The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville
Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth
This is an unusual memorial to find in a Portsmouth Cemetery. It was only completed in 2004 but it commemorates the arrival of Polish exiles into Portsmouth in 1834. There had been an uprising in Warsaw in 1830 against the Russian rulers. This was defeated and many Polish soldiers fled into neighbouring Prussia hoping to find refuge. This did not happen. Many were handed back to the Russians who sent them to Siberia and the rest were placed on board the battleship Marianne to be sent to America.
Severe storms in the channel forced the captain to seek shelter in Portsmouth harbour. After several days the soldiers demanded to go ashore. The local magistrate petitioned the Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, for funds to support the soldiers. This proved unsuccessful as the government felt it would encourage mass immigration. However the people of Portsmouth felt sorry for the soldiers and launched an appeal for money. Schools made collections and held charity events and enough money was raised. The soldiers were then allowed to stay and most found employment and later married local girls.
The Polish Cross appears at the top of the memorial and underneath written in both English and Polish, is the following inscription:
‘Lest we forget the kindness shown and help given by the people of Britain’s premier naval port Portsmouth, to 212 Polish soldiers, members of the first Polish community in Britain, who arrived in Portsmouth in February 1834 after having taken part in the November uprising against Tsarist Russian oppression, which took place in Warsaw in 1830-
At a time when merchants of human rights joined forces in order to destroy liberty the people of Portsmouth rallied to the aid of those who fought for that liberty.’
Underneath on a large brass plaque are listed in three columns the 212 names of the soldiers. Oddly there is also listed Juliana Lastowiecka the wife of one of the men. Below is another plaque depicting the ship with some of the soldiers coming ashore in a small boat being greeted by local townspeople. Another plaque on the left hand side shows a uniformed Polish officer carrying the regimental colours into exile.
The event is now commemorated every year by the local Polish community and wreaths are laid.
Autumn Edition 2011