Revealed: The names of 6 secret agents at Audley End House

Kate Mavor, Chief Executive of English Heritage, lays a wreath at Audley End House, Essex

Kate Mavor, Chief Executive of English Heritage, and Consul General Mateusz Stąsiek of the Polish Embassy led wreath laying to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Audley End becoming the principal training school for the Polish special forces during WW2. - Credit: English Heritage

The identities of six secret agents who used Audley End House as a 'finishing school' during wartime have been revealed.

Their names were found scrawled on the wall of a candle store in the coal gallery.

They were Jan Benedykt Różycki, Teodor Paschke, Franciszek Socha, Jósef Zbrzeźniak, Karol Dorwksi and Czesław Migoś.

More on who they were, and their stories, along with artefacts and accounts from the time, will now go on show.

Their identities being revealed comes at the 80th anniversary of Audley End House becoming the principal training school for the Polish section of the Special Operations Executive in World War Two. 

Around 40 VIPs from the Polish community, including Consul General Mateusz Stąsiek of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, attended a wreath-laying event in their memory on Sunday (May 1).

Kate Mavor, Consul General Mateusz Stąsiek of the Polish Embassy and VIPs, Saffron Walden, Essex

Kate Mavor, Chief Executive of English Heritage, and Consul General Mateusz Stąsiek of the Polish Embassy with VIPs at Audley End House, Saffron Walden - Credit: English Heritage

The elite soldiers were known as the Cichociemni – or Silent Unseen.

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The Cichociemni were hand-picked, and acted as special operations paratroopers. They were trained to drop behind enemy lines into occupied Poland to fight for their homeland.

Audley End House, now under the care of English Heritage, was the location of their final stage of training. At that time the 17th-century mansion was called Station 43.

A memorial to the Cichociemni stands in the grounds, commemorating their achievements and sacrifices.

Dr Andrew Hann, English Heritage Historian, said: “Their story is of particular pertinence, given current events in Ukraine.

"With ever-changing land boundaries, there is a deep connection between the Ukrainian and Polish people.

"Indeed, one of men who scratched his name onto the wall at Audley End came from Lviv, and another studied at university there.

“Last year, we invited those with family connections to, or memories of, the Cichociemni at Audley End House to share their stories and we were overwhelmed by the response.

"The wealth of information that we received has enabled us to expand our research and deepen our knowledge.

"We’ve been able to use this material in our new display telling the stories of some of the brave men who were trained at Audley End during the war.”

Whilst the Cichociemni left few physical traces at Audley End, their presence is recorded in a collection of photographs in the archive of the Polish Underground Movement Study Trust.

These photographs, along with a selection of personal possessions and artefacts used by the Cichociemni, will form the basis of the new display at Audley End House.

The exhibits include devices used in secret communications training, everyday objects adapted to conceal and carry hidden messages, and a book of photographs presented by the Polish SOE to Lady Braybrooke when they left Audley End and returned the property to the family in December 1944.

The display will run until October 31.

Who were the 6 Polish Special Agents?

They were:

  • Jan Benedykt Różycki (43, from Klimkiewiczów) 

A former civil engineer, fluent in many languages, he excelled at Weapons Training, Explosives and Demolitions.

Różycki was dropped into occupied Poland, taking supplies and equipment to support the Home Army.

After the war, Cichociemni who remained in Poland were hunted down by the Soviet imposed communist government, but Różycki remained. He was arrested in 1949 on false charges and imprisoned. Once released, he held a number of senior university posts. He died in 1991 in Wrocław.

  • Teodor Paschke (29, from Chodecz).

An officer in the pre-war Polish army, he was reliable, self-confident, and intelligent, but also highly-strung and reserved. After graduating, he spent a short while as a trainer himself at Audley End, before working for Polish military intelligence.

  • Franciszek Socha (29, from Przemyśl) 

A teacher, and later seemingly the group’s star student, rated ‘very good’ or ‘good’ in all exercises, other than communications, which was ‘satisfactory.’

After training, Socha was involved in several daring operations in occupied Europe, probably for British Military Intelligence.

Captured by the Gestapo. he managed to escape by jumping off a moving train and made his way to a British submarine.

After the war, he remained in the UK. He died in 1963 aged just 48.

  • Jósef Zbrzeźniak (22, from Warsaw)

The youngest of the group, Jósef was a courier for a printing company.

After training, he was transferred to Polish II Corps in Italy and saw action fighting on the Gothic Line in September 1944.

He remained in Italy until 1946, when he was demobilised and returned to Britain. He settled in Bath, where he died in 2010.

  • Karol Dorwksi (38, from Lviv)

Before the war, Dorwski had been a prominent actor in theatre and film.

Dorwski appears to have struggled with elite soldier training but was marked as suitable for special operations work.

After the war, Dorwski returned to his acting roots and worked as an actor and announcer for the Polish Broadcasting Station of Radio Free Europe in Munich.

Towards the end of his life, he returned to the UK and took part in lectures and concerts organised by the Association of Polish Theatre, Film, Radio and Television Artists. He died in London in 1980.

  • Czesław Migoś (aged 23)

Little is known about Migoś, other than he was a sergeant in the artillery who escaped Poland and made his way to France, joining the Polish forces there.

From France, he was posted to Britain where he began his training with the SOE.

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Audley End House, the secret agent 'finishing school'