II Corps (Poland)

II Corps (Poland)

Polish II Corps ( _pl. Drugi Korpus Wojska Polskiego), 1943–1947, was a major tactical and operational unit of the Polish Armed Forces in the West during World War II. It was commanded by Lieutenant General Władysław Anders and by 1945 it grew to well over 75,000 soldiers.


Following the signing of the Polish-Russian Military Agreement on August 14, 1941, a Polish Army on Soviet soil was born. The first commander, General Michał Tokarzewski, began the task of forming this army in the Soviet town of Tockoje on August 17. The commander chosen by General Władysław Sikorski to ultimately lead the new army, General Władysław Anders, had been just released from the Lubyanka prison in Moscow, on August 4, and did not issue his first orders or announce his appointment as commander until August 22.

This army would grow over the following two years and provide the bulk of the units and troops of the Polish II Corps.

The Polish II Corps was created in 1943 from various units fighting alongside the Allies in all theatres of war. The 3rd Carpathian Division was formed in Middle East from smaller Polish units fighting in Egypt and Tobruk, as well as the Polish Army in the East that was evacuated from the USSR through the Persian Corridor. Its creation was based on British Army Act of 1940 that allowed the allied units of the exiled government of Poland to be grouped on one theatre of war. However, the British command never agreed to incorporate the exiled Polish Air Force into the Corps.

In 1944 the Corps was transferred from Egypt to Italy, where it became an independent part of the British Eighth Army under General Oliver Leese. During 1944-1945 the Corps fought with distinction in the Italian campaign, most notably during the fourth and final Battle of Monte Cassino, the battle of Ancona during "Operation Olive" (the fighting on the Gothic Line in September 1944) and the Bologna during the Allies' final offensive in Italy in March 1945.

In 1944 it numbered about 50,000 soldiers. During the three subsequent battles the Corps suffered heavy losses (in the final stage of the Battle of Monte Cassino even the support units were mobilised and used in combat) and it was suggested to Gen. Anders that he withdraw his units. However, since the Soviet Union broke diplomatic relations with the Polish government and no Poles were allowed out of the USSR, Anders believed that the only source of recruits was ahead - in German POW camps and concentration camps.

By 1945 new units were added composed mostly from freed POWs and Poles forced to join the Wehrmacht, increasing the amount of soldiers to approximately 75,000; approximately 20,000 of them were transferred to other Polish units fighting in the West. After the war the divisions of the Corps were used in Italy until 1946, when they were transported to Britain and demobilised. The majority of soldiers remained in exile.


In May 1945 the Corps consisted of 55,780 men and approximately 1,500 women from auxiliary services. There was also one bear, named Wojtek. The majority of the forces were composed mostly of Polish citizens who were deported by the NKVD to the Soviet Gulags during the annexation of Eastern Poland (Kresy Wschodnie) in 1939 by the Soviet Union. Following the Operation Barbarossa and the Sikorski-Mayski Agreement many of them were released and allowed to join the Polish Army in the East being formed in Southern Russia and Kazakhstan. Due to political reasons the Soviet Union soon withdrew support for the creation of Polish Army on its territory and lowered the supply rate, which forced General Władysław Anders to withdraw his troops to British-held Persia and Iraq. From there the troops were moved to British Mandate of Palestine, where they joined forces with the 3rd Carpathian Division which was composed mostly of Polish soldiers who had managed to escape to French Lebanon through Romania and Hungary after the Polish Defensive War of 1939.

The main bulk of the soldiers were from the eastern voivodeships of pre-war Poland. Although the majority of them were ethnic Poles, there were also members of other nationalities who joined the units of II Corps, most notably Jews, Belarusians and Ukrainians. After being relocated to Palestine, the Corps faced the problem of increased rate of desertions by Jewish soldiers, most of whom defected "en masse" to the Haganah. The most noted among them was Menachem Begin, the future Prime Minister of Israel. General Anders decided not to prosecute the deserters.

The armament was as follows:
* 248 pieces of artillery
* 288 anti-tank guns
* 234 anti-air guns
* 264 tanks
* 1,241 APCs
* 440 armoured cars
* 12,064 cars, Bren carriers and trucks


During the Italian Campaign the Polish II Corps lost 11,379 men. Among them were 2,301 KIA, 8,543 WIA and 535 MIA.

Order of Battle

*Polish 3rd Carpathian Infantry Division CO: Maj.Gen. Bronisław Duch
**1st Carpathian Rifle Brigade
**2nd Carpathian Rifle Brigade
**3rd Carpathian Rifle Brigade (added in 1945)
**12th Podolian Uhlan Regiment
**smaller divisional units
*Polish 5th Kresowa Infantry Division CO: Brig.Gen. Nikodem Sulik
**5th Wilno Infantry Brigade
**6th Lwów Infantry Brigade
**7th Wolyn Infantry Brigade (added in 1945)
**15th Poznań Uhlan Regiment
**smaller divisional units
*Polish 2nd Armoured Brigade (became Polish 2nd Warsaw Armoured Division in 1945). CO: Brig.Gen. Bronisław Rakowski
**4th Armoured Regiment
**6th Armoured Regiment 'Children of Lwów'
**1st Krechowiecki Uhlan Regiment
**14th Wielkopolska Armoured Regiment (added in 1945)
*II Corps Artillery Group CO: Brig.Gen. Roman Odzierzyński
**9th Medium Artillery Regiment
**10th Heavy Artillery Regiment
**7th Horse Artillery Regiment
**7th Anti-tank Regiment
**7th Light Anti-air Regiment
**8th Heavy Anti-air Regiment
*Other Corps-level units
**1st Independent Polish Commando Company
**Independent Carpathian Uhlan Regiment (Corps Recce)
**Logistics, Medical and other general support and reserve Corps-level units

ee also

* Anders Army
* No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron
* Polish contribution to World War II
* Polish government in exile
* Polish I Corps
* Polish First Army

External links

* [http://www.mpvone.co.uk/polish/index.htm The Polish Soldier]
* [http://homepage.ntlworld.com/w.werbel/dzieje/ An Illustrated History of the Polish II Corps.] Mieczyslaw Kuczynski.
* [http://www.historicaleye.com/montecass.html The Polish II Corps at Monte Cassino]


* Piotr Żaroń, Armia Polska w ZSRR, na Bliskim i Środkowym Wschodzie, Warszawa 1981,
* Witold Biegański, Krótki informator historyczny o Wojsku Polskim w latach II wojny światowej, tom 5, Regularne jednostki Wojska Polskiego na Zachodzie, Warszawa 1967,
* Andrzej Przemyski, Ostatni komendant. Generał Leopold Okulicki, Lublin 1990,
* Igor Błagowieszczański, Artyleria w II wojnie światowej, Warszawa 1983,
* Bronisław Dzikiewicz, Z teodolitem pod Monte Cassino, Warszawa 1984,
* Wacław Król, Polskie dywizjony lotnicze w Wielkiej Brytanii 1940-1945, Warszawa 1982,
* Jan Paśnicki, Podniebni artylerzyści, Polska Zbrojna, 1994 (artykuł byłego pilota 663 DSA na temat 50 rocznicy powstania jednostki i kontynuowaniu jej tradycji przez brytyjski 663 Dywizjon Korpusu Lotnictwa Wojsk Lądowych),
* Michał Polak, Logistyczne zabezpieczenie działań 2 Korpusu Polskiego (grudzień 1944 – kwiecień 1945), Przegląd Historyczno-Wojskowy, Nr 4 (209), Warszawa 2005,
* Janusz Odziemkowski, Służba Duszpasterska Wojska Polskiego 1914-1945, Warszawa 1998,
* Maciej Zajączkowski, Sztylet Komandosa, Warszawa 1991,
* Adam Majewski, Wojna, ludzie i medycyna, Lublin 1972,
* Kazimierz Frontczak, Siły Zbrojne Polski Ludowej. Przejście na stopę pokojową 1945-1947, Warszawa 1974,
* Yury Hrybouski, Losy żołnierzy Polskich Sił Zbrojnych na Zachodzie po powrocie na Białoruś, Przegląd Historyczno-Wojskowy nr 2 (197) z 2003 r., ISSN|1640-6281,

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