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In Part I of this report, we discussed the creation of the post-WWI Polish Army and the establishment of a native firearms industry to equip them. While Poland had a well-equipped and motivated army, the 1939 invasion by both Nazi Germany and the USSR forced them to fight a two-front war, for which they were ill-prepared.

While their army had been defeated, the Polish government never surrendered, but instead fled the country, first to France and later Great Britain where they established the Rzad Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej na uchodzstwie (Government of the Republic of Poland in Exile).

France & Great Britain

Thousands of Polish soldiers and civilians escaped their conquered homeland. Many traveled through the Balkans to French-controlled Syria, where the French army organized about 4,000 into the Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade (Samodzielna Brygada Strzelcow Karpackich). With the Fall of France (see below), the Brigade, now 5,000 strong, defected to British-controlled Palestine in January 1941, where they were renamed the Polish Independent Brigade Group, reorganized and reequipped to British Army standards. Their primary small arms were the No. 1 Mk. III* Lee-Enfield rifle, Bren light machine guns and limited numbers of Thompson submachine guns.

They served alongside Australian, British and Indian troops during the Siege of Tobruk (April-November 1941) and helped to drive Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps out of North Africa. The Brigade was reinforced by the Polish forces of General Wladyslaw Anders, who had been evacuated from the USSR (see below), and reformed as the 3rd Carpathian Rifle Division.

Large numbers of Poles also escaped to France, where, along with Polish emigres and volunteers, about 85,000 were formed into four infantry divisions and two independent brigades under General Wladyslaw Sikorski.

The Polish Independent Highland Brigade (Samodzielna Brygada Strzelcow Podhalanskich), approximately 5,000 soldiers trained in mountain warfare, took part in the British/French campaign in Norway and fought with distinction in the Battle of Narvik (May-June 1940).

While poorly equipped, Polish units fought bravely during the Battle of France, suffering more than 70% killed or wounded.

Most Polish soldiers in France were equipped with WWI surplus Fusils d'lnfanterie Modele 1907/15 (Berthier), although some elite units, such as the Highland Brigade, received the French Army's new rifle, the Fusil a Repetition de 7,5mm Modele 1936 (MAS 36). The best weapon they received was the excellent French light machine gun, the Fusil Mitrailleur Modele 1924/29.

General Sikorski was able to evacuate about 20,000 Polish troops to Great Britain, where they were formed into the Polish I Corps, which included the 1st Armored Division (1 Dywizja Pancerna), the 4th Infantry Division, the 16th Independent Armored Brigade and the 1st Polish Independent Parachute Brigade (1 Polski Niezalezny Spadochron Karpackich). The latter unit took part in the ill-fated Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands in September 1944.

These new units were equipped with standard British small arms, including the No. 4 Lee-Enfield Rifle, Sten Machine Carbine and various Enfield, Webley and S&W .380 revolvers.

The Polish II Corp was formed in 1943, from Polish units in the Middle East, North Africa, and those that had been repatriated from the USSR. In February 1944, they were transferred to Italy, joining the British 8th Army. During 1944-1945, the Corps fought with distinction during the fourth and final Battle of Monte Cassino, the fighting on the Gothic Line in September 1944, and the Battle of Bologna, during the final offensive in Italy in March 1945.

The Soviet Union

When the Red Army invaded Poland in 1939, it captured tens of thousands of Polish soldiers and civilians, most of whom were held in prisoner-of-war camps and gulags in Siberia. When Nazi Germany invaded Russia in 1941, the Soviets were desperate for trained soldiers, and Stalin signed an agreement with the Polish government in exile, releasing the Polish POWs and the thousands of civilians. Most of the former soldiers were formed into units under General Wladyslaw Anders and were eventually evacuated from the USSR via Persia, and then to Egypt by the British.

In 1943, the Soviets organized the remaining Polish personnel into the 1st Polish Infantry Division, reinforcing it with Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Ruthenian and Central Asian conscripts, and re-designating it the 1st Polish Army. (2) They saw extensive service on the Eastern Front and were among the Red Army units that "liberated" Warsaw and Berlin.

The 1st Polish Infantry Division/Army was equipped with standard Soviet small arms including Mosin-Nagant rifles and carbines, Tokarev rifles, PPSh 1941 and PPS 1943 submachine guns, and DPM light machine guns.

Polish Resistance Groups

Armed resistance to the German/Soviet occupation began in 1939 ,with the Union for Armed Combat (Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej), later known as the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), and included a number of partisan organizations. By 1944 the Home Army and its allies numbered in excess of 600,000, making it the largest, or one of the largest resistance organizations in World War II Europe. (3)

Their activities included attacks on German troops and military bases, assassination of German officials and Polish collaborators, destruction of transportation and communication systems, sabotage of war industries and providing information to the Allies.

In April 1943, the Germans attempted to remove all Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto and transfer them to extermination camps. Rather than submit, about 1,000 poorly armed Jewish fighters resisted, and for almost a month, fought off overwhelming numbers of Wehrmacht and Waffen SS troops in brutal urban warfare. The Germans recaptured the Ghetto in May, but not before suffering hundreds of casualties at the hands of the Jewish fighters. Approximately 13,000 Jews were killed in the fighting and over 58,000 sent to extermination camps.

With the approach of the Red Army, in 1944, the Home Army staged a number of uprisings, several of which liberated cities and regions before the Soviets arrived. (4) In August, the Polish Government in Exile called for an uprising to liberate Warsaw before the Red Army arrived. The so-called "Warsaw Uprising" (August 1October 2, 1944) saw approximately 15,000 Home Army members, armed mostly with small arms, fighting 20,000 Wehrmacht and SS troops supported by armor, artillery and fighter aircraft.

On Stalin's orders, the Red Army halted about 20 km from Warsaw and provided no aid to the Polish fighters. While the Royal Air Force (including units of the Free Polish Air Force) managed to air drop some supplies to the insurgents, Stalin's refusal to support them insured a German victory.

Home Army fighters were equipped with a bewildering assortment of weaponry, including pre-war Polish Army small arms, weapons captured from the Germans and a small number of weapons provided by the Soviets and the British air drops.

The most prominent of these was the Blyskawica (Polish for "lightning") submachine gun. In September 1942, Waclaw Zawrotny and Seweryn Wielanier, two mechani cal engineers, designed a blowback-operated 9mm submachine that included features of the German MP40 and the British Sten. (5) About 600 were built at workshops around Warsaw in time to see service during the Warsaw Uprising.

Note: For a more detailed report on this fascinating weapon, 1 suggest Leszek Erenfeicht's detailed report at http:llwww.forgottenweapons.comlsubmachine-gunslpolish-blyskawica-smg.

Polish casualties are estimated to be between 150,000300,000 killed. Approximately 90,000 civilians were sent to labor camps in the Reich, while 60,000 were shipped to death and concentration camps. The failed Uprising destroyed the Home Army as a fighting force, which was Stalin's intention all along, as he had planned to install a Communist government in postwar Poland and, with the Home Army destroyed, had little fear of armed resistance.

The 1st Polish Armored and 4th Infantry Divisions landed in Normandy in August 1944, and served alongside the Canadian 1st Army in liberating northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands. On May 6, they captured the German naval base at Wilhelmshaven and accepted the surrender of more than ten Wehrmacht divisions.

After Germany's surrender, the Poles served as occupation troops until the units were disbanded in 1947. The majority of the troops opted not to return to a communist-ruled Poland and dispersed throughout western Europe, the U.S. and Canada. The Soviet-sponsored 1st Polish Army was disbanded after the war with much of its personnel being transferred to the armed forces of the Peoples Republic of Poland.

(1.) Free Polish Forces East and West and the Home Army

(2.) Many of the reinforcements were ex-POWs, occupants of gulags and members of "suspect" ethnic groups


(4.) The NKVD usually rounded up Home Army leaders afterwards and executed them or exiled them to Gulags

(5.) Copies of the Sten were also produced by Home Army workshops.

Caption: Soldiers of the 1st Polish Army armed with Nagant revolvers, Tokarev pistols, PPSh 41 submachine guns and a captured German MP40.

Caption: The most common rifle used by Polish forces under British command was the No. 1 Mk. III* Lee-Enfield.

Caption: The British supplied Free Polish forces in North Africa and Italy with numbers of M1928A1 Thompson submachine guns.

Caption: Members of the Samodzielna Brygada Strzelcow Karpackich serving with the French Army were usually armed with the d'Infanterie Module 1907/15 (Berthier).

Caption: Most Polish units in France were armed with the Fusil d' Infanterie Modele 1907/15 (Berthier). (Russ Pastena photo)

Caption: Polish troops at the Battle of Monte Cassino armed with Thompson submachine guns.

Caption: Free Polish troops armed with No. 1 Mk. III* Lee-Enfield rifles.

Caption: General Wladyslaw Anders commanded the Polish troops transferred from the USSR to Persia and then Egypt.

Caption: An exhausted Polish soldier in France, armed with a Fusil a Repetition de 7,5mm Modele 1936, grabs a quick nap.

Caption: Soldiers of the Polish 1st Armored Division armed with No. 4 Lee-Enfield rifles.

Caption: Polish soldiers serving under British command were armed with No. 4 Lee-Enfield rifles.

Caption: The British supplied Free Polish troops with large numbers of Sten Machine carbines. (Courtesy Capt. Monty Mendenhall)

Caption: Soldiers of the Samodzielna Brygada Strzelcow Karpackich equipped with French Fusil Mitrailleurs Module 1924/29.

Caption: Members of the Polish Independent Parachute Brigade armed with Sten guns.

Caption: The 1st Polish Army in the USSR was equipped with the Vintovka obr. 91-30g Mosin. (Courtesy Stuart Mowbray and Joe Puelo)

Caption: Soldiers of the 1st Polish Army in the USSR were equipped with numbers of Karabin obr. 1944g Mosin carbines. (Courtesy Rock Island Auction Co.)

Caption: The Soviets supplied the 1st Polish Army with numbers of Samozaryadnya vintovka sistemi Tokareva obr. 1940g rifles. (Courtesy Rock Island Auction Co.)

Caption: Fighters with of Home Army equipped with British-supplied Sten guns.

Caption: Soldiers of the Soviet-sponsored 1st Polish Infantry division armed with a mixture of Polish Karabin wzor 29 and Russian Vintovka obr. 1891-30g Mosin rifles.

Caption: Soldiers of the 1st Polish Army in the USSR were equipped with Pistolet Pulemyot Shpagina obr. 1941g submachine guns. (Courtesy James D. Julia Auctioneers, Fairfield, ME,

Caption: Poles serving in the Soviet 1st Polish Army were armed with the Ruchnoy Pulemyot DPM (Courtesy Rock Island Auction Co.)

Caption: Members of the Palish Heme Army during the Warsaw Uprising. They are armed with a wide variety of Polish, German and Czech weapons.

Caption: German Waffen SS troops putting down the Jewish Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Caption: Two Jewish fighters captured by the Germans during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Caption: The Blyskawica submachine gun was manufactured by the Home Army in occupied Warsaw. (Leszek Erenfeicht photo courtesy chine-guns/polish-blyskawica-smg)

Caption: Polish soldiers of the British-sponsored 1st Armored Division manning Churchill tanks.

Caption: Members of the Soviet-sponsored 1st Polish Army equipped with Soviet rifles, submachine guns and light machine guns.

Caption: Members of the Home Army equipped with the Blyskawica submachine during the Warsaw uprising. (Courtesy Leszek Erenfeicht)

Caliber:          .303 Mark VII

Overall length:   44.5 in.

Barrel length:    25 in.

Weight:           8 lbs., 10 oz.

Magazine:         10-round charger-loaded box

Sights:           Front: Blade
                  Rear: U notch adj. by tangent from
                  200 to 2,000 yards

Bayonet:          Sword-style with 17 in. single-edge


Caliber:              .45 ACP

Overall length:       33.75 in.

Barrel length:        10.5 in.

Weight: (unloaded)    10 lbs., 12 oz.

Magazine: Sights:     20-rd. box & 50-rd. drum Front: Blade
                      Rear: U notch battle sight & aperture
                      adj. by leaf from 100-600 yds.

Rate of fire:         800 rpm


Caliber:               .303 Mk. VII

Overall length:        45.25 in.

Barrel length:         25 in.

Weight: (unloaded)     22 lbs., 5 oz.

Magazine:              30-rd. detachable box

Sights:                Front: Blade
                       Rear: Aperture adj. by leaf from 200
                       to 1,800 yards

Rate of fire:          500 rpm


Caliber:          8mm Balle D

Overall length:   51.4 in.

Barrel length:    31.6 in.

Weight:           8.4 lbs.

Magazine:         Three-round, Mannlicher-style clip

Sights:           Front: Wide blade with groove
                  Rear: 250-meter battle sight &
                  U notch adj. from 400 to 2,000

Bayonet:          Epee-Baionnette Modele 1907 with
                  16-in. cruciform blade


Caliber:          .303 Mark VII

Overall length:   44.4 in.

Barrel length:    25 in.

Weight:           8.7 lbs.

Magazine:         10-round charger-loaded box

Sights:           Front: Blade
                  Rear: 300-yd. battle sight & aperture
                  adj. by leaf from 200 to 1,300 yards

Bayonet:          Socket style with 8-in. cruciform


Caliber:          7,5mm Balle Modele 1929 C

Overall length:   40.25 in.

Barrel length:    22.6 in.

Weight:           8.3 lbs.

Magazine:         Charger loaded, 5-round box

Sights:           Front: Blade protected by sight
                  Rear: Aperture adj. from 200 to
                  1,200 meters

Bayonet:          13-in. cruciform rod


Caliber:              7,5mm Balle Mle. 1929 C

Overall length:       42.6 in.

Barrel length:        19.7 in.

Weight: (unloaded)    20.2 lbs.

Magazine:             25 round box

Sights:               Front: Blade
                      Rear: U notch adj. by tangent
                      from 200 to 2,000 meters.

Rate of fire:         500 rpm


Caliber:             Cartridge, S.A. Ball, 9mm, Mark 1z

Overall length:      30 in.

Barrel length:       7.75 in.

Weight: (unloaded    6.5 lbs.

Magazine:            32-round detachable box

Sights:              Front: Blade
                     Rear: Aperture fixed for 100 yards

Rate of fire:        550 rpm


Caliber:              7,62mm patron obr. 1930 D

Overall length:       45.8 in.

Barrel length:        27.75 in.

Weight: (unloaded)    8.8 lbs.

Magazine:             5-rd. charger-loaded

Sights:               Front: Hooded post
                      Rear: U notch adj. by tangent
                      from 100 to 2,000 meters

Bayonet:              Socket-style with cruciform blade


Caliber:             7,62mm patron obr. 1930 D

Overall length:      40 in.

Barrel length:       19.9 in.

Weight: (unloaded)   9 lbs.

Magazine:            5-rd. charger-loaded

Sights:              Front: Hooded post
                     Rear: U notch adj. by tangent from
                     100 to 2,000 meters

Bayonet:             Folding, permanently attached cruciform blade


Caliber.              7,62mm patron obr. 1930 D

Overall length:       45.3 in.

Barrel length:        24 in.

Weight: (unloaded)    8.6 lbs.

Magazine:             10-rd. detachable box

Sights:               Front: Hooded post
                      Rear: U notch adj. by tangent
                      from 100 to 2,000 meters

Bayonet:              Knife-style with 9.5-in. blade



Caliber:               Pistoletnyi patron 7,62x25 TT

Overall length:         33 in.       25/35 in. (stock

Barrel length:         10.5 in.         10.75 in.

Weight: (unloaded)      8 lbs.           6.8 lbs.

Magazine:            35-rd. box or
                      71-rd. drum

Sight:                       Front: Hooded post
                      Rear: L flip aperture for 100 &
                                200 meters

Rate of Fire:           900 rpm          700 rpm


Caliber:              7,62mm patron obr. 1930 D

Overall length:       49.8 in.

Barrel length:        23.8 in.

Weight: (unloaded)    26.8 lbs.

Magazine:             47-rd. pan

Sights:               Front: Hooded post
                      Rear: U notch adj. by tangent
                      from 100 to 2,000 meters

Rate of Fire:         550 rpm


Caliber:          9mm Patrone 08

Overall length:   28.75 in. stock extended;
                  21.89 in. stock folded

Barrel length:    7.75 in.

Weight:           7.1 lbs.

Magazine:         32-round detachable box

Sights:           Front: Blade
                  Rear: Aperture fixed for
                  100 meters

Rate of fire:     450-500 rpm
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Article Details
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Author:Scarlata, Paul
Publication:Firearms News
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 1, 2017
Next Article:BAR GUNS "I WONDER IF THAT GUN ON THE WALL STILL WORKS?": Venola has spent his share of time around remote watering holes, and many of them sport...

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