Fascinating traces of Polish WWII secret agents found in English stately home
Long-forgotten traces of Polish secret agents have been discovered at a stately home in the UK where they were based during WWII.
The extraordinary finds at Audley End House in the English county of Essex, include hand-written wall inscriptions of some of the soldier’s names, parts of a daily timetable and a photo album of historic photographs including one of a bombed Warsaw.
The discoveries were made by Polish researcher Tomasz Muskus and Bartosz Piasecki during a recent visit to the stately home which was used during the war as a training base known as Station 43 for Polish agents from a unit called the ‘Silent Unseen’.
Trained to carry out special operations, the agents were later parachuted into German-occupied Poland to gather intelligence and carry out sabotage acts.
Writing on his Facebook after deciphering and verifying the names found etched into the wall in a coal gallery, Muskus revealed them to be Franciszek Socha, Teodor Paschke, Jan Różycki, Karol Dorwski, Władysław Maksyś and Józef Zbrzeźniak.
Różycki later witnessed the take-off of General Sikorski’s fateful flight to Gibraltar in 1943. During the interwar period, Dorwski was a theatre and film actor from Lwów who played alongside the most famous actor of the time Eugeniusz Bodo.
Muskus told TFN: "It was an indescribable feeling when I managed to decipher the inscriptions written by the Silent Unseen soldiers on the wall and it turned out they were the surnames of six of them."
Also discovered were the remnants of a timetable in the former briefing room, which shows times, perhaps of the soldiers various exercises or the order of duties for the day.
The discovery in the best condition was a memorial photo album, which turned out to have been a thank you gift from the Polish soldiers to the owner of the house, Lady Braybrooke, in gratitude for her allowing them to use her home at Audley End, for their training.
The album was presented to Lady Braybrooke by Colonel Józef Hartman, the lead training supervisor of the Polish agents in 1943 and the inscription on the front page reads: “To Lady Braybrooke. Please accept this little gift in memory of the visit to your HOME, from Polish Friends.”
Contained within the album, which bears a silver Polish eagle on the front and a white and red ribbon diagonally across the front cover, are fascinating historic photographs of General Sikorski alongside King George VI and another alongside him and his wife Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and the Queen Mother and also General Sikorski with Winston Churchill.
Also in the album is a historic image of the centre of Warsaw, with the Zygmunt Column at the centre and townhouses of the Warsaw Old Town behind it, with rubble from a recent bombing visible in the forefront of the image.
With very few traces of the Silent Unseen’s activities at Audley End, the new discoveries have now caused some excitement.
The Warsaw-based Silent Unseen and Home Army Foundation who work to promote the memory of the unit’s activities of the Silent Unseen, posted thanks to Muskus on social media for his “dedication and efforts in getting to unknown details of the history of the Silent Unseen”.
Muskus told TFN: I'm really happy that our discoveries are helping to raise awareness about the Polish section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE), not just among Poles, but also English people."
Earlier this year, English Heritage issued an appeal for people to come forward with stories connected with the Silent Unseen at Audley End, particularly locals who lived in the area at the time and an exhibition about the unit is being planned at Audley End House for April-May 2022.
To find out more about the Silent and Unseen and their activities at Audely House click here.