1 Samodzielna Brygada Spadochronowa) themselves using their own funds.

"Malpi Gaj" means "Monkey Grove" or more colloquially "Monkey Playground". It's name derived from the sheer amount of work that was done in trees or between trees,  very similar to what monkeys themselves would do.

This would include swinging from tree to tree, rope work, plank work, trapezes, rope swings and more.

"Malpi Gaj" main location was to the right hand side of the "Eagle Gates" at the front, is the valley area. Originally there were trees there that can be seen in many photo's of Malpi Gaj but almost all of these are now gone. There were also some other areas around Largo House where various pieces of equipment were located.

Entering Malpy Gaj - Eagle Gates, Largo House

Entry to Malpy Gaj was through the "Eagle Gates" (They are still there minus 1 eagle!) with equipment starting in the Walnut trees beside the ravine on the right hand side. (The trees are gone now).

These gate pillars were where the Polish soldiers had installed the sign "If you are looking for death you have come to the right place".

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The ravine on the right behind the gates is where various balance beams and rope swings were installed.

Lectures

Stanislaw Jankowski remembers his time at Malpi Gaj starting with a lecture by a young lieutenant. The lecture started with being taught how to instal a parachute and fasten the belt.

The trainee is quickly taught that there are two types of parachuting. One type is for airmen for whom the parachute is salvation from a damaged or burning aircraft. The other type is for a paratrooper, for whom the parachute is the beginning of going into battle. Both styles are radically different mainly in how the aircraft is exited. One is a frantic fight for life, the other a smooth, planned exit.

The instructor then goes on to show them how the parachute system works, a rope protrudes from the parachute satchel and is fastened to a hanger within the aeroplane. Shortly after jumping out, the cable release the parachute so that it opens up fully. The last part of the rope is deliberately weak so that under the falling weight of the paratrooper it snaps, thus dispensing with the launching rope.

The lecturer pointed out that every 10th jumper broke an arm or a leg, such were the perils of getting it wrong!

Recollection Of Stefan Baluk

Stefan Baluk writes - "It is worth emphasizing the huge participation of Polish instructors from the officer's team Colonel. Sosabowski in the design of completely new training methods, building the so-called "Obstacle Tracks" that forced the practitioner to to crawl through entanglements, crossings to the equivalent, climbing lines, forcing 4-5 meter fences and using sophisticated specially constructed swings, which dropped unknown in which moment and direction to make the "tip" necessary later in real landing with parachute. 

All these exercises were aimed not only at improving the muscles and physical condition, but also at resilience, appropriate reflection and making an instant decision. At the end of the training at Largo House ("Monkey Grove"), the parachute tower was jumped, it was the first jumping tower in the British Empire, and it was built by Poles."

Articles Of Faith

The 1st Independent Polish Parachute Brigade had "Articles Of Faith", sort of like a "mission statement" that they lived by. These were;

The 1st Independant Polish Parachute Brigade Articles Of Faith

 

"A Paratrooper must be strong, courageous, highly disciplined and well trained. Conscious of his part in modern war, he will not hesitate to sacrifice his life if it is necessary to fulfil his task.

He must be physically and mentally perfect. His personal affairs do not matter. All he knows is that he belongs to his motherland. Danger only enriches his experiences. He must be cool and alert to profit by every chance.

He must never abandon a comrade in a moment of crisis. He must keep smiling in the face of death."

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