10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade (Poland)

10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade (Poland)

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade

branch=Land forces
size=~40 tanks and tankettes
nickname=Black Brigade
battles=Battle of Jordanów, Battle of Lwów
notable_commanders=Stanisław Maczek

The 10th Cavalry Brigade ( _pl. 10. Brygada Kawalerii) was a Polish military unit, the only fully operational Polish motorized infantry unit during the Invasion of Poland of 1939, at the onset of World War II. Commanded by Col. (later General) Stanisław Maczek, it is considered the only Polish World War II military unit not to lose a single battle.

The unit was organized in February of 1937, partially as an experiment. It was to be a compromise between a standard motorized infantry brigade and the French concept of "Division legere". As Polish cavalry generals still had some doubts about the value of mechanized force, there was some opposition against reforming the standard horse-mounted cavalry into motorized units. In order to extensively test the value of the new unit, it was held in a specially created training ground near Kielce, as well as in the Armoured Units Training School. The brigade was supposed to be a kind of emergency unit in Commander-in-Chief’s reserve. Its task was to screen the areas of concentration of Polish troops, to close gaps made by enemy forces in Polish lines and to fight enemy mechanized units. In order to achieve the goals, the unit was composed of a variety of units, all of them motorized.

First exercise in offensive action in 1938 was a big disappointment – the brigade proved to be insufficiently equipped in anti-tank ordinance to successfully counter enemy armoured units. It was also considered not versatile enough, especially when compared with a standard cavalry unit which had a much better off-road capabilities and speed. Because of that several changes in its structure were introduced, which were later copied during the formation of Warsaw Armoured Cavalry Brigade. The commanding officer of the unit was Col. Stanisław Maczek and the chief of his staff was Maj. Franciszek Skibiński. It is to be noted that, despite being fully motorized, the brigade was still officially named "the 10th Cavalry Brigade". However, most of the sources refer to it as Motorized in order to distinguish the unit from its predecessors.

After the Invasion of Poland in 1939, the brigade was attached to the Kraków Army defending the Lesser Poland and Silesia. Equipped with only light tanks and tankettes and without one artillery battery, which left the unit with only 8 heavier cannons, it went into battle already in the first day of war. After the Battle of Jordanów, Maczek's unit faced the entire German XVIII Corps of General Eugen Beyer and successfully shielded the southern flank of the Polish forces, along the Beskides. Supported by merely several battalions of Border Guards and National Defence, the Polish motorized unit fought against two panzer divisions (4th Light Division under von Hubicki and 2nd Panzer Division under Veiel), as well as the 3rd Mountain Division under Eduard Dietl. For five days Maczek’s brigade fought bravely and significantly slowed the German advance. Despite numerical and technical superiority, the German units' daily gain was no more than 10 kilometres. Polish soldiers took advantage of difficult, mountainous terrain, stopping German attacks and occasionally counter-attacking. However, after the front of the Kraków Army was broken to the north of brigade's position, it was pulled out from the first line. The brigade then fought as a screening unit, defending the bridges and fords in Lesser Poland, until it arrived to Lwów and joined the city’s defenders. It was to form a mobile reserve during the battle for Lwów and allow other Polish units to withdraw towards the Romanian Bridgehead. However, the plan was made obsolete by the invasion of Poland by the Soviet Union on September 17. After two days, Marshal of Poland Edward Rydz-Śmigły ordered the brigade to cross Hungarian border.

Colonel Maczek’s brigade was interned in Hungary. The unit lost about half of its men, but was never defeated in open combat, gaining respect even from the enemy. The Germans called 10th Cavalry Brigade "Die Schwarze Brigade" – "The Black Brigade", because of black jackets worn by Polish mechanized troops. However, it was not the end of its history. With silent support of Hungarians most of its soldiers managed to get to France, to join Polish Army led by General Sikorski. They fought in 1940 in France as 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade. After France surrendered, the veterans of "The Black Brigade" went to Great Britain and became the core of Polish 1st Armoured Division.



Stanisław Maczek, „Od podwody do czołga”, Lublin-London 1990

ee also

* [http://www.opusmedia.fr/kazimierzduda/default_gb.asp Captain Kazimierz DUDA - 1st Polish Armoured Division - C.K.M.]

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