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Thread: Polish cavalry attack on a tank-brigade?

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    Post Polish cavalry attack on a tank-brigade?

    There are many "myths" that surround the September 1939 Campaign. The widespread notion that the Polish cavalry engaged in foolhardy attempts to charge German tanks(actually reported by the Italian press and used as propaganda by the Germans), in September 1939 is misleading. There were few isolated cases where Polish cavalrymen tried to break out between the tanks rather than surrender; but, as a rule, cavalrymen dismounted and operated like infantry before each engagement. Horses were used for transportation and were kept behind battle lines during an engagement.
    One of rare charge was conducted by 300 men division from 18 Ulans Regiment in Krojanty in Pomerania against 800 picnicking soldiers from 2nd Ger. Mot Div. It was very successfully but some Germans still fired from MG mounted on transporters (hidden in close forest) so retreat was a must. This fact of retreat (of course with some loses of 25 people) was a beginning of myth of charges against tanks. In the Guderian diaries you can find reports form the commander of the German Motorized Division which begged to be allowed to withdraw in the face of "intense cavalry pressure." The pressure was being applied by a force (regiment of Polish Pomeranian Cavalry Brigade) one tenth the size of the German division by (sic!). Guderian was furious and asked if they have ever heard that German Pomeranian renadiers flee in the face of enemy cavalry.
    In fact polish cavalry were not such foolish as you think to attack tanks with sabers or lunches. 10 Polish cavalry brigades – 2 of them already motorized were relatively small units of 6-7 thousands soldiers but were good equipped with antitank weapons and quite successful in defense against Germans. First real encounter of Polish cavalry and German tanks occurred on 1st of Sept. 1939 As German forces surged into Poland, the 4th Panzer Div. approached Mokra, a hamlet surrounded by forest just north of Czestochowa in Southwestern Poland. Already dismounted and dug-in, Colonel Filipowicz's defending Wolynian Cavalry Brigade braced for the onslaught. The brigade mustered 3 of its four regiments as well as 18 bofors 37mm anti-tank guns, 16 old Russian 3-inchers and 60 antitank rifles to combat the 4th Panzer's 295 tanks and 50 armored cars. That morning Polish gunners blasted the oncoming enemy with 75mm wz.02/26 field guns while Polish dragoons fought it out in close quarters using antitank rifles and hand grenades. Stung by the surprise resistance, the attackers fell back to plan an afternoon riposte. It soon came in the form of a preparation barrage, followed by tanks and infantry. The German Blitzkreig was still in its infancy, leading to a lack of coordination. Still, the attackers came very close to breaking through the Polish lines. As the situation deteriorated, Colonel Filipowicz hustled ammo in person to the overworked 37s. a futile tankette charge was mounted by Major Glinski's 21st Armored Group. Just when all seemed lost, fire support from the armored train ‘Brave’ proved decisive. At dusk on september 2nd, the fields around Mokra were littered with the smoldering hulks of 50 panzers. The 4th panzer would have to try again.
    The other myths are- alleged destruction of the Polish Air Force on the ground, or claims that Polish armour failed to achieve any success against the invaders. In reality, and despite the fact that Poland was only just beginning to modernise her armed forces and had been forced (by Britain and France) to delay mobilisation (which they claimed might be interpreted as aggressive behaviour) so that, at the time of invasion, only about one-third of her total potential manpower was mobilised, Polish forces ensured that the September campaign was no "walk-over". The Wehrmacht had so under-rated Polish anti-tank capabilities (the Bofors anti-tank gun was one of the best in the world at that time) that they had gone into action with white "balkankreuz", or crosses, prominently displayed in eight locations; these crosses made excellent aiming points for Polish gun-sights and forced the Germans to radically rethink their national insignia, initially overpainting them in yellow and then, for their later campaigns, adopting the modified "balkankreuz" similar to that used by the Luftwaffe. The recently-designed 7TP "czolg lekki", or light tank, the first in the world to be designed with a diesel engine, proved to be superior to German tanks of the same class inflicting serious damage to the German forces, limited only by the fact that they were not used in concentrated groups. They were absorbed by the Germans into their own Panzer divisions at the end of the campaign.
    Another myth is that campaign was won in 14 days. Britain and France, standing by their alliance with Poland, had declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939 but didn’t fulfill the agreement to lunch full attack on almost defenseless Sigfried Line from. Waiting for French offensive Poles reacted, holding off the Germans at Kutno and regrouping behind the Wisla (the main natural defense line) and San rivers. Polish counterattack at Bzura lunched on 13th Sept. destroyed 30th Ger. Inf. Div. reaching Lodz but was stopped in face of Soviet invasion.
    On September 17th. Soviet forces invaded from the east. Warsaw surrendered 2 weeks later, the garrison on the Hel peninsula surrendered on October 2nd., and the Polesie Defence group, after fighting on two fronts against both German and Soviet forces, surrendered on October 5th. In fact cavalry brigades were elite troops and rarely surrendered. Last regular cavalry forces of famous Olympic champion Mjr Hubal-Dobrzynski were destroyed in 1940 after the fall of France. The Poles had held on for twice as long as had been expected and had done more damage to the Germans than the combined British and French forces were to do in 1940. The Germans lost 50,000 men, 697 planes and 993 tanks and armoured cars.

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    Was it a myth?. Historic records show that in the German invasion of Poland, some Polish cavalry attacks succeeded in outflanking German armour and caused devasation amongst pedestrian infantry.

    My father's town was captured by Germans within half an hour of WW2 starting and he witnessed horse drawn units near the border (cavalry from both sides of the conflict in that starting-point to WW2 ) and in the 'fog of war' cavalry defeating or outflanking tanks could have occurred as the 'myths' state.

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