Battle of Kobryń

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Battle of Kobryń
Part of Invasion of Poland
Kobryn.png

Polish and German positions on September 17
(see image description for details)
Date September 14–18, 1939
Location Kobryn, Poland
Result Inconclusive
Belligerents
 Germany  Poland
Commanders and leaders
Nazi Germany Heinz Guderian Poland Adam Epler
Strength
XIX Panzer Corps 60th Infantry Division
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Battle of Kobryń was one of the battles of the Invasion of Poland. It was fought between September 14 and September 18, 1939, between the German XIX Panzer Corps of General Heinz Guderian and the improvised Polish "Kobryń" Infantry Division of Colonel pl:Adam Epler. It was fought concurrently with the Battle of Brześć Litewski.

Eve of the battle[edit]

For a detailed description of the situation prior to the battle see: Battle of Brześć

After breaking through the Polish defences in the Battle of Wizna, the German forces under general Heinz Guderian started to make their way towards Brześć, Kowel and Kobryń. Their aim was to cut the Polish territory in two parts and paralyse the Polish attempts to organise a line of defence east of the Bug River.

Battle[edit]

On September 14, 1939, elements of the XIX Panzer Corps reached the area of Brześć and Kobryń. Brześć was defended by a small force under General Konstanty Plisowski, while Kobryń was defended by the improvised 60th Infantry Division of Colonel Adam Epler http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Epler.

In the early morning of September 14, Colonel Epler http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Epler received a report of German forces entering the area. Elements of the German XIX Panzer Corps (elements of 3rd Panzer Division and entire 2nd Motorised Infantry Division) were advancing rapidly and Epler suspected that the Germans would advance on the towns of Brześć and Kobryń, as well as toward an important railway node located in the village of Żabinka. To probe the enemy forces, he ordered the 2nd battalion of his 84th Infantry Regiment to commence a delaying action in the area of Żabinka train station and the villages of Tewela and Ogrodniki. At the same time the 2nd battalion of 83rd Infantry Regiment was ordered to organise a defensive line along the swampy shores of Trościanica river. This was to cover the eastern flank of the Polish forces in the area of Brześć, some 30 kilometres westward.

On September 15, the German 3rd Armoured Division encountered and destroyed a column of the 9th reserve light artillery depot. However, Epler's forces were not spotted until late evening of that day, when they were bombarded by the Luftwaffe. The following day the main force of the German XIX Corps arrived. The 2nd Battalion of the 84th Infantry Regiment together with an armoured train organised an ambush and attacked the Germans who were supported by a battery of artillery. After a six hours long combat the Germans were forced to retreat, with significant casualties. The Polish battalion seized several guns and tanks, but had to burn them due to lack of fuel and then retreated toward the main line of Polish defenses.

At dawn of September 17, 1939, the reconnaissance units of the German 2nd Motorised Infantry Division finally reached the Polish lines. After a short skirmish the Poles withdrew behind the defensive positions guarded by the 2nd battalion of the 83rd Infantry Regiment. The Germans then tried to outflank the Poles by attacking the cemetery in the village of Chwedkowice, but were repelled with light losses, mostly due to direct fire from the Polish 100mm howitzers. The 2nd Motorised Division lost three or four armoured cars and was forced to retreat. The Polish battalion withdrew towards the village of Piaski, where it organised another ambush. In the afternoon it was again attacked by the elements of German 2nd Motorised Division, but this assault was also repelled.

Overnight, the Polish forces fighting in the Battle of Brześć were withdrawn to the other side of the Bug River and joined the forces of Independent Operational Group Polesie under General Franciszek Kleeberg. Elements of the Polish forces arrived at Kobryń, but the defense of the area lost much of its significance. Colonel Epler decided to defend the area as long as possible, and then retreat southwards, following the General Kleeberg's forces.

The main combat for Kobryń started on September 18 of 1939. At the beginning Germans were achieving successes. They managed to capture the Gubernia I and Gubernia II manorial farms, which were protecting the road to Bereza Kartuska and closing the approach to main forces of the Polish division. Polish determined counterattack from Kobryń allowed to repulse the German attackers from one of these manorial farms, but it was later once again recaptured by Germans. Heavy and fierce combats also took place near the Queen Bona Canal. The Germans did not manage to capture Kobryń on September 18, 1939 and Polish forces in the area during that day were not strong enough to push back German forces from all of the areas and locations near and inside the city which had been already captured by them. The battle reached an impasse.

On September 17 the Soviet invasion of Poland started. After the German withdrawal and with the Soviet planes spreading propaganda, Polish civilians and military were attacked by the pro—Soviet bandits. Some Polish soldiers were captured by one of the Soviet bands lead by Sava Droniuk. However, those captured soldiers, in turn, got captured and executed by the Ukrainian nationalists. 42 bodies were dug out in 2008 and re—buried with the proper military honors. On September 18 forward guards of Soviet units (from 23rd Rifle Corps) came into combat contact with Polish patrols and units of the eastern wing of GO "Polesie" in the area of Łuniniec (source: Colonel Adam Epler, "Ostatni żołnierz polski kampanii 1939 roku", publisher: Sekcja Oświaty i Kultury WP na Środkowym Wschodzie, Tel Aviv, 1942 – page 47).

Due to both of these factors – information about the Soviet Invasion of Poland pouring in from the frontline and reports from units of GO "Polesie" which encountered first Red Army forces – general Franciszek Kleeberg decided to send orders to all units of his GO "Polesie" (including the 60th Infantry Division) to immediately stop all combats and withdraw to the South towards the Pinsk Marshes. 60th Infantry Division left Kobryń and marched to the area of Dywin. General Kleeberg also decided to shift the headquarters of his GO "Polesie" from Pińsk to Lubieszów.

The battle of Kobryń came to an end.