The IET Archives holds many commemorative plaques and boards that were on display in Savoy Place at various times, the IET’s home since 1909. One of these items is a wooden board with the logos of both the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) and the Society of Polish Electrical Engineers, which commemorates their relationship during the Second World War. The story of the commemorative board, which is shown below, was recently rediscovered when reviewing old administrative files of the IET Archives.
The inscription on the board in both Polish and English says, ‘at the invitation of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the British Section of the Society of Polish Electrical Engineers was located here during the Second World War’.
The suggestion for the commemoration was first put forward to the IEE by the Society of Polish Electrical Engineers (SEP) relatively recently in 1990, but it then took several years for the proposal to come to fruition.
The Craftsman – Sidney Bendall
This commemorative board was commissioned in 1994, and it was originally fitted into a recess in what was then called the Faraday Room of Savoy Place. It was commissioned from Sidney Bendall of Gloucestershire a noted British lettering craftsman. Sydney’s draft drawings for the work were retained and one of these showing final amendments appears below;
For those interested in finding out more about Sidney Bendall, a 9-page article on his career was written by Dr John Nash and published in the journal of The Edward Johnston Foundation (a research centre for calligraphy and the lettering arts), and that article is available on the internet here – http://www.ejf.org.uk/Resources/Bendall.pdf.
The British Section of the Society of Polish Electrical Engineers and the IEE
The British Section of the Polish Society of Electrical Engineers was located at Savoy Place during the Second World War from November 1941 until December 1945. The IEE’s Council minutes do not record which room at Savoy Place was used by the Society, but the minutes do record that the offer of accommodation for secretarial purposes was made during the meeting of the Council on 20 November 1941.
In addition, the minutes record that, “the use of the Institution building and attendance at meetings should be offered to members of the Polish Society”. Moreover, the local centres committees were asked to grant the same privileges “in the provinces” and up to 12 members of the Society were to be offered Part I of the IEE’s journal without charge. In January and February 1942 a series of lectures were also offered especially for the Polish engineers who presented resolutions of gratitude to the Council during the meetings of 2 December 1943, 18 January 1943 and 6 December 1945.
The History of the British Section of the Society of Polish Electrical Engineers
The following history of the British Section of the SEP was provided by its former member, Professor Jan Podolski, FIEE, in 1994.
“After the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, some 200 Polish electrical engineers were evacuated to France. After the French collapse, about half of them found their way to the UK with the Polish Army units. In February 1941 we organised in London the British Section of the SEP, as the existence of any such organisation was strictly forbidden both under the German and Soviet occupation.
I was then a Member of the IEE and I applied to the Secretary of the Institution, Mr Brasher, to help our organisation. Consequently in November 1941 the IEE Council offered members of our Section all facilities accorded to its own members. The Section was also offered a room at Savoy Place, and our Committee held all its meetings there until the end of the war. After this the Section office was transferred to one of the Polish government-in-exile offices.
In January and February 1942, the IEE organised a refresher course on latest developments in the field of electricity. The course was attended by some 25 SEP members mostly delegated from the Army, Navy and Air Force and war industry. The opening lecture was given by Lord Nelson.
The initial number of 60 members increased gradually to nearly 150, as a number of members of the SEP reached the UK by various ways or graduated in British universities.
I went through the list of IEE members, edition 1990, and found that several past Chairmen of the Section were on the IEE list. They are;
Tadeusz Lisicki, Chairman 1949-1950
Kazimierz Nowicki, Chairman 1949-1950 [repeated dates]
Czeslaw Zakiewicz, Chairman 1960-61
Karol Szwarc, Chairman 1964-65
Andrzej Ossowski, Chairman 1968-69
The Section was disbanded in 1985 as it was found that the SEP in Poland was functioning normally. The history of the Section was written by Dr Szwarc listed above.”
Other material Related to Poland in The IET Archives
There is a wide variety of material in the archive collections related to Poland. A few examples include;
- The Caroline Haslett collection includes correspondence from 1951 with the Polish Woman’s Association. Caroline Haslett chaired a meeting of the Association where Countess Bor-Komorowska talked about life in Poland under German & Soviet occupation (invitation shown below).
- The Women’s Engineering Society collection includes articles written by the National Council of Polish women (1979).
- Our Institution of Production Engineers’ records include correspondence with the Polish Society of Mechanical Engineers and Technicians (1967-1986).
- Papers regarding the visit of the Polish delegation to the conference on the economics of the reliability of electricity supply (1967).
- Instrument catalogues in Polish (AVO instruments).
Anyone with an interest in our Polish material should search our online catalogue using the text, ‘Poland’ or ‘Polish’ in the search engine which can be found here http://archives.theiet.org/search.aspx.