Hello everyone, it’s September again and with it, yet another sad anniversary of the German (and Soviet) invasion of Poland. Often, as a result of propaganda, the defense of Poland is depicted as chaotic and incompetent, but the chaos of war was present on both sides of the invasion. On the other hand, both sides did have truly exceptional units – and on Polish side, it was the 10th Cavalry Brigade (also called “Black Brigade” because of the color of their leather coat uniforms) of Colonel Stanislaw Maczek, one of the best Polish units of the short but brutal conflict in Poland. Its history is also an example of the fact that Poland too had brilliant military commanders, just as skilled in the craft of war as Rommel and Guderian were at that point. Ironically, the raison d’etre of the unit was to prove that armored and mechanized forces are not as useful as everyone claims. The brigade was transformed from a cavalry force to a mechanized one on 30.4.1937. Its formation was shrouded in secrecy, with not even some of the officers knowing what’s going on, when the brigade suddenly started getting rid of its horses and replaced them with motorcycles, armored cars and tankettes. This was a step many of the “traditional” Polish officers abhorred, as it meant getting rid of their beloved animals. At that point, the cavalry in Poland was still believed to be one of the most important parts of the army – especially the “oldschool” staff was against replacing the animals with armored forces. The main argument against armored cars and tankettes was their dependence on fuel supplies and limited terrain passability, reducing them to the role of infantry support on solid ground. Tanks themselves were basically considered to be mobile pillboxes. This was in direct contrast with the “modern” armor concept, developed by German tacticians, who foresaw the use of the armored forces as an independent force, an “armored fist”, beating the enemy to submission with lightning strikes (the concept of Blitzkrieg). The importance of armor was proven to be correct by the Spanish civil war, where the German expeditionary force under Wilhelm von Thoma, despite its limited success, proved its worth. Based on this success, Guderian eventually wrote his famous Achtung, Panzer! book. The Polish on the other hand got into the entire “cavalry into armor” business quite late (the British tried it as early as 1927, the Soviets in 1933 already had two mechanized corps units and six motorized brigades). The purchase of large amount of vehicles however was problematic for Poland for three reasons: - it was expensive - poor infrastructure, especially in the boggy eastern Poland - “traditionalist” officers, who wanted horses, not armor This led to the main reason why the officers didn’t want armor – they argued that it would take a lot of time to modernize the army and as a result, they would have neither the horses nor the armor, at least temporarily depriving the army of its mobile warfare options. That was generally seen as problematic in the turbulent Europe of the 30′s. 10th Brigade Officers with their signature black leather coats Nevertheless, despite fair amount of resistance, progressive officers in the Polish army managed to confince the generals to try the mechanized concept on one unit, the 10th Cavalry. Its creation was problematic to say at least – the officers had to create an entirely new set of rules and regulations for the new type of military unit, the soldiers in turn had to be educated again, because the rules of mechanized warfare were different from anything used before. The education started on 14.7.1937 under the command of Colonel Antoni Trzaska-Durski and took better part of 1937. In September, the unit took part in an excercise with mixed results and as a result, there was the danger of it being disbanded (transformed back to cavalry), but in the end, cooler heads prevailed and the unit creation was confirmed on 20.4.1938. The 10th Cav was transferred as an operational unit to the Independent Group of Operations “Silesia” and its command was passed to Colonel Stanislaw Maczek – at that point, the status of the unit was still “temporary” and little did Maczek know that the rest of his entire military career would be tied to this unit and his soldiers. Stanislaw Maczek (in the middle) When the Germans attacked after the infamous Gliwice incident, the caught the brigade in the middle of personal and structural changes, causing the unit to have 30 percent fewer anti-tanks and artillery guns than required. Despite that, the brigade took part in the fighting in southern Poland as a reserve unit the Kraków and Karpaty armies. Colonel Maczek decided that the unit was to perform aggressive defense, outmaneuvering the enemy in difficult terrain. One of the signature moves of thisn tactic was the constant disruption of enemy advance by ambushes and limited attacks. Vickers E of 10th Cavalry Brigade Practically immediately, the unit clashed with the famous German 2nd Panzer Division near the village of Wysoka. The Germans attacked in the early morning mist, but got thrown back two times by focused Polish fire. The fighting was very intensive and the battlefield was littered with burned-out German tank wrecks. However, against the third, by far the strongest, German onslaught, the Polish lines crumbled and by afternoon, the Germans controlled the mountaineous terrain of southern Poland – their losses however were significant. In this sense, the brigade fulfilled its duty and task to delay the German advance, as Von Kleist’s XXII. Army Corps was moving very slowly, 5-7 kilometers a day. Tenacious defense of the Carpathian mountains allowed the army group Krakow to retreat from Silesia in orderly fashion. TKS tankettes of 10th Cavalry Brigade To be continued… Source: Zbigniew Mikesz – Černá brigáda (http://www.valka.cz/clanek_13051.html)

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