Part 1: http://ftr.wot-news.com/2014/09/05/t...rigade-part-1/ Continuing from part 1… On 5.9.1939, the Polish line of defense was broken and the unit became partially surrounded by the Germans. The 10th Cavalry Brigade fought series of battles with the Germans while retreating towards the Dunajec river in southern Poland and it was only on 7.9.1939, when the unit finally got some well-deserved rest after six-days of non-stop marching and fighting. The unit used the spare time to load up on ammunition and to consolidate the troops – the fuel, however, was a constant problem. Colonel Maczek ordered the unit to move to Rzeszów to cover any access to Lwów (Lviv). However, the march proved to be catastrophic for the Polish cavalrymen, because they were forced – due to the lack of fuel – to abandon most of their armored vehicles, including their most potent weapons, the Vickers light tanks. By the time the Germans crossed the river San, Maczek proposed a combined operation of his brigade and the Przemyśl armies to throw the Germans back and to destroy their bridgehead. This plan however was not accepted and the brigade recieved the order to cover the Lwów-Radymno direction – from there, the brigade was moved directly to Lwów to defend the city on 12.9.1939. Ironically, it was the second time Colonel Maczek was defending the city – previously, he participated in its defense against the Soviets in 1920, this time, he is about to fight the German invaders. After a few days of tough fighting, on 17.9.1939, the Polish troops recieve the information about the Soviets invading Poland as well from the east. The Polish did not expect this stab in the back and were mostly surprised by the attack. Soon after, most of Polish resistance crumbled. On the very same day, Maczek orders the brigade to move south and on 18.9.1939, it crosses the Polish-Hungarian border near the village of Tatarowa to be interned. Generally, the involvement of the 10th Cavalry Brigade is judged positively, the Germans had healthy respect for the “Black Brigade”, as it was called because of the color of the Polish leather coats. Several times, the unit managed to slip from practically hopeless situations, but the price was heavy – the unit lost practically half of their men. The defeat of Poland was however not to be the end of the brigade. Although the unit was officially interned in Hungary, many troopers and officers managed to “slip” through the cracks, moving to France, where resistance was already being organized (at that point, no-one imagined that France could ever fall so quickly). More than 80 thousand Polish troops managed to escape occupied Poland, using various ways to reach their destination. Amongst the lucky ones to make it were many former members of the 10th Cavalry Brigade, including Colonel Maczek himself. After his arrival, he was welcomed heartily by General Władysław Sikorski, the commander of Polish units in France and the main organizer of the troops. For his bravery in defending Poland, Maczek was awarded the Virtuti Militari order and was promoted to the rank of General. He was also offered the command of 1st Infantry Division, the first Polish unit to be formed in France. He refused – while understanding the role of infantry, he was waiting for more 10th Cav Brigade members to make it to France to re-estabilish the mechanized unit – he understood that the war changed and mechanized warfare was the future. Instead, he took over the training center for the Polish troops in France. Slowly, day after day, with Sikorsky’s support (he understood the importance of training mechanized troops as well), he managed to put together the remnants of the 10th Cavalry Brigade. The troops were trained in Campenac and Paimport near the town of Coёtquidan – these camps were designated as special training grounds for the mechanized and armored units. Men from former armored units streamed into them daily – including drivers, mechanics, tankers and generally anyone with experience with vehicles. In this case, the Hungarians were actually very helpful – instead of interning (imprisoning) Polish troops as Hitler ordered, they allowed many Polish soldiers to “escape” (sometimes even including their equipment and regimental banners) to France. At this point, the Polish officers petitioned French government in order to create a mechanized Polish unit to help defend France against potential German attack. The French politely refused, as they considered such a unit pointless, because they had complete faith in their Maginot line and their own units. From that point onwards, the Polish had to practically fight the French bureaucracy over every car, gun and tank. In 1940, a French-Polish mutual agreement was signed, finally creating the framework and foundations for the creation of the Polish armored unit. The Polish mechanized training camp was moved south to Avignon and the new camp was far superior to the old ones, both in equipment and in amenities. The training possibilities however were still poor. The center was equipped only with a few obsolete and worn-out FT-17 tanks, artillery and automatic weapons were completely missing – in April 1940 in Avignon, the units were still using wooden sticks to “simulate” guns and machineguns. The situation changed in May 1940 when the German Blitzkrieg once again shocked Europe by sweeping aside all resistance – it was clear now that the future war would be fought with mobile mechanized units, supported by air force. In June 1940, after losing Flandres, the French finally (practically in the state of panic) allowed the Polish to build a motorized division. In order to organize the undertaking as fast as possible, 5000 Polish troopers were moved towards Paris, close to the arms warehouses, from where they were to recieve their weapons. The training was accelerated as well. By that point, the battlefield situation of the French was critical. French command, desperate to get more fighting men on the field, demanded immediate deployment of the new Polish unit. This was however practically impossible – the Polish division recieved 90 French tanks (Renault R-35 and R-40) straight from the factories literally days before. These new vehicles had practically nothing in common with the old FT-17 tanks the Polish were training with, the troops had no idea how to operate them and there was no time. This issue was common to the French troops of the era as well – for years, French military was lulled into complacency after the victory in the Great War and by 1939, many French units were still equipped with WW1-era weapons, including the obsolete FT-17 tanks. By the time the situation became critical, French industry started mass-producing relatively modern designs such as the Continue reading →

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