At the end of the previous extract Józef set off with Lieut. Zielinski in the latter’s car towards Ząbkowice and took the opportunity to ask him what he knew about the situation.
Once the whole supply column had arrived, the sergeant received instructions and we continued on. We arrived in Ząbkowice and headed to the woods. The carts were hidden and the lieutenant found some accommodation where we dozed on the sofa, still in our clothes, until 6 am.
In the morning we checked that the house was empty except for a woman who was packing the rest of her belongings and who then left for exactly where we had come from.
The major turned up and drove around part of the sergeant’s supply column from which he ejected the equipment platoon commander. He ordered me out of the car and into the horse drawn health cart to join the squadron in Tuczna Baba. I had a peek at the map, transferred my meagre luggage including the boot shapers and set off. I’d been allocated a waggon driver who was terrified of every single shot and gave the impression that he was trembling all over as we travelled towards the front line. He drove on under pressure.
In Tuczna Baba in a small wood, there stood two platoons and one medium machine gun. Another platoon had vanished near Siewierz and so far hadn’t got through to the rest. Our squadron had come across some patrols there and two or three lancers had been killed.
The platoon of frightened cyclists had acquitted themselves well having been sent on a reconnaissance under the command of a very resolute corporal from Kraków.
Here in Tuczna Baba I had my first “casualty” – a duffer who fell off his horse and broke his radial bone. I put a splint on him and wanted to send him on his way. I went with him to Ząbkowice, but despite searching couldn’t find a single hospital. So I put him back in the cart, entrusting him to the care of some health facility on the way.
The field kitchen arrived with dinner and finally, after two days, the lancers had something to eat. At around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, after a short rest, we moved on further. We went south west and after 1 km we turned to the south on dirt tracks, to give our march some protection.
At night we arrived at Trzebin; there was terrible crowding on the roads and fatigue was setting in. Unable to go on, I dozed in the cart, making up for the past shortfall with a brief nap. Eventually at dawn we were somehow led to a manorial estate – I didn’t recognise the name of it – where the squadron had already made themselves at home.
The manor house was completely empty. The officers were encamped in the castle. The soldiers took over the barns, laying in the straw where they could. I took a nap in a bed with a mattress, exactly two hours’ sleep. We snatched any moment we could to get a bit of sleep. Around 8 am I had a bit of a wash, adjusted my uniform and went to inspect our camp. (I already had 1½ cm of growth but could only shave partially as my old razor and razor blades couldn’t remove it completely).
Out in the courtyard, the soldiers were all busy. The lancers were feeding the horses, adjusting the saddles, checking the weapons and equipment. The unfortunate bicycle platoon had dwindled away. More and more bicycles had dropped out, damaged. The number of good bikes was reduced and the scrap was accumulating.
Sgt Major Mazański had managed to buy a cow and had just finished skinning it. With the help of the cooks it was hauled on to a tree. A kitchen was set up amongst the trees next to a stream which ran through a narrow part of the courtyard at the entrance to the garden. Since the squadron would soon have to move on, the cooks raced around the kitchen and laid wood from the fence and the shed in order to cook the food quickly, because no-one knew when the next hot meal would be.
In fact after 9 am the major announced that in an hour we would be marching out, cooking of dinner was to be completed and served first to the lancers and then to the supply column personnel. In the meantime the supply column carts were to be put in position according to which were to move off first. The light carts i.e. the health cart, the kitchen and the cart adjoining the kitchen and the ammunition cart would go after the squadron in the second group. Okay, at least I will get a meal!
There were heaps of odds and ends in the supply column carts and huddles of shirkers and scoundrels*. Who knows why they were clinging on to the carts? Seeing these, the major flew into a rage and just walked around reprimanding and cursing anyone who happened to be anywhere near him and announced that he would be inspecting every cart.
All the old bicycles were thrown out of the carts along with various unwanted rubbish – and people. There was to be only the driver and one serviceman in each cart. This didn’t affect just one; many had to go on foot ahead of the squadron or the supply column. The carts had to be armed with at least one machine gun and ammunition. (Of course, all this was only as long as the major was in a temper and could see. Whenever he was out of sight the intruders threw themselves into the carts again.)
For me all this was a relief as there were scoundrels of one kind or another constantly hanging on to the carts. At last the supply column set off but, as a punishment, without any dinner. The lancers had their dinner and it was after 10 o’clock when the squadron and light supply train set out on the road from Trzebinia to Krzeszowice.
*Szwarcowniki – It’s difficult to find a precise translation for this word which fits in this context, but I’m told it’s a derogatory term, combining elements of Polish and German, referring to people who are up to no good. If you can help, please let me know!