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Stanisław Witkowski
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Birth name Stanisław Witkowski
Born (1893-04-04)4 April 1893
Died 28 August 1957(1957-08-28) (aged 64)
Place of birth Skierniewice, Poland
Place of death Nałęczów, Poland
Buried at Powązki, Warsaw, Poland
Allegiance Poland
Service/branch Polish Army
Years of service 1914–1953
Rank Colonel
Unit Military Engineers
Commands held Munitions Factory in Warsaw (1922)
Head of the Subunit in the Armaments Department of the Ministry of Military Affairs (1927)
Deputy Head of the Armaments Department (also promoted to lieutenant colonel) (1931)
Head of the Armament Materials Research Institute (1932)
Polish Army's representative on the Board of the Polish-American Mechanics Association, and management board of that Association's Tools Plant (SMPzA) (1929–1932)
Head of the Armaments Technical Institute (also promoted to colonel) (1935)
officer for technical and industrial matters reporting to the Supreme Commander General Władysław Sikorski (in London -1941))
Head of the Military Technical Institute (in London 1941-1945)
Head of the Technical Division in the Polish General Staff
Battles/wars First World War
Polish-Soviet War
Second World War
Awards Virtuti Militari Class V - Silver Cross
Cross of Independence
Cross of Valour (four times)
Cross of Merit (gold)
Cross of Merit (silver)
War 1918-1921 Memorial Medal
Officer's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta
Other work editor in the State Technology Publishing House (1953–1957)

Stanisław Witkowski CBE (Hon.) (23 April 1883 – 28 August 1957), was an officer, engineer and military industry organiser in the Polish Army, Hononary Commander of the Order of the British Empire.[1]

Stanisław Witkowski (right) in the uniform of the Polish Legions in World War I

Background and early life[]

As a secondary school student Stanisław Witkowski was a member of "Association of the Polish Youth "Zet"/"Zarzewie", clandestine organisations fighting for the independence of Poland. In 1912 he studied at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Lwów (Lviv) Polytechnic. There he joined the ranks of the Polish Rifle Squads (organised by Zarzewie), serving in the 1st Academic Company. Following the outbreak of the First World War he volunteered for the Polish Legions, fighting with distinction in the 1st Artillery Regiment. After the so-called "oath crisis" the Polish Legions were disbanded and the legionnaires, including Stanisław Witkowski, were interned by the Germans in the camps of Szczypiorno and Łomża. At Armistice, (which is also Poland's Independence Day) in November 1918, he took an active part in disarming the Germans in Skierniewice, then he enlisted in the Polish Army and went to the eastern front, taking service in the ammunition workshop during the ensuing Polish-Soviet War.[2]

In independent Poland[]

He played a prominent role in the organisation of the army of the reborn Poland. In 1922, he organised and managed the Munitions Factory in Warsaw, located in the former buildings of the Gerlach and Pulst Joint Stock Company in Wola (Warsaw), Using obsolete machines, mainly from a German arms factory in Gdańsk, the factory managed to turn out 9.2 thousand rifle rounds in 1923, and 64.6 thousand in the next three years.

On February 1, 1927, he became Division Head in the Armaments Department of the Ministry of Military Affairs. In the same year he graduated from the Mechanics Faculty of the Warsaw Polytechnic.

In 1930 he became Deputy Head of the Armaments Department and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. From June 1932, he was Head of the Armament Materials Research Institute. On January 1, 1935, already as a colonel, he was appointed Commandant of the Military Institute of Armament Technology. Both institutes were R & D establishments, as well was centres for experimental constructions and made a significant contribution to the good organization of the Polish arms industry and its technological advancement. Stanisław Witkowski continued to learn about military technology during study tours in the arms factories of France, Switzerland and Hungary. In 1934 he was the Polish Army's representative on the Board of the Polish-American Mechanics Association, and management board of that Association's Tools Plant (SMPzA) in Pruszków near Warsaw. The President of the management board of that company was Stefan Starzyński, later the heroic Mayor of Warsaw during the 1939 Siege of the City, executed by the Nazi Germans in 1940.[3]

In 1933-39 was a liaison officer to and member of the Temporary Scientific and Advisory Committee

London[]

Document of col. Stanisław Witkowski's OBE

During the Second World War he stayed in London serving in the Polish Armed Forces in the West. In 1940 he was the officer for technical and industrial matters reporting to the Supreme Commander General Władysław Sikorski, and in 1941-1945 Head of the Military Technical Institute in London.[4] On October 4, 1943, King George VI granted him the Dignity of an Honorary Commander of the Military Department of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

Data of awarding Stanisław Witkowski's OBE

col. Stanisław Witkowski in England

Polish Army's Honour Guard at col. Stanisław Witkowski funeral at Powązki Cemetery, 1957

Back in Poland after the war[]

Poland was fast becoming a communist country and a prewar officer faced a difficult choice. Nevertheless, in 1946 col. Stanisław Witkowski returned to Poland,[5] where he became the head of the Technical Department in the General Staff, as Józef Kuropieska mentions in his memoirs.[6] Then he worked at the Polish Committee for Standardisation, and in 1953 he retired to become a scientific editor in the technical vocabulary section of the State Technical Publishing House.[7][8][9]

Order of the British Empire received by Colonel Witkowski

Stanisław Witkowski (middle) in England

Death[]

Col. Witkowski's list of his prewar Polish decorations from his military ID

On 28 August 1963 Witkowski died in Nałęczów. He was given a funeral in Powązki, which the Polish Army's Honour Guard attended. The funeral service was also held in London at Brompton Oratory on 5 October 1957.

Honours[]

References[]

  1. "Information from the Imperial War Museum". https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205265530. 
  2. Piłatowski J. (1984a) writes: "...the biographies of a large part of the Polish youth of that time were marked by the first world war and closely related to the struggle to regain independence, and then to establish the borders of the newly-emerging Polish state. The turbulent events of those years forced students to interrupt their education, many of them volunteered to join the ranks of the Legions and then the Polish army. For some, the military service was merely an episode, often a very important one, fulfilling their patriotic duty towards a resurrecting homeland. For others, this episode evolved into a permanent relationship with the army, where they found the place to pursue their engineering ambitions. This was the case with S. Witkowski, whose biography from the First World War onwards is an illustration of the histories of the group of Polish young people actively engaged in the fight for Polish independence in the early twentieth century. As a pupil of the Skierniewice realschule he belonged to "Zet", a youth branch of the National League, or (to be exact) this group of "Zet-men" which in July 1909 broke away from the National League in order to form the "Zarzewie" organisation. It was from the "Zarzewie" movement that the Polish Rifle Teams hived off in Galicja (Austrian part of Poland). In 1912 Witkowski started to study at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of Lviv Polytechnic. We do not know why he chose distant Lviv, rather than Warsaw, which is close to Skierniewice. Maybe his motives were related to his current political activity, as Lviv was the centre of the Polish independence movement, where not only Polish political parties could legally operate, but also semi-paramilitary paramilitary units were tolerated, attracting young people not only from Galicia, but also the two remaining parts of partitioned Poland. This allowed Witkowski to combine his chosen field of study with political activity. Immediately after arriving in Lwów, he joined the Polish Rifle Association, serving in its 1st Academic Company. Two years later he found himself in the ranks of the Polish Legions, in their first artillery regiment, with which he shared the war ordeal and the period of internment in Szczypiorno and Łomża. In November 1918, he took an active part in disarming the Germans in Skierniewice, and then enlisted in the army and went to the Eastern Front, taking up service in ammunition workshops. From that moment on he became involved in military technology throughout the entire interwar period. The First World War and the struggle for the reconstruction and establishment of the borders of the Polish state could add many years to one's studies and delay the start of a professional career…." [translated from Polish] p. 69-70 in the printed version
  3. Piłatowski J. (1984a) writes:"In 1934, the military authorities seconded him to the board of SMPzA, [machine tools plant]. At that time that Pruszków town factory was beginning to quickly expand its arms production department. Witkowski's vast knowledge, experience and high position in the army certainly influenced the procurement of licenses and the scale of production." (...) "The role of the military is clearly growing in the company's authorities, which was undoubtedly related to the increasing orders of the Ministry of Military Affairs. The role of the military strengthened in 1934, when Lieutenant-Colonel Stanisław Witkowski joined the Management Board. In 1927-1931 he was on a study tour in arms factories in France and in 1932, he became the head of the Institute of Armament Technology, moreover in 1935 he was appointed head of the Military Industry Bureau of the Ministry of Military Affairs. In 1934 the composition of the Association's Board changed significantly, with Mayor of Warsaw Stefan Starzyński as Chairman and members: lieutenant colonel Stanisław Witkowski ...... "pp. 64-65 of the printed version [translated from Polish]
  4. Muzeum Przemysłu...... (in References)
  5. Kuropieska, J (1981) pp 137—138, 345,
  6. Kuropieska J. (1984)
  7. Piłatowski J. (1984b) about col. Witkowski's hesitations as to whether go back to Poland, now in the grip of communism. "As possibilities of returning to Poland started to emerge, probably even bigger dilemmas [...] were experienced by Col. Stanisław Witkowski. As a senior officer of the Polish Armed Forces in Great Britain he was subjected to political pressure, mostly from officers who did not like the new political system in Poland. Despite that, Witkowski decided to return probably in 1945, because he did not shun contacts with the Polish military mission in London, especially major J. Kuropieska. He helped the new Polish diplomatic mission in obtaining for the country the necessary technical literature. He also provided information on the scale and methods of education of engineers and technicians in the Polish Armed Forces in Great Britain. Finally in 1946 he returned to Poland and started working in the army on technical issues, after which he was reassigned (1949) to standardization work in Polish Committee for Standardization In 1953 he retired, but he did not remain idle, because he became a scientific editor in the technical vocabulary section of the State Technical Publishing Company." p. 65 of the printed version [translated from Polish]
  8. Z żałobnej karty. Inż. Stanisław Witkowski. 1957. pp. 452. 
  9. mgr inż. Stanisław Witkowski. 1957. p. 508. 

Bibliography[]

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