THE SOVIET INVASION OF POLAND DURING WORLD WAR TWO

Deported to Siberia and travels through the Middle East

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Qisil-Ribat, Iraq, July 1943
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Accomodations in the desert

On February 10, 1940, Bronek was "taken" by the NKWD from his flat in Drohobycz to be deported to the Soviet Union. His wife, Halina, who had witnessed his arrest, joined her husband voluntarily.
 
They were taken by horse cart to the train station where, by coincidence, they met Bronek's family (mother, 2 sisters and brother) who were removed from the family farm and were about to be deported on the same train.
 
Thus the entire family was deported to a "posiolek," a family work camp in Siberia (near Omsk) where they suffered until liberation. Their work consisted of tapping pine trees in order to collect the resin which was shipped off to the Soviet chemical industry.
 
That first summer, the posiolek suffered an outbreak of typhus which resulted in many deaths. Many also died of pneumonia as work in the forests was mandatory for the ill unless they had high fevers. From February 1940 to August 1941 approximately 25% of the deportees at this camp died. For a Siberian slave labour camp, this was actually a low death rate.   

From the 4th of July 1941 to the 1st of December 1941, Bronek languished in prison at Tiumen, despite the amnesty for Poles that had already been announced. He was serving a sentence on trumped up charges of "counterrevolutionary activities."
 
In the meantime, in the fall of 1941, a number of men from his posiolek had already tried to join the new Polish army but found that it was not yet prepared. Accomodations, uniforms and rations were all in short supply so they had returned to the posiolek to await spring. 
 
Bronek took on a job as a bookkeeper in the nearby town of Buczyha on the condition that he be allowed to leave for the new Army in April.
 
He did indeed make his way to Guzar in Uzbekistan and joined the new army on April 22, 1942. That summer he arranged for leave in order to return to the posiolek and retrieve his family. 
 
On the 31st of August of 1942 they all crossed the border into Persia (Iran). Their route took them by truck from Aschabad, Uzbekistan to the rail head at Mashhad, Iran. From there they journeyed to Teheran, arriving on the 5th of September.
 
He then parted with his family again in order to catch up with his unit at Pahlevi. Bronek's brother Wladek, was sent to England to join the RAF. His mother and two sisters were admitted to the civilian refugee camps (and wound up in Africa).

Stach Pola by a Freshly Erected Monument
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On the outskirts of a Polish Army camp somewhere in the Middle East

Pass Granting Recreational Leave
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Destination: Ahwaz, Iran

In Pahlevi, Bronek contracted Malaria. He was admitted to hospital on the 28th of September and stayed there until the 8th of October when both he and the hospital were shipped off to Teheran.  He was then released for convalescence.
 
In October, his unit was transferred to Kanaquin in Iraq. Through December 1942 to January 1943, Bronek undertook further training for battery commanders and firing officers.
 
In June, at Quisil-Ribat, he trained at the Sappers school on the subject of mines and booby traps then received his advance to lieutenant on the 1st of July, 1943.  

Once again on the move, the army was tranferred to Palestine. Camp was uprooted on the 25th of August, 1943 with arrival at the new camp (at Ibna, near Gedery) on the 30th.
 
Bronek's unit was christened the 9th PAL or 9th Field Artillery Regiment as of the 7th of December. One week later they were on the move again to the town of Quassasin in Egypt. 
 
Finally, on the 4th of February, 1944, Bronek's unit boarded a ship in Port Said and set sail for Italy, disembarking at Taranto on the 8th.  The Polish Second Corps, some 55,000 (approximately 80,000 by mid 1945) men and women were about to get a little bit of revenge against the Germans.
 

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE 2nd ARTILLERY GROUP
 
The 2nd Artillery Group, formally known as the 2nd AGPA or Army Group of Polish Artillery, was an independant artillery unit within the Polish Second Corps of General Anders. The two Corps infantry divisions ( i.e. the 3rd Carpathian and 5th Kresowa) had small dedicated artillery units attached to them but the role of the 2nd AGPA was that of a flexible unit capable of providing extra support to whichever defensive or offensive sector required it. For this reason it was placed under the direct command of Corps headquarters.
 
This history has been extracted from the group's commemorative booklet "Historia 2 Grupy Artilerii" produced in Italy shortly after the war's end:
 
The first artillery units of the Polish 2nd Corps had been created in January of 1942 in the U.S.S.R.
 
The 7th Light Regiment (later renamed the 7th Rgt. of Horse Art.) was originally based in Kenimech, a small town of the Uzbek steppes in the district of Buchara and the 7th Med. Rgt. (later renamed the 11th Med. Rgt.) near the small station of Kermine on the Taszkent-Kagan railway line. Both units served as the divisional artillery of the 7th Infantry Division. The Soviets did not equip the fledgling 2nd Corps very well and the artillery pieces supplied were no exception as 7 Horse received only one 76 m/m (millimeter) gun and 11 Med. received only one Howitzer (Hw.) 122 m/m gun.
 
The 10th Med. Rgt. originated in May of 1942 as the first "Medium" unit in the Middle East at the camp of Barbara in Palestine. It had been created by the soldiers who arrived from Russia with the first evacuation of March and April of 1942. Initially the regiment was equipped with 16 Howitzers of 155 m/m caliber.
 
The 2nd Polish Corps was reorganized upon arrival in the Middle East and on October 19, 1942 the 11th Med. was detached from the 7th Infantry Division and added to the 10th Med. to form, along with their own H.Q. (headquarters) the unit simply known as "Heavy Artillery."
 
In March of 1943 "Heavy Artillery" was transformed and re-organized into the still larger artillery unit "Army Group of Polish Artillery" (AGPA) composed of: H.Q., Signal Unit, 10th Med. Rgt., 11th Med. Rgt., 7th Rgt. of Horse Art. and 9th Light Rgt. (which finished the war as the 9th Heavy Rgt.)
 
The organizers of this first large artillery unit in the history of the Polish Army were: the first Commander of the Artillery of the 2nd Polish Corps Gen. Roman Odzierzynski and the first Commander of the AGPA Gen. Ludwik Zabkowski. The cradle of the AGPA was the camp Mullah Azis near Khanaquin on the Alwand river in the desert of Iraq.
 
The 9th Light Rgt. was formed in October 1942 in the Iraqi desert at Mullah Azis camp. It came into existence when the 6th Light Rgt. was divided into the 6th Light Rgt. and the 9th Light Rgt.
 
Ninety-Seven percent of the future soldiers of the AGPA had suffered in the labour camps and prisons of Soviet Russia, made their way to the Polish army recruiting centers after the amnesty of July 1941 and crossed into Persia (Iran) with General Anders. Many had also survived typhoid fever, malaria, jaundice, scurvy etc. Morale was quite high however as they enjoyed freedom from bondage and looked forward to a successful end to the war.
 
At the end of April 1943 the AGPA along with the entire 2nd Corps, now included in the body of the British PAI-Forces, moved on to the area of Kirkuk in Iraq. In Iraq, specialists were trained at both British and Polish run courses. Extensive field exercizes and practice firings were held.
 
In August of 1943, the Corps moved to Palestine. The first unit of the AGPA began the move on the 26th along the road through Bagdad, Habania, Rutbah, Mafrak, the southern border of the Black Desert and through Transjordan to the area of the Arabic village of Isdud. After the great heat of Iraq, the favourable climate and conditions of Palestine (the abundance of verdure and fruits, the pilgrimages to the Holy places, seductive Tel-Aviv and Rehovot) elevated the soldier's mood.
 
In Palestine, the soldiers went through another period of massive practice firings and intensive training exercizes. On the 26th of November, at the shooting range near Berszeba, the entire 2nd Corps artillery passed their firing examinations before  C. in C. (Commander in Chief) Gen. K. Sosnkowski and thousands of spectators. The display was an unqualified success. It is likely that never before had such a quantity of ammunition been fired over the heads of so many spectators.
 
Here too the artillery units "entertained" American General Patton.
 
On the 2nd of December in 1943 the AGPA left Palestine by motorized convoy and arrived at Qassasin camp in Egypt on the 4th. Qassasin, the gigantic military camp situated in the rear of the sea ports of Alexandria and Port Said, served as the last quiet stop before the entry into action in Italy.
 
On Christmas day the orders regulating the flow of sea transport arrived and shortly thereafter the first unit of the AGPA - in large convoys - sailed away to Italy.
 
Around the 20th of February, 1944, nearly all of the AGPA found themselves in Italy having landed in Taranto and Bari.
 
The destroyed towns and roads, the continual growl of the mighty aircraft expeditions, everywhere enormous concentrations of soldiers of all races and nationalities, moving in columns without beginning or end, provided a foretaste of the front and its nearness.
 
In the period before entering into action, the AGPA, initially at the Santa Teresa camp (6km east of Taranto) later in San Basilio on the Taranto-Bari road, prepared itself for the war effort and familiarized itself with the Italian soil.
 
On February 17 the first Bty. (battery) of 11 Med. Rgt. moved to the front in the 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division (3 KDP) sector on the Sangro River. It was joined on the 28th by the Commander of 11 Med. Rgt. with his staff and 2nd Bty. of 10 Med. Rgt. The first battle area is Coli al Volturno.
 
On the 19th of March the entire AGPA is on operative ground west of Vinchiaturo and Campobasso. The picturesque towns, perched on the tops of the hills, are still covered in snow. The soldiers are billeted with Italian families and upon the direct contact with them, feel the charm and warmth of the home fireplace which they so badly needed during the years of exile. Quickly and willingly they enter into sociable living with the Italians.
 
During February and March of 1944, the Polish Corps inhabited a 60 km. wide sector in the high hills of the Italian peninsula in the general line of: the headwaters of the Rapido river, the southern flank of the "Parco Nazinale d'Abruzzo" as well as the headwaters of the Sangro river, providing cover for the Allied offensive in the Cassino region. A portion of the AGPA was reassigned to the 5 KDP (5th Kresowa) sector to relieve some units of the 36th American Artillery Group during the 24th to 29th of March. Other units, 9 Light and the 2nd Bty of 10 Med., were assigned to the 3 DSK and arrived at the Sangro sector.
 
At the junction of winter and spring snow still remained on the tops of the mountains at about 1,500 mtrs. a. s. l. (meters) while the mud in the valleys created many difficulties in the preparation of gun placements. Nearly all of the O.P. (observation posts) of the AGPA were situated at heights greater than 1,000 mtrs. and the O.P. on Mte. Marrone - in the Italian sector (the Italian army had units fighting the Nazis by this time) - at 1,800 mtrs. The access to the O.P.s was very difficult; some could only be reached by technical climbing. The supplies had to be carried up on human shoulders or on the backs of good natured mules.
 
All sectors of the Polish Corps were relatively calm although there were often echos of violent firing, especially during the night, as the two sides traded sallies and patrols went on sorties along the front. This first relatively calm battle was taken advantage of to provide training for the observers, using the real enemy, and also to provide practice for the gunners and computing centers.
 
On the 14th and 16th of April the AGPA vacated their gun positions and concentrated in the area of bridge " 25 Arches" on the Volturno river for a new task.
 
In the great Allied offensive to push for Rome the Polish Second Corps took part next to the formations of the British Eighth Army, on her right wing. The area of operation of the Corps included the hill of M. Cassino; the key position, closing off access to the valley of the Liri river and the main road to Rome, highway #6.
 
The area of the battle had a natural strength of defense, was mightily fortified and in the hands of valiant and experienced opponents, making it almost impossible to capture and posed a considerable problem for the support and engineering units from all angles. The construction of roads of approach, gun positions, the delivery of guns to those positions, the laying of about 70 miles of telephone lines, the sorting of thousands of rounds of ammunition and camouflaging all of this under conditions of unceasing harassing fire, required a gigantic human effort and much conscientious work.
 
For the battle of Monte Cassino the 2nd AGPA contained within its sphere of command the Counter Battery Staff and extra assigned units; the 2nd battery of 8 Rgt. Heavy AA. (anti-aircraft) and the 3rd battery of 7 Rgt. Light AA. to provide anti-aircraft cover. The AGPA also had at its disposal the additional fire power of two 7.2 inch batteries of the British 56th Hvy. Rgt. RA (Royal Artillery).
 
Finally "D" day, May 11, arrived. "H" hour, the beginning of the attack, was set at 2300 hours.
 
The roar of a thousand guns blasted the air and shook the earth lighting up the sky with a bright glare. Everyone immediately understood the significance of the moment. Orders went out one after the other. All telephones and radios worked without pause.
 
On May 18, 1944, after a week of heavy fighting and heavy losses on both sides, the Polish flag was finally hoisted on top of the monastery of Monte Cassino.
 
Still more firing; Passo Corno, Monte Cairo, fortress Piedimonte then later, providing cover for the Canadian Corps' attack on the Hitler Line. On May 27, the units of the 2nd AGPA began their descent from these unforgettable positions where, over the course of 15 days some 130,000 shells had been fired. Following a short rest in the Campobasso and Vinchiaturo area, the AGPA was on the move once again by the 20th of June, concentrating in the area of Pescara on the Adriatic Sea. At this point, two British regiments, the 17th Med. Rgt. RA. and the 27th Med. Rgt. RA were added to AGPA command.
 
The task of the Polish Corps at this time was to capture the town of Ancona and further on, the Gothic Line, an independant operation from Pescaro to Pesaro over a distance of 230 km.
 
The Corps, including the 2nd AGPA,  moved into its primary positions on the Chienti river during the 24th to 26th of June. Bloody battles followed near Loreto and Filotrano and after attacks on Osimo, Filotrano and on the Mussone bridgehead, Ancona was finally captured on the 17th/18th of July.
 
From the 19th of July to the 4th of September the pattern was one of uninterrupted fighting, incessant fire and a continual change of gun poistions with battles for every bridgehead and for every horizon. The struggles for San Vito, Belvedere and Senigalia, Ripe, Monterado and Scapecano were as one battle.
 
On the 19th - 22nd of August raged a bloody battle for the Metauro river. Thousands of shells, in powerful concentrations, were fired by the guns of the AGPA in support of Polish infantry and tanks as they fought over this heavily mined river. Finally came the Gothic Line, the final action of the battle of the Adriatic, this time together with the Canadian Corps. Aided by Allied bombardment from the air and the shredding effect of concentrated artillery fire, the Gothic Line fell.
 
During the Adriatic campaign, each unit of the entire 2nd AGPA made 13 changes of gun position. British units attached to and under AGPA command were the 17th Med. Rgt. RA., the 56th Hvy. Rgt. RA., the 97th Hvy AA. RA. and the 653 AOP. Sqn. (Air Observation Squadron). Additional Polish units were one battery of the 8th AA. PA. (Polish Artillery) and one battery of the 7th AA. PA.
 
After a short rest in the P. Recanati area, the next offensive took place during the heavy springtime rains in the hilly Appenine mountains.
 
 The Corps' task, together with the Eigth Army, was initially an operation against Cezena, later on Forli and finally Faenza.
 
The 2nd AGPA recommenced operations on October 10 but did not begin shelling until November 6 after the return of two of its regiments (10th and 11th Med. Rgts. PA.) from the Canadian sector where they had assisted the Canadian AGRA in its battles between Rimini and Cezena. During this time the 9th Light Rgt. was rearmed as a heavy regiment.
 
This time around, the AGPA supported the fierce fighting for the hills Monte Chiodo, Mte. Pratello, Mte. Lechia and others. And thus, the approach was made to the Po river valley, Conveselle, Mte. Fortino, Mte. Rici. The Corps then turned to the west with the distant objective of Imola, through the valleys of the Marzeno, Lamone, Senio. Again new battles, again changes of gun positions through trackless ways, over ground mined and destroyed, in mud, monstrous quaggy mire, sometimes worse than the enemy. By the end of November, the rearmed 9th Hvy. Rgt. PA. entered into action. On the 21st of December, the 7th Horse Rgt. PA. left the AGPA and was absorbed by the 2nd Warsaw Armoured Division.
 
Other locations met in the Appenines: Santa Sofia, Galeata, Predapio (birthplace of Mussolini), Rocca S. Casciano and M. Fortino.
 
From the beginning of January, 1945 the 2nd Corps took up defensive positions on the Senio river with positions at Brisighella and Faenza. Targets included Monte Lupo, Monte Goebio and Castel Bolognese. This assignment lasted over three and one-half months.
 
At the end of March, two new regiments were formed within the 2nd Artillery Group. Approximately 80% of the soldiers who manned the new 12th and 13th Med. Rgts were young Poles liberated from the German Army (where they had been forced to serve).
 
From November 3, 1944 to April 4, 1945 the following regiments saw service, at different times and of varying durations, with the 2nd AGPA: 3rd Med. Rgt. RA., 5th Med. Rgt. RA., 51st Med. Rgt. RA., 73rd Med. Rgt. RA., 102nd Med. Rgt. RA., a battery of 1st Hvy. British AA., a battery of 155 m/m 33/61 RA., Sqn. "B" 654 AOP RAF., I and II battery of 8th Rgt., AA., a battery of 7th AA. Rgt. PA., 1st Survey Rgt. PA. and a platoon of 22nd Company of Art. Transport.
 
The spring of 1945 saw the preparations begin for the battle for Bologna.
 
On the 9th of April, a flood of fire was laid down across the valley of the Po valley between the Senio and Saterno rivers. The guns of  the 2nd AGPA fired ceaselessly for 12 days while changing gun positions 7 times over the course of 40 km. accross the Senio, Santerno, Silaro, Gaiano and many canals.
 
For the battle of Bologna, all 5 medium regiments of the 2nd AGPA took part along with the addition of the 78th Med. Rgt. RA., a battery of the 13th Super Hvy. Rgt. RA. as well as Sqn. "C" of the Polish AOP. RAF.
 
The end of the war found the regiments of the 2nd AGPA concentrated in the area between Castel San Pietro and Bologna. The group had fired some 550,000 shells during the Italian campaign. 
 
The End   
 
         
 
    

A Short History of the 9th Field (Light) Artillery Regiment
 
Paraphrased from the article by Edward Marcinkiewicz taken from
Jedniodniowka 9 PAL/PAC, 1944 - 1964, Zjazd, Toronto, Sierpien, 1964.
 
The history of the 9th Light Artillery Regiment (pal), on foreign soil, began in the fall of 1941 with the formation of the first unit of the free Polish Armed Forces in the U.S.S.R. in Tockoje. This unit, the 6th Infantry Division, contained a divisional artillery regiment of Russian structure which consisted of a so-called command battery and 2 front line companies of 3 front line batteries and the company command team. The 6th pal was placed under the command of Lt. Col. Jan Obtulewicz, who held this post for the duration of the war.