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|© Michal Derela, 2003||Improved: 26. 05. 2003|
The purpose of this page is to provide with a concise summary of Polish war activity in 1940-45 years, containing the basic information about units that took part in combat, and places of combat. It might be useful in wargming, especially in Steel Panthers series games. This page is devoted only to the Army, so I omit here the airforce and the Navy, which were also active.
Since this page is focused on combat, I omit units, that did not take part in combat due to not finnished organization (maybe in the future this page will treat about non-fighting units as well).
I generally omit regiments and smaller units, which were included into Brigades or Divisions.
The headers refer to time and region of combat.
The places of battles are only the main ones.
The vehicles listed are only combat-used, without training ones. In italics are the vehicles not present in our PIBWL Steel Panthers-I improvement pack (we encourage to see our pack!).
The Polish Armed Forces in the West (Polskie Sily Zbrojne - PSZ) were subordinated to the Polish government in exile in London. They were organized in France, then: in Great Britain and the Middle East.
The Polish forces in France and Great Britain were organized mostly of soldiers, who escaped from Poland to France in 1939-1940. Just after the defeat in September 1939, small groups of Polish soldiers were "leaking" into France in many different ways. It was obviously difficult to get there, since Poland was separated from France by a great block of Germany and their allies. Many soldiers were withdrawn with their units to Hungary and Romania in September 1939, and interned there. Despite these countries were German allies, most of Polish soldiers managed to ran away from internment camps thanks to rather friendly attitude of the local people. Then, they had to travel in secret across Yugoslavia, other Nazi-allied countries, like Italy or Spain, or even Middle East and North Africa. After 1939, the only way to escape from occupied Poland became secret and dangerous crossing of "green borders". It was especially difficult after the fall of France. Some soldiers were Polish-nation volunteers from the USA and coal-miners from France - some of them were veterans of the Spanish Civil War.
The other story is the fate of tens of thousands of Polish soldiers and citizens captured in 1939 by the Soviets, or just deported from the captured Polish territory to somewhere towards East in 1939-41 (more than 1 million people). Of those who survived alive, more than 100,000 eventually managed to get out from the USSR with the Army of Gen. Anders (see below). Many of them experienced Siberian or Central Asian slave labour camps or prisons first. On their way out across the Asia and Middle East, they suffered hunger and tropical diseases. Those, who weren't given a chance of joining Anders Army, were later included into communist-subordinated Polish People's Army (LWP). As the liberation of Poland started in 1944, the soldiers for LWP were conscripted in Poland.
The first unit, organized in France, to take part in combat was:
In France, in combat there were used 2 infantry divisions and 1 armoured brigade (not complete), plus some AT-companies and further improvised and not entirely organized units:
Created in 1940 in the French Syria, then went under the British control to Palestine:
details on the SBSK composition below
Due to delaying of the operation "Crusader", the Carpathian Brigade troops set the "record" of staying in the hardest sector of Tobruk defence, Medaur Hill, against the German positions, without being withdrawn from their outposts for 10 weeks (a practice was 4 weeks).
After the German attack on the USSR, Stalin allowed Polish units to be created in the USSR, of the great masses of Polish soldiers captured in 1939 (without most officers, who were shot in 1940). There were 6 infantry divisions organized in Central Asia, under the command of Gen. S. Anders. In 1942 due to British-Soviet agreement (and collapse in Polish-Soviet relations), they were moved via Iran to Iraq and Palestine. There, the Polish forces, along with the SBSK (see above), were organized into the Polish 2nd Corps, commanded by Gen. S. Anders.
In April 1944 the Polish 2nd Corps, included into the British 8th Army, was moved to Italy, where it was fighting mainly at Monte Cassino (11-18 May 1944), Ancona, Gothic Line (Pesaro), the Senio river. At the end it took Bologne. It consisted of:
details on the 2.BPanc below
The battle of Monte Cassino became one of the biggest symbols of the Polish warfare. The Polish Corps took part in the fourth stage of the battle, and its aim was to assault Cassino monastery directly. After a few days of bloody fighting, on 17 May 1944, Gen. Anders threw in the last of his reserves - a weak battalion made up of drivers, mechanics, and clerical personnel. On 18 May the Poles captured the hill and ruins of Cassino monastery, abandoned by the Germans.
Monte Cassino Battle
After the fall of France, the Polish Army was re-created in Great Britain, of the men who managed to escape from France and from Poland. Since 1940, Polish units were organized and trained there, creating the 1st Polish Corps. Not all units finnished their organization due to not enough number of men. In combat were used:
details on the 1.DPanc below
The Polish 1st Armoured Division played an important role in Operation "Totalize", closing a gap in a Falaise "pocket" at Chambois and linking with US troops. Polish units kept the gap for a few days, against fierce assaults of German armoured units, attempting to break through.
Military History: Second World War: Liberation of France: Falaise
In 1943, the Soviets and Polish communists, not respecting Polish government in London, created another Polish Army in the USSR, of the Poles remaining there still. Because of a lack of cadres, many commanders and specialists of different ranks were initially Soviets. The first unit used in combat was:
In July 1944, in a liberated part of Poland, the new alternative communist government was raised, and the Polish Army in the USSR was named Polish People's Army (LWP) - Ludowe Wojsko Polskie. Since then, the 2nd Army and the next units were mobilized in Poland. In 1944-45 LWP consisted of:
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