From Giszowiec towards Siewierz – part one: Without Lights

 

As the unit continues its preparations on 1st September, Józef’s description of the rather ad hoc motorised squadron highlights some of the differences in provision between the German and Polish armies. The far wealthier German army was heavily motorised whereas this unit appears to be relying almost entirely on private vehicles.

In this, the first section of Józef’s time in active service, his tendency towards detail is evident once again; from the structure of the supply column and local civilian reaction to the army, right down to his boot shapers and field cap.

Orders were given for final preparations; ammunition was issued although not everything necessary was provided. Equipment was loaded into my light cart: one stretcher and a small bag with items from the sick quarters. I loaded my personal trunk and my confounded boot shapers bound with cord. Even Lieut. Zieliński’s motorbike had to be put in the cart. I informed the commander that I didn’t have a holster for my revolver or a mask, and that I was about to leave in my uniform, my coat… and a three cornered hat. It transpired that my hat was inappropriate for war, so I was given a field cap and a rucksack.

Later, in fact well into the evening, the divisional Commander ordered the squadron to march off followed by the supply column. After some distance, part of the motorised squadron set off on a shortened route. To be on the safe side Stasiek, the driver from the Giesche firm and I collected a rifle and some ammunition.

The Commanders’ cars were at the head with Lieut. Zieliński in a beautiful luxury Mercedes (belonging to the Major) which had a radio. Before the Liaison Officer’s cart there was an Opel and further back a private Skoda belonging to a lieutenant. After that was a Fiat and then another car similar to the lieutenant’s Skoda which belonged to the Sergeant Major – a volunteer. Behind him was my dilapidated health cart, owned by the Giesche Company and at the back two gigantic Ursus* of some kind (also belonging to the Giesche Company) carrying hay for the horses. Directly in front of us, at a decent distance from the supply column rode a scrappy platoon of cyclists.

We moved quietly without lights towards Szopienice and Bogucice to Czeladz. Kind hearted people welcomed us with tears and gave us what they could: apples, cigarettes and tomatoes. Next to our rest point, some old women already abandoned by their husbands and sons, gave us some tea.

Everywhere we travelled, community guards with arm bands stood by.

 

* Ursus: a firm that produced tractors, trucks and military vehicles

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