Polish Legions (1914–1918)


August 12, 2022

Polish Legions - Polish military formation included in the Austro-Hungarian army, formed on August 27, 1914 on the initiative of Polish political parties in Galicia. In 1916, it was transformed into the Polish Auxiliary Corps. The Polish Legions took part in World War I on the side of the Central Powers.


On August 16, 1914, on the initiative of Polish political parties, the Supreme National Committee (NKN) was established in Krakow with Juliusz Leo - the president of Krakow, who headed the Polish Democratic Party and was the conciliatory president of the Polish Society in Vienna, later Władysław Jaworski - from the National Right Party. NKN was to be - as the Austrians quickly recognized - the highest authority in the field of military and political organization of the Polish armed forces, and Władysław Sikorski (Krakow) and Aleksander Skarbek (Lviv) took over the leadership of the Military Department. The NKN included representatives of 11 political parties from Galicia and 5 from the Kingdom of Poland, including both supporters and opponents of Piłsudski. Faced with the failure to start an anti-Russian national uprising in the Congress Kingdom, Piłsudski agreed to support the NKN. On August 22, Józef Piłsudski will sign, still as the Chief of Riflemen, a letter-order about the creation of the Supreme National Committee and the Legions. On August 27, an order was issued, signed by the Commander-in-Chief, Prince Frederick, about the establishment of the announced Legions. From then on, all Polish armed formations were to act as Polish Legions under Austrian military authority, and legionnaires were to wear Austrian armbands on their sleeves. Each of them was to consist of two infantry regiments, four battalions of a thousand soldiers each, and 2-3 cavalry squadrons of 150 lancers each. The legions were a separate formation of the Austro-Hungarian Army. They gathered Polish paramilitary organizations, incl. branches of the Riflemen's Association, Polish Shooting Teams, as well as sections of the Polish Gymnastic Society "Sokół". The formal basis for the creation of legionary units was the order of the Austrian command of August 27, 1914, which ordered the creation of the Eastern Legion and the Western Legion, and the appointment of two equal commanders for both Legions. The Polish Legions were subordinated to the new headquarters of Austrian intelligence in the field - Nachrichtenabteilung AOK, with the superior of which General Oskar Hranilovic von Czvetassin Piłsudski came into direct contact. Recruitment to the Polish Legions began at the end of August. The Eastern Legion was created in Lviv, which was disbanded before it even entered action, and the Western Legion in Kraków. Several hundred soldiers of the Eastern Legion with col. Józef Haller joined the Western Legion, and about 5,000 were incorporated into the Imperial-Royal army. Due to the occupation of Lviv by the Russian army on September 2, 1914 and the differences among the politicians there, the Eastern Legion was soon disbanded. The Western Legion, initially composed of one regiment under the command of Piłsudski, took part in the fighting as a rear guard of Austrian troops on the Nowy Korczyn-Opatowiec line on the left bank of the Vistula. During the Austro-German offensive, its individual battalions took part in the battles of Laski (October 23–26, 1914) and Anielin (October 22). On November 16-19, they fought the Battle of Krzywopłoty. Pitsudski, threatened with being pushed back by the Austrian army retreating under the pressure of Russian troops on the territory of the German Empire, carried out a daring maneuver known as Operation Ulina Mała. Contrary to Austrian orders, he and part of his regiment broke through the corridor between the Russian and Austrian troops to Krakow. After the break, these units fought as a cover for the right wing of the Austrian army in the area of ​​Mszana Dolna, Limanowa, Marcinkowice and Nowy Sącz. In half