Third brigades for Polish 3rd and 5th divisions in 1944?

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daveshoup2MD
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Third brigades for Polish 3rd and 5th divisions in 1944?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 09 Feb 2020 04:45

The Polish 3rd and 5th divisions went into action in 1944 in Italy as two-brigade "light" divisions, organized (generally) along standard British/Commonwealth lines except for not having a third infantry brigade. The Polish Corps in Italy also had a fifth maneuver brigade, the 2nd Armoured.

In NW Europe in 1944, the Polish field forces (at the formation level) included the 1st Armoured Division (with an armoured brigade and an infantry brigade), as well as the Polish Parachute Brigade. The airborne force was committed to MARKET-GARDEN, but afterwards, served essentially as a line infantry brigade, at times attached to the 1st Armoured Division.

In 1945, additional Polish personnel (including many men who were recruited from among Axis (mostly "German" POWs), and the Polish civilian populace found in liberated Europe (France, especially); these provided replacements for combat losses, allowed formation of two additional infantry brigades to bring the 3rd and 5th divisions in Italy up to the standard three brigade organization, and (by the end of the war) enough additional personnel to begin forming the Polish 2nd Armoured Division around the existing 2nd Armoured Brigade.

Here's the question - if the goal had been to come up with two additional brigades to bring the 3rd and 5th divisions up to a standard three-brigade organization before the LMP (and POWs) would have been available, what are the options?

Three seem (potentially) obvious:
1. Use the troops who went into the Parachute Brigade instead to organize a line infantry brigade headquarters, as well as two infantry battalions (rather than three parachute battalions) and an artillery battalion;
2. Use the manpower of the Czech "exile" forces in the UK and the MTO to organize a line infantry brigade headquarters, as well as an infantry battalion and an artillery battalion;
3. Use the manpower that (historically) was used to raise the Jewish Brigade Group in Palestine to form three "volunteer" infantry battalions to serve attached to the Polish and Czech infantry brigades.

The result would be (presumably) a Polish brigade with two Polish and one "Volunteer" battalion, plus a Polish artillery battalion, and a Czech brigade with one Czech infantry and two "Volunteer" infantry battalions, plus a Czech artillery battalion.

There would have multiple political hurdles to get through, but in comparison to what had to occur historically to get the Polish and Czech forces and the JBG into action in 1944-45, not vastly greater.

Any thoughts? Any other options to bring the 3rd and 5th divisions up to strength otherwise?

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Re: Third brigades for Polish 3rd and 5th divisions in 1944?

Post by Stephan » 15 Feb 2020 00:39

Observe, the parachute brigade too was very lean, barely making up the organization schema. After the losses in Market Garden, they could hardly constitute any substantial unit. A battalion at most??? Even if they were surely useful as a core "kadre", every private useful as a NCO among newly recruited ex POW´s, for example.

Cooperating with the Czechs could be a good idea, so for example the Flying Divisions had some few Czech pilots, perhaps more "adopted honorary Pole" than seen as representative for Czechs. But there WAS the controversy around the Teschno(?) Cieszyn area. Where the inhabitants talks a dialect very similiar to polish, and both countries did occupy it with armed forced at different occasions. With MANY sour feelings around it.

To recruit Jews, from Palestina and other places, sounds as very a good idea - many of them WAS polish-speaking. The recruiting of german POW´s was based on polish-speaking as the core instrument. Did they talked polish or a polish sounding dialect, and were willing to change side and fight for Poland against the nazi Germany, they were welcome, sometimes at once!
Additional plus is, the british werent fond of them, and didnt encouraged them to join the war... Not so peculiar; the same soldiers fought against brits in Palestine, as they saw the british as oppressors and occupant there and would continue the fight after the war, now being trained soldiers...

So the polish army could almost surely take in quite more polish speaking Jews than the british army did.
Without knowing the details, Im sure they DID took in quite a few. But apparently not so many the numbers become clearly visible, nor making an own polish-jewish unit.

So why they didnt not recruited them actively? My "guy-guess" is, because of the latent antisemitism. (and possibly vice versa) They didnt wanted to, or though there were some whom didnt wanted. Why ask for trouble and intern quarrells and internal coflicts?? No sir, its better to take what good we can have now and be happy with it, than take even more, and risk internal conflicts and even risk a splitting up...

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Re: Third brigades for Polish 3rd and 5th divisions in 1944?

Post by Steve » 16 Feb 2020 04:20

Hello, when the 2nd Corps reached Palestine about 3,000 Jews deserted. Anders explained his view on these desertions after the war “I believed that the Jews had two loyalties, one towards Palestine, the other towards Poland, and this is why I did not intend to keep them in the Polish army by force. I issued strict orders not to pursue Jewish soldiers who left the ranks on reaching Palestine.” The number who stayed with the 2nd was 838 so just over three quarters deserted or were allowed to leave.

It must be unlikely that a recruitment drive in Palestine would have obtained many recruits. Joining the Polish army was not going to help establish a Jewish state in Palestine but joining the British army could perhaps help towards that aim.

The figures are from The Eagle Unbowed page 198 by Halik Kochanski

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Re: Third brigades for Polish 3rd and 5th divisions in 1944?

Post by Stephan » 16 Feb 2020 10:36

Steve wrote:
16 Feb 2020 04:20
Hello, when the 2nd Corps reached Palestine about 3,000 Jews deserted. Anders explained his view on these desertions after the war “I believed that the Jews had two loyalties, one towards Palestine, the other towards Poland, and this is why I did not intend to keep them in the Polish army by force. I issued strict orders not to pursue Jewish soldiers who left the ranks on reaching Palestine.” The number who stayed with the 2nd was 838 so just over three quarters deserted or were allowed to leave.

It must be unlikely that a recruitment drive in Palestine would have obtained many recruits. Joining the Polish army was not going to help establish a Jewish state in Palestine but joining the British army could perhaps help towards that aim.

The figures are from The Eagle Unbowed page 198 by Halik Kochanski
Thanks for this info! Interesting.
Of course, the devils advocate may probably discuss exact why so many polish jews fled, or were allowed to flee / abandon the ranks.
I can think of several reasons.

But the hard facts are still there: the number of Jews in the Anders army, recruited from soldiers from the polish prewar army arrested in Sovjet, was apparently relatively high. [Wikpedia tells the Sovjets released just etnic Poles, but not Ukrainians, Belorussians nor Jews, So the numbers in the original polish army must have been essentially higher.] Being just among the Anders army soldiers about 4000 of about 79´ or less. Most left while in Palestine, but still over 800 remained, although they could easily leave.

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Re: Third brigades for Polish 3rd and 5th divisions in 1944?

Post by gebhk » 16 Feb 2020 13:08

Steve - in addition to your points above, I think we must add that the British Authorities were not at all keen to have Palestinian Jews trained militarily and even less so to have Jewish units formed. The background complexities have been discussed in detail in relation to the formation of the Jewish Fighting Brigade many times. The two most pertinent issues could be summarised as a concern about arming and training a potentially and de-facto enemy (the British army had been skirmishing with the Haganah - and other Jewish underground organisations for years) and the impact of such a move on British-Arab relations (Middle Eastern and especially Saudi oil was vital to the war effort and the Suez Canal was a vital link). Given those, I do not see the British ever agreeing to the formation of Jewish battalions at that stage of the war, let alone battalions not directly under British command.

It is perhaps an irony that there were more Jewish combat units in the British Army in the First World War than in the Second. However, the experience with the Jewish Legion for example, whose founder went on to be heavily involved in the creation of the Haganah after the Legion was disbanded in 1919, cannot but have coloured British thinking.

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Re: Third brigades for Polish 3rd and 5th divisions in 1944?

Post by Steve » 16 Feb 2020 20:04

I agree with you gebhk. Halik Korchanski tells us that in a memorandum dated March 30 1942 the Polish Government was asked to limit Jewish recruitment because of British interests in Palestine. Also that the British Foreign Office concluded after discussing the formation of Polish units in the Middle East “It is in particular desirable that such (Polish) units should contain as low a proportion of Polish nationals of Jewish race, and that in no circumstances should Polish Jews be formed into separate military units within the Polish forces in the Middle East”.

Stephan, according to Anders the Russians wanted to exclude from those leaving the Soviet Union, Ukrainians, White Russians and “especially the Jews in our ranks”. The Jews were told that the Polish authorities objected to their evacuation while the Poles were told not to admit Jewish civilians on the convoys. After an intervention by Anders the Soviets decided that only Jewish families who had members on active service in the Polish army could be evacuated. He says that about 4,000 Jews left the Soviet Union. However, Kochanski says that 4,226 Jewish soldiers left the Soviet Union. If Korchanski is right about the evacuees being soldiers then it seems very few Jewish civilians left. Anders says that those who left “numbered something under 115,000”.

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Re: Third brigades for Polish 3rd and 5th divisions in 1944?

Post by daveshoup2MD » 17 Feb 2020 03:24

Stephan wrote:
15 Feb 2020 00:39
Observe, the parachute brigade too was very lean, barely making up the organization schema. After the losses in Market Garden, they could hardly constitute any substantial unit. A battalion at most??? Even if they were surely useful as a core "kadre", every private useful as a NCO among newly recruited ex POW´s, for example.

Cooperating with the Czechs could be a good idea, so for example the Flying Divisions had some few Czech pilots, perhaps more "adopted honorary Pole" than seen as representative for Czechs. But there WAS the controversy around the Teschno(?) Cieszyn area. Where the inhabitants talks a dialect very similiar to polish, and both countries did occupy it with armed forced at different occasions. With MANY sour feelings around it.

To recruit Jews, from Palestina and other places, sounds as very a good idea - many of them WAS polish-speaking. The recruiting of german POW´s was based on polish-speaking as the core instrument. Did they talked polish or a polish sounding dialect, and were willing to change side and fight for Poland against the nazi Germany, they were welcome, sometimes at once!
Additional plus is, the british werent fond of them, and didnt encouraged them to join the war... Not so peculiar; the same soldiers fought against brits in Palestine, as they saw the british as oppressors and occupant there and would continue the fight after the war, now being trained soldiers...

So the polish army could almost surely take in quite more polish speaking Jews than the british army did.
Without knowing the details, Im sure they DID took in quite a few. But apparently not so many the numbers become clearly visible, nor making an own polish-jewish unit.

So why they didnt not recruited them actively? My "guy-guess" is, because of the latent antisemitism. (and possibly vice versa) They didnt wanted to, or though there were some whom didnt wanted. Why ask for trouble and intern quarrells and internal coflicts?? No sir, its better to take what good we can have now and be happy with it, than take even more, and risk internal conflicts and even risk a splitting up...
Thanks to you both for the responses and the details. The politics would have been challenging, obviously, but the politics were challenging historically - and if the end result was defeating the Axis (ideally, earlier than historically) presumably the politics could have been dealt with ... one can hope, at least.

The alternative would have been organizing a single infantry division with three brigades and two armoured divisions, each with two brigades, for a total of seven brigades under three divisions, rather than the historical organization.

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Re: Third brigades for Polish 3rd and 5th divisions in 1944?

Post by gebhk » 18 Feb 2020 16:39

The politics would have been challenging, obviously, but the politics were challenging historically - and if the end result was defeating the Axis (ideally, earlier than historically) presumably the politics could have been dealt with ... one can hope, at least.

Hi Daveshoup2MD

The problem was that, ultimately, the decision was down to the British. And for them, it was a straightforward choice between keeping the oil from the Middle East and everything else from India and 1/3 of the Empire flowing smoothly vs the creation of a few more battalions of infantry who, moreover, were likely to cause trouble after the war (a suspicion proven correct in the case of the later Jewish Fighting Brigade). It is not difficult to see why the British saw the first option as more conducive to defeating the Axis than the latter.

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