30 March 2017
With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Polish community in America and Canada seriously began to consider ways to help Poland gain independence through military means. In the fall of 1916 Wincenty Skarzynski and Andrzej Malkowski approached the Canadian authorities. They first met with industrialist Sir William Price of Montreal and proposed the foundation of a Polish Legion in Canada. Price was a prominent Quebec businessman and was close to Prime Minister Borden who was sufficiently interested that he had External Affairs make a lengthy and formal inquiry to London about the possibility of such a Legion. Colonial Secretary Bonar Law responded quickly that London would have ‘no objection’ as long as scrupulous concern for American sensibilities was observed. In December 1916 Polish officials met with Canadian officials including Chief of Staff, Major General Sir Willoughby Gwatkin to arrange for the training of a cadre of volunteer officers. At the end of 1916 the Canadian military authorities agreed to form a Polish officer’s training school in Canada. Lt. Colonel A.D. LePan was instructed to lead the training of Polish officers. In January 1917, 23 Poles arrived at the training school in Toronto and were met by Lt. Colonel A.D. LePan and were accepted into the School of Infantry, Military District No. 2. The Engineering Building, University of Toronto was used by the School of Infantry In the spring of 1917, when the training of Polish soldiers expanded so rapidly that most of the school was moved out of the city. On September 29, 1917, Lieut.-Col. LePan arrived from Camp Borden, along with the staff of the School of Infantry, to take command and control, together with 150 probationers, at Niagara Camp. The camp was later named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a prominent participant in the wars for the independence of both Poland and the US. Mrs. Elizabeth Ascher, a local newspaper columnist wrote at the time that “In a short time this little green spot in this pretty “God’s Acre” will be practically the only memento of one of the most striking, most unique episodes in Niagara’s history”. The camp also welcomed several distinguished guests during its existence, including His Royal Highness, Prince Arthur of Connaught, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, the world famous pianist and major supporter of the Polish cause, and Prince Stanisław Poniatowski from France a direct descendent of the last King of Poland. In April 1918, a burial plot in St. Vincent de Paul’s cemetery was set aside for the internment of Polish soldiers who would die while in training in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Most of them died due to the Spanish Flu epidemic which arrived at Kosciuszko Camp in September 1918. There are 26 men buried in the cemetery plot. The camp closed in February 1919 when the 73rd and last draft of a total of 22,000 Polish soldiers left Kosciuszko Camp. Modern, trained troops were transported to France. Polish Army in France called the Blue Army (the color of the uniforms) was established on the initiative of Roman Dmowski and the Polish National Committee with the help of the Entente, and commanded by General Jozef Haller. From France, well-equipped army in the strength of 80,000 soldiers has been transported by train through Germany to Poland, strengthening young Polish Army. Official visits to the camp began as soon as it opened but the very first pilgrimage occurred on Saturday evening, May 31, 1919.
The Boards of Directors of the Canadian Polish Congress, the Niagara District and Polish American Congress Western New York Division cordially invite you to the Jubilee Celebrations of the 150th Anniversary of Canada and 100th Anniversary of the Opening of The Polish Army Training Camp (Camp Kosciuszko) at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The Banquet will take place on Saturday, April 22, 2017 in the building of The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 418, at 292-296 Vine Street North in St. Catharines, Ontario. The Banquet will begin with a classical music concert at 4 PM. In the interval between the concert and dinner you will be able to see the exhibition dedicated to the history of these events. At the same time we announce that our Jubilee Pilgrimage to the Military Cemetery of the Soldiers of the Blue Army of General Haller, located next to the Church of St. Vincent De Paul in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario will be held on Sunday, June 11, 2017. Beginning at 12:00 noon.SEE MORE