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|| THE POLISH LEGIONS (August 1914 - April 1917)
translated from “Zarys Dziejów Wojskowości Polskiej (1864-1939)”, Wojskowy Instytut Historyczny, Redaktor Piotr Stawecki, Warsawa 1990.
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Polish Legions, the Polish Central Military Archive (Centralne Archiwum Wojskowum - CAW), which has preserved the most valuable and largest collections of archives concerning the Polish Legions, materials collected in 30 different ensembles and collections reaching almost 200 meters.
All this material will be digitized and put on the internet, both for the Polish and Polish Legion Auxiliary Corps from 1914 to 1918.
Another extremely important group of archives including the Polish Legion is about the iconography of about 11 thousand. objects. It contains a collection of loose photographs developed and digitized collections Polish Legions No. 13, No. 66 Jozef Pilsudski, No. 77 images. It also includes themed albums with photographs and glass negatives. In addition to well-known of our publications, we have a unique photographs illustrating warfare brigades legion - battles, marches, battle stations and daily life in the trenches and internment camps, military ceremonies, religious.
More information on all this can be found at:
In World War I tens of thousands Poles took part by voluntarily enlisting in the Polish volunteer formations organized on both sides of the front.
The primary motive for their decision was an expectation that the armed conflict between the partitioning powers would bring lots of tragic events, but at same time it also gave some hope for improving the national situation.
They thought it their patriotic duty to take an active part in the conflict and so contribute to the fight for the Polish cause. These hopes, nourished by a sacrificial and ideological Polish youth, were not based on any specific assurances, as the warring powers had no intentions to re-establish an independent Poland and neither gave the Poles any specific promises, even though they were aware that the war would be fought largely on Polish soil. The negative attitude was fully testified by the empty words directed to the Polish nation in the proclamations by the Commander of the Russian Army, Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich, on 14 August 1914 and from the High Command of the Austro-Hungarian Army on 9 August, being followed by the joint proclamation from the Headquarters of the Austro-Hungarian and German Armies announced at the same time.
The first Polish volunteer formations were raised among Galician riflemen, being formed into the Polish Legions. The forming of rifle drużyns - inspired by Pilsudski - was preceded by confidential discussions, which he previously had held with Austrian military officials. From the these discussions can be seen, the Austrians hoped above all to get help in the intelligence field and through sabotage actions. Polish participation in regular warfare they did not expect and certainly did not want.
In the meantime other, more far-reaching plans loitered among the organizers of the Polish rifle druzyns led by Jozef Pilsudski. They hoped the war would end with a defeated Russia and they dreamt of a then following Polish independence.
They hoped, perhaps it would be possible to assemble the lands earlier annexed by Austria and Russia (seen as the Polish heart lands) to form an independent Polish state, or at least to transform the two-part Austro-Hungarian monarchy into a three-pronged Austro-Hungarian-Polish monarchy.
To this purpose and to stimulate an anti-Russian uprising in the Polish Kingdom by expanding the rifle drużyns into one, large formation, they could act as cadres for a new-born, national Polish Army. Creating such an army was part of their concept for an Austro-Polish solution to the Polish question, as the Hungarian state, which was part of the Habsburg monarchy, had its separate national military formations.
Soon it was clear that the insurgent plan of Pilsudski and his concept for the creation of a Polish Army were not feasible.
On July 30, 1914, when the war already was being fought on the Serbian front, Pilsudski issued his first mobilization orders to the Rifle Association and the Polish Rifle Drużyns, of which he already had taken command the previous day. As concentration point for the the men of the Rifle Association and Rifle Drużyns was appointed Krakow, and the assembly was to be in the buildings of the Oleander Sports Park.
The influx of volunteers was quite impressive. Already in the first week of August about 3.000 riflemen turned up.
On August 3, Pilsudski, together with the Headquarters Chief of Staff of the rifle drużyns, Kazimierz Sosnkowski, organized the cadre of 1. Company, having an equal number of riflemen from the Rifle Association and the Rifle Drużyns.
It was led by Tadeusz Kasprzycki, who after a few days was replaced by Casimir Herwina-Piatka.
On August 6 was given order for general mobilization of the Rifle Association and the Polish Rifle Drużyns. The day ended with one rifle battalion, commanded by Albert Scaevola-Wieczorki, soon to be replaced by Mieczyslaw Norwid-Neugebauer.
Further organizational steps were taken in the Bolmina Region near Kielce to raise a larger formation under the command of Pilsudski.
It had several sub-units:
I Battalion - Mariana Żegoty-Januszajtis,
II Battalion - Mieczyslaw Norwid-Neugebauer,
III Battalion - Edward Rydz-Smigly,
IV Battalion - Tadeusz Wyrwy-Furgalski
V Battalion - Michael Karaszew-Tokarzewski
and two squadrons of cavalry (Władysław Belina-Prażmowski and Marcel Śniadowski),
an intelligence service unit,
a military police unit and
a supply unit.
The size and organizational structure of the formation went far beyond the framework of an infantry regiment and for that reason quite commonly was referred to as "Group Pilsudski".
This rifle formation was established in a situation not favorable to it.
When it, lead by Pilsudski, entered the Polish Kingdom in its Kraków and Kielce action, Pilsudski was counting on support to the “spontaneous” action, as well as to an outbreak of an uprising – and not least the effect of his (usual) policy of a "fait accompli".
The population in the Polish Kingdom responded only warily to Pilsudski's action, so it did not bring the expected results. In this situation the intentions of Pilsudski hung in vacuum and his troops were facing disbandment.
13 August 1914, the Austrian military authorities issued an ultimatum, demanding the cessation of any independent actions by Pilsudski and announced the incorporation of his units into the Austro-Hungarian Army.
The situation in Galicia for the Polish volunteer corps was no success.
The mobilization order issued by Pilsudski was obeyed without any reservations by only parts of the Rifle Association. Part of the Polish Rifle Drużyns did not want to join his troops, despite their Supreme Headquarters loyally was following Pilsudski.
Especially this was seen in Eastern Galicia, mainly influenced by activists from the National Democrats and the right-wing Podolacys, who were not enthusiastic about creating any Polish military formations to fight against Russia.
Both political parties were forced by the circumstances to keep a loyal attitude towards the Austro-Hungarian Empire. They decided to try to control the militant movement in Eastern Galicia and prevent any active and organized actions against Russia.
Mainly their attention was focused on the active Falcon and Bartoszowej drużyns.
These two organizations set up a joint high command, which was led by the former Falcon Inspector, Lieutenant-Colonel Piotr Fiałkowski. Following his announcement of mobilization about 5.000 volunteers turned up in Lwow.
The military action undertaken by Pilsudski in Kraków and Kielce, together with the controlled military actions in Lwow led by the National Democrats and onservatives in Podolia, were the factors, which led to break the existing Galician passive official attitude. On the initiative of Julius Leo the NKN had been set up, and 27 August 1914 it was ordered to establish the Polish Legions.
The High Command of the Austro-Hungarian Army decided that two Legion formations were to be organized:
the Eastern Legion, created in co-operation with the East Galician section of NKN
the Western Legion, organized by the West Galician section of same committee.
It was envisaged each Legion would have two or three cavalry squadrons and two infantry regiments each with four battalions of 1.000 volunteers each. The Western Legion included the existing troops of Pilsudski, which would protect them from disbandment.
Austrian generals of Polish descent took command of both Legions.
At the head of the Eastern Legion stood General Adam Pietraszkiewicz and the commander of the Western Legion was General Raymond Baczynski.
The Legions used Polish command language and the uniform pattern continued as it had been in the rifle societies, but they did not receive any official Legion colours. (Such snub does not matter much to Poles, as I. Legion let made their own, a very fine one to that.ts) It was acceptet that platoon leaders and company officers were elected, while higher command levels got officers appointed by the Austrian military authorities. The Austrian military authorities also supplied arms and equipment.
Establishing the Legion seemed a success. A considerable influx of volunteers in Krakow soon helped to form the 2nd Infantry Regiment, of which Colonel of the Reserve, Zygmunt Zielinski got the command.
Its battalions were commanded by:
I Battalion - Captain. Marian Januszajtis (recalled from 1st Infantry Regiment)
II Battalion - Captain. Szczesny Rucinski,
III Battalion - Captain. Kazimierz Fabrycy,
IV battalion - Captain. Bolesław Roja.
Also was set up a reserve battalion under the command of Francis Pększyc-Grudzinski.
The raising of the Eastern Legion ran into troubles, caused by a negative attitude from the National Democratic Party and the Podolakóws, stiffened by the failures of the Austro-Hungarian Army, which was defeated in the battles of Krasne and Gniła Lipą at the end of August 1914.
In this situation, units of the half-formed Eastern Legion had to leave the Lwów on August 29 and march over Sanok and Jaslo to reach Mszany Dolnej, north of Nowy Targ.
Here for the first time erupted passionate disputes over the oath matter, as it demanded submission to Austrian military authorities, and then, on September 21, the Eastern Legion was disbanded. Most of the legionnaires were incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Army, and from the rest, about 800 men, was formed two infantry battalions, whose commanders were:
I Battalion - Captain. Joseph Haller
IV Battalion - Captain. John Kozicki.
Soon two more battalions were formed
II Battalion - Paul Kittay in Chocznia by Wadowice
III battalion - Second Lieutenant Stanislaw Colonna-Walewski in Krakow.
Both these battalions were part of the 3. Regiment commanded by the Austrian Lieutenant-Colonel Homiński.
Events relating to the liquidation of the Eastern Legion also led to the removal of the previous commanders (Pietraszkiewicz and Baczyński), and the command over all the legionaire troops took General Karol Trzaska - Durski. He commanded only the 2. and 3. Infantry Regiments, ie units which immediately were sent to the eastern part of the front, but in practice, from 26 November 1914 to 11 March 1915 it was a tactical group led by Trzaska-Durski and Haller.
1. Infantry Regiment remained under the command of Jozef Pilsudski (in November he received with the rank of Brigadier), fighting in lands of the Polish Kingdom.
On their way to the East-Carpathian part of the front, the infantry was accompanied by cavalry raised partly in Przegorzały near Cracow by Rotmistr (Captain) Zbigniew Dunin-Wąsowicza (2nd Squadron) and partly in Krakow by Lieutenant Julius Klasterski (3rd Squadron), as well as an artillery batallion (dywizjon) under Lieutenant Mieczyslaw Jełowicki consisting of three batteries (Second Lieutenant Karol Nowak, Lieutenant Konrad Kostecki and Lieutenant Casper Wojnar).
To the the East-Carpathian front were also sent small reinforcement detachments.
The units sent from Krakow arrived on September 30, 1914.
On way to the front Lieutenant-Colonel Homiński resigned and the East-Carpathia units started their fighting under the command of General Trzaska-Durski.
Meanwhile, the troops led by Pilsudski were sworn in on September 5 in Kielce, as demanded by the Austrians as militia.
After organizing the NKN and forming the Polish Legion, Pilsudski, first subordinated General Baczyński, later General Durski, with his troops took part in the fightings in the Polish Kingdom. At the same time, in cooperation with the PON, he attempted to maintain an independent attitude towards the NKN and the Command of the Polish Legion
The founding of the I Legion Brigade is dated 15 November 1914, ie when Pilsudski was given the rank of Brigader by the High Command of the Austro-Hungarian Army, but the actual assembling date of the troops assigned for I Legion Brigade was not until December 19, 1914, when they were sent for a rest in Nowy Sacz.
The I Brigade had an unusual organization structure for the Austro-Hungarian Army:
1. Infantry Regiment - Major. Edward Rydz-Śmigły,
2. Infantry Regiment - Major Mieczyslaw Norwid-Neugebauer
3, Infantry regiment, Major. Mieczyslaw Trojanowski.
The numbering of the regiments do not coincide with the nomenclature used by the Head Command of the Polish Legions, as the 3. Iinfantry Regiment only informally existed, and the 2. Infantry Regiment was treated as the 5. Infantry Regiment.
In the brigade was also the cavalry unit of Rotmistrz (Captain) Władysław Belina-Prażmowski, the II Artillery Battalion commanded by Captain Otakar Brzoza-Brzeziny and the relevant auxiliary subunits.
The forming of II Brigade was preceded by lengthy considerations on the organization, when the troops were stationed for rest in Kołomyja (March-April 1915) and in accordance with Order No. 226 of May 8, 1915 from the Legion High Command.
The tactical command of this group, including the already mentioned units, took initially General Boleslaw Zaleski and the Austrian Colonel Ferdinand Kuttner.
The III Brigade was set up, organized according to same Order of May 8, 1915. It was manned in same way from the rifle associations in the Polish Kingdom, mainly from the Piotrkow and Radom areas.
It was organized in
4. Regiment - Lieutenant Colonel. Bolesław Roja, from April 15, 1915,
6. Infantry Regiment, Major Witold Rylski, from May 8, 1915
3. Cavalry Squadron - Lieutenant Julius Ostoja-Zagorski,
Artillery Battery - Lieutenant Jana Bolda
with corresponding subunits and auxiliary facilities.
Organizing the Brigade was done by Colonel Wiktor Grzesicki.
After forming the III Brigade, the organization of the Polish Legions remained quite quite stable. Disturbance came first in the summer of 1916 in connection with the political game played by Pilsudski, caused by the increasingly importance of meeting the demands put forward for independence. Stressing his leaving from the concept of the Austro-Polish solution to the Polish question, July 29, 1916, Pilsudski submitted an ostentatious proclamation on leaving the Legion, which after several weeks of delay was approved by the Supreme Command of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
After the departure of Pilsudski, which took place on September 27, 1916, the Legion was reorganized. This was done in accordance with Order No. 105/3 of 29 September 1916 from the Polish Legion Command, which established a new organizational structure.
I Brigade - Colonel. Marian Januszajtis,
1. Infantry Regiment - Colonel. Edward Rydz-Śmigły
2. Infantry Regiment Lieutenant Colonel. Michael Żymierski
II Brigade - Colonel. Joseph Haller,
3. Infantry Regiment - Colonel Sikorski
4. Infantry Regiment of Colonel Bolesław Roja
III Brigade - Col. Stanislaw Szeptycki, later Colonel Zygmunt Zielinski
5. Infantry Regiment - Lieutenant Colonel. Leon Berbecki
6. Infantry Regiment - Major. Andrew Galica.
Further 1. Lancers - Major Władysław Belina-Prażmowski
2. Lancers - Major Julius Ostoja-Zagorski
together with 1. Artillery Regiment - Major. Otakar Brzoza-Brzeziny and the relevant supply units and ancillary services.
THE ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE BEHIND THE LEGION
The authorities responsiblefor the Polish Legions were: Headquarters (Komenda), Headquarters Group (Komenda Grupy) and the Military Department of NKN (Departament Wojskowy NKN). The existence of the Polish Legion Headquarters, which developed initially as Headquarters of the Legion in the West, dates back to August 27, 1914.
The scope of its powers had no permanent effect. In the initial period, prior to the establishing of II and III Brigades, it was a tactical command for only those units, who fought in the Eastern Carpathians and the authority responsible for matters of military-administrative provisions relating to the formation of the whole Legion. Its tasks were fulfilled by Staff, Administration, Commissariat and Service Department.
The Staff, dealing with tactical issues was led by Captain.Wladimir Zagórski with two assistants and two orderly officers.
The Administration was led by Dr. Michael Wyrostek taking care of correspondence and release of press reports.
The Commissariat was led by Headclerk Emil Kasperlik, dealing with account and store issues .
The Service Department took care of the discipline (audytoriat), battle training, records, the medical service, the gendarmerie – field police, the pastoral work and the veterinary service.
In the summer of 1915 the leadership of the Polish Legion was somewhat hemmed, caused by issues relating to the existence and activities of formations and establishments in the rear areas recently having been taken over by the newly created Headquarters Group of the Polish Legions (Komenda Grupy Legionów Polskich).The new organization structure was finaly made in mid-1916. The Staff had 3 staff officers with a telephone department, an artillery department and a technical and office department taking care of all the usual administration concerning military life.
Commanders of the Polish Legions were in turn:
General Raymond Baczyński (2 September - 27 September 1914),
General Karl Trzaska-Durski (28 September 1914 - 28 January 1916),
General Stanislaw Puchalski (4 - 13 November 1916),
Colonel Stanislaw Sheptytsky (14 November 1916 – 26 April 1917) and
Colonel Zygmunt Zielinski (27 April - 28 August 1917).
On 29 August 1917 the legion affairs were taken over by the Austrian General von Schilling under the name "Command General-Lieutenant von Schilling".
An important role also played the Headquarters Group of the Polish Legion (Komenda Grupy Legionów Polskich), appointed March 22, 1915 and existing to February 1917. This Headquarters, headed by Colonel Wictor Grzesicki initially and from 25 August 1915 by Colonel Zygmunt Zielinski, was representing the Military Department of NKN, III Brigade and a substantial part of the formations and facilities in the rear areas.
The Military Department had a limited influence over both the Polish Legions and the Headquarters Group of the Polish Legions. In matters of principle, mainly political, the Department was under the Austrian Kaiserlich-Königliche High Command and in all of military and military-administrative matters – and both mentioned legionary commands.
The Department had kompetence to work with recruitment (Centralne Biuro Werbunkowe) and publications (Centralny Urząd Ewidencyjny) together with relief issues for legionnaire's families. Further the Department printed military publications for serving soldiers, press releases, about health service and financial issues, agitated for recruitment and told about the branch offices in Cracow, Lvov, Oświęcim and Vienna.
The Polish Legion Headquarters (Komendzie Legionów Polskich) administered the institutions and establishments in the rear land, while the Headqurters Legion Group (Komendzie Grupy Legionów) took care of attendance to the companies, battalion convalescents, supplementing the battalions I, II, III, IV, the garrison troops in Piotrkow and also various magazines, establishments in the rear and rallying points.
The tactical unit of the Polish Legions were the brigade. At their head was a permanent command, which consisted of: the leader, called the Commander, the Chief of Staff, an intendanture clerk and a technical clerk.
Until September 1916, the organizational structure of the brigades, was characterized by a fairly significant heterogeneity. Stemming not only from the fact that in the I Brigade were three regiments of infantry, while the two other brigades had only two each, but also a different internal composition of their infantry regiments, which meant a considerable fluency. The individual infantry regiments included further: a cavalry half-regiment, - dywizjon, an artillery battalion - dywizjon (in the III Brigade only a battery), two pioneer units in platoon strength (in the First Brigade the sapper company had three platoons), a communication platoon (telephone), a supply-train sub-unit, an ammunition column, the sanitary facility (in the I Brigade a sanitary unit), a sanitary column, a field bakery, a staff cavalry-platoon, a staff infantry platoon and a veterinary unit.
The command structure of the infantry regiments was quite large. The staff consisted of an adjutant, regimental doctor,, weapons officer, proviant officer, head of regimental records, Supply officer (prowianturą) and economic section.
The regimental Staff was higher command to: registration NCO, NCO for the topography, and Liaison NCO inspection, orderlies pedestrians, jacks and kitchen, as well as the commander, who had prowiantową section, Section intendentury (included shoemaker workshops and saddlers cobbler) and Section of the weapon and the gunsmith workshop.
The internal structure of the regiments in I Brigade and the two other brigades was not identical. The I Brigade regiments, led by Pilsudski, had each two batalions, while the other regiments from the beginning each had three batalions. Each battalion command had same organizational structure with a Commander, usually with the rank of Captain, who was served by: Adjutant, a battalion doctor, a trumpeter, an economy sergeant and a NCO in charge of the mail. Identical composition was also in the batalions. In I Brigade the battalions usually had three companies with three platoons each. In the two other brigades, in accordance with the established etat, each battalion had four companies under the command of an officer, each with four platoons commanded by officers. The battalion etat was 24 officers and 817 other ranks.
Development of the Organizing brigades legion was accompanied by efforts aimed at creating the formation of the cavalry. Their existence dates back to August 1914, were formed when the first three squadrons of lancers, namely:
1. Squadron rtm. (rotmistr - Captain) Władysław Belina-Prazmowski,
2. Squadron rtm. Zbigniew Dunin-Wąsowicz and
3. squadron cf Julius Klasterski.
The Belina-Prazmowski squadron accompanied the Pilsudski troops and was on 12 November 1914, formed into 1. Cavalry Dywizjon, having two squadrons (Gustav Orlicz-Dreszer and Janusz Gluchowski), and squadrons Wąsowicza and Klasterski were sent back in the Eastern Carpathians, where in June 1915. were converted into II cavalry dywizjon. His command took rtm. Dunin-Wąsowicz, replaced after his death by rtm. Jan Dunin-Brzezinski. At the head of squadrons stood: por. Jerzy Topór-Kisielnicki (2 squadron) and por. Klasterski (3 squadron). In the composition of II dywizjon survived until the spring of 1917, accompanying troops in combat operations II Brigade of the Polish Legions.
Meanwhile, I cavalry dywizjon was gradually transformed into a larger entity. January 29, 1915, the 3. Squadron was formed, and 23 November same year – came the 4. ancer squadron. At the head of the extended in this way, the dywizjon was still Maj-Prażmowski Belina and in the individual squadrons exercised command: Stanislaw Thunder-Skotnicki, Mariusz Zaruski, Janusz Głuchowski. January 15, 1916 on. I Lancers dywizjon was renamed the 1. Lancers.
The III Cavalry Dywizjon of III Brigade dates back to September 1915. This cavalry unit was formed in the Polish Kingdom and led by Julius Ostoja-Zagorski with: 5. Squadron Lieutenant Joseph Dunin-Borkowski and 6. Squadron Rotmistr Albert Kordecki.
Each regiment had further subunits of sappers, machine guns, staff and the appropriate repair shops for weapons and equipment. According to the standard etat each regiment on active service should have 32 officers and 749 NCOs and troopers.
Forming the legion artillery began in September 1914.
As a result of the organization work were formed the beginnings to five batteries in two dywizjons, namely:
1 Artillery Dywizjon - Captain Mieczyslaw Jełowicki, with 1. Battery - Karol Nowak, 2. Battery - Jełowicki (he also functioned as gun commander in the battery) and 3. Battery - Casper Wojnar.
II Artillery Dywizjon - Captain Otakar Brzoz-Brzeziny, with 5. Battery - Wladyslaw Jaxy-Rożen and 6. Battery - Marcel Śniadowski.
In the first months of 1915 the I Artillery Dywizjon was reorganized. As result the Mountain Artillery Battery of Lieutenant Wiktor Gosiewski and the Battery Wojnar
were put under the command of Lieutenant Jan Maciej Bold at Yezhov near Piotrkow.
Autumn 1915, a new I Artillery Dywizjon under Captain Jełowicki with two batteries (Jan Maciej Bold and Lieutenant Wladimir Łapicki) was formed. Further batteries were formed - 3. Battery (Lieutenant Kacper Wojnar), 4. Battery ( Anthony Trzaska-Durski) and 5. Battery (Przemyslaw Barthel de Weydenthal). On 6. Battery (Alexander Hertel) and a mounted horse battery (Edmund Knoll-Kownacki) together with a III Artillery Dywizjon were also started.
December 1915 all the units were amalgated as the 1. Artillery Regiment.
After a few months of re-organization came a partial rearming. As a result of these changes, carried out by order No. 22 947/1 of 28 April 1916 from High Command of the Austro-Hungarian Army, the 5. and 6. Battery together with the mountain battery were dissolved and instead formed a light howitzer dywizjon with 12 guns In addition to the three dywizjons in the !. Artillery Regiment was formed an ammunition park together with . appropriate repair shops, depots and a medical unit.
After the III Brigade basically the expansion of the Polish Legions was completed. They were by The Austrian authorities treated the formation as common militia, composed of volunteers generally not subject to compulsory military service and having a separate legal status. Their special specifics were initially: Polish command, special uniforms, uniforms modeled after the riflemen and with the purpose only to fight the Russian Army. Polish was declared the official language.
From October 2, 1914 the legionary formations were entitled to veterans' rights, as decided by the Austro-Hungarian Government, a legal note on this was sent to the governments of neutral countries.
Earlier, it had been very dangerous for the legionaries, if taken prisoners fighting the Russian Army, as they very possible could be executed for high treason, but from now on they were to be treated in accordance with the international laws.
The imperial rescript of 4 December 1914 further announced the legionnaires same rights and obligations as all soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The regulations were not followed, resulting in the special regulations for the legionaries, so the Legion officers initially did not wear stars as rank distinctions, like regular Austrian officers, but had to make do with same rosettes as worn by Austrian military officials. This was rather absurd in service connections, as it implied legion officers had to subordinate officers and even NCOs of the Austrian army.
For this reason the legionnaire were treated as despicable species. The Austrian military, as Pilsudski bluntly stated, treat Legionnaires “as rabble, human rags”.The mutual relations between the legionaries and the Austro-Hungarian army developped into a very antagonistic manner.
In autumn 1915, the legion formations reached the culmination of its development. I Brigade numbered 5.500 men, II Brigade - more than 5.000 men and III Brigade almost 6.000 men. In all brigades served more than 15.000 legionaries, of which only the 9.500 were in the active formations. The units and establishments in the homeland, not part of the brigades, together with the enlisting apparatus counted about 10.000 legionnaires.
The Polish Legions were unique military formations, mainly caused by their social composition. From registration material compiled in November 1914 it shows that of 11.480 legionnaires on the personnel lists, 6.085 were intellectuals and 5.395 volunteers from other social environments, including 2.128 from the workers class, 2.442 craftsmen and 825 of all kinds of farmers. It further indicated the intellectual character of the officer corps. The Polish Legions had, when turned into military formations, an eminent character of bourgeois intelligentsia. This trend also continued thereafter.
The composition of the officer corps of the different brigades was very diverse. In I Brigade, the officers were dominated by men coming from the military organizations bend on independence, mainly from rifle druzyns and orgamizations. In II Brigade was a lot of former officers from the Austrian Army and III Brigade was dominated by students from the Legion's own officer-schools.
Also the recruitment to the Polish Legions was uneven. It was based on voluntary enlistment from the Polish territories, as well as from abroad, including from Austria and Hungary. Most of them were, of course, volunteers from Galicia and the Polish Kingdom. The I Brigade recruited volunteers on its own, while the two others received theirs through the NKN enlisting commissariats and from the reserves.
The origin of each brigade's officer corps, the replenishment system, the impact of Jozef Pilsudski and the devotion to him by his officers, were the factors which contributed to the special nature. I Brigade was a formation internally cohesive and utterly devoted to its commander, Brigadier Pilsudski. Fighting for the idea of independence, formed by the poets in “Młodej Polski” ("Young Poland”) and the historiography on the Polish independence.
After being met by the lukewarm attitude from the society in the Polish Kingdom, came in the I Brigade a deep psychological crisis, compounded by a failure of political and military concepts and developments in Pilsudski's war. Later, it was an inseparable part of the soldiers in the formation and made them think for themselves of political decay, as well as the build-up of the cult leader.
The confrontation of the riflemen's youthful enthusiasm with silent attitude of the society in the Russian zone, started a feeling of contempt for the environment in the environment of the I Brigade.
But the main opposition in the legion ranks was directed against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The attitude of the officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers I Brigade was characterized by their disregard for the discipline in the Austro-Hungarian Army, as well as a sense of confidence and superiority to soldiers serving in the other formations, even the legion formations.
I Brigade soldiers sometimes are attributed to have a socialist character. Their ideology actually can be summed up as a petty-bourgeois intelligentsia radicalism. The slogans did not mean independence in a economic or social content, but they marked the mutual egalitarianism and democracy by their use of the term "citizen", which was used as an expression of friendliness among the officers and men.
Similar, although to a much lesser extent, were the views in the III Brigade. This because it remained under the ideological influence of the Pilsudski and saw him as their leader.
The II Brigade had a different view on the world, as it had a lot of Austrian officers and was trained according to the regulations of the Austro-Hungarian Army. Its soldiers fighting alone in foreign territories also nurtured the idea of Polish independence as their aspirations, but did not identify this with the personality of Pilsudski, as it was done in the I and III Brigades. II Brigade as a whole were passionately devoted to the war service and mastering the intricacies of military craftmanship. The ranks of the III Brigade was burning with perseverance to fight against all odds in the hope, it would bring the best benefit for the Polish cause
Weapons, equipment and supplies
Problems with weapons, equipment and supplies put the Legion into an extremely difficult position. The Legion stemmed from the Galician paramilitary organizations, which only disposed over modest means of material and financial resources, only enough modern Mannlicher rifles to arm the men of its 1st Company, which consisted of just 162 riflemen. In same way the stock of other military equipment was very modest, purchased with private means. So when the rifle units were transformed into Legion units, they primarily had to rely on supplies from the Austrians and the generosity of the Polish society. From arrangements, made before the war, between Pilsudski and representatives of the Austrian military authorities, it was clear the Legion would only receive weapons and ammunition.
The first units of the later I Brigade, with the exception of the 1st Company, carried outdated, single-shot 11 mm Werndl rifles without bayonets. After arriving in the region of Szczucin, which happened September 10, 1914, the 1. Regiment of the Polish Legion got 8 mm Mannlicher rifles, M.1888. The regiments of the future II Brigade set out for the front with three kinds of guns. Part of legionnaires received Werndl rifles, some modern Mannlichers and the rest 6.5 mm Schönauer rifles, a Mannlicher variant intended for export to Greece.
In April 1915, all units of II Brigade had been equipped with Schönauers, in mid-August they received Mannlichers - and then in October they again were re-equipped with Schónauers. The Schönauer rifles were distinguished by an excellent design, but were easy to contaminate. Poor quality ammunition was used with them and frequently caused accidents with severe injury to the hands and faces.
III Brigade came into the field with the Russian Mosin carbines, M. 1891, adapted to Austrian munitions. This resulted in continuous jamming magazines and necessitated single loading.
The Command of the Polish Legion and its individual commanders exhibited persistent efforts to harmonize all the weapons and equipment in the Legion with Mannlicher rifles, which were seen as the best.
By diligent efforts was enabled a gradual implementation through collecting guns abandoned on the battlefield by Austrian comrades. This kind of collecting gave its best results at Jabłonką (20 and 21 October 1915). Before leaving Baranowicz for the Polish Kingdom, which happened 27 - 29 November 1916, the Mannlicher rifle had become .prominent in the Legion. Other types of rifles, mainly Russian, were only used by the supply train, subunits and in the etape. Upon arrival in the Kingdom, the whole Legion was rearmed with German rifles of type Mauser, M. 1898.
The first formation in the Legion which received machine guns, was a unit under the command of General Trzaski-Durski. This took place in December 1914 at Okórmezó. The I Brigade and the troops of Colonel Haller first received machine-guns in February 1915. A large number of machine guns were later captured in combat operations. They were converted in German armaments plants or exchanged for Austrian machine-guns. Since mid-1915, each regiment of the Legion had at least three units of machine-guns (2., 3. and 4. Regiments even had eight units). Each unit was equipped with two machine-guns. Also the cavalry regiments received machine-guns, 2 pieces each.
7 cm Gebirgskanone M.75
Since September 1914, the Legion had artillery at its disposal. Initially, all batteries were equipped with obsolete mountain guns, 7 cm Gebirgskanone M.75, with a firing distance of 3-4 km. They had a strong recoil, and sometimes even broke down after having fired. The guns were withdrawn only after the exhaustion of ammunition, which took happened in December 1914.
Then the Batteries of I Brigade received the 8 cm. field gun M. 1905. The batteries fighting in the Carpathians were equipped in a patchy manner, namely: 1. Battery received M. 1875/96, 2. Battery had 37 mm mountain-guns and 3. Battery had 8 cm fieldguns, M. 1905. Later all the legion batteries were rearmed with 8 cm fieldguns. In the summer of 1915 was formed a battery of horse artillery, assigned to 1. Lancers. Later a subunit was formed with two batteries of horse artillery, equipped with field howitzers M. 99.
Ammunition was transported to the battlefields by so-called ammunition trains, which used up to 30 - 50 horse drawn carts. Since autumn 1915, the brigades had three such ammunition trains at their disposal, each cart holding 50 cartridges for each rifle at hand and 10 000 machine-gun cartridges. Every soldier was carrying 200 cartridges, and in each field ammunition cart were also 100 cartridges for each rifle together with 10 000 machine-gun cartridges.
Artillery ammunition was provided by two separate ammunition trains, capable of carrying 80 projectiles for 8 cm fieldguns and 300 projectiles for the 37 mm mountain guns.
Initially matters concerning equipment and supplies for the rifle units turned into legion formations were solved ad hoc, but were to a large extent regulated, on the 5th August 1914, when a special body began to function as the Polish Army Commissariat. Part of the of equipment needs, felt by the tactical group of Pilsudski operating in the Kielce area, were solved on their own.
At the end of September 1914 the activities of the Polish Military Commissariat were taken
took over by the NKN Military Commissariat Department. At the same time the commissariat at the Headquarters of the Polish Legions began to function. This commissariat mainly supplied the Polish Legion when fighting in the Carpathians and their undertakings were handled in the hinterland of the local front. The NKN Commissariat realized the needs of the Pilsudski units and new formations were organized in Krakow.
November 10, 1914, the Commissariat plant of NKN was moved from Krakow to Trzyniec in Cieszyn Silesia and from May 1915 moved to Radom, which was turned into the Central Magazine of the Polish Legion. The Polish Legion Headquarters Commissariat began to assume the role as central body for equipping the Legion with material. The intensification of this process occurred on July 24, 1915, when the Headquarters Commissariat was moved from Piotrkow to Kovel, when II Brigade was on the front of Volyn.
The Activities of the Commissariat was under the patronage of the Polish Military Treasury, supported by so-called Civic Committee in Krakow, which mobilized the society to make sacrifices in cash and valuables and donations in kind.
Substantial revenues were also broughtin through public appeals.
The Polish Military Commissariat was located in Krakow, in the building of the Agrar Bank in the Main Square. It had at its disposal temporary warehouses and workshops for metal work, saddlery, garments, caps, underwear, shoes and factories for sweaters and backpacks. In all these establishments employed about 500-600 persons. Most of them worked for free. These were mainly women, residents of Krakow. The basic raw materials came from purchases.
Gray-blue uniforms were made of cloth, sometimes referred to as gray, according to the designs used before the war in Polish rifle organizations. It consisted of a cloth caps - maciejówki cap and earmuffs (to be uses with the chapkas of the lancers); jackets with. half-standing collar with metal buttons, the buttons closing was covered, four pockets with flaps, simple pants, narrowing downwards, with stirrups (in cavalry breeches); laced leather shoes; ash-colored flannel shirts with taught collar and cuffed sleeves. Moreover, every Legionary was entitled to: 2 sets of ordinary underwear, a warm underwear set, a belt for the trousers, sweater, 2 towels, 3 handkerchiefs, coat and gloves. Equipment items were made according to standards developed by the Polish Military Commissariat.
The work in the Headquarters Commissariat was done in accordance with the standards in force in the Austro-Hungarian Army; based on their regulations and those of The Polish Military Commissariat. One source of supplies were deliveries from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had already started September 1, 1914 and delivered fairly regularly.
Supplying the Legion was in the beginning done in a temporary, improvized way by society groups in Cracow. On 5 August these matters were regulated by the appropriate department of the Polish Military Commisariat, from 25 August 1914 known as the NKN Commisariat Department. This organization dealt with supplying the volunteers mobilized from Cracow. Food stuff was funded by the Polish Military Treasury and then purchased by the NKN. In same way organized the department dealing with the purchases of oat, fodder and straw.
The supplying of Piłsudski's group was done differently. At first it was done mainly by requisitions. The commanders demanded the wanted supplies and paid with a signed requisition stamped with an eagle and the inscription on the band: "Polish Military Treasury" -„Polski Skarb Wojskowy".
An important role in this requisition system played the fictitious military police stations of the National Government and police stations of the Polish National Organisation (PON), invented by Pilsudski. Initially the requisition system was not based on certain regulations, so frequent there were misunderstandings with the local population.
26 August 1914, the Chief of Staff, Kazimierz Sosnkowski, partly normalised the system by banning requisitioning by sub-units smaller than a battalion. 8 September 1914 the formations entirely got their supplies from the Austro-Hungarian Army. The supply system followed the established norms.
Before marching out, the troops were to be given the so-called fundamental supply rations, consisting of one normal and two reserve rations. It was possible to refrain from the reserve rations only on order from the Command of Polish Legion or on order from the unit commander, but only if there was no other way to get food. Regulations provided for such situations, when the troops instead of a specific meal were to receive the appropriate amount in cash for consumption. Head of the supply apparatus was an officer, assigned by the Polish Legion Commissariat. His orders were carried out by regimental and battalion Provision Officers. Preparing the food took place in the companies.
From 4 August 1915 all supply matters for all the legion formations, then being on the Volyn front, dealt with by the Supply Office of the Polish Legion and under its supervision was organized a field bakery.
At its disposal it also had 6 supply train columns, each with 80 wagons. 4 columns were intended for ordinary and 2 columns for reserve food rations.
Foodstuff was collected – was delivered from the field magazines of the Polish Legion Command, supplemented with allocations from the Austro-Hungarian Army. The supply system of the Legion functioned efficiently, especially since March 1916, as the head
of the supply apparatus became the experienced professional, Colonel. Jan Zavrel.
After moving the Legion into the Polish Kingdom at the end of November 1916, the supply was taken care of by the German occupying military authorities, and according to German standards, which continued until the so-called.oath crisis.
Oofficers', NCO's and privates' pay were determined by the regulations in the Austro-Hungarian Army, on which pay the Legion remained from September 1914. (In I Brigade the regulations were not followed and instead was used a system based on equality of pay.).
January 2, 1915. all officers in I Brigade, regardless of rank, were from the brigade cash paid 100 crowns, and NCOs and privates 10 crowns per month. The pay of the NCOs and privates was after a few months adjusted to the Austrian regulations. The obtained financial surplus was then allocated for the purposes of POW.
Training and field tactics
Iinitially theLegion consisted mainly of volunteers, who had received military training in the Austro-Hungarian Army or in the Polish paramilitary organizations (the Rifle Unions, Polish Rifle Drużyns, Bartoszowe Drużyns and Falcon Field Drużyns). Military ranks obtained in the Austro-Hungarian or in the Polish paramilitary organizations and the level of training decided, who to become volunteer officiers and NCOs. Later legion formations did intensive military training conducted by its own means and methods. It was done in three main areas: improving the existing officer corps and training of new officers, all kinds of education and training of military specialists and special units.
Teaching of new cadres took place in schools for cadets and ensigns following the Austrian regulations or own ones, but modeled on the Austrian. Specialized education was done in a school teaching on commissariat, economic and administration and a school for accounting and supply officers.
The officers mainly improved their knowledge through self-studies. As the majority of the officers in the legion were graduates or university students from Galicia, this worked very well. The material used in the process were publications made by the most outstanding of the Legion officers, including such as Leon Berbecki, Mieczyslaw Dąbkowski, Tadeusz Felsztyn, Janusz Gąsiorowski, Roman Górecki, Charles Ticak, January Grzędziński, Marian Żegota-Januszajtis, Waclaw Jędrzejewicz, Edmund Knoll-Kownacki, Alexander Narbut-Łuczyński, Marian Porwit, Rowecki, Edward Rydz-Śmigły, Jan Jagmin-Sadowski, Adam Skwarczyński and Julius Ostoja-Zagorski.
Their military knowledge was passed on in separate publications, books and paperbacks, published under the "Military Library" of NKN Military Department or in the pages of magazines such as "Military Doctor", "Polish Military Review", "Military Review", "Sagittarius" "military News" and "Wiarus." („Lekarz Wojskowy", „Polski Przegląd Wojskowy", „Przegląd Wojskowy", „Strzelec", „Wiadomości Wojskowe" i „Wiarus",)
independent and printed articles in these journals were devoted to various areas of the military, especially on weaponry, topography, tactics, organization, administration, some were very technical on problems associated with the military medical service or issues on fortifications and defenses. A significant part of the publication were translations of foreign literature, professional articles, mainly by Austrian and German authors.
The military training was of a fundamental nature, involving primarily recruits and generally soldiers, but also to some extent non-commissioned officers were, by the autumn of 1916 trained on programs used in the Austro-Hungarian Army. The primary teaching aid the were regulations prepared before the war by the Polish paramilitary organizations or developed during the war and so also took in account the legionaires own fighting experiences. Among others were used, the regulations relating to formal drill, the weapon manuals and shooting principles, regulations on internal and garrison service, combat between different types of forces (infantry, cavalry, artillery, machine-guns) and different branches, like communication, sappers and reconnaissance.
The II and III Brigades were initially trained to be a supply of reserves.
A hard but effective school which ended in combat operations like those the I Brigade took part in from the beginning of the war. The judgement was that the II Brigade was the least politicized, but the best trained militarily. It is also a fact that all three brigades of the Polish Legion on the battlefield matched the excellent formations of the Central Powers. This is confirmed by many orders and comments from different Austrian and German generals.
The Polish Legion did not conduct big, independent actions, as being mainly an infantry. Force, On the battlefield infantry was supported by artillery fire. During an offensive infantry fought the enemy with small arms fire and machine-guns and broke the resistance by a final assault with bayonets. The tactical experience and the resulting methods of fighting gave the belief that machine guns at closer distances could replace artillery. Hence some underestimation of the role of artillery, with which neither the Austro-Hungarian Army nor the Legion were sufficiently equipped.
During an offensive infantry fought the enemy small arms fire and machine and broke the resistance of its final assault and attack on bayonets. The tactical views and the resulting methods of fighting force conviction that machine guns at closer distances may replace artillery. Hence, some underestimation of the role of artillery, in which neither the Austro-Hungarian army, nor the legion formations, were not sufficiently equipped.
In offensive actions was laid emphasis on "a steadfast will of perseverance", which was found to be a major determining factor in a fight, even if not having fire superiority over the enemy. Such views were among the reasons for the significant losses to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, especially in the first period of the war, when there unfortunately was a weakd military discipline. In the Legion, using similar tactical principles, losses were much lower. This was especially true for the troops of I Brigade, being skillfully led by their Commander.
During defensive operations the individual brigades in general were given a defend belt about 6 km wide. The defense was placed in three lines. The first line of defense had the strongest fortifications, powerful and placed as carefully as possible, if time permitted. Prominent defense points usually were reinforced with wood and earth shelters, sometimes even with concrete as at Kostiuchnowka.
|| THE POLISH LEGIONS (August 1914 - April 1917)
The combat operations of the Legion began on August 6, 1914, ie. when the 1 Company marched into the Polish Kingdom. Near Kielce the Pilsudski group came into contact with the 14. Russian Cavalry Division led by General Novikov and on August 12 fought its first battle ending in withdrawal into the areas of Bolmin and Rykoszyn. August 19 came the re-taking of Kielce. Less than three weeks later, they were directed to the left wing of the 1. Austrian Army (General Viktor Dankl) and on 10 September arrived in the Szczucin area. Here, now formed into the 1 legion Regiment, came more severe fightings, lasting several days near Nowy Korczyn, Opatow, Uściskowem, Grotniki, Winiary, Ksanami and Czarków.
At the end of September, the Austrian command decided to send the 1. Legion Regiment to the Deblin area. In the new position infantry detachments fought among others at Laskami and Anielin (22-26.10), and cavalry detachments near Lowicz (23.10), Lçczyca (28.10), Gostków and Tur (29.10) and at Maszów (5.11). A few days later, three infantry battalions and a reconnaissance detachment of cavalry performed a hazardous retreat from Wolbromia over Ulinę Małą to Krakow (9-11.11, while the other two battalions began a two-week action at Krzywopłotami (9-21.11). After these events, detachments of 1 regiment were sent by rail to Subcarpathia, to fight at Limanowa, Słopnicami, Czyżówkami, Bełdnem, Marcinkowicami, Pisarzowa and Zabrzezie (25.11 – 10.12). In these battles they had suffered significant losses, but received replacements and developed into the I Legion Brigade.
After a short rest in Nowy Sacz, the I Legion Brigade was sent to the front. In positions at Łowczówek it fought fierce actions with a strong Russian division, part of the XXI Army Corps (22-26.12). Then it came back to rest and quartered in Wróblowicach near Krakow, Lipnica Murowana, Górnej and in Zdonia, then from January 24, 1915 in Kety. From March 3 it occupied battle stations along the River Nida, fighting bloody battles among others at Sobowicami, Kopernica and Pińczów.
Further actions of the I Brigade were closely linked to the developments of the German and Austro-Hungarian offensive operations on the Eastern Front.
From 11 to 15 May it participated in pursuit of the retreating Russian formations after the after the breakthrough at Gorlice. During these activities the Legion cavalry fought several skirmishes having no tactical significance.
More serious fighting took place while west of Sandomierz, including at Beredziem, Swojków, , Przepiórów and Kamenyets. Especially stubborn and for this reason have the most publicity was battles at Konary and Kozinki. They were very persistent in nature and took place to 23 June 1915. More serious fighting occurred while west of Sandomierz, including at Beredziem, Swojkowem, Przepiórów and Kamenyets. The battles of Konary and Kozinki, taking place on 23. June 1915, got the most publicity by being especially stubborn and having a very lingering character.
In the last ten days of May and in June 1915 German and Austro-Hungarian troops had quite a few more victories, including at Stryj (31.5), retaking the fortress of Przemysl (3.6), at Lubaczów and Mościskami (12-15.6), at Gródek Jagiellonski and Magierowa (19.6). As result of these successes they took Lwow (22.6). Further successes followed at Bobrka and Bukaszowcami (23-28.6), on Gniła Lipą (29.6) and at Przasnysz in Mazovia (13.6). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Galicia
The Russian Army in the Polish Kingdom was threatened by encirclement and thus forced to retreat further. On some sectors of the front a new phase in the retreat started in the last ten days of June. Among other places the Russian Army had to abandon by the defensive positions along the river Nida. I Legion Brigade took part in the pursuit of the retreating enemy and fought successful actions at Włostow, Listow Bidzinam, Ożarów Sandomierz and Tarlow.
On 4th July the Brigade crossed the Vistula river near Jozefow and entered the Lublin area, where they for more than three weeks participated in the fightings on Wyżnianka, at Urzędow and Babin.
July 30, 1915 1. Cavalry Squadron led by Captain Władysław Belina-Prażmowski entered Lublin as first unit. The very next day began three days of fierce actions at Jastkow, in which together with the regiments of I Brigade also participated the 4. Infantry Regiment from the just formed III Brigade. Then the I Brigade supported by the 4 Regiment started in the pursuit and participated in some of the less significant battles.
August 27, 1915, they were directed to Volyn and 6 September same year reached Kovel.
Sub-units of 2. and 3. Regiment then were formed into the II Legion Brigade and took part in the fightings on the Hungarian section of the Carpathian front. Their primary task was to fight the Russian cavalry, who fought on the Hungarian Plain.
October 7, 1914, the 2.Regiment, commanded by Colonel Zygmunt Zielinski, received its baptism of fire and after having suffered almost no losses, dislodged the Russians from Marmaros-Sziget. At the same time, 3.Regiment, commanded by Józef Haller, was in reserve at Kiralyhaza. Adversaries to the legion units were from the 1. and 2.Caucasian Cossack Divisions.
Four days later, detachments of the 2.Regiment moved to the north and via the hard reachable Pantyr Pass began to penetrate over Carpathian Ruthenia into the Eastern Galicia, starting on a combat trail marked by losses and sacrifices.
October 16, 1914, they began to pave the way along this difficult trail (later becoming the famous Pantyr Road), and winning battles at Zielona and Rafajłową (19.10), Pasieczna and Pniów (23.10). The next day they took Nadworna and so were given the opportunity to exit to the southern foreland of Stanislav and Dolin. The results of this, already being a significant threat to the Russian troops on the left wing of the South-Western Front, fostered cooperation with the Division of General Attems from the Austrian National Defence, which began to push through the Tartar mountain pass. To the west of Nadworn, in the area of Bohorodczan and Bitkowa operated the IV battalion of 3.Regiment, commanded by Captain Boleslaw Roja.
The focus of the Legion and Austrian troops led to the vital Battle of Molotkow against 12 battalions of Russian infantry (15 000 men), supported by 24 machine-guns and 16 guns. from the 34. Russian Dvision, commanded by a Pole, Colonel. Kwieciński, and possessing 32 machine-guns and supported by further 48 guns together with a regiment of Cossacks. To counter these masses the 8 batallions the Tactical Group of General Karol Trzaska-Durski (2. and 3. Legion Regiment), supported by an Austrian Landsturm battalion and 14 guns.
The Legion formations did not have any machine-guns at all. Despite such a significant disadvantage, mainly technical, the Legion troops put up a good fight in the daily struggle and only in the evening withdrew to their fortified positions at Zielona and Pasieczna, where on 30 October and 2., 3. and 8. November again were fought fierce actions and the positions were held, until it was time for attacking.
On October 29, the Trzaska-Durski Group attacked the Russian positions in the outskirts of Molotkow. Polish 4.Battalion, commanded by Boleslaw Roja, managed to reach the center of the village, but was then stopped and forced to retreat. Meanwhile the bulk of both 2. and 3. Regiment, with some 6000 men, fiercely resisted 12 Russian infantry battalions (15 000 men), supported by 24 machine-guns and 16 guns. The Russians broke through the Polish positions, forcing both regiments to retreat in order to avoid encirclement.
Polish losses amounted to 200 dead, 300 wounded and 400 captured. The Russians lost 100 dead.
After the battles of Mołotkow, Zielona and Pasieczne the legion battalions were included in the two tactical groups. One of these groups, had two and a half battalions of infantry, an artillery battery and a cavalry platoon, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel. Haller, should protect the positions at Zielona. The second, with five and a half battalion of infantry, the rest of the cavalry and artillery, was referred to as the General Trzaska-Durski Tactical Group, was sent to other, more vulnerable sections of the front and, from 26 November to 8 December 1914, participated in combat operations in the Hutsul region. Here battles were fought at Jaworowa, Sokołówka, Uście Ryki, Jesionowa Górny, Dhabi and Kosmacz. The Durski battalions held back the attacking troops from the Russian 71. and 78. Infantry Divisions.
From 9 December 1914 to 10 January 1915, the tactical group of General. Trzaska-Durski, strengthened by Austrian Landsturm formations had a total of fourteen and a half infantry battalions, two cavalry squadrons and supported by 23 guns, participated in the so-called. Ókórmezó Campaign.
In addition to the battles fought in urban areas, it also fought at Kispatak, Csuszką, Slobodan, Fenywes and Szopko.
The weaker tactical group of Haller stayed at their previous positions and fought defensive battles at Beskid Klauz, Pasieczne, Maksymcem, Hłodyszczami, Rafajłową, Osmałodą and Bertianką.
January 10, 1915. the tactical group of General Trzaska-Durski began its two-month Bukovina-Galicia Campaign, which was a part of wider winter operations by the Austro-Hungarian Army, in order to unlock the siege of the Przemysl Fortress and regain the lost areas of Eastern Galicia and Bukovina.
Operating in an exceptionally hard enviroment, conditioned by the mountain climate, winter and with transport difficulties, it fought 24, mostly successful, fights and clashes in city areas such as Kirlibaba, Briaza, Moldovan, Selctin. Łopuszna, Berthomet, Lukawetz, Stăneşti, Giurgiu, Kniaz, Sniatyn, Bratyszewo, Niżniów, Jeziorzany, Jeziorzany, Tłumacz, Korolówka and Bortniki.
Also the tactical group of Colonel Haller,undertook offensive actions, fighting in the center of the position occupied by an army of General Carl Pflanzer-Baltin, operating on the right wing of the Austro-Hungarian troops. It waged successful battles in the valley Bystrica Nadwórniańskiej and Sołotwińskiej Bystrica, in the area of the following destinations: Maksymiec, Huta, Brohy, Pasieczna, Pniów, Maniava, Kryczka, Markov, Solotvyn, Horocholina, Żuraki. Pochówka, Bahorodczany and Niebytów.
After the end of the winter campaign both tactical groups merged and departed March 11, 1915 to rest at Kołomyja, where the force were renamed as the II Legion Brigade.
The Legion troops returned to the front in mid-April 1915 and occupied battle positions on the border of Bukovina and Bessarabia and held them until 12 May 1915. Four days earlier was published an official order to set up a II Brigade. Afterwards the formation continued with defensive battles along the Pruth and took part in fierce fightings in the area of Mamajesti and Kocmania. As results were taken Luzan and Rarańczy. The successes of the II Brigade came as part of the tactical group of Lieutenant-Colonel Pappa with the Austrian 42. Infantry Division.
June 13, 1915, the Division could not dislodge the enemy from its fortified positions and the Austrian command decided to attempt to break through the Russian front by a cavalry charge. Making this test fell to the two cavalry squadrons under the command of Captain Zbigniew Dunin-Wasowicz. The 2. Squadron commanded by him at Rokitna attacked three lines of Russian trenches. The charge was made with great bravado and is often likened to the famous attack at Somosierra. It was paid with heavy losses and did not bring the expected results, as it was not preceded by a proper knowledge of the situation and not adequately supported by the artillery and infantry. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge_of_Rokitna
It was not until the next day, ie. June 14, 1915, the II Brigade progressed. However, two days later they retreated to their starting positions. They did so in accordance with the order of General Ignaz Korda, commanding XI Corps of the Austro-Hungarian Army, in which the brigade was a part. J
une 17, the II Legion Brigade fought a fierce battle for Rarańcza and then for a few months participated in the actions around this position.
Most of the legion formations (I and III Brigade) had already fought on the Volyn front, mostly east of Kovel, including at Kreczowice and Czeremosznem. Since September 19, when Pilsudski demonstrated his insubordination, they fought in two separate tactical groups. One was commanded by Jozef Pilsudski and included 4. and 5. Legion Regiments.
The other group consisted mostly of I Brigade troops and was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Rydz-Śmigły.
The II Brigade was on 18 October 1915 ordered to the Volyn theater of war and shortly after met up with the Legion brigades already fighting here. Before that happened, the Pilsudski tactical group fought at Kopcza and Czebeniami and then until December 10 supported the Austrian cavalry corps commanded by General Herberstein and fought in positions on the Styr, including at Stowyhoroż (3.10), Kulikowicz and Komarow (18.10).
The tactical Group of Lieutenant-Colonel. Rydz-Śmigły fought at Bielska Wolą (29.9), Hołuzją (4-15.10), Jablonka (21.10), Kuklami (22-26.10) and Kamieniuchą (28.10). In the early days of next month, the group came under command of Lieutenant-Colonel. Kazimierz Sosnkowski and participated in the battles at Kostiuchnow (3-14.11). Afterwards the fragmented units of I Brigade joined again (23.11) in Kołkach and took part in the battles at Stowyhoroż (25.11-10.12).
II Brigade began its combat trail with operations in Volyn October 27, 1917 by fighting at Kostiuchnow, where it suffered significant losses especially in the battles of Wołczeck Hill, later known as Polska Góra (the Polish Mountain – and by the Germans named Polenberg in admiration of the shown Polish courage). These battles were soon crowned by winning at Kostiuchnów (10.11), later evolving into pitched battles on the Styr line.
The 6.Infantry Regiment began its combat trail on October 1, 1915 by fighting at the Kołodię village in Kostiuchnow. Then it fought at Jabłonką (20.10), Kuklami (21.10) and Kamieniuchą (29.10). December 15 it was amalgated with 4.Infantry regiment in the III Brigade, which until July 4, 1916 stayed in positions at Optow, NW of Kostiuchnów, where it participated in the actions with other legion formations.
I Brigade was assigned to the German 9. Cavalry Division, and throughout January 1916 it did recognaissance service. Later, it was moved to rest at Karasín and Leśniew at Maniewicz until April 28 and then sent to the Wołczeck area. On June 1., it relieved II Brigade in the combat positions at Kostiuchnow. It took over a complex strengthened with concrete, wood and earth, later known the Pilsudski Redoubt. In these positions it stayed until July 4, 1916.
On June 4, 1916 the Russian troops on the South-Western Front joined the big Brusilov Offensive. Initially, the Russians focused their main efforts in the area of Lutsk and Buczacz, but in the first ten days of July the vigorous offensive also turned in the direction of Kovel. This led to dramatic events, in which the Polish Legion brigades became a participant at Kostiuchnow.
The Legion formations were part of an Austro-Hungarian Army Corps, commanded by General Hauer. The II Legion Brigade was in reserve, while the I and III Legion Brigades remained in the front line from Kostiuchnówki to Optow. Their strength is estimated at 5,500 bayonets and 850 sabers. Fire support gave 26 of their own field guns together with 14 guns from the neighboring 53. Honved Division.
The Legion formations were attacked by the bulk of the Russian forces from the XLVI Corps of, namely all four of regiments of the 100. Infantry Division and three regiments from 77. Infantry Division, supported by attacks by the 16. Cavalry Division and 120 guns.
If the Russian divisions had full cadres, which may be doubted, as the Russian offensive action lasted for a month, the advancing infantry forces would be estimated at around 26.000 bayonets and a cavalry with about 3.000 sabers. It should be assumed that the Russians had roughly four times numerical superiority, which did not bode success for the legionary troops. Their fierce resistance from heavily defended positions,lasted for three days and ended with an orderly retreat, when their neighbours on the right failed (Honvédség), which led to the threat of encirclement of the legion formations.
On July 8, 1916 the Polish troops withdrew across the river Polisia, where they briefly rested.
July 15, 1916 the Legion formations were re-directed to the front line and took over the Stokhid battle stations, where they served for three months in a position, where the monotony only was interrupted by fightings on August 3, in the section of Wielisk-Sitowicze, with particularly severe fightings in the area Rudki Miryńskiej.
In early October 1916, the Legion troops were withdrawn from the front and sent by rail to Baranowicz. Departure of the II Brigade took place on 6. October.
In the following days were in succession also pulled out the I and III Brigade. The further fate of the legion formations is from now connected with the history of Polish Auxiliary Corps and the Polish Armed Forces, also known as the Polnische Wehrmacht.
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