Insurgent Troops

The German air raids on Ławica on 7 and 8 January 1919 in the Poznań press coverage.

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On 6 January 1919 the Ławica Air Base was seized by insurgents after a short battle. “Over 200 ordinary soldiers and a few officers were taken captive at the seized airport”1. This numerous and mixed crew (soldiers from different types of units: pioneers, grenadiers, artillerymen and aviators) posed a real threat for Poznań. Therefore, the threats by German aviators that they would bomb the city were treated very seriously. According to the press coverage and the contents of a letter found in the occupied barracks and published in the Poznań press, the supply for the above-mentioned crew was provided by means of an “air bridge” from Frankfurt an der Oder, wherefrom large aeroplanes supplied “food, ammunition and military instructions”2. This, in fact, contributed to the decision to make the attack.

The air base was seized after a short battle lasting no more than 20 minutes3. The losses in men on both sides were relatively small and, according to estimates, amounted to 2 dead4 and 3 wounded on the Polish side and one dead (officer) and several wounded soldiers on the German side5.

After the fighting came to an end, “(…) hangars with aviation equipment (30 pieces), ammunition and bomb storages, petrol depots, automobiles, a train and large repair workshops” were all in the hands of insurgents6. The value of the seized material was estimated at 160 000 000 marks7!

Also, development of the seized airport was started quickly. Order No. 2 of Central Command read: “Tactically, the Air Base in Ławica is directly subjected to Central Command8”. In the next order, the following instructions were given: “All units will send any aviators who serve with them to the Air Base in Ławica near Poznań (based on identity documentation)9”. As time passed, calls for joining the ranks of aviators also started to be published in the press10.

As early as the following day - 7 January 1919 – in the early afternoon, German aircraft appeared over Ławica and bombarded it. This unprecedented fact was reported by all Poznań newspapers, but as it turns out, their relations differed greatly.

The air raid took place on the next day11, at noon12, either at 12:4513 or 13:0014, when 4 aeroplanes flew over the Air Base in Ławica and dropped 6 bombs15, or possibly the number of aircraft was the same, but 18 bombs were used16, or there was only one aviator with one bomb17. The coverage in “Przewodnik Katolicki” is probably the most sparing with figures, as almost two weeks after these events it only made a mention about “German aviators dropping bombs on the Air Base18”. Despite the surprise air-raid, the losses were relatively insignificant as “one of the bombs set the barracks where the kitchen was located on fire. Although other bombs landed on areas with some buildings scattered here and there, they did not cause too much damage. (…) There were no human casualties.” – according to reports presented in “Kurier Poznański”19. On the other hand “Dziennik Poznański” mentioned two burned barracks20 and “Postęp” talked about only one21. There was a report in “Wielkopolanin” that a “few soldiers on our side were wounded and a fire broke out in one of the barracks22”. The fire was put out by the fire brigade which arrived from Poznań23.

One witness of the air raid was an officer using the alias Adlot, who had arrived from Warsaw: “Suddenly, at 12.00 we heard some sporadic machine gun fire and then the noise of engines. Several German aeroplanes had arrived to bombard the air base. Everyone that was present rushed to grab their weapons trying to deter the Germans with machine gunfire. After a short while, the clack of machine guns came from the tower. Then we heard the explosions of bombs which the German aviators had dropped on the hangars, offices, depots, etc. After this half-hour bombardment, the Germans flew away, never to return again. Immediately after this, we went to see the damage caused. Fortunately, no significant losses were suffered”24.

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