The focus of this book is on the infantry contribution to the short conflict between Germany and Poland in 1939. This is a more valid approach for the Polish side, with limited air and armoured support than for the Germans, where the infantry were part of an integrated military machine, but fortunately we do get a wider picture of the German offensive,
We start with a useful examination of the two militaries, including their development since the First World War, how they were equipped and trained, and the structure of the military experience on both sides. This is followed by a look at three sample battles
There are some errors. At one point is it stated that Marshal Pilsudski didn’t have a military background, and this was ‘reflected in the condition of Poland’s armed forces’. I wouldn’t agree with the main premise here, that only countries whose leaders have a military background produce strong armies, but would also point out that Pilsudski had a great deal of paramilitary and military experience, including raising and leading the Polish Legions of the Austrian army during the First World War. Later it is said that the ‘Wehrmacht subsequently assimilated the Reichswehr’, when actually all that happened was a change of name. The area around Grudziadz is described as ‘historic German territory’, despite being part of the Kingdom of Poland from 1440 until the First Partition of 1772
We get an interesting example of the brutal hypocrisy of the German war machine during the battle for the Polish corridor, where their attack was aided by officially approved local civilian militias, the Volksdeutcher Selbstschutz, who carried out the exact sort of actions that the Germans would later used as a justification for many appalling war crimes.
The accounts of the individual battles are excellent. We begin with a detailed examination of the Polish defensive preparations in the weeks before the war, focusing on the troops given the rather hopeless task of defending the Polish Corridor. The story is told in equal detail from both sides, so we get a good idea of what the Poles were tried to achieve in each clash, as well as the more familiar German picture. The battles are all from the first few days of the war, when the Poles were still able to put up a decent fight, and the third is actually an example of a successful Polish counterattack. We get a rather different view of the German army here than is often the case, with it suffering from a series of shortcomings that might actually have given the British and French a decent chance if they had managed to attack in support of the Poles. As the aftermath chapter makes clear, that chance was soon lost, as the Germans made a determined effort to learn from their mistakes, training hard over the winter of 1939-40 before putting those lessons into practice in 1940.
Cutting the ‘Polish Corridor’
Lomza and Nowogrod
The Bzura Pocket
Author: David R. Higgins