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Poland's Flag

Poland's History

Post World War I

After World War I

Some Polish soldiers were sent to France to train with the French Army in armored warfare.

From a regiment of Renault FT tanks that were sent to Poland in June 1919, a battalion fought the Russians in the Russo-Polish conflict of 1919-1920. These actions often involved mechanized forces with armored cars, motorized infantry and artillery drawn by trucks in deep raids against the Russians.

After the war ended, the armored forces copied the French organization. Armored cars were controlled by the Cavalry and the tanks by the Infantry. The tanks were formed into a tank regiment that had three battalions.

1920s

Tank Improvements

From 1923 to 1930 the Poles worked to improve the Renault FT tanks. S. Kardaszewicz designed a laterally flexible track which improved the speed to 7.5 mph / 12 kph. However these were not standardized for use.

Additional work was done by designing a new turret that would hold a 37 mm gun and a 7.92 mm Browning MG.

Command and smoke producing tanks were also made from the Renault FTs.

Polish Designs

The subject of building a heavy tank was discussed at conferences starting in late 1924. A specification was drawn up in 1925 that required a 12 ton vehicle with a gun of 47 mm, and a heavy and light machine gun. It was to go 25 kph and have a range of 200 - 250 km.

A competition was held between the Polish S.A.B.E.M.S. and Parowoz companies and a Czechoslovakian company. The WB-10 prototypes were submitted but they were not satisfactory and the project was cancelled.

French Vehicles

Several Citroëun-Kegrésse chassis were purchased in 1926 and made into armored cars that would work with the cavalry.

British Tanks

Poland purchased a Vickers Carden-Loyd Mark VI in 1928. The Polish TK.1 was based on this vehicle. It was 1.75 tons and was powered by a Ford motor. This lead to to the TK.2 and then the TK.3 which was heavier. The TK.3 was the first armored vehicle produced in Poland.

1930s

In 1930 the infantry tank regiment, the cavalry armored cars, and the artillery armored trains were combined into an independent branch of the military. This was called the Bron Pancerna. It had two tank regiments, one armored car group, and two armored train groups.

Tank Orders

In the 1930s it was realized that the tankette would not be able to handle combat so the Poles ordered 38 or 50 Vickers-Armstrong 6-ton tanks. There was a mix of single and twin turreted models.

The PZI design bureau was tasked with coming up with a copy that could be produced in Poland. This became the 7 TP.

Conflicting Directions

The Chief of the Armored Forces felt that producing a Polish built tank was a waste of time and money as it was a better use of money to purchase proven foreign vehicles.

Christie

The Poles ordered two Christie tanks, but didn't take delivery.

However, the BBT designed a vehicle that used a Christie type suspension, the 10 TP.

10th Brygada Kawalerii

The 10th Brygada Kwalerii (Cavalry Brigade) was the first to be motorized in 1937 under the command of Colonel A. Trzaska-Durski.

It was made of:

  • two motorized cavalry regiments,
  • division of scout cars,
  • division of antitank guns,
  • division of motorized 75 mm and 100 mm artillery,
  • battery of antiaircraft guns,
  • reconnaissance company of TKS tanks,
  • company of Vickers 6-Ton tanks,
  • engineer platoon,
  • communication platoon,
  • traffic control platoon,
  • transport company

Imports from France

100 R-35s were ordered in April 1939 but only one battalion had been delivered.

World War II

Approximate Quantities available Sept. 1939
Carden Loyd Mk VI 300
TK and TKS 440, 693
TKS with machine guns 270, 240
TKS with 20 mm 23
Vickers 6-ton 50, 52
Vickers E 30
Vickers E dw. 16
Vickers E jw. 16
7 TP 130, 169, 179
7TP dw 22, 24
7TP jw 117, 108
H-35 3
FT 17 55, 67, 102
R-35 43, 45, 49, 51, 53
Peugeot 1918 5
wz. 29 8
wz. 34 86
wz. 29 and wz. 34 95
Armored Cars 100

Poland was very interested in tanks but had limited industrial capability. The war broke out before many of their more advanced designs could be produced.

It's estimated there were 600 / 1,000 light tanks and tankettes at the outbreak of war to face the approximate 2,000 / 3,000 tanks the Germans had.

There was a single armored brigade in the Polish Army. It had two battalions of 6-ton tanks. In total there were 660 tanks available. There were two motorized brigades that had one company of 6-ton tanks and two companies of tankettes eash.

Each of the twelve Cavalry brigades had thirteen tankettes and eight armored cars in the reconnaissance squadron.

The rest of the army consisted of 17 infantry divisions, 3 infantry brigades, and 6 cavalry brigades.

There was the 10th (Motorized) Cavalry brigade that was led by Colonel Stanislaw Maczek.

10th Mechanized Brigade

The 10th Mechanized Brigade did attack the 2nd Panzer Division and 4th Light Division as they neared Cracow but were not able to stop them.

Warsaw Mechanized Brigade

Outside of Warsaw, on September 9, 1939, the Warsaw Mechanized Brigade and defending anti-tank units were able to stop the 4th Panzer Division when it attempted to take the city. 57 German tanks were destroyed on the 9th and 40 of these were destroyed by a platoon of 7TPs and nine Bofors 37 mm anti-tank guns. This didn't stop the eventual surrender of the Warsaw garrison on September 27.

7th Mounted Rifles Regiment

On September 14, cannon armed TKS tankettes of the 7th Mounted Rifles Regiment supported an attack at Brochów. The tankettes fired across the River Bzura at the 4th Panzer Division and knocked out two or three of the German tanks.

On September 18 three tankettes, led by Cadet Roman Orlik, ambushed the 11th Panzer Regiment of the 1st Light Division and destroyed three PzKpfw 35(t)s near Pociecha. The next day Orlik attacked again and claimed seven German tanks.

Air Force

1939, Fighting for Poland

The Polish air force had 16 bomber squadrons, 15 fighter squadrons, 12 reconnaissance squadrons, 1 torpedo-bomber squadron, and 1 transport squadron.

The breakdown of the types:

  Operational Serviceable
Bomber 266 156
Fighters 202 Unknown
Reconnaissance 210 Unknown
Transport 9 Unknown
Total 678 388

These forces went up against 1,300 German aircraft during the invasion by the Germans. Initially many Polish planes were flown from small or auxiliary airfields and were able to survive several days.

Losses:

  Destroyed Aircraft
Bombers 36
Dive Bombers 112
Fighters 116
Reconnaissance 81
Sea Planes 21
Transport 9
Other 23
Total 398

Fighting from France

In 1940 the I, II, III, and IV/145 fighter squadrons were manned by Polish pilots. By May 1940 only 1 1/2 were formed and trained. Amongst all of them were about 50 serviceable aircraft.

Fighting from Britain

The Royal Air Force (RAF) decided that it would allow Polish squadrons that had escaped to be integrated.

The Poles manned nine fighter squadrons (302 City of Poznan, 303 Kosciuszko, 306, 308, 309, 315, 316, 317, 318), four bomber squadrons (300, 301, 304, 305) and one Mosquito squadron (307).

Fighting from Russia

Three Russian air regiments (one fighter, one night bomber, and one ground attack) were formed with Polish pilots in 1944.

Population

26,900,000, 34,600,000, 34,800,000, 34,775,698, 35,000,000

Military Manpower
1939 1,200,000
1941 - 1945: Eastern Front 30,000
1943 - 1945: Italy 8,600
1944 - 1945: North West Europe 28,000

Casualties

  1939 Western Europe Eastern Front
Killed in Action 66,300 4,500 ~40,000
Wounded 133,700 13,000
Prisoner of War 787,000 Unknown Unknown

Sources:

  1. Tanks of World War II, Duncan Crow, 1979
  2. Steel Fist Tank Warfare 1939-45, Nigel Cawthorne, 2003
  3. No Simple Victory - World War II In Europe, 1939-1945, 2006, Norman Davies
  4. World War II The Encyclopedia of Facts and Figures, John Ellis, 1995
  5. World War II The Encyclopedia of the War Years 1941 - 1945, Norman Polmar, Thomas B. Allen, 1996
  6. Tanks of The World 1915 - 1945, Peter Chamberlain, Chris Ellis, 2002
  7. Western Allied Tanks 1939-45, David Porter, 2009
  8. World War II, DK, 2004
  9. Tank War 1939-1945, Janusz Piekalkiewicz, 1986
  10. World War II in Numbers, Peter Doyle, 2013
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site