Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Collapse

"Jan, have you seen this?" Bartek Pomorski, a sergeant in the 10th Motorized Cavalry, handed Jan Kołodziej a crudely printed handbill.

Scanning it, Jan saw that it was an order for the forces of both the Kraków and Lublin armies to withdraw to the area known as the Romanian Bridgehead. Jan knew of this only because his company commander had briefed the men about it shortly before the German attack on the 1st of September, nearly two weeks ago.

The Polish commander-in-chief, Marshal of Poland Edward Rydz-Śmigły, had envisioned the Polish military withdrawing to that hilly area on the border with Romania in the event of a German attack. The idea being to preserve the army until the French attack in the West which would draw off German strength. Then the Poles would counterattack and drive the hated Niemcy from Poland.

Unfortunately, from what this handbill said, there had been no French attack. The Poles seemed to be on their own.

"Bartek, is this real? The French haven't attacked?" Jan asked, incredulously.

"Yes Jan, the French and the English are rushing to aid Poland, just as they rushed to aid the Czechs over the Sudetenland. I think we're on our own chłopak.¹" Bartek spat in disgust.

"When do we move? I can't see taking my boys back to what's left of the regiment. The Marshal says withdraw, then perhaps we should do what the Marshal has ordered." Jan handed the bill back to Bartek.

"Well, the Niemcy are between us and the Romanian hills, we'll have to fight our way through."

Cezary Król and Michał Włodarczyk just happened to walk up at that moment, Michał said, "Another opportunity to kill Niemcy, when do we begin?" The smile he offered didn't make it to his eyes.

Gefreiter Jürgen von Lüttwitz watched as the Poles attacked again, the pocket which they were in was slowly collapsing and their efforts to break out were getting desperate. Ammunition was running low, his men were starting to waver in the face of the fierce attacks.

Jürgen yelled at his boys to be ready, another Polish attack was in the offing as the sun began to set. Firing broke out to their front, Jürgen heard a grunt next to him. Schütze Ernst Triebig was down, a Polish rifle round in his chest.

Jürgen's rifle section were working their bolts as fast as they could in support of the machine gun section led by Unteroffizier Kurt Hartmann, their squad leader. The Poles were expertly working their way closer to the German position.

"Grenades!" Jürgen yelled out, just as Hartmann's MG 34 went silent.

Unteroffizier Hartmann looked on as Oberschütze Max Kurz opened the feed tray on his gun, Hartmann could see the jam which prevented the gun from firing. As Kurz worked to free the bad round, Hartmann readied his MP 38.

It was getting dark and he couldn't see any targets to their front, hopefully the Poles had had enough for one day. But no, a flurry of grenade explosions to his right made him look in that direction, von Lüttwitz's rifle squad was on the point of being overrun. In the dim light Hartmann could see a number of Polish infantrymen rushing von Lüttwitz's position. He had no choice, he stood up and engaged the Poles with his machine pistol.

Jürgen was frantically digging in his ammo pouches to extract another clip for his rifle, he could see a Pole, a large man, coming straight at him with a bayonet on the end of his rifle. The man had a look of pure hatred on his face. Jürgen's fingers scrabbled and in his last ammo pouch found a clip.

As he pulled it out he realized that he had no time, but he kept going anyway, better to die trying than simply give up.

Hartmann fired as the big Pole brought his rifle back to bayonet whoever was in the trench in front of him. The man twisted, then fell to his left as the 9 mm rounds hit him from hip to shoulder. Hartmann let up on the trigger, thinking, "What a Grünschnabel² am I, short bursts Kurt, short bursts."

Hartmann fired another burst at a retreating Pole, he missed with the last three rounds in that magazine. "Damn it, I'm firing like a damned rookie!" He quickly loaded another 32-round magazine. He was ready, but it seemed that the Polish attack had subsided.

"Gun's ready Uffz," he heard Kurz announce.

"Gott sei dank.³" Hartmann whispered to the gloaming.

They had had to abandon the two tankettes, they were noisy and they were nearly out of fuel anyway. Jan had no problem letting Bartek lead the way, he knew the area fairly well, having spent time here before the war.

The German ring was closing around the rapidly dwindling organized Polish forces.

"How far to the border?" Jan asked during one of the stops they made to scout the area ahead. Bartek had a map but didn't dare light his torch in order to read it.

"I'm not sure, perhaps a hundred kilometers to the Bridgehead, the border with Romania is farther on, but if we can make it to the area around Przemyśl, then we will be close enough to perhaps rendezvous with other units making for that area."

Jan nodded, "The old fortress city, I know of it. I know a girl there."

Kornel Jabłoński chuckled softly, "Is there any city in Poland where you don't know a girl, Jan?"

Major Hans von Woyrsch looked at Hartmann in the light of a burning Polish farmhouse, Hartmann noted that the Major looked concerned.

"Kurt, we got our asses kicked today. The Poles threw everything they had at us, word from regiment is that at least fifteen hundred of our boys are missing, presumed captured. The Polacks fought well today."

Hartmann grimaced at the slur, his great-grandmother was Polish, but he knew von Woyrsch was an old school Junker, one of the Prussian nobility. No doubt there was a long history of warfare with the Poles and Lithuanians in his family history. But still, "Polack"?

Von Woyrsch didn't notice Hartmann's discomfort at the use of the word, he continued, "Can you believe they actually had cavalry in our rear? Cavalry for God's sake, what is this, the 19th Century?"

Hartmann wondered if the Major had noticed that most of the division's transport was horse-drawn.

As night fell, Polish forces were desperately fighting their way to freedom, no one thought of surrender. If they could escape to the West, the fight would continue until Poland was free again.

The German pursuit paused, time enough to attack again in the morning. As the sun rose on another day, Poland was betrayed once more.

To the east, the first units of the Red Army were crossing the Polish border. Stalin had stabbed his neighbor in the back.

Poland was doomed.

¹ Lad (chłopak)
² Greenhorn (Grünschnabel)
³ Thank God (Gott sei dank)


  1. Luttwitz got mixed up in only major Polish counterattack of the campaign, Battle of Bzura?

  2. Sarge, your writing is getting even more descriptive. I can feel the discomfort of the position and the soldiers piling into it.

    One wonders what the Poles might have done, properly re-supplied and actually supported by England and France (and, of course, not invaded by the Soviet Union). Historically, I wonder when the Poles are actually going to get something breaking in their favor (hopefully someday).

    I had to remind myself - at this time Romania was still allied with France and Britain, but the government would be overthrown to a more supportive one to Germany later.

    1. Poland actually had an alliance with Romania and the two countries had very good relations. The alliance was not activated (as I understand it) because the Poles wanted a neutral appearing Romania through which they could escape to the West. While the Romanian government did intern Polish units escaping the collapse of Poland, they actually assisted individual Poles in escaping to the West. Wikipedia has a fairly good article on the treaty.

  3. Good story!
    I brought up a map to see where the Romanian bridge head was, the modern map (https://goo.gl/maps/QMiZryrXm75CBk838) was not a lot of specific help. The borders seem to have changed over the last 80 some years :-)

    1. Oh yes, the borders have shifted quite a bit. One thing you should note, Russia never gave back the Polish land it seized in 1939. (Though much of that is now in Belarus and Ukraine as I recall.) Also, Romania and Poland no longer share a common border, they did in 1939. Romania also lost land to the Soviet Union.

      I had the same problem trying to chase down the old borders. The maps I had access to are too large a scale.

  4. Ah, so nice of Great Britain and La Belle France to actually stick to the letter of their treaties. They might have had a chance to overwhelm Germany if they had attacked from the west, or at least pinned down the Germans and slowed Jerry's movements. But no. Pernicious Albion and feckless France saw a way out and took it.


    The poor Poles, abandoned and screwed by everyone. And then subjugated in one form or another until June of 1989. Almost 50 years of being under someone else's boot.

    I wonder why they entered the EU? Not going to say "Haven't they learned anything" because times change and it was supposed to be an economic thingy, but lots of the screwy non-economic things, like taking in refugees (who all seem to be men from 15-35, you know, military age men from countries that hate people like the Poles, especially people that still think the relief of Vienna was basically yesterday) show that the EU was and is as bad an idea as trusting... pernicious Albion and the Frogs.

    1. The French and British governments both showed a complete lack of intestinal fortitude in the period 1938 to 1940.

  5. Hey Old AFSarge;

    I was wondering when the Soviets were going to show up. The Poles are arguing with the EU, they are not accepting any more "Refugees" from the south anymore, same as the other Eastern bloc countries, unlike the Western European countries that are in a hurry to inport their destruction. The Poles and others still remember the betrayal and the Soviet occupation like it was yesterday. I believe that they are better allies for the Americans than the Western Europeans are.

    1. Trump had planned to move as many as 10,000 U.S. troops from Germany to Poland, for exactly that reason. Germans were not at all pleased with the idea of losing all the associated revenue they've been getting for decades.

      Been trying to find out how that has all progressed, and ran across a couple of articles of interest:



      The world would be in substantially different shape had not the commies here and abroad not used the plandemic as a lever to falsify elections and increase the authoritarianism they so love to exercise.

    2. I note that none of those bases is near the border with Ukraine.


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