During the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, cavalry formed 10% of the Polish Army. Cavalry units were organised in 11 cavalry brigades, each composed of 3 to 4 cavalry regiments with organic artillery, armoured unit and infantry battalion.As mobile reserves, the Polish cavalry proved itself a successful measure in filling the gaps in the front and covering the withdrawal of friendly units. Polish cavalry units took part in most of the battles of 1939 and on several occasions proved to be the elite of the Polish Army.

Although the cavalrymen retained their Szabla wz. 1934 sabres, after 1937 the lance was dropped and it was issued to cavalrymen as a weapon of choice only. Instead, the cavalry units were equipped with modern armament, including 75 mm guns, tankettes, 37mm AT guns, 40mm AA guns, anti-tank rifles and other pieces of modern weaponry.

Polish uhlan with wz. 35 anti-tank rifle. Military instruction published in Warsaw in 1938.

Apart from countless battles and skirmishes in which the Polish cavalry units fought dismounted, there were 16 confirmed cavalry charges during the 1939 war. Contrary to common belief, most of them were successful.

1) The first and perhaps best known happened on September 1, 1939, during the Battle of Krojanty. During this action, elements of the 18th Pomeranian Uhlan Regiment met a large group of German infantry resting in the woods near the village of Krojanty. Colonel Mastalerz decided to take the enemy by surprise and immediately ordered a cavalry charge, a tactic the Polish cavalry rarely used as their main weapon. The charge was successful and the German infantry unit was dispersed.

2) September 1, 1939 - Battle of Mokra - 19th Volhynian Uhlan Regiment took by surprise the elements of German 4th Panzer Division, which retreated in panic. During the charge, lances were used. In fact, the cavalry charge in the traditional sense was neither planned, nor executed. The mounted infantry rode over behind the attacking German armor in behind the tankettes with the tank men throwing smoke grenades to cover the approach. Indeed, the mounted infantry did repel the German support infantry and forced part of the German armored regiment to continue to advance while deprived of the infantry support.

3) September 1 - Battle of Janów - 11th Legions Uhlan Regiment on a reconnaissance mission encountered a similar unit of German cavalry. Lieut. Kossakowski ordered a cavalry charge, but the enemy did not accept battle and after a short clash withdrew towards their positions.

Photo courtesy by Artur Osiak (Polish Military Channel - Wadera)

4) September 2 - Battle of Borowa Góra - 1st squadron of the 19th Volhynian Uhlan Regiment encountered a squadron of German cavalry in the village of Borowa. A charge was ordered, but the Germans withdrew.

5) September 11 - Osuchowo - 1st squadron of the 20th Uhlan Regiment of King Jan III Sobieski charged through the German infantry lines to avoid encirclement, and broke through. There were negligible losses on both sides.

6) September 12 - Kałuszyn - 4th squadron of the 11th Legions Uhlan Regiment charged overnight at the German positions in the town of Kałuszyn. Although the charge was a mistake (the Polish infantry commander issued a wrong order which was understood as a charge order while the cavalry was meant to simply move forward), it was a success. After heavy casualties on both sides, the town was retaken in the early morning.

Photo courtesy by Artur Osiak (Polish Military Channel - Wadera)

7) September 13 - Mińsk Mazowiecki - 1st squadron of the 2nd Regiment of Grochow Uhlans charged German infantry positions, but was repelled by German MG and artillery fire.

8) September 13 - Maliszewo - 1st squadron of the 27th Uhlan Regiment was engaged in heavy fighting near the village of Maliszewo. After the Germans were beaten and started to retreat towards the village, the Poles charged and took the village along with a large number of German prisoners.

9) September 15 - Brochów - elements of the 17th Greater Poland Uhlan Regiment charged towards the German positions to frighten the enemy infantry. Shortly before reaching the range of enemy weapons, they dismounted and continued their assault on foot; the attack was successful.

Photo courtesy by Artur Osiak (Polish Military Channel - Wadera)

10) September 16 - Dembowskie - a platoon from the 4th squadron of the 17th Uhlan Regiment charged towards a small German outpost located around a foresters' hut. The small number of Germans withdrew.

11) September 19 - Battle of Wólka Węglowa - Most of the 14th Regiment of Jazlowiec Uhlans (without its MGs and AT platoon) was ordered to probe the German lines near the town of Wólka Węglowa. After elements of 9th Regiment of Lesser Poland Uhlans arrived, the group was ordered to charge through the German lines to open the way towards Warsaw and Modlin for the rest of Polish forces who were withdrawing from the Battle of Bzura. The Poles charged through a German artillery barrage and took the German infantry by surprise. Polish losses were high (205 killed and wounded), the German losses remain unknown, but the Polish unit broke through and was the first to reach Warsaw after the Battle of Bzura.

Photo courtesy by Artur Osiak (Polish Military Channel - Wadera)

12) September 19 - Łomianki - recce squad of 6th Mounted Artillery Detachment charged through the German lines in the town of Lomianki and paved the way for the rest of the unit to Warsaw.

13) September 21 - Battle of Kamionka Strumiłowa - 3rd squadron of the 1st Mounted Detachment (improvised) charged through German infantry who were preparing to assault the Polish positions. The preparations were paralysed and the Germans withdrew.

14) September 23 - Krasnobród - 1st squadron of the 25th Wielkopolska Uhlan Regiment charged towards the town of Krasnobród. After heavy casualties, they reached the hilltop on which the town was located. A unit of German organic cavalry from the German 8th Infantry Division countercharged from the hill, but was repelled and the Poles captured the town and took the HQ of the division, together with its commander and about 100 German soldiers. 40 Polish combatants previously taken prisoner by the Germans were also freed.

Photo courtesy by Artur Osiak (Polish Military Channel - Wadera)

15) September 24 - Husynne - reserve squadron of the 14th Regiment of Jazlowiec Uhlans (some 500 sabres), reinforced with an improvised cavalry unit of police and some remnants of divisional organic cavalry, was ordered to break through the Soviet infantry surrounding the Polish positions in the village of Husynne. The charge was led by the mounted police, and the Soviet forces withdrew in panic. However, the attack was soon halted by a strong Soviet tank unit. Casualties were similar on both sides.

16) September 26 - Morańce - 27th Uhlan Regiment twice charged an entrenched German infantry battalion in the village of Morańce. Both charges were repelled with heavy casualties (the Poles lost 20 KIA and about 50 wounded, German losses are unknown). After the second charge the Germans sent out a soldier with a white flag and, after a short discussion with the Polish commander of the Nowogródek Cavalry Brigade, the Germans withdrew.

In the following superb reenactment movie filmed on the occasion of the 75º anniversary, you can watch an amazing Polish cavalry charge against German forces during Battle of Łomianki happened on 19 September 1939. This film was filmed by the Polish Military Channel - Wadera.


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