Behind the Scenes of the Greater Poland Uprising

Distinctions and awards related to the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-1919 and the Greater Poland Armed Forces, introduced in the period of the 2nd Polish Republic

Jarosław Łuczak

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In 1931, the Greater Poland part of the organisation established a new, national veterans’ organisation named the Polish National Uprisings of 1914-1919 Veterans Union. The badge was modified with the addition of the letter “W” on the lower shoulder of the cross, and the dates: “1914” and “1919” on the side shoulders. The distinguished recipients received certificates with an inscription reading “Union Badge”.

A badge called the “Gallantry Cross” was awarded by the Former Greater Poland Armed Forces Volunteers Union operating in Poznań. In the centre there was a cavalry cross, painted with white varnish, which had the mottoes “BÓG” (“God”) and “OJCZYZNA” (“Mother Country”) and the dates: “1918” and “1919” on its shoulders, on a red, round shield there was a white eagle without a crown, and, on the reverse, there was the inscription “ZA WALECZNOŚĆ” (“for bravery”). The ribbon was most probably red.

The Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-1919 Participants Union in Katowice also awarded its own badge, entitled the “Honorary Cross of the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-1919 Participants”. It was in the shape of a cross with an elongated lower shoulder, painted with white varnish and edged with red varnish. In its upper part, there was the inscription “ZA” “ZASŁUGĘ” (“for merit”), and in the lower part there was a contour of an eagle without a crown. In the centre of the cross, there was a closed royal crown. Between the cross’s shoulders there were rays and elements of a wreath made of laurel leaves and fruit. On the plain reverse side, there was the inscription “WIELKOPOLSKA” and the dates: “1918” and “1919”. The badge was hung on a white ribbon with five light-blue stripes.

In the post-war period, the veterans of the uprising were gathered together in the Greater Poland Insurgents Union, recreated in 1946. In 1948, it was incorporated into the Union of Soldiers Fighting for Freedom and Democracy. It did not introduce its own badge. Its activity was inspired by the Greater Poland Insurgent Cross, established by a decree of the State National Council of 1946.12 A distinction of the same name but of a different shape was introduced by decree of the Polish Council of State in the Polish People's Republic, in 1957.

The present publication does not cover all of the distinctions awarded to the former participants of the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-1919 and to the soldiers of the Greater Poland Armed Forces. Due to obligations which limit the volume of the paper, it does not include memorial badges awarded to ordinary and honorary members by individual circles, e.g. on the occasion of their anniversaries. It does not cover different versions and varieties of badges either. It would therefore be justified to issue a complete catalogue of the distinctions which are included in the collections of the Greater Poland Military Museum.



The Greater Poland Military Museum











1 The events that happened in Poznań and in Greater Poland in 1918-1919, today referred to as the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-1919, can be clearly divided into an insurgent period, covering the voluntary activities of individual persons and units, and the period of the action of regular armies, formed on the basis of mandatory conscription, called the Greater Poland Armed Forces. This was of great significance for veteran organisations, which were composed of either “uprising participants” or “insurgents and soldiers”.

2Sources and materials on the history of the Greater Poland Uprising and the Greater Poland Armed Forces of 1918-1919. Catalogue, edited by T. Jeziorowski, Poznań 1978.

3The Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-1919. The Catalogue of Sources and Materials, edited by S. Sierpowski, Poznań 2003

4 A review of these publications is included in J. Łuczak’s article entitled The Greater Poland Military Museum. Its history and contribution to the commemoration of the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-1919 and the Greater Poland Armed Forces, [in:] 1918. From a Revolution to an Uprising, edited by P. Matusik, “Chronicle of the City of Poznań” 2018/3, pp. 309-328.

5 J. Łuczak, Greater Poland Distinctions of Victory. On the 100th Anniversary of the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-1919, Poznań 2018.

6 The name “Greater Poland Armed Forces” unifies the previously used names: the Armed Forces of the Former Prussian Partition, the Polish Army of the Former Prussian Partition, etc. As the article refers to distinctions awarded for participation in the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918-1919, it does not cover those distinctions awarded to graduates and instructors of military schools: the Greater Poland Officer Cadet School, the Greater Poland Non-Commissioned Infantry Officers School and the Greater Poland Artillery Officer Cadet School.

7 In the second version of the certificate, the award justification was worded as follows: “[…] for bravery and faithful service to the Mother Country, to the memory of battles fought as part of the 14th Greater Poland Infantry Division (the 1st Greater Poland Rifle Division), I hereby award the memorial badge of the division.”

8 The miniature featured a simplified inscription: “1 BATL.POGRANICZNY.SZCZYPIORNO”.

9The name of the badge was adopted in publications despite the fact that the SPC’s decree includes a provision “„znak pamiątkowy dla matek poległych w walkach o kresy Polskie”, whilst in the same provision in Central Command’s order that announced the decree, the “p” was not capitalised. The badge's statute refers to a “Memorial mark”, while the document awarded with the badge makes a reference to a “MEMORIAL CROSS”. This shows that there were frequent inconsistencies in the names of an individual badge.

10 The eagle in the centre of the badge from the collection of the Greater Poland Military Museum did not have a crown on its head. The red varnish underneath was probably damaged and replaced. It proves that in the interwar period there was a practice of removing crowns from military eagles and eagles on other types of badges.

11 The name on the badge is extended; the inscription on the card is abridged “ODZNAKA PAMIĄTKOWA ZA WALECZNOŚĆ B. NACZ. K-DY STR. LUD. B. Zab. PR.”.

12 Although the distinction was never introduced, the image of the Greater Poland Insurgent Cross was placed, among others, on the banners of union circles.



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