Friday, 26 February 2016

Flames of War: Sculpting the Polish Vickers E Tank

There will come a time in every Flames of War Polish players life when he looks at the Black Brigade and go 'Oooooooh I MUST have!!!!' However there is one thing that will stand in their way. One giant turd in the sandwich that will stop any collection of 10th Motorised Brigade force being made possible... and that ladies and gentlemen is a complete, utter and abject lack of decent sculpts for the Vickers E tank that is out there.

There are of course a couple of manufacturers out there that do these tanks but they are SO unbelievably bad that one can only assume that the sculptor forget to use scale plans of the tank on the day he/she sculpted it OR of course the other possible reason being that they were testing their sculpting abilities wearing a blindfold.

My solution was to throw my dolly out of my pram and sculpt my own. Ive been following other peoples blogs and talking to friends about doing home casting and I decided to attempt a sculpt of one before I went ahead and purchased a Vacuum Cylinder. I'm satisfied enough with my results that I decided it was worth the attempt so I now have a brand spanking new Vacuum Cylinder sitting under my desk at the moment.

A column of Vickers E type B's on the move
The Vickers E or Vickers 6-Ton tank was a British design that was designed privately by Vickers. It wasn't sold to the British army but was instead exported to numerous operators around the world, including the Soviet Union who improved the tank until arriving at the T-26 and Poland who continued the development until arriving at the 7TP. The British arm evaluated the design and rejected it over queries concerning the reliability of the suspension.

Typical of its day the Vickers E only sported about 13mm of armour and carried a low velocity 47mm QF main gun (on the type  B only, the type A having two machine gun turrets side by side), although it was one of the first mass produced tank to have a co-axial machine gun. It had an operational range of 99miles (160km) with a maximum speed of 22mph (35km/h)

A spick and span image of a Polish Vickers E tank complete with company markings on the side of the air intakes

Experience with the Polish machines showed that the engine tended to overheat due to poor airflow over the air cooled Puma engine. This was addressed by the addition of large air vents on either side of the hull. Poland purchased 50 and licensed it for local production but only put together 38 out of the 50, using the unassembled 12 for spare parts. The Poles modified it with larger air intakes, their own designed machine gun, 360 degree Gundlach periscope and 5 or more of the tanks being kitted out with two way radios.

Out of 38 original tanks that were supplied with two turrets 22 were eventually modified to have a single modified turret. The tanks were in bad shape by 1939 having had 5 years of intensive use as Poland trained up its newly developed armoured arm. However the tanks did perform well in the September campaign as a part of the 10th Motorised Brigade (the Black Brigade) and the Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade.

A light tank company would be kitted out with 16 tanks. 10-11 single turret type B's and 5-6 type A's with double turrets, each platoon having three single turret tanks and two double turret tanks. The 10BK had the 121st Light Tank Company attached whilst the WPMD had 12th Light tank company.

A destroyed Vickers E of the 10th BK being given the once over by German troops
It was fighting with the 10BK that the Vickers E really made a name for itself. The tanks were used to  support the motorised cavalry in delaying the actions of two German armoured divisions who were trying to advance through the Beskidy mountains. Due to the scarcity of armoured forces the 121st Light Tank Company was held as a central reserve with the Brigades tankettes and used for local counterattacks when German breakthroughs were threatened.

Through a series of delaying actions, three of the Brigades tanks were separated and joined local actions around Nowy Sacz with the 21st Mountain Division. The brigade eventually lost the rest of its tanks through a series of attritional actions, eventually running out of petrol to supply the vehicles.

Colonel Stanislaw Maczek, commanding officer of the 10BK described losing all his tanks due to a lack of fuel in his memoirs "... In my thoughts Im sending warm thanks to this brave company: for saving the day at Naprawa, for outstanding participation in the assault at Kasina, for doubling and tripling its presence on the Brigades eastern flank, for they were supporting the units morale just with their presence; for they did not shirk from the hardest tasks saying that they are only old training junk!"

The final actions of the company were six tanks who had been supplied with a home made petrol mix of kerosene and mentholated spirits, fighting with the 6th Infantry Division as they attempted to withdraw over the River Tanew. During these final battles the company commander, Captain Raczkowski was injured and commanded the company from a stretcher, laying across a staff car.

A view from the front of the Vickers E showing how far it has been restored

One of the three lost Vickers E tanks that was fighting alongside the Polish 21st Mountain Brigade was found submerged in a  river around the town of Nowy Sacz in the '90's by a farmer. It was rusted and decayed right down to the frame but the tank was painstakingly excavated and restored.

A close look at the Vickers E leaf suspension on the bogey cradles
Whilst not rebuilding the tank entirely the extant parts of it have all been restored with about half of the tank being left without armour plating so that tourists can see inside of the vehicle.

It now rests in the Krakow Military Museum in the September Campaign section.

The suspension and gear arrangements with the huge Polish air intakes on the back of the  tanks engine deck

For those who have a real passion for the 10BK history, this is actually one of Maczeks tanks, one of the Black Brigades vehicles, one of the vehicles that fought and shed blood for Polands independence and helped the Black Brigade become the only Polish formation on the field that was never defeated!

I have had my hands on this tank. It was like touching history!  

A close look at the 47mm QF artillery piece and .303 coaxial HMG
So, having decided that the Vickers E models that are out there are totally unsuitable for use in a 10BK force, and by totally unsuitable I mean that they are probably the worst representation of the vehicle that they are supposed to represent that I have ever seen, I decided to take the plunge and do a sculpt of my own.

I used a Battlefront T26 as my base model. carved up the superstructure to give flat sides on all but the engine deck and attacked the rebuild from there.

A view of the side of the completed sculpt of the Vickers E

The turret was the most difficult thing to do with this tank taking me three attempts to get to a place I was happy with. I used a toothpaste tube cap to provide the angled sides of the turret and a mixture of 1mm Brass tubing and guitar string to provide the weaponry.

A view of the completed sculpt from the front
The grills that cover the engine air intakes was a bit of a compromise for me. I decided that there was no point in trying to sculpt a grill with as many divisions as the actual tanks have and instead opted to just go for the effect. I trialled a few different options eventually deciding that green stuff indented was the most practical way forwards.

A view of the completed sculpt from the side rear
The last major consideration was whether or not to do the sculpt complete with rivets. I had finished the sculpt and was relatively satisfied with the result. In that it was certainly better than any options I could buy... but then I kept looking at Mike from Miniature Ordnance Review's sculpts for his Vickers E's and decided I really couldn't be satisfied with a rivet-less tank.

I purchased a 0.3mm rivet punch and spent two nights just punching out rivets.

These things are SOOOOOOOOO tiny that when you punch them you generally have no idea where they are because they just look like dust... until they are put onto the tank and stand loud and proud!

They are so small I had to put them on with two needles. One of the glue on the vehicle and one dipped in water so it could pick the rivets up and move them onto the vehicle. 

A view of the completed sculpt from the rear

 So there you have it! A completed Vickers E type B ready to attempt casting with.

Once Ive mastered how to use sculpting materials I will also have a solid Black Brigade and Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade force to play with in Flames of War... but first Im going to go and finish some French Indochina war Commando's :D

Monday, 22 February 2016

Flames of War: Polish Pioneer Platoon

Throughout the 1930's Poland kept an active interest in the development of arms and munitions by its aggressive neighbours Germany and the Soviet Union.

One area that was observed with some concern was the area of flame throwers.

On April 1st 1938 the Deputy Minister of Military Affairs approved the development of Sapper/ Pioneer battalions that were trained in the use of Flame Throwers and two viable options were developed. Both man portable, one with a single tank and one with a double tank.

The organisational structure for this asset was complete by May 1st 1938 and within a couple of months Poland had 348 flame throwers to be worked with. Of these 60 were allocated to the Silesian fortress zone, and after deductions for central reserves for emergency use in wartime there were 264 remaining flame throwers for inclusion into the Army Groups Pioneer battalions.

Evidence of the actual use of the flame throwers by Poland in the September campaign seems to be somewhat sketchy at best.

There is a rumour of one being used on the battles for the Hel peninsular, although I personally write this one off as the only photographic evidence of this I don't believe is even a Polish soldier. There are also reports of Pioneer actions at the defence of Ilsa and also by the Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade.

It is this last one that I believe to be most credible. When the WPMD was assembled it was done so in Warsaw close to the central armaments depots in the Modlin Fortress  where the reserves of Flamethrowers were held, and in its final battles where the WPMD was annihilated at Tomaszow Lubelski I don't believe that Major Rowecki (commander of WPMD) would have allowed an asset that powerful to lay unused.

A full Polish Piechoty Pioneer Platoon of two sections, command element and Pioneer Wagon
The modelling of the Polish Pioneers also proved a challenge as there are, as Im sure will come as no surprise to Polish 15mm lovers out there, no suppliers of Polish troops armed with Flame Throwers.

As with my Engineers I once again retreated to the Peter Pig US Infantry packs festooned with flamethrowers (and for good measure I also included the figures with satchel charges again as well)

Whilst the Engineers only needed a little bit of helmet clipping, the Flamethrower armed Pioneers would need a little bit more work. The Peter Pig US army figs all have three tank flamethrowers so slicing off the third tank from the flame thrower became necessary. The contours of the remaining two tanks then needed to be smoothed out.

The one area that I would have to leave unfixed, due to the difficulties of working with metal hands at this scale was the fact that US flame throwers had two pistol grips whereas the Polish flamethrowers were held like broom handles. Still, I believe the figures, after adjustment are passable... and of course it gives me another asset to sweep the Reds and Blacks from the Faherland!

A Pioneer Wagon
To give your Pioneers value for money in wartime Poland you should look no further than your average horse drawn cart!

A Pioneer stand showing the figures used to portray the different types of troops

So there we have it. The final blog post for my Polish Piechoty! I have plenty more Polish to work on. I have a complete Cavalry company, all of the Polish blockhouses from the Silesian and/or Modlin defensive areas and I have the start of my Polish Black Brigade and Warsaw Armoured Motorised Brigade, but these troop types require more space for storage, sculpting of actual vehicles which nobody else does to the standard required and perhaps most importantly.. I need a break from the Poles. Living with a Pole, watching Polish TV and painting Poles morning, noon and night can get a bit much.

I think Im going to dive into some French Indochina stuff for a while....

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Flames of War: Polish Airforce (Polskie Lotnictwo Wojskowe) PZL.23 'karas'

The PZL.23 Karas was a Polish light bomber and reconnaissance aircraft that was designed in the mid 1930's by PZL in Warsaw being the primary Polish reconnaissance bomber in service through September 1939.

A PZL P23 Karas under attack from a German Messerschmitt BF109
Developed in 1931 to replace stocks of the French made Breguet 19 and Potez 25, designer Stanislaw Prauss based the new recon bomber on a proposed passenger plane that never made it into production.

The PZL.23 design was a modern all metal body cantilever winged aircraft whose wings were designed around light enclosed profiles instead of spars. A crew of three included pilot, a bombardier and a rear gunner. A fixed undercarriage was well spatted but despite having a massive look it was not very well suited to rough airstrips. Bombs were carried under the wings with a maximum load of only 700Kg.

A PZL.23 on an extendable flying base

The first prototype flew in 1934. The third prototype flew in 1935 and had a raised pilots seat and engine lowered to improve line of sight lines. This prototype was accepted by the Polish military and moved into production under the name Karas (Carp)

By the outbreak of the war a total of 210 had been delivered to the Polish airforce and were distributed into squadrons attached to the army groups in the field.

By September 1939 the aircraft was considered obsolete, the main deficiency being slow speed and poor manoeuvrability. Despite a maximum speed of 365km/h it was forbidden to go above 315km/h due to dangerous flight characteristics and the maximum ceiling of the aircraft was also restricted for the same reasons. Not what one can call outstanding!

Five bomber squadrons of the Bomber Brigade and a further seven bomber squadrons of the Army Reconnaissance squadrons were the main bomber assets that Poland had in September '39 whilst the rest of the available aircraft were held in central reserves or under repair.

On 2nd September 1939 one PZL.23B of the 21st Squadron bombed a factory in Ohlau becoming the first bomber sortie on the Third Reichs home ground! The PZL.23's also attacked advancing German columns frequently with just the 5 squadrons of the Bomber Brigade dropping an estimated 60 tonnes of bombs through the campaign with the army reconnaissance squadrons adding another dozen or so.

Due to the planes low speed, light armour and (perhaps most importantly) lack of fighter protection the PZL.23's suffered very heavy casualties. Many were shot down by German fighter aircraft but they also shot several down in return. Despite the lack of armour crews often attacked German columns from very low level, making their aircraft vulnerable to AA fire. Some 20 aircraft were lost in crash landings on the improvised and rough airstrips. About 86% of available PZL.23's were destroyed in September '39 but only 67 due to enemy action.

A closer look at my PZL.23

Easier to find for a 15mm Flames of War army due t the photos that are out there on Google at the moment I purchased this from Dave at Armaments in Miniature and it has to be said, this is a seriously fine sculpt with loads of options... and a great decal pack!

I painted this aircraft exactly as I painted the PZL P11c as well. Basecoat, panel lining and top coat. Not much more to say than that, except that IF you have a Polish army then this is one of those kits thats definitely worth getting!

Not a great aircraft by any measure but it was prominent and it definitely played its part shedding blood for the motherland!

Flames of War: Polish Airforce (Polskie Lotnictwo Wojskowe) PZL P11c

The Polish Airforce of September 1939 was an outdated beast who was called to account 10 years past its prime. Unfortunately those 10 years had seen dramatic developments in the technology of aircraft, the majority of which had been either achieved by or applied in the Luftwaffe.
The backbone of the Polish fighter force were the PZL P7a and its later development, the PZL P11c, identifiable by its monoplane gull wings and fixed undercarriage.
The mainstay of the Polish bomber and reconnaissance force was the light bomber PZL P23 'karas'.

There were plenty of other aircraft but in much smaller numbers. Some of these aircraft such as the PZL P37 'los' medium bomber and PZL P50 'jastrzab' fighter were much more advanced contemporary designs but were in such small numbers they were incapable of having a quantifiable impact on the war.

A PZL P11c shooting down a German Heinkel He111

The PZL. P11c was designed in the early 1930's by PZL in Warsaw. For a very brief period this was the most advanced fighter design in the world being an all metal monoplane fighter at a time when even the Royal Air Force was still using the Hawker Fury biplane as its mainstay of the fighter force. 

PZL P11c on a extendable flying base 
The design attracted a lot of attraction world wide and was produced in numerous variants. The final variant was the P11c which had a refined fuselage, a lowered engine in the nose improving the pilots view with the central part of the gull wing (internationally known as a Pulawski wing, after its developer Zygmunt Pulawski) modified for strength and visibility as well.

PZL P11c squadron lined up ready for action
At the outbreak of the war the Poles had only 150 or so operational fighter planes in 10 escadrilles (squadrons). Two squadrons constituted a group and two groups (four squadrons) were collected together into an organisation called the Pursuit Brigade which was tasked with defending Warsaw against German bomber formations that were expected. The rest were distributed between the various army groups that Poland had in the field.

Contrary to the propaganda which stated that the Polish airforce had been destroyed on the ground, these squadrons had been distributed to wartime improvised airstrips and prepared for action.

The P11c would be up against the German bombers which flew faster than they did as well as the German fighter screens of the Messerschmitt BF109 and Me110 both of which were faster and better armed than the Polish planes. On top of all of this the Polish planes has seen considerable intensive use before the war and so were actually slower than their stated speeds.

However the Polish P11c was tough and durable, had better manoeuvrability profiles than their opponents, had a good rate of climb and could take off from very short airstrips and could dive so fast that pilots would be in danger of passing out from G forces long before the risk of wing structure collapse became an issue. Despite total supposed German superiority the Polish fighter planes managed to shoot down  at least 110 confirmed air victories although suffering heavily in the process losing 100 of their own machines. This number of 110 comes from German war records and as some of the downed aircraft were recovered and put back into immediate service may have been noticeably higher in fact.

A look at the details on the PZL P11c
The model that I finally managed to find after a VERY long time looking is a 1/100 PZL P11c from Lil' Flyin' Fokkers which can be found from Old Glory Miniatures UK, and it represents one of the P11c's that had four machine guns. I went through a variety of colour schemes but ended up with a Khaki Drab base colour with Chocolate Brown panel lines finally airbrushed lightly over the top with Vallejo Air Tank Green, which I feel has given me a colour which would accurately represent the colours of the Polish fighter force of the day.

So... this should keep those pesky Stukas at bay!

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Flames of War: Polish Motorcycle Reconnaissance Platoon

... of course one area that the Poles did actually have troops that were geared towards reconnaissance was the motorcycle mounted elements of the various regiments and brigades that they were a part of!

Yet another spangly troop type to kit out my army with... well I just had to have it!

A complete Polish motorcycle platoon

Polish motorcycle troops were equipped with the Sokol 1000 (otherwise known as CWS M111). It was the heaviest of the Polish pre war home manufactured models and was designed by the PZInz works for both civilian and military uses.

A Ckm wz.30 mounted on a Sokol 1000 sidecar with handle and sights adapted for Anti Aircraft Use

The original M55 attempt were designed specifically to replace the consumption of Harley Davidson motorcycles in the Polish market and production ran from 1933 right up to the outbreak of the war. The bike itself was based upon the Harley Davidson whilst the engine was almost a direct copy of the Indian, although less reliable.

PZInz stepped in and decided to do a revamp which it duly did, although the creation was extremely heavy for a bike of this class and restrictively expensive, with one costing almost as much as a family car. However, negatives aside, the reliability and durability in adverse conditions were second to none. 

Despite what this photo might look like, these aren't German Kradschutzen but the Polish semi elite 10th Motorised Brigade in their Reconnaissance Company

This durability proved to be a major advantage and the Sokol 1000 was much faster off road than many of the previously used American bikes, with one of the major innovations being a soft mounting for a sidecar facilitating much faster off road speeds and easier handling.

A Polish Motorcycle Section
These miniatures are mainly Battlefront, and whilst the miniatures for the men themselves are absolutely appalling (as per normal) the sidecars for the bikes are very accurate to the Polish design. Also, financially speaking, the packs in which you buy them are organised around a proper platoon structure so it makes sense to buy them.

Actually for use with my Renault FT-17 company as one of the command elements
There will come a point however when you decide you actually need more motorcycle mounted troops than you actually have access to but don't want to spend out on another complete company when all you need is one or two bases... in this case you want to head over to True North Miniatures.

Another command element for those Polish forces with a high percentage of motorcycle troops.

So the quality of the soldiers is far higher than Battlefront, anatomically speaking the proportions of the figures are a lot more convincing and the bikes are definitely nicer with a 'sans sidecar' option being available as well... the only downsides are that the sidecar is completely wrong. Im not even sure where they came up with the idea from as I cannot find ANY photos where the bike troops have a square nosed sidecar... and the pack structure that you buy these in means you get too many dispatch riders per pack and not enough sidecar packs... meaning the net cost over Battlefront is a LOT more expensive...otherwise I would have had these ones as my motorcycle choice in a heartbeat.

Oh yeah... and one other problem. These True North Miniatures are all Polish cavalry uniforms. The only problem being that in an entire Cavalry Brigade there would only be one motorcycle allocated to the Brigade... everybody else riding around on, well... horses! Which means of course that the motorcycle and sidecar are totally useless and you would only ever need one dispatch rider at best! They become a bit pointless really! Still, nice models though...

So, there we have it, I can now also field as much reconnaissance possibilities as its possible to have with a Polish army as well... Go Me! Poland Forever!

Flames of War: Polish Scouts

One of the areas that games of semi/modern warfare demand attention is that of scouting out the ground in front of you. Modern history abounds with tales of ambushes that swing a battle one way or another. Michael Wittmans armoured convoy ambush in '44 is a prime example of this. One tank... destroys an entire British convoy just outside Villers Bocage (I think it was here...)

Poland had very few, if any, dedicated reconnaissance elements in their forces but instead routinely sent out  platoons on reconnaissance missions to return with information of enemy movements.

This is a good thing for any Polish player in Flames of War because you only need to use standard Polish infantry figures... and so I have!

A Polish Scout Platoon of two sections and command element
As previously expounded by myself on numerous occasions, Battlefronts Polish infantry are an abomination of sculpting and as such I distance myself from them as much as possible, preferring to stick with the True North Polish miniatures which lend themselves to painting so much better AND are a far better anatomical representation of any humanoid less than Battlefronts pseudo Ogryns!

To differentiate between normal Piechoty stands and scout stands I reduced the numbers on stands from 5 figures to 4 and included a binocular touting Pole on each one with the section command stands having the 'odd one out'. Actually its an artillery crew man from QRF but who would notice? LOL

A single Polish scout section

So... there we have it! Nice, quick and simple... and a whole new element to spring Nazi and Communist ambushes!

Friday, 19 February 2016

Flames of War: Polish Infantry Gun Platoons

 If there was one area, as I believe I have said before, that the disparity in numbers between Poland and her aggressive neighbours wasn't so acute it was in the area of artillery.

Embedded within the regimental organisations of the Polish piechoty were artillery pieces that were tasked with staying with the infantry and providing close support.

Whilst the majority of Polish artillery batteries at the lighter end of the scale were equipped with the world famous French Soixante-quinze (the 75mm armata wz.1897) the infantry (and some of the cavalry batteries) were equipped with a different piece which did the same job.

Following the conclusion of the Polish War of Independence against the USSR in 1921 there were plenty of Russian manufactured 76.2mm armata wz.1902/26 Putilov field guns. There were in fact so many of them, around 460 in fact, that they were nicknamed 'Orthodox'.

In the fullness of time these pieces would all be re-chambered to take standard Polish 75mm munitions and handed out to the infantry where they were drawn by standard horse drawn limbers.

A full Infantry Gun platoon with Horse Limbers, Command Team and Spotter

A closer look at one of the Putilovs with its gun crew and horse limber.
As with any army that had a habit of cobbling things together in times of need there are of course some interesting organisational options with Polish Infantry Gun platoons.

If you cast your mind back to the Polish Naval Infantry that I put together, it is possible to come across evidence of the Polish Naval Rifle brigades at Gdansk being provided with Putilovs as their indigenous artillery support... and not only that but they were also provided with a mixture of agricultural tractors and some Citroen-Kegresse Artillery Tractors that had been taken to Poland for testing purposes.

This was great for me as it meant I had yet another 'funny little option' with which to kit out my Poles!

A full Gdansk Naval Rifles Infantry Gun Platoon with Putilovs, CK P19 Tractors, Command Team and Spotter.

A closer look at one of the guns and its tractor

A slightly different view of the Infantry Gun Platoon
The figures used for these platoons is a wide range of manufacturers offerings.

The Infantry Gun gun crews were Battlefront (hence them looking like Marshmallow men), the Naval Infantry Gun crews were Peter Pigs WW1 Russian Naval Artillery crews. All four of the Putliovs were also Peter Pig. The Horse Drawn Limbers were Quality Castings. These are far and away the best of the limbers out there for the quality of the casting that I have so far found... oh yeah, and a far more convincing design of limber itself. The Citroen-Kegresse P19 Artillery Tractors are QRF miniatures offerings and require a fair amount of work to bring up to spec.... they aren't so bad once the paint is on though. Finally the Naval Gun Platoon Command Team and Spotter are all Battlefront Soviet Black Death miniatures with one Peter Pig officer included.

So... there you have it! MORE GUNS!!!!

Flames of War: Polish State Police (Policja Panstwowa) Pt2

So... how were they organised and what heat did the Polish State Police pack?

Well, surprise surprise there are no manufacturers out there who make PSP miniatures let alone in 15mm so it was back to the drawing board to see what I could pull together.

Essentially they had very little armaments other than pistols and rifles. The occasional heavy machine gun dotted about here and there but in such small numbers that they could be discounted.

Having taken a close look at their uniforms, paying particular attention to the headwear, cut of the jack, belts and boots they had a fairly close approximation to Polish cavalry uniforms so long as you were prepared to do a head swap... which of course I was!

I opted to use Forged in Battles dismounted Polish cavalry on Czapkas (a type of cap) and purchased a load of Spanish Civil War Assault Guard heads from Peter Pig to do some head swaps.

I managed to track down some pretty accurate uniform guides and away we went!

 So the caps had to be round with pretty standard pomp and trim for the lower ranks. The Spanish Civil War Assault Guard caps was the closest approximation I could find which is why I opted for them.

At the scale of 15mm the fine details of the collar tabs becomes impractical but this guide gave me the general colouration that I needed to be trying to achieve.

 This panel was probably the best find of any of my research as, when combined with photographic documentation (as seen on the last post) we can see that the uniform is a simple one and one which is close to the cut of a cavalry uniform.

The only thing I had to do to the miniatures other than the actual head swaps was clip off the cavalry gas mask containers and file down the cut area to blend in the contours of the figures.

Because of the widely varying numbers of officers in different stations across Poland I opted to go for an average section size of 10 men and to have a full platoon of 3 sections and a headquarters element. Simple but effective!

The last thing that needed to be considered was the heavy support options that were known to be knocking around with the State Police. This was one of those happy wargaming finds that just adds to a hobby in my opinion.

When Poland regained its independence in 1919 there were a LOT of armoured cars in military service... and they were crap! In 1920 new shipments of Peugeot armoured cars was arriving, too late for battlefield use against the USSR but still modern enough to be actively used at the time of Pilsudski's Coup. By 1939 they were just beyond crap... but not so far beyond the pale that the State Police couldn't use them to beat up on German 5th Columnists, Ukrainian nationalists or Communists agitators.... the army passed all of its Peugeot armoured cars over to the State Police by 1935.

By happy coincidence I had seen that QRF miniatures had one of these bad boys  in its WW1 French range and decided that it was too good an opportunity to pass up on. Another funky little troop option I could shoehorn into my Polish army.

The main problem with the QRF miniature however is the weapon. The shield needs some serious realigning done to it and you pretty much have to make your own weapons. I had quite a few spare Soviet heavy machine guns from my Syrian AA unit thatI had cannibalised for my Polish AA platoon and so I used two of these HMGs for two of the cars and essentially built my own Puteaux 37mm for the last car. Simple but passable!

On this PIBWL site Michel Derela says how three of these cars was used in the State Polices actions against German 5th Columnists who had occupied one of the Silesian Mines on 1st September and assisted in successfully regaining control of it, although losing one car in the process.

...and there ladies and gents is a complete Polish State Police force of two platoons for a Flames of War Polish army!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Flames of War: Polish State Police (Policja Panstwowa) Pt1

The end of World War I allowed Poland, after a period of 123 years of foreign rule, to regain her independence. The born again country had to be essentially built from the ground up and was all the more problematic because the building of the Second Polish Republic meant re-appropriating territories that had been under the rule of three different political and economic systems. Even the mentality of the Poles was to some extent influenced by the partitioning powers. A wholly new political and economic unity needed to be forged!

Among the many institutions that had to be created in reborn Poland was the police forces. On July 24th 1919 the Diet called the State Police into being. Because of the colour of the uniforms that were eventually assigned to this new institution they became colloquially known as The Blue Police (policja granatowa).

Because of the fact that the blue police targeted domestic and foreign communists as dangerous enemies of the established order and vigorously persecuted them, they could expect no sympathy from the Communists when in turn they triumphed after World War II. In the official media and historigraphy of the Polish Peoples Republic, the former State Police were accused of collaboration with the Nazis between 1939-1945. The Germans actually used some 10,000 blue policemen to serve as auxiliaries in their General Government. It was, however never explained, that many amongst them actively participated in the Polish Underground whilst numerous others kept leaking useful information to the nation under foreign rule.

Following Pilsudski's Coup D'etat in 1926, a crisis of confidence was caused within the country aimed at the governments body politic. This crisis bled down to the State Police as well.The crisis affected the whole of Poland's administration of justice. The State Police was subsequently pressured to recruit only those persons who could be deemed politically reliable. As a result of this the Police force became ineffective, political and more opportunistic. On the orders of Pilsudski officers who served in the military were recruited into the State Police Force. During the 1930's it became customary for military officers of lower ranks to be made redundant and be picked up by the commissariat for the State Police. In practise this meant that the police had a military connotation and further, that Pilsudski ensured that he maintained control over the Police cadre and the scope of their activities.

Essentially the State Police became an efficient and state sponsored paramilitary organisation that were tasked with keeping internal control and facilitating the clear and clean operations that supported the front line troops.

Their numbers were not exactly imposing however, in the whole of the 2nd Republic there were just over 30,000 of them equating to around 1 per 1000+ citizens which was one of the lowest numbers in Europe (the UK having 1 to 374). With this numerical disparity and against persistent internal and external threats and pressures it can be said that the Police State Police are somewhat unsung heroes of the September Campaign with their bodies being found in all areas of Poland where fighting took place.

Taken from The Police Family 1939's website: a section that describes the exploits of the State Police during the September Campaign. Following the campaign thousands of them that were taken prisoner by the Soviets were killed in Gulags.

"From March 1939 Poland was facing a growing threat from the German Reich. Mobilization was partly proclaimed in order to strengthen the western border and the State Police were brought to an intensive state of alertness together with the Polish Army. 

The focus of undertakings was shifted from regular procedures to the fight against the diversionary and enemy spy actions, especially on the territory inhabited by the German and Ukrainian minorities - there "the fifth column" kept raiding more and more violently.

The State Police together with the frontiers staff, border guard, military espionage and counterintelligence staff were making coordinated efforts in order to restrain enemy actions on Polish territory. However, for some time those undertakings were inhibited by the authorities dispositions, precluding more resolute actions. The situation changed only in August 1939, when the outbreak of war was inexorably approaching. The Ministry of Home Affairs, faced with the dramatic spread of events, issued the long-awaited directions which would compel unhesitating suppression of diversions and attempts to disorganize the State.

More than ten thousand reservists were called up and additional reinforcements were sent to the most imminently threatened regions: 300 policemen were directed from Warszawa to the Silesia province, several companies and reservist troops from the Chief Headquarters forces were also sent to Lwów, Stanisławów and Tarnopol provinces.

As part of the preventive actions planned on a wide scale a great number of people engaged particularly in anti-Polish activities were apprehended. What was more a lot of magazines of arms and explosives were liquidated. Unfortunately, the State authorities took a decision to definitely suppress "the fifth column" too late, which, in principle, continued acts of sabotage and diversion retaining their military potential till the beginning of the war.

In the last week of August 1939, the Nazi armoured divisions and Luftwaffe squadrons
were ready to invade Poland. 

But it was the Non-Aggression Pact between the German Reich and the Soviet Union ratified in Moscow with the secret protocol of friendly agreement contracting the partition of Poland that settled the fate of our country.

The execution of those pacts was fulfilled on 1st September with the invasion of the German Reich towards the Polish western and northern frontiers and then on 17th September with the entry of the Red Army into Poland. The Polish alliances with France and Great Britain were defeated. 

Poland, isolated by their allies, was caught unprepared for defense. The police forces found themselves in an extremely difficult situation. 

The reservist companies from Jaworzno and Herby lost many men and their officers: Sub-commissaries Wyspiański and Wąsala were killed while fighting in the Silesia region. The Army and police forces suppressed the revolt at Bydgoszcz on 3rd September, when the German "fifth Column" attacked the retreating Polish troops.

The policemen were fiercely persecuted by the German invaders - in the autumn of 1939 many lost their lives in executions all over the country. However, in all, a total of 700 men from the police forces in Pomorze (Pomerania) were not evacuated and according to the mobilization plan were subordinated to the commanding staff of Land Coast Defense Forces. 
Among them were:
- the District Police Headquarter at Gdynia with Superintendent Józef Ostrowski,
- four police stations at Gdynia: the first one with officer Piotr Okoński, the second one
with Sub-commissary Aleksander Wotarowicz, the third one with officer Józef
Wojcieszak, the fourth one with Sub-commissary Juliusz Szottke
- the police guard company at Gdynia with Lieutenant Józef Seredicki
the police station at Wejcherowo with officer Leon Graczyk
the police guard platoon at Puck with Second Lieutenant Aleksander Słowikowski
the police station at Kartuzy with officer Pudziński.

The police forces, which had the rights to fight against diversion, sabotage and espionage, cooperated with the Polish Army and the battalions of the National Defense all over the country. They were in the forefront of the fighting in the region of Wejcherowo, Kępa Oksywska and Rumia-Zagórze before being taken prisoner on 19th September. 

In surrounded Warszawa the police forces battled on together with the army and citizens, protecting among other things bridges over the Wisła River. During the defense of the city their officer Zagórski and many policemen were killed. 

In the south of Poland the police company from Kraków were fighting to defend the bridges in the region of Stalowa Wola.

The police battalion continued to resist at Białystok, two other companies battled on at Bielsko Podlaskie and at Puszcza Białowieska; policemen from the Lublin province were fighting in the “ Szack” group and Captain Suchecki headed a reservist troop of policemen. 

The courage and sacrifice of the policemen cost blood - the casualties of the State Police in September were assessed at about three thousand people killed, including subsequent deaths from wounds. But another time for bravery by thousands of Polish policemen was to come soon. 

Inadequacies in the determination of orders concerning effective commanding of the police forces approved by the State authorities, and putting off for no clear reason the decision regarding the militarization of the police, resulted in tragic consequences. The police were ordered to evacuate to the east in the first week of September, and the Chief Headquarters staff, a large group of the capital police and reservist forces with the Commander in Chief, General Józef Kordian - Zamorski left Warszawa. The Voivodes from Pomorze, Poznań, Łódź, Śląsk, Kraków, Warszawa, Kielce, and Lublin followed the decisions of the central authorities.
The decree for militarization of the police was issued by the Prime Minister, the Minister of the Home Affairs and the Chief Civil Police Officer on 10th September at Brześć. According to the order there was a plan to form a cordon of police along the River Bug to control the situation with the retreating defeated and dispersed army forces. Unfortunately, the current of events destroyed that plan and the eastern war machine moved westwards crushing the troops lost in a raging turmoil of slaughter and pillage of previously unknown dimensions.

The region of eastern Małopolska became the place of the largest concentration of the police forces. The city of Tarnopol functioned as the destination for the militarized police, the Silesian corps were located in the region of Brzeżany-Kozów, and the schooling center was located at Mosty Wielkie.

The impending German Army move towards Kresy Wschodnie resulted in activating Ukrainian nationalists who grew stronger in several districts in the Stanisławów province. There were reports about raids on smaller army forces, police stations, administration offices and groups of citizens. The area between Mikołajew and Miłkowiec was temporary controlled by Ukrainian nationalists. The police and reservist forces led by Lieutenant-Colonel Wysłoucha supported by the army managed to avert the danger, that made it possible for the Polish troops to cross over into Romania and Węgry territory. The Chief Police Headquarters had crossed into Romanian internment earlier after the short stay at Zdolbunow.

The city of Grodno became the symbol of the sacrifice and resistance to the Soviet aggression on Kresy Wschodnie where between 20th and 22nd September the army forces together with the border guard, police forces, scouts and volunteers resisted bravely the sixth cavalry Cossacks corps and the fifteenth armoured corps of the Red Army charging at them. Unfortunately, the brave police forces coming mainly from Wielkopolska and Pomorze were bleeding to death during the defense.

Against all odds, during the September campaign many police groups were fighting together with the battalions of the border guard "Dawigródek", "Bystrzyce", "Brzeźne", "Polesie" and groups led by General Wilhelm Orlik-Rückerman. On 24th September the police company headed by Captain Franciszek Otłokowski battled on with the Red Army at Kamień Koszycki. After the capitulation, the Polish policemen were shot, in contravention of the international conventions about the treatment of prisoners of war. 

The Polish policemen were abandoned by the Commanders-in-Chief, attacked by the Red Army, and confused by the orders given by the Commander-in-Chief, and they had been forbidden to fight with the Soviet forces. Though isolated, they tried to defy their impending death. For the following fifty years Poland kept refusing to accept their bravery and praiseworthy actions.

The situation on the front line was getting worse and worse and the numerous Polish forces, trying to avoid Soviet captivity, were heading towards the south and the north. Some groups led by General Zamorski and Inspector Grabowski (the Commanding Officer from the Kraków province) reached Romania, while others, led by Inspector Konopka (the Commanding Officer from the Stanisławów province), Inspector Piątkiewicz, and Major Zdanowicz trickled into Węgry.

More than two thousand policemen with Sub inspector Ziołowski (the Commanding Officer from the Wołyń province) and Sub inspector Jacyna (the Commanding Officer from the Wilno province) found their place of refuge in Litwa and Łotwa.

The others were captured by the Soviet Army."