Air Squadrons in the Blue Army of General Józef Haller. 1917-1919

Air Squadrons in the Blue Army of general Józef Haller.

June 4, 1917 - September 1, 1919

Spad XIII C1. Photo of LAC
Spad XIII C1. Photo of LAC

During the Great World War, Polish soldiers in Russia managed to create: the 1st Polish Aviation Division, the 2nd Polish Aviation Division and the Air Squadron of the 4th Rifle Division of general Lucjan Żeligowski. There were also other attempts: in Odessa and in the 1st and 2nd. Józef Piłsudski's Brigade of Legions.

In Józef Piłsudski's Polish Legions there was a very strong idea and desire to create a Polish aviation division. The initiators were second lieutenant observer Janusz de Beaurain and lieutenant pilot-observer August Menczak. However, the Austrians successfully torpedoed these intentions.

In the period from August 1914 to 1916, Lieutenant Observer Janusz de Beaurain served in the Polish Legions, in the 1st Artillery Regiment. He was delegated to the Austrian Aviation Officer School and after its completion, as an aviation observer, he was sent to the Italian front to the 34th Squadron (Flik 34). From May to August 1917, he again served in the 1st Artillery Regiment of the Legions. After the oath crisis, he was active in the Polish Military Organization. We will inform you about Janusz de Beaurain, because he was active in the Free Republic of Poland.

Lieutenant pilot August Menczak was called up to the Austro-Hungarian army in 1914. He graduated from the Artillery School in Budapest. On August 1, 1916, he enrolled at the School of Observers and Pilots in Wiener Neustadt. After graduating, he served as an observer in the Austrian 4th aviation company. At the turn of 1917/1918 he became a pilot. He fought on the Balkan Front.

In 1917, in Warsaw, the Germanic people prevented the development of aviation education organized by the Polish Air Navigation Society. Few of the willing candidates, mainly from Greater Poland, were sent to schools in Germany.

The Polish Army in France.

The Polish Army in France was formed as a result of a stalemate on the fronts of the Great World War. The initiators were Roman Dmowski and Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The French gave their consent and the Polish Army officially began operating on June 4, 1917. This was done on the basis of a decree by the French President, Raymond Poincaré, issued on that very day. The Polish Army in France was to be under the French command as a structural part of the French army, although it had its own banner. The French government was responsible for equipping and arming the Army. The recruitment was based on Polish emigration to France, the United States, Brazil and Polish prisoners of war from the Austrian and German armies. In June 1917, the Polish Army numbered 9,000 recruits, 7,000 of whom came from the Austrian and Germanic camps. General Luis Archinard was appointed commander. Operationally, the Polish Army was subordinate to the Supreme Command of the Allied Forces. In July 1917, the first Polish troops were established in the Sillé-le-Guillaume camp (Loire region).

Initially, the soldiers were uniformed like the French. They wore red pants, a red cap with the Polish Eagle, a navy blue sweatshirt and a blue coat. At the turn of 1917/1918, the Polish Army was equipped with light blue uniforms, hence the name "Blue Army" and horned caps.

On September 28, 1918, pursuant to an agreement with the French government, the Polish National Committee gained political control over the Polish Army. It was of great importance because this Army was recognized as the only, independent and allied Polish army.

On October 4, 1918, General Józef Haller became the commander of the Polish Army in France. General Józef Zając became his deputy. Two days later, General Józef Haller took a solemn oath on the military banner.

It is worth adding that the orders of general Józef Haller were also subject to two divisions in the east: the 4th Division of general Lucjan Żeligowski and the 5th Siberian Division of major Walerian Czuma.

General Józef Haller's army.

General Józef Haller was first an officer in II. Józef Piłsudski's Legion Brigade, and then created the 2nd. Polish Corps. He participated in the famous Battle of Kaniw. After his defeat, he got to France through Moscow, Murmansk. Here he turned out to be an ideal candidate for the post of commander-in-chief of the Polish Army fighting in France, which history remembers as the Blue Army of General Józef Haller.

As we remember, Polish soldiers who fought in the East had to evacuate after the defeats of White Russia. Part north and by sea to France, part to the Black Sea region, and part to Siberia and further east. Those from France came to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the Army of General Józef Haller. Those from the Black Sea region through Romania to Free Poland. Those in Siberia had the worst.

The end of hostilities in the West (October 1918) accelerated the organizational development of the Polish Army. Many difficulties related to the recruitment and incorporation of Poles into the Polish Army, for example from the USA and Italy, ceased to exist. About 25,000 soldiers were recruited, former prisoners of war from the Austro-Hungarian army.

The Polish Army was developed in accordance with French patterns. There were corps, divisions and regiments. The Army consisted of infantry, artillery, cavalry, engineering, communications and railway units. There were twenty rifle and infantry regiments, three light cavalry (cavalry) regiments and one tank regiment with 120 Renault M-117 tanks. The commanders of the corps and divisions were the French. The armament taken over from the disbanded French units was introduced. The entire army of General Józef Haller numbered approximately 68,000 soldiers. She was fully armed. She had about 10,000 horses.

Practically the Blue Army was disbanded on September 1, 1919, and all its units were incorporated into the structures of the Polish Army.

Polish airmen.

Aviation units created in France were of the highest level: technical, equipment and organizational. They had the best social and living conditions.

In 1918, a group of Polish Soldiers was transferred to the aviation school in Dijon. Among them were Sergiusz Abżółtowski and Jerzy Kossowski. Poles were also trained in Longvic and at the higher pilot school in Pau. Many Polish Airmen went to French squadrons. In September 1918, the Polish Air Camp was established in Pau. Captain Jerzy Kossowski was the commandant of the camp. After the ceasefire on the Franco-German front, all Polish airmen from French squadrons were transferred to the Polish Aviation Camp in Pau. A small group of Polish Airmen from the German Air Force was also transferred to the camp. At that time, the air component of the Blue Army had 98 aircraft.

Written by Karol Placha Hetman