Armies of the Polish military forces in 1939

Armies of the Polish military forces in 1939 – operational compounds formed at the behest of the inspector-general of the armed forces and Commander-in-Chief Marshal E. Rydz-Śmigły on the eve of World War II and immediately after its outbreak. On 23 March 1939, five armies were created (“Kraków,” “Łódź,” “Modlin,” “Pomerania,” “Poznań”); these were followed by the “Carpathians” Army and the reserve “Prussia” Army in the summer of the same year; during the September Campaign of 1939, the makeshift “Lublin” and “Warsaw” armies were formed. All armies were directly subordinate to the commander-in-chief. After 10 September 1939, a part of them became subordinate to the fronts of the Polish Army. Each army consisted of 2–5 infantry divisions, 1–2 cavalry brigades, 3–5 artillery divisions, 2–4 tank companies, 2–5 air squadrons, and others. The armies had a total of ca. 60,000–100,000 soldiers.

The “Carpathians” (“Karpaty”) Army (commander: General K. Fabrycy), formed on 11 July, protected the Central Industrial Region and the left wing of the “Kraków” Army. Composition: the 2nd and the 3rd Mountain Brigade, the “Carpathians” Brigade of National Defence, the 1st Regiment of the Border Protection Corps, and others. As the war progressed, the army was reinforced by the 11th, 24th, and 38th infantry divisions. On 6 September, it was fused with the “Kraków” Army and renamed to the “Lesser Poland” Army. After its failed attempts to stop the enemy, the army retreated through the San River. On 10 September, it was incorporated into the Southern Front, defeated while trying to break into the city of Lviv. It was revived between 15 and 17 September (under its former name) and took the defence line on the Stryi River. After the Soviet invasion, the army troops retreated to Hungary between 17 and 21 September.

The “Kraków” Army (commander: General A. Szylling, after 16 September – General T. Piskor), formed on 23 March to protect Upper Silesia and the western part of Lesser Poland. Composition: the 6th, 7th, 21st, and 55th infantry divisions, the Kraków Cavalry Brigade, the 10th Motorised Cavalry Brigade, the 1st Mountain Brigade, and others. As the war progressed, the army was reinforced by the 22nd Infantry Division. Since 2 September, it fought in retreat in order to organise defence at the Nida and Dunajec rivers, and later at the San River. On 10 September, it was incorporated into the Polish Southern Front. On 16 September, it was fused with the “Lublin” Army. On 20 September, it was surrounded at Tomaszów Lubelski and, after running out of ammunition, it surrendered to the enemy.

The “Lublin” Army (commander: General T. Piskor), formed on 4 September in order to protect the line of the central Vistula River after the Polish Front was broken in Częstochowa. Composition: the Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade and improvised units, later reinforced with the 39th Infantry Division and the remnants of the 3rd and the 36th infantry divisions. It engaged in combat on 8 September (defence of the Vistula River line) and then on 14 September, fighting in retreat; on 16 September, it merged with the “Kraków” Army at Janów Lubelski. It was surrounded at Tomaszów Lubelski and surrendered on 20 September.

The “Łódź” Army (commander: General J. Rómmel), formed on 23 March in order to protect the Lódź–Warsaw area. Composition: the 2nd, 10th, 28th, and 30th infantry divisions, the Borderland and Volhynian cavalry brigades; on 6 September it was reinforced with the 44th Infantry Division. After the borderline battle of 1–5 September (including the Battles of Mokra and Borowa Góra), it retreated towards the Vistula River (at the time, command was held by General W. Thomée). After a failed attempt to break through to the capital, most of the forces reached the Modlin fortress. It capitulated on 29 September. Some of the units of the “Łódź” Army took part in the defence of Warsaw, or joined the ranks of the Northern Front after crossing the Vistula.

The “Modlin” Army (commander: General E. Przedrzymirski-Krukowicz), formed on 23 March in order to protect Warsaw from the direction of East Prussia. Composition: the 8th and the 20th infantry divisions, the “Mazovia” and “Nowogródek” cavalry brigades, the Warsaw Brigade of National Defence. After the failed defence of its position at Mława (1–3 September), the defeated army retreated in difficult conditions to the line of the Vistula and Narew rivers, which it proceeded to defend alongside its subordinate “Wyszków” Operational Group. On 8 September, it became part of the “Warsaw” Army Group. On 10 September (having given up part of the forces to the “Warsaw” Army and changed the name to “General Przedrzymirski’s Army”), it began its retreat. On 11 September, it was incorporated into the Northern Front. On 27 September, it was surrounded at Tomaszów Lubelski and surrendered.

The “Pomerania” (“Pomorze”) Army (commander: General W. Bortnowski), formed on 23 March in order to protect Pomerania from the east and the west. Composition: the 4th, 9th, 15th, 16th, and 27th infantry divisions, the Pomeranian Cavalry Brigade, the “Chełmno” and “Pomerania” national defence brigades, the so-called brigades of the Pomeranian corridor; after the defence of 1–3 September (including in the Tuchola Forest), a part of the army was broken up and defeated; the remaining troops retreated along the Vistula River in the direction of Warsaw, finding themselves in the vicinity of the ongoing Battle of the Bzura; since 12 September, the main forces of the “Pomerania” Army (formally subordinate to the commander of the “Poznań” Army) were involved in combat (for instance at Łowicz and Sochaczew). Most of the “Pomerania” Army was defeated, only several units reached Modlin and Warsaw.

The “Poznań” Army (commander: General T. Kutrzeba), formed on 23 March in order to protect Greater Poland from the north, the west, and the south. Composition: the 14th, 17th, 25th, and 26th infantry divisions, the “Podole” and “Greater Poland” cavalry brigades, the “Kalisz” and “Poznań” national defence brigades. Until 8 September, it did not participate in combat. After the retreat from Greater Poland, on 9 September it engaged in fighting in the Battle of the Bzura (in cooperation with the “Pomerania” Army). It was broken up and partially destroyed (at the lower Bzura River and in the Kampinos Forest). Some troops managed to reach Warsaw and took part in its defence.

The “Prussia” (“Prusy”) Army (commander: General S. Dąb-Biernacki), formed in August as a strategic reserve of the commander-in-chief with the intention of carrying out counter-attacks supporting the “Łódź” and “Kraków” Armies or to engage in defensive actions in the bend of the Vistula River. Planned composition: the 3rd, 12th, 13th, 19th, 29th, 36th, and 39th infantry divisions, the Vilnius Cavalry Brigade. It was not fully concentrated when it was deployed to fight against German troops advancing towards the central part of the Vistula River. It was broken up in the region of Piotrków Trybunalski and Tomaszów Mazowiecki (failed counter-attack of the army’s northern grouping on 5–6 September) and Iłża (defeat of the army’s southern grouping on 8–9 September). Only a part of the dispersed troops managed to reach the Vistula, cross to the right bank and reinforce the defence of Warsaw, the “Lublin” Army, and units of the Northern Front.

The “Warsaw” (“Warszawa”) Army (commander: General J. Rómmel), formed on 8 September in order to protect Warsaw. Composition: the “West” and “East” troops, composed of improvised units and troops of other armies which had reached the capital. On 8–10 September, it served as a military group uniting troops defending the Vistula River in the area spanning from the mouth of the Pilica River to Modlin. On 8 September, it became engaged in defensive combat and eventually surrendered on 28 September.


  • Polskie Siły Zbrojne w drugiej wojnie światowej, vol. 1 Kampania wrześniowa 1939, pt. 1–4, London 1951–86;
  • Dalecki R. Działania Armii “Małopolska” w drugim okresie kampanii wrześniowej 7–11 września 1939 r., Przemyśl 1971;
  • Wróblewski J. Armia “Łódź” 1939, Warsaw 1975;
  • Ciechanowiecki K. Armia “Pomorze” 1939, Warsaw 1982;
  • Wróblewski J. Armia “Prusy” 1939, Warsaw 1986;
  • Jurga I., Korbowski W. Armia “Modlin” 1939, Warsaw 1987;
  • Dalecki R. Armia “Karpaty” w wojnie obronnej 1939, Rzeszów 1989;
  • Steblik W. Armia “Kraków” 1939, Warsaw 1989;
  • Rezmer W. Armia “Poznań” 1939, Warsaw 1992.

The entry was written on the basis of source materials of the PWN printing house.

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