Tweedsmuir as a Polish Refugee Camp (1947 to 1960)

(From "Living in Tweedsmuir Camp - 1948 to 1957" / First published in 2003, held at the History of Thursley Society. A Book by Wies and Zen Rogalski)

Foreword

The first few words of this work were written in February 2000 and amounted to what could be described as an essay with photographs. As the writing progressed, so our memories of Tweedsmuir Camp became clearer, necessitating a more comprehensive document chronicling our life there. We found ourselves readily planning excursions to Tweedsmuir, revisiting it on several occasions, in order to revive the hazy images we held of the camp.

The manuscript became a labour of love. As we looked through old photographs and our parents’ past documents, took digital photographs of the decimated camp, and selected the inclusions for this work, we developed an unhesitating resolve to complete a project that was both informative and interesting.

The main objective in writing about Tweedsmuir Camp was to commit to paper a social history, of which we were once part, that we felt would otherwise be lost forever. Indeed, this point was highlighted in October 2000 by a chance meeting with a couple we met walking in the now derelict Tweedsmuir Camp who, when informed by us that we had once lived there, asked whether we were in the Canadian Forces during World War 11. As our conversation progressed, it became clear that they were completely oblivious to the fact that for a decade in the 1940s and 1950s, a small Polish community was obliged to live there because they had no other place they could call home. This episode brought to our attention the possibility of other people who may have had knowledge of the camp being occupied by Canadian troops during the Second World War, but may not have been acquainted with Tweedsmuir Camp as we have described it here.

The content of the enclosed pages is wider than Tweedsmuir Camp. It encompasses a displaced way of life and culture brought to, and practised in, Great Britain as a result of persecution on an unprecedented level. We found ourselves spending time reflecting on how our parents must have felt when they arrived in the UK with nothing more than the clothes they stood up in. At one stage, as the project evolved, we sensed that its contents centred too much on the plight of our parents, and many others like them, without providing an enlightening narrative of our life in Tweedsmuir Camp. On the other hand we felt compelled to provide a brief historical background so that our work could be read in context.

Our efforts would probably not have materialised had we not visited the History of Thursley Society website administered in 2002 by Norman Ratcliffe; it was this that motivated us to write about our experience of Tweedsmuir Camp. We should like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Ratcliffe for encouraging us to develop the project in our own time, and consider that Living in Tweedsmuir Camp - 1948 to 1957, will be of value to the Thursley Society, and others, in years to come.

And finally, in writing the five chapters included herein, we were of the opinion that they should be written in a colloquial manner as if in conversation with one or two individuals. This work is not intended to be an exact historical account of life in Tweedsmuir but our own personal recollections, which may both serve to illustrate life in Tweedsmuir Camp and jog the memory of others who lived there.

We should like to see this work as a tribute to all of those, friend or foe, who regard themselves as having the camaraderie of 'Tweedsmuirians'; a term we coined when writing a more in-depth analysis of the camp for our Tweedsmuir Camp Exhibition at the Rural Life Centre in Tilford, Surrey.

If you are in the area please visit the exhibition.

Zen Rogalski
Wies Rogalski

June 2002; revised August 2015; Updated February 2016.