Battle of Hel

Battle of Hel

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Hel
partof=Invasion of Poland
date=September 9October 2, 1939
place=Hel Peninsula, Poland
result=German victory
strength2=3,000 men
46 guns
casualties1=Luftwaffe: 46-53 aircraft
Wehrmacht: unknown
1 destroyer damaged,
1 battleship lightly damaged

The Battle of Hel was one of the longest battles of the Invasion of Poland during World War II.

The Hel Peninsula, together with the town of Hel, was the longest-defended pocket of Polish Army resistance against the German invasion. Approximately 3,000 soldiers of the Fortified Region Hel unit ("Rejon Umocniony Hel"), part of the Coastal Defence Group ("Grupa Obrona Wybrzeża") under Capt. Włodzimierz Steyer defended the area against overwhelming odds from September 9 until October 2 1939.ref|date


Hel was a Polish military port since 1928, and the Polish military had been in control of the northern part of the peninsula since 1920s. In 1936 that part was officially named Fortified Region Hel ("Rejon Umocniony Hel"). Approximately 3,000 soldiers were stationed in the area, and the Fortified Region included three coastal (anti-ship) and anti-air gun batteries. The coastal batteries were divided into one 4 x 152 mm battery and two older 2 x 105 mm batteries, and three batteries with 8 x 75 mm guns total. Anti-air batteries had 6 x 75 mm and 8 x 40 mm guns, and two 120 cm reflectors.

The battle

Hel was the target of air attacks from the first day of the campaign (1 September).Henry Steele Commager, "The Story of the Second World War", Brassey's, 2003, ISBN 1-57488-741-6, [ Google Print, p.16-19] ] The German army forced Polish units of Armia Pomorze to retreat from the Danzig Corridor in the first week of September, and began the assault of the Polish forces in Hel on 9 September. After Armia Pomorze was defeated in the Battle of Tuchola Forest, and other Polish strongholds on the coast capitulated (Battle of Westerplatte, Battle of Gdynia and Battle of Kępa Oksywska), from 20 September onward Hel was the only pocket of Polish resistance in northern Poland.

Hel defenders damaged a German destroyer on 3 September.J. E. Kaufmann, Robert M. Jurga, "Fortress Europe: European Fortifications of World War II", De Capo Press, 2002, ISBN 0-306-81174-X [ Google Print, p.272] .] Several Polish light minelayers laid a minefield near Hel in the night from 12 to 13 September. After some of them were sunk by Luftwaffe on the following day, due to German control of the Baltic Sea, the remaining units docked at Hel port and the crews joined the ground forces. The ships' armanents were stripped and converted into additional land gun emplacements. German naval units, including old battleships "Schleswig-Holstein" and "Schlesien", shelled the Hel peninsula from 18 September, but with little effect. "Schleswig-Holstein" was lightly damaged by Polish coastal batteries on 25 September. Hel anti-aircraft batteries proved to be extremely efficient, shooting down between 46 and 53 German aircraft during the battle.

By September 14 Polish forces on Hel were cut off from the mainland. After being initially stalled by Polish defences, Germans brought land artillery batteries and an armored train battery to support their barrage. German forces slowly advanced, although they were still facing significant resistance and counterattacks. On September 25, after Germans took the village of Chałupy (today part of the town of Władysławowo), Polish military engineers detonated a number of torpedo warheads in the narrowest part of the peninsula, and for a time separated the peninsula from the mainland, transforming it into an island. On October 1, the commander of the Polish Navy, counter-admiral Józef Unrug, taking into consideration that the outpost was running out of supplies and that no relief force would be coming, gave the orders to capitulate. The Germans occupied the peninsula by October 2. After the capitulation of Hel, the only organized Polish resistance was carried out by Independent Operational Group Polesie, eventually defeated during the Battle of Kock.


* Sources vary when giving the information on capitulation of Hel, with dates of 1 and 2 October. For example, Commager writes that military activities ceased on 1400, 1 October, but Kaufmann and Jurga note that Hel surrendered on 2 October.


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