Excerpts from the 10th Mounted Rifle Regiment Memoirs
I was not given the chance to fight for Poland in Poland and the fate of war drove me to France as early as October 1939. After reporting to General Sikorski's HQ in Paris, I was assigned to Coetquidan in Brittany, and as an infantry captain, I reported for instructions to a Col. freshly arrived from Hungary. When the colonel found out that I, as a lieutenant in an infantry regiment, had already been commander of a company of the non-commissioned officer school, he appointed me so to the school battalion in Coetquidan. This cold and very snowy winter in very primitive conditions, we did our best to familiarize this raw element with the basic skills needed by a soldier in combat. The training went on and several groups of young people from the Polish emigration element were trained; many later advanced by one or two levels.
It was spring 1940. We heard different rumors about the organization of two infantry divisions and a motorized cavalry brigade. How the latter was reluctant to the opinion of the French that we do not need such a unit is well known to us. It was only when the Germans broke through the Belgian forests and mountains not covered by the fortifications of the Maginot line that the French sobered up. As part of the panic reaction, the 10th Armored Cavalry Brigade is created in the area to the west from Paris, several infantry units in south-eastern France and an assault battalion from a selected soldier in Coetquidan, in which I took command of the 1st company. Gen. Maczek's brigade still lacked stock, although it had already started retrieving motor gear. To replenish the cavalry regiments, an assault battalion is deployed and I and my company are assigned to 10 P.S.K. and the company of Lieutenant Niepokoyczycki to 24th P. Ułanów, who was in a similar organizational phase.
I reported my assignment to Major Slatyñski in the presence of several senior officers, including Major Ejsymont and Wasilewski. They looked me over from head to toe, the major listened to the numerical status report, met the platoon commanders, the troops left for their quarters and me and two captains were invited to a nearby café for an "exam". The verbal exam was easy, could I ride a horse and can I drive a car.
The answer is that I did ride a horse, and I did it more than once, because I was a pentathlon player up to the level of the Army championship in 1937, and horseback riding is one of the pentathlon competitions. By car, yes I even have my own car and previously I had a motorcycle. I passed the oral exam. There was a "practical" exam, whether I can drink a fairly large glass of cognac without choking. I did not choke. Neither after the first nor after the second. They called me a captain, the company a squadron, and my boss Dorosz was a wachmistrzem and so it remained.
The French front collapsed at the end of May and the French command demanded the immediate throwing of the 10 B. Kaw. to save the front. The brigade was not ready, so General Maczek formed a battle line-up consisting of a dragoon squadron, a tank battalion, and a sapper company; staff still from Poland. With that he moved to the front; the rest of the brigade was to join after taking the weapons and motor equipment. The fate of this combat throw is well known. Capt. Ejsymont with his squadron left the regiment for him. Col. Dworak became the second-in-command. During the final phase of retrieving weapons, motor equipment, school shooting, and dismounting the column on the march, the French front collapsed completely. In June France capitulated, and the order came for the second echelon of the Brigade to march south. This march ended with them being loaded onto a ship at Le Verdon near Bordeaux.
There, as Wejm mentions it. Dorosz, when three German bombers flew in, the French crew of anti-aircraft cannons fled to the shelter. When Lieutenant Wielżyński tied the LMG to the ship's balustrade and sent several series to those, moreover, far too high-flying planes, the French protested, shouting to follow the fire so as not to "provoke" the enemy. Several inaccurate bombs fell into the water. And it became clear to us why such a well-equipped army with such perfect tanks lost miserably in two weeks. They had no will to fight.
The ship, the "Royal Scotsman", loaded to the brim, set off. Wchm. Dorosz recalls that I was sick and so was he. Yes, but it was the typical and very intense seasickness of the landlubber that I was. Many of us suffered similarly, and when there was nothing left in our stomachs, one solution was to lie on our backs and sleep. Hungry.
Landing at night in Liverpool, which had just had an air raid alert, for us very exciting initial impressions of this unknown land, taking trains to Scotland, shaking off the excitement, quartering in tents, and the rain pouring down. When the sun showed up the mood improved and we started to look around the world. The nearby mining town of Douglas provided a bathhouse for the army and once a week this luxury was regularly used. It didn't last long.
Initially, the British military authorities did not have a high opinion of us, because how can you highly assess the soldiers and their commanders who lost the war twice within 9 months. British generals came several times to look at us and apparently, they liked what they saw, because in a short time they gave us English uniforms, rifles, helmets and gas masks and first 24 P. Ul. was given the task of protecting the airport and after that our regiment stood in Johnstone to defend the airport in Renfrew.
Troops in tents, command in a ruined castle. At that time, the country reacted nervously to bombing raids and even a single plane triggered the howling of alarm sirens. The siren for the army, meant an alarm with dressing in full gear. There were a little too many of those sirens and nothing was happening and the military was starting to pretend to dress up and "brandish" the alarm. This did not escape the attention of Major Slatynski, who had the habit of walking among the tents, peeping inside, and ruggedly shouting in full voice. At the time it was called the "bomber".
The commanders of the squadrons were: l rtm. Wasilewski, 2 me, 3 rtm. Mackus, CKM rtm. Sikorski. Then rtm. Sikorski died, rtm. Mackus went away and as a Cichociemni landed in Poland and in his place came rtm. Dowbor Romuald. My second-in-command, still from France, was Herman "Bob" Cieslinski, who remembered the battle of Zboiska on September 15, 1939, the platoon commander Lt. Glogowski Jan, Ignaszak, Charłuziński Aleksander and Rajcheld Dyonizy. As time went by and new non-departmental demands arose, Glogowski went to intelligence with an assignment to the Middle East, Ignaszak became a Cichociemni, landing in Poland, Charluzinski went to naval intelligence and Rajcheld went to II Corps and became a captain in Italy. Major Slatynski left and the regiment was taken over by Colonel Dipl. Olechnowicz, who later left as a lecturer to W. S. Woj. and then to the II Corps. I was still in the regiment when it was quartered at Forfar, with squadrons scattered in several villages in the hinterland as part of the coastal defences. I did a few weeks' service with the squadron on the coast in bunkers south of Arbroath, where a section was defended by a brother regiment of the 24th Lancers.
As part of "watching" us, we had a royal visit and a regiment's parade in Forfar. I remember a moment of pleasant smile on the face of the king and queen. Then, in the parade, the squadron chief followed the last four alone. Our boss was of average height, but he was more than a middle-sized belly. He was marching briskly, perhaps a little too much for a special occasion, and that was what made that sympathetic regal smile.
At the end of 1942, my deputy became Captain Michał Gutowski and when the tanks came to us, I was delegated to Oxford and to W. S. Woj. In Scotland, then to the staff of the Brigade and the Division, and Michał was taken over by the 2nd squadron. I was proud to wear pennants of the Polish Army as a staff officer of the Division and as the chief of staff of 10 B.K. Pancerna until March 1947, when I became the commander of the 24th Pułk Ułanów. I am proud to emphasize the fact that testifies highly to the Regiment, that the squadron commanders Wasilewski, Dowbór, Gutowski and I became regiment commanders over time.
© Copyright by: 10th Polish Mounted Rifles
Regimental Association, London 1995