Guest blog: Polish Veterinary Surgeons and the RCVS post World War II

My name is Lisa Matson and I am a student at King’s College London in the MA Modern History program. As part of my course, I spent the spring interning at RCVS Knowledge. I have been reading and organizing a collection of documents from the years following World War II relating to Polish veterinary surgeons who were in contact with the RCVS. This collection includes correspondence between the RCVS and individual Polish veterinary surgeons; minutes and correspondence from the RCVS Sub-Committee created to assess the Polish applications; and correspondence between the RCVS and the Association of Polish Veterinary Surgeons in Great Britain and its Chairman, Dr. Alfred Ginsberg.

 

After the end of the Second World War, many Polish veterans who had fought with the Allied forces in the war chose to stay in Britain rather than returning to Poland. There were resettlement camps in Scotland and many men were in the Polish Resettlement Corps, which was created to help Polish ex-servicemen adjust to civilian life in Britain. Those men who had previously practiced as veterinary surgeons or veterinary students and wished to practice in Britain had to apply to the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to be granted the qualification of MRCVS. To be considered for this qualification, Polish veterinary surgeons had to submit an application and attend an interview with members of a special Sub-Committee created by the RCVS Council to evaluate and report on the cases of Polish applicants. The Sub-Committee then divided applicants into one of eight groups based on their previous veterinary education and experience, and determined the requirements for each applicant to qualify as MRCVS. Most of the Polish applicants were granted concessions that required attendance for at least one to two years at an approved veterinary school, in addition to passing one or more examinations, to qualify as MRCVS.

 

Report of the Polish Veterinary Surgeons Sub-Committee, dated 8 January 1947, detailing five of the groups into which Polish applicants were placed.

 

In 1945, one of the first groups of Polish men to contact the RCVS was the Association of Polish Veterinary Surgeons in Great Britain. This Association was made up of Polish veterinary surgeons who had been practicing in Poland before moving to Britain. The Chairman of the Association of Polish Veterinary Surgeons in Great Britain, Dr. Alfred Ginsberg, carried on a correspondence with the RCVS beginning in August 1945 on behalf of twenty-five Polish veterinary surgeons who wanted to practice in Britain. In September 1945, in response to the correspondence from Dr. Ginsberg, the RCVS Council created the special Sub-Committee to consider and report on the applications from Polish veterinary surgeons. This Sub-Committee was in operation into the 1950s.

A letter from the Chairman of the Association of Polish Veterinary Surgeons in Great Britain, Dr. Alfred Ginsberg, to RCVS, dated 23 August 1945.

 

The Polish Veterinary School in Edinburgh was another source of many of the Polish applications to the RCVS. In 1943, the Polish Veterinary School opened in Edinburgh for Polish veterinary students whose studies had been interrupted by the war. The course was taught in Polish and the degree granted at the end of the course was equivalent to a Polish veterinary degree. As such, the students who graduated from the Polish Veterinary School were not granted MRCVS and were not allowed to practice as veterinary surgeons in Britain. The Polish Veterinary School was closed in 1947. Students who wished to continue their studies in Britain were allowed to register with the RCVS as veterinary students and attend a British veterinary school. Veterinary surgeons who had graduated from the Polish Veterinary School and who wished to remain in Britain were given the chance to be evaluated by the Sub-Committee.  According to Paul Watkins, who wrote about the history of the Polish Veterinary School, during the four years in which the school was open, 63 students were enrolled and 23 students graduated.

 

Correspondence from Tadeusz Cencora, a student at the Polish Veterinary School, dated 23 November 1946.

 

Between 1944 and 1952, the RCVS corresponded with and/or considered the applications of 89 Polish veterinary surgeons and veterinary students. The RCVS Knowledge collection includes direct correspondence between the RCVS and 45 of these applicants. Many of the Polish applicants who corresponded with the RCVS or were considered by the Sub-Committee were not granted MRCVS or registered as practicing veterinary surgeons in the end. As mentioned above, the Sub-Committee’s concessions often required that applicants attend additional years of veterinary schooling. However, this concession did not guarantee entry into one of the approved veterinary schools. As these schools were competitive to get into, and many already had waiting lists for the upcoming years, it was often difficult for the Polish veterinary surgeons and students to find a place at an approved veterinary school. It is unknown how many of the Polish veterinary surgeons who were granted concessions actually attended a veterinary school in Britain or took all (or any) of the required examinations, as RCVS examination records do not have the Polish applicants listed separately. However, RCVS records show that of the 89 Polish applicants, only 27 of them (30%) were officially registered as veterinary surgeons in Britain in the 1950 and 1960 Registers. 15 of those 27 people were in the initial group to inquire about MRCVS certification through the Association of Polish Veterinary Surgeons in Great Britain. 11 of the 27 people were students or graduates of the Polish Veterinary School in Edinburgh, leaving only one person out of the 27 registered who did not fit into one of those two categories. Clearly then, the majority of the Polish veterinary surgeons and students who corresponded with or applied to the Sub-Committee did not go on to become registered veterinary surgeons in Britain. Unfortunately, it is difficult to trace the lives of those Polish applicants who did not become registered with the RCVS after their correspondence, as RCVS records only pertain to those who took the veterinary examinations and were registered by the RCVS.

 

The RCVS collection of papers relating to Polish veterinary surgeons after the Second World War provides an interesting look at RCVS history and Polish migration to Britain post-World War II. Below is a timeline of the information in the collection and a link to a gallery of a selection of documents from the collection. The gallery includes Sub-Committee minutes, examination results, and correspondence between the RCVS and two Polish applicants. For further information on this collection or individual Polish veterinary surgeons included in the papers, contact RCVS Knowledge.

-Lisa-

 

Timeline of the collection

1943

October

Polish Veterinary School in Edinburgh officially opened to Polish students in Britain studying to become veterinary surgeons. (These students were not granted MRCVS at the end of their course as it was taught to Polish veterinary school standards)

1944

September

First correspondence in the collection from a Polish vet inquiring about being registered (MA Soltys- application withdrawn in 1945 and reapplied in 1946)

1945

August

First correspondence from Ginsberg and Association of Polish Veterinary Surgeons

18th September

Committee Correspondence states that there are 52 Polish veterinary surgeons in the UK

21st September

RCVS Council resolution to create a Sub-Committee to consider Polish applicants (Sub-Committee made up of Professors Dalling, Mitchell, and Woolridge)

September-October

25 Polish veterinary surgeons interviewed by Profs. Dalling and Mitchell

1946

25th January

Four people who had applied individually were granted concessions by the RCVS (Cembrowicz, Chodnik, Uruski, Michna)

12th April

Sub-Committee report to RCVS Council with a decision on the applications made through Association of Polish Veterinary Surgeons. (Men were put into groups A, B, or C with differing requirements for obtaining MRCVS. 21 people were put in groups A and B, 4 in group C)

July

Polish veterinary surgeons granted concessions in April 1946 were able to take July examinations

1947

January

Correspondence about the students from the (closing) Polish Veterinary School in Edinburgh who wanted to register as students with RCVS (to become students at another veterinary school)

February

The last diplomas were awarded by the Polish Veterinary School in Edinburgh

End of 1947

Final closure of the Polish Veterinary School

1948

May

Last Sub-Committee correspondence/minutes in collection

1952

September-October

Last correspondence with a Polish applicant in collection

 

Gallery of material from Polish Veterinary Surgeons papers

 

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