13th Regiment of Wilno Uhlans

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13th Regiment of Wilno Uhlans
Country Poland
Branch Polish Army
Type Cavalry
Size Regiment
Engagements Polish–Soviet War
World War II

The 13th Regiment of Wilno Uhlans (Polish: 13 Pułk Ułanów Wileńskich) was a unit of the Polish army between World War I and World War II.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

The ancestral units to the regiment were created mainly as means of defending the Polish interest and the interest of the ethnic Poles living in Kresy at the end of World War I. Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Belarussians, and even Anarchists competed for the sovereignty over the area.

The Thirteenth Division was formed out of the cavalry units of the Lithuanian and Belarusian Self-Defence[1] on December 27, 1918, on the estate of a Mr. Pośpieszek. On December 28, the division was moved to the garrison at Vilnius and was stationed in the barracks in the Antokol district. Władysław Dąbrowski, whose nom-de-guerre was "Dąb" or "Oak", was the first commander of the division. The division became the first in newly independent Poland, it was originally called the 1st Division of the Uhlans of Vilnius. The division officially became part of the Polish Armed Forces in June 1919, receiving its pre-World War II name and number.

The division was nationally famous because of the so-called "zagończycy [2]" or "brave raiders"; its first commander, Major Władysław Dąbrowski, was a "zagonczyk". In the official documents of the Polish Armed Forces, the phrase "of Vilnius" or "Wilenskich" was omitted; the official name was the 13th Division. In spite of this, the officers, soldiers and public persisted in calling it the 'Thirteenth Vilnius'.

Polish Soviet War 1919–1920[edit]

The Division participated in the Polish–Soviet War of 1919–1920, and became known for many flanking maneuvers and raids behind Soviet lines. On June 29, 1919, in Vilnius, General Edward Rydz-Śmigły handed over the division's new banner to a small delegation from a combat area. After a failed attempt at seizing territory in the Ukraine beyond Kiev, many soldiers from the disbanded Tatar Ulhans Division, (named after Colonel Mustafa Achmatowicz, a renowned eighteenth-century Lithuanian Tatar cavalryman), joined the "Vilinius Division".

Lipka Tatar Tradition[edit]

Since the joining, the regiment had been following dual tradition of the before—mentioned Lithuanian and Belarusian Self-Defence and of the 7th Tatar Regiment of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania formed in 1792 and stationed in Janow, the same place where over century later, the 13th regiment fought its very first battle. The 18th century unit was under command of the legendary Colonel Aleksander Mustafa Ulan.[3]

The interwar period: 1921–1939[edit]

In late 1921, the division patrolled the Polish border with Lithuania and was stationed for a brief period in Głębokie, at present Hlybokaye in Belarus. The division was moved to Nowa Wilejka near Vilnius in 1922, where it stayed until the Polish Defensive War in 1939.

By the order of the Polish Minister of Defence, issued on June 9, 1936, a troop within the division was renamed the 1st Tatar Squadron, to which all new recruits of Tatar ethnicity were directed. Captain Michał Bohdanowicz was the original commander. The unit was led for a short time by Captain Bazyli Marcisz and LTC Jan Tarnowski. Captain Aleksander Jeljaszewicz became its final pre-war commander from November 25, 1938. During the Division's Holiday on July 25, 1937, the squadron (or mounted infantry battalion) received buńczuk which was made according to the old Tatar ways and funded by the entire Tatar community of Poland. During the symbolic ceremony of the burial of the heart of Marshal Józef Piłsudski in the Rasos cemetery in Vilnius, a detail from the 1st Tatar Squardon fired a three-volley salute.

Polish Defensive War[edit]

In 1939, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Józef Szostak, the 13th Regiment of Wilno Uhlans fought as a part of the Vilnius Cavalry Brigade under the command of Colonel Konstanty Drucki-Lubecki. Between September 2 and 5, the brigade took part in heavy fighting near Piotrków Trybunalski. On September 9 and 10, the brigade lost many men and much equipment while retreating across the Vistula river near Maciejowice. The brigade fought in Lubelszczyzna near the city of Lublin, before being crushed near Tomaszow Lubelski.

The largest remnant of the division became part of the Independent Operational Group Polesie under the command of Major General Franciszek Kleeberg.

As a part of the Home Army[edit]

Subdivisions of the 13th Division of the Vilnius Uhlans AK were recreated in 1944 in the Vilnius District of the Home Army as a mounted infantry division in Rudnicka Forest, a mounted infantry battalion attached to the 3rd Home Army Vilnius Brigade, a mounted infantry platoon attached to the 4th Home Army Brigade and a mounted infantry platoon operating within Kampinos Forest.

Banners and markings of the 13th Division of Ulhans of Vilnius[edit]

The division's lances initially bore pennons, but after 1936 these were only issued by personal request, when all cavalry units were transformed into mounted infantry units and were in the process of becoming fully mechanized divisions. However, progress was slow, only two fully mechanized units fought in the Polish Defensive War in 1939 besides armored units, heavy artillery units, AA artillery units, Polish Air Force's ground units, and most of the tabors. Uniforms were adorned with miniature banners, pink in colour, with a slim cornflower-coloured stripe in the middle. Each trooper's rogatywka (hat) was adorned with a pink stripe running around the crown. The 1st Tatar Squadron also wore on the small banners, a golden Crescent Moon and star. The division's holiday was July 25 (in memory of the Battle of Janow in 1920).

The Uhlans in command[edit]

  • Major Władysław Dąbrowski (ur. 1891) (1918–1920)
  • Colonel Eugeniusz Ślaski (1920)
  • Colonel Mścisław Butkiewicz (1920–1922)
  • Honorary Colonel Terencjusz O'Brien (1922)
  • Colonel Tomasz Brzozowski (1922–1925)
  • Colonel Aleksander Kunicki (1925–1927)
  • Colonel (finished senior officers’ school) Adam Korytowski (XI 1927 - III 1930)
  • Lieutenant Colonel (finished senior officers’ school) Czesław Chmielewski (1930–1937)
  • Colonel Kazimierz Żelisławski (1937–1939)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Józef Szostak (finished senior officers’ school) (1939)

A selection of Uhlan Officers[edit]

Other non-Christian Polish Cavalry units[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The name that the ethnic Lithuanians and Belarussians could never agree with, since majority of the men serving in them were ethnic Poles.
  2. ^ Zagonczyk was a soldier using horses mobility in hit--and--run attacks deep behind the enemy lines.
  3. ^ Islam in the Baltic: Europe's Early Muslim Community (International Library of Historical Studies) , Harry Norris, Tauris Academic Studies; .1 edition (April 14, 2009)