The London Blitz
Topolski was based in London during the Second World War, witnessing the Blitz at first hand. In 1940, he was appointed an official war artist and in this capacity he visited military units all over Britain, as well as travelling to nearly every major battle front across three continents.
At the outbreak of war in 1939, Topolski was in London. He was still a reserve officer in the Polish cavalry and wanted to return to Poland to fight, but the rapid German and Soviet occupation of the country prevented this. Many of his Polish friends were now refugees in Britain — as he commented: “Warsaw, left behind five years earlier, had followed me to London.” During the Blitz, Topolski travelled around the city drawing the effects of the bombing. In May 1941, he was himself injured by a bomb while sketching in Soho. By now, Topolski had been appointed an official war artist, working for both the British government and the Polish government-in exile in Britain, led by General Władysław Sikorski.
Topolski was given the rank of Lieutenant which helped him gain access to frontline areas, and enabled him to work more like a war photographer than an artist.