The History of the origin of Cichociemni

September Campaign 1939

The history of the formation of the Home Army Cichociemni Paratroopers (Cichociemni Spadochroniarze Armii Krajowej) begins at the end of the September 1939 campaign. Many of the Polish soldiers who avoided captivity and those who managed to escape began their mostly successful attempts to break through borders to neighboring neutral states, such as Hungary, Romania, Lithuania and Latvia. Some of the Poles fighting during the September attacks were in the Soviet Union. The final destination of the migrating Polish soldiers wishing to fight the enemy outside of Poland was allied France, where general Władysław Sikorski formed the Polish Army.

In June 1940, after the defeat of France in June 1940, Poles joined the ranks of the Polish Armed Forces in Great Britain or reported to the Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade (Samodzielna Brygada Strzelców Karpackich) in Syria and Palestine. From the middle of 1941, Polish soldiers and civilians would also join the Polish Army in the Soviet Union. In the face of the military successes of the Third Reich and the brutal occupation that followed, the support Poles fighting outside the country could provide to the Polish Underground was limited.

Communication problems

In the face of the intensification of terror of German and Soviet occupations, Poles quickly developed various forms of resistance and created underground organizations to face the enemies. Even prior to the capitulation of Warsaw, GEN Michał Tokarzewski received from the General Julisz Rómmel a power of attorney to lead further fight, this time of a secret nature. GEN Tokarzewski immediately proceeded with the creation of a secret military organization called the Poland Victory Service (Służba Zwycięstwu Polski – SZP), later renamed the Union of Armed Struggle (Związek Walki Zbrojnej – ZWZ). GEN Kazimierz Sosnkowski became its commander, subject to the orders of the Commander-in-Chief, GEN Władysław Sikorski.

At the same time, the problem of establishing and maintaining communication with the country emerged. Its solution was one of the most important tasks of the Supreme Commander’s Staff in France. Initially, communication was maintained by means of courier land routes. The biggest disadvantage of this method of communication was the complexity of the whole process. At the beginning it was necessary to select a candidate who was trusted and of good repute to then send him on a multi-week trip across many countries, either under german occupation or sympathizing with the authorities of the third reich. Although the route from France to Poland led through several borders and was dangerous, it gained priority. At the same time, attempts were made to organize radio communication between occupied Poland and the Staff of the Supreme Commander (Sztab Naczelnego Wodza), but the distance between Warsaw and Paris was too long for radio communications to be successful.


Air communication consisting of the discharges of people and supplies to occupied Poland could become a mean to organize an effective communication network. Thanks to such a solution, not only information, but also people, equipment, and financial resources could be sent as well. This concept had gained importance, especially amid the fall of France and the closure of the so-called Italian route. Radio communications played a significant role in organizing flights to the country. The process of sending and receiving of aircraft required speedy exchange of information, such as the flight date, meteorological conditions or the target location. Lack of this information would drastically reduce the chances of success in air communications.

Until December 1940, the country was contacted via intermediary bases in Budapest and Bucharest, with time getting direct contact between Poland and the United Kingdom. On November 28, 1940, GEN W. Sikorski issued an order to GEN J. Zając, the Aviation Commander to organize for the disposal of GEN W. Sosnkowski a permanent secret air communication with the main headquarters of the occupied country (Lviv, Warsaw, Krakow and, if possible, with Poznań). Polish planes or machines provided by the Allies were to serve this purpose. In the absence of help from Western allies, however, who prioritized the creation of bomber and hunting units, the order was not unrealized.

At the same time, two young and ambitious captains of the Polish Army put forward the idea of transferring people and equipment to the occupied country. On December 18, 1939, CPT Jan Górski arrived in Paris., and a week later he was followed by an experienced hubalman1, CPT Maciej Kalenkiewicz. Both were longtime friends who had graduated from the College of War. The young officers reasoned in terms of a fighting country that urgently needed help from outside. In their actions, they gained an ally in the form of the person of the CPT Dipl. Jan Jaźwiński, who dealt with the issues of communication with the country in the High Command of Polish Victory Service. According to the aforementioned three, the aid to occupied Poland should be implemented in the most effective and modern way, namely by air, with the use of airplanes and parachutes. A growing informal circle of supporters of this idea gathered around the three unconventionally thinking Polish Army officers. Among these people there was an enthusiast of the idea of air communication in the person of Zofia Leśniowska, having a huge impact on her father, GEN W. Sikorski. CPT Górski submitted his first report on this matter on December 30, 1939, and then resumed it less than a month later. As both of them remained unanswered, on February 14 he repeated the attempt, however this time he signed it together with CPT Kalenkiewicz, and in the annex he listed a group of 16 „hamsters” (as the supporters of the idea were called), candidates for the jump.

On February 21, GEN Sosnkowski wrote to GEN Zając, asking for the possibility of landing training and giving a jump. At the beginning of May 1940, Kalenkiewicz and Górski were transferred to the GEN Sosnkowski Office, where they continued their work on the concept of the use of aviation for communications and air transport of troops to the occupied country of support for a planned uprising and the creation of airborne forces (wojska powietrzno-desantowe). Their task from the beginning was difficult due to the limited Polish experience in airborne forces. Before the war, there were no experienced paratroopers in Poland. In September 1937, the first military parachute course was started in Legionowo, which was more recreational than military. In the autumn of the following year during the maneuvers in Volhynia, the first paratrooper diversionary troop was dropped consisting of over a dozen members.

It was only in May 1939 that the first Military Parachute Center in Bydgoszcz was created in Poland. Kalenkiewicz and Górski were therefore forced to rely on intelligence materials regarding the organization of German parachute forces. Based on these materials, they developed the „Instruction for the first connecting and reconnaissance flights”. In July 1940, after the fall of France and Italy’s joining the war, captains Górski and Kalenkiewicz finished their study work and proceeded to the next steps. At the end of August 1940, CPT Kalenkiewicz was called by GEN Tadeusz Klimecki to prepare a new staff cell, which was supposed to deal with the issue of parachute troops. On September 20, GEN W. Sikorski, with the help of his daughter, invited CPT Kalenkiewicz for breakfast, after which basic conversation took place and decisions were made. The Supreme Commander ordered the formation of the first Polish parachutist unit and urgent commencement of flights to the country.

In October 1940, a new five-person special faculty of parachutist training and training started work in Division III. The future Cichociemni (Silent Unseen) were to be liaison officers properly trained for current demands and assignments. The transport of paratroopers was to be provided by a special air squadron deliberately formed for this purpose, equipped with airplanes adapted for night airborne discharge operations. The general uprising that was about to break out in the whole occupied Poland was to be supported by air forces and paratrooper units of the Polish Forces in the West.

At the end of October 1940, the first Polish parachute course began in Ringway, a British center near Manchester. The two-week course was completed by 12 Polish officers. The idea began to take on real shapes.


Jacek Gancarson