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Polish Cavalry Officer

Article about: Hello I'd be very grateful for any help anyone might be able to give surrounding this photo? I have just been given a picture of my great grandfather, who I was told was a Major in a cavalry

  1. #1

    Default Polish Cavalry Officer


    I'd be very grateful for any help anyone might be able to give surrounding this photo? I have just been given a picture of my great grandfather, who I was told was a Major in a cavalry battalion, and who was killed in the first days of the German invasion of 1939.

    I've found a lot of great info in threads on this forum already, but I'd be grateful if anyone could help with a couple of points please.

    Polish Cavalry Officer

    Can anyone help with the uniform - is it actually a cavalry uniform?

    It seems that the patch on the badge, from another thread on here, may denote that he was (or had been) a machine gunner. Is that right?

    I think the medal on the right (his left) is the Cross of Valour, with bar, but I could be wrong. I have my grandfather's medal (his son, who served in the AK) and it looks very similar. Can anyone help with the other medal?

    The three badges below, again from a great thread on this forum, seem like they could be badges to show membership of the Greater Poland Army, a campaign medal for participation in the uprising against the Germans, and the one on the left looks a little like some I've seen commemorating service in the battle at Lwow of 1918.

    The shoulder rank insignia looks to be Major, but the examples I found have two stripes at the bottom under the star, and this one seems to have something extra over the top of those stripes.

    I stand to be corrected on all of the above - I'd be very grateful if anyone can confirm what any of the items he is wearing might be, or anything you might know about the uniform?

    Thank you very much for reading this and any suggestions you might have.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Polish Cavalry Officer


    He is weariing the Wz.27 uniform (which has smaller collar patches compared to the Wz.19) which was the last pattern before the Wz.36 (which would have been worn from about 1936 until the September Campaign in 1939, then he would have worn the Wz.36 Field Uniform (which was made of rough mustard brown wool in the same pattern with breeches or trousers, the service uniforms were also worn with breeches or trousers).

    The other medal is the Virtuti Militari which was and still is Poland's highest award for bravery, there were five classes of this medal.

    The badge with the two embroidered stars signifys he was wounded twice.

    The number 4 on his collar patches signifys his Regiments number.

    The shoulder rank insignia is that of a Major, the insignia over the bars signifys the branch of service monogram.

    I have a photo which Tony uploaded in the past, which helps to explain.

    Unfortunately his uniform does not show any signs (collar insignia) of him being a Cavalry officer, I would think that he was in the Infantry or another branch of service excluding Tank, Train and maybe Border Guard units.

    Unless he transferred to the Cavalry later before 1939.

    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Polish Cavalry Officer  

  3. #3

    Default Re: Polish Cavalry Officer

    My word that's impressive - thank you so much. I really appreciate your reply!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Polish Cavalry Officer

    Maybe at the site of his rank and awards he would be in Rocznik Oficerski, listing the Oficers and thier units..... If you add more info here such as his name and short history im sure someone could search around to see if can help you out with your questions.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Polish Cavalry Officer

    Sorry to say that, but he is not cavalry. This major is from 58-th infantry regiment from city of Poznan. "4" on his collar patches says that as well as number "58" on his shoulder straps. This major was a real soldier, his medals are telling everything. On his chest he's got Virtut Militari Cross and Cross of Valour (2 times - this bar on ribbon says that). Above them ribbon with two little stars - it means two times he got hit on the front line. Badges: Cross on the left - this is Lithuanian-White Russian Front Cross (1919-21). Sword in the middle this is 1st Wielkopolski Rifle Division Badge (Wielkopolski Rising in 1918-1919), and the last one is also for Wielkopolski Uprising against Germans in 1918/19. On his sleeve there is a badge of heavy machine guns company - photograph was taken much before 1935/36 so this badge still means that he served in HMG company and was allowed to wear its badge. His uniform is typical officers wz.27 garrison uniform, so it's also tells us about the time period photo was taken - somewhere between 1927 and 1935.
    Last edited by pat15567; 07-03-2012 at 01:04 AM.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Polish Cavalry Officer

    Hi Centralscrutiniser,

    You did not mention your Great Grandfathers Name:

    But going through the Rocznik Oficerski (Officers Yearbook) for 1924 & 1932, I have only found one Major in the 58th Infantry Regiment lsited who was awarded the Virtuti Militari Silver Cross (5th Class) and the Cross of Valour and Bar.

    That was Major Franciszek Rataj II, Date of Birth: 9th October 1894, in 1924 he was in command of the 1st Battalion of the 58th Infantry Regiment, in 1932 he was a Podpulkownik (Lt.Colonel) with the Virtuti Militari (5th Class) Cross of Valour and Bar and the Zloty Krzyz Zaslugi (Gold Cross of Merit) in Command of the Torun Military District.

    I hope that I'am correct in my assumption, if not please accept my apologies

    Best wishes


  7. #7

    Default Re: Polish Cavalry Officer

    That is really interesting news. It could be him.
    Shot biography is published on polish Wikipedia:
    Franciszek Rataj

    Details match quite well. Acording to Wikipedia Rataj served in German army during WW1 in a rank of lieutenant. In 1918 he fought in Wielkopolski uprising as a battalion commander. Since april 1919 company commander in 1st Wielkopolski Rifle Regiment. On spring of 1919 he fought in battles of Lwow and on Stryj river against Ukrainians and then Bolsheviks. At 15th August 1920 Rataj was awarded with VM Cross by Pilsudski himself. In 1921 transfered to Silesia, fought in III Silesian Uprising as a captain in 8th Infantry Regiment including Battle of Annaberg. In 1923 commander of 58th Infantry Regiment and then in a peace time battalion commander. For 1920 war he was awarded two times with Cross of Valour. During 1932-39 in service. Fought in 1939 as well. He did not die in 1939, survived and became a member of conspiracy (AK). He fought in Warsaw Uprising in Radoslaw Group and became a commander of 15th AK Infantry Regiment in september. After capitulation prisoner of war in Germany. After the war he came back to Poznan where he lived and died in september of 1958. Awarded also with golden Cross of Merit. It could be him i think. This biography is most impressive. I cannot find any other photos of Rataj, but this is only a matter of time.

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