Polish Designation: 1 Brygada AL im. Ziemi Kieleckiej
Brigade Commander: Kapitan Henryk Polowniak ("Zygmunt") - prior to his appointment he was the commander of the AL's Okreg of Radom.
Deputy Brigade Commander & Chief of Staff: Porucznik Adam Kornecki - one of the Polish parachutists who were send to the brigade by the Polish Partisan Headquarters.
Operational Officer: Porucznik Boleslaw Lazarski ("Chmura") - since 14 VIII commander of the 1st Battalion.
Intelligence and Security Officer: Podporucznik Stanislaw Gwiazdowski ("Skromny").
Podporucznik Antoni Ratusinski ("Antek") - simultaneously also the secretary of the District Committee of the PPR (Polska Partia Robotnicza - Polish Workers' Party). He was killed on 03 X 1944 at Ostrowiec.
Podporucznik Kazimierz Czyz ("Chrust") - since 20 IX.
(commander: Porucznik Czeslaw Borecki "Brzoza" - on 14 VIII transferred to the Staff of the Obwod, Porucznik Boleslaw Lazarski "Chmura" - on 12 IX transferred the the Staff of the Obwod, Porucznik Boleslaw Mikulski - parachutist)
- 1st Company (commander: Podporucznik Jan Sadlo - parachutist)
- 2nd Company (commander: Podporucznik Stefan Czajka - parachutist, since 23 IX commander of the 3rd Battalion, Porucznik Waclaw Mlynek "Wrzos")
- 3rd Company (commander: Podporucznik Maksymilian Pora "Przelot")
This battalion was one of the best uniformed of all the AL units - around half of its partisans had uniforms.
(commander: Porucznik Stefan Szymanski "Goral")
- 1st Company (commander: Sierzant Kazimierz Machowski "Badyl")
- 2nd Company (commander: Sierzant Jan Gajda "Maly" - until 23 IX when he was transferred to the 3rd Battalion's 1st Company, Podporucznik Marian Olczyk "Lew")
- 3rd Company (commander: Podporucznik Edmund Borowiecki "Mlot")
(commander: Porucznik Stefan Czajka "Stefan")
- 1st Company (commander: Podporucznik Jan Gajda "Maly")
- 2nd Company (commander: Porucznik Jan Michorek - parachutist, on 30 IX killed near Gruszka, Powiat of Konskie)
(commander: Porucznik Spirydion Dziubinski "Zemsta" - on 15 XI he crossed the front-line near Niekurzow)
This company's chief task was the protection of both the command of AL's Obwod III and of the brigade's headquarters. This company was at the direct disposal of the brigade's commander. It initially numbered 57 partisans, but by September this increased to 120.
(commander: Podporucznik Jozef Niewiadomski "Sokol")
This unit, just like the Headquarters Company, was at the direct disposal of the brigade's commander.
History: Formed in July of 1944 (on the basis of an order issued by the commander of the Obwod III of the AL from the 13 VII 1944). It was created by a merger of the following already existing AL (Armia Ludowa - People's Army) partisan detachments: Partisan Detachment "Imienia Mariana Langiewicza", Partisan Detachment "Im. Bartosza Glowackiego", Partisan Detachment "Im. Zawiszy Czarnego", Partisan Detachment "Im. Gabriela Narutowicza" (the last detachment was only formally part of the brigade until early August, when it was used to form the 2nd AL Brigade "Swit"), and from the part-time AL soldiers mobilized in the area of Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski. The operational areas assigned to the brigade were the lands located to the west of Vistula, in a belt that was limited to the north on the Radom-Pulawy Highway, and in the south on the Pinczow-Pacanow Highway.
The actual creation of the brigade took place on 26 July of 1944, at the village of Smykow (located three kilometers to the west of Chancza). In the beginning the brigade consisted of two partisan battalions (around 200 partisans); the 1st Battalion was created from a merger of the AL Partisan Detachment "Im. M. Langiewicza" and the AL volunteers from the area of Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski (who until then were part-time fighters) with the AL Partisan Detachment "Im. Zawiszy Czarnego", while the 2nd Battalion was formed from part of the AL Partisan Detachment "Im. B. Glowackiego".
On the night of 26-27 July, on the fields near Smykow, the brigade received its very first Soviet air drop; aside from weapons and ammunition, and a few hundred samples of the PKWN (Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego - Polish National Liberation Committee) Manifesto, a group of five Polish parachutists was also dropped. Their commander was Kapitan Stanislaw Dolecki ("Aleksander"), and its main task was to maintain radio contact between the command of the AL's Obwod III and the Polish Partisan Headquarters.
On 27 July an AL officers' course which lasted since June was officially ended; from among 20 of its participants most were assigned leading positions within the brigade.
On 28 July, during a meeting of the commands of the AL's Obwod III, the Polish Partisan Brigade "Grunwald", and the 1st AL Brigade "Imienia Ziemi Kieleckiej", it was mutually agreed that the latter unit's current location at the Lasy Staszowskie forest complex, located far from the railway lines, did not allow the brigade to pursue its primary goal of attacking and destroying/disrupting the occupiers' means of transportation. Therefore, it was decided that the brigade should relocate its base of operations to the Siekerno-Rataje Forest located to the north-east of Kielce, where it then would be able to attack the Skarzysko-Koluszki, Skarzysko-Sandomierz, Skarzysko-Kielce, and Skarzysko-Radom railway lines. It was also decided that the brigade should, during its march to the above-mentioned area, increase its numerical strength by picking up volunteers from the AL garrisons found on its way.
The march started in the evening on 28 July; during the first phase of the march the 1st Battalion was to reach the village of Lechow, while the 2nd Battalion was to progress to the village of Bartoszowiny. On 29 July, the 1st Battalion, while moving near the Lagow-Kielce Highway, fired on a column of German trucks; the partisans managed to damage and then burn one of them. On the night of 29-30 July both battalions joined at Bartoszowiny, and on 31 July, after crossing the highest chain of the Swietokrzyskie Mountains, they reached the villages of Radkowice and Bronkowice, which were located on the edge of the Siekierno-Rataje Forest. It was this forest that was designated as the brigade's new operational and recruiting base.
Probably the first engagement against enemy forces in this new area of operations took place on 02 August; on this day in the afternoon the brigade's headquarters was informed that through the village of Sniadka, in the direction of Radkowice, an enemy column is passing. Following a closer recon, it was concluded that this was a "Vlasovite" (in reality a Kalmuck) unit of 200 troops together with their baggage train. It was decided to ambush this column at a narrow ravine on the edge of the forest. Unfortunetly, due to a premature shot fired by one of the recently recruited and inexperienced partisans, the Kalmucks never made it to the appointed place of ambush. After realizing that they are dealing with a strong partisan force, they just fled in panic leaving behind their entire baggage train. Subsequently, the AL partisans pursued the individual groups of Kalmucks within a space of three kilometers, killing 13 of them in the process. Meanwhile, the entire baggage train ended up in the partisan hands; among the weapons captured were two (2) Maxim heavy machine-guns, one (1) light machine-gun, two (2) hand machine-guns, six (6) rifles, 32 hand grenades, five (5) carts with ammunition, uniforms, along with a lot of other military equipment. A 45mm anti-armour gun was also captured, but because it lacked a key component it could not be used and had to be destroyed. The partisans did not suffer any losses in this action.
On 04 August the AL Partisan Detachment "Im. G. Narutowicza", which previously operated in vicinity of Ilza, joined the brigade and the command of the Obwod in the Siekierno-Rataje Forest. Moreover, on the same and the next day three AK (Armia Krajowa - Army of the Land) units that collectively amounted to at least around 100 men also joined the grouping; these units were later incorporated into the 2nd AL Brigade "Swit" which was formed in early August.
On the night of 05-06 August the brigade received its second Soviet air drop. From two planes were dropped 20 containers with weapons, ammunition, and explosive materials. There was also one Soviet parachutist - Tierentiy Novak ("Piotr").
Only a few hours later the explosive materials were "tested" by soldiers of the brigade, when they blew-up a vital bridge on the Starachowice-Michalow Highway. This prevented the Germans from using this highway for a few days. This in turn had serious strategic implications, since in the early days of August this road was intensively exploited by the Germans who used it to ferry reinforcements and supplies to the 42nd Corps of the Wehrmacht, at that time preoccupied in the attempts to liquidate the crucial Soviet bridge-head at Baranow.
On 06 August the brigade's staff was organized. Also, each of its two battalions was subdivided into three companies, while in addition a headquarters company was also formed. Since 08 August the brigade began to undertake larger and more intensive combat-diversional actions. This was greatly facilitated by the Soviet air drops. While based in the Lasy Suchedniowskie forest complex in the period starting on 16 August and ending on 18 September the Soviets and/or the Polish Partisan Headquarters made seven air drops; among other things, the partisans received 25 machine-guns, 780 machine-pistols, 210 rifles, 16 anti-armour rifles, seven (7) mortars, 540 hand grenades, 740 kilograms of explosive materials, along with a significant quantity of medicines and bandages. In addition to these, two more air drops were also received in the late September near Gruszka.
Because of the previously mentioned clash with the Kalmuck column, the brigade's base of operations was revealed to the Axis; therefore, the command of the AL's Obwod III decided to move it to a different location. The area of the Swinia Gora hill was chosen for the new base, or more precisely the area of the forests located in the Suchedniow-Zagnansk-Samsonow-Odrowaz rectangle, known as the Lasy Suchedniowskie forest complex. The march to the new base started on the night of 07-08 August. On 08 August in the evening the whole brigade crossed the Skarzysko-Kielce railway, and subsequently the railway was mined near the village of Belno by a mining section of the brigade's 2nd Battalion, led by Podporucznik Bernard Szwarc ("Jozek"). At 23:00 a German military train carrying ammunition, cars, and mobile repair shops, was blown-up by these very mines, and afterwards fired upon by the AL partisans. A locomotive and 13 railway carriages were derailed, while the remaining four that remained on the rails were set on fire and burned; 12 trucks along with lots of ammunition and the mobile repair shops were also burned. Seven German soldiers were killed while another four were wounded. The resulting interruption in the railway traffic lasted for 17 hours.
On 10 August a platoon from the 1st Battalion together with a platoon from the Headquarters Company, under the direct command of Podpulkownik Moczar carried-out an action against a company of Wehrmacht sappers stationed in the village of Gustawow. During the day Kapitan Eugeniusz Iwanczyk ("Wislicz") dressed as a peasant went to the village to gather intelligence on the strength and disposition of the enemy forces present there. When the night fell "Wislicz" together with 10 other partisans silently eliminated all the German guard posts; thus, allowing the other AL soldiers to freely enter the village and attack the present German troops with total surprise. Even with the element of surprise the engagement was complicated, since the AL soldiers were forced to attack in such a way as to avoid casualties among the local Polish civilians, even trying to avoid any damage or destruction to the village's buildings and livestock. Following a brief fight, the Wehrmacht company of 75 troops was completely dispersed; 30 Germans were killed, four (4) were captured, the rest fled. The partisans captured the enemy's baggage train with a lot of military equipment and uniforms, along with horses, saddles, in addition to 42 rifles, six (6) machine-pistols, and lots of ammunition. The partisans suffered only one killed and five wounded ("Wislicz" was one of the wounded).
Due to a change in the brigade's base of operations' location, the new orders given stipulated that the land in the Konskie-Skarzysko-Kielce triangle is its new area of operations. Among its main task was the destruction of the railway lines and transport (especially on the Kielce-Skarzysko Railway), mining of bridges, and carrying-out of ambushes on roads and highways. The 1st Battalion was tasked with destroying/disrupting both the Skarzysko-Konskie Railway and Highway. 2nd Battalion was ordered to do the same on both the Skarzysko-Kielce Railway and Highway.
Meanwhile, the brigade's numerical strength increased systematically; by the middle of August it had around 500 partisans, and that would still increase to over 700 by late September.
On the night of 09-10 August at 03:45 a mining group from the 2nd Battalion led by Podporucznik "Jozek" blew-up in vicinity of Laczna a railway bridge together with a German military train that was crossing it; two locomotives and eight carriages were destroyed, while 18 Germans were killed and 14 wounded. Dozens of minutes later a different train with raw materials was derailed when it run onto the blown up bridge. The second train turned-out to be transporting sugar and flour, which were picked-up the very same night by the local population.
The very same AL mining group blew-up another military train carrying heavy artillery pieces, along with a different bridge on 13 August on the Skarzysko-Kielce line, near the town of Wegle. The following interruption in traffic lasted for close to 12 hours.
On 16 August at 02:30 a mining patrol from the 1st Battalion under Porucznik Stanislaw Gwizdowski ("Skromny") blew up a military transport on the Skarzysko-Kielce line, between Zagnansk and Tumlin. Three carriages with German officers on board crushed, a few more were derailed. Also, on this very same line a railway bridge was damaged. The interruption in traffic lasted for six hours.
On 17 August at 02:00 a mining group of the 1st Battalion blew-up a cargo train on the Konskie-Skarzysko line, near the Wasocz Railway Station. A locomotive along with four carriages were damaged, while a few more were derailed. The interruption in traffic lasted for five hours.
On 18 August 01:00 a mining group of the 1st Battalion blew-up a cargo train in the same area as it did on the previous day. One carriage was derailed. The interruption lasted for over five hours.
On 18 August at 21:00 on the Kielce-Skarzysko line (Zagnansk-Laczna sector) the mining group of the 2nd Battalion led by "Jozek", blew-up and then showered with machine-gun fire a military train. There were killed among the German troops. Eight carriages were destroyed. The interruption lasted for five hours.
On 19 August at 02:30 a mining patrol of the 1st Battalion led by Podporucznik Jan Sadlo blew up near the Czarna River in the town of Sielpia Wielka an eight meters long bridge on the Konskie-Kielce Highway .
On the same day a diversional group from the 2nd Battalion intended to blow-up a train on the Kielce-Skarzysko line; however, the mine was detected by a railway worker who alarmed a German patrol. When he and the German soldiers approached the mine, Podporucznik "Jozef" - the patrol's commander - detonated the mine; the railwayman and three German soldiers were killed in the explosion.
On the same day at 22:10 a mining patrol of the 1st Battalion led by Porucznik Julian Kaniewski ("Chytry"), blew-up, between Konskie and Staporkow, a cargo train with German troops and explosive materials on it. Because the mines were laid in three separate close-to-each-other places, most of the carriages were destroyed. As a result at least 34 German soldiers were killed in this action (at least 20 were killed outright and another 14 later died of their wounds in a hospital in Konskie - on 23 August they were buried). The interruption in rail traffic lasted for someteen hours.
On 20 August at 23:50 a mining group of the 2nd Battalion headed by "Jozek" blew-up a bridge along with a military train on the Kielce-Skarzysko line (Laczna-Zagnansk segment). Just 50 minutes earlier, on the very same line, near the Wegle Railway Station, another train was blown up by a mining patrol of the Headquarters Company led by Podporucznik Zenon Kolodziejski ("Tanka"). In both cases the trains were also sprayed with machine-gun fire. The collective interruption in traffic lasted for 21 hours.
On the same day, at 22:10, a platoon of the Headquarters Company led by Podporucznik Czeslaw Dziubinski ("Alima") carried-out a diversional action on the Skarzysko-Konskie line, by blowing-up a train with troops heading to the front-line. Six carriages were destroyed; among the Germans were killed and wounded. It took nine hours to return the track to use.
On 21 August at 22:00, near the Wegle Station, on the Skarzysko-Kielce line, a railway bridge along with a military train were blown-up by a diversional patrol from the 1st Battalion led by Plutonowy "Iwan". A few carriages were utterly obliterated, while the interruption in traffic lasted for 18 hours.
Just an hour later a mining group from the 2nd Battalion led by Plutonowy Jozef Czerwonka ("Bezimienny") blew-up on the Czestochowa-Kielce line (Kielce-Herby segment) a military train with German troops heading to the front-line on board. A locomotive and six carriages were destroyed. The interruption in traffic lasted for 10 hours.
On 22 August at 23:00 on the Konskie-Skarzysko line near Czarnecka Gora, a mining patrol of the 2nd Battalion led by J. Kaniewski blew up a train with German troops on board. Two locomotives and a few carriages were destroyed; 20 German troops were killed outright, and someteen others were wounded. The interruption lasted for eight hours.
Only three hours later on the same line near the Wasocz Railway Station, a mining patrol of the Headquarters Company headed by "Alima" blew up a military transport. Six carriages were damaged.
On 23 August, both the 1st AL Brigade "Im. Ziemi Kieleckiej" and 2nd AL Brigade "Swit" were presented by the command of the AL's Obwod III for the Krzyz Grunwaldu, in recognition for their efforts aimed at destroying/disrupting the enemy's lines of transportation and supplies, what paralysed the provision of the German forces holding the front-line on the middle Vistula.
Nevertheless, both brigades continued their efforts at full pace. On 24 August at 20:45 on the Konskie-Skarzysko (Konskie-Czarniecka Gora segment) a mining patrol of the 1st Battalion led by J. Kaniewski blew up a train ferrying Waffen-SS troops. One locomotive along with seven carriages were derailed; a few dozen SS-men were killed or wounded. 30 minutes later a German rescue train send from Skarzysko to the place of the action was also blown-up near the Wasosz Station; one carriage was derailed. The interruption on the Konskie-Skarzysko line lasted for 10 hours.
On 30 August at 05:15 on the same segment the same mining patrol blew-up a cargo train; a locomotive along with four carriages were destroyed.
On 01 September at 23:25 near Ostojow on the Kielce-Skarzysko line a cargo train was blown-up; a locomotive was damaged. The interruption lasted for five hours.
On 03 September at 02:45 between the Wolka Plebanska and Nieklan stations, a mining patrol from the 1st Battalion headed by Sierzant Wladyslaw Wozniak ("Stary"), blew-up a railway bridge together with a cargo train. One carriage was utterly obliterated. The interruption lasted for six hours.
On 04 September at 22:00 a group of six part-time AL fighters from Konskie, after having received explosive materials from the 1st Battalion, blew up a cargo train between Czarniecka Gora and Nieklan, derailing a locomotive and one carriage. Interruption lasted for six hours.
On the same day at 14:00 a mining patrol from the 1st Battalion led by Porucznik Boleslaw Mikulski blew-up on the Konskie-Skarzysko line a military transport. A locomotive and eight carriages were damaged. Among the Germans were killed and wounded.
On 05 September at 00:30 the same patrol on the same line blew-up a military train transporting troops along with tanks and cars; 18 carriages together with all the equipment they were ferrying were destroyed. It took the Germans nine hours to pick-up all their killed and wounded troops.
On 06 Sept. at 22:30 on the Skarzysko-Kielce line (Zagnansk-Wegle section) a mining patrol from the 1st Battalion led by S. Gwizdowski blew-up a train with German troops on board. A locomotive and eight carriages were derailed; among the Germans were killed and wounded. The interruption lasted for over six hours.
On 07 Sept. at 21:05 on the same line (Laczna-Zagnansk segment) Mikulski's patrol blew-up yet another German train; a locomotive and nine carriages were damaged. There were many killed and wounded among the Germans. The interruption lasted for six hours.
On 08 Sept. at 15:10 in the same area as on the previous day, a combined mining patrol from the 1st and 2nd Battalion and led by B. Szwarc, blew up a train transporting tanks and cars. One carriage was derailed. The interruption lasted for four hours.
On 09 Sept. at 01:20 between Wolka Plebanska and Nieklan stations on the Konskie-Skarzysko line a mining patrol of the 1st Battalion commanded by Porucznik Stefan Czajka, blew-up a train ferrying tanks, cars, and other military equipment. A locomotive was damaged, while seven carriages were destroyed; among the Germans were killed and wounded. The interruption lasted for 12 hours.
On the same day at 15:00 near the Wegle Station on the Skarzysko-Kielce line, a mining patrol from the 1st Battalion blew-up a cargo train. A locomotive and seven carriages were derailed. The interruption lasted for over four hours.
Also on the same day at 22:00 near the Wegle Station on the same line a mining patrol from the 1st Battalion under S. Czajka blew-up a military train. A locomotive and 10 carriages were derailed; four (4) German soldiers were killed outright while 11 were gravely wounded.
On 10 Sept. at 03:00 mining patrol of the 1st Battalion led by Mikulski blew-up a railway bridge near Malogoszcza on the Kielce-Czestochowa line.
On the same day at 20:15 on the Kielce-Skarzysko line (Laczna-Zagnansk section), a mining patrol from the 1st Battalion led by "Bezimienny" blew-up a cargo train. A locomotive and 10 carriages were damaged. Around 24:00 a German rescue train heading to the place of the attack was also blown-up; one carriage was derailed. The interruption collectively amounted to 12 hours.
On 11 Sept. at 02:00 on the Kielce-Czestochowa line (Malogoszcz-Przybozyszcze section) a mining patrol from the 1st Battalion led by Podporucznik Vsievolod Artemiev ("Kazik") blew-up a railway bridge causing an eight hour interruption in traffic.
On 12 Sept. at 01:00 another railway bridge was blown-up between Ludynia and Malogoszcz, causing a 10 hour interruption.
On 13 Sept. at 06:50 a mining patrol of the 2nd Battalion blew-up a cargo train between the Piekoszow and Malogoszcz stations on the Kielce-Czestochowa line. The interruption lasted for 10 hours.
On the same day other mining patrols of the 2nd Battalion blew-up two bridges on the Kielce-Konskie Highway.
On 16 Sept. a mining patrol of the 2nd Battalion led by "Bezimienny" blew-up a road bridge between Konskie and Radoszyce.
On 19 Sept. at 21:40 a mining patrol from the 2nd Battalion led by "Jozek" blew up a station pump at the Konskie Railway Station.
On 28 Sept. a mining patrol from the 1st Battalion blew-up a cargo train between the Piekoszow and Malogoszcz stations on the Kielce-Czestochowa line. The interruption lasted for 10 hours.
On the same day a mining patrol from the 1st Battalion blew-up, between Wloszczowa and Ludynia on the Kielce-Czestochowa line, a maintainance train. A few carriages were destroyed along with the repairment equipment on board. One German soldier from the train's protection unit was killed.
All in all the 1st Brigade "Imienia Ziemi Kieleckiej" made 19 railway actions in August of 1944, and a further 18 in September, for a total of 37 known railway actions (known because there are some actions mentioned in the German records that are not mentioned in the Polish documents, so possibly the total number of the railway actions carried-out by the brigade might actually be somewhat bigger). Of these 34 included blowing-ups of trains in addition to 15 blowing-ups of both rail and road bridges. All in all, excluding the larger partisan battles, as much as 80% of all of the brigade's activities consisted of diversional actions on railways, while the remaining 20% were made up of road ambushes, blowing-ups of road bridges, and attacks on enemy posts and smaller garrisons.
All this activity reduced the Germans' ability to supply and reinforce their 4th Panzer Army and the 9th Army that were defending a long stretch of the front-line from Pilica in the north to Wisloka in the south. This could have only a negative impact on these armies' operational capabilities.
The presence of large partisan units in the rear area of the German 4th Panzer Army, especially of the AL brigades whose activities seriously disorganized the lines of supply and communication to the front-line, became a very serious issue to deal with for the German command. After the front-line stabilized on the sector of the Baranowski and Magnuszewski bridgeheads, in September the Germans began to launch large-scale anti-partisan operations. The task of carrying them out was assigned, besides the 4th Army's three pacificational divisions - the 213th and 318th Security Division along with the 1st ROA Division - to specially trained in anti-partisan warfare Waffen-SS, German Gendarmerie (Rural Police), and Kalmuck and Cossack units, in addition to some front-line units assigned to anti-partisan tasks on a temporary basis.
During one such operation, on 16 September, elements of the Dr. Doll's Kalmuck Cavalry Corps (KCC) along with units of the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS started to comb the Lasy Suchedniowskie, where was present the command of the AL's Obwod III. This turn of events did not surprise the AL partisans, as already since the past three days they were informed by the local garrisons of the large-scale movement of the enemy troops to the area.
The commander of the Obwod III, Podpulkownik Mieczyslaw Moczar ("Mietek"), ordered the AL forces present in the forest - the 1st Battalion of the 1st Brigade "Im. Ziemi Kieleckiej", and the 10th and 11th AL Brigade (the former brigade lacked one of its companies, which has already been send to conduct diversional operations to the west of Kielce) - to move to the area of the Swinia Gora. In this area were already stationed, at the Rosochy Forest Ranger Post, the command protected by a 120-strong Headquarters Company and a Recon Platoon from the 1st Brigade. Collectively there were over 1 000 AL partisans present in the forests of the Swinia Gora when first combat took place on 16 September. This increased to around 1 200 on the next day, when Porucznik Mieczyslaw Smolik ("Ryszard", "Olszyna") succeeded in bringing a group of 136 fighters from the surrounding area. After the battle this group was added to the 1st Battalion of the 1st Brigade. They faced an enemy force estimated to have had 1 000 - 1 500 troops.
The Battle of the Lasy Suchedniowskie began at 09:00, when a group of some 200 Kalmuck soldiers advancing from the south was forced to turn back by the 3rd Company of the 1st Brigade (commander: Maksymilian Pora "Przelot") and the Headquarters Company. The subsequent three other enemy attempts to penetrate the partisan positions on that day were all repulsed by the other AL units. The 1st Battalion of the 1st Brigade, together with the Headquarters Company, was assigned to defend the eastern and south-eastern line of the partisans' defences.
In the 17-19 September period the Germans renewed their attacks, mostly with the forces of the KCC, and they all ended in failure. On the 19th the command of the Obwod was informed that the enemy is summoning additional reinforcements to the area; therefore, it was decided to leave it by sneacking past the encircling enemy forces during the night of 19-20 September. The AL forces were to be divided into two groups: one, consisting of the 1st Battalion of the 1st Brigade together with the 10th and 11th Brigade were to pierce the ring in the south-west, and then to make their way to the Lasy Koneckie forest complex; the second group, made up of the command of the Obwod and the Headquarters Company, was to pierce the ring in the south-east and then to make their way to the Siekierno-Rataje Forest. The manuever was carried-out superbly, and the partisans got out of the encirclement without firing a single shot.
In the Battle of Lasy Suchedniowskie, during four days of combat the AL partisan grouping suffered only nine (9) killed and 20 wounded. The enemy losses were estimated at 200 killed and wounded; at least one armoured car was destroyed. During the battle, the partisans repulsed all attacks, and even managed to accept two deliveries of Soviet air drops.
Meanwhile, on 11 September the brigade's command separated from the command of the Obwod (until then they were always in the same place), and leaving the Swinia Gora area it marched with the 2nd Battalion to the viallage of Niebo near Radoszyce. Since 22 September the new area of encampment was established in vicinity of the village of Gruszka. This area was located not far from the Konskie-Skarzysko and Kielce-Czestochowa railway lines; therefore, it allowed the 2nd Battalion to conduct diversional actions on these lines.
By the 24 September the new encampment was reached by the 1st Battalion, the 11th AL Brigade "Wolnosc", and the 1st Company of the 10th AL Brigade "Zwyciestwo", as well as the AL Partisan Detachment "Im. B. Glowackiego". Besides, the headquarters of the 2nd AL Brigade "Swit" was already present in the area since 20 September.
Because the brigade increased in size to over 700 partisans, on 23 September its reorganization took place; the 3rd Battalion was created, mostly from the 136 new volunteers who arrived at Swinia Gora.
On the night of 24-25 September, a joint group made up of the elements of both the 1st (led by B. Szwarc) and 2nd Brigade (led by Tadeusz Kotlinski "Mitra") carried-out an action against the heavily guarded by the Germans road bridges at the town of Mala Sielpia. One of the three bridges was blown-up, but this took place during a sharp exchange of fire; during an engagement that lasted for dozens of minutes, a German bunker located near the bridge was also destroyed. When the Germans received reinforcements, the operation had to be ended. The Germans suffered considerable losses; the entire crew of the destroyed bunker was killed, while a few more Germans were killed with hand grenades that were accurately thrown into their trenches. The partisans suffered two killed and five (including two officers) wounded (B. Szwarc and Porucznik "Bocian" were critically wounded).
On the 25 September at night the AL partisan grouping at Gruszka received yet one more Soviet air drop of 30 containers. Two days later a radio-operator, whose task was to maintain contact with the Polish Partisan Headquarters, with two radio sets was also parachuted, while 59 containers were air dropped as well. At about that time the 1st Brigade had about 10 critically wounded, and it requested the Supreme Headquarters of the WP (Wojsko Polskie - Polish Military) to airlift them to the liberated territory. On two occasions the airlift was prevented by bad rainy weather. On the third time, during the night of 29-30 September, it was foiled by a German anti-partisan operation.
The German command could not fail to notice the Soviet sorties made near Gruszka; as a result, it decided to launch a major anti-partisan operation in the area. To carry-out this task was assigned an armoured brigade of General Steinbock, a motorized unit of the German Gendarmerie, and Waffen-SS units - about 5 000 troops. On the other hand, the AL grouping had around 1 500 partisans.
On 29 September the German anti-partisan drive began. The encircled AL units assumed positions on the edges of the forests surrounding the villages of Gruszka and Jozwikow. The 1st Brigade held the south-eastern, southern, and south-western sectors of the defensive line.
In the early morning hours of that day the Battle of Gruszka started; the Germans launched unsuccessful assaults during which they suffered heavy losses. A strong attack of infantry supported by tanks and artillery was repulsed by the 3rd Battalion; it was repulsed and one of the tank was set on flames. An even stronger German attack by infantry, tanks, and artillery was made and on the positions held by the 2nd Battalion; it was also repelled, while two tanks were set aflames in the process. Between 11:30 and 13:30 these ceased, and the Germans limited themselves to showering the forest with fire from cannons and mortars. Afterwards they renewed their ground assaults but again they were repulsed and suffered heavy losses. During one of these attacks on the 2nd Battalion made by SS troops supported by armoured vehicles and artillery, a fourth German tank was left immobilized on the battlefield, while an armoured car was damaged.
Between 15:00 and 16:00 Germans attacked from the south-east and, thanks to their heavy superiority in numbers and firepower, they managed to push the 1st Battalion from its defensive positions, capturing at 16:00 the village of Gruszka. This caused two companies of the 2nd Battalion and two companies of the 1st Battalion to become cut-off from the main partisan forces. These partisans under the leadership of Porucznik Stefan Szymanski ("Goral") - the commander of the 2nd Battalion - succeeded in safely retreating to the previously fortified (just for such an eventuality) by the AL partisans Wzgorze Langiewicza hill, where they repulsed all subsequent German attacks.
Meanwhile, all the remaining partisan forces concentrated in the part of the forest located to the north and east of Gruszka, where they organized an improvised defence. It is on these partisans that the Hitlerites now concentrated their main attacks on. After a strong, but inaccurate, artillery barrage that lasted for dozens of minutes but caused the partisans no harm, an infantry assault followed - the attacking Germans met with such concentrated fire that they never made it to forest's edge. The volleys of fire just swept the lines of the attackers from existence.
Around 19:00 the Germans ceased all their attacks, strengthening the encircling ring instead. With the arrival of night they periodically lit the surrounding fields with illuminating rockets and search lights.
Under the cover of the night the partisans prepared to break-out of the encirclement; baggage trains were liquidated and their equipment was either distributed among partisans or mounted on horses, while a specially selected improvised partisan assault battalion led by Kapitan Tadeusz Lecki ("Orkan") of 270 partisans armed only with automatic weapons and grenades, was to fight a hole in the ring allowing the remaining forces to escape from it. Porucznik Jan Michorek from the 1st Brigade was selected as the leader of the battalion's probing element - the assault company.
The first attempt to break-out in the south was repulsed by the Germans. A second attempt made in the north-east was crowned with success; the right wing had to engage in combat in the process (in and near the village of Mularzow), while the left-wing managed to sneak from the encirclement without a fight.
The encircled four companies on the Wzgorze Langiewicza decided to break-out in the south-west, where the Germans had the lightest forces. This group managed to sneak past their forces without firing a single shot at around 16:00. This group rejoined the rest of the 1st Brigade near Swinia Gora two days later.
In the Battle of Gruszka, in spite of the heavy German superiority in numbers and equipment (tanks, armoured cars, artillery) combined with a terrain not very suitable for defence (mostly flat, and only partially covered by small forests) the AL partisans succeeded in holding back the enemy for a day, and then to leave the encirclement fully intact. The partisan grouping lost in the battle 50 killed and 70 wounded (among the killed was Porucznik Michorek who led the assault group, while Major Polowniak, despite being wounded, did not leave his command). The Germans suffered over 200 killed and wounded; moreover, they also lost four tanks, one armoured car, a single all-terrain car, and some search lights that were either destroyed and/or damaged.
Following the break-out, all the AL units moved to the Lasy Suchedniowskie, where, after a three day rest, they were divided into two groups. The first group made up of the 1st Company of the 10th Brigade and the 1st and 3rd Battalion of the 1st Brigade along with the 1st Company from the brigade's 2nd Battalion, was send to the Lasy Koneckie forest complex. The second group, consisting of the 2nd Brigade "Swit", 11th Brigade, 2nd Battalion of the 1st Brigade - along with a mixed group of a few dozen partisans from the 1st and 3rd Battalions - and the AL Partisan Detachment "Im. B. Glowackiego", was transferred to the Siekierno-Rataje Forest.
It was this second group that became a target of a third successive major German operation launched recently in this area against the AL partisans. The operation was launched on 06 October, almost immediately after the arrival of the group in the forest. The first attack of two German battalions from the south caught the partisans by surprise. The partisans assumed a circular defensive position. The 1st Brigade's 2nd Battalion was tasked with defending the north-western sector of the circle. Fortunetly it turned out that this time the German intelligence underestimated the numerical strength of the partisan grouping - the Germans send only some 600 soldiers to deal with it, and that is just about how many partisans the grouping itself had.
After a period of initial confusion in the southern sector, where the Germans attacked first, the partisans quickly reorganized and launched a successful counter-attack led by Moczar himself. Consequently, the German troops started to be pushed-out, and finally escaped from the forest in a panicked and chaotic manner. Meanwhile, the northern sector encountered a slowly moving line of German soldiers who were supposed to have ambushed the retreating partisans, but instead it was they who were ambushed by the partisans! Reinforced by the partisans who just returned from routing the attackers in the south, the AL soldiers unexpectedly attacked the advancing Germans catching them by complete surprise, and rapidly dispersed and put them to flight. Soon it was the partisans who were hunting for groups of German soldiers lost in the forest.
As a result of the unexpected turn of events, the Germans suspended their anti-partisan operation in the Siekierno-Rataje Forest, even going as far as to withdraw all their units from the villages located near the forest. The Germans suffered in this operation 60 killed (including four officers), and also likely some wounded as well. The partisan grouping suffered only four killed and two wounded.
Afterwards, on the night of 06-07 October the 1st Brigade's 2nd Battalion together with the AL Partisan Detachment "Im. B. Glowackiego" moved to the Gory Swietokrzyskie mountains, while the command of the Obwod along with the Headquarters Company and the 2nd Brigade moved to the forests to the north-east of Starachowice.
Due to the changing circumstances that took place between July and October of 1944, the original idea of raising large partisans units (like the brigades) that had the capability of successfully co-operating with the advancing regular Soviet and Polish forces, what was a logical thing to do in the Summer of 1944, was, due to the stabilization of the front-line by August of that year, no longer feasible and practical. Furthermore, the difficult winter conditions were about to set in, while the saturation of the operational area with German units was only increasing. This created a sitaution in which the maintenance of large partisan units in the field was becoming increasingly precarious. Therefore, the command of the Obwod decided on 08 October at a meeting at the Lasy Starachowickie forest complex that most of the field partisan forces should be either disbanded, with their members reverting to the status of part-time fighters, or transferred to the liberated territory.
Only small partisan detachments were to be kept in the field; these, commanded by experienced field commanders and numbering 20-30 partisans each, were to be send from the Lasy Starachowickie to the environs of Ilza, Kielce, and Opatow, but in the end three small partisan detachments were dispatched to the Lasy Koneckie forest complex (see the next paragraph).
In accordance to the command's order the 1st Brigade's 1st and 3rd Battalion was disbanded; part of the soldiers reverted to the part-time status, and another part formed three small partisan detachments (commanded by Porucznik Edmund Borowiecki "Mlot", Porucznik Stefan Czajka "Stefan", and Porucznik Julian Kaniewski "Chytry") that operated in the Lasy Koneckie until the liberation in January of 1945.
Not long after, the AL grouping present in the Lasy Starachowickie (2nd AL Brigade "Swit", the 1st Brigade's 2nd Battalion, and 10th AL Brigade) as a result of a decision made during a meeting held by the command of the Obwod on 24 October, decided to cross the front-line. Only the command of the Obwod was to revert to conspiration and remain on the occupied territory.
Soon the Supreme Command of the WP was informed of the decision; during two days its permission for the crossing was granted, in addition to passwords and directives that the crossing take place near the village of Chotcza at a specified time. The AL partisan grouping was concentrated in the Lasy Malomierzyckie forest complex, and during the night of 26-27 October it moved to a forest near the town of Swiesielice. The grouping numbered 765 fairly well armed (on the AL standards) partisans; their armament included 34 machine-guns, 705 machine-pistols, 60 rifles, and 43 hand pistols. In this forest they were joined by the BCh (Bataliony Chlopskie - Peasant Battalions) Partisan Grouping "Oski" numbering over 200 partisans, which at that time was commanded by Kapitan "Hiszpan" (real name has not been established - he was a worker from Radom who served as a volunteer on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War) and Porucznik Wladyslaw Janca ("Rinaldo"), in addition to around 150 deconspired PPR activists from the surrounding area. All in all, over 1 000 people were to cross the front-line near Chotcza. The commander of the 2nd AL Brigade "Swit" Kapitan Tadeusz Lecki ("Orkan") and the commander of the 10th AL Brigade "Zwyciestwo" Senior Lieutenant Nikolay Dontsov* were chosen to lead the operation.
The march to the front-line began on the night of 27-28 October. The column moved along the Ilzanka River, along its right bank in the direction of the Vistula. On the way a German post guarding a bridge on the Ilzanka was liquidated; afterwards the whole column moved to the other side of the river, to subsequently make an assault on the rear of the German line. After crossing four German fortified lines devoid of troops, the column attacked the fifth one which was held by the Germans. This German line was quickly broken, but as soon as the partisans entered the no-man's-land they came under heavy fire of both German and Soviet artillery blocking fire (the column was late by one day with regard to the time assigned to it for the crossing, so the Soviet side fired believing that they are attacking Germans). The situation was becoming dangerous; the partisans were stuck just dozens of meters from the Soviet trenches. A strong wind flying in the opposite direction made voice communication impossible. Only when a patrol send by Kapitan Lecki managed to reach the Soviet trenches and give the expected password, did the fire from the Soviet side ceased. It is then that the other units managed to make their way to the liberated land.
During the crossing of the front-line near Chotcza on 28 October, according to German sources, 70 partisans were killed (out of over 1 000), while another 12 were captured; there were close to 100 wounded. Many of the battle-hardened distinguished partisan commanders were among the killed; among them the commander of the 1st Brigade's Recon Platoon Podporucznik Jozef Niewiadomski "Sokol". There were also many wounded; of those who were not able to reach the Soviet side on their own all, except for 12, were picked-up from the no-man's-land, and even from the German side of the front-line. Thanks to this operation a great many partisans' lives were saved, and also the German front-line was pushed back by a precious few hundred meters to the west, thus enlargening the Soviet bridge-head. This was made possible by the partisans, whose crossing created a breach in the German line.
After arriving on the liberated territory the AL and BCh soldiers were given to the disposal of the Supreme Command of WP, and someteen days later they were assigned to various units of the WP.
Meanwhile, the 11th AL Brigade "Wolnosc" (by that time divided into several partisan detachment to better avoid detection), together with the Headquarters Company of the 1st AL Brigade and the AL Partisan Detachment "Im. B. Glowackiego", remained until the middle of November in the Gory Swietokrzyskie area, mostly conducting intelligence-gathering functions. On 12 November, these units concentrated and then marched to the front-line's area between Lagow and Opatow (Sandomierz Bridgehead). On the night of 14-15 November, near the village of Niekurzow, this AL partisan grouping crossed the front-line almost without a fight suffering only minimal losses in the process.
For its outstanding achievements in the combat against the occupiers the 1st AL Brigade "Imienia Ziemi Kieleckiej" was decorated with the Krzyz Grunwaldu III klasy (The Cross of Grunwald III Class, it must be mentioned here that the decoration's upper two classes were awarded for accomplishments of a non-combat nature, and that is why it was "only" the third class that was awarded to the brigade).
* - 10th AL Brigade "Zwyciestwo" and the 11th AL Brigade "Wolnosc" were the only two, of the 11 AL partisan brigades formed, that were made up mostly of Soviets (deserters from Vlasovite units, KCC, and the Ostlegionen, escaped POWs, and a few Soviet parachutists). That is why they both had Soviet commanders (the commander of the 11th Brigade was Senior Lieutenant Stiepan Riashczenko). In September of 1944, when they were created, both of these partisan brigades had around 300 partisans (in each one the national proportions were the same - 85% Soviets and 15% Poles) and they both operated in Kielecczyzna.
Mieczyslaw Wieczorek, Armia Ludowa; Powstanie i Organizacja, 1944-1945, Wydawnictwo MON, Warszawa, 1979.
Encyklopedia Drugiej Wojny Swiatowej, Wydawnictwo MON, Warszawa, 1975.
Boleslaw Dolata & Tadeusz Jurga, Walki Zbrojne na Ziemiach Polskich, 1939-1945; Wybrane Miejsca Bitew, Walk i Akcji Bojowych, Wydawnictwo MON, Warszawa, 1970.
Bogdan Hillebrandt, W Suchedniowskich i Radoszyckich Lasach, Ksiazka i Wiedza, Warszawa, 1969.
_______________, Partyzantka na Kielecczyznie, 1939-1945, Wydawnictwo MON, Warszawa, 1967.
Other AL Brigades:
1st AL Brigade "Imienia Ziemi Lubelskiej"
AL Brigade "Synowie Ziemi Mazowieckiej"
AL - People's Army
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