Part 1: http://ftr.wot-news.com/2014/09/05/t...rigade-part-1/ Part 2: http://ftr.wot-news.com/2014/09/09/t...rigade-part-2/ Part 3: http://ftr.wot-news.com/2014/09/10/t...rigade-part-3/ Continuing from part 3… During the entire year 1943, the division continued training. It also changed its structure to a new type (proven by combat), made to resemble the one of a British armored division. The division consisted in turn of an armored brigade, a motorized lorry-mobile brigade, an artillery brigade and auxilliary division units to secure the chain of supplies. A deadline to make the division combat-ready was set on May 1944. When May came, the newly ready 1st Armored Division took part, along with other units, in last series of military excercises and it was decided to deply the unit during the second stage of the Normandy landings. 2nd Lieutenant battledress, 1st Armored Division At that point, the 1st Armored Division consisted of following units: - 10th Armored Cavalry Brigade (HQ units, three tank batallions, one motorized batallion) - 3rd Rifle Brigade (three infantry batallions) - one motorized recon regiment - four artillery regiments - engineering company - supply transport detachment - brigade tank repair shops - four light repair shops - reserve tank companies - field post office, light field ambulance service - military police detachment - disciplinary platoon, court martial, prosecution In total, it was 855 officers, 15210 soldiers, 381 tanks, 473 guns and mortars and 4500 armored cars, armored troop carriers and other motorized vehicles. In July, the entire division was moved to Aldershot, where it awaited its transports to Normandy. By the end of the July, the division disembarked the transport ships in two Normandy ports – Arromanches and Corseulles, with Bayeux set as the unit’s rally point. It was made part of the II.Canadian Corps of the 1st Army, which in turn was assigned to the 21st Army Group of General Montgomery. The task the division was assigned with was an attack from the Caen area towards Falaise as a part of the Operation Totalise. In the night from 7.8. to 8.8., the unit moved to the initial attack position on the eastern outskirts of Caen. General Maczek wrote a special order before the battle. A part of it was addressed to the Polish soldiers: “We go to our first battle and we demand to settle the score for the first five years of the war. For Warsaw, for Kutno, for Westerplatte, for hundreds of thousands of defenceless victims, killed by the hands of the occupants. It does not mean however that you will fight like barbarians. Fight the way the Polish soldier always fought in our history. Fight gallantly and fight hard.” The attack began on 8.8. along the Caen-Falaise road. The 10th Brigade ran into strong defenses and suffered severe casualties. The 2nd Regiment of the Brigade lost 27 tanks out of 34. The next day, however, the attack was resumed and the units managed to advance, even though they were unable to completely break the German defense. Canadian 4th Armored Division had about the same results and even the following days did not bring any improvement. The situation changed only with the arrival of XV. US Armored Corps from the south. The German units, in real danger of getting surrounded, started retreating through the gap between the town of Argentan and river Laison. The allied commanders decided such a withdrawal must not be allowed and tasked the Polish and Canadian divisions with closing the gap. On 15.8.1944, the division crossed river Dives and captured the town of Jort, continuing in the following days towards the heavily fortified town of Trun. This advance reduced the gap to mere several kilometers. On 17.8.1944, the division recieved the order to capture the town of Chambois. 2nd Armored Regiment and 8th Rifle Company were assigned this task, but in the night they got lost and couldn’t fulfill the order. At this point, General Maczek, isntead of an all-out frontal assault, suggested capturing the strategic overlooks east of Trun and Chambois to close the remaining gap. On the 19.8.1944 in the evening, the order was completed by the capture of Hill 262 near Mont Ormel and the town of Chambois. The Falaise gap was closed. In the days that followed, Mongomery himself praised the Polish units, saying that they were the plug that closed the gap. That this point, the entire 1st Division got bogged down in defensive fighting, because from 20.8.1944 on, it became isolated from the rest of the allied troops (and supplies) and had to be supplied by air drops, while being constantly under attack by the Germans, desperately trying to fight their way out of the Falaise pocket. These units included the German 7th Army and Wilhelm Bittrich’s II. SS Panzer Corps, attacking from north and east, trying to open the gap once again and relieve the Germans in the west – these units were not pushovers and the fighting was truly fierce. Despite significant losses, the Polish held out, until they were relieved by the 4th Canadian Armored Division. These several days of hard fighting was the first and at the same time most difficult battle in the entire western Europe campaign for the Polish. For the troopers, the battle was not just an operation – the fighting was personal, an opportunity to get revenge on the hated occupants for the entire Poland. For the veterans of the original 10th Cavalry Brigade, it was truly a satisfaction to capture the members of the 2nd Panzer Division, the same unit they fought against in 1939. The losses however were high – 10 percent of all the men fell in the battle and there were even voices saying that the entire division should be moved from the front lines. After long deliberation, General Maczek denied this idea and ordered the unit to rest a few days and then to become operational again. General Maczek atop of the turret of the Cromwell command tank (on the left) After the short rest, on 30.8., the entire division started moving towards Abbeville to chase the retreating Germans. After crossing river Somme, they captured Saint Omer and on 6.9., they entered Belgium. The first city to be liberated by them was the historical town of Ypres, followed by Thiel. In these days, thanks to good infrastructure and practically no German resistance, the division managed to advance 400 kilometers. In the following victorious march, Polish soldiers liberated Gent, Lokeren and Saint Nicholas. On 16.9., they entered Holland and after heavy fighting, they liberated Axel and Hulst. The fast advance however caused various supply issues, as the unit literally outran the supply lines. This issue was shared by most of the allied units fighting in the west, getting further and Continue reading →

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