The Hidden Heritage of High Lodge

The Polish Community at High Lodge

After being invaded by German forces in 1939, nearly a million Poles were exiled to the forced-labour camps where thousands died. When the Russian Army needed more recruits in 1941, the Polish men in the camps were offered an amnesty if they would join up and fight with the Allied Forces against the Germans.

They took part in battles such as Tobruk, El Alamein and Monte Cassino but at the end of the war, many did not wish to return to Poland, now under the Communists. The post-war Labour Government, recognising the contribution of the Poles in the war, passed the Polish Resettlement Act of 1947 which allowed Polish troops who had fought for the Allies to resettle in Britain, along with their families if they could find them.

Because there were empty army and pre-war labour camps in Breckland, the Polish 2nd Corps were resettled in them, including at Brandon, Weeting, High Ash, Bodney; Riddlesworth and East Wretham. Families were accommodated in the huts equipped with a stove, a toilet and running cold water and the children were integrated into the local schools.

Though some eventually emigrated to Canada, Australia, South Africa or New Zealand, many stayed in the area and were employed by the Forestry Commission, now Forestry England.

About one hundred ex-Polish Army members found work in the Forest and some lived at High Lodge, at least temporarily, as evidenced by this extract from the Bury Free Post of Friday 2nd March 1951

£2 blanket cost him £7

A Pole residing at the High Lodge Camp, Santon Downham, … was fined £3 and had to pay £4 6s 6d costs at Brandon Magistrates' Court on Monday for stealing a blanket valued at £2 the property of the Forestry Commission.