From Giszowiec towards Siewierz – part three

You may have noticed that in the first part of Józef’s entry for this date, both the squadron and the supply column travelled together. However in this third part of the entry, the squadron moves on towards Siewierz, while the supply column remains behind until the evening, at which point Józef receives some different orders.

At daybreak Lieutenant Zieliński arrived in the Mercedes with orders from the commander for the supply column to move on immediately to Siewierska Górka. We went there without incident, despite the open terrain. As we rode into the village a plane appeared but it didn’t bother us. It was a dismal village set in the hills and soft dales which made it impossible for trucks to reach it.

I set up a dressing station alongside one of the carts, but it was still too early for patients. We ate dinner here from a borrowed mess tin. The head of the battalion office set out the office and handed out our soldiers’ pay of 1.07 Złoty.* It was the first and final payment of my war money.

That morning the squadron spent some time watering the horses and then moved on to Siewierz. I was surprised to hear the rumours that we were already under threat there from the enemy.

In the evening I received my orders from the commander and a horrified Lieutenant Zielinski: I was to take the health unit’s car to Siewierz and join the squadron. Privately the lieutenant added that the squadron might be going into action. I looked for the supply column sergeant to ask him about his next stop, just in case anything should happen. He said it would be Ujejsce. I glanced at Zielinski’s map (I didn’t have one myself nor did the sergeant, it was something of a luxury). Then I set off.

Whilst in Siewierska Górka the first bicycles had already been damaged. The Krakusi** therefore had had to hang back with the supply column, laying their bicycles in the carts where they remained to the end of the campaign.

The first altercation took place. It was between the platoon leader – in charge of the ammunition – and the sergeant major – a volunteer in a car. One word led to another – from ‘scoundrels’ to ‘thieves’ – and it nearly came to blows. It came to the point that the volunteer ostentatiously removed his uniform and boots which, according to the platoon leader, he had obtained illegally. He was now dressed in pyjamas and slippers on top of which he put a borrowed coat.

He travelled like this for some time – until the commander himself intervened. Knowing the platoon leader he downgraded him from his position the next day. He ordered him to enlist somewhere as a volunteer while he gave his duties to the volunteer sergeant major. To tell the truth the unit didn’t have a chance to experience his successor’s work.

*I have scrutinised my father’s handwriting here in case I have made a mistake but he has definitely written 1,07 zł (as in much of Europe, a comma here is used to denote decimal places). Even allowing for the change in value over time, this was an extremely small amount of money.

** Military troops normally on horseback. See extract: “Character Studies at the Brink of War

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