Polish Army Between 1914 and 1939

During the First World War, armies of the partitioner included approximately 3.5 million Poles – citizens of Prussia, Russia, and Austria. At the same time, national military formations were created in Austria and Russia under their own coats of arms, and in France, the Polish Army was established. Furthermore, Germany created the Royal Polish Army (Polnische Wehrmacht) in the occupied territory of the Kingdom of Poland. When the war has ended, the Polish Army started to gradually emerge; from the first days of independence, it was involved in the battles of the borders of the Republic of Poland, fighting with Bolshevik Russia, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, and Ukraine.

The first part of the showcase demonstrates weapons, uniforms, and gear of the Polish military formations that were created during the First World War. There are figures of a Uhlan and two infantrymen of the Polish Legions, as well as two officers of Gen. Józef Haller’s “Blue Army”. The rifles used by Polish soldiers between 1914 and 1918 – Lebel Mle 1886/93, Berthier Mle 1907/15, Gewehr 88/05, and Mosin obr. 1989 – also deserve our attention.

The Uhlan’s cap from the 2nd Greater Poland Uhlan Regiment and the American uniform M1912 demonstrate what the Polish Army wore during the battles for the borders of the independent Republic of Poland (5). Ordnance of the Polish soldiers of that time was very diverse – it included Austrian heavy rifle Schwarzlose M. 07/12, British Lewis automatic machine gun, and Austrian repeating rifle Mannlicher M.1895. The latter rifle was used by one of the best regiments of Polish cavalry – the 1st Józef Piłsudski’s Regiment of Chevau-Léger (Light Cavalrymen). We would also like to draw your attention to the Japanese Arisaka M38 rifle seized from Russia during the war of 1920 and used in the Polish Army as carbine model 05.

The further two parts of the showcase (6, 7) represent the peaceful period of the Polish Army, which is associated with numerous reorganisations and changes in armament and equipment. Military trainings were complemented by staff and field exercises. Corporal jacket and uniform of Captain Ignacy Nowak of the 59th Infantry Regiment are an example of the uniform model 36 used in the Polish Army near the end of the 1930s . Among the presented arms, the German heavy machine gun MG 08 with ZF-12 sight mounted on a French tripod (Saint-Étienne) and the German MG 08/15 light machine gun should draw our attention. The entire collection is complemented by an original poncho/shelter supported by a Gewehr 98 rifle and personal equipment of Polish soldiers. The mustard gas canister reminds that during the interwar period, the Polish Army was also making preparations for chemical warfare.