Insurgent Troops

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

Select Pages

The air raid surprised the crew in Ławica, which, despite attempts made at defence, was not able to prevent it. Fortunately, there were no losses in people. The German attack, however, became a valuable lesson, from which conclusions were drawn very quickly. On the next day, 8 January 1919, at 11.00 a.m. or 12.00 a.m. aeroplanes appeared over Ławica25 yet again26. “Przewodnik Katolicki” did not provide any information about the time of the attack. There were three German aeroplanes27. No number, not even an approximation, was reported by “Dziennik Poznański”, “Wielkopolanin” or “Przewodnik Katolicki”. The crew prepared for the defence with barrage fire from machine guns which curbed the zeal of the German aviators, who dropped several bombs in an open field28. After about 20 minutes, the German aeroplanes flew away from Ławica having performed a “plainly criminal act”29: The next bombs fell on the buildings of a farm owned by Władysław Zoch, in Strzeszynek (2 kilometres away from the Ławica Air Base) and on the village of Krzyżowniki. The house and the shed were damaged in the farm owned by the Zochs family, and fragments of the bomb killed Zoch’s son (10 years old)30 and wounded Mr. Zoch and another of his sons31. What is interesting here is that “Kurier Poznański” and “Postęp” wrote about the wounded daughter (but not the son!). As a result of the explosion of a bomb in Krzyżowniki, a farmer, Pawlak, was severely wounded32. Władysław Zoch later died as a consequence of his wounds, on 9 January 191933. Another farmer from Krzyżowniki, who was wounded, was taken to the hospital run by Sisters of St. Elizabeth [on Łąkowa Street] where his condition was described as “hopeless34”.

However, according to a notice published in “Wielkopolanin”, the farmer, Mateusz Pawlak, died on 11 January 1919 at the age of 2935.

As a consequence of the German bombardment on 8 January 1919, three people died: Witold Zoch aged 15 († 8 January 1919), Władysław Zoch aged 58 († 9 January 1919) and Mateusz Pawlak aged 29 († 11 January 1919) and a daughter or son of Władysław Zoch was wounded (it is not known how severely).

The above-mentioned statement is important inasmuch as there was no consensus in the literature as to the number of the victims of the air raid dated 8 January. Based on the information contained in the then press (Dziennik Poznański No. 6, dated 9 January 1919) Zygmunt Bulzacki reported that one person had died and three people had been wounded36. However, the author did not study any other issues and limited himself to these figures. Kazimierz Sławiński wrote about several women and children killed (sic!)37. The information about one person being killed and three people wounded is repeated after Z. Bulzacki by Krzysztof Hoff, in a book issued in 2005, entitled “Skrzydła niepodległej. O wielkopolskim lotnictwie w okresie Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej”38. Also Radosław Nawrot, in his article “Pierwszy nalot Polaków” mentions one dead and three wounded people39. However, he mistakenly positions these four people as victims of the first air-raid on Ławica on 7 January 1919.

There is also an issue which cannot be definitely determined, i.e. where the above-mentioned three people were buried. We only know that the funeral of Witold and Władysław Zochs took place on 12 January 191940 at 2:00 p.m.41, starting from St. Joseph's hospital on Piotra Street (currently Krysiewicza Street). However, the burial place was not specified. Neither could the date nor place of burial of Mateusz Pawlak be determined.

In retaliation for the bombardment, the Polish authorities took General von Bock und Polach who had already been arrested on 28 December 1918 hostage, and this information was reported by Kurier Poznański dated 9 January 191942. This was supposed to prevent further German air-raids and to force the Germans to release the Poles interned by them. The Germans obviously demanded the immediate release of the general43.

In issue No. 9 of “Wielkopolanin”, dated 12 January 1919, the general content of the telegram sent by General Bock und Polach to the German minister of war was reported. In this telegram he called the bombardment of Poznań and Ławica “a nonsensical and criminal act”44. He also threatened to step down from his post if such attacks were repeated45. This must have brought certain effects as no more air raids on Poznań were reported. Did the retaliatory air-raid on the airport in Frankfurt an der Oder, which was organised by the Polish pilots on 9 January 1919, contribute to this to some extent? This very popular episode - the first such action in the history of the Polish aviation is called into question by Priest Robert Kulczyński. According to his findings, that air raid did not take place at all, and the first mention of it appeared as late as in 1975 in a book written by Kazimierz Sławiński entitled ”Ławica poznańskie lotnisko”46.

Select Pages