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Encyclopedia > Battle of Komarow
Battle of Komar w on a painting by Wojciech Kossak
Battle of Komar w
Conflict Polish-Bolshevik War
Date August 31, 1920
Place Komar w and Wolica Śniatycka, near Zamość
Result Decisive Polish victory
Poland Bolshevik Russia
Juliusz R mmel Semyon Budyonny
6 regiments 17 500 men, 20 regiments
500 KIA, 700 horses unknown, probably around 4 000
Polish-Bolshevik War
Vistula - Bereza Kartuska - Wilno - 1st Minsk - Daugavpils - Kiev - Wołodarka - Berezina - Warsaw - Raszyn - Nasielsk - Serock - Radzymin - Zadw rze - Komar w - Niemen - Zboiska - 2nd Minsk - Lw w

Battle of Komar w was one of the most important battles of the Polish-Bolshevik War. It took place on August 31, 1920, near the village of Komarowo (now Komar w) near Zamość. It was the biggest cavalry battle in the history of war since 1813 and the last great battle in which cavalry was used as such and not as mounted infantry.



Eve of the Battle

After the Battle of Zadw rze, the forces of Bolshevist 1st Cavalry Army under Semion Budionnyi were halted for more than one day. Although still in almost perfect shape, the Russian cavalry units lost much of their impetus and did not make it to the Battle of Warsaw. After the Reds lost the struggle for the capital of Poland and started their retreat eastwards, the forces of Budionnyi started their march northwards to attack the right flank of forces of J zef Piłsudski.

However, heavy fights in the area of Lw w and upper Bug River postponed the march. When the 1st Cavalry Army reached the area of Zamość on August 30, 1920, the Poles managed to redirect much of their troops to the area and organise a line of defence.

Initial clashes

On August 29 the 1st Cavalry Army fought the first battle with units of Polish 1st Cavalry Division. A small "Special Battalion" led by major (later general) Stanisław Maczek fought a successful delaying battle near the village of Waręż. Later that day Polish 1st Uhlans Regiment found several Bolshevik units undefended and took 150 POWs, 3 pieces of artillery and 7 machine guns in the villages of Łykoszyn and Tyszowce.

The following day the Bolshevik units continued their advance towards Zamość, but found the Polish mobile defence difficult to break. The garrison of the fortress was composed of a number of units commanded by captain (later general) Mikołaj Bołtuć. Among them were the remnants of Ukrainian 6th Infantry Division under colonel Marko Bezruchko, one regiment and two battalions of Polish infantry, three armoured trains and a number of smaller units, some 700 bayonettes and 150 sabres altogether. At the same time the Polish 1st Cavalry Division was moved to the villages of Wolica Brzozowa and Komar w, to the west of the city.

Polish cavalry charge on a painting by Mikołaj Wisznicki

On his arrival to Zamość area, Budionnyi was left with three choices: he could have assaulted the heavily-defended city, try to break through the trenches of Polish 13th Infantry Division in the forests west of it or try to attack unknown number of Polish cavalry units some 20 kilometres to the west. Despite little knowledge on the opposing forces, Budionnyi did not expect significant opposition just yet and ordered his troops to bypass the city from the west.

Phase One

In the early morning of August 31 a Bolshevik cavalry brigade crossed the belt of swamps to the north of Polish positions. At the same time the 11th Cavalry Division was engaged by Polish infantry in the village of Łubianki while 6th Cavalry Division was cut out overnight by Polish infantry to the west of Zamość.

At 6 o'clock in the morning 200 men strong Polish 2nd "Rokitna" Cavalry Regiment was ordered to capture the "Hill 255" to the north of the main lines of Polish cavalry. The hill was captured with no opposition. Soon afterwards a large Russian tabor was spotted, disorganised and mixed with a much larger unit of Bolshevik cavalry. With no time to hesitate, the Poles charged the enemy inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy rear units. Soon afterwards the Poles were successfully counter-attacked by Russian troops and forced to abandon the hill and retreat into the nearby village of Wolica Śniatycka. There the Russian advance was stopped by Polish heavy machine gun and at 10 o'clock Polish 9th "Lesser Poland" Uhlans Regiment under mjr. Dembiński charged on Russian positions and managed to recapture the "255 Hill". The hill was attacked several times, but to no effect.

Meanwhile, the village of Wolica Śniatyńska, lost to the Bolshevik cavalry, was charged by Polish 8th "Prince J zef Poniatowski" Uhlans Regiment. After a short fight the disorganised Bolshevik forces were forced to retreat, leaving behind large part of their heavy equipment and Budyonny's staff car. The Russian commander himself evaded being captured. The Bolshevik 4th Cavalry Division was routed.

At 12 o'clock the Polish 9th regiment started another charge down the hill on Russian 11th Cavalry Division that replaced the withdrawing 4th Division. The assault was repelled with heavy casualties on both sides. After approximately 30 minutes the Russian forces were forced to retreat, however the forces of Polish VII Cavalry Brigade were seriously depleted. Also, the 9th regiment suffered serious casualties from friendly artillery fire.

Polish VI Cavalry Brigade, until then kept as a reserve, started a pursuit down the hill. After a cavalry charge on the left flank of the withdrawing Bolshevik cavalry, the latter started a disorganised retreat towards Zamość. The pursuit was carried over by Polish 12th "Podolian" Uhlan Regiment under captain (later general) Tadeusz Komorowski. During the retreat the Poles inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. After the pursuit ended, the fights were halted until 5 o'clock in the evening.

Phase Two

At approximately 5 o'clock the 8th Regiment near the village of Wolica Śniatycka was yet again assaulted by Bolshevik cavalry. To counter the threat, the colonel R mmel ordered whole VI Cavalry Brigade (1st, 12th and 14th Uhlan Regiments) to charge on enemy flank. After a huge clash the Russian forces in the area fell back northwards.

After a short rest, the whole Russian 6th Cavalry Division, the strongest unit in the area, managed to finally break through Polish infantry encirclement and arrived to the battlefield. Polish VI Brigade was resting in and around the village of Niewirk w, where it retreated after the successful pursuit several hours before. The VII brigade started its march north-eastwards to join with the forces of VI Brigade near Niewirk w. Halfway it spotted a huge Russian line emerging from the forests around Wolica Śniatycka.

The 6 regiments strong Russian 6th Division formed a line, but did not start the assault just yet. Juliusz R mmel ordered all his available units to an all-out assault before the Russians start their attack. 8th and 9th regiments started a frontal charge, while 1st Uhlans Regiment was ordered to attack the left flank of the enemy. Soon it was joined by the remaining elements of the 12th Regiment from Niewirk w, charging the enemy positions from the rear. After a 30 minutes long clash, Budionnyi ordered his division to retreat.

The only available way lead eastwards, through the positions of dug-in 2nd Legions Infantry Division under colonel Michał Łyżwiński. The retreating Reds managed to break through, but suffered heavy casualties. By the end of the day the battle was over.

Results and casualties

The Polish 1st Cavalry Division started a pursuit after the fleeing enemy. The forces of Budennyi managed to break through Polish lines, but the Poles did not leave them enough time to rest and reorganise. On September 2, the Polish VI Cavalry Brigade reached Łaszcz w, where it successfully outflanked the Russian 44th Infantry Division and annihilated one of its regiments (only 100 POWs survived the battle). The 1st Cavalry Army itself was not surrounded and managed to evade destruction, but it did not pose a threat to the advancing Poles any more. Unable to regroup, on September 5, 1920 it lost the town of Hrubiesz w, and Włodzimierz Wołyński the following day.

On September 12, 1920, Polish forces withdrawn from the Battle of the Niemen under general Władysław Sikorski started a successful offensive on Bolshevik-held Volhynia. Pressed from all directions, the 1st Cavalry Army lost R wne on September 18 and was forced to retreat further eastwards. By the end of September, the Polish forces reached the line of Słucza River, near the lines held by the Reds before their offensive towards Warsaw started. Soon afterwards Budionnyi's Army had to be withdrawn from the front, not to return until the cease fire was signed in October.

The Battle of Komar w was a complete disaster for the Russian 1st Cavalry Army. Numerically and technically superior, it did not manage to concentrate and act as an organised unit, which resulted in several consecutive waves of attacks, each of them repelled by the Poles. Lack of means of communication and complete disregard for the intelligence reports resulted in heavy losses on Russian side.

The Polish Army lost approximately 500 KIA and 700 horses. No Poles were taken POW by the Red Army. The exact losses of the latter are unknown and were never made public. It is assumed that the 1st Cavalry Army lost at least 3 000 men during the battle and immediately afterwards.

Because of the number of forces involved, the Battle of Komar w is considered the biggest cavalry battle in 20th century. Also, it was the last battle fought mostly by cavalry units, in which traditional cavalry tactics was used and the sabres and lances played a vital role. Sometimes it is referred to as "the biggest cavalry battle after 1813".

Opposing forces

Red Army
Western Front
Cavalry Army
4th Cavalry Division
6th Cavalry Division
11th Cavalry Division
14th Cavalry Division
44th Infantry Division
Special Brigade
16 700 sabres, 284 MGs, 48 guns, 5 armoured trains, 12 planes, armoured cars
Polish Army
Southern Front
1st Cavalry Division
Juliusz mmel
2nd Legions Infantry Division
10th Infantry Division
13th Infantry Division
Jan Romer
Garrison of Zamość

See also

External link:

  • Present-day map of the battleground (http://www.pilot.pl/big_pilot.php3?z_city_id=8147&katalog=n13_&max_katalog=n14_&x_obr=294&y_obr=353&x_15=112903&y_15=67721&form_t=0&tool=1&info=len&lang=en)
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