Insurgent Troops

The Air Forces of the Greater Poland Armies in the year 1919

Marek Rezler

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At the end of 1918, the 4th Air Reserve Unit (Flieger Abteilung Nr. 4), whose main task was to repair aeroplanes and organise pilot training workshops had been stationed in Ławica since 1913. The crew consisted of soldiers of both German and Polish nationalities. On top of this, in Poznań, after the removal of airships from a warehouse located in the Winiary district, a warehouse for other aeronautical equipment was organised there. In the German army, Poles also served in the air forces; some of them like, e.g. Sergeant-Pilot Wiktor Pniewski, had been members of the Polish Military Organisation of the Prussian Partition since 1918. It was also he who started to establish contacts with his countrymen who had served in Ławica during his service in the 4th Air Reserve Unit; by the middle of December five pilots, two observers and over 30 soldiers from the technical support service were already under Pniewski’s influence.

After the seizure of Poznań by the Greater Poland insurgents at the end of December 1918, the airport in Ławica represented the only danger to the city. In the morning on 6 January 1919, as the result of an organised action, the base was captured. 30 aeroplanes (some of them ready for immediate flight), many spare parts, engines and air ammunition fell into the hands of the insurgents. Earlier, without any fighting, control was taken over the Zeppelin's warehouse in the Winiary district, where about 200 dismantled aeroplanes were stored; these stocks, which significantly exceeded the needs of the insurgent armies, were used, for the most part, as equipment for the air forces of the Polish state. The machines that were ready for flight were immediately adapted for use - the Polish air symbol appeared on their wings and fuselage: a red and white chessboard which was a remake of the German cross symbol. On 7 January, an aeroplane with such symbols flew over Poznań. Officially, Lieutenant Protazy Kadziłowski became the first Polish commandant of the station (Order No. 2 of Central Command, dated 7 January 1919), in reality however, this function was held by Sergeant Wiktor Pniewski (later second lieutenant). The former ”Flieger Ersatz Abteilung Nr.4” was renamed as ”Air Base in Ławica”. The Aviation Department, managed by Second Lieutenant Observer Jan Stempniewicz, dealt with aviation-related matters in Central Command from 6 January 1919. Finally, the issue of the command of the air forces in the Greater Poland Army was regulated in January 1919, after the post of the Chief Commander was taken by Gen. Józef Dowbor-Muśnicki: On 18 January, Second Lieutenant Pilot Jerzy Dziembowski was temporarily nominated for the post of commander of the Air Base in Ławica and on 22 January, that post was taken over by Colonel Pilot Gustaw Macewicz, a former officer of the 1st Polish Corps in Russia.

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