The Monkey Grove
Largo House, Upper Largo, Fife
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.
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!