Insurgent Troops

Greater Poland’s Military Air Force in 1919-1921

Krzysztof Hoff

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Balloon armies

One element that made it possible to create foundations for balloon armies was the trophy seized from the Zeppelin Hall. These were two covers of German Parseval-Sigsfeld observation balloons, an Alpina horse-operated winch and several hundred bottles of hydrogen. On 31 April 1919, Lieutenant Colonel Aleksander Wańkowicz took command of the newly-established unit. At the same time, an aeronautical school, organised by Major Feliks Bołsunowski, was founded. In February 1920, two balloon groups were sent to the Lithuanian and Belarussian front – the 1st Balloon Group commanded by Captain Jan Wolszlegier on 23 February, and the 2nd Balloon Group commanded by Lieutenant Sławomir Bilek on 26 February. Initial operations in the battlefield were successful. As long as the front line was relatively static in winter and spring (which resulted from the army’s low mobility), conditions for the actions of balloon armies were excellent. The unit observed the enemy and directed the artillery fire. Later, however, during the Bolshevik offensive and due to the fast movement of the armies, the balloonists’ situation got much worse, which prevented them from carrying out any operations whatsoever – mounting and dismounting posts for observation balloons consumed too much labour and time. 

Colonel Wańkowicz suggested joining all of the balloons into one regiment and using it for infantry units. His suggestion was approved. The balloonists participated in the battles from 24 July to 14 August 1920. After the Red Army’s retreat from under Warsaw, the initial structure, i.e. division into four battalions, was restored. The battalions were assigned as follows: the 1st battalion – Warsaw, the 2nd battalion (2nd Army) – Białystok, the 3rd battalion (5th Army) – Modlin, the 4th battalion (4th Army) – Brest on Bug. 

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What observations can be made on the basis of the above considerations? That Greater Poland was open to the affairs of other regions and that it was eager to defend not only its own western borders but to aid others too. It is this image of Greater Poland that shows solidarity with other regions. The Ławica Air Base not only sent its very well equipped squadrons to the rescue of Eastern Borderlands, but also significantly contributed to the equipment of the air force formed in the core of Poland by providing fully usable planes to Lviv, Cracow or Warsaw. The aviators from Greater Poland fought bravely against the Bolsheviks, defending Lviv and Warsaw. The tradition of Greater Polish units fighting outside the region was continued in the period of the Second Polish Republic in the 3rd Air Force Regiment in Poznań, although it also included units that were not rooted in Greater Poland. During the defensive war in September 1939, squadrons from Ławica fought as part of the “Poznań” and “Łódź” Armies. After the September defeat, fighting was continued first in France and, after the fall of France, in Great Britain, where the 302nd Fighter Squadron “Poznański” and the 305th Bomb Squadron “Ziemi Wielkopolskiej” triumphed. These units always celebrated the memory of their Greater Polish origin. All these events deserve a place in our memory and are worth being proud of. These brave men and their acts must never fall into oblivion.


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