10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade (Poland)

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10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade
Active 1937-1939
Country Poland
Branch Land forces
Type Armoured
Size ~40 tanks and tankettes
Nickname "The Black Brigade"
Engagements Battle of Jordanów, Battle of Lwów
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Stanisław Maczek

The 10th Cavalry Brigade (Polish: 10. Brygada Kawalerii) was a Polish military unit, the only fully operational Polish motorized infantry unit during the Invasion of Poland of 1939, at the onset of World War II.[citation needed] Commanded by Col. (later General) Stanisław Maczek, it is considered the only Polish World War II military unit not to lose a single battle.[citation needed]

Organized in 1937[edit]

The unit was organized in February 1937, partially as an experiment. It was to be a hybrid between a standard motorized infantry brigade and the French concept of Division legere.[citation needed] As Polish cavalry generals still had some doubts about the value of mechanized force, there was some opposition against reforming the standard horse-mounted cavalry into motorized units. Testing of the new unit was held in a specially created training ground near Kielce, as well as in the Armoured Units Training School. The brigade was supposed to be a kind of emergency unit in the Commander-in-Chief’s reserve. Its task was to screen the areas of concentration of Polish troops, to close gaps made by enemy forces in Polish lines and to fight enemy mechanized units.[citation needed]

Vickers E tank of the 10th Bde

Action of 1939[edit]

The first exercise in offensive action (1939) was considered a failure – the brigade proved to be insufficiently equipped in anti-tank ordnance to successfully counter enemy armoured units. It was also considered not versatile enough, especially when compared with a standard cavalry unit, which had much better off-road capabilities and speed.[citation needed] Because of that, several changes in its structure were introduced, which were later copied during the formation of the Warsaw Armoured Cavalry Brigade. The commanding officer of the unit was Col. Stanisław Maczek and the chief of his staff was Maj. Franciszek Skibiński. It is to be noted that, despite being fully motorized, the brigade was still officially named "the 10th Cavalry Brigade". However, most of the sources refer to it as "Motorized" in order to distinguish the unit from its predecessors.

Role during invasion of Poland[edit]

After the Invasion of Poland in 1939, the brigade was attached to the Kraków Army defending Lesser Poland and Silesia.[citation needed] Equipped with only light tanks and tankettes and without one artillery battery, which left the unit with only 8 heavier cannons, it went into battle during the first day of the German invasion of Poland. After the Battle of Jordanów, Maczek's unit faced the entire German XVIII Corps of General Eugen Beyer and successfully shielded the southern flank of the Polish forces, along the Beskides. Supported by several battalions of Border Guards and National Defence, the Polish motorized unit fought against two Panzer divisions (4th Light Division under von Hubicki and 2nd Panzer Division under Veiel), as well as the 3rd Mountain Division under Eduard Dietl.[citation needed]

For five days Maczek’s brigade effectively slowed the German advance. Despite numerical and technical superiority, the German units' daily gain was no more than 10 kilometres.[citation needed] Polish soldiers took advantage of difficult, mountainous terrain, stopping German attacks and occasionally counter-attacking.[citation needed] However, after the front of the Kraków Army was broken to the north of brigade's position, it was pulled out from the front line. The brigade then fought as a screening unit, defending the bridges and fords in Lesser Poland, until it arrived in Lwów and joined the city’s defenders.[citation needed] The unit was to form a mobile reserve during the battle for Lwów and allow other Polish units to withdraw towards the Romanian Bridgehead. However, the plan was made obsolete by the invasion of Poland by the Soviet Union on September 17. After two days, Marshal of Poland Edward Rydz-Śmigły ordered the brigade to cross the Hungarian border.[citation needed]

Colonel Maczek’s brigade was interned in Hungary. The unit lost about half of its men, but was never defeated in open combat, gaining respect even from the enemy. The Germans called 10th Cavalry Brigade "Die Schwarze Brigade" – "The Black Brigade", because of the black jackets worn by Polish mechanized troops.[1] In the book Invincible Black Brigade: Polish 10th Cavalry Brigade 1939 by Jerzy Majka, the black leather jackets were only worn by officers and NCOs. In addition, the leather jacket was also worn motorcycle troops and armor crewman. Certainly enough black leather to be called "Black Brigade".

Fighting in France[edit]

However, it was not the end of its history. With the silent support of Hungarians, most of its soldiers managed to get to France, to join the Polish Army led by General Sikorski. They fought in France in 1940 as the 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade. After France surrendered, the veterans of "The Black Brigade" went to Great Britain and became the core of the Polish 1st Armoured Division.

OOB[edit]

Regiment Sub-units Notes
10th Cavalry Brigade
Stanisław Maczek
10th Mounted Rifle Regiment
Bokszczanin
4 x motorized rifle squadrons
1 x HMG squadron
1 x AT platoon
3 infantry and 1 HMG platoons each
12 x Ckm wz.30 HMGs, 2 x 81mm mortars
3 x 37mm wz.36 Bofors AT guns
24th Uhlan Regiment
Dworak
4 x motorized rifle squadrons
1 x HMG squadron
1 x AT platoon
3 infantry and 1 HMG platoons each
12 x Ckm wz.30 HMGs, 2 x 81mm mortars
3 x 37mm wz.36 Bofors AT guns
16th Motorized Artillery Battalion
Żmudziński
1 x field artillery battery
1 x howitzer battery
4 x 75 mm wz.97 guns
4 x 100 mm wz.14 Skoda howitzers
101st Recce Tank Company
Ziemski
4 x 20 mm TKS
9 x TK3
121st Light Tank Company
Rączkowski
16 x Vickers E
Recce Tank Company
Święcicki
4 x TKS
9 x TKF
Anti-tank Company
Moszczeński
18 x 37 mm wz.36 Bofors AT guns
90th Motorized Engineering Battalion
Dorant
2 x engineering company
71st Motorized AA Artillery Battery
Zwil
4 x 40 mm wz.36 Bofors AA guns


Notes[edit]

References[edit]

Stanisław Maczek, „Od podwody do czołga”, Lublin-London 1990

See also[edit]