Insurgent Troops

The Infantry of the Greater Poland Army

Marek Rezler

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In autumn 1918, there were many soldiers of Polish nationality in the German army in the Greater Poland region, with the majority of those serving in the infantry. The only formations which preserved a structure that approximated that of the regular army included the People's Guard and the Guard and Security Service; the members of scouting organisations and “Sokół” [Falcon] did not form units which in any way resembled military units, but after the outbreak of the Uprising, those who had received military training, strove to form sub-units and units whose structure would be as close as possible to the organisation of the German Army after the year 1917. The basic training, carried out in the underground in these organisations also prepared them for service in the infantry.

At the moment of the outbreak of the Uprising, the People’s Guard and the Guard and Security Service took part in fighting on the Polish side while at the same time spontaneously forming regional units which consisted of soldiers living and staying in the given area. They were led by people with the highest military rank or those who enjoyed the respect of their colleagues. Insurgent groups, platoons, companies and battalions bearing regional names were formed; their internal organisation was based on the structure of the German army, but their number and rules were usually much lower than the normal established size, the name was rather an expression of the ambitions of the commanders and soldiers than the true mobilisation capacities of the given area. The number of those units has never been fully established, it may be estimated at a level of about two hundred. Initially, the spontaneously formed platoons and groups were short-lived; often after a given task was carried out, they would automatically dissolve themselves, and later, other units were formed. They were then combined into bigger units with platoons and companies established in the neighbourhood. No lists of soldiers were drawn up, and the number of people in the units would often change; on top of this, sometimes, insurgents from different towns served in a given company, and the regional name did not always mean uniformity of personnel. This situation stabilised about one week after the outbreak of the Uprising and the disclosure of Central Command. During the integration of regional sub-units and units, attempts were made to make adaptations to the organisational structure of the German army, which was best known to the soldiers. The organisational process was often disrupted by the needs of the insurgent fronts and sections and the necessity to send already formed and ready-to-fight sub-units and units to battles - after which they did not always return to their original formation on completion of their task. During the first period of insurgent fighting, there were also the so called ”flying” companies and battalions sent, if required, to the front-line sections put at risk.

The first concept of the creation of the regular armies was presented by Central Command in day order No. 6 dated 11 January 1919. The Military District Commands were initially obliged to form battalions, batteries, squadrons and staff for special armies and, in the next stage, to form regiments, brigades and divisions. Attempts were made to take advantage of the existing post-German military infrastructure, barracks and public buildings. In a given town, a unit no lower than a company, consisting of about 160 experienced soldiers, was supposed to be formed; for volunteers, who had never served in the army before, the establishment of recruit depots (training centres and reserve centres) was planned.

The organisational structure was the same as in the German army: a battalion which comprised 3-6 companies and a machine gun company. Each company should contain 3 platoons with 2 machine guns each. In reality, it was necessary to modify these plans, but with the obligation to take into account the completeness of the platoons. The basic unit on the fronts was the battalion; the people’s guard, was often incorporated into reserve companies. By operational order No.1 dated 18 January 1919, General J. Dowbor-Muśnicki ordered the organisation of the existing battalions into rifle regiments. This was an advance order, as Central Command in the day order No. 29 dated 2 February 1919 ordered the formation of companies and battalions from the units which had been formed in the poviats. At the same time, the introduction of ordinal numbering was mandated; regional names were honoured until the merging of battalions into a regiment. As the process of the formation of regiments progressed (including specialist subunits and services), the regional uniformity of a given unit was gradually diminished. By day order No. 17 of Central Command dated 22 January 1919, the formation of the 1st Greater Poland Rifle Division was initiated (including the announcement of the establishment of staff). This process ended as late as September-October 1919. The next four-regiment divisions (2-3) were formed on the basis of subsequent orders from Central Command until June 1919, based on the regiments operating on the respective fronts - the Military Districts. On 7 August 1919, the 4th Greater Poland Rifle Division was formed and on 16 August, it was renamed as the Pomerania Rifle Division.

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