during the

Second World War


Polish women have historically played their part in Poland's past struggles. In the Second World War they performed many tasks, e.g. their role in the Home Army and the Warsaw Uprising in August 1944, their service in the Polish Army of the East, ferrying aircraft etc. By the end of the war there was about 6,700 women volunteers in the Polish Forces in the West distributed as follows:- Army -4,700; Navy -112; and over 1,100 in the Air Force plus about 750 in the Medical Nursing Corps together with sisters and nurses of the Polish Red Cross. It is was not until 1942 with the arrival of the Women's Auxiliary Service (PSK) personnel from the Middle East, who had endured terrible hardships in the Soviet Union, that the PSK could properly organize.

The first C-in-C was Zofia Leśniowska, the daughter of General Sikorski. Both perished in the Gibraltar air crash of July 1943. In February 1943, Colonel Maria Lesniakowa became Commander-in-Chief. By July 1944 women in the PSK were accepted by the Polish Government as soldiers on active service. In July 1944, the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service (Pomocnicza Służba Kobiet - PSK) comprised three branches, each with its own commandant:- 


Pomocniczna Wojskowa Służba Kobiet - Women's Auxiliary Army Service (Polish ATS) -nicknamed 'pestki'


Pomocnicza Morska Służba Kobiet, the Polish equivalent of the Wrens and nicknamed 'mewki'


Pomocnicza Lotnicza Służba Kobiet, the Polish equivalent of the Waafs and nicknamed 'waafki'

Outline of their Role in Scotland

Whilst the bulk of Polish servicewomen served in the Middle East, Italy, north-west Europe and England, Scotland was home to numbers of women of the army and medical services as well as the sisters and nurses of the Polish Red Cross.

Polish Nursing Staff

The nurses of the Polish Red Cross and the Army Medical Service together with the Polish Women's Auxiliary Service cared for the sick at the Polish Military Hospital No 1 at Taymouth Castle, near Aberfeldy and also at Dupplin Castle near Perth, where there was also another Polish military hospital. The latter was funded by three Scots women, for the evacuated Polish and British troops from France in 1940. (In its title the hospital bore the name 'SEFA' after the initials of the surnames of the three ladies) The hospital later came under the control of the Polish I Corps to be used permanently as a Polish hospital.

Polish nurses also worked at the Polish General Hospital in Edinburgh, the 'Paderewski Hospital' (Western General). This hospital treated many injured and ill Polish soldiers and civilians.

A Polish unit was also established after the war at Ballochmyle Hospital, Mauchline in Ayrshire to provide medical and surgical treatment for Polish soldiers. The unit was staffed by Polish doctors and nurses and functioned between 1947 and 1952.

PWSK in Scotland

The Polish Military Hospitals based in Scotland each had a PWSK company. In addition to nursing the sick, women provided important help at headquarters level, in welfare, acted as canteen staff, telephonists, typists and drivers. In July 1944 the 1st PWSK Battalion was formed in Scotland.

Officer and NCO ranks were introduced in line with the Polish Forces. Recruits coming from the Middle East received their basic training at a camp at Bantaskin House in Falkirk. An officer's training course for the PWSK existed at the Polish Army's Infantry and Motorised Cavalry School at North Berwick. The camp at North Berwick later acted as a centre for preparation for civilian life. There was also a PWSK transport company in Scotland. At the end of the war the PWSK Battalion HQ and one company were located in Edinburgh, one company at North Berwick, with a further company attached to Dupplin Castle Military Hospital. A fourth company was based at Catterick Camp in Yorkshire.

With the ending of the war the Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC) was set up in September 1946 by the British to demobilise all the Polish Forces. Servicewomen of the PSK disbanded through the PRC.


A Polish Women's ex-Service Association was set up after the war to which women of the Army, Navy, Air Force and the sisters of the Medical Service could belong.


Printed Material


Books (bi-lingual)

Pomocnica Służba Kobiet w Polskich Siłach Zbrojnych na Zachodzie 1939-1945 Kolo Kobiet Żołnierzy PSZ na Zachodzie, London 1995. (includes many photographs)

Books (Polish language)

Kobiety w szeregach Polskich Sił Zbrojnych na Zachodzie 1940-1948. Car, Edward. Warszawa 1995.



Last modified 17 Sep 2014

Copyright R M Ostrycharz 1997