9th Infantry Division (Poland)
The 9th Infantry Division (Polish: 9 Dywizja Piechoty) was a unit of the Polish Army in the Second Polish Republic. The division was originally formed in 1919. Stationed in Siedlce, it took part in the Polish September Campaign under Colonel Józef Werobej. The history of the 9th Division dates back to early summer of 1919. It was formed on June 12 of that year, in the region of Polesie, out of units of Operational Group Polesie, commanded by General Antoni Listowski. At that time, it was divided into two Infantry Brigades and one Artillery Brigade:
- 17th Infantry Brigade (15th and 22nd Infantry Regiments),
- 18th Infantry Brigade (34th and 35th Infantry Regiments),
- 9th Artillery Brigade (9th Field Artillery Regiment, 9th Heavy Artillery Regiment).
As part of Pomorze Army the 9th I.D. defended the 70-kilometer line between the town of Pruszcz and the village of Gostycyn in Polish Pomerania. In the morning of September 1, 1939, it was attacked by three Wehrmacht divisions – 2nd Armored-Motorized, 3rd Armored and 32nd I.D. After heavy fighting, the Poles withdrew in the evening to the area of Cekcyn. Another defense line was established there, but the Germans broke it and the 9th I.D. retreated over the Brda and to the suburbs of Bydgoszcz.
There, General Władysław Bortnowski ordered three Polish units – 9th I.D., the 27th Infantry Division, and Operational Group "Czersk" – to counterattack on the morning of September. However, communication between 9th I.D. and 27th I.D. failed and the offensive was a failure, with the German 3rd Armored Division managing to halt it.
After the defeat, the 9th I.D. gathered in the forests north of Bydgoszcz. Soon afterwards, it was attacked by the Luftwaffe. Unable to defend itself and without air support, the division scattered and ceased to exist. Only the 35th Infantry Regiment remained as a unit and managed to break out of the German encirclement on September 5.
A 9th Infantry Division was also formed as part of the Anders Army briefly in 1942, and there was a 9th Home Army Infantry Division active in 1944. Additionally, the People's Army of Poland formed a 9th Infantry Division which was active from 1944 to 1962, after which it became the 9th Mechanised Division.
For most of 1919, regiments of the 9th Division were dispersed across the regions of Podlasie, Polesie and Volhynia, with one battalion sent to Zagłębie Dąbrowskie. On February 5, 1919, the division attacked Brest Fortress, which at that time was in German hands. After four days, the Germans decided to negotiate, and hand over the fortress, together with Terespol, to General Listowski. A commemorative parade took place in Brzesc nad Bugiem on February 13, and soon afterwards, the 34th Regiment was transported by rail to Kobryn, to defend the line of the Muchawiec river. On February 17, the Red Army clashed with Poles near Antopol. It was the first battle of the Polish–Soviet War.
On February 28, the infantry units of General Listowski advanced east, towards Pinsk. Divided into three groups, the Poles captured Drohiczyn and Janów Poleski, and then advanced along the rail line from Brzesc to Pinsk. On March 5, the Poles seized Pinsk itself, and then headed towards Luniniec, but failed to capture this important rail junction.
On July 1, 1919, divisions of Polish Lithuanian-Belarusian Front began an offensive, with the purpose of capturing Minsk and reaching the line of the Berezina river. The 9th Division protected right flank of Polish front, seizing the important rail junction of Luniniec on July 10. The Soviets several times tried to recapture the town, but their attacks failed. In August 1919, the division captured Sluck, reaching the line of the Sluch river. It spent the winter of 1919/1920 keeping the positions along the Sluch.
In March 1920, the 9th Division was ordered to attack and capture another important rail junction, at Mozyr. The offensive began in the night of March 4, and by the afternoon of March 5, after crossing 70 kilometers, Mozyr was in Polish hands. The division then took defensive positions, repelling several Soviet raids.
On April 25, 1920, the Kiev Offensive began. During the fighting in the area of Kiev, the Polesie Group of the Polish Army (General Wladyslaw Sikorski) was ordered to attack and reach the line of the Dnieper near its confluence with the Prypec. On April 26, the 9th Division seized Czernobyl, and on May 9, it captured Recyca. Six days later, Polish units reached the Dnieper.
In early June 1920, Soviet 12th Army crossed the Dnieper, threatening Polish forces in Kiev with encirclement. On June 17, Polish front was broken, and a general retreat was ordered. On July 4, the armies of Mikhail Tukhachevsky and Semyon Budyonny initiated a general offensive. The 9th Division withdrew to the line of the Styr, but the Soviets crossed it on July 21. In late July, two regiments of the division were transported to the area of Grodno, fighting the Cavalry Army of Hayk Bzhishkyan. There, Polish retreat continued. Near Jablonka, the 34th Infantry Regiment was almost completely destroyed by the enemy, with losses reaching up to 75%.
In early August, the division regrouped in the area of Modlin, with the 41st Infantry Regiment attached to it, to replace the destroyed 34th Infantry Regiment. As part of the Fifth Army, it was tasked with protecting the left wing of Polish Northern Front, until the planned Wieprz river offensive.
On August 14, the division began offensive from its positions along the Wkra river. By August 16, it captured Nasielsk, and advanced towards Ciechanów. On August 30, the division was transported by rail from Ciechanów to Chełm, where it joined the Third Army. On September 3, Marshal Józef Piłsudski decorated a number of its soldiers with medals and awards. After a parade, the division was ordered to capture Hrubieszów. The assault began on September 5, and on the next day, the town was seized. The division remained in the south until September 19, capturing Lutsk and Dubno.
In late September 1920, the division was transported northwards, to guard the Polish–Lithuanian demarcation line. It was stationed near Wolkowysk, and two of its regiments were incorporated into the armed forces of the Republic of Central Lithuania.
Second Polish Republic
In 1921, the headquarters and the 22nd Infantry Regiment were moved to the permanent location in the garrison of Siedlce. The 34th Infantry Regiment was stationed in Biała Podlaska, and the 35th Infantry Regiment in Brzesc nad Bugiem.
On November 3, 1922, during a ceremony in Siedlce, the flag of the division was handed to its soldiers by Józef Piłsudski. The flag was funded by the residents of the counties of Siedlce, Łuków and Janów Lubelski. In December 1922, after the election in which Gabriel Narutowicz became the President of Poland, the division sent two battalions to Warsaw, to prevent street fighting.
During the 1926 May Coup, the 9th Division supported the rebellion and its leader, Józef Piłsudski. Its 22nd Regiment was involved in the coup from the very beginning. Commandant of the Siedlce garrison, Colonel Franciszek Sikorski sent on May 12, 1926 his soldiers to guard strategic locations in the town, including its important rail junction. Two battalions of soldiers, on the way from Siedlce to Warsaw, were halted at the station in Minsk Mazowiecki, by the uhlans of the 7th Regiment of Lublin Uhlans. After brief negotiations, the uhlans joined the infantry from Siedlce, and the whole group reached Rembertów in the early afternoon. In the evening, soldiers of the 9th Division fought on the streets of Warsaw, and after the coup, officers of the unit were decorated by Pilsudski for their loyalty.
In 1933, the 9th Light Artillery Regiment was garrisoned in Siedlce.
1939 Invasion of Poland
In the Invasion of Poland the division, commanded by Colonel Jozef Werobej, belonged to Pomorze Army. It guarded a 70-kilometer sector of the border near Gostycyn, and its positions were assaulted by the three Wehrmacht divisions since early morning of September 1, 1939.
The 2nd Motorized Infantry Division advanced in the north, facing Polish 35th Infantry Regiment. The 3rd Panzer Division in the middle, and the 32nd Infantry Division in the south, along the Brda river, where it faced Polish 22nd Infantry Regiment.
In the night of September 1/2, Polish units retreated behind the Brda, concentrating near Byslawek. The 22nd Regiment was transferred to the 15th Infantry Division, and sent to Bydgoszcz, while remaining subunits of the 9th Division were ordered to join forces with the 27th Infantry Division (Poland), and to attack German panzer columns, heading towards the Brda.
Since the 27th Division did not arrive on time, General Władysław Bortnowski ordered both units to attack simoultaneously, with the support of Czersk Operational Group. Polish attack was set to begin in the morning of September 3, and the objective was to push the Germans back behind the Brda. Since both Polish divisions failed to cooperate, the assault turned into a failure, and the 9th Division was bombed by the Luftwaffe. As a result, only 35th Infantry Regiment remained as a cohesive fighting unit.
- Polish army order of battle in 1939
- Polish contribution to World War II
- List of Polish divisions in World War II
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