View Full Version : Poland vs Russia 1919-1920

07-19-2004, 11:29 AM
Because some our Russian friends here dont know much about this war i put this thread. Any contribution is welcomed. Keep BS and flames out or i will ask mods to lock thread.

State Entry Exit Combat Forces Population Losses
Poland 1919 1920 200000 28000000 25000
Russia 1919 1920 3600000 133000000 105000

An armed struggle between the Bolsheviks and Poland resulted from Russian attempts to carry the revolution westward and from Pilsudski's federalist policy. The Great Powers failed to pursue either an all-out intervention against the Bolsheviks or a policy of peace. An Allied proposal for a temporary border between Bolshevik Russia and Poland (called the Curzon Line) was unacceptable to either side. Except for an alliance with the Ukrainian leader Symon Petlyura (April 1920), whose troops accompanied the Poles as they captured Kiev in May, Poland fought in isolation. An offensive by the Red Army drove the Poles back to the outskirts of Warsaw, but the country was saved from catastrophe by Pilsudski's counterattack on August 16 (the "Miracle of the Vistula"). In the compromise Peace of Riga (March 1921), the Bolsheviks abandoned their plans to communize Poland, but the Poles had to abandon their federalist concepts. The new border, which corresponded roughly to the 1793 frontier, cut across mixed Ukrainian and Belarusian territories. In the north it included Wilno, captured by General Lucjan Zeligowski, a move that dug a chasm between Lithuania and Poland.


Russo-Polish War (1919-20), military conflict between Soviet Russia and Poland, which sought to seize Ukraine. It resulted in the establishment of the Russo-Polish border that existed until 1939.

Although there had been hostilities between the two countries during 1919, the conflict began when the Polish head of state Józef Pilsudski formed an alliance with the Ukrainian nationalist leader Symon Petlyura (April 21, 1920) and their combined forces began to overrun Ukraine, occupying Kiev on May 7. In June the Soviet Red Army launched a counteroffensive, reaching the former Polish border by the end of July. In a wave of revolutionary enthusiasm, Soviet forces advanced through Poland to the outskirts of Warsaw (early August). The western European powers, fearing that the Russians might succeed in establishing a Soviet government in Poland and perhaps proceed to Germany, sent a military mission, headed by the French general Maxime Weygand, to advise the Polish army. The Poles counterattacked in mid-August and forced the Russians to retreat.

An armistice was signed in October 1920. The Treaty of Riga, concluded on March 18, 1921, provided for the bulk of Ukraine to remain a Soviet republic, although substantial portions of Belorussia (Belarus) and Ukraine were ceded to Poland.

Data from:

David Lehmann
07-19-2004, 12:07 PM
About the French advisors and the creation of the first Polish armored unit :

The French General Weygand had been sent to Poland to help Marshal Josef Pilsudski in 1919-1921 against the Bolsheviks. He was leading 600 other French officers who adviced/helped Polish troops during 1919/1921 in all the branches of the Polish army against the soviets. But these officers and the men who went with them also fought with their Polish comrades against the Soviets.
De Gaulle who was captain at that time for example spent 22 Months in Poland during 1919-1921. Other exemples of officers in Poland in 1919-1921 : capitaine Albert Marchand, capitaine de Monthelie, lieutenant Jean Dufour, capitaine Perré (commander of the 3rd company, 2nd battalion of the 1st Polish tank regiment), lieutenant Delbaux, capitaine R. Vogneron, lieutenant Bertat. Perré (an other man very important in the history of the French armored units beside Estienne, De Gaulle etc.) was the commander of the 2e DCR during the 3rd attack on Abbeville in June 1940 (interesting is to note that Abbeville was finally only liberated in 1944 by the 1st Polish armored division of general Stanislaw MACSZEK, History is funny sometimes).
In Poland Perré commanded a Polish FT tank company (and after a battalion I think) and was later member of the French advisors staff HQ introduced in the Polish HQ. Other men very close to Perré were with him in Poland : C. Poniatowski and Jean-François Perrette for example. They were officers in 1940 in the 2e DCR, I don't know their rank in 1919-1921. J.F. Perrette had been wounded in a French Schneider tank in 1918 and was again wounded in Poland in 1921 when he was commander of a Polish FT-17 against the Soviets.
Some French officers and soldiers, after WW1 and Poland saw also action during the Rif war from 1921 to 1926 before having to face the Germans.

The Headquarters of the Polish Army in France issued the first order commencing the formation of the 1st Tank Regiment on March 15, 1919 using the historical opportunity, which presented itself after the end of the First World War. The fall of all three powers : Russia, Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire involved in partitioning of Poland allowed for the formation of strong and independent Polish armed forces.
The French provided the equipment and the officers of the 505e RCC (Regiment de Chars Combat) which served as a seed around which the Polish regiment could be built. The formation of the unit commenced on March 22, 1919 in Martigny-les-Bains in the department of Vosges. Ethnic Polish volunteers from France and the USA as well as Polish prisoners of war from German and Austro-Hungarian armies filled the ranks of the regiment. The Poles never before had their own armored unit ; hence they had to rely on the knowledge and expertise of French instructors. The unit was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Jules Maré (from March 21, 1918, until October 15, 1919) and later by Lieutenant colonel Adolf Engel.
Introductory work on the formation of the unit was completed by May 1, 1919. The regiment boasted 120 Renault FT tanks (The Renault FT tank was a brainchild of French General Jean-Baptiste Estienne) ; at that time the best armored vehicles in Europe. It was the first modern and one of the most successful tank of World War 1. This light tank was the first of the classic tank design which featured a turret with a 360-degree traverse. The FT-17 was often used in mass attacks. The main task of tank units was to eliminate machine gun nests and destroy barbed-wire obstacles, enabling infantry to cross no-man's-land. The principal advantages of the Renault tanks were their small size (hey could enter forested areas, where larger British Mark V or French Saint Chamond and Schneider were useless), agility on the battlefield, and large numbers.
The 1st Tank Regiment consisted of 5 companies each with 24 tanks. Each company had 3 platoons with 5 tanks each, one tank for the commander of the company, 5 replacement tanks and 3 tanks in the supply-and-recovery section. Each platoon received three tanks with 37mm SA18 guns and two with 8mm Hotchkiss machineguns. The regiment also had an organic workshop, and transportation sections. The commander of the unit was Lieutenant-Colonel Jules Maré, a former commander of the French 505e RCC. The 1st Regiment was transported by train to Poland between June 1st and June 16th, 1919. On the arrival in Poland, the 1st Regiment numbered 34 officers and 354 NCOs and men of the French and 11 officers with 442 NCOs and men of the Polish. The process of gradual taking over the unit by the Poles began in October of 1919.
The 2nd Company of the 1st Battalion was the first unit engaged in the battle. The 2nd company, with 24 tanks, supported action of the 58th Infantry Regiment of the 14th Wielkopolska Division, against the Bolshevik forces defending Bobrujsk (Bobruysk) on August 19th, 1919. The unit was instrumental in breaching the Russian lines and opening the way for an infantry attack. On August 28th, 1919, tanks accompanied by the infantry columns entered Bobrujsk to the enthusiastic welcome of the local population. The company was fighting under French Captain Dufour and all officers in the unit were French. After successful action, the tanks were transferred by train north, where the 2nd Company helped the 1st Legion Infantry Division in the storm of the forts of Dyneburg (Dvinsk). Lieutenant-Colonel Jules Maré has directed this action personally, sometimes leading his tanks on foot.
Most of the French personnel departed back to France after their subsequent return to Warsaw, though some French officers remained as advisers. The 1st Tank Regiment did not take part in the fighting until the spring of 1920.
The most important developments in which the Renault FT tanks participated during the battle of Warsaw took place around Radzymin, east of the capital. The II platoon 5th company, from the reestablished 3rd Tank Battalion, assisted in a counterattack of 1st Litewsko-Bialoruska Infantry Division at Radzymin. Fighting at Radzymin was prominent in stopping the main Soviet thrust to capture Warsaw.
The Polish Army turned to the offensive on the morning of August 16th, 1920. They sliced through the weak defenses of the Mozyrska Group and turned northeast in order to encircle the Soviet forces storming Warsaw. By that time three companies with six tank platoons were gathered in Major Nowicki's Armored Group. The task of this new unit was to open communications between capital and Mińsk Mazowiecki to the southeast of Warsaw. The advance from Miłosna toward Mińsk Mazowiecki started on August 17th, with two tank companies attacking, one on either side of the railway tracks. Tanks were assisted by infantry and three armored trains. The enemy was quickly defeated and thrown back.
The Armored Group was next assigned to the 18th Infantry Division with the task of cutting off retreating III Cavalry Corps, which attempted to avoid encirclement by slipping east along the East Prussian border. Major Nowicki, established a cordon defense between Ciechanow and Mlawa using three armored trains, two tank companies on flat cars as improvised armored trains and one tank company patrolling on the ground. Polish forces were surprised when the III Cavalry Corps attacked on the foggy morning of August 22nd. Major Nowicki was killed by artillery fire in the armored train "Danuta" and Bolshevik cavalry broke through. Although successful this time, Ghai-Khan was finally pressed against East Prussia and forced to cross the border.
The 2nd Battalion, which did not participate in the Battle of Warsaw, defended Lvov and joined the offensive of the 6th Army in Ukraine. Tanks helepd in capturing Zadworze and Sknilow. After completing this task tanks returned to Lvov and did not take part in subsequent fighting. The 1st Tank Regiment was placed in reserve, where it stayed until cessation of hostilities.
During the fighting in Poland, Renault FT tanks were subjected to prolonged mobile operations unlike in the Western Front. Only 8 tanks of the total number of 120 were permanently lost in combat, mainly because they could not be recovered from the battlefield. This speaks highly of the tank's durability and skills of mechanics who, in primitive conditions, repaired and refitted tanks keeping them operational. Soldiers of the 1st Regiment were awarded 34 Crosses Virtuti Militari, the highest Polish award for bravery on the battlefield.
The 1st Tank Regiment was dissolved on August 11th, 1921 and three independent tank battalions were created in its place. The day of June 1st was established as the day of the Polish Armored Forces and celebrated until September 1939.

After defeating the Red Army in 1921, Poland was proclaimed by international military experts as having the 4th most powerful army of the world, though this rating did not last for long. To compare, the USA were considered at that time a 19th rated power, weaker than Portugal. With a peace treaty ended the Russo-Polish war in 1921, and the Polish armored forces were reorganized along French lines. While the armored cars were given to the cavalry, the tanks became part of the infantry and were established into a tank regiment composed of 3 battalions.

Interesting book in Polish about the French Military Missions to Central Europe 1919 - 1938 :
Francuskie Misje Wojskowe w Panstwach Europy Srodkowej 1919 - 1938
Author : Tomasz Schramm
Published : Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu, seria historia Nr.143, Poznan 1987
ISBN 83-232-0033-5
ISSN 0554-8217
Book is in Polish but contains French resume and numerous citation of French documents.

http://geocities.com/witekjl/ (text from Mr Witold J. Lawrynowicz)
(note in the text he talks about Major Joules Mare but it is in fact Lieutenant-Colonel Jules Maré from the French army).

About the FT-17 tank :
During WW1 the Germans only produced 20 tanks, the British about 1300 tanks and the French about 4000 tanks (mostly FT-17/18c and FT-17/18m). The Renault FT-17 is the first modern and one of the most successful tank of World War 1. This light tank was the first of the classic tank design which featured a turret with a 360-degree traverse. Thanks to the small size of the tank they could enter forested areas, where larger British Mark V or French Saint Chamond and Schneider were useless. The FT-17 was often used in mass attacks. 480 were used in the counterattack near Soissons in July 1918 alone.
The main task of tank units was to eliminate machine gun nests and destroy barbed-wire obstacles, enabling infantry to cross no-man's-land. The principal advantages of the Renault tanks were their small size, agility on the battlefield, and large numbers. French troops praised their support by the light tanks and demanded it in every operation. Although tank - infantry cooperation was poor due to lack of training, nevertheless, infantry units always requested the support of the tanks in every offensive operation.
Renault FTs took part in 4356 engagements. Field guns were the main threat to the tanks, accounting for 356 totally destroyed Renaults, of 440 lost during the war. The other threats were : mines, tank traps, and the Mauser antitank rifles. Antitank trenches, shell holes and wide infantry trenches temporarily put more tanks out of action than direct engagement with the enemy.
This tank remained in service right up to 1944 when the Germans used them in the street fighting in Paris. The allies encountered a few following the Torch landings in 1942.
The FT-17M was armed with a 8mm Hotchkiss MG and in 1931 it was replaced by a Reibel MAC31 in 7.5mm, the FT-17C was armed with a 37mm SA18 L/21 gun and the FT-17BS had a short barrelled 75mm BS gun. There was also a command radio version (TSF), a FT-17 "char demineur" (one of the earliest minesweeping tanks with 2 plough shares mounted on the front to sweep mines out of the way.), a "char projecteur" (a searchlight variant for police use) and a version carrying fascines which could be dropped into wide trenches. About 3728 had been built until 1921 (2100 with MG, 1246 with 37mm gun, 39 with 75mm gun, 188 TSF, 155 for "school" units) and more than 3177 during WW1 alone.
The FT-18, close to the FT-17 was distinguished by the cast cylindrical turret, whereas the FT-17 has an octogonal one. It has been widely exported : Italy ( and the Fiat 3000 was a duplicated of the French FT-17 produced after WW1 and used for example during the Spanish civil war), USA, USSR, Belgium, Spain, Brazil, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Holland, Japan, Poland. It has been used by the French and the Spanish armies during the Rif war between 1919 and 1926 and by the Polish 1st tank brigade with French officers in 1919-1920 against the Red Army. 1560 were still on hand in 1940 in the French Army and about 723 in operational units in metropolitan France and in the colonies. The Germans used them under the name Panzerkampfwagen 17R/18R 730(f) many were used in security task on the rear lines, in armored trains or were given to the Luftwaffe as snow plows for airfields.
weight : 6.7t
crew : 2 men
maximum armor : 22mm
maximum speed : 7.5 km/h
autonomy : 35 km
armament : a 8 mm Hotchkiss TMG (50x96 cartridges belts), a 7.5mm MAC1931 TMG (34x150 cartridges drum magazines), a 37mm SA18 L/21 gun (240 shells) or a L/9.5 75mm BS gun (probably 40-50 HE shells)


http://www.chars-francais.net/archives/ft17_mit.htm (MG version)

http://www.chars-francais.net/archives/ft17_canon.htm (gun version)

http://www.chars-francais.net/archives/ft17_divers.htm (various versions)

Here a site about FT-17s used by Spain during the Rif War :

The FT-17 manual :