Polish Legions in World War I

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This article is about Polish Legions on the Eastern Front in WWI. For Polish Legions on the Western Front in WWI, see Blue Army (Poland). For other units named the Polish Legions, see Polish Legions (disambiguation).
Col. Józef Piłsudski with his staff in front of the Governor's Palace in Kielce, 1914
Col. Józef Piłsudski and his officers, 1915
Pilsudski in Otwock, 1915
Polish American Veterans of Haller's Army {Life Magazine Apr 25, 1955}.

Polish Legions (Polish Legiony Polskie) was the name of Polish armed forces established in August 1914 in Galicia. Thanks to the efforts of the KSSN and the Polish members of the Austrian parliament, the unit became an independent formation of the Austro-Hungarian Army. Personnel came mostly from former members of various scouting organisations, including Drużyny Strzeleckie and Związek Strzelecki, as well from as volunteers from all around the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Józef Piłsudski in his order of August 22, 1914 declared the formation of the Legions. The Austrian government, having jurisdiction over the area, officially agreed to the formation August 27.

Initially the Polish Legions were composed of two legions: the Eastern and the Western, both formed on August 27. After a Russian victory in the Battle of Galicia (August-September 1914) the Eastern Polish legion refused to fight on behalf of the Austro-Hungarian side against Russia and was disbanded on September 21. On December 19, the Western legion was transformed into three brigades:

  • Artillery Battalions-served in I, II, and III Brigades
  • Cavalry Regiments: 1st served in I Brigade; 2nd served in II Brigade; 3rd served in III Brigade
  • Infantry Regiments: 1st, 5th, 7th served in I Brigade; 2nd, 3rd served in II Brigade; 4th served in both II and III Brigades; 5th, 6th served in III Brigade

The commanders of the Legions were:

  1. Gen. Karol Trzaska-Durski (September 1914 – February 1916)
  2. Gen. Stanisław Puchalski (until November 1916)
  3. Col. Stanisław Szeptycki (until April 1917)
  4. Col. Zygmunt Zieliński (until August 1917)

The Legions took part in many battles against the forces of Imperial Russia, both in Galicia and in the Carpathian Mountains. Initially both the number of troops and the composition of units changed rapidly. This changed after Piłsudski resigned his post in September 1916 and the Polish Legions were renamed to Polish Auxiliary Corps (Polski Korpus Posilkowy). In June 1916 the unit had approximately 25,000 soldiers.

After the Act of November 5 (1916) and the creation of the puppet Kingdom of Poland of 1916-1918, the Polish Legions were transferred under German command. However, most of the members refused to swear allegiance to the German Kaiser and were interned in Beniaminów and Szczypiorno (Oath crisis). Approximately 3,000 of them were drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army or the German Polnische Wehrmacht and sent to the Italian Front, while approximately 7,500 stayed in the Austrian Polish Auxiliary Corps.

After the war the officers of the Polish Legions became the backbone of the Polish Army.

Polish Legion members[edit]


Operations of the Polish Legions

Officers who served in the Polish Legions[edit]

See also[edit]