Battle of Białystok

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The Battle of Białystok was a battle of the Polish–Soviet War that took place near and within Białystok, Poland on August 22, 1920. The battle was between the 1st Infantry Regiment and withdrawing from the Warsaw remains of the RSFSR's Red Army 16th Army group and 3rd Army troops in the city of Białystok; the confusion caused by the Soviet forces chased, since the defeat at Warsaw, crushing into the forces stationed in Białystok caused complete breakdown Bolshevik forces.[1] Within the city, fighting took all day and covered the entire Białystok. The individual parts of the city repeatedly passed from the Polish to the Russian hands and back. During the battle, several armored trains were used in combat.[2]

Background

On August 16, 1920, Polish forces, concentrated along the Wieprz river, and began their counterattack. After 24 hours, it became clear that the Polish advance would threaten the rear of the Soviet 16th Army. By August 20, Poles captured Bug river crossings at Drohiczyn and Frankopol. Forced into retreat, the Soviet 16th Army headed towards Białystok, in a chaotic, disorganized march.

At the same time, a Polish elite unit, the 1st Legions' Infantry Division, was also marching towards Białystok. On August 20 in the evening, its commander, Colonel Stefan Dąb-Biernacki, ordered his soldiers to capture Białystok, together with its railroad junction, and cut off the enemy's roads of retreat. Dab-Biernacki tasked 1st Legions' Infantry Regiment to carry out the assault. Altogether, Polish forces had some 2,000 soldiers. On August 21, after a 40-kilometer march, the vanguard companies of the regiment captured the village of Zwierki, located 14 kilometers from Białystok. They captured 100 prisoners and nine machine guns, but some Soviet soldiers managed to escape, and warned the garrison of Białystok about Polish raid.

The battle

The Polish assault began on August 22, at 2 a.m. The city was defended by the 164th Rifle Brigade of the 55th Rifle Division of the Red Army. Soviet forces were supported by cavalry, artillery, and armored train nr. 22. Despite warnings, defenders of Białystok were surprised by the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Legions' Regiment under Captain Jozef Marski-Marjanski, which broke into the center of the city.

By 7 a.m. Białystok was in Polish hands. The 164th Rifle Brigade was completely destroyed, with 2,000 prisoners taken, together with 13 cannons, 30 machine guns and three military trains with food and equipment. Polish forces did not have time to celebrate their victory, as at 8:15 on the same day (August 22), the first units of Soviet 16th Army approached the city. The enemy advanced without regard to their losses, forcing Poles to retreat, after hand-to-hand combat with bayonets. The situation of the Poles was precarious, but it changed after Captain Marski-Marjanski had gathered several soldiers, initiating a counterattack, during which he was joined by other soldiers. Soon the Soviets panicked, and in the rout, some 1,000 Soviet prisoners were taken.

At about 2 p.m., the Soviet 27th Rifle Division appeared in Białystok. An hour later the Soviets attacked, trying to capture barracks of the former Imperial Russian Army. Enjoying numerical superiority, the Red Army seized the main rail station and entered the center of Białystok. The Polish retreat was halted when 27th Cavalry Regiment entered the fray. Heavy street fighting lasted for the whole day, with buildings changing hands several times.

Aftermath

The Battle of Białystok ended with the complete destruction of the Soviet 16th Army. Polish losses amounted to 209 dead and wounded, while the Soviets lost over 600 dead and wounded, 8,200 captured, together with 22 cannon, 147 machine guns, one aircraft and three cargo trains.

In the 1930s, a commemorative obelisk was unveiled on Zwyciestwa Street, in a location of one of street clashes. The monument bears the name of the fallen during the battle including the commander of the 1st Battalion of the 1st Legions' Infantry Regiment, Captain Józef Marjański, after whom a street in the center of the city was named. One of participants of the Battle of Białystok was Emil Fieldorf.

On the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw there is an inscription "BIALYSTOK 22 i 30 VIII 1920".

References

Footnotes
Citations
  1. ^ Jakub Medek (2009-08-21). "Czcijmy Bitwę Białostocką" (in Polish). Gazeta.pl. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
  2. ^ Jakub Medek (2008-08-22). "Zapomniany bohater zapomnianej bitwy" (in Polish). Gazeta.pl. Retrieved October 13, 2011. 
References
  • (in Polish) Remembering the Battle of Białystok ;
  • (in Polish) A forgotten hero of a forgotten battle.
  • A. Borkiewicz, St. Grzegorczyk Walki 1 pp Legionów o Białystok na tle Bitwy Warszawskiej w 1920 roku, Wyd. Komitetu Budowy Kościoła-Pomnika S-ego Rocha, Białystok 1936
  • W.Broniewski Pamiętnik 1918–1922, PIW, Warszawa 1984

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