Insurgent Troops

Greater Poland’s Military Air Force in 1919-1921

Krzysztof Hoff

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After a decisive battle of Warsaw in August, the 12th Squadron commenced bombing runs on the retreating Bolshevik forces. The front started to move again to the east, and the opponent’s armies were tirelessly pursued. As the Polish Armed Forces managed to occupy Białystok, the squadron was moved to the Markowszczyzna airport and assigned to the 2nd Army of the PAF. The Unit took part in battles on the Niemen River and the occupation of Grodno and Lida, where it finally stayed. After the cease-fire, in November 1920 the squadron was moved to Wilanów near Warsaw. It never returned to Ławica. In 1921, it became part of the newly-formed 1st  Air Force Regiment in Warsaw.

The 2nd Greater Poland Air Force Squadron

On 14 February, the formation of the 2nd Greater Poland Air Force Squadron started in Ławica. The squadron was commanded by Rittmeister Pilot Tadeusz Grochowalski. Its equipment, including German two-seat Halberstadt CL.II and CL.V aeroplanes, and an Albatros D.III fighter plane, came from the unit’s own resources. The squadron also had mechanised and horse-drawn vehicles and repair and servicing facilities at its disposal. 

In early April 1919, the squadron, commanded by Second Lieutenant Edmund Norwid-Kudło, was sent to the Southern Front in Greater Poland. It was based in the airport in Klęka near Nowe Miasto, with its operations being mostly reconnaissance flights for the Greater Poland Armies along the border threatened by the hostile actions of Grenzschutz units, and propaganda flights outside the Silesian demarcation line. In the period preceding the outbreak of the first Silesian uprising, the unit dropped leaflets addressed to the Poles living in Upper Silesia. The squadron’s operations were subordinate to Central Command in Poznań. On 10 June 1919, the 2nd Squadron was moved under Kruszwica to perform air reconnaissance along the Bydgoszcz – Nakło – Piła line. At that time, the issue of annexing Pomerania to Poland awaited settlement. After the ratification of the provisions of the treaty of Versailles by the Parliament of the Polish Republic on 31 July 1919, the task was considered completed. In the meanwhile, support was needed on the Lithuanian and Belarussian Front. On 4 August 1919, the unit was transported to Maladzyechna, and on 6 August it commenced its operations with a bombing raid on the railway station in Minsk, seriously damaging its infrastructure and rolling stock. As a result of the bombing, two steam locomotives were destroyed, railway tracks were damaged in several places and a Soviet armoured train was destroyed. This action allowed the Polish infantry to seize the enemy’s rolling stock two days later. 

After the occupation of Minsk by Polish units, bombing raids were conducted on Babruysk, which, as soon as it was occupied, became another base for the squadron. At the break of autumn and winter of 1919-1920, the unit’s actions, including reconnaissance flights and bombings, supported the 4th Army of General Stanisław Szeptycki, and the operations of the 1st Greater Poland Infantry Division – the squadron destroyed armoured trains and bridges along the Babruysk – Zhlobin railway line. At the end of February, the unit replaced its former planes with Albatros D.III (Oeffag) planes, and in April 1920 it changed its name to the 13th Fighter Squadron. Despite being a fighter squadron, the unit’s main tasks, due to the lack of enemy fighters, were still reconnaissance flights and bombings, with a few exceptions. The aviators were excellent in battle, which they proved a number of times, for instance on 17 April 1920, when they bombed a flotilla on the Berezina River and an artillery post. In spite of the hurricane-like anti-aircraft defence fire, the squadron managed to drop 600 kg of bombs. Some of the crews had to do two runs. 

The main task during the retreat was to delay the Soviet attack, to destroy river crossings with air assaults and, at the same time, to protect the retreating Polish armies. In this period of greatest threat to the capital, the squadron operated from the airport in Siekierki near Warsaw, being assigned to the 5th Army of General Władysław Sikorski. The passiveness of enemy air force allowed the squadron to engage in shock and reconnaissance actions, mainly in the Pułtusk – Nasielsk – Ciechanów region. 

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