Battle of the Bzura

Battle of the Bzura

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Bzura

caption=Map showing the Polish assault southwards
partof=Invasion of Poland
date=September 9September 221, 1939
place=Near Kutno, Poland
result=German victory
strength1=8 infantry divisions,
2-4 cavalry brigades
strength2=12 infantry divisions,
5 armoured and motorized divisions
casualties1=18,000 dead
32,000 wounded
170,000 captured [cite web|title=Wojna Światowa|work=Historia Polski|accessdate=2008-08-24|url=]
casualties2=8,000 dead|

The Battle of the Bzura (or Kutno or Battle of Kutno - German name) was a battle in the opening campaign of World War II during the 1939 German Invasion of Poland, fought between September 9 and 19,Sources vary regarding the end date, some giving 18th September while others 19th September. Brockhaus Multimedial Lexikon gives the date of 19 September as the end date of the battle.] 1939, between Polish and German forces.

It was the single largest"The Second World War: An Illustrated History ", Putnam, 1975, ISBN 0399114122, [ Google Print snippet (p.38)] ] battle in the 1939 September campaign and took place to the west of Warsaw, near the Bzura River. In it, a Polish breakout attack gained initial success but eventually faltered after a concentrated German counterattack.

It is also noted as one of the last major military actions ever to have been conducted on horseback.

Opposing forces

Polish forces consisted of Army Poznań and Army Pomorze. German forces included the 8th and 10th Armies of Army Group South ("Heeresgruppe Süd").

The battle

The battle can be divided into 3 phases:
* Phase I — Polish offensive on Stryków (9–12 September)
* Phase II — Polish offensive towards Łowicz (13–16 September)
* Phase III — German counterattack and eventual defeat of the Poles, with the latter's withdrawal towards Warsaw and Modlin

On September 9, the Polish Poznań Army commenced a counterattack from the south of the Bzura river, its target being the German divisions advancing between Łęczyca and Łowicz. The commander of Poznań Army, Tadeusz Kutrzeba noticed that the German 8th Army, commanded by general Johannes Blaskowitz, was weakly secured from the north by only the 30th Infantry Division stretched over a 30 kilometre defensive line while the rest of the army was advancing towards Warsaw. The Poles' main effort was concentrated in the area of Stryków. The right wing of the offensive included the Podolska Cavalry Brigade, and on the left, in the area of Głowno, the Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade. These groups managed to inflict considerable losses on the German defenders, which included some 1,500 German soldiers killed and wounded in action and 3,000 taken prisoner [Elble Rolf, 1975, "Die Schlacht an der Bzura im September 1939 aus deutscher und polnischer Sicht"] [Tadeusz Kutrzeba mentions 1500 prisoners] during the initial push. Cavalry brigades pushed the Germans by advancing towards vulnerable flanks and disorganizing the rear. They also successfully used TKS and TK-3 reconnaissance tanks. The German 30th Division displayed fierce resistance and suffered heavy casualties [Elble Rolf, 1975, "Die Schlacht an der Bzura im September 1939 aus deutscher und polnischer Sicht": 30Inf Div lost 800KIA, 100MIA, 750WIA and 3000 captured (first day)] . Its commander, Generalmajor von Briesen personally led his last reserve battalion into the desperate fighting, halting the Poles, but losing his left forearm in the process. Visited in Hospital by Wilhelm Keitel and Adolf Hitler, von Briesen was awarded the Knight's Cross for his gallantry, and for maintaining the integrity of Blaskowitz's 8th Army lines. The German forces were thrown back approximately 20 kilometres south of their original positions and the Poles recaptured several towns, including Łęczyca and Piątek. The German 8th Army also suffered heavy casualties. On September 10, the Polish 17th Infantry Division met the German 17th Infantry Division at Małachowicze

German radio broadcast reported that in region of Kutno (German name: Battle of Kutno) heavy fighting with a brave enemy was taking place. The battlefield was visited by Adolf Hitler who later said that "this battle cost him more nerves than the whole French Campaign".

Initially underestimating the Polish advance, on September 11 the Germans soon decided to redirect the main force of the German 10th Army, the German 4th Army, the reserves of the Army Group South, and aircraft from 4th Air Fleet towards the Bzura. The following day the Poles reached the line Stryków-Ozorków. On the same day General Tadeusz Kutrzeba learned that units of Army Łódź had retreated to the stronghold of Modlin. Upon hearing this, Kutrzeba decided to stop the offensive and instead tried to reach Sochaczew and Kampinos Forest.

On the morning of September 14, General Władysław Bortnowski's group began the second phase of the battle. The 26th and 16th Infantry Divisions crossed the Bzura near Łowicz and the Polish 4th Infantry Division reached the road linking Łowicz with Głowno. At this point however, Bortnowski was informed that the German 4th Panzer Division was withdrawing from its positions on the outskirts of Warsaw. Fearing that this Panzer division posed an immediate threat to his men, he ordered the 26th Infantry Division to retreat.

On September 15 and 16th, Army Pomorze took up defensive positions on the northern bank of the Bzura. General Stanisław Grzmot-Skotnicki's group was located between Kutno and Żychlin, General Michał Karaszewicz-Tokarzewski's units near Gąbin, and parts of Army Poznań by the Bzura near Sochaczew, were ready to commence their drive towards Warsaw. To encircle and destroy the Polish forces, the Germans engaged most of their own 10th Army, including two armoured, one motorized, and three light divisions, equipped with some 800 tanks altogether. The attack from all sides on Polish positions started on September 16, with the support of the Luftwaffe. The German 1st Panzer Division, after crossing the Bzura between Sochaczew and Brochów and engaging the Polish 25th Infantry Division managed to capture Ruszki, but its advance was then halted.

During the night of September 17, the main forces of Army Poznań attacked the German forces in order to break out of the German encirclement between Witkowice and Sochaczew. The 15th Infantry Division and Podolska Cavalry Brigade again crossed the Bzura in Witkowice. In Brochow, the 25th and 17th Infantry Divisions crossed the Bzura river. The 14th Infantry Division was concentrated in Łaziska. At the same time, Army Pomorze marched towards the villages of Osmolin, Kierozia and Osiek.

In the morning the Germans started their drive towards the south along both banks of the Bzura, supported by more than 300 aircraft and heavy artillery. German howitzers, taking advantage of their position on the high ground of the Vistula's right bank, shelled Polish positions for the entire day. And after two days of heavy fighting, with no ammunition or food rations remaining, further attempts at a breakout for the Poles became impossible.

Only a few Polish units managed to break out of the encirclement. These groups entered Warsaw and Modlin, crossing the Kampinos Wilderness. Among them were Generals Kutrzeba, Knoll-Kowacki and Tokarzewski, two cavalry brigades, and the 15th and 25th Infantry Divisions. The remainder, with General Bortnowski, capitulated between the 18th and 22nd of September.


After the battle the remaining German divisions rushed towards Warsaw and Modlin and soon encircled both. Even though the Bzura campaign ended in defeat for the Poles, its strategic importance lay in the fact that because of initial Polish local victories the German advance on Warsaw was halted for several days, and the Wehrmacht was required to divert units from its Warsaw campaign. This enabled the Polish units defending Warsaw and its environs to better organize their own long-term, but ultimately failed, defense of the capital.

Notable participants

* Tadeusz Kutrzeba, commander of the Poznań Army
* Władysław Bortnowski, commander of the Pomorze Army
* Johannes Blaskowitz, commander of the German Eighth Army
* Kurt von Briesen, commander of the German 30th Division who personally led his last battalion against Polish advance and wounded
* Roman Abraham, cavalry general
* Wiktor Thommée, commander of the Piotrków Operational Group
* Aleksander Krzyżanowski, commander of the 26th artillery regiment
* Henryk Zieliński, became a German POW
* Jerzy Kirchmayer, deputy Chief of Operations of the Pomorze Army
* Łukasz Ciepliński, hero of anti-German and anti-Soviet resistance.


External links

* cite web | author=Juliusz Tym | title=Kawaleria w bitwie nad Bzurą (Cavalry in the Battle of Bzura) | publisher=Polonia Militaris | year=2005 | work= | url= | accessdate=2007-08-24

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