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10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade (Poland)

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Active  1937-1939
Branch  Land forces
Nickname(s)  "The Black Brigade"
Country  Poland
Type  Armoured
10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade (Poland)
Size  ~40 tanks and tankettes

The 10th Cavalry Brigade (Polish: 10. Brygada Kawalerii) was a Polish military unit in World War II. It was the only fully operational Polish motorized infantry unit during the Invasion of Poland, as Warsaw Armoured Motorized Brigade was not completed by September 1, 1939. Commanded by Colonel, later General Stanisław Maczek, it is considered one of few Polish World War II military units (brigade size or larger) not to have been decisively defeated in 1939 . Another was General Franciszek Kleeberg's Independent Operational Group Polesie ( a corps or field army).


Organized in 1937

The unit was organized in February 1937, partly as an experiment. It was to be a hybrid between a standard motorized infantry brigade and the French concept of Division legere. As Polish cavalry generals still had some doubts about the value of mechanized forces, there was some opposition against reforming standard cavalry units into motorized units. Testing of the new unit was held in a specially created training ground near Kielce, as well as in the Armoured Units Training School. The brigade was conceived as an emergency unit in the Commander-in-Chief’s reserve. Its task was to screen the areas of concentration of Polish troops, to close gaps made by enemy forces in Polish lines and to fight enemy mechanized units.

Action of 1939

The brigade's first exercise in offensive action in 1939 was considered a failure. It proved to be insufficiently equipped in anti-tank ordnance to counter enemy armoured units successfully . It was also considered insufficiently versatile, especially when compared with a standard cavalry unit, which had much better off-road capabilities and speed. Because of that, several structural changes were introduced which were later copied during the formation of the Warsaw Armoured Cavalry Brigade. The commanding officer of the unit was Colonel Stanisław Maczek and the chief of his staff was Major Franciszek Skibiński. It is to be noted that, despite being fully motorized, the brigade was still officially named "the 10th Cavalry Brigade". However, most printed sources refer to it as "Motorized" in order to distinguish the unit from its predecessors.

Role during invasion of Poland

During the Invasion of Poland in September 1939, the brigade was attached to the Kraków Army defending Lesser Poland and Silesia. Equipped with only light tanks and tankettes and without one artillery battery, which left the unit with only 8 heavier cannons, it went into battle during the first day of the German invasion. After the Battle of Jordanów Maczek's unit faced the entire German XVIII Corps of General Eugen Beyer and successfully shielded the southern flank of the Polish forces along the Beskides. Supported by several battalions of Border Guards and National Defence forces, the Polish motorized unit fought against two Panzer divisions (4th Light Division under von Hubicki and the 2nd Panzer Division under Veiel), as well as the 3rd Mountain Division under Eduard Dietl.

For five days Maczek’s brigade effectively slowed the German advance. Despite numerical and technical superiority, the German units' daily gain was no more than 10 kilometres. Polish soldiers took advantage of difficult, mountainous terrain, stopping German attacks and occasionally counter-attacking. However, after the front of the Kraków Army was broken to the north of brigade's position, it was pulled out from the front line. The brigade then fought as a screening unit, defending the bridges and fords in Lesser Poland, until it arrived in Lwów and joined the city’s defenders. The unit was to be formed into a mobile reserve during the battle for Lwów to facilitate the withdrawal of other Polish units towards the Romanian Bridgehead. However, the plan was made obsolete by the invasion of Poland by the Soviet Union on September 17. After two days, Edward Rydz-Śmigły, Marshal of Poland ordered the brigade to cross the Hungarian border.

Colonel Maczek’s brigade was interned in Hungary. The unit lost about half of its men, but was never defeated in open combat, gaining even the enemy's respect. The Germans called the 10th Cavalry Brigade "Die Schwarze Brigade" – "The Black Brigade", because of the black jackets worn by the Polish mechanized troops. In his book Invincible Black Brigade: Polish 10th Cavalry Brigade 1939, the author Jerzy Majka states that the black leather jackets were worn only by officers and NCOs. They were also worn by motorcycle troops and armour crewman - certainly enough black leather to acquire the nickname "The Black Brigade".

Fighting in France

The unit's history did not, however, end in 1939. With the tacit support of Hungarians, most of its soldiers managed to reach France to join the Polish Army led by General Sikorski. They fought in France in 1940 as the renamed 10th Armoured Cavalry Brigade. During the Fall of France in June 1940 the veterans of "The Black Brigade" were evacuated to Great Britain where they became the core of the Polish 1st Armoured Division formed in February 1942.


10th Motorized Cavalry Brigade (Poland) Wikipedia

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