Insurgent Troops

Greater Poland’s Military Air Force in 1919-1921

Krzysztof Hoff

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During the retreat of the Bolsheviks from near Warsaw, the squadron's actions delayed the march of the Russians from the regions of Włocławek and Płock, and were directed against Gai-Khan’s 3rd Cavalry Corps. When the front moved east and the Polish Army occupied Białystok, the 13th Squadron was moved to Dojlidy, where it was incorporated into General Edward Rydz-Śmigły’s 2nd Army. During the battles for Grodno, the squadron covered the crossing of its own armies, carrying out air assaults within the town and in the Indura – Odelsk area. In October, when the unit was in Grodno, the armistice was signed.  

The 3rd Greater Poland Air Force Squadron

On 6 March 1919, the formation of the 3rd Greater Poland Air Force Field Squadron started under the supervision of Rittmeister Pilot Tadeusz Grochowalski. Shortages in equipment and men, resulting from the creation of the former two squadrons, allowed for the equipping of only 6 aeroplanes to the unit.  On 4 June 1919, the squadron, commanded at that time by Lieutenant Colonel Marek Krzyczkowski, was moved to the airport in Góra near Jarocin. The uncertain situation directly preceding Germany signing the peace treaty required the allied countries to stay alert, especially as the daily number of armed incidents was growing. The main tasks of the 3rd Squadron were reconnaissance flights and a propaganda campaign (leaflet dropping) in Upper Silesia. Air reconnaissance was of particular significance at that time. Knowing the enemy’s movements over the southern border of Greater Poland, the opponents’ places of concentration and regrouping directions gave the possibility of preparation of effective defence of the most vulnerable sections of the front. 

Then, under the command of Second Lieutenant Józef Mańczak, the 3rd Squadron was moved to the east, replacing the withdrawn 1st Greater Poland Air Force Squadron, and fought as part of the Group of Greater Poland Armies led by General Daniel Konarzewski. In July, the military operations carried out by the squadron included reconnaissance flights and raids on communication lines in the rear areas of the front. In August, the squadron, operating from an airport in Berezhnytsia near Ternopil, carried out many bombing raids, which resulted in the destruction of the Tschebmelovka railway station taken by the Bolsheviks. On 19 August 1919, the unit returned to Greater Poland, to the airport in Buk, but in the second half of October 1919 it was sent to the Lithuanian and Belarusian Front (airport in Zhodino). Due to the severe weather conditions in the autumn and winter of 1919-1920, its tasks were carried out in a limited scope. They included long reconnaissance and directing the artillery fire of the 2nd Legions Infantry Division by radio communication.

In spring, the unit’s name was changed to the 14th Intelligence Squadron. At the same time, bombing operations got more intense and so effective that the Soviets sent a fighter group commanded by one of their best fighter aviators, Alexei Shirinkin, to that area.

It should be noted that the task of the 14th Squadron was extremely difficult – it was notoriously disrupted by the actions of Soviet planes, and the spring/summer period was particularly abundant in air battles. In July, the squadron was withdrawn – as part of a general retreat – to Baranavichy, then by rail to Białystok. It reached Poznań on 1 August. The planes were, however, so worn out that the unit was unable to take any further part in battles. On 23 August, when the equipment was replenished, the unit was once again sent to the east, where it took part in operations against the retreating enemy. Its bases were in the airports of Lublin, Chełm and Lutsk. 

After the cease-fire, the squadron was moved to Grudziądz. Then, following its merger with the 21st Destroyer Squadron, under the name 14th Intelligence Squadron it became part of the newly-formed 2nd Air Force Regiment in Cracow. In October 1921, the unit, with its equipment severely worn out, was transported by rail to the airport in Rakowice, while its staff was accommodated in the Karol Chodkiewicz barracks in Prądnik Czerwony. 

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