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The first publication in Poland on the subject of special operations and the possibility of airborne landings appeared in 1929. The long-serving editor of Air Review, Pilot Major Marian Romeyko psc in a work entitled Special Operations clearly tried to recommend this type of operation. He wrote:
‘Transporting an infantry platoon with heavy automatic weapons in two or three aircraft no longer seems impossible today. In the not-so-distant future (and already today in the West), this could become the norm. However, landing individual agents will probably be done using parachutes, in view of improvements to them. A number of disciplined, armed soldiers with automatic weapons can become quite a dangerous force behind enemy lines and especially against lines of communication.’ —Source Przegląd Lotniczy (Air Review) nr. 9. 1929.
In the years 1934-1935 the authors of several serious publications followed Major Romeyko and took up the subject: Observer Captain Mieczysław Lisiewicz, Naval Commander Władysław Kosianowski, Major Janusz Sopoćko psc. Finally, Pilot Colonel Sergiusz Abżółtowski psc published in 1935 a small 64-page book entitled A Communications Air Force – Air Transport and Airborne Landings. In their deliberations, the authors of these works emphasise the considerable expense involved in the use of massed air power, as well as the operational advantages of airborne forces. There was nothing odd about this; the Polish state was poor.
The thought of forming Polish airborne forces gradually began to mature in the minds of staff officers. Unfortunately, too slowly, since it was decided that the first airborne battalion would start to form in February 1940!
The League for Air and Gas Defence (Liga Obrony Powietrznej i Przeciwgazowej or LOPP) was formed in 1923 and only in 1935 did it include parachute training for young people in its programme. A year later the first parachute training tower was built on the Mokotowskie Pole in Warsaw. Up to the outbreak of war, 17 of them were constructed throughout the whole country. Interestingly enough, parachute training towers were unknown in the British Empire. The first such tower in the British Isles was built by Polish paratroopers in 1941 at the 1st Independent Parachute Brigade’s training centre at Largo. It created an understandable interest amongst the British.
Between 1936 and 1939, in addition to jumps from towers and tethered balloons, 5,033 recreational jumps from aircraft took place under the auspices of LOPP training programmes.
The first military parachute course was held in September 1937 at Legionowo near Warsaw. It was inaugurated by an exhibition jump of about 60 parachutists on the 5th of September at nearby Weliszew. The course was more sporting than military, and its aim was to teach future officers how to jump. Officer cadets from all branches of the service participated.
Next came a week-long course from the 5th to the 12th of September 1938 whose programme included, in addition to parachute jumps, courses in demolitions and parachute tactics. At the end, group jumps were made in full kit from a Fokker F VII. The course aimed to prepare the first military parachute drop in Poland that was to take place that year during the autumn manoeuvres in Volhynia.
Between the 15th and the 17th of September 1938 a 24-man ‘stick’ (a squad of engineers, an infantry section and a signals detail) which landed twice near Łuck successfully accomplished the exercise’s goals. Lieutenant General Kazimierz Fabrycy who commanded the manoeuvres stated that parachute drops were realistic and should be taken seriously. Furthermore, attacking them was neither straightforward nor easy.
In May 1939, the Military Parachuting Centre (WOS) was formed at Bydgoszcz. The mission of WOS was to prepare officers and NCOs of the infantry, engineers and signals for covert operations work behind enemy lines. They were to form the nucleus of a future airborne force.
Pilot Major Władysław Tuchółko was appointed Commandant of WOS. Amongst those selected to be military and specialist instructors were infantry Lieutenant Jerzy Górecki (later to command the autonomous Polish section at the Ringway British Parachute School; he died an airman’s death), engineer Second Lieutenant Siegenfeld and signals Lieutenant Wacław Malinowski. Parachute training was conducted by two excellent civilian instructors Grabowski and Zacharski.
The test of three months of work at WOS was to be a demonstration jump by an operational covert operations team ordered for the 2nd of August on the Tłuszcz-Mińsk Mazowiecki railway line. A 20-man ‘stick’ commanded by Lieutenant Jerzy Górecki (8 infantrymen, 9 sappers and 3 signallers) was armed with 1 heavy machine gun (dropped in a container), 1 light machine gun, 2 Polish ‘Mors’ sub-machine guns, a machine-pistol, Walther pistols and grenades, as well as explosives, tools for destroying telegraph wires, a radio station and telephone tapping equipment.
Colonel Wacław Malinowski psc (at the time a lieutenant) describes these exercises as follows:
‘We picked the drop zone in unknown terrain (near Pustelnik – J.T.) from a map. The drop commander carried out a rapid recce of the area from a PWS trainer aircraft.
The drop took place in the afternoon. We jumped out of three transport aircraft at a height of 400 metres
In order to achieve greater surprise we opened our parachutes after a 5-second delay.
After hiding our parachutes at the edge of a wood, we immediately proceeded to carry out our mission. Covered by the infantrymen the sappers first destroyed the viaduct and then, running in the indicated direction, destroyed sections of the track (about 300 metres). Advancing alongside the sappers the signallers took out the overhead telegraph wires.
After about 20 minutes, the mission was accomplished. I set up the radio set to report in (…).
Shortly afterwards we paraded. We were almost overcome with amazement when we saw a large group of senior officers, including a great many generals, approaching us from the direction of the destroyed railway tracks. Astonishment was mirrored on their faces as they passed by the bent and broken railway tracks and the damaged telephone wires. They stared admiringly at the perpetrators of such rapidly accomplished destruction.
After our commander’s short report, we heard words of thanks, followed by a detailed inspection of our equipment, interrupted by numerous questions.
In August WOS began training the next course, again numbering 80 participants – future “commandos”.’
Unfortunately, the superbly trained Polish paratroopers did not see action. During the last days of August WOS was moved to an airfield at Małaszewicze near Brest from whence airborne covert operations teams were to be sent into East Prussia.
About 5.30 am on the 1st of September 1939 there was a heavy German air raid on Małaszewicze. The airfield was bombed and the WOS aircraft were useless.
— source Wacław Malinowski, O organizacji oddziałów spadochronowych w Wojsku Polskim przed 1939 r (On the Organisation of Airborne Units in the Polish Army before 1939), in Wojskowy Przegląd Historyczny (Military Historical Review) nr. 2 1961.
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Translation of original Polish text © J. Tucholski in his book "Powracali Noca".
Polscy Spadochroniarze W Ii Wojnie Swiatowej: Barwa I Bron by Adam Jońca
Publisher: Wydawnictwo Bellona (1994)