Did Polish Calvary charge German Panzers with lances?

Discussions on all aspects of Poland during the Second Polish Republic and the Second World War. Hosted by Peter K
User avatar
STALAGl3
Member
Posts: 57
Joined: 05 Jan 2003 23:35
Location: Buffalo NY USA

Panzers and Polish Lancers

Post by STALAGl3 » 02 Feb 2003 23:05

Did Polish Calvary actually charge German Panzers with lances in 1939?
I've heard many disputes on this topic. Does anyone have photos or proof that this event actually occured?

User avatar
Christian Ankerstjerne
Forum Staff
Posts: 13461
Joined: 10 Mar 2002 14:07
Location: Denmark

Post by Christian Ankerstjerne » 03 Feb 2003 00:06

The polish cavalry never charged the Panzers. The Polish forces had tanks, and knew what they were.

There were one incident, though, where a Panzer unit suprised a cavalry detachement. As a German journalist later visited the place, ha made his own conjunctures about what happened...

Christian

User avatar
Daniel L
Member
Posts: 9116
Joined: 07 Sep 2002 00:46
Location: Sweden

Post by Daniel L » 03 Feb 2003 00:16

Actually it was the other way around, the Poles surprised the resting crewmen. Further, the journalist was an Italian correspondent.

Best regards/ Daniel

User avatar
Erik E
Financial supporter
Posts: 4517
Joined: 11 Mar 2002 22:26
Location: Stavanger, Norway

Post by Erik E » 03 Feb 2003 00:17

There were one incident, though, where a Panzer unit suprised a cavalry detachement


I have also heard this. They got surrounded and had to go straight trough the line of attacking tanks in order to escape.... Maybe the Germans thought they actually attacked them, but I guess it was just propaganda.

Erik

Karl da Kraut
Member
Posts: 341
Joined: 16 Sep 2002 12:00
Location: Germany

Post by Karl da Kraut » 03 Feb 2003 02:30

Well...

Unfortunately I can't remember the date of this incident. But here's what happened.

A Polish cavalry unit attacked a German infantry, piercing the German lines and pursuing the fleeing "Landsers". While continuing their charge, the Polish horsemen ran into an advancing column of German tanks. The Polish commander ordered his men to continue forward since turning the horses at high speed would have taken too much time and the Poles escaped through the German line, naturally suffering massive losses. If they had tried to turn, however, they would have been exposed to hostile fire for a longer period of time and their losses would probably have been even more devastating. The German tank crews being no experts on cavalry warfare believed the Polish horsemen had actually attacked them.

Both sides instrumentalized this incident for their propaganda. The Germans in order to show the military inferiority and simple-minded nature of the Poles, the Poles themselves to emphasize their extraordinary bravery against an enemy who was superior only in the ttechnical aspect.

User avatar
_The_General_
Member
Posts: 1531
Joined: 08 Jul 2003 10:01
Location: Netherlands

Did Polish cavalry attack German tanks?

Post by _The_General_ » 22 Apr 2004 12:59

Does anyone know more about this?
Last edited by Marcus on 10 Jan 2015 12:14, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Title changed from "Polisch kavallerie attacking tanks?"

User avatar
Daniel L
Member
Posts: 9116
Joined: 07 Sep 2002 00:46
Location: Sweden

Post by Daniel L » 22 Apr 2004 13:23

Myth.

Best regards/ Daniel

User avatar
sylvieK4
Member
Posts: 3089
Joined: 13 Mar 2002 17:29

Post by sylvieK4 » 22 Apr 2004 13:35

Agreed. It's a myth. Below is a link to an interesting web discussion on this topic.

http://web.archive.org/web/200110060212 ... ml/cav.htm

User avatar
sylvieK4
Member
Posts: 3089
Joined: 13 Mar 2002 17:29

Post by sylvieK4 » 22 Apr 2004 13:46

Perpetuating the cavalry charge myth, a drawing from the cover of the youth magazine "Der Pimpf" from October 1939:

From: http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/pimpf.htm
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
Christoph Awender
Forum Staff
Posts: 6672
Joined: 10 Mar 2002 17:22
Location: Austria

Post by Christoph Awender » 22 Apr 2004 14:23

Well I don´t judge true or not but how does someone explain the reports in official german unit diaries Example: 3.Pz.Div.

\Christoph

User avatar
Daniel L
Member
Posts: 9116
Joined: 07 Sep 2002 00:46
Location: Sweden

Post by Daniel L » 22 Apr 2004 15:04

What does it say? Can you give us a quote?

Best regards/ Daniel

User avatar
Alter Mann
Member
Posts: 686
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 04:50
Location: Texas County, Missouri

Cavalry vs. Tanks

Post by Alter Mann » 22 Apr 2004 15:23

I read an account some time ago of one incident where Polish Cavalry attacked a German armored column. It even mentioned the names of the units and the officers on the Polish side. From what I read the attack met with limited success against the infantry at first, partly due to surprise, but, once the tanks got into action they caused a large number of casualties and the cavalry unit was forced to break off the engagement. I believe that the officer who led the initial charge was killed.

Then again, I've also read that this never happened and I can't find the source right now. The account sounds authentic because of the details, but it's just like anything else written about the war, and I wouldn't trust it without corroboration.

User avatar
sylvieK4
Member
Posts: 3089
Joined: 13 Mar 2002 17:29

Post by sylvieK4 » 22 Apr 2004 16:01

What does it say? Can you give us a quote?


I'd be interested to see that, too.

Could it be that the cavalry units in question aimed their attack at infantry, but were not aware of the presence of the tanks until after the primary engagement had begun (rather than horsemen deliberately charging armor)?

User avatar
_The_General_
Member
Posts: 1531
Joined: 08 Jul 2003 10:01
Location: Netherlands

Post by _The_General_ » 22 Apr 2004 16:23

Just found this:
German propaganda: Most known is the cavalry 'charge' on 1.September 1939 in the area of the 'passage' between Pommern and Danzig. What really happenend was that two squadrons of the 18th Polish Lancer Regiment, under instruction of Colonel Kazimierz Mastelarz tried to surprise a German infantry unit (belonging to German 20th Motorised Infantry Division). By late afternoon, with a company of tankettes of the 81st Armoured Troop the 18th Lancers were holding the most northern Polish positions near Chojnice while the remainder of the Pomorska Cavalry Brigade fell back southward. The Regimental Colonel Kazimierz Mastelarz had already sought permission to fall back across the Bzura River, which was in his rear to a more easily defendable and less risky position. Permission had been refused. By late afternoon Mastelarz decided he had no choice but to take some sort of active initiative on his own. Abandoning the broken down tankettes he mounted half his men giving him a force of less than two normal line squadrons. He aimed to outflank German infantry positions and take them from the rear. At about 7 P.M. the Poles came across German infantry in a forest clearing. Determined upon a surprise attack Mastelarz swept into the clearing with a mounted sabre charge that annihilated the German units. The Poles chased the German infantrymen in the gallopp, when a German armoured car unit (and possibly Panzer I), which had arrived on the scene. The German vehicles emerged around the corner (left hand side of the area being charged were some woods which took a left hand curve). Colonel Mastelarz then had two possibilities: stop the attack and turn and make flight - and being shot to pieces by the automatic cannons of the German vehicles (or tank machine guns)before getting out of shooting distance. Or head straight for the tanks and disappear between them (and thus put the Germans at risk, mutually to shoot themselves) and finallly into forest area. Mastelarz decided for the second possibility. Bystanders could take this as a cavalry charge. In truth it was a desperate, but ingenious escape attempt. The Germans were so surprised of the sight of the 'charging' cavalry that they hardly fired. Colonel Mastelarz actually succeeded in saving his units. 20 men were lost. On the next day Italian reporters visited the place of the happening, where German officers told them, on the basis the dead cavallerists, of the 'antiquated and helpless' charge. A myth was born. This report was then taken up and cannibalized by the German propaganda machinery, in order to support the alleged 'inferiority of the slawic race' (tenor: 'only mentally inferior races are so thick as a brick to attack tanks with sword and lance'). Also wanting to demonstrate a Polish military recklessness and foolishness. Far from the truth.

User avatar
sylvieK4
Member
Posts: 3089
Joined: 13 Mar 2002 17:29

Post by sylvieK4 » 22 Apr 2004 16:29

A few more links. These support Alte Mann's post:

From, http://www.panzerworld.net/polishcav.html , this first article relies on information from Zaloga's book, Poland 1939: The Birth of Blitzkrieg

What actually happened was that a group of Polish cavalry had been surprised by German armoured forces, and had no other choice but to get away fast. Thus, they mounted, and tried to ride away, but naturally with heavy casualties.



http://www.chakoten.dk/polryt07.html
At 5 p.m. on September 1, 1939 the myth was born when the Polish 18th Lancers of the Pomorska Cavalry Brigade charged units from the German 20th Motorised Division. This incident took place near Chojnice in the Western part of Poland. The attack was meant to be on infantry units marching eastwards, but the Poles were surprised by German tanks and armoured cars which appeared out of nowhere. It was a massacre!


Image


From: http://www.apacouncil.org/ww2/2dp.html
The widespread notion that the Polish cavalry engaged in foolhardy attempts to charge German tanks in September 1939 is misleading. There were few isolated cases where Polish cavalrymen tried to break out between the tanks rather than surrender; but, as a rule, cavalrymen dismounted and operated like infantry before each engagement. Horses were used for transportation and were kept behind battle lines during an engagement. Each cavalry regiment was equipped with its own anti-tank and anti-aircraft artillery. Polish cavalry and infantry units were weaker in fire power and mobility than German panzer units, but their morale and determination helped enormously.


Also of interest is an article by Kamil Dziewanowski. Although it does not discuss a cavalry charge against tanks, it is a first person account of a Polish cavalryman who fought during the 1939 campaign. According to the article, Dziewanowski's unit was wary of German armor and had look outs and an anti-tank squadron on standby before the charge the author took part in:

http://www.polishnews.com/fulltext/hist ... ory4.shtml

Image

Return to “Poland 1919-1945”