Blitzkrieg Unleashed: Poland 1939

Book discussion and reviews related to the German military.

Moderator: sniper1shot

Post Reply
User avatar
Richard Hargreaves
Author
Posts: 2073
Joined: Sun Jun 01, 2003 11:30 pm
Location: Gosport, England

Blitzkrieg Unleashed: Poland 1939

Post by Richard Hargreaves » Tue May 29, 2007 12:06 pm

To whet your appetite, the very first few paragraphs of Blitzkrieg Unleashed: The German Invasion of Poland. It's about 75 per cent complete now and should be published mid-late summer next year barring some catastrophe...

WILLI Reibig stood in the turret of his panzer, a radio headset over his Schutzmütze – a padded helmet covered by the distinctive black beret of the Reich’s new armoured force. In the half-light, the outline of his Panzerkampfwagen – literally armoured fighting vehicle, but to Germans and the world, simply ‘panzer’ – Mark III was barely visible. The column drove in darkness, in silence apart from the constant reassuring deep growl of a Maybach engine. The only light came from the tail light of the vehicle in front, bouncing up and down as it rolled through the Silesian lanes. Reibig watched the sun climb in the east. “It promises to be a beautiful day,” he thought. “A good sign for us.”
At 4.45am that Friday, 1 September 1939, the guns of 103rd Artillery Regiment barked “sending their iron greetings” towards the hills around the small town of Krzepice, twenty or so miles northwest of Tschentochau – Czestochowa to the Poles. Overhead the Luftwaffe roared eastwards. Far below, the panzer crews waved and shouted. The barrage ceased. The panzers jerked forward. German customs officers cheered the armour on as it rolled across the Polish frontier. “It’s a strange feeling knowing that we have left Germany and are now on Polish soil,” thought Reibig.
Within an hour the panzers were across a small brook, the Pankovka. Within two they had driven through Krzepice. This was ideal tank country, Willi Reibig observed, and ideal anti-tank country. But there was no sign of the enemy. The panzers kicked up huge clouds of dust as they raced across a potato field. They passed through nondescript settlements of small cottages with straw-covered roofs. They crashed into the Lisswarthe, a small tributary of the Warthe. The waters of the Lisswarthe smacked against the side of the tanks, foaming, spewing through the driver’s slit hatch. The panzers climbed the opposite bank and into Opatow, eight miles inside Polish territory. Onwards went the armour, avoiding the copses which littered the valley of the Lisswarthe. Only now were the first signs of war were apparent: a blown-up railway bridge, a dead Pole. There was the distant thunder of cannon and the rattle of machine-gun fire, barely audible above the throb of the Panzer Mk III’s engine. Reibig glanced at his map. Up ahead was the village of Mokra III – there were three Mokras, barely a mile apart, here in the Lisswarthe valley. The name meant nothing to Willi Reibig.
A few hundred yards east of Mokra ran the railway line to Tschentochau and on to the heart of Silesia. Drawn up behind it were Polish troops with anti-tank guns, anti-tank rifles and small tanks – tankettes – and Armoured Train No.53, Smialy. Smialy – The Bold – was a strange-looking beast, a relic of the Polish-Soviet war with 75mm guns in turrets atop its wagons. Around one hundred panzers and armoured vehicles were bearing down on them. The guns barked once more, but this time Polish guns. Several panzers were knocked out, the rest fell back.
From the high ground west of Opatow, Georg-Hans Reinhardt watched his panzers falter. This was supposed to be the “crowning glory” of his career. “To be a divisional commander on the field of battle is probably the most wonderful, the greatest position of command, where the personal influence and link still exists between the leader and those led,” he enthused. And now, at the first sign of enemy resistance, his men had been repulsed.
With his narrow, inquisitive eyes peering through round pince-nez, the balding Reinhardt looked more professor than warrior. But looks could be deceptive. Georg-Hans Reinhardt – der lange Reinhardt, the tall Reinhardt – was a born warrior. He had marched to the Marne with his infantry regiment a generation before. He had commanded infantry companies, cavalry squadrons, infantry battalions, rifle brigades, and now, since the autumn of 1938, the armour of Würzburg’s 4th Panzer Division. The 52-year-old generalleutnant had faith in his Führer – “a genius,” he gushed to his wife Eva. He convinced himself, like most Germans, that the Polish crisis would be solved “bloodlessly”. But the Führer’s genius had failed him, failed Germany. And so 4th Panzer Division would have to drive on Warsaw, a task Georg-Hans Reinhardt approached “not enthusiastically, not lusting for war, but seriously and dutifully”. In his ten months in command of 4th Panzer, Reinhardt had sought “to instil the spirit of attack” in his men and “banish bunker psychosis”. Evidently, he had failed. He ordered his armour to re-group and attack Mokra again.
Attacking was also on the mind of Major Stanislaw Glinski, commander of 21st Armoured Battalion. Glinski’s tankettes had orders to hold Mokra and drive the panzers back. They would be joined in their attack by a squadron of horsemen from the Wolynian Cavalry Brigade.
WIlli Reibig’s Panzer Mk III bogged down in the marshy, ditch-strewn terrain west of Mokra. He ordered his platoon to continue the attack on the village without him. And then, out of the mist and smoke, an unforgettable sight: Polish cavalry, sabres drawn, lances fixed, thundering towards the advancing panzers. Surely they don’t want to attack us – that would be madness and merely bring about their destruction, Reibig thought to himself. But they were attacking. Five hundred metres away. Then four hundred. Three hundred. Reibig adjusted his sights slightly and aimed at the horses’ bodies. At two hundred metres, his finger pressed the trigger. “The bursts from the machine-gun act like a scythe in a ripe corn field,” the panzer commander wrote. “In a few minutes it’s all over. Only a few succeed in escaping to the protection of the forest.”

I'll post more in due course... and the bibliography when I've finished compiling it.
No-one who speaks German could be an evil man

Cott Tiger
Associate
Posts: 856
Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2003 8:44 am
Location: England

Post by Cott Tiger » Wed May 30, 2007 5:53 am

The appetite has been nicely whetted!

Looking forward to the release of the book.

Regards,

Andre
Up The Tigers!

User avatar
Richard Hargreaves
Author
Posts: 2073
Joined: Sun Jun 01, 2003 11:30 pm
Location: Gosport, England

Post by Richard Hargreaves » Mon Jun 11, 2007 1:50 pm

I'm part way through compiling the bibliography, which might make interesting reading. Sources so far listed comprise:

Unpublished
38 files from the BA-MA
2 files from the NHB

Published
Four different newspapers (although chiefly the VB)

Books
56 first-person accounts
70 secondary sources/journal articles

I dread to think how much it has cost. :D
No-one who speaks German could be an evil man

Rolf Steiner
Associate
Posts: 819
Joined: Tue Apr 13, 2004 3:06 pm
Location: London

Post by Rolf Steiner » Mon Jun 11, 2007 2:55 pm

hey, nice work. Look forward to more!
"And I will show you where the Iron Crosses grow!"

User avatar
Fallschirmjager !
Supporter
Posts: 71
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2006 4:57 am
Location: Uk

Post by Fallschirmjager ! » Wed Jun 13, 2007 6:30 am

Great halder!

Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing. I look forward to more and the finished article when it comes out.

All the best :up:
Fallschirmjäger - Nick M.

User avatar
Richard Hargreaves
Author
Posts: 2073
Joined: Sun Jun 01, 2003 11:30 pm
Location: Gosport, England

Post by Richard Hargreaves » Fri Jun 22, 2007 10:16 am

Very provisionally pencilled in for an August-September 2008 release date (I have to finish the manuscript by the year's end).
No-one who speaks German could be an evil man

User avatar
Richard Hargreaves
Author
Posts: 2073
Joined: Sun Jun 01, 2003 11:30 pm
Location: Gosport, England

Post by Richard Hargreaves » Sat Aug 11, 2007 5:09 am

Another extract, this time from the chapter on the battle of Lemberg/Lvov/Lviv...

This wasn’t war. It was pursuit. ‘We’ve been marching on Polish soil for four days and still no sight of an enemy aircraft,’ one leutnant observed. ‘There’s no sign of war. The populace has stayed behind – they continue their work or stare curiously at the countless columns of German troops.’ It must have been Sunday, the tenth, the officer realised; the women and girls were dressed in their finest clothes.
There were sporadic signs of fighting. The airfield at Krosno, half way between Neu Sandez and Przemysl, had been wrecked by the Luftwaffe. In the town itself a few walls were pock-marked by bullets. The buildings of Rymanov, a few miles east along the main road, were scarred too. The guns of the Gebirgs Division’s artillery had howled briefly. Houses burned. Roof beams collapsed. A pall of acrid black smoke lingered above the town. Children cried. Women screamed. The mountain men marched onwards. The sun was merciless. Caterpillar-tracked vehicles thundered past the marching soldiers, kicking up great clouds of dust which settled on the narrow country roads ankle-deep. The men tied handkerchiefs to their faces to keep the dust at bay but it was no use. ‘Our uniforms are almost white, our faces covered with dirt caused by the sweat and dust,’ one artilleryman recalled. ‘The sun blazes. Thirst tortures us.’ The men stopped at a fountain; the water was so dirty not even the horses would drink from it. Escorted by a handful of landsers, Polish prisoners were sent westwards, fear seared into their faces, convinced they would ill-treated in German hands. After dark the column came to a halt outside the village of Besko, just east of Rymanov. The men grabbed some straw, lay down alongside their mules and slept as if they were resting in a four-poster bed. The gebirgs artillerymen and jäger were roused before dawn the following day. Gunfire in Besko woke them. Polish snipers were briefly engaged by mountain infantry. The German troops decided to torch the village to end the resistance.
The further east the scars of war became more evident. The main road to Sambor through the San valley was littered with burned-out villages. ‘Only individual chimneys and the remains of walls stare sorrowfully over the land,’ one officer recalled. ‘The smell of burning consumes everything.’ The railway station in the village of Stefkowa, a dozen miles southeast of Sanok, had been wrecked; a smashed goods train smouldered on the broken rails. Such scenes were repeated mile after mile, hour after hour. The station in Chryrov, eighteen miles to the northeast, had been reduced to rubble. A bit further on Gradowice. Razed to the ground. A Polish farmer stared vacantly at the German troops. All he possessed now were a couple of cows. His children were overcome by curiosity; they played in the fresh craters created in the Galician earth by German bombs and shells. East further still in Felsztyn another destroyed railway station, this time the charred remains of a Polish troop train just beyond it on an embankment. Lying around it were the blackened corpses of Polish soldiers. Some bodies had literally been torn to pieces by the Luftwaffe’s bombs. The lanes of Galicia offered the Poles no more sanctuary than did its railway lines. ‘Dead Poles lie beside the road – their brown uniforms have almost been turned white already by the dust which has drifted over them,’ one gebirgsjäger wrote in his diary. He continued: 'Discarded helmets, guns, ammunition, equipment lying behind, then more dead horses, gradually bloating in the heat giving off a sweetish smell, some armoured cars with broken wheels and shafts. Individual, hastily-dug graves with a steel helmet and hastily-erected wooden crosses: the signs of battle left by the pursuit group which is already far ahead.
'We come across exhausted, weary prisoners in long columns; they stare at the German gebirgsjäger marching past them with blank expressions. They are just as dirty, just as exhausted and just as weary from exertion as German soldiers.'

The finished product will be out late summer 2008, priced £25 in the UK, with 24 pages of plates and some maps (which I've not drawn yet :shock: )
No-one who speaks German could be an evil man

User avatar
Richard Hargreaves
Author
Posts: 2073
Joined: Sun Jun 01, 2003 11:30 pm
Location: Gosport, England

Post by Richard Hargreaves » Tue Sep 18, 2007 5:50 am

Another bit of taster, this time from the fighting in southwest Poland in the final week of September 1939

In the hilly, undulating and frequently wooded terrain between the Bug and Vistula valleys one hundred or so miles southwest of Brest, three German infantry corps were marching eastwards. The Polish Army before them was disintegrating. The battered entrails of three Polish armies were struggling to regroup. Rather than concentrating they were dispersing, breaking up into small groups. They had to be trapped and wiped out.
The heat of the first days of the campaign had been replaced by heavy rain in the day and bitterly cold nights. ‘Every inch of my body was shaking with the cold,’ Wilhelm Prüller complained. ‘There is no more sun during the day – we have to keep our coats on during the day.’ Friend and foe alike was exhausted, but the enemy wouldn’t surrender, Prüller noted in his diary. Why didn’t he? ‘The Poles are completely encircled and there’s no way out for them. They should surrender for there’s no point in their going on with it.'
But go on with it the Poles did. After dark on the nineteenth, they renewed their efforts to escape encirclement. ‘A flaming circle of burning villages blazes away under the firmament,’ VII Corps’ chronicler wrote vividly. ‘Flashes from the muzzles flare up through the night.’ The defenders brought up heavy machine-guns, mortars, field and anti-tank guns. The Poles fought valiantly, but the line held, while the landsers surveyed the landscape. ‘The blazing torches of the burning villages, which flicker and send flames licking skywards, create a beautiful but eerie image.’
One breakout attempt was thus averted in the dead of night, but news soon reached the men that a handful of miles to the south the woods were swarming with Polish soldiers; the Army of Krakow was making one last push to smash through the German encirclement. Each landser grabbed as much equipment and ammunition as he could carry and set off for the forest around Tomaszow Lubelski, 110 miles south of Brest, struggling over the marshy ground, criss-crossed with ditches and scrubland.
The Bavarians of 27th Infantry Division led the charge to blunt the Polish breakout, beginning their attack in farmland north of Tomaszow. The Poles dug in behind haystacks in a potato field. Shells started to crash down on the hard earth with a loud thud. Clouds of dust and smoke were thrown up, drifting across the field. German mortars joined in the hellish symphony. The haystacks were set ablaze. A company of men in olive-green uniforms emerged, their hands raised.
It was the signal for the men of the 27th to advance. They were quickly halted as Polish artillery, machine-guns and mortars fought back. The Poles, however, could not take advantage; they were exhausted. Encircled, out of fuel and out of ammunition, Tadeusz Piskor, Commander of the Army of Krakow, decided it was time to bring an end to the battle. German radio operators soon picked up a signal: ‘Polish military command here. The commander says that he is ready to lay down his arms. If you can hear me, reply on the same frequency!’ Generalleutnant Friedrich Bergmann, a bald, gruff character with a jowl seemingly chiselled into his harsh face, accepted the offer. 27th Infantry Division’s Commanding Officer responded: ‘To the Polish command: Surrender of Tomaszow accepted. Show white flags! Step unarmed on to the Tomaszow-Tarnawatka road! German divisional command.’ The forests around Tomaszow swarmed with Poles once more, except this time they emerged from the woods to lay down their arms.
This was not the last act in the fields and woods around Tomaszow Lubelski either for the Poles or 27th Infantry Division.
No-one who speaks German could be an evil man

sid guttridge
on "time out"
Posts: 8055
Joined: Thu Oct 10, 2002 4:54 am

Post by sid guttridge » Tue Sep 18, 2007 6:25 am

Hi Halder,

Is there anything from the Polish side? Did you locate the Polish military Atlas I mentioned before?

Cheers,

Sid.

User avatar
Richard Hargreaves
Author
Posts: 2073
Joined: Sun Jun 01, 2003 11:30 pm
Location: Gosport, England

Post by Richard Hargreaves » Tue Sep 18, 2007 6:31 am

Hi Sid,

Not much from the Polish side (and I didn't track down the Atlas :-( ) What Polish stuff there is is chiefly translated from German (there's surprisingly more than I anticipated).

I'd love to do both sides of the story but with time, language barrier and word restrictions now against me, I'll have to leave it to a Polophone (?) to complete the picture of the campaign...
No-one who speaks German could be an evil man

User avatar
sniper1shot
Moderator
Posts: 1438
Joined: Mon Jul 19, 2004 10:56 pm
Location: Canada

Post by sniper1shot » Tue Sep 18, 2007 12:46 pm

Ahem. I hear that you might need a review or two posted. I do work for books eh. HAHA :D
Only he is lost who gives himself up as lost.

User avatar
Richard Hargreaves
Author
Posts: 2073
Joined: Sun Jun 01, 2003 11:30 pm
Location: Gosport, England

Post by Richard Hargreaves » Tue Sep 18, 2007 1:24 pm

I might have to finish it first :shock:

If you wish to review it, I can send the text files (I only get six copies for myself and they're already allocated a year in advance!!)
No-one who speaks German could be an evil man

Njorl
Contributor
Posts: 370
Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2005 3:26 am
Location: Poland

Post by Njorl » Wed Sep 19, 2007 6:01 am

halder wrote:Encircled, out of fuel and out of ammunition, Tadeusz Piskor, Commander of the Army of Krakow, decided it was time to bring an end to the battle.
Are you sure, halder, that Piskor commanded 'Krakow' Army? I'd rather bet on Szylling but will have to check whether this was 'Krakow' Army alone, or 'Krakow' already merged with 'Lublin' Army that fought first battle of Tomaszów.
halder wrote:Not much from the Polish side (and I didn't track down the Atlas Sad ) What Polish stuff there is is chiefly translated from German (there's surprisingly more than I anticipated).
I could provide some scans from Polish sources... :roll:

Will the book have photos?

What is 'Polophone' and what does it have to do with the story?

Regards,

MJU
"Always be ready to speak your mind and a base man will avoid you" W. Blake, Proverbs of Hell

User avatar
Richard Hargreaves
Author
Posts: 2073
Joined: Sun Jun 01, 2003 11:30 pm
Location: Gosport, England

Post by Richard Hargreaves » Wed Sep 19, 2007 10:59 am

Thanks Njorl, I'll check my notes again. And thanks for the offer of material. I think I probably have enough now as I'm short of space to work with (already 10,000 words over limit :shock: )

What's a Polophone? It's someone who speaks Polish :D (like Francophone and Germanophone!)
No-one who speaks German could be an evil man

Njorl
Contributor
Posts: 370
Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2005 3:26 am
Location: Poland

Post by Njorl » Thu Sep 20, 2007 2:29 am

halder wrote:Thanks Njorl, I'll check my notes again. And thanks for the offer of material. I think I probably have enough now as I'm short of space to work with (already 10,000 words over limit :shock: )
Hi halder,

I had scans of maps and sketches on mind. Here you can find some examples:http://www.feldgrau.net/phpBB2/viewtopi ... ht=#149822

Regards,

MJU

PS. Thanks for clarification of 'Polophone' :wink:
"Always be ready to speak your mind and a base man will avoid you" W. Blake, Proverbs of Hell

Post Reply