translated from “Zarys Dziejów Wojskowości Polskiej (1864-1939)”, Wojskowy Instytut Historyczny, Redaktor Piotr Stawecki, Warsawa 1990
p. 183 - 190
Mutual German-Austrian differences, on principles for a solution to the Polish question, were among others in disputes over the oath formula and in determining the position of the Provisional State Council, which was reluctant to call up Polish recruits and looked forward to the future transfer to the Polish state of the existing legion formations.
It all started 15 March 1917, when the text of the oath was finally satisfactorily agreed on by all the parties concerned - the German, Austrian and the Provisional State Council representatives.
All collapsed on April 10, 1917, as General von Beseler took over the command, and decisions regarding the fate of the legion formations were taken in connection with the formation of the Polish Auxiliary Corps. He also then began officially as Commander-in-Chief of the new Polish Army, named as Polska Siła Zbrojna (PSZ) or Polnische Wehrmacht.
When forming the Polish Army, General Beseler did not want to build on the achievements of the Polish Legions - and much less on the POW (Polskiej Organizacji Wojskowej - The Polish Army Organization), the secretive organization, very close to be a resistance or terrorist movement, first against the Russians and later against the two other occupants - Germany and Austria.
April 23, 1917 he published instructions for the leadership of PSZ, when the Govenor Office formed a Department for PSZ Affairs and entrusted it with handling the important matters of organization, economic and human resources. Head of this department was a German officer, Colonel von Herzbruch, he was in charge of eight departments dedicated to the organizational details of the Polish Armed Forces.
As Staff for the Commander in Chief he set up an Inspekcja Wyszkolenia, Training Inspectorate.
It was lead by the German General Felix von Barth. The Inspectorate supervised the training of the PSZ units and reserves. The training of the men was done by the Inspektorat Kursów Wyszkolenia, Training Courses Inspectorate , led by Colonel Henry Minkiewicz.
There were 11 traing courses, 6 for infantry, 2 for supply train and 1 each for cavalry, artillery and sappers.
Officer training was dealt with by the Inspektorat Szkół Piechoty, Infantry School Inspectorate, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Leon Berbecki. Under the Training Inspectorate were also: The National Recruiting Inspectorate, Military Police, Guards for the Polish Military Prison in Fortress Warsaw and for the Headquarter in Warsaw.
The core activity of the PSZ were the mentionedcourses, to be done by the former legionairies transfered from the Polish Auxiliary Corps, in which internal affairs General von Beseler did not interfere. The courses were run for Poles from the Kingdom, as agreed on by the German and Austrian military authorities. This procedure led to an internal split in the legion and it remained at odds with the demands of the Provisional State Council, who demanded the creation of a Polish Army based on the Polish Auxiliary Corps. Still some hoped, the Galicians would be able to obtain Polish citizenship. The application in this case was made by the Commissioners of the Provisional State Council to the governments of the Central Powers, but was met with complete silence.
An important obstacle to build the PSZ was the bad recruitment results from the efforts made between November 1916 and May 1917. The review made in June, among the volunteers, who had declared willingness to serve in the PSZ, showed that out of the 4.093 men listed in the registration papers of the National Recruiting Inspectorate, only 2.899 turned up and only 2.132 of these were found capable to carry arms. This prompted General Beseler to an almost total elimination of the recruiting apparatus, which consisted of 2.530 officials (179 officers and 943 enlisted men). After the closure of the county recruiting offices, these officers were transferred to the Polish Auxiliary Corps. Still the National Recruiting Inspectorate was maintained, but temporarily had at its disposal only 123 military employees, including 35 officers, a number which up to October 1918 declined by 6 persons.
The failure of the recruitment campaign led PSZ to admit certain concessions. They were expressed by General von Beseler in the Regulation of 26 September 1917 with the partial admission of Polish officers to positions on the full-time training courses and in the PSZ military units. They were appointed to positions as deputy commanders on the various courses, and took over the function of second adjutants in the staff of each course. For the Polish officers were further reserved positions as battalion-, company- and platoon-commanders. Withdrawn was also the order to prevent Austrian nationals taking up positions as officers in the PSZ.
The concessions from the Germans came too late.
Before they were introduced, the fateful oath crisis ocurred. The text of the oath contained a sensitive adherence to "the brotherhood in arms with the armies of Germany, Austria-Hungary and the countries allied with them", but it had been approved by the Provisional State Council - and even also approved by Piłsudski. The crisis happened not because of the wording of the oath, but because it was a political and a military-political matter.
Throughout the crisis Piłsudski played a major role, realizing that the creation of a Polish Army was evolving in a manner inconsistent with the aspirations of the people, who wanted a truly national army.
Pilsudski also made sure, he would not be permitted to participate in the work on the new military organization. He instructed his trusted officers, after the overthrow of the tsarist regime, not to support the Central Powers in their fight against Russia. Furthermore he had arrived to the conclusion that Germany wanted only to raise a small Polish army, only as symbol of Polish involvement on the side of the Central Powers, which could be important to them on diplomatic conferences. So, secretly he urged to boycott the oath, as it actually happened in July 1917.
After the dramatic events of the oath crisis, ending with the repression and transfer of the Polish Auxiliary Corps to Galicia, was only the PSZ serving in the Polish Kingdom. In addition to the command existed then, ie in September 1917, 3 infantry training courses, 1 training course each for cavalry, artillery, sappers and supply train, a school for officer aspirants, a school for non-commissioned officers, the National Recruitment Inspectorate, 17 major recruitment offices with already reduced staffing and sub-units of the military police and prison guards for the fortress. In these formations served 101 officers and 1.125 non-commissioned officers and men.
The oath crisis and following disbandment of the Provisional State Council (30.8.1917) were the events that testified the deadlock in the Central Powers' Polish policy. They felt compelled to give further concessions to the Polish society. The first came on September 12, 1917 with the establishment of the Regency Council and then, on November 21, the establishmentof a cabinet, led by Jan Kucharzewski, which only had limited powers relating to schools, education and justice.
In military matters the Germans also proved also proved extremely cautious and - on the insistence from the Regency Council – they began in January 1918 to convert the existing infantry training courses into a regular regimental units. General von Beseler agreed also to do the same with the cavalry, artillery and sapper courses. Also he promised a possibility of using double-officer posts, if such a solution was open in the PSZ formations. These concessions were seen by the Regency Council as highly inadequate. April 12, 1918, were demanded specific demands on the military organization, and some of these demands were taken into account by the Governor-General of Warsaw. According to the decree, issued on April 24, the Training Course Inspectorate did not receive judicial power over all the men serving in PSZ, and a week later began the forming of two brigades each with two regiments, commanded by Colonel Minkiewicz. In accordance with the granted etat the combat strenght of a brigade should be 7.612 men, including 181 officers.
As result of further orders on the organization, the cavalry training course was transformed into a cavalry squadron with Rotmistrz Julius Kleeberg at its head. The artillery training course was turned into a six gun battery under the command of Leutenant Stefan Mazurkiewicz, the supply train training course was converted into a squadron of supply train. These sub-units were put at the disposal of the Commander of PSZ by the Training Inspectorate. The numbers, according to a new etat of July 1, 1918 was 15.838 men, including 458 officers, 1.927 NCOs and 13.453 men and troopers. Necessary reinforcement through legionnaires, beeing discharged from the camps and willing to serve plus further recruitment of new volunteers proceeded very slowly, caused by the cautious attitude of Polish society, and by the unrelenting position of the Central Powers, including their uncompromising predatory exploitation of the Polish territory and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed with the nationalist Ukrainian People's Republic. A slight increase in the personnel of PSZ can be seen October 12, 1918, when in its ranks were registred 5.165 men, including 352 officers and 4,813 non-commissioned officers and men.
On the other hand significant progress was done by the Military Commission, working with the Regency Council under the direction of the Prelate Francis Radziwill and becoming the germ to the future Ministry of Military Affairs.
A clear change in the history of PSZ was seen only in the final period of the war, when the defeat of the Central Powers was in no doubt. Emboldened, the Regency Council on 7 October 1918 released an address to the Polish people announcing the imminent "fulfillment of the never outdated aspirations of the Polish people for complete independence."
It also called on General von Beseler for the development of PSZ into a 50.000 men strong army. The request was submitted on October 11, and the next day was announced a new oath content, by which the soldier had to swear "to the Polish State and the Regency Council, acting as the temporary deputy for the supreme power of the future Polish State." In the new oath, there was no repeating of faithful keeping any botherhood in arms with the German and Austria-Hungary armies and those countries allied with them. In itself the re-inauguration ceremony was seen as the harbinger of the new Polish Army and took place on October 16, 1918. As formal Commander of PSZ was still referred to the German General Hans von Beseler. Just five days later he decided to resign from this position, ie on October 21.
Expanding of the PSZ after von Beseler
After the departure of General Beseler, the process of transforming PSZ into a fully Polish Army was accelerated. The Military Commission took over, as already authorized on October 17 by the Regency Council, to serve as Ministry of Military Affairs. It established its own Military Cabinet responsible on all personnel matters. The October 26 decree from the Military Commission orderes that all officers from all officers from any former Polish formations could enroll in the Army. While further recruitment was assumed to be based on the initial recruiting proclamations of September 26, 1918, the Military Commission was also required to submit proposals to fill new military posts and appoint a General Staff as well as working on the project of the expansion of the army
Preparation of appropriate organizational projects were handled by Major Vladimir Zagorski, who was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. He also took over the management of organizational issues and had to do so until a new Commander in Chief could be appointed. The intentions, suggested by Zagorski on organization, were modest. They planned forming one division of infantry, a cavalry regiment, an artillery regiment and sixteen squadrons of the provincial cavalry. Date to complete this scheme was set for February 1919. Colonel Minkiewiczowi was, after promotion to General, intended to become the Division Commander. The implementation of these plans was dependent on the consent of the General Beseler, who still interfered in organizational matters of the Polish army as Governor-General of the German occupation areas in the Polish Kingdom. The realization began with Regency Council decree of 19 October 1918 on the calling up recruits of the year 1897.
The position of the of Regency Council was difficult, as it was compromised by its previous cooperation with the Central Powers. And was also hampered by its tough stance towards Germany in territorial questions concerning the Polish Kingdom and the increasing importance of the National Democratic Party. In this situation, the Council failed to establish a coalition government, as announced in the proclamation of October 7.
This meant that Józef Świeżyński, who was a representative of the National Democratic Party, instead played the organiser of the new government.
The position as Minister of Military Affairs in the government was reserved for Pilsudski. Until he returned from the fortress prison in Magdeburg, the position was held by Colonel Jan Wroczyński, an officer from the I Polish Corps in Russia. The Swieżyńskiego Cabinet was appointed on October 23, and the appointment of Colonel Wroczyński took place on 4 November 1918.
When the decisions on the appointment of Pilsudski as Minister of Military Affairs took place in the new goverment, only the Military Commission existed, which already on the 25th of October, had appointed a General Staff led by General Tadeusz Rozwadowski. Already he had started the development of the Polish Army. On 2 November 1918 the PSZ had a strenght of 477 officers, 1007 NCOs and 7748 men.
The new Polish Armed Force was equipped with German weapons. The main weapons were the "Mauser", M. 1898 together with the German "Maxim", M. 1908. The artillery used the German 77 mm field gun M. 1896. In fact all military equipment was of German origin, even the uniforms were in German grey, but was given some special Polish, so for instance the maciejówka cap. On the PSZ Uniform Regulations of 1917 with plates, see http://siberia-miniatures.ru/forum/showthread.php?fid=22&tid=345
The training of PSZ was based on the regulations and experiences of the German Army.
The defense theories consisted of continuous system of trenches in three lines, spaced about 2 to 3 km connected by liaison trenches. The major defensive position was the first trenche line, because the rifle was the primary combat weapon. The decisive factor was the third trench, giving the soldiers shelter during the enemy artillery preparations preceding an attack.
When attacking, the PSZ infantry should approach the enemy having two steps between the individual soldiers. Attacks were distinguished by being very aggressive, advancing firing and ending with cold steel. An attack started from the rear of the marching columns, which gave greater
efficiency, when deploying into attack lines against fortified positions on the field.
An attack was trained with the following phases: closing in, attack, storm and pursuit.
The closing in zone was located beyond the reach of the fire arms and machine-gun of the enemy line and approached in column formation. Firing lines were first deployed when in the enemy fire zone. The attack was supported by artillery fire and the infantry lines advanced gradually by jumping from one position to another whilst firing. The storming was expected to begin, when the artillery shifted their fire on the enemy positions further back. It was to be made in one leap and was expected to turn into fighting involving hand to hand combat.
Pictures to follow.