History of the Polish Army

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The Polish Army (Polish : Wojsko Polskie ) is the name applied to the military forces of Poland. The name has been in use since the early 19th century, although it can be used to refer to earlier formations as well. Polish Armed Forces consist of the Army (Wojsko Lądowe), Navy (Marynarka) and Air Force (Lotnictwo) branches and are under the command of the Ministry of National Defense (Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej).

Contents

History

Kingdom of Poland (10th century–1569)

Helmet of Polish druzyna from the 10th century Polish helmet from X century.PNG
Helmet of Polish drużyna from the 10th century

The first Polish Army was created in the 10th century kingdom of Poland, under the Piast dynasty. The prince's forces were composed of a group of armed men, usually mounted, named drużyna. Their key role was the protection of the monarch and supporting the taxation effort. Their organisation was similar to other such armed units of other Slavic rulers, and were often of foreign origin.

With time, the early tribal warriors gave rise to knights and eventually, by the 15th century, the whole social class of the szlachta or Polish gentry. The Polish gentry formed a distinct element within the ancient tribal groupings. This is uncertain, however, as there is little documentation on the early history of Poland, or of the movements of the Slavonic people into what became the territory so designated.

Around the 14th century, there was little difference between those called knights and those referred to as szlachta in Poland. Members of the szlachta had the personal obligation to defend the country (pospolite ruszenie), and thereby became the kingdom's privileged social class. It was them who were obliged to build and support castles as well as to keep peace and order on territory they were assigned.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569–1795)

Depiction of a Commonwealth husaria. Husarz, Jozef Brandt, 1890.jpg
Depiction of a Commonwealth husaria.

The armies of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, or the First Polish Republic, were commanded by four hetmans. The armies comprised:

Some units of the Commonwealth used fairly unusual tactics. These units included:

Army without country (1795–1918)

Jan Henryk Dabrowski, commander of the Polish Legions during the Napoleonic Wars. Jan Henryk Dabrowski 2.jpg
Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, commander of the Polish Legions during the Napoleonic Wars.

After partitions of Poland, during the period from 1795 until 1918, Polish military was recreated several times in Poland during uprisings like the November Uprising of 1830 and the January Uprising in 1863, and outside Poland like during Napoleon Bonaparte wars (Polish Legions in Italy). The Kingdom of Poland, ruled by the Russian Tsar with a certain degree of autonomy, had a separate Polish army in the years 1815-1830 which was disbanded after the unsuccessful insurrection.

Large numbers of Poles also served in the armies of the partitioning powers, Russia, Austria-Hungary (before 1867 Austria) and Germany (before 1871 Prussia). However, these powers took care to spread Polish soldiers all over their armies and as a rule did not form predominantly Polish units.

During World War I, the Polish Legions were set up in Galicia, the southern part of Poland under Austrian occupation. They were both disbanded after the Central Powers failed to provide guarantees of Polish independence after the war. General Józef Haller, the commander of the Second Brigade of the Polish Legion, switched sides in late 1917, and via Murmansk took part of his troops to France, where he created the Blue Army. It was joined by several thousand Polish volunteers from the United States. It fought valiantly on the French front in 1917 and 1918.

Second Polish Republic and World War II (1918–1945)

Home Army recruits taking an oath, 1944. The Home Army was a Polish resistance movement in World War II. Partisans Oath 27 Dywizja AK 1944.jpg
Home Army recruits taking an oath, 1944. The Home Army was a Polish resistance movement in World War II.

When Poland regained independence in 1918, it recreated its military which participated in the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1922 and in the Second World War 1939–1945. During the German occupation of Poland, a number of resistance movements were created, of which the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) was most significant.

People's Republic of Poland (1947–1989)

The Polish armed forces, then known as Polish People's Army, were part of the Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact. Polish units took part in occupying Czechoslovakia in response to the Prague Spring in 1968. The command post for the invasion was actually located on Polish soil, at Marshal Ivan Yakubovsky's Legnica headquarters. [1]

Third Polish Republic (1989–present)

After January 1990 the name of the armed forces was changed to 'Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland,' to accord with the Polish State's new official name.

In March 2003 the Polish Armed Forces took part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, deploying 1500 personnel, special forces and a support ship (see Polish involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq). [2]

Following the destruction of Saddam's regime the Polish Land Forces supplied a brigade and a division headquarters for the 17-nation Multinational Division Central-South, part of the U.S.-led Multi-National Force Iraq. At its peak Poland had 2,500 soldiers in the south of the country. Poland deployed about ten attack and transport helicopters as part of its force in Iraq between 2004 and 2008. [3]

The troop number was reduced to 900 in 2006. Of the 900 soldiers, only 80 ever left their Forward operating base to conduct operations.

See also

Related Research Articles

Pospolite ruszenie

Pospolite ruszenie is a name for the mobilisation of armed forces during the period of the Kingdom of Poland and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The tradition of wartime mobilisation of part of the population existed from before the 13th century to the 19th century. In the later era, pospolite ruszenie units were formed from the szlachta. The pospolite ruszenie was eventually outclassed by professional forces.

Wojsko kwarciane was the term used for regular army units of Poland. The term was used from 1562.

Wojsko komputowe is a type of military unit used in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 17th century and the 18th century.

Hetmans of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

Hetmans of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth were the highest-ranking military officers, second only to the King, in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The first Polish title of Grand Crown Hetman was created in 1505. The title of hetman was given to the leader of the Polish Army and until 1581 it was awarded only for a specific campaign or war. Later it became a permanent title, as did all the titles in the Kingdom of Poland and Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It could not be revoked unless treachery had been proven. Hetmans were not paid for their services by the Royal Treasury.

Greater Poland uprising (1806)

Greater Poland uprising of 1806 was a military insurrection by Poles in Wielkopolska against the occupying Prussian forces after the Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (1772–1795).

Smolensk War

The Smolensk War (1632–1634) was a conflict fought between the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and Russia.

Polish Land Forces Ground warfare branch of Polands military forces

The Land Forces are a military branch of the Polish Armed Forces. They currently contain some 77,000 active personnel and form many components of the European Union and NATO deployments around the world. Poland's recorded military history stretches back a millennium – since the 10th century, but Poland's modern army was formed after the country regained independence following World War I in 1918.

Piechota wybraniecka also known as piechota łanowa was a type of an infantry formation in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Formed in 1578. Consisted of "royal" peasants from not charged and revendicated royal lands.

Battle of Ujście battle between Poland-Lithuania and Sweden; Swedish victory

The Battle of Ujście was fought on July 24–25, 1655 between forces of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth commanded by Krzysztof Opaliński and Andrzej Grudziński on one side, and on the other Swedish forces commanded by Arvid Wittenberg. Krzysztof Opaliński and Bogusław Leszczyński, dissatisfied with policies of King John II Casimir of Poland, decided to become Swedish allies together with the pospolite ruszenie of Greater Poland to Charles X Gustav of Sweden.

Battle of Żarnów

The Battle of Żarnów was fought on September 16, 1655, between the forces of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, commanded by John II Casimir and the forces of the Swedish Empire, commanded by Charles X Gustav. The result ended with a Swedish victory.

Polish–Ottoman War (1620–21)

The Polish–Ottoman War (1620–1621) was a conflict between the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire over the control of Moldavia. It ended with the Commonwealth withdrawing its claims on Moldavia.

Siege of Smolensk (1632–1633)

The Siege of Smolensk lasted almost a year between 1632 and 1633, when the Muscovite army besieged the Polish–Lithuanian city of Smolensk during the war named after that siege. Muscovite forces of over 25,000 under Mikhail Borisovich Shein began the siege of Smolensk on 28 October. The Polish garrison under Samuel Drucki-Sokoliński numbered about 3,000. The fortress held out for nearly a year, and in 1633 the newly-elected Polish king Władysław IV organised a relief force. In a series of fierce engagements, Commonwealth forces gradually overran the Russian field fortifications, and by 4 October the siege had broken. Shein had become besieged in his camp, and began surrender negotiations in January 1634, capitulating around 1 March.

Warfare in Medieval Poland

Warfare in Medieval Poland covers the military history of Poland during the Piast and Jagiellon dynasties.

Military of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The military of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth consisted of two administratively separate armies of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania following the 1569 Union of Lublin, which joined to form the bi-conderate elective monarchy of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Polish army was commanded by the Hetmans of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, commanding the armies of their respective country. The most unique formation of both armies was the heavy cavalry in the form of the Polish-Lithuanian winged hussars. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Navy never played a major role in the military structure, and ceased to exist in the mid-17th century.

Army of the Duchy of Warsaw

Army of the Duchy of Warsaw refers to the military forces of the Duchy of Warsaw. The Army was significantly based on the Polish Legions; it numbered about 30,000 and was expanded during wartime to almost 100,000. It was composed of infantry with a strong cavalry force supported by artillery. The Napoleonic customs and traditions resulted in some social tensions, but are generally credited with helpful modernization and useful reforms.

Zhmaylo uprising

The Zhmaylo uprising was a Cossack rebellion headed by Marek Zhmaylo against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1625. On 5 November Marek Zhmaylo was deprived of his title and Hetman Mykhailo Doroshenko was chosen to sign the Treaty of Kurukove, pledging allegiance to the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland.

Obrona potoczna

Obrona potoczna, variously translated into English as "Permanent Defense", "General Defense", or "Current Defense" was a hired military force in the 15th- and 16th-century Kingdom of Poland and the Polish–Lithuanian union, charged with defending the country's southern borders against incursions by the Tatars as well as occasional raids by Moldovans, Turks and Wallachians.

The Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland are the national armed forces of the Republic of Poland. The name has been used since the early 19th century, but can also be applied to earlier periods.

Battle of Mątwy

The Battle of Mątwy was the biggest and bloodiest battle of the so-called Lubomirski Rokosz, a rebellion against Polish King John II Casimir, initiated by a magnate and hetman, Jerzy Sebastian Lubomirski. It took place on 13 July 1666 in the village of Mątwy, and ended in rebel victory. The royal army of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth lost almost 4000 of its best and most experiences soldiers, who were murdered by Lubomirski's men. Rebel losses are estimated at approximately 200.

The Battle of Orynin took place on 28 September 1618. Polish forces under Hetmans Stanislaw Zolkiewski and Stanislaw Koniecpolski faced Crimean Tatars from Budjak, commanded by Khan Temir. The battle took place near Orynin in Podolia: after one day of battle, the Tatars bypassed the Poles, taking advantage of internal divisions within the Polish camp, and headed northwards, ransacking the southeastern corner of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. As a result of their raid, a number of towns and villages in Podole Voivodeship, Ruthenian Voivodeship, Braclaw Voivodeship and Volhynia Voivodeship were burned to the ground, and their residents taken into slavery.

References

  1. Andrew A. Michta, 'Red Eagle: the army in Polish politics 1944-1988,' Hoover Press, 1990, p.62. Michta's footnote cites 'Testimony of Col. Ryszard Kuklinski, who participated in the preparation of the invasion plans. See Kuklinski p.10'
  2. Around 200 Polish soldiers took part in combat, including GROM (Mobile-Operational Reaction Group) and FORMOZA (Naval Frogmen Group) special forces, a chemical decontamination unit as well as the ORP Kontradmirał X. Czernicki logistical ship. (Rafał Domisiewicz, Consolidating the Security Sector in Post-Conflict States: Polish Lessons from Iraq, Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  3. 6 PZL W-3 Sokół Helicopters (2003–2006) and four W-3 helicopters 2007-08 (http://gdziewojsko.wordpress.com/listy/w-3-sokol). 6 Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters (2004–2008) ( "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-12-23. Retrieved 2011-11-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)). 4 Mil Mi-8 helicopters (2003–2008)( "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2011-11-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) and http://www.altair.com.pl/konfsmig.htm Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine ).