A Brief History of the Polish Independant Reserve Brigade

Polish International Brigade 1939 - 1990

Polska Njezalenzna Brygada Rezerwowa

Lieutenant General J. L. Dunkerley OOB., VM., GCCStS., CSPR., pp.

Commander-in-Chief - PIRB


The Polish (Independent) Reserve Brigade was established during that time in history known as the Cold War and began quite simply as a nominal roll of serving and retired military officers with valuable service experience. This nominal roll was maintained by the Polish Government-in-Exile of President August Zaleski. It was also, always the intention of the Government-in-Exile to utilise these skills as liaison between the Polish people, and the Western (NATO) forces, should Poland ever manage to throw off the yoke of its communist masters.

President of the Republic of Poland - Lech Kaczyński.
Put August Zaleski in the search box on the top right of the page for more information.

Embassy of the Republic of Poland - Washington, D.C.

The officers that served in the Polish (Independent) Reserve Brigade where vehemently anti-communist, which later attracted a great deal of support from serving and retired US military men and women with a Polish connection. Polish politics have always been something of an 'adventure', and on the 5 July, 1954, a second breakaway government was formed by a group of three dissatisfied Poles (Tomasz Arciszewski, General Wladyslaw Anders and Count Edward Raczynski). This unique period of Polish history is recorded in detail in the book History of the Polish Government (In Exile) 1939 - 1990 written by Michael Subritzky-Kusza. The situation of two Polish Governments-in-Exile existed from 5 July, 1954, until the 20 December, 1990, when both of these political groups recognised the authority of the democratically elected government of President Lech Walesa. Suffice to say that both groups worked during the period for the greater good of the Polish nation.

Photos of the Government in Exile

For Photos of Lech Walesa CLICK HERE


Oral evidence from Polish veterans suggest that there were volunteers from a number of nationalities who went to Poland in the Autumn of 1939 to enlist in the Polish Forces when the German Invasion was threatened. One can assume that those persons were people with close Polish connections. Other volunteers joined the Polish Forces in Russia in 1940. There is particular written evidence of British and French volunteers who had been prisoners of war of the Germans in occupied Poland. They had been in POW camps or had been put to work on Polish farms. Details of the activities of many of these brave men and women are contained in the book 'Red Flows the Vistula' by New Zealander Ron Jeffery. These particular persons were liberated by the advancing Russian and Polish Forces as they advanced from the East. All joined Polish Military Units as the political officers excluded them from Russian Units. Many were subsequently decorated for gallantry by the Polish wartime authorities. Others who escaped, joined the Polish Underground (AKA from 1940). During the Cold War years from 1946, Free Polish Army Reservists were organised and trained in Great Britain under the direction of the Polish Government-in-Exile led by President Zaleski and later Sokolnicki. Other Polish military units also existed during the period and were under the direction of an alternative government of Ostrowski and Sabat. During this time in history the Independent Polish Army Unit (POGON) was formed and still exists to this day. This unit organised officer cadet training and later included more social roles such as the organisation of the Polish Boy Scouts in Great Britain.

1972 - 1990

During the Government-in-Exile of Sokolnicki, a number of non-Polish nationals were granted commissions in the Polish Armed Forces, both Army and Navy. Also Polish nationals resident outside of Poland received commissions and warrants. On 11 November, 1982, the many service and ex-service personnel who had offered their support to the Polish People were formally organised by the issue of a Warrant to Lt. General Harold Jubb, to form the Polish (Independent) Reserve Brigade - Polska (Njezalenzna) Brygada Rezerwowa. Lt. General Jubb had a long-standing connection with the Polish Government-in-Exile (Sokolnicki) and served as the Honorary Polish Consul in Hull. In addition, he had received a commission as Brigadier General of the Polish Armed Forces on 11 September 1979.

The Warrant formalizing the Polish (Independent) Reserve Brigade states that: "It is constituted of volunteers of any nationality and remaining within the framework of the Constitution (of the Second Republic) of 23rd April 1935, as part of the Polish Armed Forces". General Jubb recruited volunteers from the membership of the 'Federation Des Combattants Allies en Europe' in Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States of America and elsewhere. Within the U.K. recruits were also drawn from the Legion of Frontiersmen (European Command). At the time of the formalization of the Brigade, the then Colonel Jonthan L. Dunkerley, received a Warrant appointing him Deputy Commander of the Brigade.

Colonel Dunkerley had been promoted to Colonel Polish Armed Forces in March 1980. Subsequently, he was further promoted Lt. General on 7 March 1989, his 49th birthday. A former member of the British Special Forces, he had served with two of the British Special Air Service (SAS) Regiments in the 1960's. Lt. General Dunkerley was given the responsibility for Airborne Troops and Special Forces personnel, also with responsibility for liaison with NATO regular and reserve forces within Europe. As a representative delegate to the U.K. Reserve Forces Association he gave backing to a Military Mission (Reserve Forces) which went to Warsaw in the Summer of 1996, to arrange exchange visits to and from the Regular and Reserve Polish Forces, and which was led by Brigadier General Michael J. Browne.

Many officers of the United States Armed Forces, particularly those with Polish connections received commissions from the Polish Government-in-Exile. They carried out valuable liaison work through NATO HQ and directly with Poland in co-operation with 'Solidarity' from 1988 to 1992, included in this group was US Brigadier General Oliver L. Peacock Jr who did some sterling work on behalf of the freedom of Poland over a period of many years, and later after the defeat of the communist regime, Brigadier General Peacock personally assisted in the erection of the now famous Marshal Pidsilski monument which stands in Warsaw across the square from the tomb of the Unknown Warrior. As well, Lieutenant General Bailey McCune of Coll-Earn, Baron of Elphinstone (Scot. F.B.), OWE, VM, CSPR pp. a reservist of the US and Canadian Volunteer Medical Services, who resided part time in California, had a particular interest in NATO liaison. He was appointed Lieutenant General on 3 May, 1989, and his special assignment was as Commander of the President's Ceremonial Horse Guard. Additionally he was responsible for medical logistics, reconnaissance and tactical support of troops in NATO, when required. Another well known American officer who served for many years in the Brigade and recorded much of the history of the period was Lieutenant Colonel Henry L. DuRant, who is the Command Historian of the South Carolina State Guard and a respected historian. Also Major General Earle E. Morris Jr. a long serving member of the United States Forces was for a number of years involved with the Polish Government-in-exile, and the Polish (Independent) Reserve Brigade.

Many other distingushed Polish and Allied officers held commissions in the Polish (Independent) Reserve Brigade and served as part of this unique military unit for many years; these include General Waclaw Hryniewicz-Bakierowski, Brigadier General Josef Zygmunt, Lieutenant General 'Bud' Watts, Captain Jack Boddington, Colonel James Leach, Colonel Cecil Robinson, Colonel James Dunne, and Lieutenant Colonel Mike Michaelski to name but a few".

Photographs from 1986-1988

1990 - 2000

On the 20th December, 1990, both Polish Government's-in-Exile ceased to exist and ceded their authority to the democratically elected government of Poland. The Brigade however continued to exist, with a change of structure into a Medical Battalion and is now known as the White Eagle (Medical) Battalion. The battalion was then organised into four medical companies as follows:

  • A Company - is made up of serving and retired (American) officers.
  • B Company - is made up of serving and retired (British) officers.
  • C Company - is made up of serving and retired (Continental) officers.
  • P Company - is made up of serving and retired (Polish) officers.

Following the death of General Jubb in January 1994, Lt. General Dunkerley assumed command as laid down in the Warrant which appointed him Deputy Commander (dated 11 November 1982), under the constitution of 23 April, 1935. The White Eagle (Medical) Battalion continues to this day as an independent unit of the Polish Forces with a similar status to POGON. A nominal roll of officers and administrative staff is maintained on a register with their relevant Naval and Military skills.

Honours and Awards:

General Dunkerley instituted a Corp of Chaplains within the Battalion in addition to the Airborne, General Service and Maritime sections. He also commissioned a commemorative lapel pin to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Allied victory at Monte Cassino. This pin is available through the Federation des Combattants Allies en Europe, as well as the Medal of Service for the Cold War CWM (Cold War Victory Medal). General Dunkerley as the current Commander-in-Chief (Komendant Glowny) retains the authority to grant commissions and warrants and also to grant certain decorations under the authority given to him under the Constitution.

These decorations include:

The Cross of Freedom - Type 3

  • type 1 - Zaleski.
  • type 2 - Sokolnicki.
  • type 3 - Dunkerley.

The Cross of Freedom may be granted with or without swords and is based on the old Polish design. As President of the Federation des Combattants Allies en Europe for Great Britain and the Commonwealth, General Dunkerley is also able to award a number of other decorations which are awards associated with this unique period of history.


The uniform of the Battalion is standard British Service Dress, with Polish rank insignia as appropriate in the patterns worn from 1939 - 1947. The uniform rank markings together with distinctive patches; i.e. Shoulder titles (rim patches), "Poland" in silver bullion on drummer red ground; small arm and shield is worn on the right arm. This is the pattern used for Polish officers attached to British Forces, 1939 - 1947. Above this is worn the forces of the Government-in-Exile patch (Polish Eagle covered by a barbed wire), and on the left sleeve the late Brigades Golden Jubilee diamond shaped patch which was designed by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Subritzky-Kusza PIRB. The late Presidential Horse Guard shoulder title was also worn by a number of qualified officers. The above uniform and relevant badges are registered at Stationers Hall, London for copyright purposes and complies with the U.K. '1909

Uniform and Drilling Act. Training:

As well as maintaining a nominal roll, officers of the White Eagle (Medical) Battalion make a commitment to giving one day of each month to a charity, generally associated with medical assistance to the poor and worthy causes. As well, members of the Battalion have served in a number of medical missions, mainly to Eastern Europe. Currently there is a member of the Battalion serving with the War Crimes authorities in Kosovo. In 1999, Lt. General Dunkerley personally led a parachute jump of members of B Company, while in the United States General Bailey McCune has organised an 'Annual Camp' of A Company based along the lines of the old Territorial Army training days.

The White Eagle (Medical) Battalion is the uniformed branch of the Order of Saint Stanislas, which was itself re-established under the authority of the late Polish Government-in-Exile. All members of the White Eagle (Medical) Battalion have also held military commissions as members of a National Military Service, usually in their country of residence and this pre-requisite has always been a requirement for obtaining entry into the Battalion, and its forerunner the Polish (Independent) Reserve Brigade.

It should also be noted that serveral well known US military officers who also held commissions in the late Polish (Independent) Reserve Brigade recently provided the liaison and background information for Poland's successful entry into the NATO alliance.



Historically all power and authority is directly related to the Constitution of the Second (Polish) Republic of 23 April 1935 and was disseminated through the Presidents, Vice Presidents and Inspectors General of the Polish Forces of the Polish Government-in-Exile.

The authority of the Presidents -in-Exile, their Governments and appointed officers was reconfirmed by a European court and the Court of Appeal in Paris in the 1980's. Then Ambassador to France of the Government-in-Exile of Sokolnicki, Mr. Gustave Pordea took two French journalists to court when they alleged that he (Pordea) had no authority to be the Ambassador of the Polish Government-in-Exile.

Pordea won the libel case and as well the subsequent appeal case. The case affirmed entirely the legality of Sokolnicki's Government-in-Exile. The court ruled that:

"a government in exile does not lose its rights to make appointments and to award Orders or commissions, to maintain its authority as far as can be done, and to pass on its legality under international law to successive heads-of-state".

It should be noted from an international law point of view that there were Ambassadors of the Polish Government-in-Exile of President August Zaleski, and his legitimate successor President Juliusz Sokolnicki who also continued to serve, in Dublin, Madrid and at the Holy See in the Vatican, long after 1945. In Dublin this was effectively a charge d'affairs office but in Madrid and at the Vatican full Ambassadors remained for many years; the Ambassador to the Holy See serving from 1939 until his death in 1979. All of these Diplomatic offices were issuing Polish passports long after the end of WWII and the disgrace of Yalta. Ambassadors of the Polish Government-in-Exile 1939-1990 Dublin David Power charge d'affairs Madrid Count Jerzy Potocki Paris Gustave Pordea Vatican Kasimier Papee.

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