Insurgent Troops

Greater Poland’s Military Air Force in 1919-1921

Krzysztof Hoff

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The 4th Greater Poland Air Force Squadron

The 4th Greater Poland Fighter Squadron, the formation of which started on 25 May 1919, commanded by Lieutenant Pilot Jerzy Dziembowski, had a number of candidates for aviators to choose from. In terms of equipment, its situation was nearly hopeless, owing to the lack of spare planes, which had earlier been sent to units from Cracow, Lviv and Warsaw, and which had been used to replenish losses on the front.  The decision was made, however, to start the training of four pilots on three planes: a Fokker D.VII, Fokker E.V and Albatros D.III. 

In February 1920, as a consequence of Poland taking control of Pomerania, the 4th Squadron was moved to Bydgoszcz, while in April, having been equipped with Fokker D.VII planes, it was directed to the region of Podolia. It made it there on 16 May, choosing the airport near Vapniarka as its base. Despite it being a fighter unit, it had to carry out bombings and air assaults due to the passivity of the enemy’s fighter planes. The need to destroy Soviet supply lines, artillery posts and armoured trains forced such improvisations. The attacks on the armoured trains at Malovanaya railway station (May-June) were close to legendary. All-day air assaults and bombing raids prevented the crews of the armoured trains from repairing the damaged tracks and retreating on time. “Bela Kun” and “Krasnyi Krestyanin” trains, in a usable condition, were cut off, taken over and adapted for military purposes by the 12th Infantry Division. Another armoured train, coming to their rescue, was immobilised as a result of attacks from air. In that period, the unit’s name was changed into the 15th Fighter Squadron, although it still focused on bombing raids, occasionally installing 5- and 12-kilogramme bomb launchers in its planes. 

During the retreat, the unit was moved further towards west. On 13 July it made it to Lviv. In mid-August 1920, the 15th Squadron, supported by several machines from the 3rd Air Force Division, played an instrumental role in blocking the march of Semyon Budyonny’s 1st Cavalry Army. The Polish armies fired machine guns and bombed the columns of Bolshevik forces, which suffered great losses in men, horses and equipment. Fire from the planes' machine guns, shot in series from low height towards compact masses of soldiers was extremely effective, as the Russians said in their desperate radiograms. Through August, the 15th Squadron made approximately 90 combat flights. In only two days – on 16 and 17 August – 26 flights were made, 300 kilogrammes of bombs were dropped and 10000 bullets were fired. As well as the destruction of the enemy’s forces, the attacks had another important role – they forced the enemy to disperse and weakened its soldiers’ fighting spirit. As a result, Budyonny’s Army resigned from occupying Lviv and started its march towards Zamość, still, however, having to deal with the air assaults of the 15th Squadron, operating from the airport in Korchova. The aviators from the unit were honoured many times. Most of them, even still during the war, were awarded with the Crosses of Valour and Virtuti Militari War Orders. 

After the war, the squadron was moved to Ostrów Wielkopolski, and later to Poznań, where, in August, under the command of Lieutenant Pilot Tadeusz Jarina, it was incorporated into the 3rd Air Force Regiment. In June 1925, the unit’s name was changed to the 112th Fighter Squadron, and in 1928 into the 132nd Fighter Squadron. In the defence war of 1939, it became part of the “Poznań” Army.  

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