|Europe in 1914, the Central Powers in brown Col. Józef Piłsudski with his staff in front of the Governor's Palace in Kielce, 1914 Col. Józef Piłsudski and his officers, 1915 Pilsudski in Otwock, 1915 II Brigade of the Polish Legions in Volhynia|
The Polish Legions (Polish : Legiony Polskie) was a name of the Polish military force (the first active Polish army in generations) established in August 1914 in Galicia soon after World War I erupted between the opposing alliances of the Triple Entente on one side (comprising the British Empire, the French Republic and the Russian Empire); and the Central Powers on the other side, comprising the German Empire and Austria-Hungary. The Legions became "a founding myth for the creation of modern Poland" in spite of their considerably short existence; they were replaced by the Polish Auxiliary Corps (Polish : Polski Korpus Posiłkowy) formation on 20 September 1916, merged with Polish II Corps in Russia on 19 February 1918 for the Battle of Rarańcza against Austria-Hungary, and disbanded following the military defeat at the Battle of Kaniów in May 1918, against imperial Germany. General Haller escaped to France to form the Polish army in the West against the anti-Polish German-Bolshevik treaty.
The Legions took part in many battles against the forces of the Imperial Russia, both in Galicia and in the Carpathian Mountains. They suffered horrendous casualties outnumbered three to one in the Battle of Łowczówek. They captured Kielce, and in 1915 took part in the offensive on Warsaw. In June 1916 the unit had approximately 25,000 soldiers.Both the number of troops and the composition of units changed rapidly. After the Battle of Kostiuchnówka where 2,000 Polish soldiers died delaying a Russian offensive, Józef Piłsudski demanded that the Central Powers issue a guarantee of independence for Poland and partially succeeded. The Polish Legions became the Polish Auxiliary Corps. After the Act of 5th November of 1916 which pronounced the creation of the puppet Kingdom of Poland of 1916–18, the Polish Legions were transferred under German command. However, most of the members refused to swear allegiance to the German Kaiser and were interned in Beniaminów and Szczypiorno (the Oath crisis ). Approximately 3,000 of them were drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army and the failed German Polnische Wehrmacht , while approximately 7,500 stayed in the Austrian Polish Auxiliary Corps. They were sent to the Italian Front.
The formation of the Legions was declared by Józef Piłsudski in his order of August 22, 1914. The Austrian government, having jurisdiction over the area, officially agreed to the formation on August 27, 1914.
The unit became an independent formation of the Austro-Hungarian Army thanks to the efforts of the KSSN and the Polish members of the Austrian parliament. Personnel came mostly from former members of various scouting organisations, including Drużyny Strzeleckie and Związek Strzelecki, as well from as volunteers from all around the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Initially, the Polish Legions were composed of two legions: the Eastern and the Western Legion, both formed on August 27. After a Russian victory in the Battle of Galicia (August–September 1914) the Eastern Polish legion refused to fight on behalf of the Austro-Hungarian side against Russia and was disbanded on September 21. On December 19, the Western legion was transformed into three brigades: the I Brigade of the Polish Legions under Józef Piłsudski, formed in mid-December; the II Brigade of the Polish Legions under Józef Haller de Hallenburg, formed between mid-December and March (sources vary); and the III Brigade of the Polish Legions under Zygmunt Zieliński (later Bolesław Roja), formed on May 8, 1915. All brigades had the following:
The commanders of the Legions were consecutively: Gen. Karol Trzaska-Durski (September 1914 – February 1916), Gen. Stanisław Puchalski (until November 1916), Col. Stanisław Szeptycki (until April 1917), and Col. Zygmunt Zieliński (until August 1917). After the war ended the officers of the Polish Legions became the backbone of the Polish Army.
|Operations of Polish Legions and the Puławy Legion|
Below is a list of prominent Polish battles against the Imperial Russian Army in 1914–16, leading to victories in most cases, with notable exceptions especially during the Brusilov Offensive of 1916.
Following the foundation of the Second Polish Republic, many served in the Polish Army, and held political as well as elected offices.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Polish Legions in World War I .|
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Józef Haller von Hallenburg was a lieutenant general of the Polish Army, a legionary in the Polish Legions, harcmistrz, the president of the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association (ZHP), and a political and social activist. He was the cousin of Stanisław Haller.
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Count Stanisław Maria Jan Szeptycki was a Polish count, general and military commander.
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The First Cadre Company was a Polish military formation created in the Austro-Hungarian Army at the outbreak of World War I. The company was founded by Józef Piłsudski on August 3, 1914 in Kraków. It was the predecessor of the Polish Legions, and formed the core of the Polish Legions' First Brigade during World War I.
Brigade I of the Polish Legions was a unit of Austro-Hungarian Army, manned by Poles under Austrian occupation, part of the Polish Legions in World War I, existing from 1914 to 1917.
The Battle of Kostiuchnówka was a World War I battle that took place July 4–6, 1916, near the village of Kostiuchnówka (Kostyukhnivka) and the Styr River in the Volhynia region of modern Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. It was a major clash between the Russian Army and the Polish Legions during the opening phase of the Brusilov Offensive.
Brigade II of the Polish Legions, also known as the Iron or Carpathian Brigade, a unit of Austro-Hungarian Army, manned by Austrian Poles, part of the Polish Legions in World War I, that existed from 1914 or 1915 till 1918.
Brigade III of the Polish Legions was a unit of the Austro-Hungarian Army, manned by Austrian Poles. It was formed in 1915, existed till 1917, and was a part of the Polish Legions in World War I.
The Battle of Rarańcza was fought between Polish Legionnaires, and Austria-Hungary, from February 15 to 16, 1918, near Rarańcza in Bukovina, and ended with a Polish victory.
Battle of Łowczówek was a battle during World War I, fought on 22–25 December 1914 at Łowczówek, between the First Brigade of the Polish Legions, fighting for Austria-Hungary, and troops of Imperial Russia. The First Brigade was supported by some units of Hungarian infantry and Austrian artillery. The Austro-Hungarian-Polish forces held back the developing Russian offensive in the region, which allowed the bulk of the Austrian army to avoid being surrounded and to withdraw, but had to yield their positions in the face of continued Russian attacks and the danger of being encircled itself.
Polish Armed Forces in the East around World War I is a term used for several Polish military formations formed in Russia and operating in the period of 1914–1920 (First World War, Russian Revolution of 1917, and the early stages of the Polish-Ukrainian War and Polish-Soviet War. Early formations were part of the Imperial Russian Army. Later, during the Russian Revolution, the Polish formations were mainly allied to the White Russian forces and the Western powers. All the formations were eventually incorporated into the Polish Army by 1920.
Zygmunt Zieliński was a Polish general. He reached the rank of colonel in the Austro-Hungarian Army.
The Charge of Rokitna was a charge of a cavalry squadron of the 2nd Brigade of Polish Legions, fighting for the Austro-Hungarian Army. It took place on June 13, 1915 near the village of Rokytne, which at that time was part of Bessarabia Governorate. A Polish squadron of 70 uhlans, led by Rittmeister Zbigniew Dunin-Wasowicz, attacked positions of the Imperial Russian Army. The battle resulted in a Polish pyrrhic victory: out of 70 soldiers, Poles lost 17 KIA and 23 wounded. Russian losses are unknown.
Third Legions Infantry Regiment was an infantry unit of Polish Legions in World War I, Polish Army and the Home Army. It existed in 1914–1939 and 1944–1945.