Recruitment and training
The specificity of the Cichociemni service required the selection of people with special predispositions. The process of recruiting candidates for the Home Army Paratroopers (Spadochroniarzy Armii Krajowej – AK) was established by officers of the 6th General Staff Special Branch (VI Oddział Specjalny Sztabu Głównego) and implemented on 9 July. Its task was to cooperate with the occupied country. The unit was treated as a part of Home Army (Armia Krajowa) and its members took an oath to the „Rota” of the AK. The first head of Branch VI was COL Józef Smoleński.
In the years 1940-44 Branch VI developed from a small cell numbering 9 officers and 4 officials to the staff consisting of 53 employees, with 42 officers among them.. The training, preparation, and the dispatch of couriers was handled by CPT Dipl. sap. Jan Jaźwiński, who was soon helped by rtm. Jerzy Szymański in the training of paratroopers and1LT Zygmunt Oranowski became responsible for issues dealing with supplies. MAJ Józef Kwieciński was responsible for personal matters within the headquarters, bases and with couriers. The duties of the treasurer were carried out by LTC int. Franciszek Prochaska. From April 1942, when LTC Dipl. Protasewicz became the new head of the unit, Branch VI began to develop energetically.
The basic units of the branch were departments – special (S), communications (Ł), land communications (A), training (W), financial (F), personal-organizational (PO), ciphers (Sz), operational (O) and independent propaganda and information section. Branch VI had terrain structures in the form of: Main Transfer Base, waiting stations for paratroopers flying to the occupied country, organizational units of training courses for Cichociemni, as well as bases and land communication facilities. Branch VI of the General Staff was strongly cooperating with the British Special Operations Executive (established on July 22, 1940). SOE cooperated with the resistance movement in all countries occupied by the Axis countries. Its main goal was to implement the words of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: „I command you to set fire to Europe.” It was headed by Hugh Dalton, minister of the economic blockade. SOE had 15 sections throughout Europe. At the head of the Polish section, until the end of the war, was CPT Harold Perkins, who lived in Poland during the interwar years. Unlike other national sections of Special Operations Executive, Poles enjoyed the exclusivity privilege; they searched on their own for emissaries, couriers and paratroopers, with their own ciphers and communication centers.
After the establishment of the Polish SOE section, Branch VI has begun a secret search for volunteers who were to be transferred to the country. The enrollment was preceded by the order of the Supreme Commander (Naczelny Wódz – NW) to individual commanders to select outstanding soldiers for service in the country, but from the very beginning the application was unsolicited and voluntary. In the event of refusal or resignation during the course of the training, the candidate returned to the parent unit without any repercussions from the superiors. The candidate was given time to make the decision. He had to give his consent in writing. Then, the opinion was taken from the Personnel Unit of the NW General Staff and from the military counterintelligence. The final verdict belonged to the Chief of NW General Staff. If the decision was positive, the candidate was sent to the training.
The training, although not initially organized at the time of the first jumps to the country, was focused on the needs of the occupied fatherland. Due to the specialty in which volunteers were trained, three groups of jumpers could be identified. The most numerous group were the paratroopers designated for ongoing tasks. There were specialists in intelligence, subversion, communications, staff officers or specialists in document falsification. The second group consisted of paratroopers, who were to play an important role in preparations for the uprising and reconstruction of the Armed Forces in the country. They included airmen, instructors and staff, communications and armored weapons officers, commanders, and doctors. The last group were the couriers and political emissaries of the Ministry of the Interior to the Government Delegation and to the political groupings in occupied Poland. After the recruitment, the soldiers were sent to attend one of many specialized courses. The valid principle for them all was: as much practice as possible, as little theory as possible. Regardless of the specialization, all Cichociemni underwent a parachute course and a check-in course.
The courses were divided into four groups – basic, specialty, complementary and related to the „legend” created by each paratrooper.
The main courses included:
• course of sabotage, shooting and physical training.
A special emphasis was put on the physical training and learning to shoot from various positions, topography, melee combat, jujitsu and use of simple miner’s means. Candidate for Cichociemny, who did not complete this training due to acquired physical injuries, etc., fell off and returned to his previous service.
• psychological techniques course,
• parachute course, including parachute training and jumps.
The preparation for the jumps would take place in two places: in the British parachute center in Ringway or in the training center of the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade in Largo House, the popular „Monkey Grove”. In Ringway, besides Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, Yugoslavians, and Norwegians took part in the training. The training course lasted one week. The course in „Monkey Grove” lasted from two to even four weeks and had advanced character. After the training, depending on the period, the candidate would make several parachute jumps at Ringway.
• an underground combat course, which was intended to teach how to organize and lead a combat of a small subversive-sabotage team. Sapper and shooting skills were improved here, rules of radiotelegraphy, ciphers and other things helpful in the underground were inculcated. Practical exercises conducted in consultation with the British authorities were an important part. Candidates on Cichociemni had to plan and secretly carry out the action on a real object, but the load was unarmed. The course lasted for 3-4 weeks, then it was extended to about 8 weeks.
• a check-in course aimed at changing the paratrooper who lived in the wild into a conspirator in an occupied country. Initially, it was a series of lectures in conspiratorial premises in London. In an organized form, it was launched in July 1942 at Audley End. Then, due to the overload of the center, the course was moved to STS 46 located in nearby Michley near Newport. In 1944 it was also run in Ostuni in Italy. On the course lasting from 2 to 6 weeks, the paratrooper arranged an individual „legend”, meaning a set of lies logically suited to the new personality, he received fake (German) documents, completed civilian clothes. During the course he was acquainted with the living conditions in occupied Poland.
The specialty courses consisted of:
• Polish intelligence course, known for safety reasons as the Officer’s Improvement Course in Military Administration. Initially, he was run in London, then he was transferred to Glasgow. The course included, among others: German study, intelligence, photography, chemistry for intelligence purposes, „locksmith” classes, weapons and shooting, gymnastics, physical training and optional foreign language teaching. The course lasted on average 6 months.
• courses organized by the Aviation Inspector and an air special course in London about airplanes used by the Germans.
• armored weapons, anti-tank and driver courses. Conducted in the Center of Armored and Technical Weapons Training at Catterick Camp or from 1944 in Italy.
• The Training Center of the In-Service Section of the General Staff trained radio-telegraphists and radio-mechanists for its own needs. The „The E&Sphon” course, conducted by the British, specialized in ground-air communication means (Eureka and S-fon type) used in the collection of discharges.
The supplementary courses included:
• course in the production of explosives and igniting agents with use of household methods,
• English information and intelligence course, which taught knowledge of codes, ciphers, production of sympathetic inks, deepened knowledge of underground work and propaganda, became familiar with the German organization in the occupied countries.
• English course in the practical use of micro-graphs,
• British command course for commandos, which during the month provided specialized skills in subversion and sabotage for industrial facilities, rail transport, telephone lines, etc.,
• „Advanced propaganda course”, i.e. a course of black propaganda, covering the theory of propaganda, printing and photography,
• course in the change of one’s appearance, lasting from 3 days to a week,
• the so-called „Roots course”, extensive training of candidates for Cichociemni for survival in nature, depending solely on naturally available resources, without outside help.
• courses related to the construction of the „legend” covered the acquisition of skills and knowledge related to work at a given workplace in occupied Poland.
After the training, the jumpers were put on „written accounts”, i.e. opinions about Cichociemni, which were sent to Poland by radio and were helpful for Division I of the Home Army Head Command (Kwatera Główna Armii Krajowej – KG AK) in determining assignments in the country. After completing the training and qualifying for the jump, Cichociemni secretly set off for the waiting station, where they waited impatiently for a leap into the occupied homeland. The period at the waiting station was also used to raise skills, and acquire new and useful information for future service. At the end of 1943, the training center was started in Italy, namely Base No 10 „Impudent”. It was organized in unfinished buildings of the sanatorium in Ostuni, between Bari and Brindisi. The training was conducted in the same way as in Great Britain, but complementary courses were removed from the program. The jumps were practiced at the Campo Cassale airport in nearby Brindisi.
The last check-in course in Italy ended on July 27, and in the United Kingdom on September 21, 1944. A total of 2,413 candidates were accepted for training courses. 605 of them completed the training with a positive result. 579 were sent to the jump, 316 of which were sent to occupied Poland as Cichociemni and 29 as political couriers.