The Course of Insurgent Fights

The Greater Poland Armies Involved in Battles outside of the Poznań Region

Marek Rezler

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The borders of the recovering Republic of Poland were shaped in different ways and based on different expectations, therefore the government in Warsaw must have taken into account many factors which affected how far the state reached. Depending on the situation on the front, fighting continued, with varying intensity, until 1921, however, a major influence was to be exerted by decisions taken at conference tables. The Greater Poland Army, the armed forces on the Polish territories which were best trained and had the best equipment at their disposal until April 1919, even before the signing of the peace treaty, were an object of interventions of the government in Warsaw, aimed at its utilisation on the most unstable Eastern Front. Officially, however, the army was subordinated to the sovereign Commissariat of the Supreme People's Council and General Józef Dowbor-Muśnicki, who was the most aware of the forces and the significance of the army under his command, and was also afraid of the weakening of the region in the case of a German offensive. However, during the period between the signing of the armistice in Trier (16 February 1919) and the date of the implementation of the plan codenamed “Spring Sun” by the Germans (May-June 1919), the Greater Poland Army was expanded without obstacles, and without the eventuality of participation in any major armed operations.

In November 1918, Polish-Ukrainian battles for Lviv broke out. From the very first days of January of the following year, the news from Lviv was published in almost every issue of “Dziennik Poznański” and “Kurier Poznański”. On 22 January 1919, the first transport with food and sanitary materials left for Eastern Lesser Poland: 58 wagons, escorted by members of the People’s Guard from Poznań, with one machine gun. A delegation of the Aid Committee for Lviv also travelled with this transport to the capital city of Eastern Lesser Poland: Mrs. Niegoloewska, Priest Moyer V.F., Mieczysław Korzeniowski, Helena and Kazimierz Brownsword, Zofia Zielewiczowa and Mr. Szymański. After seven days of travelling, the transport, escorted from Przemyśl by an armoured train, was welcomed with great enthusiasm in Lviv. Warsaw was not able to grant effective support to the Poles fighting in Lviv, though many initiatives were taken. Given the circumstances, the decision was taken to turn to Poznań, but General J. Dowbor-Muśnicki was not really convinced about these plans, using the argument of an unclear situation on the anti-German front. Thus, on 8 March 1919, Prime Minister Ignacy Jan Paderewski arrived in Poznań. He presented the military situation near Lviv to the Commissariat of the Supreme People’s Council and the Central Command of Armed Forces in the former Prussian Partition. Ultimately, General Dowbor-Muśnicki agreed to the formation of a voluntary unit which would set off for Lviv. The voluntary draft was announced in all the military districts of the region (42 people from each district, including one master corporal and four corporals). The formation was supposed to take place in the 1st Reserve Regiment in Poznań. In total, the establishment of two rifle companies commanded by officers chosen by lot from among the volunteers was planned. This was supposed to be an army which was completely ready to depart for combat, having also two sanitary non-commissioned officers and eight porters in its ranks, ammunition and food supply trains, a sanitary vehicle, a field kitchen, etc. Additionally, the companies were to receive four heavy machine guns.

Ultimately, a much smaller number of volunteers than expected was registered. On 9 March 1919, a company which consisted of 204 soldiers set off for Lviv. It was commanded by two second lieutenants: Jan Ciaciuch and Maksymilian Soldenhoff. After a solemn farewell at the Poznań railway station, the Volunteer Poznań-Lviv Company arrived through Warsaw and Przemyśl to Sudova Vyshnia, where it was subordinated to General F. Aleksandrowicz. The task of the entire group was to break through the Ukrainian ring in that area by driving out the besiegers from their positions to the north, east and south of Sudova Vyshnia. As early as 16 March, the company of Poznań region soldiers attacked the village of Dolgomostiska, took it after two hours of fighting and also defended against the Ukrainian counter-attack the next day. Two days later, battles took place in the area of Horodok, and near Melniki, the company lost 8 soldiers under heavy fire, 21 soldiers were wounded and 3 were missing in action. After dark, the company reached Horodok. During these battles, the Greater Poland inhabitants captured two cannons, one mortar and two machine guns. On 19 March, the company commander and officers received congratulations from three generals: Iwaszkiewicz, Rozwadowski and Aleksandrowicz as well as the heads of their staff. On 29 March, the company was sent to Lviv where it met with an enthusiastic reception. Then, until the middle of July, the unit participated in battles which took place in the vicinity of Lviv, as part of the 1st Lviv Rifle Regiment. Its combat trail included the vicinity of Lviv, Zarudtsi, Novyi Yarychiv, Zalissya, Nilno, Velyka Berezovytsia, Zbiriv and Oliyv. On 7 July, Gen. Wacław Iwaszkiewicz issued a “Laudatory appreciation”, emphasising the fact that from the very first days of fighting for Lviv, this unit was “a paragon and example for all other units through its valour and discipline.[...] I did not receive any complaint related to this company from civilians, which I attribute to its high civic sense.[...] Glory to you, brave sons of Greater Poland!”. On 29 July 1919, the company was assigned to the Greater Poland Group and on 6 August, it left for Poznań. One officer -J. Ciaciuch (M. Soldenhoff stayed in hospital, as he was ill) and 225 privates. 11 soldiers were dead, 58 were wounded and 7 were taken into captivity – thus, the losses amounted to one quarter of the human resources of the unit. All officers and privates in the company were given the Cross of Lviv Defence on 1 July 1919 “for bravery and hardship in combat, for the integrity and independence of the Republic of Poland during battles for the defence of Lviv from 12 March till 1 July 1919” by the Supreme Command of the Polish Armies. The remaining soldiers were soon dismissed and transferred to the reserves, and the recruits were deployed to different regiments; Jan Ciaciuch returned to his original 10th Greater Poland Rifle Regiment.

The groups of General Daniel Konarzewski

In Poznań, for the time being, support was provided in the form of a single infantry regiment and four heavy and light cannon batteries. The dispatch of further reinforcements (even as many as two rifle divisions) depended on a possible declaration of Marshal Foch which would guarantee a dynamic counteraction by the Entente states if any military steps were taken by the Germans against Poland. Furthermore, the coalition was supposed to deliver a certain number of cannons as well as artillery and machine gun ammunition. On 12-13 March 1919, the Greater Poland Group, commanded by Colonel Daniel Konarzewski, was put at the disposal of Gen. Iwaszkiewicz. As well as the commanding staff, it consisted of: the 1st Greater Poland Rifle Regiment, the 1st Battalion of the 1st Greater Poland Light Field Artillery Regiment, the 1st Air Force Squadron and a signal platoon – about 5 officers and 3800 non-commissioned officers, three cannon batteries and seven aeroplanes. Konarzewski’s group, which was solemnly bid farewell by the locals and the chief commander - General J. Dowbor Muśnicki and his staff - set off from the Bolechowo railway station in three transports, through Poznań–Skalmierzyce–Kalisz–Koluszki–Częstochowa–Cracow and Przemyśl to the rally point in Sudova Vyshnia. From there, together with the 2nd Battalion of the 10th Infantry Regiment from Dolgomostiska, which was assigned to it, the group was supposed to break through the siege ring around Lviv. The attack started on 17 March 1919 at 6.00 a.m. The soldiers from Greater Poland initially occupied such towns as Melniki, Bar, Milatin and then Vovchukhy, Putiatychi and Dobriany.

During the first day of fighting, the assigned task was accomplished and the route for a further march towards Lviv was prepared, despite the fact that they were significantly outnumbered by the enemy: about 7000 - 8000 soldiers with 30 cannons and 40 machine guns. During the fighting, which lasted two days, whose aim was to break the blockade of Lviv, the troops of the Greater Poland Group completely fulfilled the hopes placed in it by the Supreme Command of the Polish Armies in Warsaw. General Iwaszkiewicz, in his order dated 19 March, highlighted the fact that the “Iron armies of the Greater Poland soldiers under the command of Colonel Konarzewski, by their resolute attack [...] contributed to the victory”. Also, Colonel Konarzewski issued a laudatory order to the troops who served under his command. The losses of the Greater Poland Group on 18-19 March amounted to 17 dead and 178 wounded (including four officers) and 35 missing. Among other things, two cannons and five heavy machine guns were captured. In the period between 20 March and 17 April, the troops from Greater Poland switched to position fighting, occupying a 20-kilometre section stretching from Horodok to Henryków. From 19 April, the group was subordinated to Gen. Iwaszkiewicz, who had just one month before becoming the commander of the armies for Eastern Galicia (the “East” command) in lieu of the dismissed General Tadeusz Rozwadowski.

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