What was Poland's posture during the Seven Years' War?

What was Poland's posture during the Seven Years' War?

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Poland seems like the "invisible" party during the Seven Years' War Ostensibly, it was fought between France, Austria, and Russia on one side, and Prussia, plus Great Britain-Hannover on the other.

Yet Poland was actually quite "involved," willy-nilly.

  1. King Augustus III of Saxony was also the elected King of Poland in a "personal union.
  2. In order to attack Prussia, Russian troops had to cross Polish territory (modern Latvia and Lithuania to get to East Prussia, and Pomerania to get to Brandenburg).

The trigger event was Frederick the Great's occupation of Saxony in 1756.

Did this constitute an attack on Poland that started an undeclared war between Prussia and Poland? Did Russian soldiers cross Poland with the blessing/invitation of Augustus III? Did the Russians "officially" justify their entry into Poland in terms of rescuing Saxony (and protecting Poland) from Frederick the Great? If it had won the war, Russia planned to seize East Prussia and exchange it to Poland for other considerations: Did Russia proffer this to Poland in exchange for passage?

Are there any records or writings about how the Polish government (or its leaders) felt about these issues? Why didn't they take a more active role by e.g. declaring war on Frederick the Great on behalf of their Saxon king?

Poland was already by the Seven Years War a joint protectorate of Russia, Prussia, and Austria [edit] as well as France and Turkey. In a war amongst these three powers, and given the liberum veto which allowed any member of its Diet to nullify the proceedings of the whole, it was unable to have any bearing on the course of the war:

(The Cambridge History of Poland, Volume 2, Page 39):

… , Poland was not able to play any pat in the Seven Years War. While cannons and muskets were roaring in Silesia, in Saxony, in Brandenburg and Westphalia, on the seas and in the colonies, the only noises in Poland were the quarrels at the Dietines (not even at the Diet) and in Tribunals.

and Page 90:

Regarding the qeustion of 'when did Poland become a protectorate of Russia' (@Felix), this was essentially defacto established in 1710 after Poland's conclusion of the Great Northern War. It had entered the war in a fairly good position (ie, balanced coalition between her and Russia), but after failing and then having a civil war during this time, and Russia realizing it's military power as time went on, it became evident that Poland's ability to support any action against the Swedes became fully dependant on Russia. Henceforth, politically and militarily, she became marginalized as a country, and Russia 'offered' to enter into a protective alliance as part of the Grand Sejm's treaty of 1710.

Regarding the question of Nobles in Poland. While it's not easy to validate the hypothesis, one can deduct key elements contributing to the lack of 'pride' among the nobles.

  • The nobility, strangely enough, believed in Sarmatism; the idea that the original noble families of Poland originated from Sarmatia and that they settled and subjugated the local peasants (or… in other words, Poles… so the mindset of the nobility was, at best, quasi, if at all, 'patriotic'. This style of thought really came to fruition in the late 1600s and survived mostly thru all of the 1700s. If one believes their ancestors simply came to this 'land' and subjugated the local population (… the original Polanie), then does the nobility really have the elements one needs to have a sense of national pride/unity for all the people of the land? I venture to say a big 'NO'.

*There's also an old polish saying that essentially means 'every noble with a sword is his own king'… ie… they cannot be governed, they are their own little nation in person, and those without a title are nothing. If this was a prevelant way of thinking back then, one has to wonder how much did that have an effect on caring for one's nation as a whole? Problably very little.

  • Poland had an outsized proportion of 'nobles' vs. general population. Of course, many were undeniably poor, but conceptually, as far as the military goes; it was they who were the only ones allowed to wield weapons in battle, and the only ones who believed they should be. In most other nations, peasants were commonly conscripted and armed… thus, across all social classes, in other nations there was a sense of defending one's nation. While in Poland the peasants were alienated from this (very few instances of peasants being part of major campaigns outside of being the ones to dig ditches/gather resources).

*This leads to the notion that the peasentry probably had a far lower sense of identity than, say, their counterparts in Russia… who were certainly consripted into military ranks and allowed/expected to fight and defend their country (as like in other nations).

  • Poland was more often referred to simply by the term Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita) among the nobles. Rarely, in hymns of that era was the term 'Poland' at all used… instead, texts, hymns, etc favored the term 'Rzeczpospolita'… A close reading of a literal translation of 'rzecz' and 'pospolita' is 'thing common'… which implies losely 'something that belong to everyone'. This, even symbolically could have had a significant effect on the idea of what it means to be Polish and having a sense of unity/pride: There's a slight difference between the idea of a nation named after its People, and people after its nation, and the idea of using a term that simply implies these lands are common to all. The latter does not tie people to a sense of unity/identity/pride to a nationality. Hence, the mindset of nobles towards their country had a twist that could explain why it was so different from other countries, and why the nation wasn't as cohesive as other nations.

In conclusion, to explain why the nobles didn't have a sense of pride isn't necessarily rooted in simply… not liking one's nation. In fact, the nobles had a LOT of pride in the concept of how their nation governed itself. This is a paradox because 'why would anyone let things get so bad for their nation?'… but if one considers that in the late 1600s thru 1700s, the nobles didn't really think of Poland as 'Poland', and themselves as 'Polish'… but rather as descedents of Sarmatia who subjugated the people of a land that is common to all (Rzeczpospolita), then one realizes that this is exactly not for a lack of knowing what pride meant, but for a tradition where the nobles believed it was them who were the nation, and not the other way around.

The Seven Years War 1756 - 63

In Europe, the Seven Years War was fought between an alliance of France, Russia, Sweden, Austria, and Saxony against Prussia, Hanover, and Great Britain from 1756–1763. However, the war had an international element, particularly as Britain and France fought one another for domination of North America and India. As such, it has been called the first ‘world war.’

The military theater for the Seven Years War in North America is called the ‘French-Indian’ war, and in Germany, the Seven Years War has been known as the ‘Third Silesian War.’ It is notable for the adventures of the king of Prussia Frederick the Great (1712–1786), a man whose major early successes and later tenacity were matched by one of the most incredible pieces of luck ever to end a major conflict in history.

What was the Seven Years War?

The Seven Years War was a global conflict which ran from 1756 until 1763 and pitted a coalition of Great Britain and its allies against a coalition of France and its allies. The war escalated from a regional conflict between Great Britain and France in North America, known today as the French and Indian War. George Washington, a wealthy Virginia planter and an officer in the Virginia militia, served under British General Braddock in the early years of this conflict. The Seven Years War was the fourth war between Great Britain and France in the hundred-year period after 1689. While there had been some territorial concessions in the earlier wars, most of those earlier struggles returned each nation to their pre-war status. The Seven Years War was different in that it ended in a resounding victory for Great Britain and its allies and a humiliating defeat for France and its allies. France lost to Great Britain most of its North American colonial possessions, known as New France. This included Canada and all of its land east of the Mississippi River, including the Ohio Valley, to Great Britain.

At the war’s end, Great Britain faced a number of serious geopolitical and financial problems. The first problem faced by the British government rose from the need to govern and protect vast new areas won during the long conflict. In North America, the British now had responsibility for Canada and the areas east of the Mississippi River. These former French colonies included thousands of Indians and many French-speaking Catholics who had no desire to become subjects of the British crown or to live under English common law. Great Britain also had control over East and West Florida which Spain, an ally of France, was forced to cede to Great Britain at the end of the war. Financing the administration of these new areas was a critical problem facing the British government at the war’s end.

British regiment marching.

Great Britain also faced a massive war debt at the end of the Seven Years War. As of January 5, 1763, the national debt stood at over £122,603,336. According to historian Charles Middlekauff in his work on the American Revolution, The Glorious Cause, the interest on this sum was over £4,409,797 per year. Complicating Britain’s financial problems, the government faced growing protests for tax relief after increasing taxes for those living in the British Isles. Protests against the heavy land taxes and the Cider Tax were especially strong there.
The war’s end also marked a change of attitudes among people in Great Britain and in its American colonies. During the war, the British government was unable to persuade the colonial legislatures to satisfactorily contribute to the expenses of the war. With the French defeat, the British government did not believe it needed to accommodate the concerns of the colonial legislatures regarding monetary issues. At the same time, the removal of the French threat in North America gave the American colonists a new sense of self-confidence. Many colonists questioned why the British government thought it needed to leave an army in North America to protect its colonies from Indian uprisings.

One of the critical problems faced by Great Britain at the end of the Seven Years War was its uneasy relations with the Indian tribes living in the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes. While these Indian tribes had traded with the French for years, few French settlers, other than trappers and traders, had moved into the areas south of the Great Lakes. After France and her Indian allies were defeated, British settlers began crossing the Appalachian Mountain in large numbers looking for good farmland. The Indians viewed the settlers, who wanted to claim the land, differently than the French fur traders with whom they had lived for many years.

The actions of Major General Jeffrey Amherst, the British Commander of British forces in North America, also contributed to the tense relations between the British and the Indians in the final years of the war. The British, like the French, had enjoyed the support of a number of Indian tribes and, during the war, the chiefs of these tribes had received generous gifts from the British government. Gift giving was considered by the British and the French to be an integral part of maintaining good relations with the tribes. As military operations in North America came to a successful conclusion, General Amherst decided to discontinue the practice of giving gifts to Indian chiefs, as he believed he no longer needed their support. He also made the decision to cut back on trading gunpowder to the Indians. The Indians felt that the British were treating them as a conquered people and not as former allies.

In May 1763, Pontiac, an Ottawa leader, led a number of Indian tribes in the area of the Great Lakes in an uprising against British forces and settlers along the frontier. While a few British forts on the frontier held out, over eight were taken. Hundreds of British soldiers were killed, and the settlers who survived the attacks fled from their farms on the frontier to the safe areas in the east. Commonly known as Pontiac’s Rebellion, the conflict lasted until 1764. Though peace treaties ended the fighting, the possibility of further conflicts with the Indians strongly affected Britain’s decision to leave a standing army in America after the Seven Years War.


The Kalmar Union of the three former Scandinavian Kingdoms of Sweden, Norway, and Denmark lasted on and off from 1397 to 1523, until it finally collapsed following the continued Swedish resentment of Danish domination. [2]

A successful rebellion in 1471 led to Swedish victory at the Battle of Brunkeberg, which established a powerful anti-Union movement under the leadership of the Bonde–Sture nobles. In 1520, Christian II of Denmark reconquered Sweden and took a bloody revenge on the anti-Union faction at the Stockholm Bloodbath. [3] More than 80 noble men and ladies, including leading citizens of Stockholm, were executed, but the result severely backfired on Christian II. [2] The violence elicited strong reactions in Sweden for years to come, [3] and the Union was broken by the successful Swedish War of Liberation from 1521 to 1523. Christian II was condemned by the Pope, and he abdicated in 1523. The subsequent Danish kings Frederick I and Christian III, turned their attention mainly on the Reformation in Denmark–Norway and Holstein and the Count's Feud civil war, and relations with Sweden were generally peaceful. [4]

In Sweden, the internal power vacuum, combined with the abdication of Christian II, provided the opportunity for Gustav Vasa to consolidate control of Sweden and claim the throne in June 1523, with the support of peasants and the Hanseatic towns of Lübeck and Danzig. Under Vasa, the Kalmar Union was finally dissolved, and Sweden began establishing itself as a rival power of Denmark–Norway. [2] Gustav Vasa's Sweden was in a weak position in 1523, as access to the North Sea was dominated by the Danish Sound Dues and limited to a 20 kilometer stretch on the Kattegat in the vicinity of Älvsborg Fortress, where modern Gothenburg was later founded. Furthermore, Denmark controlled the Baltic, limiting Swedish movement there.

Gustav Vasa changed the military structure in Sweden, which did not bear immediate fruit in the Nordic Seven Years' War but was to have a lasting impact on Sweden's fortune. In 1544 he used the old Scandinavian concept of Uppbåd (levy or the prerogative to call up some fraction of men from each district in an emergency) to establish the first native standing army in Europe. The men served on standby, remaining at home in peacetime, and being paid by tax concessions, but were required to assemble and drill. This system was later expanded as the Swedish allotment system. By 1560 when Gustav Vasa died, every ten peasants were required to provide one soldier who must serve anywhere domestic or foreign as required by the king.

After the deaths of Christian III and Gustav Vasa, in 1559 and 1560 respectively, both countries now had young and hawkish monarchs, Eric XIV of Sweden and Frederick II of Denmark. Frederick II envisioned the resurrection of the Kalmar Union under Danish leadership, while Eric wanted to finally break the dominating position of Denmark. [5]

Shortly after his coronation in 1559, King Frederick II of Denmark ordered his ageing field-commander Johan Rantzau to avenge the humiliating Danish defeat against the small peasant republic of Ditmarsh, which was defeated in a matter of a few weeks and brought under the Danish-Norwegian crown. During the next year, the Danish expansion continued with the possession of the Baltic Sea island of Ösel. [6]

In 1561, when a sizeable remnant of the Order states in the northern Baltics were secularized by its grand master Gotthard Kettler, both Denmark and Sweden were attracted to intervene in the Livonian War. [7] During this conflict, King Eric of Sweden successfully obstructed the Danish plans to conquer Estonia. He sought to dominate the Baltic Sea, while unsuccessfully pressing for Frederick to remove the traditionally Swedish insignia of Three Crowns from the Danish coat of arms [8] a bone of contention since Christian III and Gustav Vasa. In February 1563, Swedish messengers were sent to Hesse to negotiate Eric's marriage with Christine of Hesse but were held back in Copenhagen. In retaliation, Eric added the insignia of Norway and Denmark to his own coat of arms and refused Danish requests to remove these symbols.

Lübeck, upset over obstacles to trade introduced by Eric to hinder the Russian trade as well as withdrawn trade privileges, joined Denmark in a war alliance. The Polish–Lithuanian union also joined, desiring control of the Baltic trade. Skirmishes broke out in May 1563, before war was officially declared in August that year.

Initial phase Edit

In May, the first movements of the war started as a Danish fleet under Jakob Brockenhuus sailed towards the Baltic. At Bornholm, on 30 May 1563, the fleet fired on the Swedish navy under Jakob Bagge, even though war had not officially been declared. A battle arose that ended with Danish defeat.

German royal emissaries were sent to negotiate a peace, but at the meeting place of Rostock no Swedes appeared. On 13 August 1563, war was declared by emissaries from Denmark and Lübeck in Stockholm. The same month, Danish king Fredrik II attacked Älvsborg. At the beginning of the war the Danes advanced from Halland with a 25,000-strong army of professional mercenaries and captured Sweden's gateway to the west, Älvsborg Fortress, after only three days of bombardment and a six-hour assault on 4 September. This achieved the Danish aim of cutting off Sweden from the North Sea, blocking the all-important salt imports. Eric then attacked Halmstad, without result the Swedish counterattack was driven back by the professional Danish army. After the king's departure from his army, Charley de Mornays stepped in as the commanding officer and was beaten by the Danish at the Battle of Mared.

At sea a battle broke out near Öland on 11 September, whereafter the war took a pause.

Campaigns Edit

South Edit

On 30 May 1564 a battle broke out between the Swedish navy and the Danish–Lübeck navy between Gotland and Öland. The Swedish navy was under the command of Jakob Bagge, and the Danish–Lübeck navy was under the command of Herluf Trolle. Bagge was captured and the largest warship of the Baltic, the Mars (also known as the Makalös), sunk. The Swedish navy retreated to Stockholm leaving a sea blockade in effect. Klas Horn became the new commander and met the Danish fleet at the island Jungfrun north of Öland 14 August. An inconclusive fight left the sea blockade in effect.

Horn attacked the provinces Halland and Skåne in 1565 and made several attempts at Bohuslän and Uddevalla. The Danish burned old Lödöse in the province of Västergötland. Eric initially led the army against the Danish himself, but then turned over command to Nils Boije, who on 28 August 1564 took Varberg. The Danish army under Daniel Rantzau beat the Swedish army in the Battle of Axtorna on 20 October.

The Swedes fared better at sea. Horn, commanding the Swedish navy, pursued a Danish–Lübeck fleet onto the German coast where most of it was destroyed. After this victory Horn steered for Öresund and levied a toll on passing ships. On 4 June 1565, the Battle at Buchow took place on the Mecklenburg coast, in which the Danish–Lübeck commander Herluf Trolle was mortally wounded. In the Battle of 7 July 1565, the Swedish navy under Horn defeated a Danish–Lübeck navy under Otto Rud near Bornholm, where Sweden captured the Danish flagship the Jegermesther. Thus ensured the command of the eastern Baltic by the Swedes that year.

In January 1566 Sweden unsuccessfully laid siege to Bohus Fortress in Bohuslän (then a Norwegian province). Daniel Rantzau then moved his forces into Västergötland. At sea Horn returned to taking toll charges in the Baltic. An indecisive battle at sea outside of Öland occurred on 26 July 1566. On 28 July half the Danish–Lübeck Navy was lost in a storm at sea. Horn was then called to command troops on land, where he died 9 September.

North Edit

Sweden occupied the undefended Norwegian province of Jemtland, which was quickly reconquered by a counterattack by forces under command of the Norwegian governor of Trøndelag. The forces were unwilling to launch a counterattack on Swedish land. In 1564 the Swedes marched under Claude Collart [9] and re-occupied Jemtland, as well as Herjedalen and Trøndelag, including the city of Trondheim. Initially facing little opposition from the locals, their subsequent ill treatment of the Trøndelag natives, along with tax pressure, laid the groundwork for later resistance to Swedish invasion. [9] Also, Trøndelag was assisted by the governor of Bergenhus, Erik Rosenkrantz, who forced 3500 local peasants to assist him and his 50 professional soldiers. The Swedes saw Bergenhus as their next target. Although the 400 Swedish soldiers were repelled from Trøndelag, Sweden continued to occupy Jämtland and Härjedalen. These provinces were later regained by Denmark–Norway following the peace process in 1570. [10]

Sweden also launched attacks towards Eastern Norway. In the south-east Sweden captured Båhus Fortress, but lost it in 1566. Another part of the army marched through the valley Østerdalen in 1567, captured Hamar, and continued towards Oslo. [10] They reached as far as the Skiensfjord, and torched Skien at one point. [ citation needed ] In Oslo, however, citizens torched the city before invaders could seize it. From the south-east, more Swedish forces were then sent to aid in capturing Akershus Fortress near Oslo. These forces torched Konghelle and Sarpsborg on their way. They were repelled from Oslo by local forces together with men belonging to Erik Rosenkrantz and the King of Denmark and Norway. The Swedes retreated in a north-eastern direction, torching Hamar on their way, [10] destroying Hamar Cathedral and the bishop's fortified palace Hamarhus.

What was Poland's posture during the Seven Years' War? - History

With this article, I will present the Seven Years’ War periods most celebrated artillery. The new fine ordnance fielded by the troops of her majesty, the Empress-Queen of Austria. It was universally regarded as the most modern artillery system of this period until the introduction of the Gribeauval ordnance in France during the 1770’s. It should be noted that the Liechtenstein M1753 ordnance served as the template for Gribeauval’s system, for he had been part of the team modernizing the Austrian artillery during his service in the Austrian artillery before and during the SYW.
Now, the Austrian guns are truly missing among the articles on this subject in my Blog. Its about time I set myself to work. Vivat Maria Theresia!

A few important remarks in advance:
Only now I am able to do it after having been forwarded a rare contemporary manuscript found in the Austrian Kriegsarchiv. No one ever seems to have taken a closer look at it. Very surprizing. Possibly, the manuscript was burried in the archive and became available for academic research only a few years ago. I am most thankful to Pavel Jurik from Czechia who forwarded it to me. He is himself on the point of publishing a book on the archievments of prince Wenzel von Liechtenstein later this year.
This rare manuscript is authored by a certain Frantz von Rubli, Imp. & Rl. Artillerie Zeug-Lieutenant and is dated 19 October 1753. Find the full citation on my first sheet presenting the 3-pdr field gun barrel construction.

Franz von Rubli manuscript 1753
with kind permission from Pavel Jurik, Czechia.
source: Österreichisches Staatsarchiv / Dept. Kriegsarchiv, Vienna /Austria
Missing is only the heavy battery 12-pdr quarter-cannon along with the howitzers—unfortunately. But for a compensation he also presents a light wrought-iron 3-pdr "quick-fire" gun of the sort the Saxons fielded during this period. I have never seen this before. Nor was I aware this type of gun was ever fielded by the Austrians. Under the direction of Feld-Maréchal Wenzel von Liechtenstein� appointed General Director of the Ordnance—Rubli is confirmed being part of the team selected to modernize the Austrian artillery. This makes it a most valuable and reliable primary source. I can also draw from another primary source found in the Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Stuttart / Germany, as part of the so called Sammlung Nicolai (Nicolai Collection). According to Daniel Hohrath, curator of the Bavarian Army Museum, to his knowledge, this material has also never been used for academic research as well. It has several sheets with detailed tables and some drafts of the new Austrian ordnance presented in Vienna 15 April 1750—as per their caption. Both sources make a perfect match as they agree in so many details. I cannot think of a better starting point to present the original M1753 range of guns.

That being said, it is important to be aware that all nowadays available literature on the subject I know of entirely fail to do so, as they are drawing from source that really presents the Austrian ordnance at around 1774—including images of the guns. Much has changed within those two decades. The material had undergone a remastering after the SYW and the range of the so entitled "Light Battery Guns" had been removed from service in the meantime and are not seen on any tables listing the Austrian range of guns fielded during the SYW. Very missleading. The tables found present "short" and "long" 12-, 18-, and 24-pdr battery guns instead. Their entitlement identifies them as post SYW range, for the M1753 range seperated between "light" and "heavy" battery guns only.
After the SYW, a "medium" range of battery guns was added. The denomination "medium" only makes sense if you had "light" and "heavy" already in place. Now, after the removal of the "light" battery gun range the entitlement "medium" & "heavy" obviously looses its purpose, hence, the entitlement "short" (read formaly medium) and "long" (read formaly heavy) was adopted for an identification.
With this article I will successively present the initial M1753 Lichtenstein Ordnance. It is the range of guns that saw service during the SYW. Lets start with the 3-pdr Regiments-Stück. Here it comes:

Tabella denen metallenen Stücken an beigesetzten Gattungen so den 15ten Aprilis 1750 verfertigt worden in Wien [sic.]
Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart / Nicolai Collection).

The 15 April 1750 presented and approved range of the new bronze cannon:
a so entitled range of Field Guns:
– 3-pdr field gun, 16 calibers,
a reduced metal strength Regiments-Stück
– 6-pdr field gun, 16 calibers,
a reduced metal strength 1/8 cannon
– 12-pdr field gun, 16 calibers,
a reduced metal strength quarter-cannon
a range of so entitled Light Battery Guns:
– 12-pdr light battery gun, 18 calibers,
a reduced metal strength quarter-cannon
– 24-pdr light battery gun, 18 calibers,
a reduced metal strength half-cannon
a range of so entitled Heavy Battery Guns:
– 12-pdr heavy battery gun, 27 calibers, quarter-cannon
– 24-pdr heavy battery gun, 23 calibers, half-cannon
Note: there were no 18-pdr battery guns in this initial range. They had been added to the Liechtenstein system only after the SYW. All 18-pdrs fielded during the SYW as part of a siege train were of the old 1722 regulation ordnance. A gun entitled Notschlange (culverin) with a barrel of 29 calibers bore length. Much of this older ordnance would be found among the siege guns or in fortifications during the war, being replaced by the new heavy battery guns only in case of want. The letter pretty much remained unchanged dimension-wise and weight-wise, except for the barrels garnishing elements.
Also found with the 1750 tables from the Nicolai Collection is a 10-pdr battery howitzer, 5,375 calibers long, as well as a draft of the 7-pdr field howitzer (barrel & carriage), around 6 calibers long, that is not listed on the 1750 tables. It was apparently added only later—quite certainly before 1756. The March 1757 published Reglement für das Kaiserlich Königliche gesammte Feld-Artillerie-Corps includes it with its presentation of the fielded ordnance.
I will also illustrate the two non-regulation constructions which Rubli presents in addition to the new Liechtenstein ordnance. It’s a 2-pdr double-culverin, 30 calibers long, and this wrought-iron 3-pdr quick-fire gun that I mentioned afore.

Franz von Rubli manuscript 1753
with kind permission from Pavel Jurik, Czechia.

source: Österreichisches Staatsarchiv / Dept. Kriegsarchiv, Vienna /Austria

I believe these two pieces of the old range of guns were still in service. Why else would Rubli bother to present them?

Seven Years’ War: Battle of Wandiwash

Most historians credit the Battle of Plassey, fought on June 23, 1757, as the decisive event that brought about ultimate British rule over India. But was it really? A case can be made that the true turning point for control of the subcontinent was the victory of British forces under Eyre Coote over a French force led by Comte Thomas Arthur de Lally at Wandiwash on January 22, 1760.

Robert Clive, the victor at Plassey, amazingly had only 900 European troops and 2,100 native sepoys with him to engage about 50,000 natives, including 15,000 horsemen. He managed to rout this horde, but bribery and treachery played a role in the outcome. At Wandiwash, on the other hand, it was a stand-up fight between two tiny European armies, each led by a brave and capable general–a pair of Irishmen at that.

Thomas Arthur de Lally was born in 1702 at Romans in Dauphiné, France, the son of Sir Gerald Lally and Marie Anne de Bressac. His mother’s family was part of the provincial Irish aristocracy, while the Lallys (or O’Mullallys) had been a prominent family in County Galway, descended from the old Gaelic chieftains. After the surrender of the Jacobite army (supporters of the abdicated James II) at Limerick in 1691, Sir Gerald had been among the native Catholic leaders who had chosen to follow Patrick Sarsfield and other ‘Wild Geese’ into exile, thereby forfeiting any chance of keeping their estates. He took up a military career in the famed Irish Brigade, and when his son Thomas was only 7, Sir Gerald obtained a commission for the youngster as an ensign in Dillon’s Regiment. Five years later the boy was doing guard duty in the siege trenches at Barcelona. After a college education, young Lally advanced steadily in the army, repeatedly winning recognition for his military skill and courage. He is reported to have saved his father’s life at the siege of Phillipsburg (War of the Polish Succession) in 1734. He was entrusted another time with a secret mission to England to assess Jacobite strength there. He once traveled to Russia as well, to promote a Russo-Jacobite alliance against England, but the plan fell through and he was lucky to escape a trip to Siberia. By 1744 he commanded a new regiment, bearing his own name, in the Irish Brigade. The wealth and social prestige of his mother’s family no doubt helped in this matter.

He led his Régiment de Lally at Fontenoy (War of the Austrian Succession), where some credit him with saving the battle for Marshal Comte Maurice de Saxe by rushing up a battery to a critical sector just in time to block the Anglo-Hanoverian advance. When French King Louis XV visited the Irish Brigade after the battle to thank the men and promise rewards, Lally, still stunned by the Irish losses, replied: ‘Your Majesty’s blessings are like those of the Bible. They fall on the blind and crippled.’ It is said the king made no reply but rode on.

Lally’s future opponent, Eyre Coote, was born in 1726, the fifth son of a clergyman in Kilmallock, County Limerick. The family apparently originated in France, and the first Coote had come to Ireland in 1600. Over the next century the Cootes held high positions in Ireland in both the army and the civil government. Eyre Coote obtained a commission as ensign in Blakeney’s Regiment in 1745–just in time to be sent against the Highlander forces of Prince Charles Stuart that were taking control of Scotland. Blakeney’s unit took part in the Battle of Falkirk on January 17, 1746, in which an English army was routed by claymore-swinging clansmen. All the officers in the regiment were court-martialed. But young Eyre was later pardoned when it was learned that although he was the first member of Blakeney’s Regiment to reach Edinburgh, he had saved the regimental flag.

In April 1749, he became a lieutenant in the 37th Foot. Six years later, he was sent to India as commander of a company of reinforcements for the 39th Regiment at Fort Saint David. His record must have been exceptional because in May 1757 he was promoted to major, just in time to serve under Robert Clive at Plassey. There, it is said, he was the only officer under Clive to urge an attack. When he returned to England later that year, he had won a reputation as an outstanding officer. Clive’s secretary described him thus: ‘A bodily frame of unusual vigor and activity, always awake. Daring, valour and cool reflection strove for the mastery. A master at once of human nature and the science of war, his rigid discipline was tempered with an unaffected kindness and consideration for the want and prejudices of those whom he commanded which won him the affections of his European soldiers and made him the idol of the native troops.’

In March 1759, Coote was promoted to colonel and sent to Bengal to command the 84th Regiment. The Seven Years’ War had broken out, and when Clive sailed back to England, Coote, at the insistence of East India Company officials in London, was put in command of British forces in India. He was only 33 years old.

With the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, fellow Irishman Lally was called to Paris, promoted to lieutenant general and placed in command of French forces in India. Some years before, he had prepared for the War Office a plan for driving the British out of India, and this apparently had so impressed government officials that they now chose him to carry it out. The trouble was that he was also assigned to the task of cleaning out the graft and corruption that were rampant among the officials of the French Compagnie des Indies Orientales. His private wealth and honest reputation seemed to make him the ideal candidate for that formidable job.

The French war minister, le Compte d’Argenson, a shrewd judge of character, warned that the Irishman was impetuous, blunt and blessed–or cursed–with the gift of savage sarcasm. To deal with crooks well-versed in intrigue and linked together in graft required patience and diplomacy, plus the skill to play one set of rascals off against another. Lally would need their support in his military campaigns, and that was not likely to come if he launched a frontal attack on them and their policies.

Despite d’Argenson’s warning, Lally was awarded the Order of St. Louis in February 1757 and was promised that in addition to his own two battalions of 1,080 men he would have the regiments of Lorraine and Berry, plus artillery and engineer detachments.

India, the destination of both Lally and Coote, was a country in political chaos, with assorted rajahs and nabobs fighting and plotting against each other. The French and English traders arriving in the 1600s had gained power and influence by taking sides in local wars in exchange for trade concessions and territory. By the 1740s, the French Compagnie des Indies Orientales and the British East India Company each ruled several towns along the coast of eastern India and had their own small armies made up of European troops and native soldiers called sepoys. Their discipline and superior weapons were more than a match for the untrained hordes of the Indian rulers.

When the War of the Austrian Succession erupted in Europe, both France and England sent units of their armies to assist the company troops in India. During the fighting that followed, the French gained the advantage, but the peace terms returned to England most of the territory it had lost, including a large base at Madras. At that time, the strength of both European powers was still so weak that a powerful rajah could impose neutrality in his area upon both French and British.

Although there was peace in Europe, an undeclared war raged on in Bengal and along the subcontinent’s Coromandel Coast, where local chiefs acted as proxies for their European allies. In this political snakepit, palace revolutions and assassinations won temporary alliance, but treachery was endemic, and the loyalty of native rajahs was ensured only by gold or the presence of European garrisons. With so vast a territory to loot and with government supervision half a world away, the temptation to extort tribute from the native rulers and make fortunes from illegal acts was simply too great for most officers of the trading companies. From the top down to the lowliest clerks, graft was a way of life. If one did not die from the climate or disease, one had a good chance of returning home with a fortune. More often than not, the national policy of London or Versailles was ignored as company officials lined their own pockets. Such was the environment in which Lally was to fight a small war.

His troubles began even before he and his men left France. Some of his men had been diverted to Canada, and his war chest was slashed from 6 million livres to 4 million. His greatest cross, however, became the man picked to command the expeditionary fleet, Comte d’Aché. While personally brave, d’Aché was one of the most inept naval commanders ever to serve in the French navy. On the day of departure, February 2, 1757, one ship was damaged leaving port, and the admiral returned the whole fleet to harbor, where it then became trapped by contrary winds until May 2. Once at sea, the ships maintained a leisurely pace more suited to a pleasure cruise than a military convoy. Precious weeks then were wasted in Rio de Janiero selling off the cargo of a captured prize ship. In his memoirs, Lally said that d’Aché would pull in sail at the slightest threat of a storm, or change course if a single sail had been sighted. It was April 28, 1758, before the fleet finally reached the French base at Pondicherry.

Once ashore, the new governor of French India found that sloth and incompetency had squandered time and resources. The Chevalier de Soupire had landed eight months before with the Lorraine Regiment. Although his regiment heavily outnumbered the British forces then available in India, he had confined his operations to taking a few small posts, while refusing to move against Clive, who was busy driving the French out of Bengal. To make matters worse, a British naval squadron had left England three months after d’Aché’s departure from France and had reached Madras six weeks before Lally’s corps finally arrived off Pondicherry. Had the French admiral sailed his convoy at normal speed, he could have overwhelmed the small English fleet on station under Admiral George Pocock before it was reinforced by the fresh English squadron.

Released at last from his shipboard confines, the Irish general reacted to almost a year of delay and frustration by waging a whirlwind campaign that took several English outposts, including Fort Saint David, an important base a short distance south of Pondicherry. Lack of money and supplies then slowed down his campaign, while an expedition intended to extort funds from the rajah of Tanjore came up a failure. It was here, too, that Lally learned a lesson in Oriental treachery. A group of 250 Tanjore cavalry came to his camp as deserters. Once inside the picket lines, they charged for the general’s tent, and Lally found himself using his walking stick, or shillelagh, to ward off a scimitar-wielding Indian. His attacker was shot by a guard–although Lally was run down by the enemy horsemen, he was saved from injury, and his troops wiped out the rest of the raiders.

By now the civilian officials at Pondicherry were in open opposition to their new governor because of his public condemnations of their misconduct. A man with more tact would not have lashed out at them in public with savage anger and biting sarcasm. Then, too, while Lally’s charges were mostly true, he did nothing to punish or remove the culprits from office, thus leaving his enemies in positions where they could sabotage his military plan and plot against him. The civilian veterans of duty in India had a legitimate complaint, moreover, in Lally’s disregard of the Indian caste system, shown when he forced natives of all castes to work as sappers and transport coolies. This ruthless, if efficient, policy aroused the natives and made it more difficult to recruit native labor.

The Irish general made another mistake in recalling General le Marquis de Bussy Castelnau from the Deccan in the north, where the Frenchman had been making a good showing against the British after Clive left for England. Bussy came reluctantly, and Lally was later to accuse him of intrigue. The small force that Bussy left behind in the Deccan under a less capable commander was defeated by British forces operating out of Calcutta.

In December, Lally moved north to besiege the English base at Madras and almost took the place, despite the absence of d’Aché’s squadron. A couple of costly but indecisive sea fights with English ships had sent the French admiral scurrying south to the French island of Mauritius for repairs. Just as Lally’s troops were about to overrun the Madras garrison, a British naval force arrived with reinforcements. There was now no choice but to lift the siege. Hampered by shortages of money and supplies, Lally could do little during the rest of 1759. At one time his soldiers mutinied over back pay.

One local success did come in September, when an English night attack upon Wandiwash was thrown back. The town, 60 miles southwest of Madras, was an inland post about equidistant from Madras and Pondicherry.

On November 27, Coote appeared before the walls of Wandiwash with a small siege army. Since the French had only 68 Europeans and 100 sepoys to defend the town, they raised the white flag. The English general next moved against the important town of Arcot. On hearing of those events, Lally began to assemble a relief force, and he and Bussy began to argue over campaign strategy. Meanwhile, a local Maratha chief, Yunus Khan, had been lured into the French service with the promise of rich booty from the English and their Indian allies. Yunus Khan brought with him 2,060 cavalry and a horde of loot-hungry foot followers.

Lally scored an initial success by plundering the British supply depot at Conjeeveram. That was followed up by storming Wandiwash, with Lally himself one of the first over the wall. Inside the fort, 30 stout Britons and 800 sepoys under a Captain Sherlock still held out. A night attack failed to dislodge them, due to the cowardice of a marine detachment left behind by Admiral d’Aché in response to Lally’s appeal for help from the navy. On first seeing them, Lally declared, ‘They are the scum of the fleet.’ Apparently the admiral had taken the opportunity of unloading on the army all his troublemakers and goldbricks. They numbered about 500.

Bussy wanted to abandon the siege and concentrate the full French force against Coote’s approaching army, but Lally insisted on leaving 150 Europeans and 300 sepoys to man the earthworks containing Sherlock’s garrison. That left him with two French regiments, the de Lally and the 69th Lorraine, each numbering about 400 men, plus the Battalion of India, a company unit with a strength of 700 muskets. He also had the naval contingent, plus 200 European cavalry. His sepoy force came to about 1,800, of which a third were horsemen. The French artillery train had 10 light guns. Along with those regular troops came Yunus Khan’s Maratha irregulars.

On the other side, Coote had his two regiments, the 84th and William Draper’s, plus two battalions of East India Company troops–native soldiers, a third of whom were mounted–backed up by 80 white cavalrymen under a Swiss commander named de Vasserot. He also had seven small field guns and one howitzer. Thus both small armies were rather evenly matched, although the French were handicapped by discord and poor morale.

On January 21, 1760, the British army again came within sight of the walls of Wandiwash. That night its commander ordered his men to place green branches in their hats and turbans to serve as identification marks during the turmoil of combat.

Sunup the next day found the opposing forces lined up for battle. Coote had arranged his troops in three lines facing south, with his own 84th Regiment holding the left front, the two company battalions occupying the center and Draper’s men manning the right front. Guns were sited between the units and on the flanks. The extreme flanks were covered by sepoy companies. In the second line, 300 grenadiers held the center, supported by some guns and two 200-man sepoy companies on each flank. Coote’s third line consisted of 1,250 native horse, stiffened by de Vasserot’s 80 European cavalrymen.

Lally had drawn up his force in a single line, one regiment on the left with its flank resting on a walled ‘tank,’ or paddy, off to the side. The Battalion of India held the center, and the 69th Lorraine occupied the right. Cannons were sited between the formations, and the native foot were stationed behind them. The paddy on Lally’s left was manned by 200 of the sailors d’Aché had dumped ashore. Farther to their rear was another tank occupied by a body of sepoys raised by Bussy. The French horse and a couple of hundred native cavalry hovered on the right flank, while another 400 sepoy horsemen were posted to the left rear. The fort of Wandiwash was a mile or so to the left of the French battle line the French camp was a mile to the rear. This was the approximate situation at midday when, after some hours of maneuvering and cannonading, the main action started.

Lally thought he saw some unsteadiness on the enemy left and figured that his artillery had softened up this sector. He therefore ordered his cavalry to charge around Coote’s left flank and take it from the rear. But the horsemen refused to move. Relieving the commander on the spot, Lally ordered the second captain to advance, but he, too, balked. The general now spoke directly to the men, and one officer stepped forward to assume command.

At first the attack went well–the enemy cavalry fled and the native infantry, which could have hit the charging force in the flank, offered little resistance. But then Coote’s artillerymen, on hand with two guns, emptied a dozen saddles and brought the hussars to an abrupt halt. When de Vasserot’s cavalry, a forlorn squadron of only 80 Europeans, boldly galloped toward the wavering French hussars, the latter broke and fled back to camp, pursued by the native horsemen.

It was now past 1 o’clock, and the British line was slowly advancing toward the French position. Sensing the growing impatience–or nervousness–of his troops, Lally formed his 69th Lorraine into a column of twelves and sent it forward to drive back Coote’s regiment, the 84th Infantry. That unit opened up with platoon fire at 60 yards with deadly effect. Even so, the weight of numbers carried the Lorrainers through the two ranks of the 84th. Now, however, the white-coated column was lashed on both its flanks by murderous volleys from the unbroken platoons. Savage hand-to-hand fighting erupted with bayonet and musket butt. Suddenly the Lorrainers had had enough, and the regiment dissolved into a mob of running and limping men.

At this moment a chance shot from an English gun hit an ammunition cart near the paddy that held the naval contingent. It exploded, killing and wounding more than 80 defenders, including the local commander, a Knight of Malta named the Chevalier de Poète. Such a calamity would unnerve the best of regular troops, and it was all that was needed to send d’Aché’s sorry lot racing for the rear, followed by several hundred panicky sepoys.

Quickly taking advantage of this fortuitous accident, Coote sent Draper’s regiment to seize the now abandoned paddy. Bussy came on the scene and managed to rally two platoons of soldiers, plus a few fugitives from the naval unit, some 50 or 60 men in all. He then rushed to the rescue of Lally’s men, who had been thrown into confusion by the collapse of the French left flank. Draper’s men reached the paddy and overran the position before Bussy could throw in more men to hold it. It appears that the Régiment de Lally now wheeled to its left and faced the second line of Draper’s, while a few platoons were pulled out to retake the paddy from the British. From behind the embankments of the paddy, the redcoats poured a heavy fire upon the guns that had been supporting the French troops and naval corps. The gunners were driven off, and the soldiers assigned to counterattack were abandoned. They lost all enthusiasm for moving ahead and contented themselves with exchanging shots with the British while crouched behind the paddy dikes.

Meanwhile, Draper’s Regiment had brought up two cannons and began to punish Lally’s regiment with unopposed fire. The ranks of the Irish began to waver, and here and there men ran off. Before he lost all control, Bussy decided upon an all-or-nothing counterattack. His horse was shot from under him, and as he led the charge on foot, three or four balls tore through his clothes. In the face of furious musketry, only 20 of Lally’s men followed him–the rest held back, and the brave Frenchman was soon surrounded and taken prisoner.

While that was taking place, Lally was trying to push forward those sepoys who had been aligned in the rear of the European battalions. Most of the native troops had been enlisted by Bussy, and when they refused to budge, Lally assumed treachery on the part of his second-in-command. As for the company battalions that both sides had posted to the center, they did nothing but keep up an indifferent fire upon each other from a safe distance. It was evident that while such mercenaries were good against native hordes, they had great reluctance to close with European regulars. Now, with both French flanks collapsing and the enemy center staying in place, the British center turned bold and advanced. Off on a nearby hill, the Marathas had up to now played the role of onlookers, waiting to see which side would win. When it became clear that their French allies were losing, they left for home, their hopes of loot abandoned. Yunus Khan had exemplified the Hindu proverb ‘In talk a lion, in fighting a lizard.’

In despair Lally did all he could to save his army. His European horsemen, who had behaved so shamefully before, now charged into Coote’s sepoy cavalry, driving them back, along with the British horse, thus saving the men of the Lorraine Regiment from being cut down. Once back in camp, some resolute soldiers of the regiments manhandled a couple of guns they found there and set them up facing the oncoming enemy. Lally took personal command of the Battalion of India, to which now rallied the retreating troops of his own regiment. Safe from harassing cavalry, these two units re-formed and made an orderly fallback to the camp. Here, the stores and heavier baggage were burned, while the lighter baggage and the wounded were carried away.

Moving westward, toward Wandiwash, the defeated army collected the small siege force there and marched off. Although Coote repeatedly ordered his cavalry to hit the departing column, the fire of a few small artillery pieces and some fine screening by Lally’s horse kept the British at a respectful distance. The Irish general had saved his force from destruction, but it had been badly hurt and would never again take the offensive. He had lost between 600 and 800 men killed, wounded or captured, including his second-in-command. The English claimed they buried 200 on the battlefield and took 200 wounded and 40 unwounded prisoners. More wounded were left behind on the retreat to Pondicherry. Coote’s losses were 53 from the 84th Regiment, 59 from the East India Company Regiment, and 80 from the elements of Draper’s regiment (the 79th Foot, actually) that had been in contact with Lally’s Regiment.

The war in India would drag on for another year, with Lally holding out in the enclave of Pondicherry in the hope of seeing reinforcements from France or hearing news of a peace settlement. Neither came, and faced with the exhaustion of supplies and the opposition of company officials and the civilian population to further resistance, Lally surrendered what was left of his army on January 15, 1761. A small force of French and Irish still held out in the interior, but within a few months they, too, were forced to give up. The way now was open for India Brittanica.

While his troops were sent to Bombay for later return to France, the captive Lally was sent to Madras, from which a ship took him to England, where he was treated with respect. Upon learning that in Paris he was being charged with treason against the French crown, he obtained permission from the British government under Prime Minister William Pitt to return and defend himself. He was promised a fair hearing but ordered to make no comments. More than a year passed while his enemies at court plotted against him. They were allied with those company officers who needed a scapegoat for the loss of French India. In May of 1766 a weak King Louis XV gave in to corrupt lobbyists and condemned Lally to death. He was beheaded like a common criminal.

Years later, under the new King Louis XVI, Lally’s son Trophime Gerad Lally-Tollendal, assisted by the writer-philosopher Voltaire, got the case reopened. Eager to show a spirit of reform, the king reversed the verdict and in effect exonerated Lally.

Coote apparently assisted, for he wrote to Lally’s son: ‘Nobody had a higher idea than I of General Lally, who to my knowledge has struggled against obstacles which I believed unconquerable and has conquered them nobody at the same time, is more his enemy than I, seeing him achieve those triumphs at the prejudice of my nation. There is certainly not a second man in all India who could have managed to keep on foot, for so long a period, an army without pay, and without any kind of assistance.’

Eyre Coote was to serve in India for many years with great success against those native rulers opposing the steady expansion of English rule. Coote, who was knighted in 1771 and became a lieutenant general, died in Madras on April 27, 1783, while preparing to return home to England.

Years would pass before England did gain control over India, but on that day at Wandiwash when two tiny European armies fought it out, the fate of India really was decided. A young British officer inside the besieged fort at Wandiwash wrote that at 7 in the morning he and his companion heard cannon fire. He added with great prescience: ‘Then followed the battle that gave us India.’

This article was written by Thomas J. Mullen, Jr. and originally appeared in the February 1994 issue of Military History magazine.

For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Military History magazine today!


The invasion of Poland by the military forces of Nazi Germany marked the beginning of World War II in Europe. The Soviets invaded Poland on September 17 German-allied Slovakia invaded also

In keeping with the terms of the Secret Additional Protocol of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact Germany informed the Soviet Union that its forces were nearing the Soviet interest zone in Poland and so urged the Soviet Union to move into its zone. The Soviets had been taken by surprise by the speed of the German advance as they had expected to have several weeks to prepare for an invasion rather than merely a few days. They did promise to move as quickly as possible. [2] On September 17 the Soviets invaded eastern Poland, forcing the Polish government and military to abandon their plans for a long-term defense in the Romanian bridgehead area. The last remaining Polish Army units capitulated in early October.

In accordance with their treaty obligations, the United Kingdom and France declared war on Germany on September 3. Hitler had gambled, incorrectly, that France and Britain would allow him to annex parts of Poland without military reaction. The campaign began on September 1, 1939, one week after the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact containing a secret protocol for the division of Northern and Central Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence. It ended on October 6, 1939, with Germany and the Soviet Union occupying the entirety of Poland.

German losses included approximately 16,000 killed in action, 28,000 wounded, 3,500 missing, over 200 aircraft, and 30% of their armored vehicles. The Polish casualties were around 66,000 dead and 694,000 captured.

German losses during the Polish campaign amounted to 50% of all casualties they would suffer until their invasion of USSR in 1941 and the campaign that lasted about a month consumed eight months worth of supplies. [3]

There was a substantial group of Poles who risked their lives during the German occupation to save Jews. German-occupied Poland was the only European territory where the Germans punished any kind of help to Jews with death for the helper and his entire family. Even so, Poland was also the only German-occupied country to establish an organization specifically to aid Jews. Known by the cryptonym Żegota, it provided food, shelter, medical care, money, and false documents to Jews. Most of Żegota's funds came directly from the Polish Government-in-Exile in Great Britain. [4]

Most Jews who survived the German occupation of Poland were saved by Poles unconnected with Żegota. Estimates of Jewish survivors in Poland range from 40,000 to 50,000 to 100,000–120,000. Scholars estimate that it took the work of ten people to save the life of one Polish Jew. [5] Of the individuals awarded medals of Righteous among the Nations (given by the State of Israel to non-Jews who saved Jews from extermination during the Holocaust) those who were Polish citizens number the greatest. [6] There are 6,339 [7] Polish men and women recognized as "Righteous" to this day, amounting to over 25 percent of the total number of 22,765 honorary titles awarded already. [8]

The main resistance force in German-occupied Poland was the Armia Krajowa ("Home Army" abbreviated "AK"). While AK command said it numbered 400,000 sworn members, only a very small fraction of these was involved in partisan warfare: in 1943 one percent and in 1944 possibly five to ten percent. [9] Throughout most of the war, AK was one of the three largest resistance movements in the war. [b] The AK coordinated its operations with the exiled Polish Government in London and its activity concentrated on sabotage, diversion and intelligence gathering. [10] Its combat activity was low until 1943 [11] [12] as the army was avoiding suicidal warfare and preserved its very limited resources for later conflicts that sharply increased when the Nazi war machine started to crumble in the wake of the successes of the Red Army in the Eastern Front. Then the AK started a nationwide uprising (Operation Tempest) against Nazi forces. [10] Before that, AK units carried out thousands of raids, intelligence operations, bombed hundreds of railway shipments, participated in many clashes and battles with the German police and Wehrmacht units and conducted tens of thousands of acts of sabotage against German industry [13] The AK also conducted "punitive" operations to assassinate Gestapo officials responsible for Nazi terror. Following the 1941 German attack on the USSR, the AK assisted the Soviet Union's war effort by sabotaging the German advance into Soviet territory and provided intelligence on the deployment and movement of German forces. [10] After 1943, its direct combat activity increased sharply. German losses to the Polish partisans averaged 850–1,700 per month in early 1944 compared to about 250–320 per month in 1942. [ citation needed ]

In addition to the Home Army, there was an underground ultra-nationalist [11] resistance force called Narodowe Siły Zbrojne (NSZ or "National Armed Forces"), with a fiercely anti-communist stance. It participated in fighting German units, winning many skirmishes. From 1943 onwards, some units took part in battling the Gwardia Ludowa, a communist resistance movement. From 1944, the advancing Red Army was also seen as a foreign occupation force, prompting skirmishes with the Soviets as well as Soviet-backed partisans. In the later part of the war, when Soviet partisans started attacking Polish partisans, sympathizers and civilians, all non-communist Polish formations were (to an increasing extent) becoming involved in actions against the Soviets. [14]

The Armia Ludowa, a Soviet proxy fighting force [15] was another resistance group that was unrelated to the Polish Government in Exile, allied instead to the Soviet Union. As of July, 1944 it incorporated a similar organization, the Gwardia Ludowa, and numbered about 6,000 soldiers (although estimates vary). [15]

There were separate resistance groups organized by Polish Jews: [11] the right-wing Żydowski Związek Walki ("Jewish Fighting Union") (ŻZW) and the more Soviet-leaning Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa ("Jewish Combat Organization") (ŻOB). These organisations cooperated little with each other and their relationship with the Polish resistance varied between occasional cooperation (mainly between ZZW and AK) to armed confrontations (mostly between ŻOB and NZS).

Other notable Polish resistance organizations included the Bataliony Chłopskie (BCh), a mostly peasant-based organization allied to the AK. At its height the BCh included 115,543 members (1944 with additional LSB and PKB-AK Guard, for the estimated total of 150,250 men, not confirmed). [16] [ better source needed ]

Throughout the war the German state was forced to divert a substantial part of its military forces to keep control over Poland:

(invasion of the Soviet Union)

Polish intelligence supplied valuable intelligence to the Allies 48% of all reports received by the British secret services from continental Europe in between 1939 and 1945 came from Polish sources. [19] The total number of those reports is estimated about bout 80,000, and 85% of them were deemed high or better quality. [20] Despite Poland becoming occupied, the Polish intelligence network not only survived but grew rapidly, and near the end of the war had over 1,600 registered agents [19] (Another estimate gave around 3500 [ citation needed ] ).

Western Allies had limited intelligence assets in Central and Eastern Europe, and extensive Polish intelligence network in place proved to be a major asset, even described as "the only allied intelligence assets on the Continent" following the French capitulation. [21] [22] [23] According to Marek Ney-Krwawicz [pl] , for the Western Allies, the intelligence provided by the Home Army was considered to be the best source of information on the Eastern Front. [24]

During a period of over six and a half years, from late December 1932 to the outbreak of World War II, three mathematician-cryptologists (Marian Rejewski, Henryk Zygalski and Jerzy Różycki) at the Polish General Staff's Cipher Bureau in Warsaw had developed a number of techniques and devices— including the "grill" method, Różycki's "clock", Rejewski's "cyclometer" and "card catalog", Zygalski's "perforated sheets", and Rejewski's "cryptologic bomb" (in Polish, "bomba " , precursor to the later British "Bombe", named after its Polish predecessor)— to facilitate decryption of messages produced on the German "Enigma" cipher machine. Just five weeks before the outbreak of World War II, on July 25, 1939, near Pyry in the Kabaty Woods south of Warsaw, Poland disclosed her achievements to France and the United Kingdom, which had, up to that time, failed in all their own efforts to crack the German military Enigma cipher. [25] Had Poland not shared her Enigma-decryption results at Pyry, the United Kingdom might have been unable to read Enigma ciphers. [26] In the event, intelligence gained from this source, codenamed Ultra, was extremely valuable to the Allied prosecution of the war. While ULTRA's precise influence on its course remains a subject of debate, ULTRA undoubtedly altered the course of the war. [27]

As early as 1940, Polish agents (including Witold Pilecki) penetrated German concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and informed the world about Nazi atrocities. Jan Karski is another important Polish resistance fighter who reported to the Polish government in exile and the Western Allies on the situation in German-occupied Poland, especially the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the secretive German-Nazi extermination camps. [28] [29]

Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa, AK) intelligence was vital to locating and destroying (18 August 1943) the German rocket facility at Peenemünde and to gathering information about Germany's V-1 flying bomb and V-2 rocket. The Home Army delivered to the United Kingdom key V-2 parts after a rocket, fired on 30 May 1944, crashed near a German test facility at Sarnaki on the Bug River and was recovered by the Home Army. On the night of 25–26 July 1944 the crucial parts were flown from occupied Poland to the United Kingdom in an RAF plane, along with detailed drawings of parts too large to fit in the plane (see Home Army and V1 and V2). Analysis of the German rocket became vital to improving Allied anti-V-2 defenses (see Operation Most III). [30]

Operations of the II Bureau, the intelligence service of the Polish government in exile, extended beyond Poland and even beyond Europe. Polish agents provided reports on German war production, morale and troop movements, including information on German submarine operations. [23] [31] The II Bureau is reported to have had two agents in the upper levels of the German high command. [23] Polish intelligence monitored the French fleet at Toulon. [23] Mieczysław Zygfryd Słowikowski has been described as "the only allied agent with a network in North Africa". [23] In July 1941 Mieczysław Słowikowski (codenamed "Rygor " —Polish for "Rigor") set up "Agency Africa", one of World War II's most successful intelligence organizations. [32] His Polish allies in these endeavors included Lt. Col. Gwido Langer and Major Maksymilian Ciężki (prewar heads, respectively, of Poland's Biuro Szyfrów, Cipher Bureau, and of its German section, B.S.-4, which broke Germany's Enigma ciphers). [25] The information gathered by the Agency was used by the Americans and British in planning the amphibious November 1942 Operation Torch [33] [ better source needed ] landings in North Africa. These were the first large-scale Allied landings of the war, and their success in turn paved the way for the Allies' Italian campaign. [ citation needed ]

Some Poles also served in other Allied intelligence services, including the celebrated Krystyna Skarbek ("Christine Granville") in the United Kingdom's Special Operations Executive. [34]

The researchers who produced the first Polish-British in-depth monograph on Home Army intelligence (Intelligence Co-operation Between Poland and Great Britain During World War II: Report of the Anglo-Polish Historical Committee of 2005) and who described contributions of Polish intelligence to Allied victory as "disproportionally large" [35] have also argued that "the work performed by Home Army intelligence undoubtedly supported the Allied armed effort much more effectively than subversive and guerilla activities." [36]

Army Edit

Deserters from the German Wehrmacht 90,000
Evacuees from the USSR 83,000
Evacuees from France in 1940 35,000
Liberated POWs 21,750
Escapees from occupied Europe 14,210
Recruits in liberated France 7,000
Polonia from Argentina, Brazil and Canada 2,290
Polonia from the United Kingdom 1,780
Total 254,830
By July 1945, when recruitment was halted, some 26,830 Polish soldiers were declared KIA or MIA or had died of wounds. After that date, an additional 21,000 former Polish POWs were recruited.

After the country's defeat in the 1939 campaign, the Polish government in exile quickly organized in France a new army of about 75,000 men. [38] In 1940 a Polish Highland Brigade took part in the Battle of Narvik (Norway), and two Polish divisions (First Grenadier Division, and Second Infantry Fusiliers Division) took part in the defense of France, while a Polish motorized brigade and two infantry divisions were in process of forming. [39] A Polish Independent Carpathian Brigade was formed in French Mandate Syria, to which many Polish troops had escaped from Romania. [40] The Polish Air Force in France had 86 aircraft with one and a half of the squadrons fully operational, and the remaining two and a half in various stages of training. [40]

By the fall of France, numerous Polish personnel had died in the fighting (some 6,000) or had been interned in Switzerland (some 13,000). Nevertheless, about 19,000 Polish—about 25% of which were aircrew—were evacuated from France, most alongside other troops transported from western France to the United Kingdom. [38] In 1941, following an agreement between the Polish government in exile and Joseph Stalin, the Soviets released Polish citizens, from whom a 75,000-strong army was formed in the USSR under General Władysław Anders. Without any support from the Soviets to train, equip and maintain this army, the Polish government in exile followed Anders' advice for a transfer of some 80,000 (and around 20,000 civilians), in March and August 1942, across the Caspian Sea to Iran permitting Soviet divisions in occupation there to be released for action. [41] In the Middle East, this "Anders' Army" joined the British Eighth Army, where it formed Polish II Corps. [42]

The Polish Armed Forces in the West fought under British command and numbered 195,000 in March 1944 and 165,000 at the end of that year, including about 20,000 personnel in the Polish Air Force and 3,000 in the Polish Navy. At the end of World War II, the Polish Armed Forces in the west numbered 195,000 and by July 1945 had increased to 228,000, most of the newcomers being released prisoners of war and ex-labor camp inmates.

Air force Edit

The Polish Air Force first fought in the 1939 Invasion of Poland. Significantly outnumbered and with its fighters outmatched by more advanced German fighters, remained active up to the second week of the campaign, inflicting significant damage on the Luftwaffe. [43] The Luftwaffe lost, to all operational causes, 285 aircraft, with 279 more damaged, while the Poles lost 333 aircraft. [44]

After the fall of Poland many Polish pilots escaped via Hungary to France. The Polish Air Force fought in the Battle of France as one fighter squadron GC 1/145, several small units detached to French squadrons, and numerous flights of industry defence (in total, 133 pilots, who achieved 53–57 victories for a loss of 8 men in combat, what was 7.93% of allied victories). [45]

Later, Polish pilots fought in the Battle of Britain, where the Polish 303 Fighter Squadron claimed the highest number of kills of any Allied squadron. From the very beginning of the war, the Royal Air Force (RAF) had welcomed foreign pilots to supplement the dwindling pool of British pilots. On 11 June 1940, the Polish Government in Exile signed an agreement with the British Government to form a Polish Army and Polish Air Force in the United Kingdom. The first two (of an eventual ten) Polish fighter squadrons went into action in August 1940. Four Polish squadrons eventually took part in the Battle of Britain (300 and 301 Bomber Squadrons 302 and 303 Fighter Squadrons), with 89 Polish pilots. Together with more than 50 Poles fighting in British squadrons, a total of 145 Polish pilots defended British skies. Polish pilots were among the most experienced in the battle, most of them having already fought in the 1939 September Campaign in Poland and the 1940 Battle of France. Additionally, prewar Poland had set a very high standard of pilot training. The 303 Squadron, named after the Polish–American hero, General Tadeusz Kościuszko, claimed the highest number of kills (126) of all fighter squadrons engaged in the Battle of Britain, even though it only joined the combat on August 30, 1940 [46] These Polish pilots, constituting 5% of the pilots active during the Battle of Britain, were responsible for 12% of total victories in the Battle.

The Polish Air Force also fought in 1943 in Tunisia—the Polish Fighting Team (nicknamed "Skalski's Circus")—and in raids on Germany (1940–45). In the second half of 1941 and early 1942, Polish bomber squadrons formed a sixth of the forces available to RAF Bomber Command but later they suffered heavy losses, with little replenishment possibilities. Polish aircrew losses serving with Bomber Command from 1940 to 1945 were 929 killed. Ultimately eight Polish fighter squadrons were formed within the RAF and had claimed 629 Axis aircraft destroyed by May 1945. By the end of the war, around 19,400 Poles were serving in the RAF. [47]

Polish squadrons in the United Kingdom:

    (Ziemi Mazowieckiej) (Ziemi Pomorskiej) (Poznański) (Warszawski imienia Tadeusza Kościuszki) (Ziemi Śląskiej imienia Ksiecia Józefa Poniatowskiego) (Ziemi Wielkopolskiej imienia Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego) (Toruński) (Lwowskich Puchaczy) (Krakowski) (Ziemi Czerwieńskiej) (Dębliński) (Warszawski) (Wileński) (Gdański) – flying in support of Polish artillery units (Skalski's Circus) – attached to No. 145 Squadron RAF

Navy Edit

Just on the eve of war, three destroyers—representing most of the major Polish Navy ships—had been sent for safety to the United Kingdom (Operation Peking). There they fought alongside the Royal Navy. At various stages of the war, the Polish Navy comprised two cruisers and a large number of smaller ships. The Polish navy was given a number of British ships and submarines which would otherwise have been unused due to the lack of trained British crews. The Polish Navy fought with great distinction alongside the other Allied navies in many important and successful operations, including those conducted against the German battleship Bismarck. [50] During the war the Polish Navy, which comprised a total of 27 ships (2 cruisers, 9 destroyers, 5 submarines and 11 torpedo boats), sailed a total of 1.2 million nautical miles, escorted 787 convoys, conducted 1,162 patrols and combat operations, sank 12 enemy ships (including 5 submarines) and 41 merchant vessels, damaged 24 more (including 8 submarines) and shot down 20 aircraft. 450 seamen out of the over 4,000 who served with the Navy lost their lives in action. [51] [52]

      Dragoon – (British Danae class) (British Danae class)
      – Gale (Wicher class) sunk September 1939 – Storm (Wicher class) – Thunder (Grom class) sunk 1940 – Lightning (Grom class) (British G class) – Windstorm (British M-class destroyer Myrmidion) sunk 1943 , sometimes called Huragan– Hurricane (French Bourrasque class) – Thunderbolt (British N class)
      – Cracovian (British Hunt class) 1941–1946 – Kujawian (British Hunt class) – Silesian (British Hunt class)
      – Eagle (Orzeł class) lost 1940 – Vulture (Orzeł class) interned Sweden – Hawk (British S class) – Wolf (Wilk class) to reserve 1942 – Lynx (Wilk class) interned Sweden – Wildcat (Wilk class) interned Sweden – Boar (British U class) 1942–1946 – Falcon (British U class) 1941–1945
      – Griffin sunk 1939
      – Swallow, sunk 1939 – Seagull – Tern – Lapwing – Crane – Heron

    This does not include a number of minor ships, transports, merchant-marine auxiliary vessels, and patrol boats. Polish Merchant Navy contributed about 137,000 BRT to Allied shipping losing 18 ships (with capacity of 76,000 BRT) and over 200 sailors during the war. [53]

    After the Polish government-in-exile organized the Anders Army in 1941 in the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the Operation Barbarossa and evacuated it to the West, Polish communists sought to create a new army, under communist control, out of the many ethnic Poles that remained in the Soviet Union. These were primarily citizens of the prewar Second Polish Republic that had been deported and often imprisoned by the Soviets following the Soviet annexation of Poland's eastern territories, as per the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Soviet Union created the Union of Polish Patriots (ZPP) in 1943, a communist Polish organization intended to represent the interest of Poles on Soviet soil and organize this new army. [54] [55] The relocated Poles, along with numbers of Byelorussians, Ukrainians, and Polish Jews, were organized into a division, the nucleus of a force known as the Polish People's Army (Ludowe Wojsko Polskie, LWP) but colloquially known as the Berling Army after its first commander, Zygmunt Berling. The division made its combat debut in October 1943 at the Battle of Lenino. Afterwards, it was rapidly expanded into the 1st Polish Corps, which in turn grew by 1944 into the 1st Polish Army. In 1945, 2nd Polish Army was added to the LWP. By the end of the war, the LWP numbered about 200,000 front-line soldiers. [55] The Polish communist guerilla force, the Armia Ludowa, was integrated with the Polish People's Army in January 1944.

    The Polish First Army was integrated in the 1st Belorussian Front with which it entered Poland from Soviet territory in 1944. During the 1944 Warsaw Uprising it liberated the suburb of Praga, but otherwise sat out most of the battle, aside from a series of unsuccessful crossings of the Vistula in mid-September. It took part in battles for Bydgoszcz (Bromberg), Kolobrzeg (Kolberg), Gdańsk (Danzig) and Gdynia, losing about 17,500 killed in action over the course of the war. [55] In April–May 1945 the 1st Army fought in the final capture of Berlin. The Polish Second Army fought as part of the Soviet 1st Ukrainian Front and took part in the Prague Offensive. In the final operations of the war the casualties of the two armies of the LWP amounted to approximately 67,000.

    Hundreds of thousands of former Polish citizens, particularly residents of parts of Poland annexed to Germany, were conscripted into the German Armed Forces. Also, a number of former Polish citizens, especially members of the prewar German minority in Poland (see Volksliste), volunteered for service in the German Armed Forces. [56]

    On the Western Front, German military personnel of Polish ethnicity, held in prisoner-of-war camps, became a substantial source of manpower for the Polish Armed Forces in the West. Nearly 90,000 former German military personnel were eventually recruited into the Polish Armed Forces in the West. By Victory Day (9 May) in 1945, a third of Polish service members in the West were former members of the German Armed Forces. [56]

    Major battles and campaigns in which Polish regular forces took part:

      invented the Polish mine detector, which would be used by the Allies throughout the war.
    • The Vickers Tank Periscope MK.IV was invented by engineerRudolf Gundlach and patented in 1936 as the Gundlach Peryskop obrotowy. [57] Initially it was mounted in Polish tanks such as the 7TP and TKS. Subsequently, the design patent was bought by the British and used in most tanks of World War II, including the Soviet T-34, the British Crusader, Churchill, Valentine and Cromwell tanks, and the American M4 Sherman. The main advantage of the periscope was that the tank commander no longer had to turn his head in order to look backwards. The design was also later used extensively by the Germans. , often simply called the "Radom" in English sources, is a 9 mm caliber, single-action, semi-automatic pistol. It was adopted in 1935 as the standard handgun of the Polish Army. The design was appropriated by the Germans and from 1939 to 1945, 312,000–380,000 VIS pistols were produced and used by the German paratroopers and police as the 9 mm Pistole 35(p). was a Polish twin-engine medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at the PZL factory in Warsaw by Jerzy Dąbrowski, and used operationally in the Invasion of Poland in 1939. Thanks to the laminar-flow wing it was one of the most modern bombers in the world before World War II. , a bomb-release system was invented by Władysław Świątecki in 1925 and patented in the 1926 in Poland and abroad. [58][59] Some components was used in the pre-war Polish PZL.37 Łoś (Elk) bomber. In 1940 Świątecki's invention was taken over by the British, who used it in the Avro Lancaster bomber. In 1943, an updated version was created by Jerzy Rudlicki for the American B-17 Flying Fortress. [60] , 7.92 mm anti-tank rifle developed in secret and used by the Polish Army during the invasion of Poland invented by Józef Maroszek [pl] . The rifle was development of the Mauser rifle with its own special 7.92 mm cartridge with a muzzle velocity of over 1,000 meters per second. With a range of 300 metres it was very effective against all German tanks of the period (the Panzer I, II and III, as well as the Czech-made LT-35 and LT-38) at 100 meters.
    • In World War II, there was an important need to take bearings on the high frequency radio transmissions used by the German Kriegsmarine. The engineering of such high frequency direction finding systems for operation on ships presented severe technical problems, mainly due to the effects of the superstructure on the wavefront of arriving radio signals. However, solutions to these problems were proposed by the Polish engineer Waclaw Struszynski, who also led the team which developed the first practical system at the Admiralty Signal Establishment, England. These systems were installed on convoy escort ships, and were very effective against the U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic. [61] The father of Wacław Struszyński was Professor Marceli Struszyński, a member of the Polish resistance, who analysed the fuel used in the V2 rocket, the formula being subsequently sent to England.
    • A rubberwindshield wiper was invented by the Polish pianistJózef Hofmann. [citation needed] , a Polish engineer working for Motorola, co-designed the SCR-300 radio in 1940. It was the first small radio receiver/transmitter to have manually set frequencies. [citation needed] It was used extensively by the American Army and was nicknamed the walkie-talkie.

    Weapons Edit

    Polish engineers who escaped German-occupied Poland contributed to weapon developments during the war. A Polish/Czech/British team brought the 20 mm Polsten to fruition as a simpler and cheaper to produce but as effective derivative of the 20 mm Oerlikon gun.

    The Polish Home Army was probably the only World War II resistance movement to manufacture large quantities of weaponry and munitions. In addition to production of pre-war designs they developed and produced during the war the Błyskawica submachine gun, Bechowiec, KIS and Polski Sten machine pistols as well as the filipinka and sidolówka hand grenades. During the Warsaw Uprising Polish engineers built several armoured cars, such as the Kubuś, which also took part in the fighting. The KIS was designed and made in the Jan Piwnik's "Ponury" ("Grim") guerrilla unit that was operating in Holy Cross Mountains region. It was probably the only kind of modern firearm that could be manufactured in the forest without the need for sophisticated tools and factory equipment during the Second World War. [ citation needed ]

    a ^ Numerous sources state that Polish Army was the fourth biggest Allied fighting contingent. Steven J. Zaloga wrote that "by the war's end the Polish Army was the fourth largest contingent of the Allied coalition after the armed forces of the Soviet Union, the United States and Great Britain." [62] Jerzy Jan Lerski writes "All in all, the Polish units, although divided and controlled by different political orientation, constituted the fourth largest Allied force, after the American, British and Soviet Armies." [63] M. K. Dziewanowski has noted that "if Polish forces fighting in the east and west were added to the resistance fighters, Poland had the fourth largest Allied army in the war (after the USSR, the U.S. and Britain)". [64]

    b ^ Sources vary with regards to what was the largest resistance movement during World War II. As the war progressed, some resistance movements grew larger—and others diminished. Polish territories were mostly freed from Nazi German control in the years 1944–1945, eliminating the need for their respective (anti-Nazi) partisan forces in Poland (although the cursed soldiers continued to fight against the Soviets). Several sources note that Polish Armia Krajowa was the largest resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Europe. For example, Norman Davies wrote "Armia Krajowa (Home Army), the AK, which could fairly claim to be the largest of European resistance" [65] Gregor Dallas wrote "Home Army (Armia Krajowa or AK) in late 1943 numbered around 400000, making it the largest resistance organization in Europe" [66] Mark Wyman wrote "Armia Krajowa was considered the largest underground resistance unit in wartime Europe". [67] Certainly, Polish resistance was the largest resistance until the German invasion of Yugoslavia and the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. After that point, the numbers of Soviet partisans and Yugoslav partisans grew rapidly. The number of Soviet partisans quickly caught up and were very similar to that of the Polish resistance. [68] [69] The number of Tito's Yugoslav partisans were roughly similar to those of the Polish and Soviet partisans in the first years of the war (1941–1942), but grew rapidly in the latter years, outnumbering the Polish and Soviet partisans by 2:1 or more (estimates give Yugoslavian forces about 800,000 in 1945, to Polish and Soviet forces of 400,000 in 1944). [69] [70]

    What was Poland's posture during the Seven Years' War? - History

    Polish Soldier Kings
    By Mike Bennighof, PhD
    November 2015

    In the middle of the 17th Century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, or Resposzpolita, was Europe's largest nation and one of its most powerful. Though the peasantry suffered the same indignities as the rest of Europe's underclasses, the very large gentry (approximately eight percent of the population) enjoyed widespread rights and elected the king, who did not automatically inherit his crown.

    This noble republic dated to 1505, when the Polish Sejm, or parliament, assumed all of the king's powers to make laws. In 1569, the Union of Lublin combined the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania under a single Sejm and elected king, the better to meet the challenge posed by the rise of Muscovy. The Commonwealth would be Europe's largest state for the next two centuries, yet crumbled by the end of this period and would be divided among its neighbors by 1795.

    Though there were many causes, the first disaster was the election of a member of the Swedish house of Vasa as king in 1587, to follow the heroic Transylvanian Stefan Batory. Several Vasa followed, and though some were able, the connection to the Swedish royal house involved the Commonwealth in a series of devastating wars with the Swedes. In the middle of the 17th century, a series of terrible wars with the Turks, Russians and Swedes known as The Deluge cut the Commonwealth's population in half between 1648 and 1668.

    Augustus the Strong, twice King of Poland, 382 times a father. That's not a misprint.

    By the time of the Seven Years' War, Poland remained a geographically large nation, bigger than any west of Russia, but very weak by most measures. Officially limited to 24,000 men, the Polish standing army rarely topped 10,000 troops and was down to 2,000 by the 1770's. Poles paid the lowest tax rates in the Western world yet still sought to reduce this, much like those who paid the second-lowest rates, the inhabitants of England's American colonies.

    While Europe tore itself apart, Poland was led, if such a word can be used in this instance, by Augustus III the Fat. His father, Augustus II the Strong, was noted for his enormous physical strength, breaking horseshoes with his bare hands to amuse visitors and children, and for his enormous sexual appetite. Augustus II was twice King of Poland, and his only legitimate child was placed on the Polish throne in 1734 by a minority of the nobility but with the backing of Russian and Austrian armies. The War of the Polish Succession continued until 1735, with young Augustus remaining on the throne as part of a wide-ranging set of territorial exchanges.

    Poles ride to war: the Bar Confederation's cavalry at Czestochowa.

    Poland officially remained neutral, but it was a neutrality favoring the anti-Prussian coalition. Russian troops crossed the kingdom many times to attack Prussia, and Friedrich of Prussia retaliated in a very modern way. When the Soldier King overran Saxony in 1756, thanks to Brühl's lack of preparation all the instruments of Saxon government fell into Prussian hands intact including the electoral mint. The mint handled both Saxon and Polish coinage, and the Prussians now had a full set of dies for making Polish zlotych. The king hired a series of Jewish coin experts - Herz Moses Gumpertz, Moses Isaak and Daniel Itzig - to debase the Polish currency, adding a tiny amount of gold or silver to a mass of "base metal" so that the precious content of each zloty or grosz was far less than its face value.

    Friedrich proceeded to spend his fake Polish fortune to fuel his war machine. Prussian agents paid premium prices for Polish goods, chiefly agricultural output, and Polish farmers and merchants happily sold in blissful ignorance that they were taking nearly worthless money in exchange. Inflation roared in the kingdom, destroying the government's fixed tax base, landlords' fixed rents, and peasants' buying power. Friedrich even paid his mercenaries in Polish coin. Within a few years Poland's economy had been thoroughly wrecked.

    Augustus the Fat expired in 1763, with Brühl following his master to the grave soon after. His son was bypassed in favor of Stanislaw Poniatowski, a nephew of the powerful Czartoryski family and a former lover of Tsarina Catherine of Russia. Poniatowski's attempts to strengthen the central government were overturned by a new Russian-dictated constitution in 1767. The king's acquiescence, and his ties to Catherine, led to a 1768 noble revolt by a cabal known as the Confederation of Bar (in a medieval holdover, nobles could legally take up arms against the king by forming a "confederatio"). The confederates had several battlefield successes against the Russians, and in 1771 they tried to kidnap, who quickly escaped and returned to the throne staunchly opposed to the Confederation and firmly attached to the Russians.

    Bar officers kneel in prayer before battle, 1771.

    By the time Poniatowski came to the throne, Poland was already doomed. Saving the republic would have been a difficult task at any point after 1717, as both Augustus II and Stanislaw Poniatowski found. But other European countries managed to centralize during the mid-1700's, and perhaps a more competent leadership team than Augustus III and Heinrich Graf von Brühl could have done more to protect the Commonwealth's liberties and provide our Polish fans with more to work with in Soldier Kings.

    As a Soldier Kings variant, add Poland as a ninth major power. Poland consists of the three Polish areas currently shown on the map. Increase the money value of each to three. Add three more armies to the Polish force pool. Poland may not ally with Turkey or Russia.

    Polish armies, had they participated in the Seven Years' War, would have been led by Grand Hetman Waclaw Rzewuski. Rzewuski, better known as a playwright and poet, had a good reputation as a soldier from the War of the Polish Succession but like any peacetime soldier it's hard to say how he would have performed in the field. Prince Karol Radziwill, the richest man in Poland and a notorious - though highly patriotic - drunkard and womanizer, would have also received high command by virtue of wealth and position.

    Poland begins with four armies in play and two available to be built. Rzewuski is available as a leader from the start Radziwill can enter as a new leader.

    As a variant playable only if the Polish player is in fact Polish, allow Augustus the Fat to be replaced by the oldest and favorite bastard son of Augustus the Strong, Moritz of Saxony. Better known as Maurice de Saxe, he served in several European armies and became a Marshal of France and the most successful commander in the 1740-48 War of the Austrian Succession. In 1726 and 1727 he briefly held the throne in the small Duchy of Courland, and this would have been a useful springboard to the Polish throne in 1734. He died in 1750, aged 54, of a fever but perhaps the healthier air of Warsaw could have preserved him to fight again in 1756. And it's not like Polonophiles are over-endowed with a sense of realism anyway. Maurycy I is a royal leader, and is available from the start.

    Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.

    The resettlement of Polish refugees after the second world war

    When it became clear in 1945, at the end of the second world war, that the Polish forces and refugees abroad would not be able to return to their homeland, the British government took on responsibility for them. The first step was the founding of the Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC) in May 1946. Almost a quarter of a million Polish servicemen supporting the Western Allies found that they could not return home. Soldiers and airmen serving overseas were to be helped through the Corps to stay in the United Kingdom (UK) and settle into civilian life there. Service in the Corps was intended to be an opportunity for retraining and education it was agreed with the British trade unions that prospective Polish employees could only be recruited from the PRC and would be placed in ‘approved’ Ministry of Labour jobs.

    The 1947 Polish Resettlement Act aimed to resettle political refugees in the UK, at a time when it was on the verge of an era of considerable population increase based largely on immigration. The Act provided Polish refugees in the UK with entitlement to employment and to unemployment benefit. The Act also laid out the responsibilities of several government departments to provide health services, pension entitlement and education for the Poles.

    The Act was welcomed in parliament and considered to be an act of great statesmanship – an act that changed people’s attitudes to the foreigners then arriving. The Act enabled Poles to integrate in the UK and thus contribute to providing the labour force needed by the British economy in recovering from the war. By the end of 1949, 150,000 Polish soldiers and their dependents had settled in the UK and their descendants continue to make up a large part of the UK’s Polish community as it exists today. In due course, the Poles emerged as dedicated contributors to the reconstruction of the UK economy, and Polish refugees became one of the most prosperous immigrant groups in the UK.

    This was the first time in the history of migration to the UK that this kind of legislation was brought out, directed uniquely at a refugee group. The Act demonstrated that by providing adequate resources and responding positively to the needs of refugees, the integration process into the host society can be significantly eased.

    A good deal of the work linked to this Act involved the creation of the Polish Resettlement Camps. Former army and air force camps were utilised as temporary accommodation for the Polish troops and their families. By October 1946, some 120,000 Polish troops has been quartered in 265 camps throughout the UK. Over the years, wives and dependants were also brought to Britain to join them, bringing the estimated total to over 249,000. The camps were generally in remote locations with Nissen huts or poor-quality dwellings each occupied by more than one family. The huts were equipped with electric lights and heated by slow combustion stoves but had poor natural ventilation and light. However, for the first generation of Poles they became a symbol of stability, and for the second generation the camps would remain in their memory as happy places, full of freedom.

    Alongside the basic needs of the new arrivals in terms of accommodation, health, welfare and employment, there was a considerable demand for education. In 1947, the Committee for the Education of Poles was set up, with all expenses to be defrayed out of funds provided by parliament. The Committee’s principal aim was to “fit [the Poles] for absorption into British schools and British careers whilst still maintaining provision for their natural desire for the maintenance of Polish culture and the knowledge of Polish History and Literature.” [1] This involved imparting to them an adequate knowledge of English and of the British way of life through education in appropriate British institutions in order to prepare them for resettlement either in the UK or overseas.

    The annual expenditure of the Committee was estimated at about £1,000,000 during the first year of its existence, rising for 1948-49 to £1,500,000. During the seven and a half years of its existence the Committee’s expenditure totalled nine million pounds.

    Not surprisingly, for the first generation of newcomers the experience of settling down proved to be tougher and lengthier than expected. However, for younger Poles the route of adaptation, integration and even gradual assimilation was more of a natural process, and education provisions helped here enormously. Learning the English language became the basic step to be taken in pursuit of this ambitious plan.

    From March 1948, the Home Secretary announced that applications for British citizenship would be accepted from Polish ex-servicemen and Poles were granted the right to become naturalised British citizens. In the end, the Poles emerged as dedicated contributors to the rebuilt British economy. Those who obtained secondary or higher education found profitable and sometimes prestigious posts in the British labour market and made successful professional careers. Their different culture and tradition, along with the shared traumatic wartime experience, slowly came to be seen as assets contributing to community life. The Committee’s aim of adapting Polish exiles to a new life was slowly being achieved. As one local newspaper article of the time said, “Their assets and pastimes may differ, but that very difference is an asset to the joint community of the town.” [2]

    Agata Blaszczyk [email protected]
    Lecturer in history, The Polish University Abroad in London

    [1] Memorandum from the Minister of Education and the Secretary of the State for Scotland, ED128/146, pp1-2. Report on the Curriculum and Staffing of the Committee’s Polish Schools, 13 July 1948, ED128/5, p3.

    Seven Years' War

    The Seven Years' War (1756–63) was the first global war, fought in Europe, India, and America, and at sea. In North America, imperial rivals Britain and France struggled for supremacy. In the United States, the conflict is known as the French and Indian War. Early in the war, the French (aided by Canadian militia and Indigenous allies) defeated several British attacks and captured a number of British forts. In 1758, the tide turned when the British captured Louisbourg, followed by Quebec City in 1759 and Montreal in 1760. With the Treaty of Paris of 1763, France formally ceded Canada to the British. The Seven Years’ War therefore laid the bicultural foundations of modern Canada.

    This is the full-length entry about the Seven Years’ War. For a plain-language summary, please seeSeven Years’ War (Plain-Language Summary).

    Benjamin West's canvas is among the most famous historical paintings of all time, but as a historical record it is among the worst. Although it contains numerous inaccuracies, its depiction of heroic death on a foreign battlefield remains a powerful image (courtesy NGC/8007). A copy of the declaration of war that in 1744 finally shattered the period of peace that followed the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 (courtesy Environment Canada/Parks). A View of the Taking of Quebec, 13 September 1759, published by Laurie and Whittle, 1759. The engraving shows the three stages of the battle: the British disembarking, scaling the cliff and the battle (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-1078). Richard Short's drawings show the devastation caused by the British bombardment of Québec during the siege of 1759 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-357). Montcalm, like British Commander James Wolfe, was killed at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-27665).

    Causes of the Seven Years’ War

    The Seven Years' War pitted the alliance of Britain, Prussia and Hanover against the alliance of France, Austria, Sweden, Saxony, Russia, and eventually Spain. The war was driven by the commercial and imperial rivalry between Britain and France, and by the antagonism between Prussia (allied to Britain) and Austria (allied to France). In Europe, Britain sent troops to help its ally, Prussia, which was surrounded by its enemies. However, the main British war aim was to destroy France as a commercial rival, and they therefore focused on attacking the French navy and colonies overseas. France was committed to fighting in Europe to defend its ally, Austria. It therefore had few resources to spare for its colonies.

    Hostilities in North America, 1754–55

    Hostilities began in 1754 in the Ohio Valley, which both the French and British had claimed. In 1753, the French built fortifications in the area to strengthen their claim. In response, the governor of Virginia (then a British colony) sent militia colonel George Washington to the Ohio frontier. Washington ambushed a small French detachment but was then defeated by a larger French force.

    Even though war had not yet been officially declared, the British began planning an assault against the French in America. Major-General Edward Braddock and two regular regiments were sent to America in 1755. Other regiments would be raised in the colonies, and a four-pronged attack would be launched against Niagara, Fort Beauséjour on the border of Nova Scotia, Fort Duquesne on the Ohio River, and Fort Saint-Frédéric [Crown Point] on Lake Champlain (in what is now New York state).

    On learning of these movements, the French ordered six battalions under Baron Armand Dieskau to reinforce Louisbourg and Canada. Vice-Admiral Edward Boscawen and a squadron of the British navy tried to intercept and capture the French convoy but captured only two ships. The British had even less success on land. The army advancing on Lake Champlain fought the French near Lake George, capturing Dieskau, but decided to abandon the campaign against Fort Saint-Frédéric. Instead, they strengthened their position at the opposite side of the lake, where they built Fort William Henry. The proposed assault on Niagara collapsed due to supply problems and heavy desertion, and Braddock's army was destroyed by a small detachment of French soldiers and Indigenous warriors. However, the British had some success in Acadia, capturing Fort Beauséjour with its small garrison in 1755. The Acadian settlers were then deported, as the British viewed them as potential rebels (see History of Acadia).

    Early French Victories

    In April 1756, more French troops and a new commander, the marquis de Montcalm, arrived in Canada. The next month Britain declared war. The strategy of the French commander-in-chief and governor general, the marquis de Vaudreuil, was to keep the British on the defensive and as far from Canadian settlements as possible. Montcalm captured the British Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario in 1756 and thereby gained control of the Great Lakes. In August 1757, the French also captured Fort William Henry on Lake George.

    At the same time, Canadian and Indigenous war parties attacked American frontier settlements. The Americans could not cope with these attacks and Britain was forced to send over 20,000 troops to the colonies and commit most of its navy to blockading the French ports. The French plan was to use a small army, aided by the Canadians and Indigenous allies, to tie down these large British forces in the interior, thereby sparing more valuable colonies such as Guadeloupe from attack. Despite the large numbers of British regulars arriving in North America, the French government refused to send more than token troop reinforcements.

    The Tide Turns: British Victories

    In 1758, the tide of war turned against the French, with the British launching several major attacks on French posts. In July, Major-General James Abercromby, with an army of over 15,000 British and American troops, attacked Fort Carillon (Ticonderoga). They were defeated by Montcalm and a force of only 3,800 men. However, the British also launched a successful amphibious attack on Louisbourg that summer, which opened up the St. Lawrence River to British ships. In August 1758, the British destroyed Fort Frontenac [Kingston, Ontario] with its stock of supplies for the western posts. France's Indigenous allies in the Ohio region made a separate peace with the British, forcing the French to abandon Fort Duquesne.

    In 1759, the British captured Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, and mounted three campaigns against French fortifications on the mainland. Two British armies advanced on Canada while a third captured Niagara. The Royal Navy brought Major-General James Wolfe with 9,000 men to Quebec, while General Jeffery Amherst advanced up Lake Champlain, only to halt at Crown Point. Wolfe tried to lure the French into open battle throughout the summer, attacking outposts and settlements while laying siege to the city. On 13 September 1759, a British force of 4,500 men landed about 3 km upriver of Quebec. Instead of waiting for reinforcements, Montcalm decided to attack. The British inflicted a shattering defeat in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Both Wolfe and Montcalm died from wounds sustained during the battle. The city surrendered a few days later.

    Yet the British position at Quebec was weak the Royal Navy withdrew from the area before the winter, leaving the British garrison there isolated. The chevalier de Lévis took over command of the French army. The following April, he soundly defeated the British on the same battlefield (see Battle of Ste-Foy). The British retreated to Quebec, and Lévis set siege to the city. On 16 May, he had to abandon the siege when British frigates arrived in the St. Lawrence River, ending all hope of French reinforcements. The French army retired to Montreal and was forced to surrender to Amherst on 8 September 1760 (see Conquest). This freed the British forces for service elsewhere.

    (Antoine Benoist, according to Richard Short/MNBAQ/1953.110)

    British Naval Dominance

    The dominance of the British navy was a deciding factor in the outcome of the war. The navy played a crucial role in the attacks on Louisbourg and the city of Quebec, and successfully stopped French ships from reaching the colonies. It also defeated the French plan to invade Britain. France and Spain had organized a major expedition for the invasion of England, but the British naval victories at Lagos, Portugal, in August and Quiberon Bay, France, in November 1759 made this impossible.

    Final Stage

    Despite military and naval victories, the British were staggering under a colossal national debt by 1760. The war minister, William Pitt, urged the government to declare war on Spain, which made a defensive alliance with France in August 1761. But the new king, George III, wanted peace. By the end of the year, Pitt had been driven out of office.

    The war would not end, however, until 1763. Britain declared war on Spain in January 1762 and continued its operations overseas. In February and March 1762, the British took Martinique, St. Lucia, Grenada and St. Vincent. They captured Havana from the Spanish in August, followed by Manila in October 1762.

    The Treaty of Paris 1763

    Meanwhile, the governments of Britain, France and Spain were negotiating peace terms. The first minister of the French government, the duc de Choiseul, was determined to regain the valuable sugar colonies of Martinique and Guadeloupe, and to keep a base for the Grand Banks fisheries. He also wanted Cape Breton, but had to settle for the tiny islands of St-Pierre and Miquelon as a fishing station.

    Britain agreed to return Martinique and Guadeloupe to France but secured the West Indian islands of Dominica, Tobago, St. Vincent and Grenada. Spain surrendered Florida to the British, but received part of France’s vast Louisiana territory. (See Treaty of Paris 1763.)

    France also left New France to Britain, as it was less valuable commercially than either the sugar islands of the West Indies or the fishing islands of the north Atlantic. The size and location of New France also made it an expensive colony to defend and maintain.

    In addition, Choiseul was convinced that the American colonies, which no longer needed British military protection, would soon strike out for independence. Twelve years later, the American colonies rose in revolt against Britain. Ironically, it was only with the military aid of the French that they finally gained their independence. (See American Revolution.)

    The Treaty of Paris was signed by Britain, France and Spain on 10 February 1763. The Treaty of Hubertusburg was signed on 15 February 1763 by Prussia, Austria and Saxony and ended the war in central Europe.


    The Seven Years' War was a crucial turning point in Canadian history. With the Treaty of Paris of 1763, France formally ceded New France to the British, and largely withdrew from the continent. The Seven Years’ War therefore laid the bicultural foundations of modern Canada. However, the removal of France as a North American power gave Anglo-American colonists greater confidence, as they no longer needed the protection of the British military. This led indirectly to the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, which would further influence Canadian identity and boundaries, including the influx of Loyalists and the creation of Upper Canada and New Brunswick.

    The war also changed the relationship between Britain and Indigenous peoples living in what would become Canada. In the spring of 1763, an Indigenous confederacy under Odawa chief Obwandiyag (Pontiac) seized British military posts in the Great Lakes area. Many First Nations had allied with France during the war and protested American settlement and British policies under Jeffery Amherst. The British government wanted to secure their allegiance and loyalty and stabilize the western frontier. It therefore issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which created a vast Indigenous reserve west of the Appalachian Mountains. In addition, it stated explicitly that Indigenous people reserved all lands not ceded by or purchased from them. The Proclamation also included policies meant to assimilate the French population to British rule these were later replaced by the Quebec Act, 1774.

    Watch the video: Dokument Okupanty z donucení (July 2022).


  1. Alpin

    Remove everything that does not concern the subject.

  2. Kak

    The authoritative message :), cognitively...

  3. Branton

    This is a curious topic

Write a message